Do you consider yourself an artist?

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Steven Robertson

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Oh hi friends on Salon Geeks!

I've recently come across a conversation via hairbrained.me (resource that re-sparked this thought: http://www.hairbrained.me/m/discussion?id=2816969:Topic:1550556) that I used to find very intriguing and spoke about often in seminars I taught both independently, with my salon network and when I worked for the Paul Mitchell Schools system here in the U.S. That subject is hairdressers considering themselves artists. In fact, my client today whom I was doing a simple weaved highlight and lowlight rotation that I've done on her for the last 5 years, the exact same way, and have never changed the formulation because she loves it so much told me while I was foiling that I was "such and artist with color". It's highlights and lowlights. A student could have done them!! So let me give you some brief background so you better understand my personal viewpoint once I give it. I've received my cosmetology license 8 years ago, where while I was in school prepping for my licensing test, I was beyond interested in session styling and photo shoots to the point that I would miss school to work on a local photo shoot with various photographers. This landed me a publication on a cut/color/make up I did in my beginning phase of school, which at that point felt like I was so fancy (which I don't feel like I am). First publication photo attached (I look at it now and am embarrassed, but 7.5 years ago, I thought I was so groundbreaking...and the fake leaves...don't even get me started...:oops:):
paul_mitchell_2nd-211.jpg


Now, years pass....I graduate, start working on becoming an educator for Paul Mitchell Schools while working part time at my current salon (7 days a week!!! Kill me) and continuing to grow in the world of session styling, since that was the only thing I wanted to do. I could have cared less about working in a salon. But that made me money to pay bills. That continuation landed me a few years later as co-art director for Lunatic Fringe Salon's artistic team from 2011-2013, 2 North American Hairdressing Awards in 2012/2013 for Salon Team of the Year, and a nomination for Hairdresser of the Year for 2014 (that I did not win! :().

Most of my publications came from styling and a sense of Avant Garde work, which in a way the industry has been deemed artistic. It is safe to say that according to the industry and peers, I've created my fair share of "art". However, I do not see it that way. Not always. In fact very rarely. On only 2 collections I've created out of a billion, I consider artful. The rest was just doing hair to me. Very rarely do I feel like I'm being an artist, yet I hear every day in the salon that hairdressers both young and new express to their clients that they are artists. And when I used to travel around to schools and other salons, often I would hear stylists say they joined the industry because they are artists or want to be artists.

But what does that mean? Is everyone an artist? What is it exactly that makes someone an artist with hair?

Is it training?
Is it self-proclaimation/self-titled?
Is it an idea of artistic expression what ever that means?
Is it the amount of time you've been in the industry?
Is it your resume?
Is it a title given to you by your peers?
Is it an award given to you by your industry?

What separates an everyday hairdresser working behind the chair with a full clientele (or building a clientele) that considers themselves an artist (or who's co-workers and clients consider them an artist) from Robert Lobetta, in my opinion, one of the most visionary artists the hairdressing community has experienced.

What does being an artist mean. What separates an artist in the form of hairdressing, from a so-called cookie-cutter stylist? Take hair painting and balayage for example. For years, it was really only seen on celebrities and in editorials and then considered an artistic form of hair coloring. But now it's so widespread, educated and "everyone has it" because the victory of the industry is that balayage education was created and shared. So is balayage no longer a form of artful coloring because it's been commercialized? Does the commercializing of hair and techniques dilute it's artfulness that it once had. Take the whole pixelation coloring trend that is trending on social media. How artistic!!! But is now in the beginning phase of widespread education (probably to capitalize on it's interest) by the creators and their trainers. So will it lose it's artistic value to commercialization? Same with the use of pastels and vivid tones. Artistic now, but at some point will be the norm.

Is Robert Lobetta an artist simply because he doesn't do highlights and bobs on clients every day? Is he an artist because he creates visions of hair in his mind and brings them to life that couldn't possibly have existed in someone else's mind. And if his uniqueness deems him an artist, does that shame everyone else who may not have that capability or resources to be able to do that? Are artists only those deemed worthy of the BHA, NAHA and other various nomination, claiming to crown the most "artistic hairdressers in our industry" (when really, those competitions come down to photography, hairdressing is the expectation upon entering. Photography (photographers) win(s) the awards, but that's a totally different subject!) What about everyone else?

