What does it mean to be an artist?

art·ist [ahr-tist] noun

1. a person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria.

2. a person who practices one of the fine arts, especially a painter or sculptor.

3. a person whose trade or profession requires a knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc.: a commercial artist.

4. a person who works in one of the performing arts, as an actor, musician, or singer; a public performer: a mime artist; an artist of the dance.

5. a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.


I have always had a difficult time admitting to anyone, especially myself, that I may be artist?  Even though I have always enjoyed art and art making, I have never felt that my skill or craft has been perfected to be considered an artist.

As children we learn though creative play.  We use building blocks, draw with crayons and make toys from pots, pans, and boxes.  But, as we grow older we do not allow ourselves to explore play and playful opportunities worrying about what is right or wrong.   We lose touch with our creativity and therefore stifle our imagination.

I have purposefully set aside time every week to “be” creative.  I’ve given myself the opportunity to explore new avenues of art and art making.  Artistic thought processes interrupt my sleep as I grow back into my creative skin.  I am finally allowing myself to accept that I may be an artist.


                                                    my drawing 2

                                                     my drawing 1

Do you tell stories to your students?

I use storytelling all of the time when I teach a new lesson based upon the work of an artist.  I have found that it is easier for me to remember facts to share with my students as well as easier for them to remember what they learn.   A lot of the time the storytelling may just be a few facts that interest me about the artists’ life such as…

Louise Nevelson’s father owned a lumber mill and she grew up playing with scraps of wood,

Georgia O’Keeffe started out as an art teacher in Texas before she met the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz that brought her work to New York.  She later became his wife.

Also, when Dale Chihuly was recently in Pittsburgh to supervise an installation of his work at Phipps Conservatory, an art teacher friend of mine was his waitress.   The wait-staff of his table were told they were not permitted to converse with the artist.

Sometimes I give students more details, depending upon their interest level or the time constraints of the lesson.  Since Andy Warhol is from our area,  my students are very interested in all I know or can find out about him.  They are intrigued when I tell them that he went to a nearby elementary school and won a scholarship to Carnegie Mellon’s Saturday morning art classes for children.

What are some of the stories you share with your students?   Do you find that it helps with retention of art and art work?