Session 3: Artist and audience


Was Vincent Van Gogh a successful artist during his lifetime?

He only sold one painting during his lifetime and it was to his friend’s sister.

Does that change your opinion? Why? Why not?

If you don’t sell many paintings, are you a successful artist?

Make a list of “ingredients” that make up great artist. Here are some ideas:

  • Popular
  • Expensive artwork
  • Respected after death

Look at your list. Do great artists need all of these ingredients? Are there any that aren’t always needed?

Challenge: Can a “bad” person create good art? Is it okay to enjoy art that we know has been created by a “bad” person?


This activity will require you to think about two key questions:

  1. Can anyone be a professional artist?
  2. Can anyone access the arts? (go to the theatre, be an actor, attend a concert etc.)

You can choose one question to focus on or consider them both. What is your answer? Can you give reasons for your answer?

You'll find arguments on the "yes" and "no" side below.

Session 3 image

Which side of the argument is stronger? Can you give your original answer again but, this time, support it with the evidence you have just read?

Are the answers to these questions straightforward? Why?


“If you don’t see one you can’t be one.”

Marian Wright Edelman, American Activist

What do you think this quote means?

ANSWER: If you don’t see people like you doing something, you are unlikely to do it either. For example, if you don't see someone who looks like you being a tennis player and don't have any role models in the tennis world that look like you, you might not become a tennis player either.


Can you come up with ways to make the arts include more people and be accessible to more people?

For example: you could increase the amount of funding that is given to people who want to go to art school so that everyone can afford it.

Challenge questions!

  • Whose responsibility is it to make art more inclusive?
  • Do you see enough art from different types of people in school?

Optional challenge activity: Create a piece of art based on the quote, “If you don’t see one you can’t be one”.

Over to you!

Head to the comments section below to share some of your answers and discuss these activities with people from different schools.

Comments (11)

  • Hammond School logo versatile_molecule | Hammond Junior School B
    16 Jun 2020

    I think a bad person can create good art. I think this because just because someone has done something wrong doesn't mean they cannot create good art. A bad person might express their views through art, those views could be horrible but even so, some people might like the artwork so in the eyes of the person that is viewing the artwork it is good. The artist might be bad but might create inspirational artwork that to many is 'good art.' As for the second question, I a bit stuck because while it is okay to enjoy art made by bad people, I do not think it right to support them because of the stuff they do or have done but if you enjoy someone's artwork then you could be supporting them.

    1. Olivia-Avatar.jpg Olivia @ Topical Talk
      versatile_molecule's comment 16 Jun 2020

      Well done for getting stuck! That's when the best thinking happens.

  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg committed_aspect | Portobello High School
    16 Jun 2020

    Step One-
    I think that Van Gogh was a successful artist in his lifetime because he painted many paintings. Then he wasn't because he only sold one painting but he did paint a lot of paintings so I think he was a successful artist!

    Painted a lot of paintings
    People want their art
    Completed their goal in art

    I think that everyone is different and doesn't need to fit a certain mould to be a good artist. everyone has a different opinion about what makes something good.

    Anyone can create art, good or bad. It doesn't make the art better or worse. It can also help you see art form a different perspective and maybe think about it differently! It is fine to still enjoy it because you might like that stuff but not other stuff.

    1. Olivia-Avatar.jpg Olivia @ Topical Talk
      committed_aspect's comment 16 Jun 2020

      I'm interested when you say "completed their goal" - what do you mean by this?

      1. Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg committed_aspect | Portobello High School
        Olivia @ Topical Talk's comment 17 Jun 2020

        When I say completed their goal, I mean that if the artist has made a goal about what they want to do with their talent in art early on in their career then if they complete that goal in life I would say they are a successful artist as they have completed the goal that they want to do in life. This ingredient doesn't concern others but makes them successful in what they wanted to do. The goal could be something like painting 80 paintings or something like helping out a charity by raising money with the art they sell!

