June 6, 2016 | Alyson Stanfield

Have You Lost Friendships Because You Are An Artist? (Curious Monday)

Living the life as an artist is hard enough, but it's made harder when those we're close to don't support us.

We need people around us who can support us emotionally – people who believe in our message to the world. It really stinks when friends and family don't believe in our goals.

Have you lost friendships because people couldn’t support your life as an artist?

Painting of 3 women by Pam Beer
©Pamela K. Beer, Riverside. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 inches. Used with permission.

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About Curious Monday

Curious Monday is a weekly question that is sent only to subscribers.

I'm curious about how you live your life as an artist, how you juggle the demands on your time, and what you're thinking about.

I hope you'll read the responses from other artists. Maybe you'll get some ideas or even feel a little more connected as a result.

Feel free to leave suggestions for future Curious Monday questions in a comment.

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92 comments add a comment
  • I started working as an artist as a young woman. So, no; most everyone knows that my ART takes priority to most other doings…so, I don’t believe that I ever lost any friends (most of my friends are artists, anyway)
    But, my husband and children have rarely known me to put them 2nd. Even though being an artist is time consuming, I most always put time with my family before it.

  • JC Naber

    I recently lost some ‘friends’ by resigning from the local watercolor group. They are more interested in their social gatherings than art. Meetings are always luncheon meetings and about half of the attendees leave immediately after food without waiting to see the demos. Perhaps these were not friends after all. sure glad my family believes in me and backs me up!

  • I chose to leave a friendship. She was unwilling to leave her negative emotions and attitudes behind at a time when I was ready to move forward. I’m grateful for the friendship we had, but needed to lift myself up and make positive changes. Living an artistic life is a wonderful challenge, there’s no need to carry someone else’s baggage.

  • Interesting question because I have just lost a friend a few months ago. She really wasn’t supportive of my art. I have been disappointed with her for years. The final straw was when she backed out of a fantastic auction in Chicago where my work was on display. She was more interested in going out for dinner and doing whatever she wanted. I sat down one day and thought about how I was wasting my time with her. Just stopped seeing her.
    There is only so much I can handle with a husband who is still recuperating from a massive heart attack. I’m always trying to juggle taking care of him and keeping up with my art. I have a lot of friends in the KAW group (Klein Artists Works) but I don’t live in the city so I cannot see them as much as I’d like. Also I couldn’t help but compare this ex-friend with a great gal in Pittsburgh who is so proud of me and loves my work. We went to elementary and high school together. Another plus is that she has a fantastic sense of humor. I look forward to hearing from you Alyson and I’m proud to know you!

  • I would say the opposite is true–I’ve made friends due to being an artist. I feel I have two separate lives–my life as a professional–which puts food on the table and a roof over our heads and then there is my artist life. Being creative does have a role in my professional life as I problem solve situations but I cannot be friends with people I supervise or see. So art gives me a place where I can have friends.

  • When I decided that art was more than just a hobby to me, other things needed to make room for the time required to create. I learned to say “no” to golf dates and civic meetings. Because of that, some friends I see much less.
    As Rose said – family comes first, then art. My true friends know and respect my time.

  • I think my friendships suffer because of my devotion to being in the studio. I’m not available for those impromptu lunches, and basically friends have come to waiting for me to reach out to them. My family also feels a little left out. I feel a pull to live up to expectations and be available, and a strong need to be working in my studio; I have resolved this by establishing set studio hours and days that people close to me are aware of and respect.

  • Andrea

    I have not lost friendships because of my art. In fact, I would say my art has brought me friendships. One of my most wonderful friendships blossomed because I was and am an artist. I first met my friend Cheryl at an outdoor art show. She was interested in my work and took me on as an artist at her gallery. Over the years our friendship grew and she has become a great and wonderful friend. I admire her tremendously both as a business woman and as a person. She is incredibly giving and non judgemental and supports everyone she knows in all the ways she can. My family has not been nearly as supportive, seeing art as noble but unintellectual pursuit worthy of a hobby but certainly not a profession.

  • Judy

    To the contrary I have gained more friends since becoming an artist. That being said I did had one friend who started doing art around the same time and noticed a sense of competitiveness between us. We encouraged each other though and I attended all of her openings. But I eventually noticed how the encouragement was not being reciprocated. Once I realized how one sided the support was I backed away and decided that we would be friends from afar.

  • The only ‘friend’ I lost because of my art was my second husband.

