Podcast 06: Call yourself an artist?

I wrestle with imposter syndrome a lot. And one of the symptoms is a reluctance to refer to myself as “an artist.” A writer, a man, an entrepreneur, a blogger, a fashion model, sure, but not the ‘A’ word.

In this episode of the podcast, I have an in-depth chat with two smart women (my mum and my pal, Amanda) with very different perspectives on this phenomenon. I hope it’s helpful.

Two other minor things:

  • I’m sharing this episode a day early because I’m going out of town for a while.
  • Please subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcast app.  And please leave a 😀review.  It means a lot. Not just because I am insecure and crave affirmation but because, you know, the algorithm and all that.

Episode transcript:

DANNY: Welcome to art for all, the Sketchbook Skool podcast. I’m your host Danny Gregory. Each week I bring you stories, ideas, interviews and inspiration to keep you company while you work on your own creative project. Whether you are drawing, painting the ceiling of a chapel, composing a sonnet, making an illustrated map, weaving a tapestry or cooking lamb chops, I hope this episode inspires you. That’s our mission at Sketchbook Skool, to help encourage art for all.

And speaking of encouragement, may I encourage you to join me in Pasadena California on November 2nd through 4th? I’ll be speaking at SketchKon, our first ever Sketching Convention. Hundreds and hundreds of creative people will be coming together for a long weekend of drawing, painting, chatting, laughing and having a wonderful time. I’ll you more about it in a little while and tell you where to go to sign up, Well actually , I can do that now to find out more, go to Sketchkon.com to That Kon with a K of course.

Now on with the show.


DANNY: So let me ask you this. Do you think of yourself as an artist. Is that a Label that you feel comfortable with at least in the sanctity of your own Studio or your home?

And can you wear it in public?

Let’s say you’re at a party, talking to a new acquaintance. He or she asks you “So, what do you do?”

What do you do?”

Do you say I’m an artist?

Can you say that without hesitation?

And do you feel comfortable with how that stranger’s response? Do you have answers to their followup questions? And can you declare this identity to everyone you know,?

To your family? To your neighbors? to your bank manager?

If so then maybe this episode isn’t for you. .But it is for me. Because even though I’ve been drawing for much of my life, I still don’t feel comfortable taking on that label. I usually Mumble into my drink something along the lines of “ I do a lot of things, I write books, I have an online art school, I like to draw….”

And I know for a fact that I’m not alone. I know that a lot of people, including a lot of people at Sketchbook School just don’t feel comfortable self-identifying as artists. So I decided that I would have a couple of conversations with people whose opinions I respect to see why people have this ambivalence and And what I can say to people who are so hesitant to step out and say loudly and proudly “I am an artist”

As it happens I was spending the weekend at my mother’s house. A couple of decades ago my mother moved out of Manhattan to the North End of Long Island where she lives in a little house hidden on a couple of Acres of forest. She moved there to get out of the city, to have a garden, and to see how she could reinvent herself. And she did. She started doing lots of different things including writing articles, screenplays and stories, and becoming the news director of her local public radio station. And she also began making art. Combining several of her different interests, calligraphy, and nature, she started making “leafages” which are images of pressed flowers and ornate lettering of poetry and wise thoughts. For several years she was exhibiting her leafages and she was selling reproductions of them at vineyards, gift shops, galleries and so on.

A couple of years ago when my son jack, graduated from art school, she and I had a discussion about whether or not Jack was an artist. And my mother, despite the fact that she is very proud of her grandson, said that she really hoped that Jack didn’t call himself an artist. Being a painter was fine but the label of artist made her very uncomfortable. This declaration stuck with me and over the weekend I decided I would take it up with her and ask her what exactly she meant by it and where this idea come from..


DOG: so a long time ago, I didn’t know when it was last year sometime we had this conversation about um, somebody calling themselves. You said that you were happy that Jack was had referred to himself as a painter rather than an artist. So, can you tell me what do you remember that conversation?

Pipsi : Yeah, it was it reflects that that sort of reflected my own my own anxiety about being illegitimate or being a huckster or or you know, hoaxing people by saying I was an artist the two things. To it one is it sounded very presumptuous to say, you know, because that means that you’re making art and art is something that’s got very high value and I think for the most part art has is has an integral meaning um in the sense that even if you don’t like it, you know, it’s art it’s not that.

I know what I like it’s that I don’t know what I like, but I can tell it’s odd because people say so so for me when I first started doing my leaf edges, which I started in 2002 something like that when I moved out to to Long Island from an admin or my. Really since I was a 17 year old teenager at Be Tails.

I I wanted to be artsy, you know, it was the boss was beatnik time. We were beatniks and you know in those days having long flowing hair was unusual and

DOG: this is the they 50s early 60s. Yeah.

Pipsi : and and and I remember had a duffel coat a camel so duffle coat. And flat shoes and black stockings which are not easy to find or maybe they were black tights.

