...to be an artist

staff notice: this thread has been preserved for continuity.

This thread was born out of one of my goals for 2019:

As I mention below, I was being a little hyperbolic, but the original OP wanted to know “what is there to figure out?”


Then doesn’t your definition somehow reduces what being an artist might be ? “You make art”, seems to me like it’s less open ended as “you make anything artistically”, which is different than saying randomly “anything is art”, rather than “anything can be turned into more of an art”. Then what we’d need is a definition, not of what “art” is, but of what we wouldn’t want art to be in order for the word and what it entails to become an oasis again.

What I mean by that is that we tend to see a lot of merch and marketting people right now advertising us that “driving is art” “sport is art” “buying clothes is art” and that is NOT what I mean. And I will not here give a definitive answer as to what an artistic way of doing things is or is not but I think it’d be a better (more fruitful) starting point than defining if, once you’re “making art” you’re an artist or not (for all those wondering : yes you are.).

Few! That was probably gibberish to all of you guys, sorry about that ! If it was, please carry on like I didn’t say anything.


Ahahaha, I admit I was being a little hyperbolic. I suspect that the other person you’re referring to is @andrew? I remember him saying he learned how this year, and I’d be interested to hear what that entailed.

What I had in mind was kind of this: I don’t yet really have a comfort zone that extends to the whole process of bringing a song from idea to track, nor from track to album. So the main component of learning how to be an artist, for me, will be blazing that trail so that on subsequent treks through it I’ll have knowledge of that first time as I take new paths.

It was also kind of this: many artists have favorite techniques or themes or forms that occur throughout their work. I have ideas of what I’d like to explore, but I’m still learning how to tackle that terrain.

And even a little bit: I’ve just blown it all up a little bigger than it ought to be. So I’m also trying to just chill out and put the work in.


I have to figure out how to be an artist every time I start a new project.

It does get a bit easier each time.


See for instance, in relation to what I stated above, it seems your vision of “how it would be for me to really make art” (and extended to more than just music or painting or whatever artsy thing you could think off) would be to work on your hability to shape an idea and make it concrete, to turn a vision into a thing. That whole statement is a topic worth of thoughts (In the spirit of serendipity, and to go all the opposite way about things never becoming things and always moving ideas even for their own authors here’s link to the topic On revision in creativity ). I’m out again ! (I might come back again, who knows !)


I got an interesting insight into this many years ago when I played the happiest and also final DJ gig of my “career” (such as it was).

I had always been a hip-hop DJ. That never really reflected what my tastes were, nor did it reflect what I produced or would have liked to play, but I exclusively played hip-hop rooms and hip-hop events - that’s what people booked me to play, it’s what they expected from me when I played so it’s what I always did. Except once.

I’m not sure how or why it happened, but I was once booked to fill in for Daedelus at a show in Sheffield. There had been some issue with his papers or something - I’m not entirely sure what - but the bottom line was: Daedelus was booked for a show but hadn’t made it out of LAX and the promoters were stuck for an act. I was known to Sheffield promoters - it’s my home city - so plenty of people had my number. Maybe somebody thought of the stuff I’d done with the Warp guys or with Lex or maybe nobody else out of the dozens of Sheffield DJs could make it, but for whatever reason I was booked for the show. For one night only I was, to all intents and purposes, Alfred… at least for a small portion of the Sheffield population.

This was a responsibility that I took incredibly seriously and contemplated what people would expect… and realised I had no idea whatsoever! They would be told that i wadnt Daedelus, of course, but they would expect some kind of similar act. All I knew for certain is that they wouldn’t be expecting a hip-hop set so that was absolutely not what I was going to do. I dug through my crates for all the records I loved - things I wanted to share with people but never had done: strange electro records, obscure remixes of Japanese singers, proto-jungle tunes, experimental oddness - all blended into a coherent whole that made total sense… not just to me, to the crowd too.

The end result was a set that was the most enjoyable I’ve ever played and after doing that I realised that I never wanted to play hip-hop sets again. I knew, though, that only artists could get away with doing that and I wasn’t one. People who watched Alfred came to see a Daedelus set; people who watched me came to see a hip-hop set.

That’s what “being an artist” meant to me then and the knowledge that I wasn’t one made me stop DJing forever.


20 characters to say you’re obviously an artist. Oh and hell let’s just add that there IS a distinction, a line you seem to be drawing in the sand and it’s a very interesting and deep one too, but I wouldn’t call that line “being an artist”.


yea, this happened to me in 2018 and it felt really good. for me figuring out how to be an artist meant being able to make something that was wholly and completely my own. In 2017 I released an album under the name Irving Park. it came out on a pretty good label and got more recognition than I’ve ever been used to, but despite all that it didn’t feel like me, even though it was about my life - it felt like accurate replications of the music I was listening to at the time.

this year I finally decided to drop the concepts I was working on, stop listening to so much music, stop obsessing about other people’s setups, and just make things whatever way I could. not everything worked at first but as I kept iterating and things came out of it that I’m way more proud of now. from talking to people it doesn’t really sound like I’ve caught up to the level of quality of my first album, but I don’t care so much cause this work feels like me and it’s unique.

anyway I’d love to talk about this more ! this lil journey is different for everyone and it’s cool & moving to watch others find thier way.


