Who is an artist?

In 2003, instead of pursuing a prominent career as a bi-linguist which many people thought I would become, I decided to do art, starting with the tools nearest to me: a brush and a pen. Now, exactly a decade later, when I have changed my career direction to accord with my passion and skills, and redesigned my website so that it best represents my current practice, I am revisiting past notions of being an artist. HR Giger, one of my favourite artist, in a book he designed which I have recently read, says:

“Unprofitable” was my father’s favourite adjective for art; he thought that contemporary art could never earn you a basic living. (…) In Chur, Switzerland, the word “artist” is a term of abuse, combining drunkard, whore-monger, layabout and simpleton in one.

Who is an artist and what lies behind the phrase “to make it as an artist”? Does it mean getting paid for making art? Or getting paidĀ well enough to not have to serve coffee at Starbucks? Or perhaps it means making art that hangs at a gallery space? Or reaches a vast number of people? Or one that gets likes on facebook, gets tweeted about, retweeted, pinned and blogged? Or maybe it’s very simple – you know you’ve made it as an artist when you no longer see raised eyebrows when talking to people about “what you’ve been up to recently”.

Another thing is a sense of self-confidence: that this is the right direction and you’re on the right path, going at the right speed, slowly enough to be able to focus and reflect on what you’re doing and quickly enough to increase the chances of gettingĀ there before your hair’s turned grey.

After a decade of experimenting with different platforms and tools, working in duos, groups, collaborations, on commission, independently, etc., I finally feel I’m on the right path. I have also become comfortable with the word “artist”, which used to make me cringe. So – hello world, here I come, braced with pens, paints and crayons, emotional crash helmet and an imaginary map. I’ll be checking in here and letting you know how it’s going.