Photo by note thanun / Unsplash

Art vs. Artist

Editorials Sep 6, 2023

by Michelle Sharp

Separating the art from the artist is an act of self-preservation.

This is not where you think it’s going, I promise.

As a person making their foray into the world of being a working artist, it has become so essential to make sure I am separating myself from my art mentally. Growing up and traversing through art school, it became so ingrained that artists are part of their art. Their art is their thoughts, feelings, goals, values. They themselves are a piece, and their produced works are part of who they are and what they stand for. This seems to be a common ideal that is perpetuated throughout the world, perhaps to romanticize art or add value to art. The ideas that, “Not only is this a painting, but a person” and encouraging worth through empathy are very marketable.

Unfortunately, this mindset backfires once you are on the receiving end of rejections. When you become someone who strives to create income (a very measurable metric) solely through your art, having your worth and identity tied to it is detrimental in many ways. Someone rejecting your art rejects you. Someone feeling a piece is not worth the price is questioning your worth as a person.

Life is not all rejections, but they cut the deepest, and in a world of ever increasing art saturation (hooray for AI plagiarism), the rejections seem to come more often. Because of this, it is so crucial to remember you are not your art; the way people value art is not the way people value you. Your art may reflect your thoughts and feelings, but they are not intrinsically you. Your art is not your values incarnate, but a shadow or manifestation of them, a reflection in a mirror. Breaking the mirror does not break you.

This method is not the only way to protect yourself. Many choose the Palate Approach. “I’m just not their taste and I will find the people that want what I have to offer”. Others may choose an Almighty Mindset. “Clearly they don’t know what they are missing. Their loss.”. As in all things, an amalgamation is probably the best practice. For my own art practice, time will tell.

Michelle Sharp (b. 1992) is an artist currently working in the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin. She works primarily in bookmaking media, photography, and writing. Michelle is inspired by the mundane, acts of sharing & discovery, literature, and structured systems.