The Painter's Keys~ your primary relationship

Dear Izabella,

Practically every day artists write to let me in on the inner nuances of their personal relationships. Some write with praise--others complain about how things have turned out. Some ask me to suggest something. This is a considerable responsibility--like trying to crit an unseen painting over the phone. Apart from the few who have no close relationships, the people who send these incoming emails often describe one of five types of significant others:

Discouraging, negative or openly hostile
Disinterested, ignorant or mildly oblivious
Amused, tolerant, neutral or patronizing
Encouraging, positive or enthusiastic
Overwhelmingly supportive and totally involved

Funny, artists with partners (or parents) at either end of this spectrum can be complainers. A lot of problems relate to different personality types--introverts versus extroverts, practical versus impractical, or highly sensitive persons living with beer-drinking jocks. "My wife," wrote J.M., "golfs, jogs, frisbees and goes to bars. The only thing she cares about is that the goose keeps laying the golden eggs. I'm the goose." There's a bit of resentment out there. Also writing are artists who welcome the chasm between themselves and their others--perhaps a ploy to get some creative time to themselves.

In art as in life, relationship difficulties can be turned into convenient scapegoats for perceived failure. Whether in a state of true love or not, an artist has to realize that when push comes to shove, most of us are pretty much on our own. Art is generally not a group activity, nor does art always profit from the input of a close being. On the other hand, I get good reports from broader-based divisions of labour such as the creator-distributor duo where she paints and he talks. Or where he writes and she edits, she carves and he ships, or he weaves and he embroiders.

It may take considerable effort, empathy and fine tuning to balance a life in art with a relationship--to my knowledge there's no weekend workshop. Living internally and working for the love of it makes us a unique study. And while we can be difficult for many folks to understand, it's not their fault. We have chosen to be this way, but we are not chosen people. There are no chosen people. Sometimes it may be okay to golf.

Best regards,


PS: "What great artist?" (Reportedly said by Nora Barnacle, the wife of James Joyce, to a journalist who knocked on their door in 1932 and asked, "Is the great artist at home?")

Esoterica: Several recent letters have described an ideal partner as being "self-amusing," or "having their own itinerary." This may be all the support some artists need. Their partners may intuitively understand the fragility of the muse and the potential pitfalls in an individualistic, ego-based effort. I'm not going to make a case for this because, as I've grown older, I've come to appreciate the value and the joy of true connectivity and creative like-mindedness. But there is still something to be said for just being left alone.

My note...my primary relationship~ my answer from above statement would be.....the first 2.....

~Discouraging, negative or openly hostile
~Disinterested, ignorant or midly oblivious

How about you!?


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