Can your art business survive divorce?

This falls under the subheading “And now for something completely new.” Last week I received this distressing message.

I have had a strong and active career and now up against the greatest challenge of my artistic life:  divorce.

This has caused and is causing multiple career changes and life losses on multiple fronts. Many changes are taking place that are out of my control. As an artist and primary care giver/daddy-mom, I am in shock, pain and force to face many changes that will shift my whole art career that I have built from scratch the last twenty years. This means the loss of my beautiful studio, putting my studio and art life into storage, and to completely rethink and reframe my life as and artist/father. This also means less time for art, due to having to co-parent and juggle more, as well as loss of my home, and 50% time with children. The stress, anxiety and depression are extremely difficult. I’m trying to remain composed and positive.

I need tools and resources for survival. What do you suggest? What are tools and resources for artists going thru divorce? What do other artists do in this situation? What are practical financial, emotional, physical, mental, artistic, and career coping mechanisms? I would appreciate any advice you can offer.

I sent out an S.O.S. on Twitter. A couple of wise people took me up on my plea to help this gentleman.

S.L. Donaldson Wrote In With This Advice

Whatever you do, DON’T let it stop you from creating art. Divorce can completely cripple your creativity, because whether you are the one initiating the divorce, the one being divorced, or even if it’s mutual, divorce is draining in so many ways. It doesn’t matter if it’s amicable or the next World War. It is often tough to find the time, money, or strength. You may have all kinds of feelings welling up inside such as anger and resentment, heck, maybe even joy ;-). Well, it may sound like a no-brainer, but just be sure to channel all that emotion in a productive way. If you are not able to do so out of personal motivation, then make sure to have emotionally and artistically supportive people around you. And I’m not talking about the kind of ‘support’ that implies spending (read “wasting”) time verbally bashing the ex, but rather helps you direct that energy at canvas, paper, or clay.

Betty Ann McKinney

Betty Ann McKinney, Pilot Mountain School. Watercolor, 10 x 16 inches. ©The Artist

Betty Ann McKinney sent these 5 Tips for Artists Going Down a Hard Road

Artist can be emotionally sensitive people. When life turns rough they tend to panic and worry about how to handle the stress of the events. Here are a few tips from an artist who has been though divorce and is now a full time caregiver. She also feels that now is the best time of her life, even with the hardships she has lived in.

1. Take care of yourself! You cannot care for your children or parents if you are not caring for yourself first. Healthy diet, regular exercise and a strong support group are needed. Join a singles group at a Church or community center. Twitter with other artist and follow artist you admire on face book or their blog.

2. Use any free services available–like libraries. Your local library can order any books they don’t have on their shelves through interlibrary loan. Check out books on finance management, coping with the loss of a spouse, and at least one book that will make you laugh. Humor and being around other interesting people help fight the demons of depression.

3. Your art is your best asset in trying times. If you do not have a fancy studio, do not give up. Join 85% of the artists in the U.S. who do not have a studio and work where you can. Find a spot to create, maybe a garage, basement, attic, or–like me–a corner in the hallway. But do not stop making art. The act of creating shakes off the pain in your heart. I once made a divorce collage! Use this time to grow personally and creatively.

4. Sign up for a course in any art you have always wanted to learn more about. If you can afford it, take private lessons from an artist you admire–even if it’s only for an hour or two a week. Sadly, one day your parents will be gone and your children will have lives of their own. When this happens, you will look back on these days and be glad you used them wisely.

5. You cannot control the bad things that happen to you. But you can control how you react to them. Do not waste your time wallowing in anger, self-pity, or depression. Fight that battle every day until you win. Your career and your future depends on your victory. The harder you fight, the happier you will be. If you invoke the patience to work through this part of your journey, you will come out on the winning side. Nothing can take away your love for creating, so give it time and your art will be a major contribution to your healing.

Thanks, Stephanie and Betty!

Does anyone else have any resources they can share? Anyone heard of an “Artists dealing with divorce” virtual group?

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12 comments to Can your art business survive divorce?

  • I once offered to write a column for an art mag where artists facing various difficult issues in their lives could write in for help and suggestions. It was not taken up by the magazine unfortunately. I think there are far more challenges for artists to handle than get fully addressed anywhere. I hope there is a virtual group such as you mention, and if not, that someone starts one.

