“Are you an artist?” was something I often got asked when people saw me sitting , drawing, while I was in China. It always seemed easier to say yes, than go into some complicated discussion about what I do, but I found it difficult to say this without some vague feeling of being fraudulent. I’ve since realised that I’ve been missing the point completely. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘profession’ as follows:
“An occupation in which a professional knowledge of some subject, field or science is applied, a vocation or career, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.”
And I’m not going to get hung up on the formal qualification bit either. It’s the concept of the application of knowledge combined with prolonged training that chimes with why I even bother to persist with drawing and why I am an artist. I am even more consoled by the words of the great Japanese artist Hokusai who explained:
“From the age of 6 I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was 50 I had published a universe of designs. But all I have done before the the age of 70 is not worth bothering with. At 75 I’ll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am 80 you will see real progress. At 90 I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At 100, I shall be a marvelous artist. At 110, everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign my self ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.”
― Hokusai Katsushika
So I will promise to persist and with persistence I will become an even better artist. Hokusai sensei arigato gosaimashita! (Thank you Teacher Hokusai!).