My class wrote brief papers last week about what we thought it meant to be an artist. This is what I wrote:
When I studied abroad in France last spring quarter, I spent two weeks focused on defining art. With as much as I did and thought during those two weeks and since then, I came up with a “definition” that seems to satisfy me: art is the product of a conscious or unconscious creative effort that inspires or touches at least one viewer (or listener, etc.). If it “touches” someone, I mean that that person reacts to the art in some way, perhaps with an emotion, memory, or art of his or her own.
So though I’m sure it would/will take me at least as long to “define an artist, at this point I believe an artist is the person who produces art, the product of a conscious or unconscious creative effort. There doesn’t have to be an intention to “produce art,” but there does have to be a creative urge and the intention to make the effort and follow through with it—as in, beginning to make the physical representation of a creative urge.
For instance… during the break, there were two guys behind me playing guitar, and in ten minutes they managed to play the intros to three of my favorite songs. I can be fairly sure they didn’t intend to inspire me, and they certainly didn’t know their efforts were going to be recognized in my paper, but it’s a perfect example of the cycle of creativity and artistry that I imagine when I think of the inspiration feeding art. The guy playing guitar is suddenly and artist (as recognized by me) because he created something that inspired me. Perhaps his subtle compensation is my recognition, even if he doesn’t know it.