The dissimilarities between professional and amateur

A couple of days ago I mentioned, in passing, being a professional graphite artist and a amateur photographer. 

This led to: how do I draw the distinction between being a professional artist and an amateur photographer?

Now this turns out be a question laden with serious food for thought (and a rather long blog post)!

A pro is paid an amateur is not.
Rubbish answer.

After another quick head rummage, it became clear that this question had a mass of tangents to get lost down and that no straight forward answer would be possible.

Let’s go back to the question: how do I draw the distinction between being a professional and an amateur?

Let’s see.
·       As a professional artist I draw for money as well as enjoyment.  As an amateur photographer for enjoyment alone.

·      Success, customer satisfaction and results are how I judge my graphite work whereas when I photograph participating is more important than the actual result.

·      I draw full-time, spend long hours in the studio; as an amateur photographer I shoot in my spare time.

·      I have to draw when commissioned but choose to shoot when I feel like it.

·      Drawing is my work, photography my hobby.

Where then does the line dividing being a professional and being an amateur lie?

Being a professional graphite artist has meant I have become more pragmatic, learned to have better perspective with a more systematic approach.
As an amateur photographer I still get easily lost in being over perfectionistic; sometimes overworking to the point where these improvements would not be worth the time and effort in the professional world.

As a pro I have also learned to make deadlines a priority. For many amateurs submitting work on time is far less important than perfectionism.
Being professional has also taught me how to accept criticism and how crucial this criticism actually is for my artistic growth.
I know many an amateur hostile to it.

As a professional a certain skill level is expected, not true for the amateur: there are no expectations. 

Once you start accepting money to draw you have to maintain high standards.
You have to stay in the game
This means keeping up to scratch, constantly improving and honing on skills be it by following workshops, self-teaching, reading, experimenting or interaction with other professionals. Never resting on your laurels.

Turning professional is one side of the coin, remaining professional the other.
You have to grow up, surpass mediocrity and stay focused.
You have to mature in both your work and as a person, deal with the lows just the same as with the highs, do the boring jobs as well as the fun ones.

Producing work with a “wow” factor is important, a passion that goes well beyond reason fundamental, but having the maturity to keep aiming for that end goal is crucial.

The line between being professional and amateur is complex, not as clear cut as I initially thought. 
It's a line that underlines a whole series of points aside from skill level (maturity, pragmatism, focus, resolve, integrity …)

In my case, I have drawn this division between my drawings and photographs simply because I am not ready to inflict the cold side of business, the performance pressure, the workload stress, encountered in my artistic career, onto my photography.
I don’t yet feel strong enough and consistent enough in my photography work to bring it into the professional world.
Sheltering, it behind the “amateur” shield gives me freedom and nonchalance never affordable as a professional.

"Past to Present"
Graphite on Paper

Sheona Hamilton-Grant. All rights reserved

While choosing to keep my photography on an amateur stand overindulging in the hunt for that perfect shot; it has to be underlined that I adore being a professional graphite artist. 

For over 15 years, my scribble friends and I have worked hard, grown strong, learned to take the pressure and thrive under scrutiny.
We are still chomping at the bit, ready to carry on up the sinuous twists and turns that make up the realities of our professional world.

p.s: for all of you now wondering what my photos look like here's a link that can help :D


Em Parkinson said…
Do you use your amateur photography as reference for you professional work or would that take the enjoyment out of it for you? I cannot describe myself as a professional in either; have never had the confidence to pursue either in that way and at the same time felt frustration at myself for not doing so. Do you love to draw still or has the professional side of it taken the edge off it? Sorry to bombard you with questions but I'm just fascinated. Love the hand holding drawing by the way. Happy Christmas!
Juliet said…
Oh....I do have so much I could discuss with you on this. Not just the photography thing...but the whole concept of amateur vs pro and what that can do to limit your exploration and evolution as an artist in any format. But I am tired I will save it for another day. But in my opinion, in either rock!
Em your questions are excellent thank you for asking. I do use my photography as a basis to my drawings. Once or twice I'll call out for help if I can't take my own reference. But yes my ground work starts with my photography. I still love to draw, this is when I find my peace. I have to draw and adore the process of creating a drawing. The day this dies is the day my art world ends I'm sure.

You mention never having had the confidence to push the boundary from amateur to professional. It takes courage and oodles of hard work. COuld it be that your feeling of frustration stems from a belief deep down you that knows you can do it... Playing the devil's advocate with the best intentions in mind.
Juliet, this is a great question for long and very interesting discussions. Had fun trying to get my head around the whole,amateur pro concept. Not sure I've really touched the surface. Look forward to hearing your views.:D Mega thanks for the words of faith. I've stored them away safely :)
Em Parkinson said…
I think you're probably absolutely right. Fear of failure is a terrible thing!

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