In the past year I have dipped my paintbrush in many pots.
I have painted walls. I have painted lines on a football field. I have painted paintings and murals. I have painted garden ornaments. A few weeks from now, I will venture into face painting. I can justifiably call myself a painter.
There is an arguably artificial distinction between what in English is called painters and … painters. See the difference? No? Whether this distinction has any implication with regards to status, skill or income is, like beauty or art, entirely in the heart of the beholder. Let me make it a bit clearer by, ahem, painting a little picture.
Imagine a woman (or man, if you wish). She stands there with an easel, mounted canvasses, sketchbooks, tubes of paint and a bag of brushes, solvents and other tools of the trade. She is a painter and when the day is done, she will have made/created/painted a painting. You may, if you wish, call her an artist.
Now imagine another woman (or man, more likely). She stands there with a ladder, drip sheets, buckets of paint and a container with brushes, sponges and other tools of the trade. She is a painter and when the day is done, she will have painted a wall/roof/ceiling. What she will not have done, is painted a painting.
I have always found the inadequacy of language in this sense frustrating. English does not distinguish between a painter (tradesman) and a painter (artist). If you work with paint, you are designated a painter. The same applies to German (maler), French (peintre) and Spanish (pintor). In Dutch and its close cousin Afrikaans there are two words (schilder/skilder and verver/verwer), which in Dutch can be used interchangeably.
Of the few languages in my limited field of knowledge, it is only Afrikaans which has a word (skilder) referring (almost) exclusively to an artist painter. It is descended from the Dutch word schildmaker meaning “shield maker”, referring to the painting of heraldic shields.
To paint or not to paint is no question for me. Painter or painter – my brush will yet visit many more paint pots before this life is done.