  • Portobello-logo-250x250.jpg genuine_fern | Portobello High School
    19 Jun 2020

    For step 4- ways to make art more accessible I would…1. Get artists to make more street art and murals especially ones that appeal to a younger audience by doing this they will be art that everyone can enjoy! 2. Include art as an important subject at primary and secondary schools across the world. 3. Get the government to give money to art schools for bursaries and scholarships. 4. Make many more theatre and music events set up as a pay watch you can sceme like they already do in many museums and galleries across the world.

  • Compass School Southwark upbeat_watermelon | Compass School Southwark
    19 Jun 2020

    I believe that Van Gogh wasn't a successful artist, because for me, a successful artist is one that constantly produces art for their fans (rather than once just to their sister) and pleases their fans, no matter how good the piece of artwork is, it clearly wasn't to make everyone happy, just for his sister.
    Ingredients for a good artist
    - Intention to make people happy with their work
    - Good art
    - Well known
    - Has achieved why they wanted to become an artist
    - Has people who like their art
    Those are just a handful of qualities an artist should aspire to have.

    1. tom Tom @ Topical Talk
      upbeat_watermelon's comment 19 Jun 2020

      Great choices! Which is the mot important?

  • Birchwood-logo-250x250.jpg inspiring_jackfruit | Birchwood C of E Primary School | United Kingdom
    22 Jun 2020

    i love how we are looking at artist because i love are and looking at other artist and even if artists does not mean they can not create good art even if they are bad i think bad people can express there feelings through art to some people the art may be horrible but in there eyes it is really good and that is all that matters . It does not matter what other people think as long as you like it .

  • Birchwood-logo-250x250.jpg entertaining_strawberry | Birchwood C of E Primary School | United Kingdom
    23 Jun 2020

    If you think of the word successful as selling paintings and making money, then Vincet Van Gogh was not successful. However, if you look at the word successful as being proud of the work you do and being happy with it, then I am sure that Van Gogh was successful.
    1- The ability to work with many components.
    2- The ability to be proud of art you create.
    3- The ability to create artwork with a story behind it.
    4- The ability to get recognised by your artwork.
    5- The ability to sell artwork successfully.
    6- The ability to inspire people to begin in art.
    7- The ability to inspire people through art.
    I think that great artists can be great without 'ingredient' number 1 because the majority of famous artists become famous through paintings, and many only use one component.
    I think that a "bad" person can still create good art, and we are allowed to enjoy it, but still keep in mind that the person who has made it has done something "bad". It could be anything, from something small to big, we still have to take it into consideration whenever you hear something they have done or said.

    (I'm focusing on the question, Can anyone access the arts?)
    I think that anyone can access the arts and be an actor if it is their dream and goal. Of course you cannot be an actor in a day, you need to practise, but anyone can be an actor and access the arts (most museums are free where I live)
    This was hard to think about, but I think that the 'yes' side is still stronger. Although it has made me think whether everyone can access them hearing both sides.
    I think anyone can access the arts, as some schemes give people free tickets, or tickets that cost £10. Also, museums are free to enter and because of Covid-19, many have online museums for free too. 3/4 of people who took an "Attitude is everything" survey, and the results said that live music access had improved! And, if anyone wants to be an actor, they can practise, and hopefully peruse their goal.

    I think that this quote can mean, if you don't see yourself doing something (you don't image yourself doing your dream eg: singer) than you might not be able to do it. I think it means that you have to peruse your dreams and never give up, or you might never be able to do it.

    To make arts more accessible to people, they could increase the amount of shows, musicals ect, so more people have a chance to take part.

    1. Olivia-Avatar.jpg Olivia @ Topical Talk
      entertaining_strawberry's comment 23 Jun 2020

      A really thorough response to this session - well done! I like how you have used the evidence to support your opinion in step two. Can you challenge yourself and think about the professional artist question?

You must be logged in with Student Hub access to post a comment. Sign up now!