    We had, for some years worked together with some success as a collaborative artist (and as a collaborative writer on art and doing art reviews). We even lectured together about what it was like to paint together on one piece, especially given our vastly different backgrounds with relation to art – I’d had a lifetime of exposure and training; he’d made elaborate doodles while talking on the phone.

    Working together was massively, if not easily, educational for both of us. But after I went through a very dramatic medical event that changed me in every way, I found that I wanted to create art based on my own, very personal experience. My husband put his foot down with a very big objection: I could create the art, he said, but I couldn’t display it, couldn’t share it. Why? Because he felt that it would diminish our presence as a collaborative artist.

    So I did make the art… and I did as he requested… but the seeds for the end of our marriage had been planted and over the years that followed we grew apart slowly but surely and I eventually made the break and our marriage of 23 years ended gently and well.

  • I’ve been an artist for about 7 years – and it still feels a bit strange saying that! But undoubtedly it has led me to make new wonderful friendships and in many ways has changed my whole life for the better.

  • I’ve definitely gained more than I’ve lost, including a life partner of nearly twenty years who also makes and with whom I regularly collaborate. I’ve had a few challenges, however, and meeting them has required ruthlessness.

    My experience is that dedicated, devoted artists are busy, earnest, focused people, myself included, without a lot of spare time. And, for me, too, art gets made alone. Ergo, I spend a lot of time alone.

    I chose this path very early, and it was fairly obvious to me that I couldn’t do it and be a parent. For a few years, everyone around me was making that decision; most chose parenthood, including a very dear friend. I watched and listened and supported what was an excruciating few years of struggle because I already loved her, and I think she’s a genius. But I let go of an important, burgeoning friendship at about the same time because, frankly, I don’t find that particular challenge at all interesting. That decision was very painful, and that lesson has led me to choose since not to engage otherwise talented and interesting people if it’s clear they are taking the parenthood/artistic life juggling route.

    Finally, as others have said, there are the many many of us who want to make, but can’t for whatever reason. I have certainly moved through periods of fallowness myself, which is absolutely natural. But we all know the sad toxicity of the blocked artist that borders on vampiric. I’m pretty no nonsense about how much of my limited resources I’m willing to invest there.

  • I have not lost any friends due to my art career, but have made many more. I’m fortunate to live in a place that has an abundance of artists, strong art organizations, networking opportunities and support.

  • Becki Hesedahl

    I have become a full time artist since retiring as graphic designer six years ago. Can’t believe how fortunate I am. I am deeply involved in our local art group on the board and other art groups. I have let go of many friendships from my work life and gained many others who are artists or otherwise involved in the arts. Family is supportive too although I don’t spend as much time with grandkids as I would like. We seem to have a good balance now. The only thing that suffers is housekeeping! Living the dream!

  • Becki Hesedahl

    This whole conversation is so interesting! Although I am in a good place right now I know it could change. I found a book years ago and reread it periodically. Singing at the Top of Your Lungs. Love this book about women and the creative life and juggling it all. I highly recommend it. In fact, I think it is a good time for another read through for me!

  • Larkin Jean Van Horn

    I don’t think it was directly because of my art, but when I left the corporate world nearly 30 years ago, I also moved to an island, which put a barrier (ferry) between my corporate mainland friends and myself which I was willing to cross but they were not. My artist mainland friends remained steadfast, and we continue to enjoy each others’ company. I also gained a lot of new artist friends here on the island, so it all balances out.

  • I haven’t lost any, but I’ve gained a lot :)

  • Terri

    Have I ever! Oodles of them. Lots of people don’t like it when you change. They feel threatened for some reason. I’ve learned to be happy — yes, happy — to leave people behind when they don’t respect my growth. A true friend understands the need for change and rolls with it.

  • I have gained a lot of friends who are very encouraging of my art, however, there have been two friendships that were ruined.

    The first was a friend of mine who has a BFA. I am a self-taught artist and the extent of my art training was one semester of Art my Junior year in High School. This friend was constantly telling me how I wasn’t doing things “right” – my composition didn’t comply with what she was taught in her classes, for example. She had negative criticism for every piece and it got very tiresome. It seemed to irritate her that my work was selling and I was getting commissions despite not conforming to everything she had been taught. I began to distance myself from her and I no longer hear from her.

    My second relationship that was strained by my art was with my fiance. He would come in to my studio, look over my shoulder and give unsolicited advice, such as: that color doesn’t seem quite right to me, that shadow is too dark, that buckle doesn’t look as realistic as the rest of the painting. Every time I would tell him, “It’s not done yet” and he would say he realized that, but he was just offering me advice on how to improve it. He had zero art skills, talent, or training himself, yet he felt he could tell me how to create and improve my art. This, along with other factors, led to me calling off the engagement and ending the relationship.

