Artist, Designer, Painter, Illustrator?

I was listening to a podcast* today about titles – crafter, maker, artist – and it really got me thinking. I’m always struggling for the perfect way to define what I do, especially when writing a short profile on one of my social media accounts.

For years I went by Graphic Designer. It was a title I was comfortable with. Even when I became an Art Director, which I felt was more of a job title. A Graphic Designer was what I was. I was never comfortable with graphic artist. I guess I’ve always been reluctant to claim the name artist.

Artist definition (Merriam-Webster)

  • a person who creates art : a person who is skilled at drawing, painting, etc.
  • a skilled performer
  • a person who is very good at something

I think I fit the above criteria, but I still feel funny about it. I always think of an artist as someone, who sells their work (often in a gallery setting.)

Usually I go with Graphic Designer/Illustrator. But the graphic design part doesn’t begin to describe my business. When I looked back on my client work over 2015, I spent 40% on web design and development. Not only do I come up with the design of the site, I write the html code. 24% of my time was on print work, which falls under graphic design. 12% was on social media, 12% on logo design, and 8% on email campaigns. These percentages are the “final product” of what I create. But, it doesn’t take into account working with a client on marketing strategy, copywriting, project management, etc.

I feel more comfortable with Illustrator than Artist. But only a little. I’m not sure how many times I have to be hired for illustration, that I’ll finally feel okay calling myself an Illustrator. Often I’m hired for a bigger project, like a logo or website, and I’ll add my illustration into it -because I can. When I started out as a Graphic Designer 20+ years ago, I always used someone else’s illustrations or photos. Lately, my logos have more, and more illustration in them. Like this one:

The illustration/art might not be a large part of my business, but it’s still something I spend a lot of time on – as you know because you are reading this blog. I doodle, sketch, draw, paint, design patterns, try new mediums, and write about it all every week. I guess I should add blogger to my definition of me. And wife, mother of three, runner, beach girl. Hmm what else? 🙂

*Podcast was “Dear Handmade Life, episode 6: What’s in Your Name?”

15 thoughts on “Artist, Designer, Painter, Illustrator?

  1. Yup. I identify with this too. I can’t even talk about making ‘art’ – it’s always a drawing, a painting, a picture, etc. Art’s just such a grand term, with such big shoes to fill, so no wonder we’re wary of it… 🙂

  2. Defining ourselves as artists is difficult. I say we are artists! And, then there are specialties. I identify with being an illustrator. My career was as a graphic artist, but I do very little now. Good luck Eileen, you are multi- talented.

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