5 Tips for When You Love an Artist

Artists—whether they’re writers, painters, singers, sculptors, photographers, directors, or even mimes—can be difficult to love. Now, I’m not saying it’s difficult to fall in love with them. That can actually come pretty easy. What’s difficult is loving them—that is, in the long run.

The problem stems from an artist’s passion. It can be hypnotic, endearing—but it can be difficult to control, and especially difficult to live with, if you’re not prepared. What’s more, artists also tend to respond better to returned or similar levels of passion, so can easily become as entranced as anyone else by another artist.

All of that said, there’re a few, simple strategies you can use to wrangle any artist, whether it’s someone you’re already with or someone you’re hoping to pin down sometime soon, and keep your sanity at the same time.
  1. Realize it’s not just a hobby. This is especially important for those who are with an artist at the very beginning of their career, or before they have established their brand. It’s possible the person you love may be making little to no money on their art (for now), but that’s okay. You should know, and let them know as well if they’re feeling despondent, that if they continue to work on it, continue to perfect it and get it out there, one day they probably will make money.

    Sometimes, for those just settling into their groove, it may take a major shake-up in their career to really push forward. If that’s not something you want to risk from a financial perspective, or something unlikely to happen, it may simply be more helpful to think of their art and their aspirations as a career goal—as I said, it may not be paying the bills just yet, but with work and dedication, that will surely change in time.

    And for artists already on the rise, or already established in their brand identity—you should always be aware that, though others who do exactly what your love does may consider it a hobby, for your artist, it is something more.
  2. Ask about what they’re working on. Generally, artists are creating something they will eventually want the world to see, even if they claim the opposite. That means their current project, and likely the next several already on their mind, is definitely something they’ll (even bashfully) want to talk about.

    So, ask away. Keep in mind, when an artist shares something with a person who’s (even seemingly) genuinely interested, especially when their project isn’t ready for wider consumption yet, it creates more of an unspoken bond than you might realize—after all, you’ve now become their confidante.

    If you’re able to keep your cool, stay genuine, and respect any requests from your artist (such as not telling others about it just yet), they’ll be more likely to open up about their work without prompt in the future, and possibly even further include you in the creative process. You’ll be indispensable.
  3. Encourage them to take time to create. Instead of working on honing or crafting their own projects, artists may at times believe they need to spend as much time as they can with you, or that doing something they know will make you happy will be their best course of action. Granted, that can definitely be a good thing (and you should probably get away from any artist that doesn’t do that from time to time), but you should try to make it a point to kindly remind your love that you’ll be perfectly fine letting them work.

    This has a twofold effect. One, it reminds them you’re not only secure in your relationship, but also independent. Artists need those reminders from time-to-time—they serve as friendly checks and balances in the relationship.

    What more, volunteering to take on a chore or project that may be eating your love’s time will take this to a whole other level. After all, if your artist has a sudden bout of inspiration but feels obliged to walk the dog or put their laundry away, it’s possible that inspiration will be lost and, sadly, replaced with a seed of resentment. This is especially true if they perceive you as not busy.
  4. Be their number one fan. This builds on one of my previous points, but it should go without saying that you should cheer your love’s art on more than anyone else. Yes, even their parents. That isn’t to say you should patronize them (more on that in a moment), but when they do something worthwhile or seem to be heading in the right direction, let them know.

    You should also advocate for them. Tell your friends and coworkers about their art. Look for opportunities they may otherwise miss. Most importantly, appreciate their work yourself. If they wrote a book, read it. If they painted or took a picture, admire it. If they sang a song, listen to it. Ignoring their work or putting it aside in favor of something else is probably the worst thing you can do.

    It’s worth noting that, when your artist notices this interest, this passion for their passion, they’ll be more likely to return it. So, though you may not be the artistic kind, if you’re enthusiastic about your job, your dogs, your whiskey or whatever else—they will immediately become more interested. Once the wheels in their head slow down a bit, of course. That said, there’s one more thing you need to be, as well.
  5. Be their number one critic. This may seem to fly in the face of the previous point, but bear with me. As I mentioned, never, ever pander to an artist—false acclaim and applause will only hurt in the long run. But honest criticism, and especially honest constructive criticism, will only help. That is, if they’re willing to take it. And, if you continually follow the other points above, they definitely will.

    So, when they are doing something wrong or seem to be heading in the wrong direction, let them know. And the sooner, the better.

    Don’t worry if they don’t always take your feedback, though. They might know something you don’t, or have a vision you can’t completely see. The criticism will still be in their head, destined to improve them in the long run. What’s more important about this point is that it enforces the idea of an open dialog and open, honest communication—the building blocks for every long-lasting relationship.
If you following these five basic points—don’t call it a hobby, ask for updates, encourage creativity, and be both their biggest fan and their biggest critic—you and your artist are going to do just fine.

However, I’ve one last point. If, at any time, you feel your artist isn’t giving you the amount of attention you would like, or if you think they’re possibly taking advantage of you—a good sit-down conversation with an open, honest discussion may go a long way. If you didn’t realize it from my point above, conversation is absolutely key. But, if that doesn’t work? If your artist just makes you feel miserable? It may just be time to move on. After all, life is short—keep it happy!