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Nine Warning Signs Of An Amateur Artist

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“The seed of your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece. Such imperfections are your guides–valuable, objective, non-judgmental guides to matters you need to reconsider or develop further.†~David Bayles

 

 I have said something similar for a long time and I was so pleased to find it echoed here. Must mean I'm right.  :P

 

Last May I started a "100 Mugs in 100 Days" project. I cannot say that everything I made in that project is part of my permanent lineup now, but I tried all kinds of new ideas as well as working out the kinks in a design that I have been fiddling with for 2 1/2 years now as well as finally getting my handles to look like a planned part of the mug instead of something that was stuck on as an afterthought. Nobody but me was putting pressure on to make those mugs, but my creative juices ran wild and I couldn't wait to get out into the studio each day. I've thought of setting myself a new task each year to focus on a new form and remove that fear of failure that still rears its' head. Each failure brings me one step closer to success. It really means that I have eliminated one avenue and can spend my time focusing on a potentially more rewarding one.

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I knew that I had problems with "S" shaped cracks in hump thrown pieces. Nearly at the same time as this realization was really bothering me, I was asked to do a job requiring 2000 wheel thrown vessels only about the size of a small juice glass. 8 months later I finished the job, and at the same time learned to throw with 99% survival rate of the small vessels. . . that is no "S" cracks. Long hard process that required research, constant diligence in my clay prep and throwing as there really was not much else to be done other than many a week. At first, nearly 60% of the load had an "S" crack. Underpaid, but lesson learned. Sometimes it really isn't about the value of the product, but the lessons we learn getting there.

 

 

best,

pres

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I highly recommend the book: Art & Fear. I was listening to a pod cast while throwing some pots and Tony Clennell said he makes all his students read it. So I checked it out from the library. Finished it in almost an afternoon. It talks a lot about the difference between an Amateur and a Pro. Basically the main difference is one doesn't believe in the C word.(creativity). The pro artist knows real work brings results, anything else is a fairy tale. The amateur looks for inspiration in others. The pro makes a lot of work and filters through what they like in their work each day even if this isn't on purpose and keeps making more things that they like. Eventually they become our own style and their work reflects oneself. 

 

He even says something along the lines about talent. It only makes the entry into something easier, but it won't carry someone towards greatness without hard work and a lot of hours.

 

EDIT: After reading Bruce's comments I realized that my words in the post sounds negative towards amateurs. In my post I simply meant: Amateurs who are wanting to become professional(most of their income from pottery) but find lack of talent or creativity as an excuse to never get there, is because they aren't willing to put in the hours. That is all. There is nothing wrong with being an amateur. I am an amateur. I make 0 dollars off pottery and I am super happy!

GiselleNo5 likes this

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I would argue that creativity exists, but it is like a muscle. It gets stronger if you use it a lot. This is another reason I am grateful for all the years I worked as a designer. Thousands and thousands of aethestic decisions and problems solved with the creativity muscle. Not just honing my own aesthetic values but also having to reconcile my beliefs with the tastes and needs of clients. It really crystalized my own belief system, which is now manifesting in my pottery.

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I highly recommend the book: Art & Fear. I was listening to a pod cast while throwing some pots and Tony Clennell said he makes all his students read it. So I checked it out from the library. Finished it in almost an afternoon. It talks a lot about the difference between an Amateur and a Pro. Basically the main difference is one doesn't believe in the C word.(creativity). The pro artist knows real work brings results, anything else is a fairy tale. The amateur looks for inspiration in others. The pro makes a lot of work and filters through what they like in their work each day even if this isn't on purpose and keeps making more things that they like. Eventually they become our own style and their work reflects oneself. 

 

He even says something along the lines about talent. It only makes the entry into something easier, but it won't carry someone towards greatness without hard work and a lot of hours.

This rings true to me, although I think everyone is influenced by others in some way. I don't think there is really anything new. New combinations, maybe, but not many new ideas anymore. But I do like what it said about pros make a lot of work and filter through to see what they like. I have often wondered, as someone who doesn't make her living with art, how people get to their style. Seven years in, I am finally figuring out what I really love and what I don't like, and still trying to really grab it. 