I don’t know. So that was the look and with a cigarette always and so I endlessly suppose that way and sometimes was photographed that way and that’s so I was. Looking like an artist but I wasn’t one. I wasn’t I was a student. I was doing languages. I would never came near a paintbrush or any art tooth.

I guess I wrote poetry in a sort of anguished way that 17 year olds do and and that’s kind of that look always stayed with me. But I and then if became flowing, you know, uh Gypsy kind of skirts and bright colors. Change from the black and I realized it was only when I came here and had given up.

My the way. I earned my income doing focus groups. It was then that I realized I could and I was starting to work with leaves and calligraphy and stuff was then I realized I could actually maybe. Not only look like an artist but maybe actually be one but I was always very uneasy when the first one I first started doing these things and they just came to me.

I mean, I hadn’t planned it. Um, and I taken I I didn’t know what to make of what I was doing. So I took it around to a couple of people after Waters out here and what woman who had a small gallery and she looked at my work. She looking for a long time and threw it back again. And then she was obviously hesitating and then she said I think this is craft.

Not art. I thought oh God, you know, I don’t know I mean crafts on a craft craftswoman so I don’t know so so that idea that that uneasiness with seeming inauthentic. You know stayed with me and to this day when somebody called refers to them self as an artist is sounds presumptuous to me, but then it’s you know, I might think that to of a poet.

I mean a poet writes poems, but I guess it’s not as it’s not as as crass to call yourself about because. Poems I don’t I don’t know. I’m not sure but somehow the odd things I’ve never called myself an artist other people have I just I was made some things I do leaf edges or I’m a geologist record with something like that, you know, um, but then but with even with writer, you know, I sometimes feel and.

God knows I’ve written a lot. I just haven’t published a lot. I’ve published anything– like books and he you know things in magazines and so on and follow Jesus, but I’ve written an awful lot and in many genres and it may not be absolutely wonderful, but I think it’s all pretty good in the scheme of things.

It’s certainly well written. Um, but it’s I’ve written a screenplay, you know, Novella autobiography novel. Um, so then when people I do sometimes say I’m a writer I. I’d rather say rights in my if I’m gonna have a two-line thing I see rights, but I feel less bad about that because it doesn’t imply that it’s also art it is that you’re right could be shitty Rising but but it reminds me also just something about it that when I was um, I was trying to get a visa to uh, Myanmar to Burma.

And I went applied for I was in Bangkok and I applied for this visa and it was was they didn’t have any computers the Burmese officials it was sort of outdoors and they we were filling out forms in triplicate in if we were filling out the forms in triplicate with carbon paper between the leaves between the sheets and.

I had written in order to you know to get a Visa right my profession. So I wrote writer and he said to me he gave it back to me said writers. No good. I said why what’s wrong because that implied journalist. So I said well, I’m also a psychologist that’s good right psychologist. So I got my Visa.

So this is very fruitful for me when somebody says they’re a carpenter wouldn’t say,

DOG: Oh really? Oh are you right? But do you think that it’s about the the term artist could refer to your profession how you make a living? It could refer to um your identity right because that’s what

Pipsi : you have the soul of an artist

DOG: no just like, oh, I’m an artist, you know, and it’s a you know, uh, don’t blame me.

I’m an artist or I just you know, I behave it’s a way of seeing yourself. It’s I mean because yeah because I think art can also be um, like a belief system, you know, uh, it could be like a religion. I like being a being a Marxist. If you’re a Marxist everything you view as is through that prism.

Pipsi : doesn’t

DOG: if you’re a Baptist, if you’re you know, a calvinist, you know that the world view it’s a worldview. So then you know, you might you know, the way you decorate your house the way you smell a flower, you know, you appreciate art and things when you talk as from that point of view, so

Pipsi : and then you love to dress that way too.


DOG: I think what you’re saying is you want it to be thought of not necessarily as having that profession when you were younger, not necessarily the people would say, oh you must make money Selling paintings, but they look at you and think. Oh, you’re you’re that kind of a

Pipsi : of you have the spirit of it

DOG: right?

Yeah, you’re uh, you know, right so or being a nihilist or being an activist. I mean there there are other identities that you might put on yourself. You know, I think being that’s that’s one of the questions I have is do you do we need to be to make a living from Art Is it is it that so somebody says to you because I think there’s a difference between saying what are you and what do you do?

Right. So what do you do suggest like? Well, you know, I

Pipsi : how do you make your money? I’ll do make it

DOG: right? Yeah. So as I think if somebody comes up to you and says, you know, what do you do? And you say I’m an artist. What would what do you think they would say in response?

Pipsi : I think they think you’re presumptuous.

Well, I would I would feel that if I said that to somebody who didn’t know me. Yeah, so

DOG: So who do you think it’s valid for them to call themselves an artist who

Pipsi : somebody who’s got a body of work

DOG: so they proven themselves.

