It's a good question, and one that leaves me stumbling about, muttering "Yeah, well, uh, you know, see, uh…" for days on end, trying to think of a decent answer. Mainly because I don't really think about it too much.
I've been painting for just over a year. In that time I have completed sixteen paintings, of greater or lesser quality, that show that I am just a beginner. I can see how much I've learned but also how much more I have to learn. I feel fairly confident with shapes and textures now. I am also beginning to feel fairly comfortable with basic brush techniques and various kinds of paints. However, I haven't really even tackled light yet and I think that is one of the most important skills to be acquired before even beginning to contemplate questions like the above.
Last week, I was visiting my relatives in Oklahoma and had a chance to view some paintings that my great-uncle left behind. He painted in the very traditional, Bob Ross, style of oils. Lots of scenic views of mountains and trees and cabins with Oklahoma skies and the occasional bear. He used the full palette and worked mainly with the medium, flat brushes to create very nice paintings that look at home in anybody's living room.
I think they are good paintings, but nothing that anyone is going to put into a museum. (Not that I would know museum quality work if it came up and asked me to dance.) The fact remains that they are far better than I can do at present. They are what I am working up to at present. But not what I want to do. What I mean is, they are very nice paintings and I hope to someday have the skill present in them, but I have a much more different direction that I hope to paint in. Artists like Coop and R. Crumb are much more exciting to me and more interesting to emulate.
All this still leaves the question of whether or not I would want to be a professional painter. And I still do not know the answer. I have always kind of resented having to be a professional anything; I have always preferred to be in the talented amateur category (hold all comments 'till the end please) for a lot of different things. The closest I have come to being a creative professional was working at a portrait studio in the mall and that sure sucked the joy out of a great hobby. I am afraid depending on painting for a paycheck would do the same. So, right now, no. Even if I had the skills necessary, I do not think I would wish to be a professional artist. I much prefer to have a serious hobby and look forward to developing the skills necessary to challenge myself with the task of presenting the contents of my imagination on canvas.