Recently I was asked to join the Association of Animal Artists. I readily accepted and of course became a member. Why, you may ask. Because it gives me a sense of arriving to a destination. There are literally thousands if not millions of animal portrait artists out there and I now take my place among them and am recognized for my hard work. Another box ticked. Of course, it can be somewhat daunting to look at the other artists that join you in this quest. You are not, at least in my book, quite human if you don’t once in a while compare yourself to other people. But this brings me to a point that I sometimes wrestle with; what makes me an artist worthy of acclaim. Is it my training, talent, a creative mind, courage, or luck? I’ve come to the conclusion it is a bit of all those things. Those who know me, and my work know that I have little use for replicating objects simply by regurgitating realism. There has to be a part of the artist’s soul in the work. Yes, you can use reference photos or props to guide you but at some point, the real you has to take over. I also disdain any artist or person for that matter that thinks they have nothing more to learn or indeed try. I watch regularly a TV program that pits artists against each other for a top prize. Three judges decide their fates, an award-winning portraitist, an art curator and an art historian. Some of the contestants are my soulmates. Some are not. I recently watched an episode where the contestant was a college student with a demeanor most of you will relate to some typical college students. This guy sat there in his chair with the brooding face and painful expression of woe is me. Things are so hard in this world. I like to be left alone. I know, I’ll be an artist. This way no one can tell me I’m wrong or judge me. He continues to wallow in self-pity as the show goes on giving the judges no clear information on why he is there. He comes up with a pitiful piece of crap and then at the last minute choose to whittle it down to an uninspiring piece of garbage. The judges by now are thinking “what’s with this guy. Oh my, we have stumbled onto a genius. That has to be what is going on here.” Please.
I don’t know. I feel it is an insult to other artists who obviously work hard at their craft to communicate to all of us. Save me from people who call themselves artists because they think it elevates them to sort of an unearthly realm. Questions to ask yourself before you can call yourself an artist: “Am I committed? Do I produce? Am I a one trick pony or can I work in a variety of mediums, techniques and produce thoughtful pieces of work? Did I dedicate myself to being trained?” I mean, I know some home remedies for illnesses, but I don’t walk around calling myself a doctor. Please.