  • I believe my becoming an artist lost me friendships that should have been set aside long before. And being an artist has helped me make BETTER friendships.
    A huge part of making art is protecting your creative vision, and maintaining that inquiring, open heart that lets us see more of the beauty in the world, so we can share it.
    There are those who would destroy that delicate balance we struggle to maintain, being open, and being vulnerable. We may tolerate these difficult people because we work with them, or they are family members, or friends/acquaintances we’ve met along the way. They have their place in the world (maybe!), and they have their own path to walk.
    But I’ve learned to protect my heart. Anyone who brings poison into our relationship, cannot stay. I carefully retreat, wish them well, and let them go on their way.
    There are all kinds of people in the world, and many different ways of being in the world. I respect them all, but not in the working artist place in my heart.

  • I made the decision to be an artist very early in life so the friends I’ve lost have been due to things like moving across the country and just not keeping up. I move on into a new phase and seem to just cut myself off from the past. What I find interesting at this point in my life is that since I’ve moved back home I’m actually reconnecting with some of these old friends from my childhood. The attitude seems to be well, Ricky, that’s just the way you are.

  • I have definitely gained MORE friends since I have embraced my creative side. I found my tribe in my guild.
    The second I walked in the door I knew I was home! They understand me and don’t question my creative decisions. They guide and support me.
    Most of my other friends ; though very supportive just don’t understand me. Unless it is a name brand or the new hot IT thing that some TV star has they don’t like it.
    As one said in a Yogi Berra sort of way”Why would I want that if no one else has one????”
    I’m sorry if I take more pride in having MY name one something then someone else’s name!

  • I don’t believe I have lost any friendships due to being an artist. Like many others in this discussion, being an artist has brought me into contact with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and friendships have grown out of those contacts. Most of the people I know at this point in my life are supportive of my art career.

  • Add me to the list of people who have gained friends due to being an artist.

    I think that joining local and national organizations helped – I enjoy meeting people of similar mind (and career). The people I’m connected to are very supportive and totally understand what I’m about.

    I’m so thankful!

  • Corinne McNamara

    Art has been part of my life forever (70 yrs), and for many reasons -some painful, I learned to be cautious with my trust. At home, I tend to keep my art-making to myself and away from those who want to “help me make it better.” However, it’s not always possible to walk away from those who are not supportive, especially when they are family members. Now in her 90s, my mother became more supportive and less critical of me after publishing her first applique art quilts book when she was about 70. On the other hand, my husband loves to let me know what needs fixing — I’ve learned to ignore his “advice” and rarely show him anything. I still have to work and don’t have many art friends, but I’m making some now in face-to-face and online classes. I need community and won’t give up my art classes.

  • I was about 5 when I realized I was an artist. My experience of being a painter for 65 + years is that while many people show an interest in my paintings, no one — friends or family — actually wants me to paint. They all want me to spend time with them, instead. I have always had to go against their interests to spend time painting. “You can’t paint all the time!” they say, not knowing that to arrange my daily life to contain a few hours of painting requires many more hours of domestic and community tasks and chores. Keeping the chores from overwhelming painting time is a constant struggle and has eliminated an unknown number of potential relationships and restrained relations with others. Ask my son how much he values my focus on painting — no doubt, he’ll say, “not at all.”

    • Whoa, Steve. That stinks. I hope you will use their disinterest as a motivator to “show them.”

    • Some people have no idea! It really gets on my nerves when people say they understand what it is like for an artist and then demand I spend time with them. You stick to your guns Steve and don’t listen to anyone who tells you your art is not important. Your creativity and passion come first :)

  • Honey Lea

    Making art has been a powerful way to bring friendships to me. I was surprised by the question, but reading the replies about friends lost because of being an artist, made me reflect about lost friendships in general. I’ve lost a few due to moves and one loss ( painful!) due to a misplaced sense of loyalty.

    I find that my lasting friendships have a way of expanding and contracting; moving in closer sometimes and moving out when other things compete. I really love that quality! There is safety in knowing that we can move around within the circle of the friendship as things change in our lives without destroying something as valuable as a friendship.