I'm not sure I am comfortable, though, having such hierarchical lines between a pro and an amateur. I know lot of amateur potters who make spectacular work and have gone to studios where pros are selling their work and see stuff just thrown together. I know for me, when I felt under pressure to try to sell things, I made stuff I am not proud of, so I have really stepped back and am reevaluating. I want to explore, enjoy, not feel pressure to make any $$ cause I already have a full time job that doesnt' give me much time to create anyway.

D Walsh likes this

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I have a quote in my sketchbook that says "When you are lazy, your art is lazy, when you hold back, it holds back, when you hesitate it stands there staring, hands in pockets. But when you commit, it comes on like blazes."  I think this is from Art and Fear that Joseph mentioned.  I find that quote to be true in most things.

 

Recently I was having dinner with family and friends, and I said that I realize that most people think they are paying me a compliment when they say "you are so talented!"  when I explained to the group that I almost resent this comment because I really really work at making pots.  My husband said, but you are talented!  And I told him no, I don't believe that I have any more talent than anyone else, but what I bring to the table (the clay table, as it were) is persistence.  Pure and simple.  A willingness to fail and perhaps look stupid, but to keep trying.  Thanks for sharing Mea.  Hope your show goes well this weekend.

Roberta

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i have had "art and fear" for years but i am afraid to open it.

 

giselle, years ago ceramics monthly had an article about a potter whose goal was modest.  seven bowls a day for seven weeks.  the photo of the final result showed about a billion bowls laid out on the floor of a huge space.  i am no good at math, someone who is can multiply it.

GiselleNo5, Roberta12, RonSa and 1 other like this

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nancylee, the article is not about heirarchy in terms of whether one makes money with their art or whether somebody still has a day job. It's about how seriously you take yourself, and whether you understand where development comes from.

 

I don't have a problem with the word "talent" to describe artists. Or "no-talent" as it were. Referring to traits that people are born with and really can't be taught. I don't think talent is only about creative abilities. I think it refers to ones entire makeup, including things like persistence, drive, humility, curiosity, etc. For example, a person with obvious drawing and sculpting skill, who never works hard to develop themselves, perhaps s/he has a sense of entitlement and thinks success is a foregone conclusion, is a no-talent. Lots of people like this in the art world. At the same time, being a professional ceramicist does involve some inate creative abilities too, as part of one's makeup.

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I would argue that creativity exists, but it is like a muscle. It gets stronger if you use it a lot. This is another reason I am grateful for all the years I worked as a designer. Thousands and thousands of aethestic decisions and problems solved with the creativity muscle. Not just honing my own aesthetic values but also having to reconcile my beliefs with the tastes and needs of clients. It really crystalized my own belief system, which is now manifesting in my pottery.

 

I think the author just considers the creative muscle you speak of simply, "hard work". Mostly because, people who want to try art won't since they are not "creative". I think this is the main reason he doesn't like the word, it has became an excuse for many people not to try hard or give up due to lack of inherit "creativity" 

 

Like you said your creativity developed over years of using it. More of a skill than some random thing you inherently have. Just some thoughts. I could be wrong, just stating what the author said kinda ringed true in my mind.

 

I know a lot of people who want to do art, but never try because, they just "are not creative." My own brother has said the phrase to me as an excuse not to take a small job he was offered in design, and I have seen his work, he has plenty of talent. Just needs to put in the hours to explore and gain those skills.

 

Either way good discussions.

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Talent is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Creativity is the same way, you gotta work at it.

 

Mistakes are not failures its just finding out what doesn't work.

 

I've never been comfortable with the labels amateur and professional except to say that a pro actually earns a living. I've seen some amateur work that puts some pros to shame.

