What Makes a Hobbyist Artist?

young caucasian woman with paint brush painting as a hobbyist artist

What Makes a Hobbyist Artist?

Whether you are a sculptor, painter, musician, or any other type of artist, you know that the sphere in which you craft your works is filled with choices to make. The medium, subject matter, tone, style, and attitude are all up to you. Or are they? What does a hobbyist artist decide?

That depends on the reason for why you make art. Many people use art as an outlet for expression. It’s a way for us to communicate across time and space. A way to connect with each other without saying a word.

How you choose to express yourself depends on what you hope the end result might be, or in some cases, whether or not the end result matters.

For some, making art is a way to explore and develop skills that they have long admired in other artists. By creating original artworks and sharing them, one gets to discover what works and what doesn’t, areas they can improve in, and ideas that they either excel at conveying or struggle with.

Some choose to pursue art as a hobby rather than a profession. The distinction between those two approaches has great impacts on all aspects of the art making process.

What is a Leisure or Hobby Artist?

As a hobby artist, one can decide for themselves what to make, when to make it, and how much time to spend on a particular piece. The only limits are the ones you place on yourself, either through preference or patience.

If you start a piece and decide halfway through that it’s not working, there’s no one to tell you whether or not you should press on and make it work regardless.

If one day you decide you want to paint in oils, and the next day you want to try your hand at a mixed media installation piece, the only barrier to face is that of time and motivation.

For many amateur artists, this is where they want to stay. Unparalleled freedom of choice and expression are what keep them going, and they are perfectly satisfied without the need to monetize their favorite hobby.

If, however, you want to share your creative expressions with the world, and perhaps make a living from it, there are a few questions you’ll need to ask yourself.

It’s here that the choices you make have the possibility to get muddy. Do you have a target audience, or is this expression solely for selfish indulgence? Are you creating a metaphorical advice column, or a diary under lock and key?

If it’s the latter, you may be in luck. Your creative freedom is intact, and you have no one to answer to. If you’re looking to expand your reach and make some money however, there are a few other things to consider.

How Does Hobby Differ from a Professional Artist?

Who is your audience? What do they want? If that isn’t known for sure yet, how might one go about discovering what art consumers are looking for? What kinds of art are currently popular? What skills do you have that are in demand, and how might you go about making it known that you are ready and willing to contribute?

Like many professions, one of the most important aspects of being a successful professional artist is establishing connections. If you know who to talk to for work, you’re that much more likely to succeed from the get-go. Especially if you work freelance, having the right connections is a must.

If you don’t have those, step one is going to be finding them. This might be just one person – that first customer – that can act like a springboard by signal boosting your work and getting your image out there in the world.

In the modern day, one good way to get started professionally is by posting on social media. By being active on Twitter or Instagram, you may gain enough of a following to get the word out that you’re looking to establish a foothold in the professional art world.

It may become easier to determine what people are looking for, and the best ways to get your art from one place to another, either digitally or by physical means. You might set up a PayPal or Venmo for receiving payment remotely, sign up with a print shop to sell paper copies of your work, or determine which company creates the best quality canvas prints.

Suddenly being an artist becomes much more complicated. Do you have the time to order the supplies needed to meet your customers’ demands? Have you set fair prices that cover the cost of time, materials, and shipping?

Sometimes there is no way to know these things until you try it yourself, or if you’ve established those all-important connections, you might get some good advice on how to get started with all of these aspects of what is, essentially, running a business.

As a professional artist, your job no longer revolves around individual creative expression. What professional artists do best is to help others communicate.

Whatever the project may be, people hire artists because they want to say something to the world that they either can’t say themselves, or would rather have someone else help them say.

Maybe they’re looking for a specific style of painting to put on an album cover, or they might need an accent piece for their library, or a logo for their own business.

Whatever the case may be, a professional artist is the behind-the-scenes mastermind for the creative expression of a different person.

Which Direction is Best?

For many leisure artists, this is not what art is about. Some people believe that by introducing money into the process, the art is robbed of its integrity, honesty, or any other genuine qualities.

While this may be true in some cases, the more likely idea is that there is a sweet spot somewhere in between. Not all art that was created for money is devoid of all truth and quality, and not all art that was made as a free individual expression is inherently superior or more creative.

The important thing is to find out what works for you. What kind of art making brings you as an individual the most fulfillment or joy? Which gives you the bigger lift – financial recognition for your work, or the elation of conquering a new skill or technique, regardless of who sees it?

There is no real answer that will cover all individual lifestyles or preferences. However, there is something to be said for the freedom that comes with styling oneself as an amateur artist.

The expectations of others are lower, there is less pressure to succeed or complete something within time constraints, and you are free to explore any avenue of expression that might come to mind.

Perhaps the best thing about being a leisure artist is the ability to pick and choose where you draw inspiration from, and how you apply that to your own work.

You might see a particularly striking combination of shapes somewhere that inspires you to delve into the world of photography, or you may witness a beautiful sunset may provoke in you a desire to capture the feeling of looking upon it on canvas or paper.


The Reason for Making Art

The art making process can be a way to refine your methods of communication with others, or it may be a way of seeking understanding within yourself. Why do you feel the urge to paint that sunset?

Perhaps you were alone when you saw it, and it’s simply out of a desire to share the beauty you witnessed with someone else who may appreciate it. Perhaps instead it is simply to relive the moment, to have a record of an event that you don’t want to forget.

Yet another possibility is that the end result does not matter, and instead the most important thing is the act of making something, of getting paint on canvas or charcoal on paper.

Regardless of your end goals, there is an inherently profound value in being an amateur artist, at least for a little while. It allows for exploration and experimentation to find out what really works, and what might not. It’s a great way to find out more about yourself.

Not only what you’re capable of in terms of creating a piece of art, but also other aspects of your personality. How much patience do you have?

At what point are you willing to call something “finished”? What do you hope to achieve? What did that striking combination of shapes say to you? Was it the color, composition, lighting, or some mix of those things that created this idea? What exactly do you consider beautiful, and why?

Do You Want to Be a Hobbyist Artist?

There are answers to these questions that may be surprising. Being a hobbyist artist is a great way to find out these things about yourself. And if you’re looking for an eventual career in the field, having these answers will prove to be incredibly useful when it comes to determining what kinds of work you’ll be able to do well.

The freedom to experiment, explore, try, fail, and learn is the foundation of any successful artist’s portfolio. 

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