Am I an Artist?

Guest blogger Judith Zausner is the author of Creativity Matters, a blog focused on her work with seniors in the arts, where she writes in celebration of aging and the creative process.


Am I an Artist? Read about it at


Academic degrees are not required. There are no certifications. But it is anticipated that you bring passion, dedication and talent to the profession. Do you have it?

Art can be tangible or intangible, practical or impractical, private or public, appreciated or disregarded. Making art exists in a vast arena with no license.  But that does not make it easy; it has to satisfy. To be an artist, you have to create and love to create and feel compelled to create.  However the process of considering yourself an artist is an inward journey.

Li Gardiner struggled with the concept of taking on the role of an artist and says “Today, if you ask me who I am, or what I do, I will tell you easily and naturally, “I am an artist.” It wasn’t always easy. It took years of doubt to get to this point, but I figured out how to maintain my belief in myself as an artist, in the face of all obstacles.”

How can you consider yourself an artist? Many people have pictures in their mind of what an artist looks like, how they dress, the way they live and of course what they create. It roots from our knowledge of master painters such as Michelangelo, Renoir, Picasso; artists who captured subjects on canvas with their expertise and vision.

Comparing yourself to a famous artist may not be an exercise in elevating your self esteem, but by studying and emulating their techniques, you can improve your work. We’re all different; our abilities, sensitivities and styles make us unique. By developing your talent, believing in your art and securing your confidence, you will be prepared to succeed. Buddha claims “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.”

If you take that inner journey to be an artist, you must fill the path with focus. The dedication and drive required cannot be overestimated. Joan Jeffri’s project “Above Ground: Information on Artists III: Special Focus New York City Aging Artists” studied a group of artists from 62 to 97 years old. Jeffri sums up her findings: “All the artists we interviewed visited their studios on a frequent and sometimes daily basis, even if it took 1.5 hours to walk the three blocks to the studio. When the medium became too taxing—such as large-scale sculpture or paintings, not one artist talked of giving up art; s/he simply changed the medium.”

This is not uncommon for prolific and committed artists to continue to pursue making art no matter what hurdles lie in their path. In her book, When Walls Become Doorways, Tobi Zausner describes the creative spirit of artists who overcame physical obstacles to continue their work.  An example is Matisse who, confined to his bed or wheelchair, drew on walls and with charcoal attached to a fishing pole, also drew on the ceiling.


With talent, you create. With passion, you commit. Are you an artist?



  1. I struggled with this for years. And then an old friend addressed a letter to me with ‘The Artist, The Studio,’ on the envelope for the whole world (ie the postmen!) to see. And that did it for me – I was finally able to acknowledge publicly what I’d always known inwardly. (I was in my sixties at the time!)

  2. Good for you, Judy. It can be a struggle, I agree. Once you identify yourself as an artist, you gain confidence and it helps cement your self-identity.

  3. What a great post by Judith Zausner! I did go over and read Li Gardiner’s 10-point plan. Lots of good things to mull over during the long Labor Day Weekend. I tried to send Li an email, but her address is no longer valid.

    Continued Success!

  4. I’ve always been an artist. My art has taken many forms, and in the course of many years, art took a back seat to family and earning a livelihood. Now I recognize how central creativity is and always has been to my well-being. I make time for creating, and encourage other older adults to do so in whatever mediums draw them.

  5. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. I have struggled greatly to overcome so much physical, mental, emotional and spiritual suffering to get to where I am today in doing my art. I have much to learn and I am only really beginning to realize that, I AM AN ARTIST. Without a doubt today, I know my art will heal my life in all ways. One day I hope to be a part of healing others. [img][/img]

    • Thank you for your heartfelt comment. Your struggle is one that is often experienced by artists. Acknowledging and knowing that you are an artist begins your journey.

  6. personally

    when i am making art, i am an artist. when i am thinking of art, i am an artist and maybe even when I am promoting my work. when i am not doing any of these, i’m ok with not considering myself an artist. i feel “artist” is just another label or form of identification that limits who you are truly. a term of convenience, a way to fit into the world. if my hands and eyes were to be incapacitated tomorrow rendering me unable to make art, then i would no longer be an artist…so what.

    just my opinion! ; ) good post

  7. This was an insightful and very timely article. I’m so glad I came across it during a google search! I wanted to give an update on the link to Li Gardiner’s list mentioned in the article. I found it here:

    • Anne Marie, Thank you for this kindness – I was not aware that the link had changed, and I have updated the article to reflect that. This article is not new, but it is timeless. Judith Zausner has touched many artists with her insight, who can easily relate to what she has to say. I appreciate your comment as well.

  8. I too have had tremendous difficulty discovering, admitting my path into the arts. The very fact that I found your page and am commenting is because I typed the question: Am I an artist?; in a moment of discouragement. I read your 10 points and have even found similarities in your path to mine. I am an artist and it has been difficult to take that seriously when my entire family holds the greatest pedestal for education and business. For me, I have always rebelled, it’s in my nature to question, to be curious when told not to be. I’m 29 and feel late to the game but it is so reassuring to read your page and comments of others who share in my difficulties as an artist. Thank you for this page and for speaking out your truths.

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