Pipsi : They may I I always disliked the phrase to make art because again, it has the same thing.

What how do you know? It’s out that you’re making it could be just paintings. I mean

DOG: but what is a painting of it is an art? What is it? I

Pipsi : I mean

DOG: I can understand you say, uh, you know, I’m a performance artist and then I would say well that’s not hard but it’s only makes a painting it may not be good art.

But it’s hard to debate that has any other purpose other than being

Pipsi : but the pity but it’s there you can see it. Maybe that’s what it is. It can be judged. It can be viewed it can exist because somebody made it

DOG: but the convocation thing is if I say I’m a doctor you’re not going to decide whether or not of a good doctor and only if I’m a good doctor am I allowed to be a doctor but when it comes to being an artist somehow

Pipsi : well, if you’re a doctor you have credit you have a diploma,

DOG: So you went to article see Jack Jack graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Arts.

He has a degree in Fine Art, you know, So if you calls himself an artist, this is what prompted this whole conversation you said you didn’t feel comfortable with that idea. But I mean he went to the Rhode Island School of Design, which is an art school. He has a Bachelor of Arts and he made it in Fine Art.

So if he was if he went to law school if he went

Pipsi : but in being an artist is is also a present, uh present a contempt a contemporary description of who you are so you can have had all that Donnell as stuff but that doesn’t mean you are an artist now maybe I mean this description you have of the enduring that it’s your spirit.

Let’s call it short and then it wouldn’t matter but if you are an hour, what if you are are you going to art school? I did all that and then you never paint it again. You still an artist. You think you would be

DOG: I don’t know. I’m not I don’t have an I don’t have an answer to any of this. I’m not sure what I think I think that I I’m trying to break down and not just your point of view but isn’t General.

Where’s the sticking point? What’s the problem

Pipsi : but do other people have this problem? Yeah. Oh,

DOG: know I think this I mean I have I have this problem. I think a lot of people do and I think a lot of people particularly people who didn’t go to an art school. Yeah, right.

Pipsi : That’s the illegitimate part

DOG: right but Vincent van Gogh, would you say he was an artist?

Yeah. Okay, Vincent didn’t go to Art School, right? He didn’t sell art. He didn’t make a living from art.

Pipsi : but he wasn’t considered an artist then was he

DOG: course he wants what else was he feels if you if you accountant isn’t ago and said, what are you probably have said I’m a painter but he was certainly an artist and maybe that’s also the differences.

I think,

Pipsi : but he was suffered for it. I think that’s what it was. You know, that’s sort of silly to say that

DOG: because I think um, I mean was Andy Warhol an artist.

Pipsi : I don’t know. I never got that he was he was an artist.

DOG: I was even on an. I mean what I mean, I think there’s a problem in seeing that being an artist is such a high threshold that virtually nobody’s allowed to be an artist.

I mean, that’s

Pipsi : what if a child Charles making pictures of paintings and pictures. Would you call the child an artist? He’s making oh she’s making art in that sense. It’s a house and trees or whatever. I

DOG: don’t think it’s necessary to put a label on kid like that. I mean if the kid dance but I say he was a dancer if the kids saying what it sees a singer I mean sort of but I don’t think that I don’t think they need an identity.

I think that main identity is being a kid probably but

Pipsi : well I think with painter that’s the art that that’s it, you know painter the word painter doesn’t doesn’t provoke any of these thoughts. Any more than dancer singer

DOG: but if somebody says I’m a painter than I assume that you spend your time painting.

Yeah, and if I’m a writer. I see me spend your time writing

Pipsi : but those are activities art has the Meta Meta thing of being valuable an important part of the history of mankind.

DOG: Yeah, and that’s what I’m thinking too is is if you see an artist does that mean that you have decided that what you make has such worth that therefore, um, you know you have.

Confirmed this badge upon yourself that like what I’m making is Art.

Pipsi : Yeah, and you’re there for part of the cannon.

DOG: Yeah, but I mean again, it just feels like a a barrier that is problematic because I think if you’re not comfortable with saying you an artist then maybe you can’t um, do the work that’s required to be a really good artist.

You know because you don’t feel like you can make sacrifices for it. You don’t feel like it’s your identity that you know, so whereas if you were uh a violinist you would do the work to be a good violin

Pipsi : you

DOG: practice you practice right and and you know, but somehow making art we put this barrier against in and I wonder where does that barrier come from?

It means that other people have to acknowledge that what you do is of quality enough, right? And when we say other people we mean, We mean the market

Pipsi : or your peers may be

DOG: who are you appears?

Pipsi : Well your peers plus 1

DOG: other artists

Pipsi : Yeah people. I don’t know just who have more credibility or more

DOG: Mets the unfair that is I mean say say, I mean Vincent van Gogh a lot of people who are other impressionist didn’t think he was particularly painter.

