A nice man named Curt recently wrote me a heartfelt email. He had a strong desire to help his introverted, talented son with his art career.
“I’m wondering if you would have advice for the non-artist helping the artist?” he asked.
I started by acknowledging Curt’s love for his son. “Your son is very lucky,” I said.
I added a few words of encouragement and, after much thinking, this is what I want to share with him and with all non-artists who want to help the artists in their lives.
Don't try to change me.
I may dye my hair pink or show up at your office function with paint under what remains of my fingernails. I’m okay being the nonconformist in the room as long as you’re on my team.
Understand the way I work.
I like to be alone.
I need to be alone. A lot.
Space is good for me, so when I say I need to be in the studio, please don't invite me to lunch or ask me to pick up the kid. I really need to be in the studio.
Respect my studio and work hours. Contrary to popular belief, I don't play in the studio every day. It’s often a tortuous struggle that involves coming up with fresh ideas and figuring out the best way to give those ideas visual form.
Understand my goals.
It's hard being an artist.
They don’t tell you about all of the non-art requirements until you are already waist deep in the biz. All I want to do is make art, but much more is required of me when I want to share that art with the rest of the world.
I have to figure out my state's complicated sales-tax system, find new venues, maintain collector records, send newsletters, be active on social media, and apply for opportunities. And that’s just for starters.
I'd like to see my work in a museum or to have gallery representation, but these are long-term goals. I'm going to have to pound the pavement for years before this happens, and there will be many rejections.
Believe in me.
There will be days when I feel like living this artist’s life is impossible – that I have made terrible decisions. I might get down on myself. Please help me find the path.
Please tell me you continue to believe in me and in my art. I can’t hear that enough.
I don't want to bother you. I mean … I really don't want to bother you.
I understand that my world isn't your world, so I will probably try to do everything myself.
Maybe you could recognize when I am exhausted from trying to be too self-sufficient. If you offer to help, I might not accept at first because, again, I don't want to bother you. But keep trying.
Remind me that it's okay to accept help. If you truly want to assist, you might have to be the one to step in and convince me that I’m not burdening you.
A few things you might be able to help me with:
- Organize photos.
- Proofread my newsletter and correspondence.
- Update my website.
- Research artist residencies and venues.
- Add new names to my mailing list.
- Update my inventory database.
- Make goodies for my opening and pour wine for the guests.
- Send invoices and receipts and help with bookkeeping.
I am sure you and I could come up with a list together that would work for both of us.
Please show up at my openings and events. I may look confident, but I'm shaking inside. I don't love openings that put me in the spotlight. Every friendly face is a blessing.
You might also support me when I take uncomfortable steps.
For example, although I’m an introvert, I know I need to nurture the relationships in my life.
When you suggest an outing, I might go kicking and screaming, but it also might be very good for me to get out. I appreciate that you recognize this better than I do.
You probably worry about my decision to live this artist’s life. That’s okay. I understand you’re concerned only because you love me.
Keep loving me. That’s all I can ask.
What advice do you have for the non-artist who wants to help you?