I’ve been an artist since I could hold a crayon between my fingers. The first thing I ever wrote was, “I love you...” Since toddlerhood, I’ve put my heart into everything I do creatively. Though I appreciate the accolades some people have given me for “being this way,” I’ve also experienced a ration of shit over it from ex-lovers, friends, and family members. Many people cannot accept artists for how they are.
I recall one old boyfriend stood over me while I painted and said, “Mo, why do you do that? No one else does. It’s just…weird.” Another ex told me, “You’re just strange,” with as much shaming venom as he could muster.
Obviously, these guys had to go, but you get the picture: as a sensitive artist type you can be misunderstood, dismissed, and even shamed. I know most people fancy themselves cool enough to hang with artists, but truthfully many aren’t. It takes a special kind of person to accept the eccentricities and whimsies of an artist friend. The following are qualities enabling a person to hang with artists and give those special people much needed support.
1. A naturally accepting attitude. If you’re easily offended or challenged by ideas unlike your own, forget it.
2. You are an artist yourself. When I haven’t been around my people for a while, I feel like a fish out of water: all dried up. Though artists can be challenging to maintain friendships with, it’s always worth it when I hold up my end.
3. Don’t take things personally. This is good advice for a number of reasons, but especially when hanging out with artists. So often upset or inspired by events or surroundings, artists tend to react. It can be difficult to be friends with artists if one takes other people’s moods personally.
4. Understand trauma and its effects on the mind. Many, many, many artists are survivors of abuse, and they seek art as an avenue for safe self-expression. What can come with personal baggage are symptoms of PTSD, like anxiety and depression. Many artists have it. Some people can be overly frustrated by the sensitivity, reactivity, and withdrawal of people who’ve experienced trauma. If you’ve ever found yourself telling someone, or even thinking, “Just get over it…” you may be a less than ideal candidate to be friends with an artist.
5. Love art and respect artists. Love and respect are the foundations for any friendship, but especially important when being friends with an artist. People who don’t really get or appreciate art can’t fully appreciate what artists do and the passions that propel them forward every day. Being a fan is a great reason to be friends with an artist.
6. Excited by life. You don’t have to be an artist to be excited about life and thoroughly enjoy it. Art is one way to express the inherent joy of being, but it’s not the only way. People who just love to get out there and live it up are often adored by artists.
7. Laid back. Being calm and relaxed is a great counter-balance for the temperament of many artists. A hang-out-attitude is a great way to live and a complimentary color on the palette of an artist’s social group.
Being friends with an artist can be a symbol of social prowess, and if the artist is well known, an ego stroke. But actually being close with an artist often requires having a tender, open, loving heart. Some of us artist types search long and hard for hearts of gold.
"Goddess of the Immaculate Heart" By Maureen Andrade, 2010©