Andy and Colin, you certainly provide food for thought.
Well, for what it's worth....
....how would you differentiate in a single descriptive phrase between the hobbyist (in your eyes the artist who makes mediocre bonsai) and the... what shall I say... creator of trees that are more or less universally accepted as fine bonsai or neo-masterpieces?
If one can differentiate, then no doubt one will also be able to define the demarcation line between the hobbyist and the creator (of trees... etc.), or, in other words, between a would-be artist and a true blue one.
A major achievement! Especially since being a hobbyist (i.e. "a person who pursues an activity in his/her spare time for pleasure") does not necessarily exclude being an artist.
The statement that you dismiss as balderdash: "I am an artist when other people tell me I am," is, in fact, the one I would offer as a reasonable definition.
Or proof of a sort, I presume. Hm. Wouldn't that rather depend on who tells you?
Every bonsai artist I know, every one of them I?ve ever met decided to be a bonsai artist.
By "bonsai artist", I guess you mean any sort of bonsai grower? Well, you haven't met me and you don't know me, which is just as well, because I would have become the exception to the rule.
It means nothing special for me to acknowledge that I?m an artist. It?s simply an accurate description.
I believe that most of us in bonsai us who can?t bring ourselves to admit that we?re artists simply don?t want or can?t handle the responsibility that we believe comes with such a claim.
There's a kind of implied contradiction, here. Andy, if you acknowledge to yourself that being an artist "means nothing special", then why do you think it important that others should acknowledge it as well? That is what you imply, isn't it? What importance can one then attach to the admittance that one is an artist? Reading between the lines, I think that you see some attitudinal difference - but in practical terms, what is its value?
Any artist worth his salt is primarily aware of work and aspiration, not of noblesse oblige
and seldom of accomplishment. And unless he/she made a living by creating and selling art, and have to fill in a tax form, the appellation of "artist" would receive little or no attention.