My personal opinion: I do not feel like "every hairdresser is an artist". I personally know many brilliant stylists who have large clienteles that do the exact same color patterns, same layers, same everything for the most part, on every client. And following strict guidelines and systems make you a well-trained and precise 'craftsman' or 'craftswoman'. And that is ok! Brilliant in fact!! Many people could only dream of achieving such consistency in their crafts. I think even artists dream of such discipline. But in my opinion, that discipline to linear structure and systems (similar to many academic and education systems, especially in the US), hinder and create a black hole to the even remote idea of artistic expression. I consider myself an artist when I have visualized something so vividly that I need to plan out it's execution, because what I currently know won't be able to execute it, usually takes a number of hours/days/months to create, and that it exists within a story to be told that can not be replicated but only within the boundaries within my own story and vision. And again.... I have only achieved that twice in my opinion in 8 years. A photos from each of two collections I consider artful here:

1152809_1099_5c3484.jpg
988792_1099_644fed.jpg


What is everyone else thoughts on every hairdresser that enters the industry being "an artist". Do you claim yourself to be an artist and why? Have you been told that your an artist with hair by your peers, clients or anyone and for what reason? Do you not consider yourself an artist but more of an artisan or craftsman and why?

As opinions in this post could vary greatly, I believe healthy debate is normal and appreciated, but please be respectful to those opinions that you sit on the complete opposite end of the spectrum with. I think this could be very valuable conversation in todays community!

Steven Robertson
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vividamnesia

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Yes I do. Color selection and placement plus detailed cut is all artistic as far I I'm concerned.
 

Steven Robertson

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Yes I do. Color selection and placement plus detailed cut is all artistic as far I I'm concerned.

Please elaborate! When you say yes, yes you feel that yes you are an artist? Or yes, all hairdressers are artists? Or both!

And cutting is a good topic! Does condense cutting a bob, or using electric clippers to cut a bob make it not art, even if the result is visually the same as a section-by-section detailed bob? Many would argue that simplicity is art and that it's not always the intricacies and complications that make it art. And that it takes more artistic vision to make something that is originally complex, simplistic to complete. Do you disagree?
 

Jaybear

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I think it could be called art, a form of expression and vision that benefits and greatly satisfies both stylist and client! Cutting colouring and styling are all artistic. Although I do know stylists that are incredible that have been trained with discipline regards cutting and colouring and do not think outside the box.they will not go out of their way to suggest anything different or creative to their client even if the client has asked for a change.instead they choose the easiest methods available so that they get it done in the quickest time possible.that to me is not art. I feel a true artist would pour their knowledge creativity and time visualising exactly what their client wants or suggesting other options to achieve a desired effect or look , if I have some one in for a colour change, or maintenance I go home and I think a hell of a lot about what I am going to do.i fetch as many pictures as I can and ask my client to do the same (maybe get a Pinterest board together) I look at different formulations and techniques and products and most of all I am excited about the service I am about to give.
 

Jaybear

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I have been told a few times I am an artist and my clients are so so greatful for the service and time I give to them, one in particular when her appointment had ended, have me a tip of £10 and said "jaymie, thank you so much I absolutely love my hair, keep doing what your doing because it is so good." It made my day and it's times like that that make it all worth while. [emoji4][emoji2]
 

Steven Robertson

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I think it could be called art, a form of expression and vision that benefits and greatly satisfies both stylist and client! Cutting colouring and styling are all artistic. Although I do know stylists that are incredible that have been trained with discipline regards cutting and colouring and do not think outside the box.they will not go out of their way to suggest anything different or creative to their client even if the client has asked for a change.instead they choose the easiest methods available so that they get it done in the quickest time possible.that to me is not art. I feel a true artist would pour their knowledge creativity and time visualising exactly what their client wants or suggesting other options to achieve a desired effect or look , if I have some one in for a colour change, or maintenance I go home and I think a hell of a lot about what I am going to do.i fetch as many pictures as I can and ask my client to do the same (maybe get a Pinterest board together) I look at different formulations and techniques and products and most of all I am excited about the service I am about to give.
I think a key point here is when you mentioned people thinking outside the box. I too find that vital in my personal qualifications of when I feel someone is artistic. Did they do something outside the box? And did that outside the box thinking work aesthetically or not? Because aesthetics are also important. But vary depending on who is looking at what. So that makes my definition of an artist different than someone else's. And that's where it gets tricky!!
 