So um, and I think no I think it’s are you in a gallery if you’re in a gallery? Would you sit I mean somebody says I’m an artist and you say do you show and you say yes, I’m represented by Pace Gallery with that end the discussion when you say go it

Pipsi : whether it’s good or bad or you do have to say it’s art because it’s in an art

DOG: because so in other words when the market

Pipsi : The market

DOG: your value

Pipsi : I think that unfortunately, that’s what it was we seem to be devolving

DOG: that’s a problem because I mean as individual.

I mean if I’m a poet do I have to be a published poet if I’m a writer do I have to be in other words for me to have this identity? I have to get the permission of other people to be allowed to have it.

Pipsi : Well, you know, then we maybe this gets into self-publishing because I don’t know what the equivalent of self-publishing is.

With art, I mean my leaf edges, I published them. I made cards of them. I made prints of them people bought the prince. So so there was a physical form and if you’re a writer you can self publish your book and if your poet you can self publish them chapbook or something, you know.

DOG: all right, but somebody said, you know what I rented out of gallery and I had a show their artists do that or so, you didn’t even say that so you said I have an Etsy store and I sell my art online.

And people buy it. So therefore I don’t have the intermediary of a gallery to make steaks 50% of my money

Pipsi : me and who makes the decision

DOG: on a smart businessperson and I’m an artist

Pipsi : but I’m not vetted. That’s what it is.

DOG: I know but vetted Again by The Establishment. So the idea that art and art is this form that we think should be um independent it should be.

Uh, it should be breaking new ground. Right? I mean the whole thing about art is

Pipsi : and it should come from the soul to

DOG: but one better. Yeah, but a key thing about art, is that its new right this I mean you want to be original new new thoughts new ideas. So the fact that you know, there’s to refuse the fact that that that there are artists who are ahead of their time the fact that that um, people don’t always know art at the time, you know, Again, going back to Van Gogh people didn’t buy his art.

Does that mean that he wasn’t valid? I mean, I think now to look at a van Gogh painting in a museum and say, well it’s debatable whether he was an artist. I mean, I think you people who think you said that so so so, I think I think that’s the problem we have is like does our identity have to be tied into what.

The marketplace. I mean, it seems irrelevant

Pipsi : somehow an external validator validator.

DOG: that’s not true of so many other

Pipsi : no no, no, you

DOG: you know, if I say, I’m an activist. Well, let me see how many uh, you know signatures that you get on petitions. How many congress I mean. Nobody would think to debate that if you want to call yourself an activist then great.


Pipsi : Yeah, it’s not particularly valued I suppose. Um, I think ironically this bye-bye talkin about an artist in this way, which I think you know, I think you and I together there is we serve come to some understanding but ironically what it’s done is its place too much value on Arch, it’s made an artist an hour.

Piece of art to valuable that all of these criteria have to be passed and all these these veterans have to take place before it can be considered art.

DOG: Well, I think that’s again a function of the of the marketplace because the marketplace doesn’t want to have everybody in his brother say he’s an artist because then there’s

Pipsi : two values the real ones.

DOG: well the the supply becomes endless and therefore if you know it exceeds demand in the value of it all goes down. I think if you go back 500 years and he go to the Renaissance. Let’s say and you look at you know. Michelangelo, you know, I think Michelangelo probably wouldn’t have called himself an artist.

I don’t even think that that term really existed back. Then he would have said I’m a sculptor or whatever it is. It was a trade right it was a trade back then it was a craft and that was perfectly fine. And so you hired a sculptor to make a sculpture

Pipsi : and the and they had they had assistance.

DOG: Yeah.

I don’t think that’s relevant either way American Artist still. That’s that’s not the point. I think the point is that that our relationship with art has changed where now it’s become a commodity. I mean, I think when Michelangelo made a sculpture the pope didn’t think okay. I can sell this later on, you know, there wasn’t a trade

Pipsi : So how is it a commodity now and what since because

DOG: buy and sell it.

So there’s a whole system set up to

Pipsi : its value

DOG: since its value assess its uh, its value as a um, As an investment. Is it going to go up over time? So if if there isn’t somebody arbitrating that and saying this is our that isn’t art then it’s but the point is that fairly small system right of the people who buy and sell, you know, High art museums galleries.

Does your own identity have to be enslaved by that. Do you have to say, you know, I’m not allowed I’m not permitted to call myself this because. I’m not part of that system. It seems like a very artistic point of view to have

Pipsi : have yeah, it’s like saying if I if I don’t. Live in a mansion. Am I permitted to call my humble abode a house?

I mean that sort of struck me. But so so then there’s two things either we bring down great Arch to our level all we Elevate our level two great art to occupy the same spaces what I mean

DOG: I mean possibly or maybe you just say, you know, I don’t see art as a competitive activity, you know in the marketplace it is competitive, you know Van Gogh’s worth X and the, you know warhol’s with Y and that goes up back and forth and I have a limited amount of money to spend so I decide where I’m going to spend it here or there.

