The fact that I’m blogging about myself as an artist is a pretty good indication of how self-indulgent I am. Artists in general are extremely self-indulgent, and the commercially successful artists are the ones who have learned to capitalize off it. Whether an artist is a writer, actor, musician or painter the bottom line is that the product they are selling is themselves. This makes a certain degree of self-indulgent behaviour a necessity for the career artist, but what happens when that oh so necessary trait spills over into our intimate relationships and begins to wreak havoc? Is it possible for the artist to be commercially successful and have a successful, monogamous lifetime partnership?
The answer is yes, BUT…
1. It’s better not to get involved with another artist in the same field
There’s a reason behind all of those divorces among Hollywood actors. Ego competition is a huge issue when it comes to pairing up with someone who is technically your competition. The artistic ego is huge, but extremely fragile. If it isn’t constantly nurtured by the other partner, insecurities will begin to run rampant and conflict will ensue. There’s also the jealousy factor. If both partners are equally as career driven and one achieves significantly more success it can cause feelings of resentment.
For me personally, I would never be able to date another visual artist, actor or musician. As much as we would have in common, I know myself too well, and I know that I would get competitive. It would probably drive me to succeed faster in the short run, but deep down I’d always be comparing myself to them artistically. I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m taking a stroll through the Vancouver Art Gallery, I’m thinking to myself a lot of the time, “My stuff is equally as good if not better than half of this shit.” I don’t want to be thinking these thoughts about my life partner and their work. I think that’s why my relationship with my partner works. He writes fantasy, and I have no interest in producing that genre in any medium whatsoever.
2. The artist’s partner must be their #1 fan.
As artists we are our work, and we need to be recognized and applauded. As sad as this is, it’s what validates us as people. It sounds sick, but that’s why the artists gift is often the artist’s curse. In every relationship, both parties need to feel loved and supported. For the artist, loving and supporting the artist’s work is the same thing as loving and supporting the artist on a personal level. We wouldn’t bother doing what we do publicly if it wasn’t for our adoring fans, even if we just have one fan, and if we do just have one fan, it needs to be our partner.
I am very fortunate to finally have someone that is my #1 fan. He’s my lifelong groupie, and I love him for it. Without his love of what I do, I wouldn’t be driven to succeed like I am. My goal is to be able to one day be able to support him with the money that I make by just being me. In the mean time, I’ll write songs and paint pictures about him, so he knows that it’s not always just about me which brings me to my final point.
3. The artist must learn make a concentrated effort to not always make it just about themselves.
The artist has to accept and admit their self-indulgence. Much like the recovering alcoholic, this will free them to be able to take some responsibility for their behaviour. The artist must take and display a genuine interest in the other partner’s life. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s not something that comes naturally for the artist. It’s not that we artists aren’t interested in other people, it’s more along the lines that we get so caught up in displaying ourselves constantly that we forget to show that we do think about other people.
Sometimes it’s hard for the artist to get this because we are hard-wired to understand that we get attention by creating some kind of spectacular masterpiece. Also, most artists are introverted by nature and it’s difficult to have to be the extrovert and take the first step to being sociable and starting a conversation, unless it’s about something that we are an expert.
I personally find social situations awkward. I have a hard time at parties(unless I’ve been drinking) and social gatherings like family dinners and what not. I know that it comes across like I’m either very shy or antisocial, but I’m not. I love people and I have no problem being on a stage in front of thousands of them. I just have a hard time getting in on a group conversation, because I feel like I should only be talking if I have every body’s full attention.
Thankfully, I know these things about myself and I know I have to make an effort to be more extroverted. After all, the product I am selling is myself and I’d hate to alienate my target audience.