Artist vs Technician

Some people are technicians. Some people are artists. A few people are blessed and are both.

In my mind, a technician is a person who can successfully perform a certain skill on a regular basis. An artist, on the other hand is much more.

The other day, I was listening to a musician perform. It wasn’t the first time I heard him and each time, it’s quite apparent that he enjoys what he is doing. Let me start with my disclaimer which is I have absolutely no musical ability or knowledge other than I know what I enjoy and have a pretty good idea when someone is good. This person is very good. The more I watched him play the guitar the more I wondered how he knew what notes to play next (I’m not sure if that is the correct terminology but hopefully you know what I mean). While I know that a person could purchase the sheet music for the songs he was performing, it was apparent that wasn’t the way he was playing the music

On a break, I asked him if he were to play the same song that he just performed again, whether he would be playing the exact same notes. He said while the song would sound the similar, the notes would be a bit different because he plays based on what he feels and not necessarily based on the exact way the song was written. He did say that there are certain parts of certain songs that are always played the exact same way but most of the songs he performs allow a great deal of “artistic freedom”.

If this musician were to take the time (or someone similar to him) to teach me how to play the guitar, he could teach me all of the notes needed to play these songs. If I were to work hard at it, I could probably get to the point where I was technically proficient at the songs. At that point, I would be a technician. However, I don’t believe it would matter how good a teacher he is, or how hard I would work, I would never get to the point where I could feel the music the way he does, or improvise and adapt the way he does. That is the difference between being a technician (which I could possibly become if I really wanted to) and being an artist.

Similarly, a friend of mine, who is an excellent chef, sends me recipes and tips to make certain dishes. He gives me very specific directions and I follow them exactly as they are written. I have gotten to the point where I can make these dishes and they are actually quite good. However, I will never get to the point where they are as good as the chef’s because while he uses the recipes as a guideline and uses his experience and artistic understanding to make minor alterations, I can simply follow the guidelines and be technically proficient but never great.

You can be successful at things you are technically proficient at. However, you can be much more successful at things where you are truly an artist.

Don’t think of this as always being something related to art or music etc. You can be an artist at understanding the financial situation of a complex business transaction. This would require more than simply knowing how to read a profit and loss statement. It would mean being able to take the information provided and interpreted it using some possibly unconventional methods to make the most informed decision possible.

A person can be a technician at almost anything he is willing to put the time into. However, to be a true artist, takes time, effort and an innate ability that truly separates the artist from the technician.

Find what you are an artist at and you most likely will have found what you are both good and successful at

Have a great day!


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