I am a woman of many emotions. Not in the volatile sense, but I can often let my emotions get the best of me and the best of others. I don’t intend to let this happen – it just happens. My mom has always known this is the creative soul speaking through me since I was a little girl. The girl that would sit at the living room table and write stories like “The Squirrel and the Greedy Ravens” and the girl that would paint a piece of fabric on the carpet because logic and reason are often absent when it comes to her creative mind; this is the girl and the woman that my mom knows. And it’s the magic I create with my art and my writing, and the irritating quirks that may come with a child of artistic abilities, that bring my mom so much happiness, love, and irritation all at once. She knows that I can get wrapped up in my emotions so deeply where I fall into this emotional abyss of frustration and self-wallowing. But after many years of learning how my brain ticks and how my heart beats, my mom has learned the secret to loving someone who is more right brained than left; who cares so intensely about everything that they can’t seem to sort out or process their emotions with the right balance of reason and logic. The key is a whole lot of patience and a pair of large ears.
Artists are very passionate and sensitive creatures. We will likely be one of the most intense lovers you will ever have. We will love you with every bone in our body, and with every vessel in our heart. We will love you so deeply that we won’t always know how to show you just how much we love you. Like our work, we have all of these amazing ideas swirling around in our head that we feel really gets to the core of something we are trying to say. But when placed in front of a blank canvas, an empty page, or a white screen, we find ourselves suddenly lost and unsure of the birth of our ideas. We become insecure with the painting, the project, the novel and, thus, we start to doubt ourselves. This is a soul wrenching process for an artist; the need to create without a map to create it.
On the other hand, it is like staying up all night and watching the sun rise when you watch an artist find their way through the jungle of procrastination and self-doubt. All of the late night hours of inspiration, frustration, and finally exasperation, pays off. You have built and created something together. They may have been the one holding the brush, but you were the one holding and caressing their heart and soul. If you weren’t there to lend a listening ear for them to rebound their ideas off of, and if you weren’t there to help them work through their own emotional and mental issues with the piece on their own, the work of art might have collapsed into the ashes of unfulfilled promise and success. Loving an artist doesn’t mean solving their problems for them. It means being there to help them solve their problems on their own.
The number one thing you need to know about artists is this: we will always be lovers more than we will be fighters. Sure, we protest, we revolt, and we rebel against the restrictions, the constraints, and the conformity that society relentlessly throws in our faces through politics, media, and narrow-minded thinkers. But you need to understand that this need to fight in our art ultimately stems from love. We use our art as a tool to have a voice, to make a difference, and to make the world a better place. So when it comes to relationships, we don’t want to engage in a 60 minute fight with you about how you didn’t clean the bathroom (like you said you were going to). No, we would rather spend that time mending the cracks of the relationship. We do this with a heartfelt apology, a bear hug, maybe a kiss or two, and taking you out on the town. We want to enrich your life with the experiences of being with someone who loves you and who wants to share the world with you. We want to communicate with you, but we want to do it in a way where it doesn’t whittle our souls down to a beaten and artistic carcass. The truth is, when we are in toxic relationships that are hindering our creativity rather than helping it, we start to lose ourselves and our sense of purpose in life. And like all human beings, we aren’t perfect. We have our own flaws and we make plenty of mistakes, and our art helps us work through these flaws and to become the best version of ourselves we can possibly be.
Our relationship with art is very similar to our relationships with people. We may need to go through several trials and errors before we get that one piece just right. I have spent countless nights staying up into the early hours of the morning agonizing over one little imperfection on a painting that I started a month ago. Just as I have spent countless hours and minutes agonizing over the bumps and ruffles in my relationships with people. But we may need to have a few scuffles, misunderstandings, and squabbles here and there before we have further perfected our relationship and our ability to make our partner happy. Artists want to love and be loved in return. It isn’t suffering that feeds the artist’s soul (though it can certainly act as a springboard for a lot of fantastic ideas); it is love. Artists can’t live and breathe without it. We need people to not just love our work, but to love us; the center of our work. And in order to love us, you have to understand us and how we operate in our day to day lives.
When you are in a relationship with an artist, it isn’t just a hobby or even a job. It is a lifestyle and a mindset. Being with an artist will always be an adventure, but it will also be a challenge. We will have good days and bad days, just like everybody, but the sources of our emotions often stem from our art. The source of our good days may come from the achievement of artistic success, while our bad days may come from a place of creative frustration and the inability to communicate the feelings we hold in our heart to paper. But no matter how we are feeling about our own work, you are our muse in each aspect of our life. You are what excites us to get up in the morning and to make the most of the day. You are what inspires us to keep pursuing our creative endeavors because we know, however badly our writing or our painting may flop, you will be there to help us pick up the pieces of our fragile ego. You are the vivacious colors we see in a burning sunset that we yearn to paint. You are the voice we hear between the lines of our favorite lyrics that we close our eyes and melt into. You are our ultimate work of art because you are a dazzling and marvelous creature that puts up with us in our most tortured moments as an artist. As much as we love our work, we don’t love our work the way the Greek sculptor Pygmalion loved his work. In the end, we crave intimacy; we crave something that can love us back and our art cannot love us back.
Of course, I am mostly speaking from my own feelings as an artist. But I think the main takeaway that most artists would agree with me on is the idea that loving an artist, while exciting and intoxicating, is not easy. In order to be happy with an artist, you must not be afraid to explore the tangled and unorganized madness of their mind, heart, and soul that will never be neat and resolved. You must not be afraid to understand the source of their inspiration and you must not run the other way at the first sight of the lurking monsters and ghosts that hide in their pasts. For once, we want someone to not be afraid of us and all of our undetermined issues. We want someone to support us in our efforts to vaporize the bad and to indulge in the good.
While I think these are the hard hitting points of loving an artist, we creative souls also appreciate the little things in life. One way to appease my own artistic spirit: coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. It’s the pick me up I look forward to in the morning to start my creative process along with a kick ass pair of headphones that can fuel my ears with the inspiration of other artists. To me, listening to good lyrics is like walking into a room full of other artists and going, “Wo, how did you know that’s what I was feeling? Thank you. I really needed to know that someone knew how I was feeling today.” Listening to music is also like reading a good book that touches your soul in ways that regular conversations can’t. When you turn the last page of the novel, you usually still ponder the story line and the characters for several days after. This is when I usually feel inspired to work on my own novel, as if the author has unofficially challenged me to write something of equal status or better. The reason why people love artists is the fact that they can create things that are relatable. And at the end of a hard day on this abused and withered Earth, all people want is someone or something to relate to and to connect to.
It is easy to get along with a bunch of artists if you are an artist yourself. It’s easy to talk to them, laugh with them, cry with them, and to create with them because they know how hard being an artist is and vice versa. They know how hard it is to create something from scratch and how hard it is to work up a following and an audience that is invested in your art both emotionally and financially. They know how difficult it feels when you don’t always get the validation for your art that you constantly seek out. But sometimes the universe puts us in the arms of someone unknowing of an artist’s ways and trusts that they will figure out the labyrinth of both their mind and heart. And I am here to tell you to have courage, patience, and the ability to open both your ears and your heart to someone who was born to create, invent, and love in ways that are exhilarating and indescribable. Understand them with all of your mind and love them with all of your heart. I promise you that they will likely do the same.