In perhaps an idealistic world full of whimsy and freedom where everyone can do whatever the damn well they want, anyone can be artists. Imagine this, you AND your partner are artists, filled with ideas and the drive to continue producing art for the rest of your natural lives – living, breathing and consuming it in ways that can only be described as a sense of spiritualistic pursuit that envelops the mind,body and soul. Art overtakes the bulk of your day-to-day lives, -think like Marina & Ulay, Gilbert & George, Sonny & Cher.
While that would be fantastic, any career you make of it is yours, in the arts or otherwise. Though, what if you happen to have a partner that is a fulltime artist, and more so, what if you are not one yourself? Here are some simple Public Service Announcement reminders for how you can provide support for your loved one.
Assurance and guidance
Every artist needs assurance that what they’re doing is right. Right for them, right for you both and right for their livelihoods, ‘right’ by only what you and they prioritize as so. Many strangers who come through their paths will assume they don’t have jobs, that they are not doing well, or that they still are living off barely on freelancer gigs and poorly paid commissions. Whether that may be true or not, your partner looks to you for said assurance and guidance. When facing dejection constantly, it’s always good to have someone who is “outside” of the industry, someone who can look at what their partner is doing objectively not just from an artistic standpoint but to highlight something they might not have even seen. Assure them that they are doing the right thing, and if they are not, provide them ideas on how to improve so. You’d be surprise what valuable suggestions you can give to keep your partner grounded because let’s be frank, balancing the art life and financial gains is never an easy marry. Is what your partner doing right now an achievable game plan? Is money a priority, and if so are there alternative compromises for your partner to still make art and a living?
You are the anchor that can help keep them grounded.
Help stimulate their ideas
Many artists work with a constant need for creative stimulation. While it’s commonplace to think that artists would get inspiration like a strike of lightning, day to day practicality isn’t as flashy (pun intended), Drag them out for lunch, take them for long random walks by the beach, go see the new exhibition at your downtown gallery, or even engage in seemingly “out-of-the-blue“, pedantic or even sometimes, mindless conversations at home. Basic stimulation engages the subconscious and provides your partner with new connective ideas to work with, even if you or they do not realize it! And hey, take a spin in engaging in more ‘art-related’ activities yourself. By participating in your partner’s livelihood, even if just a ‘hobby’, allows them an outlet to provide support for you, and indirectly themselves – working off one another in tandem.
Critique and feedback
Those who do not practice in the arts but have a partner who does, tend more often than not through my humble observation, to sort of distance themselves from the discussion. Mostly,they feel afraid to provide any sort of critique or opinion for fear of not understanding the subject or the topic of discussion – this elusive and elitist ‘art’ world. Your partner should and will value your opinion, and if anything, artists usually see every feedback as merely a different perspective/lens from another. No matter how you feel about your partner’s artwork, do not be afraid to share your opinions but also be thorough. Why does their artwork make you think or feel a certain way, if you dislike parts of the work, what do you feel can be improved on? If you love it, tell them that too and why!
As a general tip for providing feedback, be honest and clear but do not use overly aggressive words and bombastic expressions of your love and/or displeasure of said work freely since it can come across as insincere. Personally, I tend to advice on being careful with how you construct your sentence structure. Instead of “I think you should do”, try the “Perhaps, I might suggest you try” method. Only a minor difference you might argue, but it helps to keep the framing of your critique in check. Don’t forget your basic FiveWs, (who, what, when, where, why) since It may provide particularly useful as well for structuring your questions and feedback.
For example, if it’s a portrait painting of someone in a British Army Uniform, things you might ask yourself and your partner is, “Who is this guy?”, “Is it important I know who he is at first glance?”, “Are the details on his uniform important or contain any clues to his identity?”, “Is he the central figure to this portrait painting and if he isn’t what is the focus?”. Alongside that, take the time to notice formative or technical elements (if you are able). This is a general tip that works for almost any artistic medium out there. A good critique session usually is not too short, and not too long either – But it does help your partner ruminate on the right questions. They won’t necessarily follow your advice either and that is fine.
There is no one size fit all method for this, there will be many debates, or discussions on the artworks but,
Remember, your opinion does matter!
Provide Emotional Support
I guess this applies not just to the artist relationship, but for every relationship dynamic out there. Please give your partner emotional support. It’s hard we all know – it’s tough to make a living out of doing something you love, but that sometimes feels like not the right word either. Art by nature can seem selfish and many times, it is! It is an introspective career that provides an outward enriched culture and community as a whole. There will be many times your partner might feel confused navigating in their pursuit of the arts. Inspiration and stimulation may fail to provide any new insights on upcoming work and criticisms CAN still get to even the best of us.
Art is all about putting your vulnerability out there. It is the deepest core of the artist, and also their most fragile. Be their support and remind them of what is most important at the moment.
If they are the hugger type, give them one, it’s just like any other relationship as mentioned really. Find out what your partner need emotionally and slowly help them through 🙂
Responsibilities and Reminders
There is this general assumption that artists are well…elitists, living off what bougie lifestyle and hippy Bohemian dream in pursuit of making art their life and only form of livelihood. In many instances, this may come across as a free-pass card for certain levels of entitlement when it comes to their social conduct. And though this may not be a blanket statement, it is best to highlight regardless.
Artist or not, your time is equally as important as theirs. If they forget important meetings, familial commitments, important evening dates because they lost track of time being engrossed in work, it can be excused on the off once or twice moment. This should not be encouraged, and though the decision is eventually up to you and your partner, social responsibilities like this, even minor ones are crucial. On the topic of time, deadlines are just as equally important. Your partner, even if it’s for art’s sake, is running a business and to run a business, deadlines have to be met. No matter how high up the social art world ladder you climb, negligence to keep to schedule is no different than how many would perceive a “Diva” .
Time management is key, and when the going gets rough, you might need to help bring them back to this world. The way an artist functions inwardly and social responsibilities outwardly are two seperate things. It can be difficult to manage, but must be done regardless.
Art-making doesn’t live in a bubble.