  • I cannot actually say that I’ve “lost friendships” because I chose to follow my heart as a creative woman …but what I can say is that being an artist at times has put me into positions as to being highly misunderstood. Most of my fellow artist friends have been of extreme support…but family….well, family does NOT always understood my path as a working artist. Since most businesses have more “normal” earning capacities as to receiving weekly/monthly pay checks…and more “normal” working hours, sometimes the schedules of artists and the sales of our art….. that at times can be EXTREMELY RANDOM, is highly criticized. The career as an artist is sometimes most difficult and for me personally, it has at times been emotionally daunting to continue to “go on creating” without the support of those I hold most dear. However, being a creative person is my passion, it is within one’s blood…..it is “a calling” actually. In order to be true to oneself, our paths as artists are sometimes highly misunderstood. This talent, this actual person I was meant to be was no accident……the creative soul that has been a part of myself as a human being began as a child. I look back over my life time and I cannot help but to completely understand that I was created as a person who would never be happy in any other capacity…..my hope is that I have helped others to see the beauty that is upon this amazing planet! I paint because I must…..I paint because it is WHO I AM!

    • This is lovely, Gloria. I am sorry you don’t have the support of your family. That’s terrible.

      It might help to remind them that all entrepreneurs (not just artists) have unpredictable paychecks. It’s part of the agreement.

  • Most people know that I am serious with my art. My family is always thee for me. I choose to end one friendship after my friend told me to get a serious job, and it wasn’t really a hard decision to take. A few years back I had to end a friendship with another artist because she was in a position where she could help other artists and instead ended up hurting us. We have a hard time with people because most people tend to believe that artists are not serious, so when you have another artist who perpetrated that stereotype I decided to end everything. I ended up being really hurt by that decision, but for me it was the right choice.

  • Before I sold my business, my “day job”, my closest group of friends were the people who were readily available for diversion whenever I could find free time. Now that I am devoting time and energy to my art career, I am wanting friends who are more goal-oriented, and I don’t want to hang out with my jobless friends as much anymore. I’m actually sad about that part of this otherwise so-positive change in my life.

  • Nope. Didn’t have friends to begin with. My family, however, wanted me to do interior design so I could use it in my role as homemaker. (My sister took up nutrition for the same reason)

  • Just received this from Pinterest:

    EVALUATE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE;THEN PROMOTE, DEMOTE OR TERMINATE.
    YOU ARE THE CEO OF YOUR LIFE.

    Love it!

  • Lynne Reichhart

    I read this on someone else’s comment, but I have made many new friends because of my art. I belonged to a painting group though we no longer paint because of folks summering or wintering elsewhere we still get together when people are in town. Also I joined some local art associations and have made friends there and am now on the board of one of them. All my longer term friends are very supportive of my art as well.

  • I’ll keep it short — No.

  • When I first read this question I thought that it was just the opposite, that I had gained many friendships because I chose an artistic life. Then I remembered. People in my family didn’t understand what it meant to live a creative life. I wasn’t supported or acknowledged because my choices didn’t fit into what they considered to be acceptable or even responsible. I took risks. I didn’t play by the rules, not theirs anyway. I was an oddity that was pretty much outcast and that was terribly hurtful for many years. Now the family I have left still thinks I’m “different”, but curiously interesting.
    I had a good friend from about 25 or 30 years ago who is an accomplished artist showing and selling in big name galleries. She went the traditional route with her training and never really respected what I did because I was pretty much self taught. She told me years ago that my work was “nothing” and I wasn’t ready to sell. Maybe she was right from her perspective, but I have to say, at the time it devastated me. I was just starting out and vulnerable to what others thought of my work. That was irresponsible and arrogant of her. Now, years later, we are distant friends. I no longer ask her opinion of anything nor do I want it.
    So I guess this is a long answer to a simple question. Have I lost friends because I’m an artist? Yes. And honestly those are relationships that I’m glad not to have. I don’t want anyone in my life anymore that can’t fully support who I am and the life I choose to lead.

    • Hi Debra,
      Thank you for your comment.
      I think it is hard to acknowledge that some of those closest to us are not supportive…and may actually be destructive to our hopes, dreams, paths, selves.
      We must be very directed from within….and measure our progress on our own terms.
      It can be done.
      Bravo????????????????????
      ????debra

    • Yikes! Good on you for moving on, Debra.

  • Katherine

    I had a career as an engineer. I walked away from everything to be an artist. I chose to end my friendships that I had made as an engineer because my friends just couldn’t understand why I left a lucrative career. I lost my family over that decision too. I’ve developed friendships inside the artist community. Artists make the best friends. They’re more willing to accept the “real” me and are there whenever I need emotional support. Nothing like my previous friends.

