I belong to an online chat group of Teddy Bear Artists/Makers where this question was posed. "What makes you feel like an artist?" Being the reflective type of person I am (and I suppose most artists are), I enjoyed pondering this. Certainly as an artist, it is rewarding to be able to sell my creations, but that's not it. That is not what makes me feel like an artist. I do think that it helps the general public perceive me as an artist though. When I tell folks I am an artist who makes Teddy Bears usually get a puzzled "oh..." in response. If curiosity makes them ask more, and they ask about what the bears sell for, I get an almost reverent "Oh!" in response then, (or else they look at me like I have six heads!)
Anyway, what makes me feel like an artist is the creating. It is the starting with a blank piece of paper and filling it with images from my head (or even ones I observe), the taking of a shapeless ball of wool and poking it with a needle until the bear in my minds eye emerges, the sculpting a block of clay into a little face no one has ever seen before, and of course the turning of mohair yardage into the "cuddle-able" visions from my head.
And when I think of the term "successful artist", I differentiate it from financial success. (In fact it bothers me that our society in general views successful people as wealthy people. There are certainly a lot of other ways to be successful in one's life.) I feel like whenever I succeed in creating something that makes me happy, or moves other people in some way, or communicates a feeling I wanted to express, then I am a successful artist.
I have always felt this way. As a child, I loved to draw all the time, and often other children, teachers, relatives etc. would ask "Are you going to be an artist when you grow up?" To which I would reply, "I am an artist already." Not that I possessed any special skills or talents at the time,or because my artwork had any value to anyone other than myself, but because I was creating, and that's what artists do.
I read a quote recently and I plan to post it in my classroom when I am teaching art.
"Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain one when he(she) grows up!" (Picasso)