A person who is truly interested in you, a person who may become a customer, a fan or a word-of-mouth advertiser for you, learns nothing from the statement, “I am an artist;” the person is forced to ask, “What kind of artist?” Even the term, “visual artist” is lacking in enough specificity. The question, “What do you do?” is an opportunity that you should maximize. Your answer to this question should be a thoughtful and carefully crafted one.
Fair enough, Chris, I definitely want to maximize all conversational opportunities, so what are some good answers?
I am a (master) printmaker
I am a creative self-employed professional
I am a watercolour landscape artist
I am an artist that, according to the Leadington Star, is a “national treasure”
I am a wildlife photographer with a fine artist sensibility
I am a contemporary impressionist
I am a fine art painter and I teach technique
Can you honestly imagine dropping these in a real conversation?
“So, what do you do?”
“I am an artist that, according to the Leadington Star, is a ‘national treasure.’”
“Oh, great! Here’s all my money.”
I think I’ll stick with Father Sarducci’s advice: “If you don’t want to talk to somebody, you just say to them, ‘Hey, I don’t feel like talking now, I’m an artist.’”
I think these lists of “what do you do” are fantastic for website about pages and blog entries, but whenever I go to a party and am asked what I do, the answer of, “I’m an artist,” is usually met with two reactions:
1. Seen above, “What kind of artist, what do you do?”
To this, I usually pull out the sketchbook I keep in my bag and just show them the art that I do. Since I’m all over the place at times, it can be hard to boil it down.
This reminds me of a character from the fantastic show, Spaced:
Daisy: What do you do Brian? Brian: I’m an artist. Daisy: Oh, Tim’s an artist. What kind of thing do you do? Brian: Anger. [Shot of Brian attacking the canvas furiously] Brian: Pain. [Shot of Brian pricking his finger with a needle and whimpering] Brian: Fear. [Shot of Brian cowering in the dark as creepy music plays] Brian: Aggression. [Shot of Brian violently smashing an egg with a hammer] Daisy: Watercolours? Brian: It’s a bit more complex than that. Daisy: Tim does cartoons. Tim: It’s a bit more complex than that.
2. “Oh, for real?”
This one is a little more common these days. People just can’t believe that you’re an artist, and usually expect you to come back with, “Well, I really do A, and the art is on the side,” or something to that effect. I think this shows us more about how people perceive artist, and believe that if you’re not mega-famous, you can’t make a living off your art.
To this, I usually defend that, yes, I make my living this way, but then do as mentioned above, and list all the other things I also do, as if that’ll make it more believable that I can have this as my full-time job.
We really need a new word to describe ourselves. Personally, I paint, write, teach, edit, and vlog/blog. But people don’t know what to do with all that information. They need a simple answer: website designer, accountant, personal assistant, manager, in order to put you in a box and know what to talk to you about.
It probably doesn’t help that I like to talk about random science facts or organic chemistry. :D