What's the difference between amateur and professional artists?

Out On A Limb

I have been following a discussion on Linked In about the diifference between amateur artists and professionals. Thought I'd throw in my two cents worth.


To describe an artist as a professional or as an amateur is not necessarily making a judgement about the quality of their art.


By definition, a professional is a person engaged in a specified activity as their main paid occupation, rather than as a pastime. Professional artists are in the business of producing art to make an income.


Amateurs may sell work and derive income from their art, but that is not the primary motivation. For them art may be a passion, a hobby or a recreational pastime, but it does not matter if their work doesn’t sell. They are not in business.


Many professional artists began their careers as amateurs, and many amateurs are as skilled as professionals.


This is where confusion can arise, when the word professional is used to describe skill. To say someone has the skills appropriate to a professional indicates they work at a high standard, but it does not make them a professional.


If you are an artist the labels won't change the quality of the art you produce.


Wearing the label ‘professional’ may confer credibility with art buyers and seeing yourself as a professional will make a difference to how you approach the making and marketing of your art.


The amateur enjoys other privileges. They are in the wonderful position of being free to follow their passion or whims wherever they like, without concern for how the buying public will respond. They can develop their artistic skills to any level they choose. They are free to experiment with radical ideas, paint in different styles and produce work of inconsistent quality without fear of consequences.


Professional artists can of course do all this too, but the reality is these things have consequences for a business. They impact on how the work is perceived and received by collectors. If you are trying to build a career as a professional this is a real constraint.


Bottom line. If you are an amateur, don’t be offended by being described as such. Enjoy your freedom and be the best artist you can be. If you are a professional, I hope your business gives you a great income and that you never lose the joy and passion of creating art.


What do you think?


Write a comment

Comments: 4
  • #1

    rita tarrant (Sunday, 21 July 2013 18:26)

    Thanks for the written insights. This area does get confusing, I just love what I am doing as an Amateur. Confusion comes if entering a Show(not that I have done much) apparently if you get a 'placing' your status changes!!!???to Proffessional???(not very sure on this) Anyway from "having a go " yoou then get into another Class. !

  • #2

    Philippa Robert (Tuesday, 10 December 2013 18:34)

    Just catching up on my reading Richard. Your article is actually liberating for me. I have hovered somewhere in between - earning enough to sustain my painting habit, but not my other needs. At present, in between projects (a commission completed and no exhibition planned) I see now is the time to relax into the amateur role: play a bit and learn some more! What freedom. I feel lucky. Thanks for sharing your ideas. Philippa

  • #3

    ricardo antonio vega serrador (Tuesday, 01 December 2015 07:09)

    Really a great addition. I have read this marvelous post. Thanks for sharing information about it. I really like that. Thanks so lot for your convene.

  • #4

    Carol Patrick (Monday, 11 December 2017 14:49)

    Thank you so much for the clarification