  • Mirian

    On the contrary, I’ve made new friends who are also artists, and some who are not, but enjoy art. We share new techniques with each other, and also life experiences…

  • I’ve lost a couple friendships. I’ve had people approach me saying they had advice regarding my career, which almost always amounts to things I’ve already considered and rejected, or things that are just inherently bad ideas (cultural appropriation, among other things). Then when I didn’t follow the advice, feelings were apparently hurt, and drama ensued.

    I also seem to be a magnet for people who want to collaborate on things like art shows, and the people in question aren’t people anybody should collaborate with in any way.

  • My first husband who was quite a bit older than me, was so against my being an artist that I completely stopped working at it for 10 years. It was as if he didn’t believe that I knew from the age of 5 that I wanted to make my life as an artist and had been doing what I could to make that happen up until the time I met him. Ironically, when I did take up painting again, he gave me more help than any art teacher ever had. It turned out that he had had 2 years of daily private instruction in painting when he was young.
    We also worked on the same paintings collaboratively and that led to a new set of arguments about who’s input was who’s. Shortly before he passed away, he looked at what I was working on and said he had taught me all he could. Though as a collaborative team, the relationship was more contentious than I’d had wished, I’ll always value the things I learned from him.

    • Wow Theresa…what a story.
      Amazing.
      What about your current spouse❓

      • Debra my current spouse of 9 years is extremely supportive as long as I’m actively using my time to paint. He’s not a believer in using time or resources on courses and workshops. He often has more belief in my talent than I do myself and I’ve learned to listen to his advice. Of course I am still the one who determines if the work is up to par or not.

  • Margit Bu Dominguez

    What I have noticed is that some friends always find an excuse not to attend an opening or even visit an exhibition. I understand that one does not always have time, but if the excuses are repeated to often one feels there is not much interest in keeping up the friendship. Maybe there is some jealousy behind this actitude? On the other hand I have gained a lot of new friends, which is very positive.

  • I have both lost friends and gained friends but have been lucky in keeping more than losing friends. I have had one friend who changed radically and became religious and started telling me my works were evil (my artworks about ghosts, the gentle kind, tarot, aliens, etc) and that I should stop doing my art. I told her no way will I ever stop doing my art especially in those themes and backed myself away from her and I am glad I did. A couple of friends were a bit jealous and removed themselves from my life. The rest have been fantastic support including my family! :) They often come to my openings. This is a fantastic subject! :)

  • Friends have never been the challenge for me, it’s been family. Whether it’s a sense of competition, lack of understanding or ignorance, my family has never acknowledged my art. Because of this, I have always kept it “to myself”. And I have been fine with that, knowing I “came out different” than my siblings, I have worn my art self proudly and have my friends for support and encouragement and the heart to hearts.
    Ironically, as my mother’s health was transitioning last year during dementia, she took note of some of my photographs that I was sharing with her and she said, “Amy, these are beautiful, where did you learn to do this?” So many feelings wrapped up in that one defining moment after 45 years of being an artist. Luckily, I can laugh about it and be proud she finally noticed.

  • I can’t say that I have lost friends “because of art.” Like my non-art relationships, friends come and go depending on where you are in life. I do want non-artist friends and for the most part those are some of the most supportive and loyal friends I have, we nurture each other. Artist friends form a special bond as we speak a different language, a code. But if two people don’t share common ground, can’t offer mutual support/respect (which means no competition) and are not forgiving of each other, it is time to move on whether they are an artist friend, a non-art friend or … a spouse? We need all need positive energy.
    How to “divorce” a friendship is a trickier question.

  • Non-artists don’t understand that it is a vocation. It isn’t a choice. It’s not something casual that can be put aside. I don’t expect them to understand it but it can be frustrating when they give “advice” with no understanding of this major core part of who I am.

    I have been told some….. interesting….. things about what people think I should or should not do with my art. A former friend once told me I should not paint so much because i have a child. Yeah right. The most important thing I can do as a parent is to be an artistic role model. So what if my daughter is growing up in a painting studio. She is a better person for it and so am I.

  • I was a nurse for 15 years and quit my nursing career to pursue art full time. I lost a lot of nursing friends in the process, but now realize that they were not good friends to begin with. The few the have stuck a round, truly support and believe in me and they are a treasure. Many of those old friends would say things like, “you’ll be back to being a nurse in a year”. It is has been 4 years since I quit and I have a whole new flock of artist friends whom are so amazing and supportive. I will never go back.
    Also, my mother in law keeps asking my husband, “how long are you going to let her do this for?” (grrrr…on many levels) It has definitely put some strain on our relationship with her.

    • Regina, first of all…good for you for making a big decision in your own best interests! I can imagine what it took to do that because I struggled most of my life with having one foot in nursing and one in art.