But if I’m making art to express myself to relate to the world, it’s my point of view about the world. It’s how I. See things is how I feel about myself. Why

Pipsi : Should we have another word for it? I

DOG: to use the term artist with a small a which kind of violates. Some of

Pipsi : but not in are quite not in quotation marks.

DOG: This is a podcast. We don’t have we don’t show

Pipsi : do you can have quotation marks as a would artists be um,

DOG: but that’s that’s demeaning. I

Pipsi : is it is

DOG: I think I think if I. I don’t really know the answer because I think again if you said I’m a sculptor. Would you have any of these problems? I’m a painter.

You know, I mean, I think then the Assumption so you said I’m a painter. Oh, um, so you just paint all day. Well, yeah outside of my shift at Starbucks,

Pipsi : right?

DOG: right? So if I said that when you say, well you really a barista, you’re not, you know, you’re not a painter. I mean then that’s insulting.

And uh, I think of myself I mean I think of friends of mine who are professional painters who paintings of sold from millions of dollars and for many years when they began they were Carpenters or

Pipsi : they were what they were,

DOG: were, you know, they were moved drove a moving van. Whatever does that diminish them as an artist.

I don’t know, you know, and I think going back to to Jack talkin about. You know, he now works in production, but he has a studio and he goes into draws and paints if somebody said to him, what are you he would probably say I work in production

Pipsi : but he doesn’t call himself an artist maybe

DOG: I think he’s confident enough in his own creative abilities that it’s not an issue for him.

You know, if somebody said, oh, you’re an artist you would say I guess

Pipsi : I guess yeah. Yeah so is so I mean, I think the difference is still if you call yourself one if you if you don’t what’s the way we let me get this word if you.

DOG: self-proclaimed self-identify.

Pipsi : know but you know if if you like what the queen

DOG: confers upon

Pipsi : you.

Yeah, if somebody could confer upon you the title of artist, I don’t think you’d argue. But if you convert upon yourself some would say, oh what kind of artist are you? Oh in

DOG: In this time that we live in where there’s a lot of discussion about identity right your gender identity for instance.

Right? And I think people have decided that I’m going to self-identify and I expect everybody else to respect this identity that I’ve taken

Pipsi : the gender part. So why shouldn’t be the same as an art, you know,

DOG: in other words, why do I have to allow the patriarchy or the. Capitalist class to decide whether or not I am this so and your response to that would probably be then fine call yourself, whatever you want but items think of you as an artist.


Pipsi : really I have to elevate my I myself identity my self-image to

DOG: I think you have any you have an issue with term artist because of your own history with it and I frankly because I’m your son probably have inherited some of that too. But I think you know, um for me is a writer I’ve often thought. I mean I’ve published a dozen books.

I’ve been paid my entire life to put words on a page.

Pipsi : so you can call yourself an author.

DOG: Yeah, I mean I’m but I think again I would feel uncomfortable with probably with either of those terms. I think when I was a copywriter in advertising if somebody said to me, what are you I said I’m copywriter.

I wouldn’t have any issue with that. But I think to say I’m a writer again. I would have felt like. People expect me to be sort of sitting there was uh, you know glass of scotch in it typewriter knocking out novels and it would have seemed like again on misrepresenting myself. It’s it’s it’s a difficult thing.


DANNY:One of the things we hope to accomplish with this podcast is to talk about the sorts of things that are on your mind. It can be hard to come across like minded people and I have always hoped that Sketchbook SKool would be a place to find your tribe. So far our huge community of some 50,000 people has proved n to be just that. And I hope that this podcast and our ione and our kourses capture the sorts of things we like to talk about. WHich brings me back to SKetchKon. We call it the unconventional art convention because frankly at Sketchbook Skool we like to come up with our own way of doing things. So we invited about 20 of our fakulty ato come and share their work, give demonstrations, and give people hands on help with their sketchbooks. They’re Going to talk about their tools and techniques, show their sketchbooks, lead us on sketchcrawls, show us how they draw life models and be available to answer your questions and to just hang out. We also invite some other friends to talk to us, like Austin Kleon the best selling author of Steal Like an Artist. If you dont have his books, pause this podcast, and order them immediately. We also have loads of experts about art supplies coming. There will be people from Winsor and Newton from Hahnemuhle Europe’s leading paper sketchbook maker, from Crescent Creative Products, from Daler and Rowney, and Blick art materials will be building a special store for us right in the convention hall so we can shop till we all drop. It will be loads of fun and I do hope I’ll see you there. The Westin in Pasadena , California, November 2-4. To find out loads more about it and to sign up, get over to SKetchKon. Com. That Kon with a K. Because that’s how we do.


DANNY: Back to my investigation of the artist label and how I could get comfortable with. I called up my friend Amanda Rentschler for her point of view. Amanda is a talented dancer and a zine publisher and a writer and the editor of the Sketchbook Skool zine. She is creative to her core and I had a feeling she might have a different perspective to contribute this discussion.


