Does being a "professional" make your art more truly "art"
What makes someone an artist? Is it dedicating one’s career to producing works of art? Or can the casual hobbyist with raw talent claim the title?
In our series, “What Makes it “Art”?” we’re testing factors that may contribute to or take away from artistic creations being considered “art” by their viewers. In this installment, we’re testing whether creative works produced by someone formally employed as a professional artist increases the perception that their work is “art” in the eyes of viewers.
We had 400 people on Amazon Mechanical Turk view a sketch that we labelled as either created by a professional sketch artist or created by an everyday person (randomly assigned), then asked participants the extent to which they thought the sketch was art and how much liked the sketch.
Participants were told, “This sketch was created by Tatiana Zhukova, a [professional sketch artist / waitress at a local restaurant].” Participants were then shown the sketch below.
Sketch by Tatiana Zhukova via Unsplash
Participants were then asked two questions: “To what extent do you think this sketch is art? (1 = Not at all, 7 = Definitely art)” and “How much do you like this sketch? (1 = Not at all, 7 = Very much),” both using a 1-7 scale.
At the end of the survey, we also asked participants, “Which of the following hobbies do you regularly engage in (if any)? (select all that apply)” with one of the answer options being “Art.” This enabled us to test whether art hobbyists are more accepting of art created by fellow hobbyists.
The extent to which participants considered the sketch as art was significantly higher when the sketch was attributed to a professional (avg. = 6.08) than a non-professional waitress (avg. = 5.75), (p = 0.005). However, there was no difference in how much participants liked the sketch when it was attributed to a professional (avg. = 5.27) or the waitress (avg. = 5.26), (p = 0.962), nor did any of the effects differ significantly between art hobbyists and non-hobbyists (p = 0.501, p = 0.390).
The results paint an interesting picture of art perceptions. On the one hand, artists certainly seem to get a boost in credibility for their works when they’ve dedicated a career to it. That’s fair. But for the casual artist, not all hope is lost. Both sets of ratings were quite highly rated regardless of whether it was attributed to a non-professional or professional. And our non-professional’s art was liked just as much as our professional’s art. Nevertheless, if your goal is to become known for producing works that are truly “art,” as subjective as that may be, then earning the designation of professional may serve you well.
We used an independent samples t-test to test for significant differences in perceptions between our two experimental conditions. For significant differences, the difference between the two groups' averages would be large and its corresponding “p-value” would be small. If the p-value is less than 0.05, we consider the difference statistically significant, meaning we'd likely find a similar effect if we ran the study again with this population. To test for significant interactions between the main results and participant demographics, we used OLS regression analyses with interaction terms.