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What makes an artist?

What makes an artist?

We’re not high-end art snobs. From paintings to photography, sculpture to prints, Artfinder champions talent, passion and originality, not how much an artist sells for. Record breaking auctions? Forget it. Beautiful, affordable art that’s accessible to everyone? You bet.

But, what exactly makes an artist? It’s true that Artfinder artists do not need to have any formal training to sell their artwork, but it may be something collectors look for before buying a piece. This week on Artbeat we’re asking the big questions: Is sheer passion really enough to make it as an artist? Furthermore, does attending art school make you a credible artist? Here, our own Artfinder artists do the talking.

The self-taught camp

Daniel Shipton:

“As a self-taught artist, I am a firm believer that the technical appearance and the content of my artworks would not have been achieved in the same way had I been formally trained. Ultimately it’s what makes me… me and my work... my work.

I started painting and drawing due to observing my brother, James Shipton, when I was in my teens. It occurred to me that I also wanted to create the images that came to me in my minds eye.

I see advantages in being self-taught, as I had a vision of what I wanted to achieve and had to approach the artwork like a puzzle to attain the desired effect. Had I been trained, I do not believe these works would have the same look, as I would have had a foundation that followed those before me more strictly. This resulted in my lack of training liberating me from convention.”

Daniela Schweinsberg:

”I'm what is called ‘self-taught’. I was always creative. I left the family home at 16 and only had O-levels, so it was important to earn my own money. I began an apprenticeship as an office management assistant and studied business administration at University. There was simply no time to make anything creative with a full-time day job and studies. I received my diploma in 2004 and at this point it was clear that I wanted to do something for personal pleasure.

I went to an art supplies store, bought some colours, brushes, canvasses and two ‘how to paint’ books. I moved forward step-by-step and in 2017 I quit my day job. I don't know what will come, but right now I think it was one of the best decisions of my life. I earn not a quarter of what I did before, but I'm free to do what I love and that’s worth even more.”

Emma Cownie:

”I studied art at high school and thought about going to art school, but thought I'd never be able to support myself as an artist (this was in the days before the internet and Artfinder). Yet, I never stopped drawing, painting and making stuff. It was only after a car accident that I turned to art as a way of dealing with my symptoms. I still do. I don't know how going to art school would have changed my art, and I have heard different stories about people's experiences, from boozy fun to crushing people’s confidence, so I’m happy to ‘plough my own furrow’ so to speak. I’m very happy Artfinder came along at the right moment as selling on this platform has helped my development as an artist.”

Art school graduates

John O’Grady:

"I went to art school - a foundation course and a degree - which took five years in total.

In hindsight, it was a reason to have an uninterrupted period of time to immerse myself in art. I look back on that time with some great memories, and my passion for art in all forms has only deepened.

While I was there, I found that many tutors were artists who would much rather have been in the studio instead of teaching. So the support came from my own peer group. It was great to see other people grow and their work change over the years.

My college was non-modular and very much around painting. The benefits were learning to think for oneself, believe in what you are about, learning to argue a point, hopefully critically. The act of making is a physical expression of how we place ourselves in relation to the world around us. College doesn't alter that. The history of art can testify to the artists who didn't attend formal training, what they all had in common was the passion to continue making. The type of vehicle they took to get them there is an aside to the work.”

Patricia Clements:

"I went to art college at the early age of 16 after getting my A-levels. I skipped the foundation course and went straight into a fine arts course. This covered everything, from perspective to life painting and oil painting. Some of the teachers were good and some hadn't a clue, but it did give me discipline to paint and learn which I needed at the time.

I came to London and studied mainly under Leslie Cole, a brilliant man and artist. This was the best art teaching for me. I loved living in London, but I was very poor to start with. I then got a job in the art and design department of a national magazine and also painted in the evenings and on weekends. Summing it up, I think it was very useful going to art college but it's not a necessity. I think if you have talent and love painting you will paint whatever the circumstances.”

Anthony Crammen:

“I attended university to study fine art and then most recently graduated with my masters degree in fine art.

Based on my experiences, I don't think it's necessary to have an art education to be successful or skilled in the subject. It can help with certain things, such as presentation and challenging your own way of thinking, but it isn't everything. I know many artists who are self-taught and are very good at what they do.

I think the most important thing for an artist is to have confidence in their own abilities and the work they produce, and to try not to focus on self doubt in which we are all guilty of doing. But to also create new, original works and have your own identity and brand that makes you unique.

For anyone who is unable to or can't afford an art education, don't worry about it! Just keep doing you and you'll be fine!”

Celine Baliguian:

”I have learned to lead projects from mind to sketch, from sketch to model, to real size realisation. I have learned to be organised in my plans and projects, and how to defend my work under a storm of critics. The interaction with teachers and students was a non-stop emulation, boiling and leaking creativity everywhere. It has changed me for the better. It was tough at times because we had to swallow our pride, accept to be dismissed or to be criticised. In the end, I have won more than what I have lost.”

*Cover image via Meriliis Rinne

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