OCTOBER 24, 2011 10:42AM

How To Be Friends With An Artist

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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.


art 005

 "Goddess of the Immaculate Heart" By Maureen Andrade, 2010©


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I have gotten comments all my life about the clothing I designed for decades to what I write or what I take photos off. I have learned sometimes the comments never stop.
It is not easy.. but through the years I have tried not to take it personally but sometimes its damn hard.:)

Good list here Rei.. and LOVE your art but you know that..:)
Thanks Linda- It's challenging being indifferent to criticism- but it seems essential.
This post got me to click over to your art site. You have some wonderful paintings! What is your medium?

I like the idea of jellyfish being baby UFOs! I very much like all the sea life series.
Your advice applies to getting along with everyone, I think. The painting of the Goddess of the Immaculate heart is fantastic. I would like to see more of your art.
keri h- Thanks! My medium is acrylic on canvas. The UFO painting is huge because I got a screaming deal on an old canvas at a rummage sale. (Thanks Mom). It's over 4 feet. Usually I paint 16"X20".

Miguela- thank. My site is maureenandradeart.blogspot.com
you've just listed all the reasons I am still married to my husband.
I shared this post before I even read it. You are fantastic. Thanks for this.
Wow, this is so perceptive...you have defined clearly what has always been vague feelings for me, of the environment of friendship I and other artists I know can thrive with, and I also have a better grasp now about where a loving friendship can go wrong without an understanding of any of this.
the worst are the "wannabees." before they'll do any work on themselves, or evolve to doing work that communicates, they'll "project" their little daggers and go away mad. U gotta learn to spot 'em, and call on their stuff. At least that way they'll shut up, if not show some respect.

Luv that goddess with her apple, smile, and hand on her hara.
I see my life as a community of benches. Sometimes I want to sit on the one with my artist colleagues. Sometimes on the one where family sits. Sometimes, with my friends from ages past. Sometimes with my spiritual community. Sometimes with my musician and woodworker buds. For my day job I'm an art prof, and some days wonder if there is any bench as intense as art college. Sitting with young artists forty hours a week is delightful but utterly exhausting, so perhaps the most important bench is the one in my studio, reserved for me alone. My friendships have evolved naturally, with differing forms of reciprocity. I don't require my friends to be artists, and they don't require me to be one.
The background for the Immaculate Heart looks like chipped glass. Is that what it is. Really wonderful. Rated.
Thank you for posting this. Your work is deep and spiritual. ~R~
In the immortal words of C F Forte : what greenheron said.
These comments were awesome- thanks so much. I'm glad everyone else out there today was sympathetic to the cause of loving artists.

Mimetalker- you're lucky

zanelle- thank you so much for your continued support!

Just Thinking- glad I could help.

Ben- thank you. I needed to hear that about the wannabes.

greenheron- I'd love to share a bench and a coffee with you sometime.

Erica- thank you. It's just paint.

M.C.- Thank you. The spiritual motivates all of it.

Kim- thanks!
Thank you for explaining this. Many people have no idea what to do with my artist self. I'm just considered an eccentric - which I am and have come to enjoy.