I would certainly not call myself a veteran professional artist – but I have been involved in several art groups (both organized, and unorganized) and “cliques” in several different cities. I have dealt with taxes, success, rejection, jealousy, pettiness, plagiarism, back-stabbing, manipulation, and theft – just to name a few (toughening) mile stones along the way. (Whew! All that being said, you would have thought I had been in the woman’s penitentiary for the past decade 🙂 ) I have been a naive idiot, and I have seen my share of naive idiots. I have burned my share of bridges and had them burned right out from under me. I have seen my share of side-splitting, eye-clawing drama – and believe me, it is not pretty. To say that is is hard to be friends with other artists would be an understatement. All the egos that need to be stroked, and over-sensitivity….Bleech!
And of course there are some great artists out there – this is just a commentary about some of the stinkers, and not really intended to be an angry rant or anything 🙂
I have not ever had the opportunity to live in a more metropolitan area where I could pick and choose my artist peers. When I lived in Georgia, I met some of the most talented, supportive, and amazing artists. They were so sweet and generous with their time, advice, and knowledge. I was a very young artist and my mind was like a sponge. I will never forget some of those people – they were amazing. But I eventually ( and sadly) learned there is no such thing as an artist utopia. I witnessed a few rivalries between some of the more respected and established artists, got my first taste of jealousy (on the receiving end), and learned how to deal with crazy nut job artists with nothing but dignity and professionalism. I learned that success is the best revenge. When I moved to Florida things were a little different. I arrived all wide-eyed, enthusiastic, and open-hearted but did not feel the comradery, support, and enthusiasm I immediately felt in Georgia. Despite the fact that Florida is the sunshine state, I did not exactly feel the welcoming warmth of my peers. So I am ashamed to say, I just followed suit.
For the most part, (in my opinion) artists fall into three categories: (1) There are certain artists who are authentic, generous, enthusiastic, respectful, and genuinely supportive of each other’s careers. If you are blessed enough to have one or even a few of these people in your life – hold on to them. They are to be treasured, and you should tell them how much you appreciate them every chance you get. (2) Then there are certain more established artists who won’t really lift a finger for a young artist, however, on the off-chance they might befriend you as long as you are professionally beneath them, yet when you become an equal or even surpass them, the competitive rivalry begins, and the friendship ends. (3) Then there is the other side of the coin: Artists who will do anything to get a toe-hold in the art world – trample anyone just to achieve their goals—copying, manipulating, cannibalizing, and literally stealing if that’s what it takes to get ahead. If you know anyone like this – drop them like a bad habit. They are nothing but energy vampires.
I never understood why it was sooo hard for certain artists to be genuinely happy and excited for their fellow art friends/peers. As a result I just try keep to myself in an effort to behave and try my best to keep my words to myself. It is sad and I try not to over analyze peoples actions too much. I am sure most people think I am a weirdo, guarded, and unfriendly. Labels which are not entirely untrue. Living in a small town can be difficult when don’t really have very many people to relate to: People with creative ideas, similar business goals, and a general passion and excitement for what they are doing. To say I live in a vacuum would be an understatement. We have a good majority of retired, hobby artists who live here (which is fine) but they don’t have the desire to even show outside the community, desire to learn anything new, move with change, or even have a serious vision of taking their art to the next level – so it can be hard to relate to most. I have seen so much bickering, negativity, and unsolicited opinions of each others work it makes me want to vomit. I just don’t have time for the drama. I also don’t have time for people who take – take – take and don’t bring anything of value to the table. Which is probably why I can only count my friends on one hand. It is sad because as artists we really need each other: Great things can happen if artists ban together! Most artists secretly crave acceptance, validation, and need to support each other – but it is in our nature to be competitive, and isolated creatures. I wonder why other artists feel the need to put down their fellow artist? Jealousy? Insecurity? Sometimes our comments, overheard or directed at someone, can have dire professional consequences. I may not agree with what so-and-so is doing, or even care for their style of art. I may even think they are an idiot – but unless what they are doing directly affects me, my business, they are doing something illegal or unethical, I could not care less what my artist neighbor is doing. And I cannot be bothered with people’s unsolicited opinions of me in return. I think if one is so consumed with what another artist is doing (or not doing) they have too much time on their hands and need to get back to work. Go the beach. Get a hobby. Find Jesus. Take a happy pill. Bottom line: They need to mind their own business. If you think your artist neighbor is making a fool of themselves – so be it. Who cares. Let them make their own mistakes. Opinions are like assholes – Everyone has one and most of them stink.