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The original statement was made to college students and in that context I
would imagine that one starts the transition from student artist to artist
when they don't need a teacher to give assignments as a stimulus to create.
An artist supplies his own motivation and direction. As dangerous as it
might be to create a clever set of standards or some sort of litmus test for
an artist, one of the most important criteria would seem to include the
motivation that one is an artist when their projects are dictated by an
overwhelming desire to be visually creative. To explore a territory in a new
way verses copy a direction or style that one appreciates, (dilettantes).
Undoubtedly a critical part of this process is the issue of what this
exploration looks like visually verses how much it costs to make, or whether
or not is it practical, etc.
To the issue of how do you tell when you become an artist perhaps insight can
be gained by changing the question to when does a person realize that they
have become an artist. The process may take place before one realizes it.
My first B. A. was in ancient history with a art minor but sensing something
wasn't complete I delayed graduation to pick up a second major in art
history. After teaching art on the secondary level for a couple of years I
still could tell that something still wasn't right and I redirected to get my
M.A. in studio art. Now twenty years later confronting this discourse I
realize that I have known that I have been an artist for a very long time,
but it wasn't first apparent or easy to state. (At first I was reluctant
aligning myself with those who referred to themselves as some sort of
Neo-romantic late post modern west coast impressionistic bohemian
surrealistics) I do know that some sort of internal Design Review Board set
of standards controls me, this force's decisions take president over all that
I make whether it be a sculpture, paintings or a new deck for my house.
Art, especially visual art, is a unique pursuit of the humans who share this
space with the other animal of our planet. Although humans make art I don't
think that all humans are artists. Art seems to be part passion and part
execution. I think I can teach some of my students how to manipulate paint
on canvas, but I can only encourage the coals of passion within those were
those coals exist. Perhaps it is easier to compare this discussion with
other fields. I might be able to learn certain dance steps but I'll never be
able to become the music, rest in peace, like Gene Kelly.
Santa Monica CA