What Makes an Artist Real?

as love thinks no evil, so envy speaks no good, ncwren
On a art forum that I am a member of one of the artists mentioned that there were a few local artists in her area that did not consider her to be a real artist because she has not attended an art college.
The topic interests me because I have no art degree for my wall and I am not self taught. I scoured the web trying out art lessons and until I found a home. To date I have over  300 hours of lessons I have completed. This does not include time spent asking questions and doing research on the internet. So I looked at how many credits does it take for a 4 year degree. The norm looks to be around 160 credits total. 160 credits x 3 hrs of time in class = 480 hours for a 4 year degree. I think that is a fair comparison given that hours studied or in a lab would vary greatly from student to student.
I am a college dropout. After a miserable year spent in business courses I quietly joined the Army and told my parents after the fact. When I finished my contract I was a single mother in desperate need of a good paying job. I found an Aircraft maintenance school in a town nearby where I lived.
The FAA mandates 1800 hours of instruction before you are allowed to take the written and verbal tests. Every second counts and you are required to make up any missed time. The school I chose to attend was accelerated, meaning the normal two years spent was condensed into one year. I did my time and passed my tests. I have my license-which is good until the day I die or the FAA revokes it. I spent a year working in this profession. That has been over 20 years ago.
Even though technically I can call myself and A&P mechanic I don’t see myself as one. I am not current with my skills or the latest technology used. There are thousands of aircraft mechanics working today without that license. They work under the repair license of the facility they work for. They have life experience that really does count.
I don’t begrudge them their jobs simply because they lack a certificate hanging on the wall. So why in the world is there a different standard for being an artist? Who made that rule up?
I love these definitions from Dictionary.com:
artist: a person who practices one of the fine arts, especially a painter or sculptor.
practices: repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency:
“Practice makes perfect.”
Sometimes I think we all need to step out of our fishbowls and take a look around us-there is a big beautiful ocean out there ready to be explored.
As love thinks no evil, so envy speaks no good.
~English proverb
Are you a real artist?