Jaybear

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I think a key point here is when you mentioned people thinking outside the box. I too find that vital in my personal qualifications of when I feel someone is artistic. Did they do something outside the box? And did that outside the box thinking work aesthetically or not? Because aesthetics are also important. But vary depending on who is looking at what. So that makes my definition of an artist different than someone else's. And that's where it gets tricky!!
Definitely, mine too ! I think having that creative outlook and vision is what makes us all unique. In the beginning we get taught the basics, it's what each of us does with those skills and how we decide to advance them.. [emoji4]
Great topic btw thank you for posting [emoji4]
 

surf girl

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My colleague is the messiest bugger in the world & when I pick her up on it she says oh but I'm an artist I'm not meant to clean.... So yea I guess there's something in that lmaoo
 

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I REALLY wanna read this... But the sheer amount of writing puts me off.
Anyone fancy giving me a little snapshot of what it's all about... [emoji12][emoji106]
 

suse82

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My colleague is the messiest bugger in the world & when I pick her up on it she says oh but I'm an artist I'm not meant to clean.... So yea I guess there's something in that lmaoo
You've changed your username?
 

surf girl

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You've changed your username?
Yea :D all my posts were coming up on google searches when searching the shop lol, I don't always want clients to see what I'm writing lol :rolleyes:
 

mjmhair

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I think that when I am doing something that I have done before (like a haircut) that I am practicing my craft and utilizing skills that I have developed through lots of repetition. The art comes to me comes in trying to do its the best I can for that client on that day. I know thats not romantic but its how I motivate myself.
The only time time i truly feel like an artist is when I push myself and really dive into the unknown. There's a real beauty in not knowing, it makes one feel alive and scared and excited all at once.
 

AcidPerm

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I agree that there are lots of fantastic artists out there that use Hair as their medium, but I'm not one of them.

I'm just an amateur dabbler. :)
 

adamlea87

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I remember when this was first posted on hb, and I haven't been on there so much these days, and I have kept looking at this post thinking about your question. I find it particularly interesting considering the "I am a visual artist" campaign recently with hairdressers, not only in the UK.

I think we all use our visual senses in a creative way, more than we realize. If you check out Russell Mayes video with Nancy Ngouy: he has a great introduction to the video about how our eyes are always becoming more refined about how we look at our work, faster than our technical skill, causing us periods of being unsatisfied with the quality of our work, and I greatly agree.

When you look at a client and have a vision in your head of how you want their hair to look, before you have actually touched their hair you are using your creativity. I wouldn't refer to myself as a "hair artist", but when I am working I feel like I am artistic. If I am doing a very classic foil it can feel more robotic than artistic, but nowadays we can combine so many techniques that allow us to use our minds more, and why I love balayage so much is I feel like I can paint exactly where I want the colour to show in my mind.

I don't agree with the thinking outside the box idea so much, although I love seeing avant garde work, I don't think it means that editorial or commercial work isn't artistic. There are many styles and movements in art, and the most well known are those that broke the artistic boundaries of the time or changed direction art . But I wouldn't say someone painting a still life isn't an artist because he isn't breaking boundaries. Some people are classically trained in art, like we are in our technique. But for me the key is using not your tools, but your eyes and your vision.
 

chris_causey

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I remember when this was first posted on hb, and I haven't been on there so much these days, and I have kept looking at this post thinking about your question. I find it particularly interesting considering the "I am a visual artist" campaign recently with hairdressers, not only in the UK.

I think we all use our visual senses in a creative way, more than we realize. If you check out Russell Mayes video with Nancy Ngouy: he has a great introduction to the video about how our eyes are always becoming more refined about how we look at our work, faster than our technical skill, causing us periods of being unsatisfied with the quality of our work, and I greatly agree.

When you look at a client and have a vision in your head of how you want their hair to look, before you have actually touched their hair you are using your creativity. I wouldn't refer to myself as a "hair artist", but when I am working I feel like I am artistic. If I am doing a very classic foil it can feel more robotic than artistic, but nowadays we can combine so many techniques that allow us to use our minds more, and why I love balayage so much is I feel like I can paint exactly where I want the colour to show in my mind.

