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.
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