Before we begin, let’s define “artist,” shall we?
artist | ‘ärtist | noun
a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.
a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.
a person skilled at a particular task or occupation.
a performer, such as a singer, actor or dancer.
Based on these definitions, the title “artist” covers almost everyone I know.
However, I certainly wouldn’t call everyone I know an artist based on the definition in which I find the most truth—the one that isn’t in the dictionary, but is in the “you’ll know it when you see it” category.
In fact, from that perspective, I don’t know many artists at all.
For that reason, I’d like to bring up a synonym to “artist” that resonates a little more deeply:
creator | krēˈātər | noun
a person or thing that brings something into existence.
We’ve all crossed paths with an artist of this caliber at some point—one who brings something into existence through his or her craft or expertise in any given area, whether it’s considered an art or otherwise.
So for the purposes of this article, I will refer to artists by my own definition: curious souls born to create and devoted to the process of their art in a way that inspires the world to keep spinning.
(Note: Throughout the article, I will refer to people’s “art,” but I am not limiting artists only to those who practice a designated art. In this sense, art can refer to any field, even those usually perceived as something outside of the traditional classification.)
They’re the people who often have so much to say, but perhaps they lack a way of saying it outside of their expertise.
They’re the people who might appear a bit quirky, somewhat awkward, even a little maladjusted—and that’s because they probably are.
But they’re also the people who have the potential to change the world. They’re the people who have such a heightened perception that they can exude compassion and empathy more literally than any other being. They can speak without words and move without action, touching the lives of others by communicating the way they do best—through their art.
That being said, their creative nature can make them difficult to love sometimes.
They’re incredibly focused, devoted and even a little obsessive, often to the point of wearing blinders when it comes to their work—not as a result of a conscious effort to do so, but because they don’t know any other way.
So, without further ado, let’s take a stab at this one—how to love an artist:
1. Take an interest in your artist’s work.
And perhaps it’s important to mention that if you’re not interested in your artist’s work, then you’re going to have a really hard time with this whole “love” thing.
Why? Because the work is the artist. There is no separation.
“Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.” ~ Jackson Pollock
No matter what artists create, it represents who they are on various levels—what they believe about themselves, what they love, what they hate, what they most desire and what they most fear.
Everything they are is expressed through the skill set they have chosen—or perhaps the skill set that has chosen them—to produce their mark on the world.
So chances are if you don’t love your artist’s work, you don’t love your artist either.
2. Understand that you’re not just one part of your artist’s life, but mixed into the bigger picture.
If there’s one thing you need to know, it’s that artists often have a hard time compartmentalizing.
Try as they might to divide their work from the rest of their lives, they eventually find it’s impossible to do so because of their tendencies paired with the nature of what they do.
In other words, “work life” and “personal life” aren’t separations with which artists are familiar.
In fact, where most leave the office after the work day is over, artists never leave—and that’s because they can’t walk away from their minds, hearts and souls, locking the key and putting the day to rest until tomorrow.
The “office” is in every nook and cranny of the artist’s existence, touching every edge and crowding every corner, and so the artist is always working—even when it doesn’t seem so.
With that in mind, bear with your artist as he or she navigates the conglomerate of hats to wear and things to remember about being in a relationship (or just interacting with non-artists, which can be a daunting task in itself).
Don’t try to make distinctions for your artist. It probably won’t work. But by the same token…
3. Don’t be afraid to let your artist know what you need.
The most beautiful thing about artists is that they live to serve others—through their art and so through their lives.
Though the stereotype comes up about artists being selfish and egocentric, it’s actually quite the opposite; adding to my definition, I believe that true artists embody a sense of selfless generosity at the very core of their beings. Giving is what defines their purpose, and so their art.
That being said, because they may very well have five-million-and-seven ideas whirling through their minds at any given moment, it’s important that you communicate with them.
Sure, you can support your artist’s creative rants and escapades, but you can also give your artist a gentle tug at the ankles when it’s time to come back down to planet Earth.
Tell your artist what you need. Yes, you have permission.
“Hi, I know you’re on a roll, but I’d like to spend some time with you not working on that project,” or “Hey babe, remember me? Have you left the house this week? Let’s go out,” are both great ways to remind your artist that you love and support his/her endeavors, but that you are also an important part of his/her life that requires attention.
(Hint: By my definition, if your artist isn’t willing to consider your needs, then he or she isn’t actually an artist, in which case this article doesn’t apply to you at all.)
4. Be ready for a wildly deep journey of anything to which “self-” can be prefixed.
“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.” ~ Leo Tolstoy
Newsflash: Artists get deep. With everything.
The journey of the artist is one of self-realization, self-discovery, self-acceptance, self-perception and self-reflection, which is why artists are so frequently mistaken for egocentric beings.
However, as I mentioned earlier, this isn’t the case. Just because a person goes on a thought-provoking and profoundly deep journey of the self doesn’t mean that he or she is self-absorbed; it means that he or she is self-aware.
And artists can only create due to a tireless cultivation of self-awareness. After all, they are the means of expression through which they create and share the stories they were born to tell.
So no, life with your artist will not be predictable, organized (by normal standards, anyway) or particularly easygoing.
But it certainly won’t be boring, and you’ll never have to go too far in search of something beautiful to contemplate or a miracle to behold.
Just remember that if you love an artist, you’re lucky. And if that artist loves you too, enough to let you into the world they’ve created around his or her work, you’re really lucky.
But you should also remember to please keep all hands and feet inside the car at all times—you’re in for a wild ride.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Martina K via Flickr