Thanks to Suzi Knight for these photos taken at Ringcon several years ago. I’m teaching Lord of the Rings actor Bruce Hopkins how to draw a head. I told him I could teach almost anyone how to draw a convincing human head in a half hour, and then proceeded to prove it.

Drawing is a technical skill almost anyone can learn. I can teach you how to draw. I can’t teach you how to be an artist. Only you can teach you how to be an artist.

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There is nothing exclusive or special or magical about making art. Art is not a matter of privilege. Art is communication. Anyone who wants to make art can be an artist. If you have something to say or to convey, you have the absolute right to do so by making art.

Money doesn’t make art. Art does not have to make money.

Nothing can stop you from making art but you.

A professional artist makes money with art. If you do not make money with art, that does not mean you are not an artist. If you don’t make money with your art, that says absolutely nothing about the quality of your art. It does not devalue the importance of your art in any way. The only person in the world who can make art exactly like you is you. The art you make is completely unique because you are unique and that art came from you.

A professional artist depends on the value others place in their art. Other people must buy that art in order for a professional artist to thrive.

The only true value in your art is the value you place on it yourself. If the art has meaning and value to you, then that is enough for you. If other people do not value it, that has absolutely nothing to do with the quality that art brings to your life.

Ayn Rand once wrote that quality is intrinsic but value is relative. The value that others place on art by purchasing it or praising it does not make it good. Money does not make good art.

An ivory tower existence as a lone artist who works on art only for love does not make good art either. But you have the absolute right to make pictures or to write stories or to pen poetry regardless of whether or not that work will ever have any value to anyone else. If it has value to you, that is enough.

If you want to be a professional artist, you must be aware of the income your work produces, the business surrounding your art, and the value your art brings to others.

If you want to be an artist these are not your concerns.

Money is not a measure of success unless you decide it is. No one else has the right to determine for you what success means. If success means finishing a story and emailing it to your friends, that is success to you. If success means making The New York Times bestseller list, then that is success. If success is getting one book published, then that is success. If success is getting 100 books published, then that is success. Everyone has the right to their own definition of success.

Don’t live by someone else’s measure.

Make your own art. Make money on your own art. Don’t make money on your own art.

Circulate your pictures in a fanzine. Or write a best seller.

Your art is about you and no one else. If other people value it, that is great. If you are the only person who values it, that is more than enough.

It’s your art. It’s about you.