Anna Hergert, Art & Design

The Definition of an Artist

Applique detailSome time ago (and pretty much at the beginning of my “serious” artist career) a colleague shared some wise words with me. I came across the notes I took during that conversation during “the studio purge” and I decided to contemplate these words and share them with you.

An artist is someone who role plays. By mastering this role play the artist evolves through balancing four specific roles: Inspired Creator, Worker, Judge and Business person.

The Inspired Creator encounters inspiration in the most unexpected places, the shower, while preparing a meal, a long walk, while driving, riding the bus or a dream in the middle of the night. Once inspired he/she pursues new paths, ideas, he/she samples and sketches, touches fabric, threads and beads, paper, he/she drops paint on wet surfaces and observes the mixing of these to create new colours, lines which may spark another idea and lead into a new direction. It is important to treat the Inspired Creator well. Expose him/her to books, movies, time with friends, trips to art galleries, museums and seaside beaches. Don’t down play the ideas, or worse dismiss them. If he/she does not act on these ideas they will move on to another creative person. Keeping a sketchbook and journal is vital to immortalize the ideas. They are true gifts.

The Worker must initially determine a suitable space to begin expanding the inspiration from journal and sketchbook. The space can range from a kitchen table, an easel in the living room bow window or a designated studio space. The worker must first engage with his/her toys (= supplies). He/she must stay organized while exploring paper, pens, brushes, fabrics, threads and needles to master his/her craft. The Worker executes the exercises and acquires the fundamental skills. The Worker takes workshops, takes notes, goes home to do the homework. He/she plans the work, breaks it into attainable segments. The Worker finishes what he/she starts by keeping a regular schedule. The Worker follows Albert Einstein’s motto: “Genius is 1 % inspiration and 99 % perspiration.”

The third role an artist takes on is the one of Judge. The Judge can be a friend or the greatest enemy of the artist. The Judge is well informed through workshops and classes. It is important that the Judge be kept at bay until there is an actual  body of work to be evaluated. Then the Judge must be invited in to evaluate the work, not the self-worth of the artist. Inviting the Judge for occasional sneak previews when help in decision making is welcome, the Judge may briefly enter the studio. Training the Judge to be very critical, accepting only the best and demanding that the artist gets better, tries new ideas and most importantly, learn from mistakes. That is the Judge’s primary role.

Enter the Business person. The business person works hand in hand with the Judge to get the artist’s work into the world. No matter what the discipline (writing, painting, quilting, teaching, performing, exhibiting) the Business person and Judge assist one another to ensure quality is delivered. The Business person initiates the connection with the audience, he/she finds venues, draws the contracts, negotiates financial compensation, keeps the books and ensures the artist gets paid. Some artists use agents or reps to manage their career which can be a detriment. Assuming the role of Business person in one’s artistic career can get the artist past feelings of insecurity and helps calm down the Judge.

Every artist must assume these roles. It is important to play these roles one at a time and find balance between them. Too many Inspired Creators have sketches and ideas but may never find the time to follow through. The Worker may be poor at managing time or produce repetitive, poor work. The Judge may pass weak work for good, or he/she may sabotage the artist’s success by being to critical. The Business person may be too focused on numbers and push the financial spreadsheet ahead of creative expression.

It is vital to strive for balance to provide a rich environment for the artist. Who said living the creative life is all fun and joy? Struggles are good – they make us stronger! Let’s keep the ball rolling by finding inspiration, experimenting with our chosen medium, carefully evaluating our progress and getting the art out there. Happy creating!

This entry was published on January 15, 2016 at 8:56 am. It’s filed under Creativity Update and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

9 thoughts on “The Definition of an Artist

  1. judithkh on said:

    Anna what a meaningful post,so timely for me. I just read it for the first time this evening, March 1st, which shows you how far behind I am in catching up on some of your past blogs. The impending arrival of family members at the end of the month had me re-arranging my art room today to make a sleeping corner for my 5 year old grandson, starting with removing every single item in my bookshelf so it could be moved to the other corner of the room. And what did I find? All the materials from the very first class you taught in your studio that I was so very fortunate to be a part of. As I looked back at my art book of the drawings and colour exercises you had us do, and even found the ‘artlets’ I made the following winter in response to your ‘daily artlet ‘challenge, I enjoyed some really pleasurable and nostalgic moments. I recognized my inspired creator self, I delighted in my ‘worker’ accomplishments, anad even let my inner ‘judge’ be favourably impressed for a change. What a great way to begin the month of March 2016. My promise to myself is to sit down and create something tomorrow even if everything is not back on the shelves.Thank you for sharing your colleague’s very apt analysis of what it takes to be an artist. It was exactly what I needed today along with re-experiencing some of the inspiration that YOU inspired by your teaching and sharing.


  2. Pingback: Inspiration Wednesday |

  3. Marilyn/Serafina on said:

    I always seem to come to things late in life, when it became fashionable to live together sans marriage I was already married, bikinis? I had already lost my figure. Art quilting came into my life after I was 70,but I hit the jackpot here, kids long out of the house, a financially comfortable retirement, and I could indulge my art journey with no pressure , no pressure to make money from it, I could indulge myself learning how to be an inspired quilter ( still learning)could make what ever I liked without fear that it wouldn’t be liked or sold. Such freedom! so lucky! But still struggling with being my own worst critic and judge.Great post Anna,made me do some re evaluation today . Thank you


    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Marilyn. You always make me smile and envious – creating for the sheer pleasure of creating, that is what I plan to return to. Glad you found this post inspirational. As always, I appreciate your personal comments and insights – keep them coming!


  4. I really love this breakdown and will save it to refer to. I am busy teaching classes at home so I need to find time to work on my own pieces on my days off. The worst part of running a business is the business part of it! Thanks for your post.


  5. This is an excellent post Anna! I agree wholeheartedly. I find it is easier to take on one role over others. I like being an inspired creator, but find myself sidetracked providing work for shops. I am too quick to judge my work negatively. I have lots of time to manage, and lots to do. Sometimes it is overwhelming! And I am seriously somewhat lacking in business acumen. 😦 Nice to have this rundown to see where I’m at and to build on. Thanks for your post again! 🙂


    • Hi Jean, So glad you found this post though provoking. I have been pondering posting something on this topic for a long time. I see we are both in similar situations – you under pressure creating work for shops, me it is the teaching and travel that prevents me from finding blocks of time to create. Not a good situation to be in but I am making changes. 😉 I have countless ideas and sketches, but the block of time is lacking in my calendar. Once my studio is back in place this will change. Almost there….

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