What Makes a Real Artist

A guest post by Victoria Rose Martin

“All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.”
                                    Eckhart Tolle

Just a few days ago I received a sweet email from a person who said when they showed their artwork to a group of “real artists”  these so called “real artists” didn’t get her work. You know what I say to that? Their loss!! Those supposed real artists’ response caused this person distress thinking that her work was somehow not valid or “artsy” enough. It got me thinking; what makes a person a real artist and how do we spot the imposters at the easel?

The typical artist stereotype we see in movies usually wears a beret, drinks coffee by the gallon, moves to Paris, has a tortured soul and starves. Yay, where do I sign up for that? Me personally, I’ve got the coffee part covered but the rest, not so much. Seriously, can you imagine being forced to sit around being all tormented and think “deep thoughts” while waiting for inspiration to strike? That’s not being an artist.

It’s been my experience that the most important voice to listen to is your own. What is your inner voice trying to tell you and more importantly are you listening? While teaching studio art classes I often tell my students to “stop thinking.” I usually laugh afterwards and say, “How many of your other professors tell you that?”

power of now

Feeling stuck? Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now might be a good read.

You’re probably trying to sell your art, so sure opinions can matter, but you have to determine how much consideration to give these outside voices. Having a circle of creative people discussing intelligently what they find successful and not successful in your art can be really helpful. And allowing the opinion of others stop you from your passion is in my opinion just silly.

school of life

Need more encouragement? Print this, add your name and hang it on your studio wall.

So if you’re feeling like you’re not a real artist here are 4 suggestions to make you feel better about yourself and your art.

1.     Stop listening and looking everywhere else but inside your own head. Do you ever make something and say oh then next piece I make is going to be better? And you sort of toss that piece aside? But why? Making art is about creative expression not connecting the dots. Somebody out there might love that piece just the way it is. Don’t make them wait for the next masterpiece. Post it, list it and sell it.

2.     A consistent body of work is really important. If you take 20 workshops a year and you’re constantly discovering new media and techniques chances are your art might be a little bit all over the place. While it’s great to be inspired by new things, make sure your art appears similar enough in style.

jean-michel basquiat

Screenshot of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s website.

3.     Is your work too derivative of another artist? Let’s face it we all have favorite artists we “borrow” from, but if your work is too similar to another you’re sort of stealing. That’s where sketching and listening to your inner voice can come in handy. Personally, Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of my biggest inspirations. Can you tell immediately he’s an influence? Not sure whether your art is too derived of another artist? Place images of your work along side of your inspiration and ask an unbiased person their opinion.

4.     Do not get so attached to your work that you can let go. Professional artists sell their work because they know they can make more. If you do create a piece and feel you cannot let go of it, take a photograph and create greeting cards or high quality prints. A good place to explore ideas might be 100 Fresh and Fun Handmade Cards by Kimber McGray.

handmade cards

Cover artwork for 100 Fresh and Fun Handmade Cards

Another option to help break the bonds is to place the artwork in your living space for 2-4 weeks. Do you still love it? Eventually the romance may die and it will become easier to sell.

An artist is a person with passion for what they’re doing. You can use any material you want. Look at people like Damian Hirst. He uses everything from sausages to sharks in his artwork. And personally, I’d love to hear what those “real artists” mentioned earlier think about his work.


Damien Hirst, screen shot of his 11 Sausages, 1993.

Am I a real artist? Real or not I am an artist and I make things because of a deep desire to do so. Nothing more. And people’s opinions, I was once told “opinions are like backsides, everybody has one.”  I don’t make things with the thought of pleasing the masses or selling them; instead I make art because my fingers and brain give me no option to do anything else.

Victoria Rose Martin is an artist and designer currently living in South Florida. She is the Department Chair for Fine Art and Graphic Design at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Florida. You can visit her website at: VictoriaRoseMartin.com.

U3040_CM_InnerHeroArtJournal.inddFor more about finding confidence in your own art work, read Inner Hero Creative Art Journal by Quinn McDonald.

You may also like these articles:

This entry was posted in Guest Posts, Mixed Media Blogs and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What Makes a Real Artist

  1. Hi, I got a message from somebody who said they tried to download the School of Life; Real Artist certificate and it was low resolution. If you want a big fat honking high resolution version I’ve posted one on my blog. http://victoriarosemartin.blogspot.com/2014/05/youre-real-artist.html. And if that doesn’t work send an email and ask. Post them and send us pictures. Happy Art Making to all of you Real Artists out there.