Danny: So I was having this conversation with my mother and we were talkin about the fact that um, she always has an issue with people calling themselves artists. Or even other people calling themselves calling them artists. She feels like it’s okay to call somebody for somebody to call themselves a painter or dancer or whatever, but when it comes to being an artist that is like calling yourself a genius and it’s just inappropriate come to you know, say that about themselves and a lot of people do have issues with calling themselves artists.

I mean I have issues with it, too. So I just kind of wanted to hear like, what do you think about that whole issue?

Amanda: mean, I think um, I think that everybody should call themselves an artist. I disagree. I think um the idea of maybe specifying the type of art you’re doing like calling myself a painter dancer it reduces.

Your um your outlets and um, I think if you call yourself an artist, it allows you to play in a lot of different mediums and even question what is art and is like the way I live my life or are intentional things. I’m doing in the kitchen when I cook dinner art. And um, am I being an artist when I do simple things in my life that way.

Danny: So you see an hour, you see the term artist is being like nondenominational. It’s like you’re just an artist and then you might be an artist who’s also a dancer or an artist who is a Dancer or is it paint or

Amanda: Absolutely ABS, I think being an artist is about being intentional with what you’re doing.

I mean, I think you think about maybe like someone who works on Cars and auto mechanic and they can do that artfully and I would. Go so far as to call them an artist in their field. That’s not necessarily someone painting or someone, you know doing a performance on stage, but there’s still an artist because they’re putting intention behind their actions.

Danny: So does it have anything to do with quality in other words, like what if you what if what you do is I just amateurish and um lame, is it still to be an artist?

Amanda: Who’s judging what you’re doing, is that you judging.

Danny: We’ll see you do judges. Like I just I just started to draw. I’m not really very good at it.

I don’t really have a lot of confidence in what I’m doing. You think it’s okay for you to say, but I’m an artist.

Amanda: definitely, I think all artists start somewhere and um, the judgment is natural, even when you’re creating beautiful work. I think some of the best pieces, um, When I look back at things that I’ve performed and I think that you know, it’s the essence of what I was trying to get out on stage.

Um, it doesn’t mean in that moment. I wasn’t critical and wasn’t like this is crap sometimes. And I think again like allowing yourself to take on that label gives you the freedom to continue to play in it if you’re creating a piece and you’re not happy with it or if it’s just like some little sketch and you still are able to say I’m an artist then you’ll keep going with that.

Danny: That’s kind of what I was saying to her is that I think that. If you refuse to say that you’re an artist then then it becomes harder for you to say like, well, I’m going to devote time to doing this or I’m going to devote resources to it, you know, because if you say well I’m not really an artist.

So like why am I you know spending all this time and energy and it’s not like I’m really an artist.

Amanda: Yeah, and it’s kind of been fuel to keep me going. I mean, my mom always said I was an artist even when I was little um, And just like looking at a sunset. She would be like you can appreciate the colors in the sky you’re an artist and as I’ve grown up there have been periods where I haven’t created anything, but I still believed that about myself.

So it’s given me a freedom to go back in at any angle. I want like whether I’m dancing or writing I can just kind of jump back into that to making.

Danny: So do you think you have to make art to be an artist?

Amanda: No, I

Danny: How does that work that work?

Amanda: Um, I think again you can ask the really broad question. What is art?

I mean, I I think if I’m not making any work, it doesn’t mean that I’m not filling my well or. Absorbing the world in a way that’s ultimately going to manifest in some art and I still think that that action is making me an artist being able to intentionally look at the world around me even just seeing the beauty in the world around me.

Um, and I don’t know when that inspiration will come out as a piece of art, but even these moments of stagnant non making are still. Filling my well too, you know be to create something into I think it’s still valid to call yourself an artist and those times

Danny: you think art is a religion?

Amanda: I think it’s a way of life.

I think it’s a philosophy.

Danny: Yeah. Now, I mean I do too. I think it’s a it’s a world view and I think there are people who I don’t think it’s quite right to say everybody is an artist. I think it’s okay to say everybody could be an artist. I mean, I think again like if it is a worldview not everybody has it there are people who are like, I don’t know.

I just, you know watch football and make sandwiches and you know do my job as a mechanic and then needs, you know, and I think you could say them well. Do you appreciate the beauty of a car? Do you appreciate the design of a transmission do you like the sound of a well tuned engine. Do you like the way that um, the Elegance of of a football game with great strategy and with beautiful performances by the players?

I mean you can get into an art point of view on kind of anything–.

Amanda: Well, I yeah, I think it goes back to what I was saying about intention and coupled with that is attention. I think both of those things together make you an artist when you’re paying attention and then when you’re behaving in an intentional way I was um, oh never mind.

My mind just went blank.

