The Definition of a “True Artist”

Dear Reader,

I do not think I am an artist. I do not know what I am. To use the label of an “artist” rather than a writer or a storyteller feels somehow pretentious. I respect artists so much that putting myself in that category feels like an impossible task. Yet how does a person know if they are an artist compared to just a worker?

Here is my definition: an artist must be someone who is willing to go through very painful feelings and emotions in order to portray something that is true. An artist cannot be concerned about the economical concerns of their art, but rather the emotional concerns. Must an artist explore only the damaged bits of their soul? No, not necessarily. However, someone who does not want to do that feels a little too comfortable. Art is rarely comfortable to create or view. However, something about it is informative about the way that a person lives. The only way to get to this point is to have the artist create something that feels true to them.

It is surprising how hard it is to be honest, but why is this? Why is honesty so scary? I suppose one reason is that it requires so much to be truthful. There is no hiding when you are baring everything you have. While society seems to talk about what they had for breakfast and which TV shows they are watching, it is still harder to talk about complex problems that do not have solutions. It seems that talking about problems are still hard because it exposes the limitations of a person. People do not want to admit to others, and especially to themselves, that they can only do so much.

Despite these uncomfortable periods, an artist who can convey something about themselves and their community, family, or world around them can really help people going through similar issues feel less alone. This is perhaps the greatest achievement that an artist can make. Yet should an artist go into their artistry with the intention of changing people and making the world a far grander place? If they do, how do they avoid becoming too preachy or forcing their message with dead, one-dimensional views? Many people will listen to messages, but only if these people do not feel that they are listening to a message. So where is the balance between being a supportive activist and being this “true” artist? Is there such a thing?

Reader, what do you think?


Jumbled Writer


2 Responses to The Definition of a “True Artist”

  1. This is a very good, searching article.

    I agree – a true artist shouldn’t be interested in economic gain. But pertaining to writing – if it is their job and they (the artist) become the ‘worker’,
    sometimes a ‘worker’ becomes an artist. People who design, interior-decorators, wood-workers and the list goes on are artists as well. So whatever you do could be considered art?

    You can be both a supportive activist and a true artist. Because ultimately to be a true artist – you must be you – not what someone else believes or says you should be. So that question would be answered in thousands and millions of ways. That is the wonder of individuals.

    Larry the Cable Guy would be a perfect example of an unlikely ‘artist’. He is just a dumb red-neck – but is he? If he isn’t a dumb red-neck – he certainly knows how to portray it in a very funny way.

    I would ask another question to you – if an elite group of critiques decided your work was garbage – does that make it garbage or just their opinion? Would you disregard or believe their opinion?

    • Dear Mary,
      I agree that an artist must follow the path they feel they are meant to be on. That is probably the best definition of a true artist. As long as a person does this, no matter in what area of artistic life, I think they can be considered a “true” artist.
      As for your second question, it would hurt to be rejected, but that is just their opinion and the truth is that artists are frequently trashed, but must learn to keep following their passion. Great question.

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