Art and the Truth… Truth and the Art
They go hand in hand in ways that I was not as prepared for as I originally thought.
Finally Admitting it is Your Job – Artist, Creative, Maker
There is something odd that happens when you start to tell people that you are an artist… their perception of you changes – immediately.
It can be for the good…
- “Oh, what a great free spirit you must be.”
- “I wish I was creative – I envy you.”
It can be indifferent…
- “Cool. I’m a child psychologist.”
It can also be a bit, well, rude…
- “So, you’re a hippy dippy. Did you shower this morning? Do you shave?”
- “Oh. It must be hard on your kids having a mom that is, well, like you…”
I can go on and on, but I won’t. Those of you that are my fellow artists, creatives, and makers, you know the routine. This is not mind-blowing or Earth-shattering. This is the norm.
This is not something that has been difficult for me to deal with. I have always been a bit of an odd duck, so finally owning up to it was just a moment of truth, rather than me hiding behind other words/jobs… It is honest and the responses are exactly what I would expect and I move on.
Their responses are also honest to who they are – and that is okay too. We all have perceptions of what a person’s occupation says about them. I knew what I was doing the day I put “artist” on my bio and business card, the same way that they did the day that they added “PhD” or “Lawyer” to theirs.
While this is a truth that I am currently dealing with, it hasn’t thrown me for the loop that working with friends has.
There is a different kind of “truth” that comes from friends that want to “help” you.
The “Helpful” Friend
We all have them. The well-meaning helpful friend who has a great blog/store/connection that wants to help us out. They are all well and good in their intentions, but their honesty and truth sometimes are, well, suspect at best.
- “I love this piece – I cannot WAIT to include on my website to sell for you. However, the price is really high for something that small. Can you lower to a more sales-friendly price?”
- “This will look great in my store – thank you so much! Just one thing – this part right here, where there is that “mark” – can you paint over that? It looks, well, odd…”
- “Ya know, if you would make it more, well, trendy, then I am sure it would sell better. What about using chevron somewhere…”
- “Let’s partner up on some projects – I really want to have you on my blog and at my event to do (insert X,Y, and Z). Just so you know, however, you have to only use these specific products (again – insert) and I want to make sure that it hits my demographic, so we need to totally change it from what you would normally do.”
- “Yeah. It’s great. Thanks.” (total lackluster expression and a month or two later you magically have the item(s) back in your possession with no real explanation as to why.
Don’t get me wrong, their intentions are good. They want to help you make money, sell your art, promote you. The problem is that they are asking you to change who you are, what you do, and your artistic expression to fit their mold.
This is the harsh truth that no one talks about.
We are all prepared for the nasty critics who think our work is crappy, trite, overdone, underdone, amateur, expected, etc…
We are never prepared for the friends willing to help us asking us to compromise on the foundation of our art.
This can get especially tricky if you evolve as an artist and you have established a good working relationship with a friend based off of previous success.
How do you navigate this?
Art and the Truth. Truth and the Art.
This is where truth is our best answer. I am learning that being honest with each other is the best way to go. As cliche as it sounds, it’s business – it’s not personal.
You have to do what you need to in order to be the artist you are meant to be. You have to be true to yourself, to your art, and to your path.
While it is great to have friends help you along the way, sometimes it just doesn’t work. That doesn’t mean you are breaking up the friendship, it just means that you have to fix the working aspect of things so that it is mutually beneficial. If it isn’t a fit, it isn’t a fit. No worries. Let’s just be real with each other – I think that is the least we can do for each other in this day and age.
I don’t want friends sitting on pieces that they can’t sell because it doesn’t fit their customers or clientele. I would also, therefor, expect them to respect my art for what it is and not ask me to compromise on that.
When it works out, awesome. When it doesn’t, no worries.
All I ask is that you are honest about my work as it is – right here, right now. Don’t ask for changes, don’t lie about what is or isn’t selling, or tell me that we have to work with specific vendors only. Just be honest with me.
You will not hurt my feelings.
The lying and the silence hurts more – trust me. That damages relationships. Honesty, kind and well placed honesty that is, can keep the relationship on track. Use it.
Have respect for each other, the truth, and the art – then, and only then, will it all work.
That is all I can ask for. The truth.