Have You Lost Friendships Because You Are An Artist? (Curious Monday)

Living the life as an artist is hard enough, but it’s made harder when those we’re close to don’t support us.

We need people around us who can support us emotionally – people who believe in our message to the world. It really stinks when friends and family don’t believe in our goals.

Have you lost friendships because people couldn’t support your life as an artist?

Painting of 3 women by Pam Beer

©Pamela K. Beer, Riverside. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 inches. Used with permission.

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About Curious Monday

Curious Monday is a weekly question that is sent only to subscribers.

I’m curious about how you live your life as an artist, how you juggle the demands on your time, and what you’re thinking about.

I hope you’ll read the responses from other artists. Maybe you’ll get some ideas or even feel a little more connected as a result.

Feel free to leave suggestions for future Curious Monday questions in a comment.

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92 comments to Have You Lost Friendships Because You Are An Artist? (Curious Monday)

  • I have learned to watch what I say when it comes to talking about choosing art as a career path with certain people. It seems to be a hair-trigger subject. It’s astounding to me how many people have issues with their own creativity, and, more specifically, the life choices they’ve made as a result. I’ve come to realize that when they see “YOU can’t do that”, what they really mean is “*I* can’t do that”, or “I’m not brave enough to do that”.

  • Candace Faber

    What an interesting question! I realize that in all my years as an artist-designer most of my friendships had little to do with art although some were made through the profession, the friendship did not deal with art especially. The art friends I was especially close to are from college days. Now in my old age I wish I had a group of artists to drink wine with in cafés and argue. But we are all concerned about our health and don’t drink much.

  • Thanks, everyone, for sharing your stories.
    I’ve lost a friend and a sister since becoming an artist. Re the “friend” (and I use that word advisedly), at the end, she insisted that I mentor and teach her the business of art (for free, of course) as she perceived that I was more successful than she. I resisted because not only do I not know anything about mentoring but because mentoring involved me buying myself an expensive lunch once a week at one of the few places at which she would eat. When I finally called her to say I wasn’t ever going to do this and to recommend a professional (you, Alyson as well as some other local folks), she seemed to take it well. But she’s never responded to any of my emails so I’m thinkin’ she didn’t take “no” as well as she initially seemed to.
    The situation with my sister is more complex but let’s just say that we had a much better relationship when I was in the middle of my divorce. Now that I’ve met and married the man of my dreams and am nearly as successful at my second career (art) as I was at my first (law), our relationship has disintegrated.
    It’s sad but sometimes relationships just have a lifespan. We can and must mourn the losses while moving on.
    Art in general has been wonderful for new friendships and supportive, nurturing relationships. The lack of competition is a refreshing change from my first career.

  • This actually hit a nerve. I’ve not just lost friends, but family: a few members of my husband’s family. One — his cousin’s husband — told me a few years ago that he was “jealous” of my “hobby.” And my husband’s cousin told me, when her husband told me that I should create art “like that” (pointing to a realistic piece), that she “didn’t know who [I thought I] was, but that [I] was no Picasso.” (I paint in an abstract tradition and didn’t have the heart to explain the difference to this misguided woman).

    My solution was to simply not argue with these folks, to turn the other cheek and to move on, effectively ignoring them. We need, as artists, to nurture ourselves and to focus on what prompts the art. It’s unfortunate that these folks walk amongst us and that we lose former friends or, in my case, extended family. I would’ve hoped that my family and friends would support me. But if they can’t, so be it. Frankly, I’d rather make what I have to, what can’t be expressed in any other way but this.

  • Love these comments and the format !! It hits close to home, (and heart) that it seems we as artist are different soulful beings and personalities than “regular folk” . It seems the more I refuse to offend my soul by saying, doing and being anything other than who I am, an artist, the more I feel like an alien living in a strange land. My difficulty comes not with losing friends, which has happened, but with carefully vetting both artist and “regular folk” to find the rare few who are gentle, kind, supportive, trustworthy, loving and generously and honestly giving. Even if it’s giving suggestions and/or giving advice for improvements rendered delicately with our best interest at heart. Yes, because we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our exposed soft underbellies by constantly putting out there creations made with slices of our soul for all to see, it would be nice to be surrounded with “yes” people, but that’s not conducive to growth and improvement. I know feedback is important and necessary so if I must endure it i will work hard to pick friends who will administer the needed honest truth in the least painful and most caring way. I will “pick my poison” if you will. I can’t speak for other artist but know that I have a short emotional bandwidth so managing these relationships and resulting interactions is critical for me to have enough emotional bandwidth left to plan, work, create art and build my art career. Otherwise, the emotional, artistic and physical energy drain wrecks havoc for way too long before I can fully recover and get back to my best place. I’ve repeatedly heard establishing healthy boundaries and taking care of ourselves in these discussions, which, in my estimation, is also a huge and important part of building our successful art career. And I wish you all the best of luck doing so.

