So here's the thing.....I've been painting professionally for nearly 20 years...and for the first 6-7 years, I refused to call myself an artist. Then, for the next 6-7 years, I grew comfortable with calling myself an artist. Now, while I am very comfortable calling myself an artist, it's more because I think of myself as an artist in all areas of my life, whether it's cooking or gardening or rearranging the books on the shelves. But I am still ambivalent about the title when it comes to painting. My dilemma has always been that, if I paint what customers ask me to paint, albeit in my own way, but with their preferences as my parameters, then is what I do really art?
I mean, the word Art for me has always implied finished work that wasn't largely dictated by the desires of another person. If it is, then it's not art, it's craft....I'm simply a pair of hands making tactile what someone else envisions.
Of course, when I think about what is considered Art in historical terms, then my definition doesn't hold up. Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor, not a painter. He only painted the Sistine Chapel for the money...as far as I can tell he felt no affinity for the Church...it was just a job. And I'm pretty sure the Church officials told him what stories they wanted to see depicted.
But, it wasn't the Church's direction that makes the Sistine Chapel Art, but rather Michelangelo's skill and vision in executing their direction.
I am in no way comparing myself to Michelangelo, but he is considered one of the greatest Artists of all time, and yet he painted what others wanted him to paint, for money.
I understand that times were different then, that the definition of what Art was a bit different too. Artists were considered "artisans" and needed patrons to survive; self expression for self-expressions' sake wasn't a factor.
It is now though. So my question remains, in these times, is painting what a client wants, using my skill and vision, considered Art?
And my answer is..prehaps. Sometimes. Maybe.