Monday, April 05, 2010

myth of the lone artist

This is my last installment on five things that I think artists need in order to run a successful art-based business. If you haven't read the five things yet, read them right here. Today I'm writing about point #4: the importance of building a support network of colleagues.

My friends love to laugh at me when I say that deep down, I'm kinda shy. When I was a kid, I could only manage one friend at a time, and that didn't change until I became a teenager and more comfortable with myself in groups of people. What I discovered as a teenager is that having good friends who are going through what you are going through can get you through anything, including being a teenager.

A lot of people rely on their families for support-- spouse, siblings, parents-- and I think families are good for a certain kind of support, the unconditional "you-are-so-talented-everything-you-make-is-beautiful" kind. And that's great, we all need some of that. But colleagues who share your field understand on a deeper level what you are experiencing, and can give you more specific support. This is essential in order to not lose your freaking mind when you are trying to run your art-based business.

Forget the myth of the lone artist. The truth is, we all need lots of support from various sources on a steady and ongoing basis. Every artist should have a go-to person for:
That's just the beginning. All of the issues above are problems you have probably already had and will have again. My husband will usually offer a hug, and when things are really bad, a stiff cocktail. He's like a general practitioner. My colleagues, however, are specialists. They usually know exactly what remedy is needed. And talking to someone who knows exactly what you are going through is a huge comfort. Most things cannot be solved instantly, but being put back on the right path can bring much needed relief from the nasty voices in your head, telling you what a screw-up and failure you are.

If you don't have a network in place already, get it in place. When I moved to the Bay Area, I started an art group of people who wanted to become professional artists, and I made great connections that way. If a shy person like me can do that, you can too.


  1. Good article Whitney. I agree with what you say concerning having a network in place.

    Several years ago I became a member of an art guild in my area for just that reason.

    I found going to meetings and hearing from other artists that were faced with similar problems ( and how they overcame them) was a comfort.

  2. You are so right Whitney. 3 of us independent artists started meeting regularly for coffee to vent, share, grinch etc. there are now over 20 artists who join our regular informal "Art Coffee" gatherings. After one of our "Art Coffee" get togethers we all feel refreshed, re-inspired and are comforted in knowing that there are other artists out there experiencing similar situations and don't feel so isolated. We've started an e-mail list for better support, networking and sharing and all agree it's better and cheaper than therapy!!

  3. Couldn't agree more. I am going to be moving soon and will be leaving my local network behind! One of the first things I plan to do when I move is to reestablish a new one and make use of my cyberspace one as best I can until I do.

  4. Great advice! It's way better to make friends with other artists as opposed to thinking of them as your 'competition'. Be happy for them when they are doing well, and they will be thrilled for you when you have your moments! And yes, in your moments of frustration, their similar stories will carry you through and keep you going!

  5. I think this is fantastic advice for everyone, whether making a living through art or just trying to find their voice. I struggle to find people on the same wave length as me when it comes to clay. I think I live in the wrong country! But you bloggers are great! I love your comment about family!

  6. Bless you for writing these articles!

  7. This is such a great article! Now I'm wondering how I can find this kind of support system. You've really motivated me to find a way to insert myself in an artist community. Thanks! Your advice is invaluable.

  8. Hi Whitney :)
    This post inspired me to make contact with a cool pottery gal I met a couple years ago. She's very into Raku now and has invited me to join her firing group. Pretty cool. Thanks!

  9. Hi Whitney - just came across your blog today, and I love this post - it is so true! I live in LA and am working on building a network. Just started a a blog as well, we'll see how that goes. (

    Thanks for the inspiring post!