Top 100 – You Know You’re An Artist When

Lovin cup of java
My lovin' cup

Grab your cuppa…this might take some time!

Just don’t spit it out over your computer when you read these.

Fair warning.


Cow in red canoe Janice Tanton art
"Spilt Milk - What's In Your Canoe?" ©2010 Janice Tanton. Oil on canvas. 24"x36"

You Know You’re An Artist When…

  1. Every piece of clothing you own has gesso or paint on it.
  2. Other girls shop for shoes. You buy brushes….(or Other boys buy beer. You buy canvas.)
  3. When given the choice between winning the lottery or being given eternal life, you ask for the link for the grant application.
  4. The newest piece of furniture you own is an easel. It cost more than your kids’ university tuition.
  5. You dip your brushes in your coffee and drink the turpentine.
  6. You paint more than you talk.
  7. You sit in a board meeting and imagine the board members as characters in a sitcom or play.
  8. You dance in the shower and sing when you cook.
  9. Your studio takes up more floorspace in your house than your kid’s toys.
  10. Everyone around you wants to share their thoughts. You want to be alone with your thoughts.
  11. Your spouse tells you that he loves the colour of your new lipstick, only you don’t have any on.
  12. You look at the sky and describe the horizon in shades of cerulean, ultramarine and cobalt.
  13. You talk about your own values as shades of grey from 1 – 10.
  14. When your kids scrape their knee, you spend more time wondering how to mix the colour of blood instead of grabbing a bandaid.
  15. On your deathbed, you beg the doctor for just ONE MORE minute to put some varnish on that last painting.
  16. You get lost for hours marvelling at the patterns that the runny egg makes on your plate at breakfast. Family has to poke you back into consciousness.
  17. Sunrises and sunsets make you cry every time.
  18. You describe everything in your life as a “work in progress”
  19. Your friends remark on your interesting hair colour. It’s paint.
  20. You spit and cuss when you hear the words: “Corporate”, “Business”, “Tax”, “Accountant”, “Steven Harper”, “Wall Street”
  21. You have every version of Miles Davis’ recordings.
  22. Every year, you ask Santa to bring you paint.
  23. You encourage your kids to ALWAYS colour outside of the lines.
  24. You see the wonder in every moment of every day.
  25. You don’t care what’s in your bank account, as long as you have money for paint and linen.
  26. A friend borrows an art book and you make them leave their car until it’s returned.
  27. You’re having a root canal and you can’t help but ask the dentist if you can get some of those cool tools for your sculpture studio.
  28. You’re at the hairdressers and ask them if you can buy the trolley that holds all their gear cuz it will make a nice studio addition.
  29. Your sense of time is marked by how long it will take something to dry.
  30. You organize your office by how compositionally correct it is.
  31. Your best friends are artists on Twitter, Facebook and social media.
  32. Your blood boils when the local Mayor spends $11,000 from the public art fund on videos promoting “The Mayor’s Awards” and the public art committee lets him.
  33. Your chose your dog based on the balance of the complementary and tertiary colours in his fur.
  34. You name your kids Georgia, Salvador, Pablo, Leonardo, Childe, Artemesia, Amedeo, Michelangelo and Damien.
  35. You describe your vehicle as your mobile art studio to the tax man.
  36. Your email inbox is filled with sale flyers from art suppliers.
  37. You refuse to cook dinner unless the food on the plate shows excellent use of colour, balance and tonal qualities in a harmonious arrangement.
  38. You know everyone at your art supply store by their first names, favourite colour, the number of kids they have and what project they’re working on at the moment.
  39. You refer to yoga and sports as a “medium you have yet to try”.
  40. You fight with your spouse over the hammer. It’s supposed to be in the studio to hang work – not in the carpenter’s garage for building stuff.
  41. Your parents wish you’d become a teacher, a nurse or an engineer and when you’re 50, tell you it’s still not too late.
  42. You cringe every time someone looks at your work and tells you that they can’t draw a straight line or a stickman.
  43. You know your work will be worth more after you die and your kids ask you daily, “How are you feeling today?”
  44. You consider cutting off your ear when you hear someone say, “My kid could have done that!”
  45. A blank canvas either makes you orgasm or wet your pants with fear.
  46. Your cat eats better than you do.
  47. You eat jello in public with your hands for the tactile experience of it.
  48. Your watch stopped working eight years ago and you never replaced it.
