What does being an artist mean to you?

For the longest time I had trouble identifying with the label of an artist.

It was difficult for me. When I had a brush in my hand, I was one. But when I put on my other various caps – writer, project manager, teacher – was I still considered an artist? I felt like I was juggling too many things at once to be able to catch a ball long enough that truly defined me as one. But as I struggled internally with the question, I finally realized something: being an artist isn’t a label. It’s what you do that truly counts.

Being an artist means putting your best feet forward everyday and to create things that makes a difference; whether that difference is for you, or for others.  That’s what being an artist means to me. Being able to bare your soul for others to pick at, not knowing what brickbats will befall you as you put your work out there.  That’s what being an artist means to me. Being unsure if what you do will resonate with others, but you need to say something all the same. That’s what being an artist means to me. People who have a fear of the unknown, but who are willing to take a chance – to jump in to do the work anyway. That’s what being an artist means to me.

So while I may not fit in the conventional role of being a visual artist, I think of this website, this blog – as my own personal space where I am able to create; just like artists who need a studio, a long worktable and glorious paint – all I need is my laptop, a space and undivided time to call my own, and my trusty computer (an empty notepad will suffice too).

I’m still not sure if I can be called an artist. All I know is that I want my work to matter. My goal is to raise questions, and create an awareness about artists and illustrators and their amazing potential to create, and not just illustrate.

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. ~ Edgar Degas

I have a long way to go (and I’m enjoying the ride so far), but here’s hoping I can make you see what I can see.


I’d love to know – what does being an artist means to you? Do you believe what you do is art? What’s your definition of it all?


If you like this article, do consider signing up for our free mailing list that serves up fun, helpful tips and recommendation every week for artists and illustrators navigating the modern creative landscape!

Q+A: How to start drawing

Hi Amy,

I’ve only begun learning and loving illustration. But sadly when it comes to creating something myself, I don’t know where to start. I haven’t drawn anything since when I was a kid. Can you give me a few pointers please? ~ Liza

Hi Liza!

The thing about drawing, is that it can look like this big hurdle you need to overcome. But in reality, everyone can draw. The only difference how one draws from one another makes all the difference. Oh sure, people balk all the time when I say that – they’ll gasp at what I’d say – “Me? Draw?” followed by guffaws of laughter, and the insistence that they can’t. But I beg to differ.

So while the most quickest answer I can think to tell you is to just put your pen or pencil in your hand and start to move it across the paper; I know that the psychological hurdle is what keeps you from starting, not the physical aspects of it. So here are my 3 tips on how to start drawing:

Tip #1: Don’t think, just draw

I equate drawing to riding a bike, or even swimming. You need to just not think too much into it and start to put your body in motion. If you were riding a bike, you wouldn’t second guess yourself – oh wait, are my legs doing it correctly? How do I hold the handlebars? Will I crash? There’s no time to think about all that. Paper, meet pencil. Move.

Tip #2: No one gets it right the first time

Ok, so you’ve moved that pencil, now what? It’s time to let go of the need to be perfect all the time. No one does things right from the first stroke (as evidenced by Pablo Picasso in this time-lapse video up here.) If one of the most revered artist in the world doesn’t get it right from the first stroke, you better believe that you’re going to have to experience the same process (and notice I didn’t say problem – it’s a process!)

Tip #3: Don’t know what to draw? Don’t fret because you don’t have to do it alone

So once we’ve moved on from putting that pen onto paper, let’s talk about what should you draw. While drawing your cat for the first 20th time may be amusing, it can get old pretty quickly. Which is why you’ll need to head on over to sites like Illustration Friday to get a weekly topic, and then participate by submitting your artwork along with the rest. There’s a fantastic community of artists there who will be able to give you feedback! Also try 1000 things to draw – a free, often time silly topic generator (designed by yours truly) that helps you to think of weird things to draw. And what if you’re often mobile and want to participate in an ongoing challenge? Give Sktchy a try. It’s an app where you draw portraits, upload it and get some love and feedback from the community.

