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7 Ways to Care for your Artist

Self-portrait drawing “The Painter and The Buyer” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565

Are patrons of artists a thing of the past? When you hear “patron” you are likely thinking of someone who’s rich and buys art. That’s great! But there are other ways to be a patron to the artist in your life. Read on to learn 7 simple ways to care for “your artist”.  And if YOU’RE an artist, the following is a quick guide on how we can show support to each other. *Remember to share this with family & friends to get them in the know*

Patron, noun: a person who gives support to a person. Synonym: friend, fan, backer, encourager

  • What does your artist really want from you? Your presence. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: art is a solo sport. And naturally, it can get lonely. Especially­ at the times when artists are feeling most vulnerable: at art show openings (specifically their OWN art show openings). If you offer your company to an artist as they go to an art exhibit, museum or lecture (even if you’re not interested in said: art exhibit, museum or lecture) they’ll be eternally grateful.
  • What does your artist need? A cheerleader. My grandpa was my ultimate fan, bragging about me: to me, in front of me, and behind my back. Show your love and support the same way. It’s amazing what someone’s belief in you can enable you to become. Bad news travels fast nowadays; let’s change the tide and be a positive source of news. Social media helps us do this. Via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, etc you can spread the word of an artist’s latest drawing, show, or award. The saying goes “Toot your own horn” but it’ll mean so much more to hear that blast coming from you.
  • What do you do when your artist is hard to get a hold of? Leave a message saying when they’re available to get in touch, and back away. Creative people need time alone. This time allows them to dream and grow. Sometimes they’re working on a project, have a deadline, or are just lost in their own world. Either which way, it’s not personal. Pro Tip: Offering food can help expedite their coming out into public again.
  • What do you do when your artist wants to talk? (And you don’t know anything about art? All the better!) Give them a listening ear. Ask about projects, ideas, goals. Not only will this give you insight into the type of artist they are, but it will help them to see more clearly the type of artist that they want to be. If you prove yourself a trusted listening ear, you’ll most likely be upgraded to “shoulder to cry on”. The art life can have its frustrations. You’ll know you’re a valued member of an artist’s inner circle when you are someone with whom they let off steam.

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. Proverb

  • What does your artist want to hear from you? Honest compliments. Look at their artwork and think of *specific* things you like about it. What if, worst case scenario, you don’t like their art? You can comment on the artist. Example: “I love how focused you are on making your artwork meaningful.” And then ask them to explain their work to you; which will give you reasons to honestly like their work.
  • What shouldn’t you say to your artist? No critiques, ever, ever, ever… *unless asked*. Artwork is an extension of the artist. Because of this, undesired negative comments can feel like personal attacks. Even if you don’t mean them as negative it’ll likely be taken that way. It’s hard enough getting critiques from strangers but when they come from family or friends- artists can understandably be touchy. When your artist asks you for a critique make sure you tread softly, and that your words are constructive.

I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. William Butler Yeats

  • What gift do you give an artist? It’s a holiday, birthday, special occasion- what do you give an artist? A gift card to a local art supply store is a perfect gift. Artists are always in need (or want) of art supplies, so receiving a gift card can feel like receiving a golden ticket! If you don’t have a local art store, an Amazon gift card can allow your artist to buy their supplies online. My loved ones are wonderful patrons of me, knowing my fuel, they gift me with coffee. Another idea, give your artist a book about their favorite artist. Example from my present wish list, Sargent: The Masterworks by Stephanie L. Herdrich. **UPDATE: A very sweet patron of the arts has sent me this wonderful book. I am overwhelmed by this act of kindness and support. Thank you!** 

Yes, artists need patrons who buy art. But they also need the patrons like you, who give their support in other ways too!
If you’re an artist, what’s the best patron-like deed someone has done for you? What is something you wish your non-artist friends knew? Please leave a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. Fantastic advice and suggestions for friends and artists alike. Self-care sometimes seems selfish, and if I don’t stop for it my work suffers. Self-talk can be equally tricky! Be careful what you say to yourself! Love your work! KC

    1. Hi Damian, I am curious about your different flavor. Can you tell us what might be more useful to an artist from their supporters? Thank you, DNY

  2. Thank you for a very thoughtful article. I appreciate your thoughts on crtiquing. I thought I was being over sensitive when people offered criticism. I guess not.

  3. Thank you for the thoughtful suggestions. I find it really insensitive when someone asks me if I have sold anything, or asks me how much money I made during an event. It tends to be the first comment made! I usually respond two ways:
    1) Let’s discuss that later on
    or if I’m feeling really annoyed
    2) why are you asking, is that important to you?

  4. I Loved this article, Kelly. I’m glad to know My feelings about unsolicited critiques are universal among artists .

  5. Thank you for your excellent article Kelly! I will be printing this as a gift for a patron or two…or three. To answer your questions, one thing I would like non-artist friends to know is that my “artist’s brain” works somewhat differently from theirs, and I need to draw and/or paint to feel whole. And, one of the best deeds a “patron” has done for me is something you did! I so appreciate that you included my “subway drawings” and comments in your recent article! I put a whole lot of passion in my drawings and it means the world to me when they are seen and appreciated.