December 24th, 2016

By Veronica Vale, Fine Art Consultant

Most professions come with their own distinct parameters and quantifiable means of success. An accountant needs to attain a degree in their field as well as passing grades on CPA tests to validate their status as “accountant.” Even my job title of “Fine Art Consultant” is justified by my position here at Gallery MAR. However, what qualifications are required to consider oneself an artist?

Many accomplished artists boast an MFA degree from art school. Many have gallery representation, exhibitions and shows of their work, or even a piece or two in museum collections. But none of these accomplishments are explicitly required of an artist. So then, in a profession without specific criteria, when does one begin to identify themselves as an artist? We asked a few of our own artists here at Gallery MAR:

Encaustic painter Bridgette Meinhold has been creating art her entire life, but only recently did she declare herself to be an artist first and foremost. Before her art career took off, Meinhold devoted herself to her work in sustainability consulting. When the recession hit, Meinhold found herself out of a job but not out of options. She remembers resolving to herself, “If I don’t have a job, I might as well paint.” When she first started showing her work with Gallery MAR in 2010, in her mind, she truly became an artist.

Similarly, mixed media artist Jylian Gustlin grew up both a creative and analytical child. Gustlin pinpoints college as the time when she first owned the title of “artist” when, one semester short of a degree in computer science and mathematics, she decided to leave her degree and, instead, enroll in the Academy of Art College. When asked about the bravery required of such a bold life change, Gustlin modestly dismisses praise and simply maintains that “going to art school just felt like coming home.”

Meanwhile, becoming an artist was never a conscious decision for acrylic painter Michael Kessler. In fact, he cannot recall a period of time when he didn’t identify as an artist. He elaborates, “I was always the kid in school doodling and drawing — the kid they asked to do the class mural. I was always known as ‘the artist’.” Perhaps Kessler’s early start in the field of art helps to explain his bafflingly impressive CV and his highly accomplished 62 year-long career.

Part of the beauty of becoming an artist is that there seems to be no right or wrong way of going about it. We are reminded that every artist has an incredibly individualistic history and a beautifully unique future and that one’s identity is not a checklist of arbitrary accomplishments, but instead, simply a state of mind.

So from all of us at Gallery MAR, we wish you a happy new year and a happy new you, whatever it is you decide that might be.