      I spent decades (literally!) trying to figure out a way to bring my love for both science and art into some kind of alignment. I finally did by developing and creating Life Journey Portraits. My skills as a psych nurse and as an artist are the foundation of these interview-based portraits of a person’s self-defining memories. But, although, I was able to craft a practice doing both, I never really fit either as a nurse or as an academic though I did schlog through all the required hoops. I don’t have any regrets because I loved teaching and students often could really relate to my work. And I like to think I helped the students who, like me, had both interests. (I may be deluding myself here).

      Eventually, I found my “peeps” in the Society for the Arts in Healthcare” (now renamed Global Alliance for the Arts in Healthcare, I think). There are all kinds of artists, caregivers, designers, architects, physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists in the group. It was a big help to know I had a lot of good company and I found so much support for my work there.

      One year I was a participant in a study looking at the experience of nurses who are also artists (turns out there are lot of us) done by Leslie Skillman., PhD., RN. She discovered that nurse-artists found being both things pretty difficult to live with ( as you, no doubt, know) . To solve this difficulty, some nurses in her study left art, some left nursing and some, like me, tried to pull the two together somehow. All are legitimate solutions! But each has a cost. It just depends on which cost you are willing to pay.

      You know you have made the right decision for you! Maybe in time, your mother-in-law will come around especially seeing you ( and by extension, her son) so much happier.

  • I have always made art…it became my art major in college where I also met my husband who was a Biology major. He and my family have always respected my art path. My father was the only one who thought I needed a “real” job…so I also have a teaching certificate..in Art of course!God and my family always come first, which has caused some friction from some now past gallery owners. My friends know me as an artist, so I haven’t lost my true friends. My closest friends are also artists and we support each other.

  • Becki Hesedahl

    Reading through all of these wonderful comments again. I have been using Feng Shui to unclutter my studio and home – still and always a work in progress!

    But the same principles apply to relationships. I have many “friends” on FB that I don’t follow or respond to because of the drama and the tangled unhealthy relationship. Also in my real life including family members. It is a balance though you don’t want to alienate a potential supporter or buyer of your art but don’t have to be bosom buddies either.

    I am president of our local arts group and have a responsibility to the members and the community to maintain many relationships. And some of those people I just plain don’t like! I am one of those nice people that troubled people gravitate to so I feel I am walking a tightrope most of the time.

    It is a good learning experience for me and I have had to learn boundaries. But it is hard! Just part of the journey and it keeps life interesting. Sometimes too interesting! But on the plus side many of the artists I work with daily have become close friends and I wouldn’t trade that for anything!

  • When I was a manager in the pre press industry working 12 hours shifts from 6pm to 6am, I knew I had to quit! I quit because I had always wanted to live my dream. A year and a half before I quit my “job” I starting preparing for the way out. I started attending a place called the Creative Fitness Center on my days off. My days off varied from 3, 4 to 7 days off because of the rotation in my prepress job. I spent most of my days off there. I started teaching and working towards building up people to teach and worked for the owner of the place too. I had a very best friend at the time and other people that knew me from my work place that I lost because they thought I had lost my mind going out on my own as an artist at age 36! I lost my dear dear friend because she plainly said I had gotten too big for own britches, implying that my ego led the way instead of my logical mind. I grieved over the loss of my friend for years. I called her up one day and really tried to rekindle our friendship but because of the change in my life and my way of being/thinking in a new frame of mind it didn’t help to mend the relationship. I learned from that one experience that people should allow others to change, that true friends support one another, that life changes and so do some of the people in our lives. They come and go but there are those who have seen me through many changes in who I am , my career and have stood by me with an openness and acceptance as I have them . Those are the ones that I cherish to this day.
    I remember also there was a man at the prepress plant that I will never forget who was what they call a journeyman in the trade, back then they had apprentices, craftsman and journeyman as part of the printing world. I earned my masters card as a master lithographic artist. To tie into the loss of friendship that old man looked me straight in the face and said you’ll never make it as an artist. I looked straight back at him and said “you just gave me permission!” being the tenacious and confident dream maker I am to this day!

  • This is a salient subject..and one that is not talked about much.
    I do think competitiveness on.all fronts plays a role in relationships and that any change makes waves. Because it takes so much drive and commitment to keep on working…time and other resources get more limited and choices must be made.
    I have had many of the experiences shared above…and am so appreciative of Alyson and all who shared their stories. One thing I have learned is not to look for or expect the support from anyone else. I am lucky to have a wonderful, supportive husband…also in the arts…and health! Together…we keep developing and moving forward in our endeavors. There is a way forward…whatever your circumstances. Our creative souls will show us the way and give us the strength we need.