I hope those tips will help you out Liza!


Do you have any other tips for Liza when it comes to overcoming your fear of taking that first step towards drawing? Or perhaps you have a secret sauce that you can share, a ritual of sorts on how you get yourself prepared for the drawing process? Share it with us in the comments!

If you like this article, and want to be in the know when the next one comes up where we share tips and advice for artists, you might want to sign up for our mailing list! Also, if you think that a friend might benefit from this story, use the share buttons below to post it to your Twitter and Facebook feed!

What do you do, exactly?

On my recent outing to the Asian Children’s Festival of Content (AFCC) in Singapore a few months ago, I had a bit of a problem telling people what it is that I do.

Am I a blogger? Well, yes, partly – I have a blog, yes. Does that make me a blogger? Hmmm.

Am I an illustrator? Yes, I can draw, and I’ve been commissioned a few times. But, read why I’m not a professional illustrator.

Am I a writer? Yes, although I loathe putting myself out there as “strictly” a writer. You know the sort – they’re comfortable hanging around other writers quoting books word for word as though it’s some sort of a competition, and I’m sure I lost that gene somewhere along the way.

Am I a teacher? Yes, I am. Although I didn’t get a Masters degree in teaching or in the subject that I teach (creative thinking applied to illustration) nor am I planning to. It’s hard for me to reach this point of being comfortable calling myself that, but hey, rave reviews from students surely must count for something; that, and the exhilarating feeling of actually finding out that I’m making a difference, however small it may be.

Finding a way to incorporate all of that into my name card is quite challenging, and well, introductions are for me a slightly awkward affair. But the truth is, what I’m dealing with isn’t just unique to my situation. What happens when your career (and life) is made up of lots of slashes? Writer / illustrator / teacher / blogger? Or what about accountant / artist? Plumber / journalist / illustrator? Should I call myself an artist who can write, or a writer who can draw?

We’re more than just one label. Mother / daughter / father / son / friend.

What we are, is unique. And it’s this complex tapestries that makes us who we are. If you shy away and hide away certain parts of yourself, you’re denying others the opportunity of experiencing what makes you special.

I’ll give you one example, and I like to draw on my own experience with this:

Writing, in many cases is much like drawing. Writers get hired to illustrate a story, but only instead of pictures, we use words. I used to get writing commissions from a magazine where they had a very set writing style that I had to adhere to, and it was an absolute chore. They had told me that my writing style was “too personal” and had a habit of being too “illustrative” (I kid you not!) So I stopped taking on their work, and found others who actually liked my style for the exact same reasons. They paid four times as much and were so much more fun to deal with. So I stopped taking in clients who wouldn’t allow my talents to shine, and instead went after the ones who would above all, understand my strengths and apply it to their advantage. I’m happy, and they’re thrilled.

What I had done, was to stop being just a writer. I stopped churning out words that could easily be put together by anyone who powers up Microsoft Word and then start typing. So what does this mean to you? Are you just an artist, or an illustrator? Do you move that paintbrush or pen only when you’re commanded to? I figured not.

I’m more than just a writer. I’m a writer who can draw, and I also teach. Oh and I have a blog that ties everything that I love together.

Hello there, my name is Amy and it’s nice to meet you.


So tell me, what do you do exactly? What sort of slashes pepper your life and career? And how have they made you different from the rest?


If you’re more than just an artist & illustrator, come check out my new class Work / Art / Play, where we’ll focus on bringing out your strengths. We’ll touch on modern strategies on how to make money from your art, while having fun too. There’s only 6 more days to sign up, and class begins on 16th September. Read more details and see the complete syllabus by clicking here!


[The term slash-career was coined by Marci Alboher, and you can read more here / Rooster illustration by Christian Robinson.]
1 7 8 9 10 11 20