I like create or creators more then artist.


Oh dang, these are the questions!

Feels like maybe a lot of assumptions get packed into that word/concept that are helpful to untangle?

Like, does it mean you that make your living/$$ ‘creating art’ (commisions/performances/teaching,etc). Does it mean that you are ‘arsty’, or have the affect of ‘an artist’ in a like, romanticized lonely genius in the garret tower- type way. Or something else?

We also see a lot of like, Mad Men-esque ‘tech artists’ running commercial studios doing like, arduino installations for corporations calling themselves artists, but my hunch is that that’s something else.

Maybe some sort of new age ‘there’s artistry to everything’ and we’re all artists and we’re all expressing ourselves? (I really like this Adam Curtis essay on all that though…)

I donno, I like Bruce N’s take on it I think:

(‘The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths’)


I think the notion I had of what an artist was related entirely to perception - my perception of it and also my belief of how others perceived it. I’m not sure I feel that way about it now, at least, I’m not sure I see it in quite as simplistic terms.


I completely understand how “to be an artist”, can be used by people who choose culture / art (with lack of a better term), as one of the fundamental aspects of their living to picture an end game, an ideal. As others here seem to relate it to the idea of “finishing things” or “making artistic things exist”, it’s also possible to relate it to the more general idea of being able to see oneself as a creative being, with a clear and defined proposition, a point of view offered to the world. But even that is somehow diminishing I feel, and very much related to the personality cults and the way our socio-economic culture is built our individualities. I’d like to remark that I don’t think either of the ideas mentionned earlier (finishing things / aspiring to be the more creative being and find a point of view) are inerhently wrong, I actually even think they’re crucial to our existence. But I also think we should beware of words like “artists” or “creators” for that matter, we should look at them from as many angles as possible, find how they’re used to bring us down and how we could fill them with concepts to help ourselves fight back and claim them again as positive notions that help us meet eachother instead of pushing us to compete to an unhealthy degree.

So much to say, so little time. Talking about these things is frustrating for me but it’s a pleasure to read you all.

No it’s important to define if a word is the expression of a state or of an aspiration, but I’m all for “artist” being an aspiration more than a state or a status.


Maybe being an artist is exactly the same as becoming an artist.


I love both of these ideas. I think there’s a tendency to see “artist” as an exclusive club of which we’re not members - but this distinction only exists in our own minds and therefore we’re only not artists by virtue of telling ourselves that we aren’t.


OR, maybe becoming an artist is exactly the same as being an artist.


I become an artist as I make my piece. I am an artist when it is observed by my audience. And then I am nothing once again, until a new piece begins…

Not just trying to be poetic. It’s a constant process of unfolding and of unknowing. Everything you know is a potential obstacle to knowing more. Your work and its concept has to struggle with which is which anew, and blaze new trails through the thicket of what you know and what you have never seen nor heard of at any time, and you do this together, every time. You and your work.

You can stop being an artist. You can stop becoming an artist. You can also start again.

It will be different next time.


Interesting. Artist as identity. As performance. As role, both societal and personal. As action / state of being / inhabited concept. Artist as intention. As lifestyle. As unreachable concept. As pure abstraction.


Being an artist…
Of course it’s just someone who makes art.
But “How to be an artist” (particularly the “How”) to me often means defining for myself a framework on which I am an artist.
The framework (for a musician) could be as traditional as defining an album you want to create with roughly 8-12 songs of roughly 3-5 min per track, defining similar instruments/themes(lyrical &or melodic)/moods throughout to achieve some level of cohesion, defining some pre-release social media marketing, setting up a release show, some follow up shows, maybe working with a particular label, possibly create physical format releases of the music, etc.
Obviously no particular framework is correct, and is almost never what you initially intend it to be, though I think trying to define such a framework for your work is how many artists define “how” they are going to be an artist (at least for that moment).


frameworks : what thoughts and gestures are floating around. which translations of those correlate and have to be transmitted. to what extent what is transmitted has to be received.
artist : acting in domains of practices.
significance : none. that is merely becoming-

1 Like

My head is spinning at this point, but the thread inspired me to turn on my gear and record something, so yay? :wink:

I like this quote even though I’m not sure whether I agree, vehemently disagree, or both at the same time. “True artist” kind of sets off alarm bells and I’m not sure whether mystic truths should be revealed or guarded. But it got me going, so it’s a good quote.

(Edit: And now that I look up that particular piece, I see the creator felt the same about it.)

Anyway, I’m starting to think one of my 2019 goals is to stop worrying what is or isn’t art and just make stuff. To throw a couple of quotes…

“Value judgments are destructive to our proper business, which is curiosity and awareness.” – John Cage

“The best reason to paint is that there is no reason to paint.” – Keith Haring