Danny: I mean, I think one of the reasons it that my mother has is objection. My mother’s not American and I think that she feels like there’s a an American tendency to self-congratulation and to you know telling you know giving every kid on the soccer team a trophy and even if they lose, you know that this is feeling that like.

Yeah, it’s too easy, you know and the things that are valuable take effort and perseverance and and in the end judgment, I think is this good um, and the question becomes like does art and art is being an artist lose its meaning if it’s too easily Grant it.

Amanda: I I think art enhances life and I don’t think that that is um, that is uh something that I agree with like putting judgment or.

Um, like personal judgment on when you’re talkin about am I an artist? Um, I don’t think it holds the same rules as like did I win the soccer game? I think um calling yourself an artist and viewing everything you do or you know viewing the way that you live your life in an Artful way can only enhance your quality of life and the people around you.

Um, I think the value is for someone else to decide. What like did what I make resonate with you, but the act of making I think everyone should just be a creative and in being a creative they are an artist.

Danny: I think part of the station is also um, if somebody says to me, so what are you and he say, oh, I’m an artist and the response is going to be.

Oh like what do you do? Um, you know, I paint and draw a really um, are you in a gallery? No, not really, you know, I just so it’s your hobby. Um, yeah, I guess so. I mean, I really I care a lot about it. I do it a lot. Oh, that’s cool. But so what does it eat? So what are you I’m well, I’m accountant.

Oh, that’s that’s what I meant, you know, and then the fear is also like. That the person is going to go like that person was and he said he was an artist. He’s actually an accountant.

Amanda: Right. Well, there’s expectations with the words. But that’s out of your control. Everybody has a different idea of what an artist is and I was thinking about this.

Um, when somebody says to me, I’m an artist when they say that about themselves. My First Response isn’t you know, you aren’t and even if I’m looking at the work that they make or even if it’s just a sketch book where they have dabbled in something I never think like will that persons not an artist even if it’s like work that I very very simple I mean if it’s not work that I connect with that’s what I think that work isn’t specifically speaking to me, but I don’t ever push back on their ideas of themselves if they think they’re an artist I believe them.

Danny: Yeah, but maybe that’s because you’re an artist in other words now, you know what I mean, if like if. If I speak to if I agree with you, I think if I ever say to an artist, I’m an artist they’re like cool. But if I say to somebody who’s not an artisan who probably views artists with suspicion, you know, um, it becomes a bit more embarrassing if they call you on it, you know, like what do you mean by that?

I mean like you would never say I’m a dentist. Oh really are you you know, but I think when it comes to being an artist, it’s. Because I think we also have this view of artists as potentially con men. I mean, it’s you call them a con artist, you know, and we have this fear that like, oh you’re oh your conceptual artist of your performance artist.

Like what is that even and then you get into a whole kind of debate with somebody that normally you would never have with somebody if they told you what they do.

Amanda: But those moments and you can take them personally or you can take it as an opportunity to explain your philosophy. If you will on your art or what you’re doing.

I mean again, I think. If I’m talkin to somebody who’s not an artist and they’re like what I mean and I have this experience all the time because I’m a dancer and the moment that you tell someone their dancer your dancer. They don’t go to professional dance. They go other places with their mind and you have to like reel them back into know I’m talkin about contemporary dance Fine Art dance and their response.

I don’t let it touch my value. My personal value I don’t let it affect whether I believe I’m an artist or not. I just see that as a place where they don’t understand what I’m doing and an opportunity to discuss it with them.

Danny: Right. I mean it’s in the end you were allowed to choose our identity. I think that’s the difference.

I think it’s complicated because on the one hand being an artist is an identity on another hand. It’s a job another hand. It’s a worldview, you know, and um, you know, those can be different things so you can say I see myself as an artist or somebody else could say, you know, you’re a real artist.

Uh, you know, I think that that’s the complicated thing is we don’t know whether we’re in assuming this identity whether we’re giving up other ones, You know and I think that’s a big fear that people have is like I’d like to be an artist but then I have to give up my job as an

Amanda: No, I think you take control of the label.

You don’t let somebody else do it for you. Um, especially if there’s a personal value to you and calling yourself an artist, which I think is, you know, you create or you explore different mediums or you see the world in a more beautiful way. And you don’t let somebody else in part that on you you take control of the label.

Danny: think that’s good advice. I think I think it can be challenging for people because they. We all want other people to accept our identity to you know, we don’t be like well, I think I’m an artist but nobody else does that’s not really

Amanda: mean in a ridiculous example you think about it someone who confidently tells you they have?

I don’t know green eyes. Um, you’re not going to really spend time being like but I think that they’re blue but I think that they’re brown and they’re like no I have green eyes. I’ve had green eyes since birth. I mean there’s maybe an element of pushback but there’s also like if someone comes to you with a confident belief about themselves you accepted as truth I do.

