Artist: Builder and Designer

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I have recently decided to pursue art as a profession. I have always been into art as a hobby but it’s only recently that I have dared to call myself an artist.

As I navigate the complicated and a bit foggy field, I often find myself at a loss for words. I am not a professionally trained artist. I never went to an art school or apprenticed with a professional artist. And therefore, I don’t have the vocabulary of an artist. I am learning.

And because I still haven’t figured out the commercial art world, there are very few people I know personally from the art world. When I am not drawing or trying to read about the art business, my only social conversation about art is with my friends or family who try to support me even if they don’t really care much about my art. 

It’s a challenge talking with them about art. But it’s interesting because it’s in conversations like these that I had to explain myself and my work to people who don’t know much about art or don’t appreciate it enough. Though reluctant initially, talking about my work gave me a language to talk about my work and a slightly better understanding of art. Together, we discovered a new language. I understand my art style better now that I see it from the eyes of careless viewers. I know how others connect with my work. They aren’t trying to analyze the technique or even judge the work. They just react. And that tells me more about my work than art critics. I don’t really want my work to be hidden in the vaults of museums or rich people. I want everyone who cares to see it, enjoy it and be able to put it in their homes. And therefore, these comments mean a lot to me as I learn and grow.

My friends and family with no interest in art have all kinds of questions or comments that I find amusing. And being an amateur, I wasn’t very sure how to answer those. I couldn’t say if they didn’t understand or I didn’t know how to explain.

Some people commented on designs and some on the handwork. Some commented on both. But almost all of them couldn’t express what they wanted to say. 

Here I attempted to assign the right words for their comments. These are words to help us find a common language, for all of us, the ones who are learning art and our families or friends who are learning to appreciate art for our sake. 

There are two distinct types of skills that go into the art process and therefore there can be two types of artists. 

  1. Builder is an artist or artisan or craftsperson. This is a person who actually executes the whole project. Makes it with hand. 
  2. Designer is the one imagining worlds or concepts or ideas that don’t exist. This is a person who comes up with the idea or the main design on the framework. 

An artist needs a little bit of both. Some are better at one and some are good at both. In many cases, many forms of art, these two fuse together and an artist with a unique style emerges. However, in many other cases, artists need support of other people to execute their vision, sometimes completely and sometimes in a support role.

Eg, a writer is someone who can imagine a new world and is able to put together the right set of words to make it interesting for a reader. There are writers whose imagination would blow you away and there are writers whose talent with the wordplay will amaze you. And then there are writers who would be awesome with both. These are two different skills. Both can be developed. And for some artists, one skill with always outweigh the other.

Take another example of studio pottery. There would be artists who are really good at moulding clay into any shape they desire. And there are some who have amazing ideas, they know the structure of the clay, they understand the process but they may not be very good at actually executing it. These are designers. 

Think of a fashion designer. She is not necessarily the one who is sitting on the sewing machine. She knows the clothes, understands the technique and she uses this understanding to create a design that is beautiful and practical. But she designs, doesn’t execute. 

A filmmaker. A director. He has a story to tell but he needs the support of many others to bring his vision to life. For example, he needs a cinematographer to capture the physical aesthetic beauty of the scene to tell the story of the moment he has imagined in his mind. 

It’s important to distinguish it because they both need to be appreciated. They are different skills; and they both deserve the applause. They are both difficult tasks; and they are both praiseworthy. They both need to be developed for certain art forms like visual arts, eg, painting or drawing. I have a vivid imagination but I may not have the technical skills to put the image in my mind on paper. And the one who has a brilliant understanding of technical skills may not have a very inspiring imagination. Both of them would feel a bit unfulfilled and both would struggle to reach their appreciators.


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