Home > Creative, Examples > What does it mean to be an artist?

What does it mean to be an artist?

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I was trained in college to be a graphic designer and worked in that capacity for many years. I tell people that I am a Neanderthal – that I go so far back that I worked with a chisel and stone. Well not that far back. I started my career in the late 60’s and my medium for creating layouts and comps for my designs was markers. I had every color in the rainbow. That was pre-computer days folks.

It always amazed me whenever a person found out my profession, 90% of the time they knew someone or had someone in their family who was an artist. I was often puzzled by what that meant. Was that someone a designer, an illustrator, a sculptor, or a potter who spent years studying to perfect their skills? Or did that person take a 6 hour course in still life painting at the local art mart? But then again, was I an artist?

Later on in my career, I developed an interest in structural design. I worked as a designer for a fixture manufacturer and then for an exhibit manufacture. That is where I discovered carpenters. In my book, these guys were wizards with wood. One minute you had a pile of wood and the next minute a store fixture that could knock your socks off or an exhibit that would make your jaw drop. Were these guys artists?

Category Icon TestSince I have been with Optima, I have been exposed to some pretty talented and dedicated people who take pride in what they do and how projects turn out… like our design department who come up with display structures and graphics that have that WOW factor. Are they artists? Or our project coordinators, tech support, pre-press and color management personnel who all have a blow-your-mind work load and time constraints that will make blood pressure hit the twilight zone. Yet they manage to get it right 99.99% of the time. Are they artists? How about the folks in our plant who have the same over-the-top work load and time constraints but manage to print all the graphics, do the sewing and finishing, produce the display structures, assemble the graphics to the structures and then pack those final products so they get to the end user without damage. Are they artists?

Recently I had some bathrooms in my house remodeled and I did my research to find a firm with a reputation for quality and service. I wasn’t disappointed. The supplies for the project always showed up a few days before they were to be installed. The crew was always on time, courteous and thoughtful. Tarps were always laid on the floors and plastic throws were placed over furniture before work began. At the end of the day, the crew always cleaned up after themselves. In the end, the bathrooms turned out to perfection. On the final day, I was telling the crew how pleased I was with their professionalism and skill. It was then that the project manager reached for his wallet and pulled out a tattered piece of paper that contained this quote.

“A person who works with their hands is a laborer. A person who works with their hands and their brain is a craftsman. A person who works with their hands, brain and heart is an ARTIST”

Inspired by the original by
~ Louis Nizer

Now I understand the true meaning of an artist!


About the Author

Rich Fava is an Account Executive at Optima Graphics.
He has spent his career in the graphics world since earning his Design degree and in Trade Show since the early 90s.

  1. Tim Toolen
    July 18, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Well said Rich! I’m stealing that quote for myself now…

  2. July 19, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Very nice! Thank you for sharing. I love the quote too.

  3. July 21, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Very nice article! As a fellow graphic designer that last quote says it all!

  4. July 28, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Great read and quote Rich! Before computers?? Is that like before bottled water? blahahahha

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