Danny: Yeah, I think you want to be surrounded by supportive people, but I think people are threatened by the idea of somebody being an artist. I think I think people feel like um, You know, it’s it’s an odd kind of job to have it’s not clear that it’s going to you know, you know, you become an artist so you get then not be able to pay the rent.

Um, are you gonna do things that challenge me and make me feel uncomfortable? Um, I think you know, I think that there’s it’s it’s different than having green eyes in the if you have green eyes fine, whatever. But if you say you’re an artist then I just have to really think hard about it. I think that’s probably partly to do with our whole attitude towards artists, you know,

Amanda: Yeah.

Danny: so I think I think people are afraid so so what would you say to somebody who says I’m afraid to say that I’m an artist. I mean, I I’ve been barest I if somebody asked me I would I I’m not sure what I would say.

Amanda: Um, I think I would tell them just to try it on try it on you don’t have to even tell other people at first that you’re an artist.

You don’t have to, you know, tell your mother or your you know, family that you’re an artist but try it on yourself. I would say spend a week calling yourself an artist to yourself and seeing if it enhances your view and then you know your waitress at breakfast, you know be like, what do you do?

Oh, you’re a waitress, but you’re also whatever. I’m an artist see how it feels to just say those things. Um and see if it brings you any more confidence and peace about what you’re doing.

Danny: That’s great advice. Yeah, it’s like coming out in any other form would be I think.

Amanda: just having the confidence to call yourself something and believe it about yourself with believe that it’s an okay label for you to use.

Danny: I think it’s also interesting to think what would it mean if I was an artist like what would that how that Empower me how that changed my life if I was confident with that and I think if you thought about that and we were able to come up with some satisfying answers, that would be what you could go back to when you feel

Amanda: Yeah, definitely.

And I mean for me again, I I think I’ve had this privilege sense where I’ve grown up in a family that is always called me an artist. So I’ve never had to really question whether I was one or what it would mean if I called myself one, but I’ve had this privilege of that label just being part of who I am and supported by the people around me.

Um, and so I speak from that place definitely. But again, it benefits me in that even if I’m not creating art. I’m seeing the world in an Artful way. I’m absorbing it and um being inspired by it all of the time

Danny: give you the last word. That was excellent. Don all right. So from now on you’re going to do the podcast I’m going to go on vacation and

Amanda: mine.

Danny: can take over all yours. You can call it whatever you want to so, all right. So coming up next week. We’ll have a Manda hosting future episodes of art for all and I was your host Danny Gregory. Peace out.


DANNY: I hope you got some beautiful creative work while you listened to these conversations and I hope you found them useful. If you did or if you didnt, give us some feedback. We try to make lots of different sorts of episodes for you on this podcast and to cover lots of different topics we think you’ll find useful. And we’d love to hear from you so we can make art for all even better.

You can email me at danny@sketchbookskool.com or you can come up and chat with me in Pasadena on November 2- 4th in Pasadena. You can even buy me a drink at the bar.

Until next, time, I’m danny gregory and this is art for all.


12 thoughts on “Podcast 06: Call yourself an artist?”

  1. With all due respect, your mom is wrong, and for the moment I call myself an art student but some day I want to have the guts to call myself an artist.


  2. Doesn’t the title artist as a noun deserve the opportunity for countless adjectives to precede it….beginning, struggling, bad, good, great etc.? I might bravely call myself an artist but be more careful describing myself by choosing the proper descriptive adjective(s). Right now “old” is the best I can do.


  3. Thank you Danny for bringing up this subject. I love the different perspective that your Mom and Amanda bring. I think that it is a generational and cultural view after hearing both ages speak to it. Though I am 65 and fall into the “imposter” feeling about calling myself an artist, it is time to rethink. Thank you Danny’s mum and Amanda, for your insight and wisdom.


  4. I think one major problem/reality is that in American English, the phase, “What are you?” or, “What do you do?” has a connotation that means, “How do you earn a living?” The question is not understood in general conversation to mean other things, like, “What is your world view?” etc. So maybe the answer is to reply to the question something along the lines of, “I currently make my living as an accountant, but my primary focus is on my artwork (or, primary area of interest is my artwork, or whatever).” Then you are not accidentally implying that you are earning a living by doing art, but yet you are still stating its importance in your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved loved loved Amanda Rentschler’s interview on Art for All podcast 6. I so needed to hear this as I’m one who struggles with this even tho I’m 61 and have drawn and crafted since I was 5 years old….being paid for a lot of it. My job for the past 40 years was as a secretary/admin asst but my passion is art. Out of high school my mom said to go to business school and someday go to art school. Never did go to art school but always wanted to call myself an artist as that is what is in my heart and always will be there. Thank you!


  6. I am comfortable calling myself an artist but my mother got into an elevator with a woman wearing a nametag with the same name as mime. When my mom noticed the woman looking back at her she apologized and explained that Linda Hatfield was also her daugher’s name. The woman who is familiar with my work said “oh is your daughter Linda Hatfield the artist?” my mom replied….no.


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