Updated: Nov 3
Everyone has a camera and video camera in their phones these days, and posts videos to TikTok.
Everyone has an idea for a novel, or screenplay, or movie. Some people actually sit down and write them.
Everyone doodles on their sketchbooks and uploads the results to Instagram.
As a professional writer, all of this can be a little overwhelming. I know a lot of artists who feel the same way. Art, and the resources to create art, are so abundant these days anyone can do it. So if you’re a professional artist . . . where does that leave you? Do you even have a profession and marketable skill anymore?
Why would someone pay you for graphic design work if they feel they can just download photoshop and do it themselves? Why would someone pay you to write if they’ve got Microsoft Word on their laptops? Why would someone pay a photographer when they can just open up their phones?
Well, I was working on a film set one day when I got a good answer. Our photographer was taking photos of our actors, and she was talking about the photography profession.
She shared that people all have cameras in their phones, and that anyone could take a good photo. But only a professional photographer takes good photos consistently.
I had never thought of it like this before. The fact is, anyone can make good art—anyone. And anyone can find the value of doing art. Anyone can enjoy the process.
What separates a professional artist is their ability to do this consistently.
Let’s look at photography as an example. Because we all have cameras in our smartphones, we underestimate the amount of know-how and skill it takes to produce a good photo. A person with a smartphone might take a good picture—but if you look at their camera role, you see hundreds or thousands of not-great photos.
When you look at a professional photographer, you’ll see photos—and about 98% of them will be good, quality photos that are usable.
Do you see the difference? A photographer knows what they’re supposed to be looking at, and uses all the skills they have learned to create a good photo. They know how to apply these skills to different environments to reproduce the results over and over and over and over and over again.
Someone who loves to take photos on their phone is like a monkey at a typewriter—eventually, they’ll produce a story, but it’s random, and there’s an element of chance to it.
This same theory applies to other areas of art.
What is the value of a professional photographer? Or, for that matter, a professional artist?
Well, if you’re a non-artist working on a project and doing everything yourself, your output will be hit or miss unless you’ve got the skills. If there’s money involved, it is better to pay someone who can deliver good results guaranteed.
Please understand that, at this point, I’m not trying to disparage people from making artwork if they’re not doing it professionally. I love reading the writing my non-writer friends produce. I love seeing people post their artistic endeavours on Instagram, and share what they have been getting up to creatively. There is so much value to creating artwork and, even if you’re not a professional artist, you have the capacity to make amazing art. Even if you don’t have the skills, the pursuit of making art has value.
Art is therapeutic. Art helps you express yourself. An artistic outlet helps you relax and make sense of the world.
However, we also need to remember that a professional artist has value, as well.
What if you’re a non-artist who loves making art? Well, there are skills to create good art, to make your art even better. There are classes and groups that can connect you to a new community. There are opportunities to learn and grow as an artist. And who would lead these groups, these classes, and share this information? A professional artist, of course.
What if you write a screenplay? Who’s going to edit it for you and give you feedback so it’s ready to be made into a movie? A professional screenplay writer who knows about the craft, of course. What if you’re hitting a roadblock with your work? You don’t know what to do, or how to go forward? Who are you going to ask for help figuring out how to fix the problems you’re dealing with? An artist, of course, someone who knows the elements of making arts and who can diagnose and cure whatever’s ailing your work.
An artist is consistent. An artist has skills they draw on to create art. An artist has studied, and they have made it their business to know about their profession. They have a skill they can share, a skill they can give to others, a skill they can teach.
Everyone else is passionate, they are interested, they might have some natural skills. They might create something beautiful one day. But they are not professionals and, unless they’ve put in the time to learn, they don’t have the skills of a professional.
And that’s okay—we just need to see the value of both streams.
There is value for everyone if artists specialise in their artistic forms—including to the people who pursue art recreationally, or who dabble in art.
Let’s not underestimate why professional artists are necessary.