Art Frenemies

Perspective is everything.

Lately I’ve been pondering the relationships artists have with other artists.

I think in some ways, there’s this mistaken dream that artists all gather collectively the way we imagine it was done in 1920′s Paris; a utopia of sorts for artists to mingle, support, and commiserate with each other.

A scene from the movie Midnight in Paris:

Gil: I would like you to read my novel and get your opinion.
Ernest Hemingway: I hate it.
Gil: You haven’t even read it yet.
Ernest Hemingway: If it’s bad, I’ll hate it. If it’s good, then I’ll be envious and hate it even more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.

Well put.

Online, I’ve been fortunate to connect with many artists, mostly visual artists, but artists of other genres as well. Perhaps it’s the distance between us, the safe barrier of computer screens shielding us from the snickering, eye-rolling, and snide comments we’ve experienced in real life. Maybe it’s the sense that we share a common bond, not only of marketing ourselves as a business online, but also a common lack of artist-to-artist relationships in the real world.

Or, maybe we just have a wider audience in which to find people we truly click with.

In real life, at least for me personally, I find an odd, awkward distance in communication between myself and other artists. For whatever reason, conveniently, my real-life artist friends are the least likely to comment on my Facebook updates, acknowledge anything about my life, or ask how I’m doing when they see me.

Occasionally it’s been downright antagonistic. One artist friend actually broke up with me over it. She would say, of course, that there were other reasons, but the increase in eye-rolling, snideness, and inability to be near me that began the moment I announced my first art show was rather obvious. My favorite was the ongoing insinuation that because I hadn’t been to art school, I was practicing art without a license.

Why do we find it hard to be happy for our friends? Something good happens for another and we’re struck with scarcity complex, convincing ourselves that our friend is just luckier than we are, or that some magic fairy dust landed upon them that didn’t hit us. I’ve had to check myself on many occasions and remember that there’s plenty of success to go around even if I lost out on a single opportunity. We each have examples in our lives of someone we feel is living an “ideal” situation, and that person has their own example of the same thing. It always feels different inside our own heads.

Oh, resentment, the poison we drink in hopes that the other person dies. And for what? To prove that we aren’t lacking? Because we would rather the people we care about weren’t successful for fear of them making us look bad?

I want to be surrounded by people who are all doing their own thing, passionately, who are happy for others’ success because they honestly aren’t competing with anyone. True artists don’t compete because they would be doing their art regardless of what was happening around them. They would be artists in a wealthy castle, and they would be artists marooned on an island. If we’re not happy for our friends’ achievements it’s because we’re not content with ourselves. In my dream world, we’re all confident in what we’re each doing, regardless of how we compare to one another. Success is an individual achievement and means something different to everyone. If other people achieve their dreams, great. That means it’s possible for all of us.

It’s our own individual job to find it, and fight for it, rather than fighting with each other. I want a close-knit community in which we’re all made more successful by knowing each other, networking where we can, rising up together, and creating that utopia of artistic fellowship that doesn’t exist otherwise. If we work together, we grow together. If we fight each other for the top position, we fail. We all fail.

Perspective is everything.

Written by Shayla Maddox for Art & Musings

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About ShaylaMaddox

I paint, and travel, and absorb the universe. And then I paint about those things. My work is a blend of science, Zen style, and Sacred Geometry. I am inspired by stars, moons, sunsets, tropical beaches, humidity, coloring books, crayons, glo-worms and lite-brites, the Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade, Jules Verne, The Science Channel, ancient technology and civilizations, the study of the universe, spirituality, stained glass windows, sea glass, telescopes, down-tempo music, Zen wisdom, rainbows, fireflies, water and light.

14 thoughts on “Art Frenemies

  1. I don’t have many real life friends who are artist. The few I have our styles are extremely different and not too mention our goals as artist. So can’t say whether or not there would be that type of nice nasty love hate relationship if I knew more or not. My online relationships with artist have been positive for the most part. However trying to break into the scene as a new and upcoming lowbrow surreal whimiscal artist I do see clicks within that genre. I don’t even get as much as a thanks when I mention them or retweet their art on twitter. But I have established some wonderful bonds with others so much that I notice when I haven’t scene or heard from them and vice versa. I do wish there was a real life meeting place to gather have coffee and chit chat while working and even collaborating on projects. It does get lonely sometimes…

  2. Shayla,
    I’m Helen.  Welcome!  I loved your article.  You are so
    right.  Some people have a very hard time being joyful for another
    person’s success.  You hit it right on the head.  I would like your
    dream world too.

    Jessica is smart to have you write on Wednesdays.  You are a nice addition and it gives her a day to rest.

    Take care,
    Helen
    Watches by Helen
    Helen’s Light Readings

  3. Competitive? At art? Surely that’s not even possible. :0 That’s like competative praying. The beauty of art is that there’s plenty to go round and the more you encourage the sharing of that success the better off you become. Individuals that are competitive over art are not artists- they’re sellers of paintings. I wish them well but we have nothing in common. C’est la vie.

    Brilliant post. Brilliant points to make.

  4. I definitely notice a positive difference in my relationships with artists who either work in a completely different genre, or who are content with their own careers. Feeling like equals in crucial. :)

  5. Ha! That’s probably the best comparison I’ve ever heard. “Competitive praying.” :D They’re definitely not artists, in fact in my experience, they don’t really do art at all, and are envious of those that do. Some people want to be thought of as artists, but have no interest in creating things. They’re competitive about the title alone. But that’s another blog post. ;)

    Thanks so much!

  6. I just wanted to thank everyone for their replies! I have actually replied to each one individually but for some reason they’re not showing up. (Jessica and I are working on it!) Either way, I have read each one and appreciate all your input!

  7. I definitely notice a positive difference in my relationships with artists who either work in a completely different genre, or who are content with their own careers. Feeling like equals in crucial. 

  8. Ha! That’s probably the best comparison I’ve ever heard. “Competitive praying.”  They’re definitely not artists, in fact in my experience, they don’t really do art at all, and are envious of those that do. Some people want to be thought of as artists, but have no interest in creating things. They’re competitive about the title alone. But that’s another blog post. 
    Thanks so much!

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