Roberta12 and JohnnyK like this

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I highly recommend the book: Art & Fear. I was listening to a pod cast while throwing some pots and Tony Clennell said he makes all his students read it. So I checked it out from the library. Finished it in almost an afternoon. It talks a lot about the difference between an Amateur and a Pro. Basically the main difference is one doesn't believe in the C word.(creativity). The pro artist knows real work brings results, anything else is a fairy tale. The amateur looks for inspiration in others. The pro makes a lot of work and filters through what they like in their work each day even if this isn't on purpose and keeps making more things that they like. Eventually they become our own style and their work reflects oneself. 

 

He even says something along the lines about talent. It only makes the entry into something easier, but it won't carry someone towards greatness without hard work and a lot of hours.

This rings true to me, although I think everyone is influenced by others in some way. I don't think there is really anything new. New combinations, maybe, but not many new ideas anymore. But I do like what it said about pros make a lot of work and filter through to see what they like. I have often wondered, as someone who doesn't make her living with art, how people get to their style. Seven years in, I am finally figuring out what I really love and what I don't like, and still trying to really grab it. 

I'm not sure I am comfortable, though, having such hierarchical lines between a pro and an amateur. I know lot of amateur potters who make spectacular work and have gone to studios where pros are selling their work and see stuff just thrown together. I know for me, when I felt under pressure to try to sell things, I made stuff I am not proud of, so I have really stepped back and am reevaluating. I want to explore, enjoy, not feel pressure to make any $$ cause I already have a full time job that doesnt' give me much time to create anyway.

 

 

I don't think the difference between amateur and professional is measured in skill, talent, or creativity. It is simply who makes a significant part of their living from the doing whatever they are doing. I played poker professionally for years when I was younger on the internet. I called myself a professional poker player(on my taxes), not because I was really good at the game, just because I was earning my living and putting myself through college playing it. Once I stopped doing that, I was no longer a pro, just a hobbyist. I was still very good at the game.

 

I am an amateur potter. 

 

EDIT: RonSa beat me to it lol.

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The bias and snobbery is evident in the article title . . . warning real artists that amateurs are persons to be avoided and how to detect them. I have no problem admitting to being an amateur potter because that is what I am. No more, no less.

glazenerd and D.M.Ernst like this

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Hey folks, remember that this is the Business section of the forum. This discussion should be about "running a pottery business," which is different from a discussion about "being a good potter."

 

I've said this before on the forum, and will emphasize it again here, being a professional does not make you superior to a non-professional. As others have pointed out already, some amateurs are making mind-boggling work. Some professionals are making meh work. These are just two different subjects, that's all.

 

This article is not addressed to amateurs in general. It is addressed specifically to those who are actively trying to be professionals.

D.M.Ernst likes this

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i have had "art and fear" for years but i am afraid to open it.

 

:lol:  :lol: :lol:  :lol:  :lol:  

 

"Art and Fear" is on our "must read" list at the college also.

 

Then there is the famous Chuck Close quote:

 

"The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case.â€

 

best,

 

................john

JohnnyK, Joseph F, D Walsh and 1 other like this

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With regard to the business aspect of this conversation...I think "talent" in innate. I'm about to turn 70. I've worked since I was 16 years old holding jobs from soda ######## in a candy store in NY to a well compensated remodeling contractor in CA. As I look back on all the jobs I have held, they all seemed to revolve around helping people and/or fixing things... many times helping people by fixing things.

Prior to my retirement from the world of making money, I spent 35 years in the construction business as a handyman, then licensed general contractor. Most of the time, in my previous jobs, I'd work in a place until I reached the limit of my skills and learning in the particular field. I'd get to the point where I could see little chance for advancement in skill or development. At that point I would move on to another job. This process went on until I got into the business of fixing things for people in their houses. Since I worked for myself, I was able to choose the jobs that I did, and every day was different. Each day I learned something and that carried me through for more than 35 years. I had a talent for doing what I did. 

I find that I could probably not be a production potter, doing the same thing day after day. I thrive on different.

Having "talent" makes it easier to get good at what you do. Having talent and being persistent helps you get very good at what you do. When someone says "You make it look so easy", you talent and persistence has paid off.

Jus saying...

JohnnyK

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Hey folks, remember that this is the Business section of the forum.

