the tyranny of time and professionalism…

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24/09/2010 by Sarah Ritchie

It’s Friday again. I am sure it was Friday just yesterday, and – no doubt – it will be Friday again tomorrow. When does an amateur artist ever get the time to paint?! It’s like being caught on the hamster wheel of life, work and priorities, and wondering where “serious hobbies” fit into the mix.

For that matter, I do wonder if I would be considered a “hobbyist” or an “amateur”…and at what stage could an “amateur” be considered a “professional”? A “professional sportsperson” is someone who receives payment for their performance. Does this same, simple principle apply for artists? I have sold a grand total of TWO paintings in my life (both silk paintings, nearly 10 years ago)…does that make me a professional artist? Hardly.

Do the terms infer the quality of the work? The formal training an artist has had? Their bank balance? Whether they are starving in a garret somewhere? Or, is one considered a professional only when they have exhibited and are recognised as such by their industry peers?

Perhaps the label refers to the time a person devotes to their art; when the amount of time one paints becomes greater than the amount of time spent in other (paid) employment? Is there an “option D…all of the above”?!

To be considered an “arts professional” by the Canada Council for the Arts you must fulfill the following criteria:

  • have specialised training in the field (not necessarily in academic institutions)
  • be recognised as a professional by your peers (arts professionals who work in the same artistic discipline and/or tradition)
  • be committed to devoting more time to your artistic activity, if financially possible
  • have a history of public presentation.


Martin Baldock posted this comment on, 12 July 2010:

A few years ago I was doubtful that I could claim to be an artist, based on the fact that I don’t have a degree, and work “the day job” to pay the bills.  So I voiced my doubts to my good friend and curator – Liz Falconbridge, Visual Arts Manager and she re-assured me that I had every right to refer to myself as an artist.  This judgement being based on the work I produce.  My history is that of starting out as a “hobbyist” many many years ago, taking evening classes, attending workshops, reading and collecting books about art and artists, visiting other artists shows and their studios et al.

I could earn money for work that people want to buy if I stuck to making commercially viable work, but I’m exploring stuff that isn’t always what the market wants.  I choose to make the work that I want whilst avoiding starvation, and I don’t see anything wrong in that.  It’s great when someone likes what I do, but I feel I would be selling myself short if I only made art because someone else was going to want to buy it, surely?

Tony Rickaby (on the same website, 12 July 2010) writes:

Leonardo da Vinci – military engineer; Marcel Duchamp – librarian; Alexander Rodchenko – graphic designer; Mark Rothko – teacher; Donald Judd – art critic; Carl Andre – railway worker; Julian Schnabel – waiter; etc., etc., etc.


I am guessing that the essential ingredients for professional success are time, inspiration, dedication, passion and sweat. Money helps too (you need to have it to make it). I would say that finding your individual style would be critical to set you apart from the masses. There is so much “ho hum” art out there…well done technically, but unremarkable. I do so want to be remarkable. I will get there. I feel the passion…I have a huge source of inspiration…I am testing my determination levels each week…now I just have to muster up enough time to create some artistic sweat and find where I can creatively scrape the required money away from the family budget (!).


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Sarah Ritchie
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Finalist, Estuary Art Awards 2011
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© Sarah Ritchie 2014

Please do not use copies of my original artwork for profit, however you are welcome to share my artwork images as much as you like!

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