1. Don’t give us unsolicited advice.
Like Erykah Badu said, “I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit.”
Taking one art class in middle school or college has somehow made everyone an expert on how we should art. Which is ironic, considering our constant dissatisfaction with the art we create.
Many artists envision our creations in a perfect world, and we spend countless hours trying to replicate this imagined perfection with our imperfect tools and bodies.
Oftentimes, this quest for perfection can lead to perpetual feelings of inadequacy and discontent with ourselves. It can be difficult to separate the art we create from who we are, and your criticisms of our art often feel like criticisms of our person.
You may not be aware of how much time we already spend in self-critique, while others of us have learned to detach from the criticism our creations to preserve our sanity.
Art life may look easy, but the path of an art professional is not clear-cut. Promoter, contract negotiator, publicist, social media strategist, booking agent are just some of the other roles we assume to manage the business of our creative side.
We always appreciate help, but please… be cautious with your unsolicited feedback and criticisms. We’re doing the best we can.
2. Don’t ask us about our finances.
We know, we know. The general consensus is that making a living with art is not feasible. We grapple with this concept of the “starving artist” constantly.
Some of us even work side jobs, odd jobs, and full-time day jobs just to ensure that we can eat while still producing and creating, because creativity is what makes our lives livable. Trust us, we know money is important. Perhaps better than you do.
Yes, we know it’s not the most stable way to live. No, you’re not the first person to bring that to our attention.
It’s an accomplishment every day to ignore our glaring need for financial security while balancing our need for creative expression.
So please, unless you’re offering to be our patron like King Francis I of France did with Leonardo Da Vinci… spare us that conversation and let us enjoy our overpriced grande soy latte in peace.
3. Stop saying our art is a “hobby.”
This statement is completely dismissive and hurtful. There is a general lack of appreciation for what we do, and what makes us “us.” People think of art as frivolous, which may be why arts funding in public education is often under attack.
We may not be doctors and engineers, but our contribution to society is valid and important. Love fashion? Thank an artist. Enjoy listening to music on your drive to work? An artist. Love movies and TV shows? Yup, that’s us.
Your home décor, your favorite food, the poems that you send your lover…all of this is us. We create those things that give color to your life. We remind you of the beauty of being human.
Art has inspired revolutions, changed the ideologies of whole generations. We take our art seriously, and we think you should, too.
4. Know that our relationship affects our art.
Artists draw inspiration from everywhere. If we are close to you, there is a strong chance that you have and are informing our art in some way. This, in and of itself, is an act of love and appreciation.
You may be our muse, and our art becomes a living testament to our interactions. If you want to be memorialized, love an artist. Our art will love you back.
5. Please do not glamorize our self-destructive habits.
The cliché of the tortured artist is harmful. Artists have a unique gift for feeling deeply and turning those emotions and experiences into pieces that reflect our inner worlds.
There is nothing artistic about struggling with crippling depression and anxiety — mental illnesses that can be horribly exacerbated by artist life of overnight fame, constant critique and rejection, and perpetual feelings of “not-enoughness.”
It is not uncommon for us to develop alcohol or drug addictions to cope with the pain of being human and the pain of being an artist. Although art can be born from our pain, we want to thrive artistically and emotionally as well.
Notions such as “sex, drugs, rock and roll” normalize our self-destructive behavior. When you glorify our pain and equate our suffering with our talent, it creates unhealthy attachments to experiences and behaviors that shouldn’t be continued. Support our art by supporting our personal health and healing.
6. Please understand our scatterbrained nature.
Creatives can be completely scatterbrained. During a calm dinner, it may be hard for us to switch our brains off when a stroke of inspiration comes to us. We know, it’s not convenient.
But it’s also not inconvenient for us to have ideas swirling around in our heads at all times, and may take us quite some time to learn how to moderate our ideas while making space to stay present with our family and friends.
We can’t control when the next idea will hit us, but we are capable of loving and being present. We just may need extra help sorting through the cacophony of voices and overstimulation that is our brain.
7. Please understand that “I don’t have time” is not an excuse.
Art may not fit neatly into 9am to 5pm hours. Don’t get me wrong, it’s such a remarkable thing when it does. But when it doesn’t… yikes.
Our schedules can be extremely variable and unpredictable. Sometimes we work hardly at all. Other times, we may make plans and cancel last minute because of a music gig, audition notice from an agent, or a quick turn-around commission piece.
It’s not indicative of our appreciation for you, trust me. It’s just that sometimes art employment is feast or famine, and we often are only as good as our next gig. So when it rains, we’re out there with buckets because it may not rain again for us for quite some time.
Understand that when it’s go time… we may disappear for a bit. Celebrate our new project with us; text us an encouraging word. Stop by with our favorite food (because it’s likely that we may be burning the midnight oil and haven’t stopped to eat). I promise, when things let up, you’ll be hearing from us as if we never left.
8. Love us like people.
Some people have made dating or befriending an artist into a fetish. It may be trendy to date, say, a musician or actor, or have a BFF that is a muralist or art curator. But we’re just people, too and we want to be loved for who we are.
Regardless of how large our following or fan base is, the number of accolades we receive or do not receive, please treat us the same. We want to know that we have the freedom to be human and flawed, even though art notoriety often comes with a pedestal and the blinding light of public exposure and celebrity.
All people want to be accepted and loved authentically, not just for their light, but for their dark as well.
9. Support us.
When you can, support us monetarily. It’s okay though if you can’t. We know that you may not always have the money to support us, but there are other ways to spread your love for us.
Promoting us to your network goes a long way. Come to our gigs and post about it. Watch our plays and TV shows. Come to our gallery opening, wear our products. Book us for your next birthday photo shoot. Read our latest writing. Write reviews for us.
Recommend our work to your friends, strangers, co-workers, cousins. Tag us, re-post us, re-tweet us. Share our work!
Send us opportunities that you think we would be a perfect fit for. You can act as a liaison for us in a myriad of ways that we cannot do for ourselves. Your support and voice may be the difference between us eating and not eating, or us securing our next dream job or gig.
10. Give us space to NOT be an artist.
Sometimes, we are so completely done with art and everything art-related. When we reach the point of saying “I’m done with this completely” or “I’m done with this today,” make space for our feelings of art fatigue.
Sometimes, we just want to exist in the world without the pressure of creating or improving; of working or worrying about needing more work. Sometimes, we just need to enjoy being alive and recharge.
This may be a daily need to have conversations about non-art related topics, a spontaneous excursion, time to connect with our loved ones, or space to be quiet and alone. It’s such a help when our loved ones allow us space to be and encourage us to remember self-care.
Respect our need to distance from the art world. Have compassion when we say that we don’t want to talk about art. Just be there with us, in the moment.
Being an artist can be a blessing and burden for ourselves and those who love us. If you have patience and compassion, loving an artist can truly be a life-changing experience.
Give your artist friends and family a hug. They need it.
If you’re currently loving an artist, thank you. And if you’re not, find an artist to love today.