What does it take to be an artist?

What does it take to be an artist?

At the moment I'm reading several books about creativity and I'm thinking a lot about what it takes to be an artist. Although I've been in museums constantly since I was a child, I think artists are geniuses, of which there are very few. And I have the idea that you have to do something down-to-earth professionally and cannot achieve living from art. Why?


"All people are artists," said Joseph Beuys. And what sounds totally ridiculous at first is in essence true. Art is something you can learn. You're not born an artist. But you have to make an effort. Like a child who falls down all the time when learning to walk, it's the same with learning an art.

My wife sometimes says to me with admiration that she would also like to be able to draw well. Yet no one can draw just that well. It's simply a lot of practice, a lot of work, until you can draw well. And so the wish should really be, "I'd like to be able to draw well without putting any effort into it."

I felt that way about playing the piano. I admire piano players, but I myself was a lousy student and I hated practicing. That's why I can't play the piano today. That's okay, because I tried it and I just didn't want it that much. I didn't develop a passion for it.

In other areas such as visual arts it's different though.

Find your passion

Art classes in my school days were grotty. I remember that our teacher once painted a landscape and we had to imitate it with watercolors. Whoever imitated it best got a good grade. The landscape consisted of a meadow with a river and a tree.

That was too boring for me. So I painted a nuclear power plant with a nice big cooling tower on the meadow. For this I was punished with a bad grade. I didn't care much about it, after all I was good in other subjects. But the bad grade made me think that I wasn't good at art.

Isolate yourself?

When I look at other artists today, whether they are painters, musicians or directors, I always wonder how they do it. Whether one has to bring along a high degree of craziness. And whether the ideal would not actually be absolute isolation. That would mean pure concentration and focus on just one single activity. No everyday life to distract you.

That's how I imagined an artist's life, of a truly great artist. An artist does nothing else besides art. But this thought is absurd. Who can live like that?

In real life, you have to hold several balls in the air at the same time: Communicating with models, taking care of marketing, packing parcels and handling commercial productions. It all has to run in parallel. Parallel to the development of new artistic projects and the search for new image ideas.

Would a retreat into absolute solitude be advisable?

Suppose I were financially independent, that might make things easier. But living and working in absolute isolation also means, there is no more room for a relationship — unimaginable for me. And I would miss the impulses and distraction from everyday life. How satisfied would I be if I could outsource all responsibilities? I don't think that could work. Because I like to take on responsibility and — as silly as it sounds — I enjoy to work hard.

Allowing myself to photograph a different subject than nude women

Maybe I need to redraw the ideal image of the artist

Maybe a true artist is only well-structured so that he pursues his consistent work in one time slot and devotes himself to everyday topics at other times. That's how Stephen King does it, for example. He writes every morning. Then takes a long walk before answering mails and dealing with mundane business life. So he has created space for creativity.

Karl Lagerfeld also once said that he draws 90% for the trash can. So 9 out of 10 of his designs were crap. He knew it and it was part of being creative. I found it very encouraging when I heard that.

What do I learn from today's thoughts?

Accepting art as a profession could be a good starting point. And to allow oneself to make mistakes. Formulate your goals and work towards them in a well-structured way while reducing distractions (rather than going into isolation). An artist's path is exciting as it is not a straight line.

Looking for beauty outside my comfort zone