There was a time when it was not possible to claim such titles with just the click of an ‘update profile’ button

Social media has democratized content creation. Gone are the days when the ability to create content and put it out for public consumption was limited to just institutions. Sure, well-established outlets (such as the Manila Bulletin) continue to provide content that have become even more valuable, given the proliferation of fake news that have come with the “free-for-all” nature of information today. 

(Manila Bulletin/Unsplash)

But this article isn’t going to be about which source of content is more reliable than the other, whether institutions carry more weight than individuals who merely wish to put their ideas out there. An underlying concept that seems to come with the democratization of content is the privilege right, nay the right, to call oneself an artist—a musician, a painter, a photographer, a writer. 

But when is it okay to call yourself an artist? 

Nowadays, it seems you can do it any time. You see it all over personal social media pages: John Doe, musician. Juan dela Cruz, photographer. Maria Clara, writer. 

Before the woke get woken and claim, “whoa, it’s my right to call myself whatever I like,” this isn’t about taking away that “right.” Instead, understand the question this way: “When does an artist become an artist?” When can someone who knows how to combine colors with oil or acrylic claim that he is a painter? When can someone who knows how to stitch words together say that he is a writer? If Instagram is to be the basis of how we do things, it seems you can do it whenever you like. 

(Manila Bulletin/Unsplash)

There was a time when it was not possible to claim such titles with just the click of an “update profile” button. Before one could become an artist, it was necessary to spend years of training under a master, a real artist. For one to be an artist, one needed to first be an apprentice. This concept has been adopted in the academic circles, which is good, but it has also lost its true meaning. Apprenticeship didn’t simply mean attending classes. It meant living under the master’s shadow, following his daily routine, observing how he practices his art. 

For those of you who are familiar, this idea is one of the highlighted points in the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (2011), which was about Chef Jiro Ono, the octogenarian owner of a previously Michelin three-star resto in Tokyo. Before someone could become a sushi chef, he needed to be an apprentice to Jiro for at least 10 years. And even after that, it was up to the master to say whether or not the apprentice had made it. 

There is, of course, value to this practice. For one, it teaches patience and perseverance. Apprenticeship, after all, guarantees that the prospective artist will have enough time to hone his craft, or to realize that he was better suited for something else. Even more precious is the opportunity to learn from someone who has already proven his mettle. One of the senior editors in our office, for instance, is a published author (with several books under his belt) and yet he remains reluctant to call himself a writer. 

The point is, calling oneself an artist wasn’t as easy as it is now—neither did it make you into one. And perhaps it still shouldn’t be. Talent does not necessarily translate into expertise. If anyone can simply claim to be a painter, a musician, a photographer, a writer, the risk here is that it cheapens the value of what it means to be one. 

This doesn’t mean that aspiring talent should be discouraged from pursuing what they think is their craft. On the contrary, they should keep at it. But one shouldn’t be too quick to proclaim to the whole world that “I am a writer,” “I am a poet,” “I am a painter.” Before you should update your IG profiles and attach any of these appellations, why not seek out a master you can learn from? Why not try and be an apprentice under someone who is already established in the art or craft you have a talent for or wish to be skilled at?

(Manila Bulletin/Unsplash)

If you think about it, this is still being done in other fields, like in martial arts, for example. Why shouldn’t the same be true for the beautiful arts? Besides, you can still put your works on your social media page even while training under a master anyway. Side by side proving to your master that you deserve the title of “artist,” it is ultimately proving it to yourself that you have it in you. You just need to smoothen the rough edges and perfect your craft. 

Where can I find a master, you might ask? Well, maybe that’s where you should put your social media skills to good use. Click that search button and look for one. 

Source: Manila Bulletin (