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Professional vs Amateurism

by Rick Rotante on 5/30/2011 1:31:47 PM

This post is by guest author, Rick Rotante.  This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community.  If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 14,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  This author's views are entirely his own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.


There is a constant discourse on what art is and what art should be exhibited and what art is good what art is bad. I don't believe we will ever come to a unanimous agreement on this issue but it makes for interesting, if futile, dialogue.

What should be important is the principle that there are levels of expertise in creating art that have to be considered. Because of the explosion of instant media devices and the internet, those who want to show their work now have the entire world to see it. This exposure has a tendency to blend all levels of art together.


The darling painters in the local clubs are entitled to every accolade they get. But their work will suffer in comparison with work of a painter who has more experience, ability and technical facility when compared together. For those who deny this fact, they are deluding themselves. There is this notion that if you paint, you deserve to be noticed on a world stage. This is happening with musicians ( i.e. American idol), athletes ( i.e. Television now has little league games televised; skateboarding is an Olympic sport), dancers ( i.e. hip hop is considered a dance form). This is happening in every profession and sport mainly because of the internet. Unfortunately, we are unwilling to be objective when dealing with amateurism vs. professionalism.

An artist, singer, musician or athlete isn't someone who does something once or twice or on weekends or when the moment strikes them. A professional is someone whose entire life is taken up with what they do. And they do it every day and produce work worthy of being called professional. They spend their lives learning, practicing and creating work. Everyone else is an amateur.

As for the curators and museum operators - they are thinking only in dollars and spectacle, not necessarily about quality and professionalism. They are in this only for the money, fame and notoriety. Why do you think a plastic shark in a polyplastic tank sold for $14 million dollars? Don't put too much stock in what is good enough to be in museums and galleries. This is the commercial side of art not the creative side.

There is much "novelty" out there masquerading as art. We have to see it for what it is and put it in its proper place. We have to stare into the mirror and see ourselves as we are in the clear light of day.



Editor's Note:  You can view Rick's original post here.


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Marsha Hamby Savage
I agree that "what is art" will be a question for all time! I just had a friend tell me “which came first, the artist or the art?” She was basically saying the same kind of thing that you are.

I have had hobby artists, amateur artists, and students say to me, “I'm not an artist.” I usually tell them to call themselves an artist if they are producing something they think is art. Having said that, it does not mean they are a professional artist! I would call them a hobby artist or craftsman if they only produce enough work to set up in their local art and craft show. And, if they only paint with a teacher and never produce or study on their own, I would call them an amateur artist or student artist. I don't think there is anything wrong with any of those titles.

Now, I know anyone can show their work .... in a multitude of places ... including the internet and people will either like it or not. That is what makes this wonderful world go around.

The other side of this is showing professional work and amateur, student or hobby art in the same venue. Not a good thing, and hopefully most professional artists can figure out how not to do this for their own benefit! Many “good” art associations have this happen .... but the thought is that it helps the amateur or student see the differences and either strive to continue in their pursuit of becoming a professional ... or decide to continue just being a hobby or student artist.

Now, those that are producing “art” .... but it is novelty or shocking in some way ... I would never consider this stuff to be “real” art! I don't care who disagrees with my opinion of this .... it is just my opinion and I am entitled to it. Those things have a way of just falling out of favor anyway.

A good artist is someone that continues to learn and up their level of art. Most of us that call ourselves professional artists “know” we never stop learning and striving to do something better. We never stop trying to figure out what it is we want to say with our art .... producing something honest and personal to ourselves .... and hoping that the viewing audiences will also see something worthwhile in that art.

Dollars spent does not make it art! Art is personal to each viewer! We will never change either of these facts. But, it does not stop some people from spending mega-dollars (or even just a few) on the “greatest new thing” that comes out that really has no basis in traditional art or really good abstract art. And, it will not stop me from trying to educate anyone that will stop and talk to me when I am painting on location, or demonstrating in my galleries, or giving talks to organizations!

Brian Sherwin
Rick, while I understand why you made a jab at Damien Hirst I must say that I'm not sure that it is fair to imply that he is just an amateur artist. I'm not a huge fan of his art-- I want to make that clear. That said, I will say that for what he does he does it well... and has been prolific in his direction.

With that in mind-- you really can't judge conceptual art with the traditions that I assume you hold in regards to how you view professional vs. amateur. The very heart of conceptual art is a direction that denies those skills, traditions, and so on.

While I do agree that we live in an age of micro-celebrity due to the Internet I don't think the directions that people have taken with art-- and the rise of popularity of specific directions in art-- is fueled by the Internet alone. The art that Hirst creates is backed by history long before the advent of the Internet-- starting with Marcel Duchamp... though one could probably go further back. In that sense it can't be denied-- it can't simply be stamped with the label 'amateur', if you will.

Does the Internet allow mediocre works of art to rise in attention as if valid? Yes -- every day. However, if you examine the history of art prior to the Internet you will find that works of art that can be considered mediocre still found a way to make an impact on society. It is not always a bad thing depending on how your look at it. My point is that I don't think you can blame the Internet for this meshing, if you will. It has long been present and will continue to be.

Art... at least today... can't be contained by specific rules-- art always finds a way to break them... or should say that individuals do? The same goes for the art market in general-- it is wide... ever-expanding. It can't be contained. The more individuals or groups try to the contain it the more it will expand in other directions. One could say that is the very nature of the art world as we know it.

When rules become the standard there will always be artists who rise to go against them.