    I can tell you that doing some art (I say some because it wasn’t much in the beginning) was one of the key things that ‘saved’ me. Divorce hits right at the creative heart of a person and it takes a Herculean effort to refuse to quit. I taught some senior classes at that time and doing the art demonstrations for the students was my first ‘new’ art. I started to realize that through my new art, I was not dead and I did have a future, a real future that I could create in oh so many ways. It was and is never simple to come through such things and I don’t want to sound as tho it is.
    But when I started doing more and more artwork, I remember thinking ‘He’s never seen this and never will’….it was a tangible proof to myself that I could create without him in my life. I was capable of rebuilding and restoring my life myself. I also came to the thought “It’s my life and I’m not letting anyone else’s actions ruin it”. So in that way I took my power back and started forward on a journey that is now fully in tact once again and BETTER! WAY BETTER!

  • Divorce is like death. Whether amicable or not, it changes your life. Allow yourself time to heal. Find ways to keep your artistic side alive. You may need time to grieve. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Your creativity may lessen a bit or even disappear for a while. Give yourself time and your artist inside will come alive again. You will make it through this difficult time and you will be a better artist because you survived. It can be a long process, but it will be worth it because you are worth it.

  • Mister, you have got to get moving! Two things that come to mind are primarily works done by women, but I think they may have something to offer your. Watch the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” and read the book “Eat Pray Love.” You must look at this divorce as a bump in the road and an opportunity to redesign your life. You will get through this, there will be better days… even better than you can imagine. Please don’t get stuck in anger, resentment, and/or the need to control. If creativity is a path to self discovery, why not divorce? Good luck and know others are wishing you the best!

  • kat

    I am a divorced mom of 2 teenagers. I have them 24/7 year round. I also have a day job. When your kids are doing their homework that’s the time to create…even if it’s an hour in between dinner, dishes and walking the dog, it is too important to me not to do it. My studio is my drafting table in the corner of my living room in a very small house.You can find the balance and inspiration too after you’ve given yourself some time to heal and adjust to your new life.

    good luck…you can do it!!

  • We had to sell our home and are now living in an RV traveling across the country looking for a less expensive place to live. My husband said I should wait till we get another place to live and then start making things in clay again. At first I got library books and wrote in my journal, but I just couldn’t stay away from clay. Luckily I packed my whole studio up in my car and am now using stuff out of there in my RV and stacking clay everywhere; going to pottery studios and paying to have my work fired along the way. I am so glad I didn’t store everything. I realize I need clay more than anything and I suspect this artist who is going through a divorce will find he will feel the same way. It also forces me to be more creative working a small space, so please don’t put everything in storage and keep working in your art you will be much happier, make sure you take time for yourself and to squeeze in your art no matter what.

  • I agree with Betty Ann McKinney on Point #3.
    Art is your best asset in times of uncertainty.
    Remember, adversity is the very thing that drove most of us to a life of creativity. So let your art be your comfort. Your studio, your solace.

  • When I first separated then divorced I felt my universe had collapsed into a black hole! My creative spirit was the eye of the storm. Without it I don’t know what would have transpired. Sometimes I think it hits us creative types the hardest. Thank the universe there wasn’t a bottle of absinthe around!

  • You might try going to Divorce Recovery Class by Bruce Fischer most cities give this class.
    Just a word of encouragement, I created many new works while going through my divorce all inspired by my emotions. Every time I reached a new milestone I painted about that moment of clarity and growth.
    Moving to a new studio was weird at first, but now is a wonderful place. It takes time. My advice is don’t rush it. Keep moving in the direction of your art and it will come.

  • Esther

    My advice is : Behind every cloud, there’s always a silver linning. Don’t give up your creativity. Think of out there are people who is willing to give you support and encouragement. The loss may be just another way to remind you to better yourself. God bless you.

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  • Here is a question: My soon to be ex says that I have to pay him for his half of my art.
    Is that so?

    • What is “his half”? You mean the 50% of what he gets in a divorce?
      You would have to talk with your attorney about that, Gail. I’m sure laws differ in every state.