  • I imagine we all have.

    I wrote several paragraphs then deleted them.

    We all have stories that are a mixture of loss and gain.

    Dang, I deleted them again.

    But it was good to write it out and see it in black and blue. It was also good to delete them. I love these. End of school year activities and shift into summer schedules has me behind on email. I am catching up and will be maintaining by Monday.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share and move forward.

  • Susan Troy

    I can’t say I have lost friends by becoming an artist, but I have certainly made a lot of new ones.
    Being an artist can be lonely and I think you have to first accept the fact that you may not get all the support you want from your family. I found it really hard at first to say I was an artist, but then I got used to it.

    Oddly, the more I work in art, my kids and husband are beginning to get interested in what I do. And, I think, respect it. But it hasn’t been easy and sometimes I envy people who have really strong support from their spouses. It seems like it might make this journey a bit easier…

  • Kate Stockman

    I can’t think of LOSING any friends b/c I am an artist, but I know I have MADE plenty of friendships b/c of it! My artist friends (those I have met personally and those I have yet to meet in person) are very important to me and inspire and encourage me all the time. And, honestly, if any of my friends can’t handle me being “half-a-bubble-off-center” (as my woodworker husband fondly says of me), then they aren’t my friends. Period. I don’t have time to mess around with relationships. I cherish my “sistahs” and friends and am blessed to have more of them than I can keep up with on a regular basis. But when we connect, we are right there, relishing and enjoying and “what if-ing” each other, wondering why it’s always so long between our conversations, etc. I consider myself lucky, indeed!

    • Honey Lea

      “Half a bubble off-center”. What a terrific description of those of us that just don’t quite fit! Thanks for sharing that.

  • Andrew

    Quite the opposite in fact.

    I made the mistake of thinking I would lose friends and family so I pursued a degree and a “career” path that was a REAL job and tried my best to ignore the beck and call of art. When I could no longer deny the pull back into art, I found a wealth of friendships, and the familial disappointment wasn’t there. The only disappointment was mine.

  • Great question, Alyson! I have dear friendships with other artists, although have experienced difficulties with several family members because of my own drive to make art AND to have a business. It seems that people are either very interested and supportive, or they are dismissive. I spend a lot of time caring for my mother, who has poor health. She sees my art-making and business as time taken away from my attention on her, so it’s a constant struggle to keep some sort of boundaries, even though I have help with caregivers and see her 4-5 times a week. This has been going on for years. My half-sister says that her goal in life is to have fun, with socializing and golf, and that I’m working too hard and that I need to “have more fun”. And I admit to getting irritated by the constant comparison, which is, naturally, my own issue. I would like to say that her idea of fun sounds soul-crushing to me, but I don’t because I know that we’re wired differently, and that’s okay and as it should be. I guess the difficulty comes from the feeling of needing to explain myself. Why do artists have to explain themselves? I know the answer is, you don’t. Gloria Clifford’s response above, about sometimes being highly misunderstood so resonates with me.

  • Orla

    I choose not to look at it as loosing friends….. but more connecting with and spending your time with people who get you and support you, and that tends to be other creative people.

    Artists in all the areas of the Arts really need the support of good positive fellow Artist friends. As I’m sure Medical Doctors need the support of fellow MDs – we all need support from our tribes whoever there are :o)

  • I haven’t lost any friends (that I know of) but it has caused some stress between me and my spouse. She sees what I do and has taken some introductory classes through local artists here (drawing & watercolour) and keeps asking for feedback and advice. She used to paint in high school. It feels more like teaching, which I have never wanted to do and with her esteem, she is requiring lots of encouragement. It all pushes my boundary buttons and takes away from my art.

    Boundaries and patience are what I need to learn. She needs to learn it has taken me 20 years to get to this level of craftsmanship.

  • I have found that when I say I am an artist, people usually are really interested in what I do, what kind of work, what medium, when I say encaustic painter, that opens a whole realm of discussion that leads to me showing them photos of my work.

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