  49. You understand Pythagorean theory, Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Mean more than you know your multiplication tables.
  50. Your business plan is a colourful mind map, utilizing all the available colours that Crayola has.
  51. You look at the mess of Lego on your daughter’s bedroom floor and scream, “OH MY GOD – It’s a painting!”
  52. You go to get the mail and neighbours & small children walk on the other side of the street when they see you coming because you have paintbrushes stuck behind your ear, you’re muttering to yourself about composition and are wearing a painting apron covered in cadmium red. It’s a normal day.
  53. You start to shake and break into a cold sweat when you think about spending the day at the National Gallery.
  54. You laugh in the face of art critics whether the reviews are good or bad.
  55. You fantasize about quitting your day job and immortalizing your boss in a Dali-like painting.
  56. You spend time writing about knowing you’re an artist when…
  57. Every cause within five hundred miles asks you to donate work because it will be good exposure for you.
  58. You’re having surgery and you ask to stay awake so you can experience it for yourself in the name of art and anatomy.
  59. You start 90% of your sentences with, “I feel…….”
  60. You are far more interested in the process than the outcome.
  61. Your spouse tolerates your mood swings in the name of art because he’s afraid next time you paint him, he’ll look like a worked over Picasso.
  62. You’d rather starve than be out of paint.
  63. The bumper sticker on your car reads, “My other vehicle is paint.”
  64. You can debate the merits of walnut oil over stand oil for hours on end.
  65. Your plants die because you don’t talk to them much. You just show them pictures.
  66. You go months on end without seeing anyone but the UPS guy, the Mormons & the Jehovah’s Witness. You ask them all in for tea and an opinion on your latest works. They accept.
  67. The most balanced meal you have all year is the wine and hors d’oeuvres at your annual solo opening.
  68. You strongly believe that cleaning paintbrushes, sanding gesso, stretching linen, scraping palettes and varnishing paintings should be individually sanctioned Olympic Events AND the Pentathlon.
  69. Your idea of living dangerously is having more than four colours on your limited palette.
  70. You’re conflicted when the “Save The Bunnies” people ask for you support in Canmore because you can’t help thinking about the quality rabbit skin glue that might end up in your studio.
  71. You light your barbecue with odourless mineral spirits.
  72. You don’t know what CNN is.
  73. You test the boundaries on EVERYTHING from how much butter you can get into Kraft Dinner to painting only on the back of your canvas just because you wanna see what happens.
  74. You consider heaven to be time alone in a studio filled with art-making materials for all eternity.
  75. You consider hell to be in Canada with a Stephen Harper majority.
  76. You stay awake at night worrying about writing your grant.
  77. You stay awake at night writing your grant.
  78. You stay awake at night worrying about not getting your grant.
  79. You stay awake at night worrying you’ll get your grant.
  80. You stay awake at night working on your grant.
  81. You stay awake at night worrying about reporting on your grant.
  82. You stay awake at night working on your grant report.
  83. You stay awake at night wondering about what your next grant should be.
  84. You stay awake at night.
  85. You freak out exactly one week before your solo show opens.
  86. You feel at some point like you’re God.
  87. You feel at some point like you’re the Devil.
  88. You feel at some point like you’re the worst artist on the planet ever born in the history of mankind.
  89. You feel at some point like you’re the best artist on the planet ever born in the history of mankind.
  90. You know that no matter how long you book that residency, it’s never going to be long enough.
  91. You don’t shake hands with people for fear that they’ll damage your painting hand.
  92. Your painting arm and hand are insured for more than your house.
  93. You fall in love easily and with almost everything.
  94. You trust fully but with a reserved sense of paranoia and jaded sarcasm.
  95. You create brand new whole and perfect worlds in your imagination….on an hourly basis.
  96. While others struggle at finding one good idea, you grapple with articulating & prioritizing a thousand brilliant ideas.
  97. You see miracles in the commonplace.
  98. You believe in pixie dust, fairies, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, animals that talk, trees that converse, and sometimes everyone else but yourself.
  99. You’d rather have a pencil in your hand than a million dollars in the bank.
  100. You underestimate the power and the value of your insight.


