Academics vs. Artists

As a result of being exposed to both the academic mindset and artistic mindset, I have taken a firm stance in the world of art and art-making…

I have a two decade history walking the line between academia and the art world. Having studied visual arts in college (I earned a B.F.A. with a concentration in painting) then earning a Master’s degree in Art Education, and experiencing the educational side of the arts for over a decade, I have been swimming in academia for years now. Promising not to drown in the tidal waves produced by academics flailing about, I have always paid attention to real artists past and present, near and far. I’ve also been an active participant in the real art world, completing paintings and getting them shown various settings and sold throughout various galleries.

Talkers vs. Doers

I have slowly, but surely, come to the realization that while on some level the world has a place for both artists and academics I am much happier distancing myself from the academics. I’m afraid I will never be completely free of academia, but I will try my hardest to do so; especially in the face of creating real art.



Through my experience, academics (teachers, administrators, authors, etc.) build an existence on the outskirts of the art world by attempting to categorize aesthetics, people, and ideas.  Academics more or less talk about art. Their attempts are usually noble in that categorization is easier to digest and present to students, but in their constant pursuit of neat and tidy presentations, much is lost. Academia is rife with individuals who are so far removed from real-world art making it’s been increasingly more difficult to take them seriously when considering the advancement of my own painting career.

In my experiences teachers always avoid the topic of money as if it’s some dirty concept that taints their artistic discussion. This is extremely troublesome for two reasons:

  1. Wealth (money) is a real, unavoidable thing tied to EVERY career.
  2. Professional artists rely on monetary transactions to live and thrive.

To pretend that art and artists are somehow above money is foolish and a dangerous seed to plant in the minds of our especially young-adult learners. Academics approach art as if it exists in a textbook: static, linear and organized. The most disturbing attribute common to many academics is their notion that artwork is accomplished by other folks, not them.



Artists are doers. Artists are the people compelled to make things. If we are fortunate enough to see an artist’s creation we are often better off because of it. When the world encounters a skilled artist, who feels compelled to make things, AND wants to share her creations the world has just gotten a tiny bit better. Artists spread ideas and make their audience feel.

Real artists don’t care about how they fit into the molds and constraints created by academics. Real artists don’t rely solely on step-by-step instructions that originate from a textbook. The best artists are bound to their medium and at times have a hard time explaining why they make some choices. To them art-making is like breathing.

Ask an academic: “How do you breath and why?”

With no time constraints you’ll surely get long winded explanations and referrals to piles of textbooks; diagrams about lungs and scientific explanations explaining the need for oxygen to the cells. That’s fine but, all the textbooks in the world can’t explain the beauty in a person’s ability to breath repeatedly for a lifetime without ever thinking about it. An academic may have “the right answer” according to other academics but they miss the point every time. They miss the mindfulness that can be found in a single breath. Mindfulness that can promote a higher level of living and a clarity of thinking essential to a peaceful existence.


The Business of Art

While I don’t like to mix business directly into my art-making process I would be a fool if I ignored the business of art altogether. When it comes to my career as an artist there is a time to make art and a time devoted to the business of art. Both are equally as important if I want to sustain a career as an artist and avoid the slippery slope back into academia. You need money to keep up your living quarters and to eat; artists should not be poor. The idea of being a starving artist is certainly not one of my aspirations. Artists need skills, an insatiable instinct to create, and some business acumen in order to be successful.


I Choose To Be An Artist

Each day I get older and I appreciate my role as an artist more and more. I find enormous peace and value in losing myself in my paintings nearly every day. It’s a seemingly magical experience, my love for it has grown steadily as a child.  In fact, growing up the more skilled I got at art-making, the more I have wanted to pursue the arts professionally, painting to be precise.

Having been involved with academics for so long, it’s tempting to fall into the destructive academic role.

Here are some examples of academic toxicity that I battle from time to time:

  1. I excessively try to group and organize my thoughts, visions, or artwork.
  2. I feel the need to explain my artwork to others and have reasons for things.
  3. I think more and create less.

That last one is a killer isn’t it?  Academics are known for talking, making excuses, and doing anything but creating actual artwork.

Less Talk, More Art

There is an inner academic and artist in each of us. As time passes, I have chosen to suppress the academic more and let the artist take control. I struggle with this routinely but, I always find I am happier being the artist. I want to find beauty in each breath and not feel compelled to explain why. I want to move forward instead of categorizing how others move forward. Above all I want to create art and not talk about creating art.


What do you think?


  1. Thank you for your blog article.Thanks Again. Really Cool.

  2. I so relate to this! thank you <3

    1. John Morfis says:

      Wow, people are still reading this?! Thanks Faith!

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