The discussion group for my art marketing class, Choosing the Right Career Path, is having an interesting conversation on “amateur vs. professional artist” and what both monikers mean. Karen Thumm chimed in with a thoughtful assessment, which she has agreed to let me share here:
Just because a dictionary says that a person who is an amateur isn’t as competent or experienced as a professional, doesn’t make it so, especially in the art world. We probably all know really talented artists who do not promote themselves or their work by going to art fairs, entering shows or all the rest of what makes some of us "professionals". Whether you sell your work or not has nothing to do with your competence and natural talent. It has to do with what you want to do with your art once it’s created.
So, perhaps we can all agree on some new definitions that apply only in the artworld.
A professional artist is one who chooses to market his/her artwork on a regular basis in a businesslike manner whether or not he/she has achieved a high level of competence.
An amateur artist is one who prefers to create solely for the joy of doing so with no expectation of financial gain or an artist who is in an early stage of learning the craft of art. Competency can be at any level from high to low.
Keep in mind, that marketing doesn’t necessarily mean financial gain or sales. Many artists who market their work (professionally) do so more for recognition than for sales. They’re interested in capturing the eyes of curators, museums, and critics.
What do you think? Is "promoting" a better word to use?
Image: Karen Thumm, Tall, Dark, and Handsome.