    Alyson…have you lost friends or others hecause of your chosen path?
    Inquiring minds would love to know!!!

    Another sunject would be competativeness and jealousy between artists…and others. Also hard to acknowledge and speak to.

  • Here’s one thing I heard recently on a web radio broadcast interviewing other artists who do art shows that resonated with me…. They said their friends outside the art world don’t understand how they would rather do a good show than attend a wedding or some such function. I didn’t know others felt the same way I did. It’s hard enough to get into the top-tier shows and I would feel torn about canceling it.
    I look at my friends and am amazed that I have such wonderful people in my life. I’ve learned to manage my time by scheduling either breakfast or dinner with them. Lunch breaks up the flow of the day too much.
    Relatives are less supportive but have become used to my boundaries. It’s okay with me now that they don’t get it. My husband tries so hard to be supportive that I value him for it, but I know in his heart of hearts he would prefer that I just spend time with him watching TV or going to the store – and somehow the art magically gets done without impinging on time with him.

  • I have learned to watch what I say when it comes to talking about choosing art as a career path with certain people. It seems to be a hair-trigger subject. It’s astounding to me how many people have issues with their own creativity, and, more specifically, the life choices they’ve made as a result. I’ve come to realize that when they see “YOU can’t do that”, what they really mean is “*I* can’t do that”, or “I’m not brave enough to do that”.

  • Candace Faber

    What an interesting question! I realize that in all my years as an artist-designer most of my friendships had little to do with art although some were made through the profession, the friendship did not deal with art especially. The art friends I was especially close to are from college days. Now in my old age I wish I had a group of artists to drink wine with in cafés and argue. But we are all concerned about our health and don’t drink much.

  • Thanks, everyone, for sharing your stories.
    I’ve lost a friend and a sister since becoming an artist. Re the “friend” (and I use that word advisedly), at the end, she insisted that I mentor and teach her the business of art (for free, of course) as she perceived that I was more successful than she. I resisted because not only do I not know anything about mentoring but because mentoring involved me buying myself an expensive lunch once a week at one of the few places at which she would eat. When I finally called her to say I wasn’t ever going to do this and to recommend a professional (you, Alyson as well as some other local folks), she seemed to take it well. But she’s never responded to any of my emails so I’m thinkin’ she didn’t take “no” as well as she initially seemed to.
    The situation with my sister is more complex but let’s just say that we had a much better relationship when I was in the middle of my divorce. Now that I’ve met and married the man of my dreams and am nearly as successful at my second career (art) as I was at my first (law), our relationship has disintegrated.
    It’s sad but sometimes relationships just have a lifespan. We can and must mourn the losses while moving on.
    Art in general has been wonderful for new friendships and supportive, nurturing relationships. The lack of competition is a refreshing change from my first career.

  • This actually hit a nerve. I’ve not just lost friends, but family: a few members of my husband’s family. One — his cousin’s husband — told me a few years ago that he was “jealous” of my “hobby.” And my husband’s cousin told me, when her husband told me that I should create art “like that” (pointing to a realistic piece), that she “didn’t know who [I thought I] was, but that [I] was no Picasso.” (I paint in an abstract tradition and didn’t have the heart to explain the difference to this misguided woman).

    My solution was to simply not argue with these folks, to turn the other cheek and to move on, effectively ignoring them. We need, as artists, to nurture ourselves and to focus on what prompts the art. It’s unfortunate that these folks walk amongst us and that we lose former friends or, in my case, extended family. I would’ve hoped that my family and friends would support me. But if they can’t, so be it. Frankly, I’d rather make what I have to, what can’t be expressed in any other way but this.

  • Love these comments and the format !! It hits close to home, (and heart) that it seems we as artist are different soulful beings and personalities than “regular folk” . It seems the more I refuse to offend my soul by saying, doing and being anything other than who I am, an artist, the more I feel like an alien living in a strange land. My difficulty comes not with losing friends, which has happened, but with carefully vetting both artist and “regular folk” to find the rare few who are gentle, kind, supportive, trustworthy, loving and generously and honestly giving. Even if it’s giving suggestions and/or giving advice for improvements rendered delicately with our best interest at heart. Yes, because we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our exposed soft underbellies by constantly putting out there creations made with slices of our soul for all to see, it would be nice to be surrounded with “yes” people, but that’s not conducive to growth and improvement. I know feedback is important and necessary so if I must endure it i will work hard to pick friends who will administer the needed honest truth in the least painful and most caring way. I will “pick my poison” if you will. I can’t speak for other artist but know that I have a short emotional bandwidth so managing these relationships and resulting interactions is critical for me to have enough emotional bandwidth left to plan, work, create art and build my art career. Otherwise, the emotional, artistic and physical energy drain wrecks havoc for way too long before I can fully recover and get back to my best place. I’ve repeatedly heard establishing healthy boundaries and taking care of ourselves in these discussions, which, in my estimation, is also a huge and important part of building our successful art career. And I wish you all the best of luck doing so.