Got some more? Got a favourite? Tell me about them….!

This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. Patti

    Relate completely to 97, 94, 93, 86, 84. Love 63. 46 if I had a cat. 8-sing in the shower, everywhere all the time. Never cook. Never I say!

  2. Vanessa

    Janice I enjoyed reading these so much! I laughed aloud quite a few times! Good stuff girl!

  3. Toni Ruppert

    Oh I just loved 57. And 24. I’ve had a lot of “exposure” over the years and I see color and wonder ALL the time…Thanks for the post!

  4. Mary

    Hillarious!!!!!- thanks for the fair warning ; )

  5. Brennen E. McElhaney

    You know you’re an artist when you dip your paint brush in your coffee.


    But keep on painting… and go ahead and finish your coffee.

  6. j.r. bailey

    #41 for sure!

  7. Chrisrcornett

    Very great! I enjoyed these quite a bit.

    And….. Your short interview responses to favorite color and medium start taking more than a few pages

  8. Alyson Stanfield

    “You name your kids Geor­gia, Sal­vador, Pablo, Leonardo, Childe, Arteme­sia, Amedeo, Michelan­gelo and Damien.”

    Or your cats are named Frida, Jasper, and Rothko.

    1. Janice Tanton

      NICE choice, Alyson! Are those the names of your kitties? I’d love them all.

  9. Sally Evans

    You save everything that comes across your path because you can either put paint in it, repaint it, or use it in a painting.

    Great article, Janice!

    1. Janice Tanton

      Awesome one, Sally! Agreed – my hubby is all about getting after me to throw everything out. Makes for an interesting time here! ;-D

  10. Robin Jennings

    You know you’re an artist when you put shoes on for the first time in a week to leave the studio and see what’s happened to the ‘real’ world.

    1. Janice Tanton

      Robin – that was awesome. I just about spit out my afternoon coffee all over my keyboard…since I am indeed….not wearing shoes. 😉

  11. John Hawkwood

    You know you`re an artist when you prefer George Stubb`s `Whistlejacket to a Shetland Pony

  12. John Hawkwood

    You know you`re an artist when you`re able to wade through all 1112 pages of Naifeh and White-Smith`s `Van Gogh`.

  13. Rebecca Russell

    Brilliant!!! Thank you!

  14. Sheila

    Great post Jan! How about…

    You yell “step back from the painting!” when people try to examine it from one inch away

    or you strangle your spouse for saying “I think it’s done” – every five minutes


  15. Tiffanydavisrustam

    Hilarious stuff!

  16. Shannon

    When you had a tumor removed from your breast you asked the doctor if you could see it. He took a slide of it instead. You carry it in your wallet.

  17. Herrin Larkan

    I’m not an artist and I found this hilarious. I play music but we’re not like you guys/gals. More insecure if that’s possible. Or are we?

    1. Janice Tanton

      Eggsellent, Herrin! Glad you found humour in our existance. ha ha

  18. Adriana J Garces

    Jan I had so much fun reading this in its entirety! I “felt” as though I was getting a personal psychic reading for 99% 😀 I can’tpick one to pinpoint the most reflective of myself, but #96 really has me in a stronghold! I do so hope you’re doing well & think of you hoping recovery is swift & painless as possible. Here’s my hand, (the left one I hardly paint with) but my wholehearted wish you make life as beautiful as you express it every step of the way! Thanks for the laughs on this AWEsome article xxxxxx AJG

    1. Janice Tanton

      Hi Adriana, Thanks for your note. I’m doing very well, all things considered. 🙂 Joy is all around us!

  19. Tonnya

    Haven’t had such an amazing laugh out loud, cross my legs or I’ll pee, from laughing too hard in a long time. Totally brilliant

  20. Chatone Morrison


  21. Edward J

    Once I put brush cleaning water in my boot because I had nothing else to use.

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