I don't agree with the thinking outside the box idea so much, although I love seeing avant garde work, I don't think it means that editorial or commercial work isn't artistic. There are many styles and movements in art, and the most well known are those that broke the artistic boundaries of the time or changed direction art . But I wouldn't say someone painting a still life isn't an artist because he isn't breaking boundaries. Some people are classically trained in art, like we are in our technique. But for me the key is using not your tools, but your eyes and your vision.

Great post and video. I can totally relate to what he was saying, and I'd never thought of it before but it's true there are periods where I feel my work is not as good as it used to be, but really it's just my artistic eye becoming more fine tuned and me realising I have to up my game again and learn newer skills. Self improvement is so important in the industry.
As for the artist thing, I'm unsure. I don't know if I would of identified as an artist earlier in my career, mainly because calling yourself an artist sounds a bit pretentious. However, since the Bank of England snub and #iamavisualartist I am much more inclined to identify as an artist, mainly because I feel the industry is so disrespected, especially here in the UK, and we need to reclaim the honour that was once attributed to hairdressers decades ago. And it's not just hairdressers but tradespeople in general, it's all about the graduates nowadays.
It's interesting because the Wella event is on in Berlin at the moment and I've watched some of the periscopes and all I can think is "those poor models". I have no interest in doing that kind of work, but that doesn't mean I think of my commercial work as any less artistic, and I have no problem with others pursuing that as part of their career. I think it's great for that there are different outlets for creativity across the industry. The same with competition work, I entered a few and won a regional woman's haircut once years ago while doing my nvq2, and at the time I was so happy with my very short too very long asymmetrical haircut. But looking back I am not. Another competition I pinned half of my models hair back with metal setting clips, I was inspired by an Alexander McQueen fashion week show. But nowadays I have no interest in pursuing more competition work because the work I really enjoy is in creating everyday beautiful hair behind the chair. That's why I am so happy about the widespread use of social media. In the past the only way to get any recognition was to dedicate a lot of time and money to entering all these competitions. But now great everyday salon work is being recognised for its skill and artistry on outlets like Instagram.
Considering everything I would say that yes I am an artist, but I am also a craftsman, a chemist, a counsellor, a lifestyle coach, a technician and an educator [emoji1]
 

Steven Robertson

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I REALLY wanna read this... But the sheer amount of writing puts me off.
Anyone fancy giving me a little snapshot of what it's all about... [emoji12][emoji106]

I'd hate to see a novel of significant importance come across your path then! It's those damn photos I inserted that make it look so lengthy! It's a breeeeeeze. Like 3rd grade level reading ;)
 

Grace_Hair

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I'd hate to see a novel of significant importance come across your path then! It's those damn photos I inserted that make it look so lengthy! It's a breeeeeeze. Like 3rd grade level reading ;)

I don't tend to read autobiographies. [emoji12]
 

Steven Robertson

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I think that when I am doing something that I have done before (like a haircut) that I am practicing my craft and utilizing skills that I have developed through lots of repetition. The art comes to me comes in trying to do its the best I can for that client on that day. I know thats not romantic but its how I motivate myself.
The only time time i truly feel like an artist is when I push myself and really dive into the unknown. There's a real beauty in not knowing, it makes one feel alive and scared and excited all at once.

This is also a great avenue to discuss! Who agrees or disagrees that most everything with hair has already been done, and that the re-invention of hair, or the re-presenting of hair against different fashion or a different environment makes that hair's story different....yet the actual hair itself is not necessarily "unknown". How much of hair technique is really "unknown"? Whether it be unknown to a individual, or unknown industry-wide. For example...how many classes have you gone to to cut a bob like it's some brand new bob? Yet, we could probably find that bob in existence somewhere?

Does the undiscovered make hair artistic and only those who discover them considered artists? Does the re-invention of already existing hair designed by the hairdresser make hair artistic? Or does hair itself just remain all-around artistic?

And I LOVE your statement, "There's a real beauty in not knowing...". I feel it's one reason to reason to be happy to be alive.
 

Steven Robertson

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Steven Robertson

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I agree that there are lots of fantastic artists out there that use Hair as their medium, but I'm not one of them.

I'm just an amateur dabbler. :)

Just throwing it out there that I would hardly consider you an amateur. You seem more knowledgable that most people I've met in the hair world based on the feedback you give everyone on these forums!:D
 

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