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I paint, make collages and mixed media work. I write poetry. I reflect on the Tao.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Professional versus amateur artist

This little note was sparked by Russ Potak's great interview at

This bit, in particular:
Yes, don't give up your day job. Hahaha! Sorry, just had to get that one in. No, actually do give it up. But only if you like the TV show Survivor, because more than likely, unless you love the work more than the money, you're going to drown. You have to love what you're doing to the point of, “if I make it, good, if I don't, I'll find a way to survive, somehow, someway”.

I always say, “You can't learn to swim with one foot on the shore and one foot in the water. Either jump in, or find a nice place on the beach to spread out”. Now that said, if you would like to do art, as a whenever, and however interest, and you are not looking to jump into the mix professionally, then you have a lot of options. Do it, don't do it, whenever, whatever, as the mood hits, or doesn't, and you get to join all the clubs and art groups and sit around and talk art and gardens. Note my sarcasm...
For me, this dichotomy of professional versus amateur doesn't ring true. Since the demise of the Edwardian world in the conflagration of World War I, there has been a reversal in the status and connotations of the two terms. Amateur once had a higher status than professional. It meant someone who followed his/her calling from the motive of love, intellectual curiousity or moral improvement, not for the base motive of earning money. Hence an amateur, free from the constraints of money-making could afford to have higher standards and pursue their interests where they led.

Nowadays, professional refers to someone who makes money from their discipline, but, more importantly by adhering to a set of professional standards and preferably (almost compulsorily) accredited by  a University. The role of gatekeeper and enforcer of standards shifted from the Royal Academies and Societies after World War I to the galleries and publishing houses, and nowadays, has further shifted to the universities.

I am neither a professional nor an amateur artist/poet/intellectual in the contemporary use of the terms. As an intellectual, I have the necessary accreditation, but do not earn my living from my efforts (no University post or book sales to keep me). As a poet, I guess an English literature major counts for some sort of accreditation, but no living there, either. As an artist, I'm even less professional, sans accreditation, sans living, sans association (and some would say, sans sense).

How I make my living is irrelevant to my art, or only relevant in the sense that it provides me with the material wherewithall and limits my art time.

But I am very serious about each of my creative pursuits and adhere to high standards (well, believe I do). There is no way I would describe myself as an amateur (in the contemporary sense of hobbyist). So, if I must describe myself, I would say that I am a vocational artist/poet/thinker. One who makes art, poetry and writes, out of that deep love that Russ and I share for art.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In Thrall

In thrall to loss
his psyche, like a raven,
turning the shards
of bone and stone.

In the hollow of his heart
the silence of memory.
In the mountains of his mind
the stillness of wonder.

Tethered to life
his spirit, like a kite,
riding the clouds
of sand and blood.