The Social Part of Being an Artist < Deep Thought Thursday

At a recent panel discussion in conjunction with a deceased artist’s retrospective, a local critic said

A big part of art is social. [The Artist] was very social.

Another said:

There was a sweetness to him that inclined me toward the work. You liked him, so you liked the work.

What does being social and likeable have to do with an artist’s success?

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21 thoughts on “The Social Part of Being an Artist < Deep Thought Thursday”

  1. I think you need to be transparent. Bacon wasn’t ‘social’, nor is Freud; indeed many artists are ambivalent, anti-social beings. Be honest to oneself would be my take on this. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of the viewer. They will see through you.

  2. I know a few artist exhibits that I’ve been turned off from seeing after I met the artist and didn’t really care for their personality. These have been artists that were pretentious, thought mingling with their fans was beneath them and were just plain old ill-tempered. I think it’s a little different if an artist is shy because I suspect most people expect artists to be that way sometimes since creating art is such a solitary practice.

  3. I think modern employee/working life already really does impose enough how-we-want-you-to-bes on people.
    Let artists be as autistic, high-browed, personality disordered etc. as they want to be. They communicate through their art, they wouldn’t show it to the world if this was not their way of communication. Let art be the last resort to live individuality beyond social expectations.

  4. People like to do business with people they know, like and trust. Whether it’s someone you hire to work on your yard or someone you buy an original piece of art from. When an artist can connect with the consumer, they will do well.

  5. I agree with both Nike and Tara. We can all be arrogant, we can all be painfully shy, and we can be trustworthy. Just because someone is standoffish doesn’t mean she’s high-brow, it could mean that she has difficulty breaking the ice. And just because she’s quiet doesn’t mean she irresponsible.
    I’ve recently learned that there are six personality types that define an individual’s level of interaction. They range anywhere from being a Dreamer to a Promoter and that can weigh heavily on the artist’s phase of interaction. Personally, I’m in a rebel phase: I won’t bring you an apple pie to cheer you up, but I’ll invite you to participate in something completely insane (but safe) to lighten your mood.

  6. I feel that a big part of being an artist is learning to be social, but on one’s own terms. I agree with Robert McCall , people can see right through you, so we can only be who we are naturally and learn how to work what we have! I sometimes feel a little shy at first at shows, but then I realize that when I’m excited about my art, the customer gets excited right along with me…and that is when the conversations start to flow easily!

  7. I have been turned off by rudeness in restaurants, galleries, stores, etc. where I was a potential customer. I like to feel welcome and if that means that the artist has to convey that to me at a gallery opening so be it. I buy art because the work speaks to me, but I also buy art because I like what the artist has to say as a social being. I will not buy art from a rude pompous artist, period! I just listened to Simon Sinek on TEDX and yes, people want to hear why you do something and many times for artists, people want to hear the stories behind the work, behind the artist’s lives.

  8. Interesting that this was mentioned in the discussion, as if it were out of the ordinary. Perhaps this is what we should be looking at.
    There may be high-end collectors who purchase with investment in mind who don’t care about personalities. I think the rest of us would prefer dealing with people who have a modicum of politeness and sincerity.

  9. We have been following American Idol (horror!)… What is amazing is how kind & funny & gentle Steve Tyler is with the young people… He is the best artist they have ever had as a judge, & also the sweetest… Time & time again I am astonished how nice the great people are when you meet them in person… I think it is a component of greatness…

  10. As artists we are creating personal objects that move from the private sphere of our studios to public spaces and then – hopefully – are sold and then move into the collector’s home and private space. Our personal connection to the object/painting goes with it. I want the next owner of my art to have a positive association with my work beyond the actual piece. When they see the painting they will remember the circumstances surrounding the aquisition – no one is going to reminisce happily about how they were snubbed by the artist at the opening. Kissing up is not required – just being plain ol’ nice and friendly will do it.

  11. Don’t be a jerk. Carry yourself with dignity and give the same to others you come in contact with. It goes a long way in life and at art receptions.

  12. I believe that niceness will always get you much further than arrogance or rudeness. You want to develop a relationship with folks who admire or want to talk about your art. I really think that one of the fun things for me about being an artist is sharing and talking about my work with others. It has happened to me as well that I have met the artist of some works which I liked a lot, and ended up being totally turned off by their attitude and rudeness.

  13. I once watched one of those news shows like Dateline where a con artist was staged to blatantly rob houses in particular neighborhood in plain daylight. He used a huge ladder to the second floor window and an unmarked van. He even told the neighbors that he was robbing the house. He asked them odd questions about the people who lived in the house while being as sweet as pie to everyone. Yep out of all the many hundreds of people in different neighborhoods who walked by and talked to the man only one called the cops. He was so nice, but everyone overlooked the furniture being moved out of the house, and blatant signs a robbery was taking place. The con turned police trainer stated that his number one tool is being nice.
    Unfortunately all signs point to people thinking someone is good and nice if they are nice to them. Who really knows if the nice artist has dead bodies being stored under the floorboards of his house and the seemingly nasty person is really generous and well-intentioned. Our “intuition” can’t possibly be wrong. “Yes officer, he was such a good neighbor, I can’t believe he would do that.”
    Unfortunately, buyers will care about your personality unless your dead and famous because then the investment possibilities will be more important than you smiling and making them feel good about themselves. Lots of supposedly nasty dead famous artists throughout history.
    So either you enjoyed my odd post or were shocked by it. My point is not to sugar coat your personality, but realize if your not social, you’ll need to recognize and deal with this by possibly working a little harder to compensate or maybe find the right market. Most people who buy art are artists themselves and many will buy the work because they like it while never meeting who created it. If your not a very good artist and are not very nice, then hmm — maybe someone from your family?

  14. Social is perhaps the wrong word? You can be personable, or approachable. In my open studios I find I can secure a sale better than a gallery can because I can connect with the buyer on some level – we clearly share a love of both art and the sea or the conversation wouldn’t have begun. People like a sense of where the art has come from and the person behind it. A bit of accessibility as an artist doesn’t necessarily mean social. I’m pretty hermit-like, so my friends all know that after something like an open studio I’m at breaking point with exposure to people (not even talking to them necessarily) and need a few days alone in a room to myself. My hermitness doesn’t mean I’m not friendly or, I hope, likeable in the rarer moments when I do go out into the world with my art.

  15. As some who is trying to jump start his art career, I can definetly this convo.. I have seen it time and time again with artist who turn the chummy on certain collectors or local celebrities, I have always kinda been turned by that behavior and seen it as a bit kissassy. But then again my personality painfully leans towards introvert.But as I gather from Kathryn’s post, it pays to put yourself out there socially. Maybe the recession has killed the brooding artist stereo-type.

  16. Being social on the web!! Add value not only through what you make but also who you are. It’s all about content and being transparent, a feeling of meeting the artists on the web.
    With this in head I formed my mission statement
    Mission statement:
    Art is for everyone. That’s why “BB Art” brings artist end consumer together. We offer not only an online gallery of affordable art. With us you meet your favorite artist.
    Watch and listen to the story of new Dutch talent for a personal experience of your favorite image or picture.

  17. I think if you’re going to be a rude arrogant artist, you have to hope an audience assembles that loves rudeness, arrogance, and your product. That seems like a long shot, so it makes more business and personal sense to be nice to your audience.

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