 

Yes it is, my apologizes for that, I do agree with a larger portion of the article. But IMO the article itself overlapped the topic with its bias.

 

I'm speaking as a professional who sold his design work for 30+ years which put my 2 daughters through college, a roof over my family's head and kept food on the table.

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I have the pleasure of being in the company of some very serious artists, who produce some of the most inspiring pieces. If you are interested in talking to them ( they are very friendly ) as well. You can reach them at this address:

Ceramic arts daily - forums

 

Nerd

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I have the pleasure of being in the company of some very serious artists, who produce some of the most inspiring pieces. If you are interested in talking to them ( they are very friendly ) as well. You can reach them at this address:

Ceramic arts daily - forums

 

Nerd

 

+2

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Well, as someone currently learning about developing a small business, who has been a recognized professional in several fields for many decades, as an artist who is unlikely to live long enough to become a professional ceramist, and as one who is happy being a talented amateur,  I had a visceral YUK reaction to the article.

 

The 9 assertions and my rebuttal:

 

1.  Patently false. Misunderstands the definition of amateur; no supportive data for claiming this "mood" behavior.

2.  The professional approach to the work process as described is just as true for many amateurs or novices...simple observation supports that.

3.  The author is using the word amateur (ignoring the definitions) in place of the more correct "dilettante", which is closer to what he is describing.

4.  Any data to support this silly claim? (marketing/sales)

5.  Same as above. (quick success)

6.  Really? Seriously?  (organization/discipline)

7.  He's just being snotty now. (amateurs never finish)

8.  More negative assumptions (learning/not doing--again, more like dilettantism than amateurism)

9.  Not even ancedotal data to support this statement (isolation). Plus there are tons of strictly amateur community-based clubs, events,and groups that non-professional artists participate in, in cities/town as well as online. And professional art communities that welcome amateurs with open arms (like the CAD forums, and potters guilds). 

 

 Sorry GEP-I do understand your intent to address the role of professional vs. amateur in the context of business--but this piece, for me, just missed that mark. I bet if you spoke to the core issues and wrote the text, it would be much more paletable and definately more useful. 

RonSa likes this

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Lee, I agree with you that the word "dilettante" is much more descriptive of the what this writer is talking about. Should have been used instead of "amateur."

 

Edit to add: I don't really agree with the need for data or studies to support any of these assertions. From the perspective from someone who has been at this for many years, having come across many others trying to do the same thing, some doing great and some really struggling, I found myself nodding at most of this.

 

Edit 2: Especially the part about expecting success to arrive fairly quickly, then getting discouraged when it doesn't.

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I never made a living selling my design work, or at making pots or producing much else other than the few pieces I have made and sold to support a Summer vacation, or to supplement my normal income. Heck, I fell into my career, looking for an east coast school in industrial design somewhere I could afford and not so far from PA. Wasn't one in the late 60's, and most guidance folks had no idea how to help with that. I ended up going to a local college that had an art department, that happened to have an Art Ed degreee>!?&%&*. Few years went by, I got a job near where my new wife, who went to the same college for El Ed. got a job as a teacher. One year after another it was OK get an MFA. Hmmm residency, and new baby on the way. . . no way.

 

So I fell into 36 years of teaching, and found after the first few years that I loved every moment. . . . of the teaching. I got to help students solve problems, with design, media and materials, with geometry and other math, with literacy in describing their work and feelings/beliefs about it. So much of what I did was imparting knowledge. Never made much at all to speak of, more as an act of a floor manager with 30 employees making art. Hmmm! Boy did they teach me so much more about design, texture, aesthetics and so much more by solving their problems and giving them more than one solution each step along the way. Never made much myself except to demonstrate a concept, a technique or new media. Hmmmmm! Maybe that is not quite right, as many of my students are out there doing computer animation, fashion design and illustration, making pots, and jewelry, and other things to do as I did, and even to have successful careers, making the leap I never made. For me the fall seemed so planned out, but you never would have known it, until you look back on it!

 

Amateur, Professional, really doesn't matter. . . 

 

 

best,

Pres

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