Meltemi aka Phil Kendall
One quality that separates professional artists from art hobbyists is perhaps the willingness to create several artworks around a single theme or idea: using the same medium, on the same sized support and all identically presented. Its not a matter of skill, just that successful artists know gallery owners are much more receptive to representing an artist with ten related works, rather than artist with fifty pieces in all different mediums, styles, and subject matter.

And the commitment to do it, right from the start. Stock up on the required number of canvases, the paints and the brushes etc. You know yourself best, so whatever it takes to keep you motivated, do it.

Ӣ What you can't do is give up.
Ӣ What you do matters.
Ӣ What you have to say is important.
Ӣ However old or young you are, however recognized or obscure you are, however much your style is accepted or overlooked, you have something important to communicate through your art and you must persevere.
It doesn't have be anything more than this.

Brian Sherwin
Good points Phil. Skill can be a touchy issue-- there are so many things to consider. 1.) Some artists intentionally defy-- or should I say deny?-- the skills associated with the academic tradition. 2.) some branch off into individual experimentation. 3.) some simply embrace the 'raw' quality of not following a strict skill set, so to speak.

I don't think skill is the defining trait of what makes an artist a professional. Though I suppose that depends on how you view it. You know a 'good' work of art when you see it... and obviously that is about opinion more than anything else.

Being prolific as far as the number of works created is not exactly a sign of being professional either in the sense that one artist may create 3,000 works of art in his or her lifetime... of which only 5 make a common impact on viewers while another artist may only make 100 works of art in his or her lifetime... of which 50 make a common impact on viewers. How much time one spends in the studio is not exactly a sign of professionalism depending on how you look at it.


Very well spoken thoughts--

"This is the commercial side of art not the creative side.
There is much "novelty" out there masquerading as art. "

You attribute it to curators and museum directors, but I think there are plenty of artists, who belong in there as well.

And using a $14 mil plastic shark in a tank as an example is fine by me. Has there been an article written lately about gullible art patrons? Somebody should get right on that!

Jo Allebach
I really like this quote about what is a professional. "A professional is someone whose entire life is taken up with what they do." Being truly dedicated to anything will improve skills and end product. Doing something half hearted is amateur. I may be obsessive but I seriously do think and do art all the time. It is my life, not a job, hobby or anything else. Interesting points brought up about what is art, too.

Brian Sherwin
Rick, Cooper -- how does denying conceptual art as a viable art form-- when obviously it is within the global art market and the world of art museums-- help to bring more attention to the forms of art that you support personally? It comes off as professional jealousy-- or lack of knowledge concerning over 100 years of art history.

How does suggesting that collectors and others who may enjoy conceptual art are ignorant, gullible, and so on add anything to worthwhile debate about what art can be? Sure, you can suggest that collectors are not informed-- but how do you know that? By the way, some of the collectors who own Hirst's work also own works by the Old Masters.

I'm not a fan of Hirst-- but I would never imply that he is an amateur artist just because I don't always agree with his methods / direction. This 'us vs. them' attitude in the arts reminds me of first year college art students trying to find their identity. At best it comes off as tacky-- at worst it comes off as insecure.

I'm not trying to offend either of you-- but for this debate it might be nice to know exactly how you each define art? Do you have a strict definition of what art is? By your statements it appears that you do. Dare I say that if that is the case it appears that view is self-serving in the sense that shock me, shock me, shock me the art you view as art-- or 'professional art' happens to be the art that you create or enjoy. Do correct me if I'm wrong.

Donald Frazell
You should know my definition of CREATIVE art by now, one that has been ignored in the professionalism of the Academies, and the amateurism of its substance. Glorified mediocrity is NOT creativity, it is marketing for a lifestyle feeding a limited clientlle of those with too much time and money on their hadns, but not commitment, sacrifice or responsibilty, pure hedonism and selfishness built up as being minigods. Lies, all lies. Fawning the egos of the shallow.

This is not an either or situation, it is two sides of the same coin. Most things in life involve at least three possibilities, directions or meanings. Creative art, vs fine art which is about feeding the desire for sterilized control for the rich, or crafts for organic everyday use, is that which defines a group, with Modernism(Jazz in music) all of Humanity, explores our world, Nature, and reaches for what we call God, purpose in our lives and for our people.

What you see now is devolved, decadent modernism in the 60s where slivers of Cezanne's apple are presented as something new, or contempt art, which is all games, thereapy and conversation pieces for parties for the nouveau riche, who eat it up. Ral art explroes and starts FROM an emotion and uses ideas adn theories as starting points, to develop adn grow as one works out the problems of building complex relationships of line, color and structure to get that richess of emotion, the highest common denominator of US.

For true creative art, that which lasts and not the fashionably lame which ahs been with us and then in the dumpster when outmoded for nearly two centuries, is always about Us, We, never I or me. this ahs been intentionally forgotten in the Museo/academic/gallery complex which controls teh marketplace, for designers who fill homes for teh egotistic vanities of teh Eli Broads of the world, controlled by their marketing showmen like Saatchi and Gagosian. And their clown princes like deitsch.

Thre ar emany forms of art, not jsut two economic status. No one wants to admit this now, ti would bust things open to all, and allow people to find what they are searching for, instead of being told what to think feel and desire. We are in the same era as Cezanne faced, Academic mediocrity presented as classy for the status driven.

And so
Save the colorful and spirtual Watts Towers(Nuestro Pueblo), tear down the bland and souless Ivories.


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