When They Call Your Art a Hobby. . .

By Susan Holland in Misc > Art Opinion

I used to earn money for bread by delivering rural mail. My sorting work area stood just next to a wonderful woman named Patty who was very enthusiastic about my artistic endeavors, and occasionally bought a piece of art from me. Over the years we became great friends, getting to know one another while we dealt with the daily buckets of mail.

But Patty referred to my art as a “HOBBY,” and it annoyed me a lot. She was talking about my life-habit of art as if it were a little fad I had picked up and enjoyed doing in my time off.

Of course, that wasn’t my mindset at all. Somewhere along the way I had read that I must decide what my relationship was to art, and then either call myself an artist, or not. So I decided to call myself an artist, and have ever since.

Call me crazy, but paperhangers don’t call hanging paper a hobby. Garbage men don’t call collecting trash a hobby. Artists should not call their work a hobby either.

If I am an artist, my artistic vocation is my WORK. It’s my work because I do it with purpose and intention, and care a great deal about the product I make.

But I think that’s exactly where some people get the wrong idea. . . are the things that an artist creates just décor, or something more important and lasting?

You see, my post office friend’s house had “décor.” She was a person who was going for a certain “look,” and HER hobby was creating that “look.” She loved shopping for THINGS to create a “look.” So my art was a “thing,” to her point of view.

Don’t get me wrong, I was happy some of my nice “things” hung in her house. But she bought them for “cuteness” or “prettiness,” and because they fit into her décor. (And, importantly, also to encourage me in my “hobby.”)

I had another collector who bought a great number of pieces out of my collection, in addition to commissioning many paintings of her show animals. This person was also interested in decorating her premises, but it was with a sense of adding art to a large bunch of buildings.

She was coming to me for a product that she was drawn to, and liked, and she considered me a businesswoman as well as an artist. She counted on me to do good work that artists do. This woman did not consider my work a hobby, but a business.

Yet another friend of mine is sure I will someday be the famous artist of the century, currently unrecognized, and therefore worth collecting. Hmm.

So does it matter what they call it?

I’ve decided that a person who calls herself an artist cannot spend a lot of time with such sensitivities. It pleases me enormously when someone comes into my display and says, “Oh ho! We have a real artist at work here!”

But I know what I’m making, even if others don’t.

If the product defines the producer, then:

Décor defines Decorator

Food defines Farmer

Car defines Autoworker

Delivered mail defines Mailcarrier

Art defines Artist.

I know I’m making ART. So I am an ARTIST. And whether anyone else calls it a hobby or a business will not make a single bit of difference in the course of my art career.

Enough said. Let’s get the paints out and move on, there’s work to do.


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