  • I imagine we all have.

    I wrote several paragraphs then deleted them.

    We all have stories that are a mixture of loss and gain.

    Dang, I deleted them again.

    But it was good to write it out and see it in black and blue. It was also good to delete them. I love these. End of school year activities and shift into summer schedules has me behind on email. I am catching up and will be maintaining by Monday.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share and move forward.

  • Susan Troy

    I can’t say I have lost friends by becoming an artist, but I have certainly made a lot of new ones.
    Being an artist can be lonely and I think you have to first accept the fact that you may not get all the support you want from your family. I found it really hard at first to say I was an artist, but then I got used to it.

    Oddly, the more I work in art, my kids and husband are beginning to get interested in what I do. And, I think, respect it. But it hasn’t been easy and sometimes I envy people who have really strong support from their spouses. It seems like it might make this journey a bit easier…

  • Kate Stockman

    I can’t think of LOSING any friends b/c I am an artist, but I know I have MADE plenty of friendships b/c of it! My artist friends (those I have met personally and those I have yet to meet in person) are very important to me and inspire and encourage me all the time. And, honestly, if any of my friends can’t handle me being “half-a-bubble-off-center” (as my woodworker husband fondly says of me), then they aren’t my friends. Period. I don’t have time to mess around with relationships. I cherish my “sistahs” and friends and am blessed to have more of them than I can keep up with on a regular basis. But when we connect, we are right there, relishing and enjoying and “what if-ing” each other, wondering why it’s always so long between our conversations, etc. I consider myself lucky, indeed!

    • Honey Lea

      “Half a bubble off-center”. What a terrific description of those of us that just don’t quite fit! Thanks for sharing that.

  • Andrew

    Quite the opposite in fact.

    I made the mistake of thinking I would lose friends and family so I pursued a degree and a “career” path that was a REAL job and tried my best to ignore the beck and call of art. When I could no longer deny the pull back into art, I found a wealth of friendships, and the familial disappointment wasn’t there. The only disappointment was mine.

  • Great question, Alyson! I have dear friendships with other artists, although have experienced difficulties with several family members because of my own drive to make art AND to have a business. It seems that people are either very interested and supportive, or they are dismissive. I spend a lot of time caring for my mother, who has poor health. She sees my art-making and business as time taken away from my attention on her, so it’s a constant struggle to keep some sort of boundaries, even though I have help with caregivers and see her 4-5 times a week. This has been going on for years. My half-sister says that her goal in life is to have fun, with socializing and golf, and that I’m working too hard and that I need to “have more fun”. And I admit to getting irritated by the constant comparison, which is, naturally, my own issue. I would like to say that her idea of fun sounds soul-crushing to me, but I don’t because I know that we’re wired differently, and that’s okay and as it should be. I guess the difficulty comes from the feeling of needing to explain myself. Why do artists have to explain themselves? I know the answer is, you don’t. Gloria Clifford’s response above, about sometimes being highly misunderstood so resonates with me.

  • Orla

    I choose not to look at it as loosing friends….. but more connecting with and spending your time with people who get you and support you, and that tends to be other creative people.

    Artists in all the areas of the Arts really need the support of good positive fellow Artist friends. As I’m sure Medical Doctors need the support of fellow MDs – we all need support from our tribes whoever there are :o)

  • I haven’t lost any friends (that I know of) but it has caused some stress between me and my spouse. She sees what I do and has taken some introductory classes through local artists here (drawing & watercolour) and keeps asking for feedback and advice. She used to paint in high school. It feels more like teaching, which I have never wanted to do and with her esteem, she is requiring lots of encouragement. It all pushes my boundary buttons and takes away from my art.

    Boundaries and patience are what I need to learn. She needs to learn it has taken me 20 years to get to this level of craftsmanship.

  • I have found that when I say I am an artist, people usually are really interested in what I do, what kind of work, what medium, when I say encaustic painter, that opens a whole realm of discussion that leads to me showing them photos of my work.

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