A Guide To Loving An Artist

Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name Elizabeth Rose. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.

To love and emotionally support an artist, first, you must know what you are dealing with.

The late psychologist Frank X. Barron and psychology professor Donald MacKinnon found that the average writer was in the top 15% of the general population on the spectrum of psychopathology. Yep, a little psycho.

On the other hand, the writers scored equally high on psychological health—a little psycho yet mentally stable.

They discovered that artists are more open to self-analysis, which ultimately guides them to become more grounded and self-aware. Dr. Barron once said the highly creative person is “both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner than the average person.” I was relieved to learn that I am not exceedingly neurotic but just the right amount neurotic.

Below are a few suggestions on ways to care for the artist in your life – Partner tested. Artist-approved.

A Guide To Loving An Artist

1. Compliment

Deep down inside, artists are frightened little kittens, mewing and trembling in a corner. At the same time, artists have hearts of lions, brave to bare their souls on a page, a stage, in a photograph, song, textile, meal, etc., and put it on display for others to judge.

This type of vulnerability begets insecurity, so compliment your artist on their work, ideas, or how they look – appearance is an extension of their creative expression, after all – as much as possible. In other words, build them up. Think positive affirmations as foreplay: Make them feel good; they’ll make you feel good. Compliment them in front of other people, and they’ll make you feel even better.

2. Listen

Since you are most likely the first person with whom they will discuss their art, just listen. Talking out loud is a way for them to make sense of their thoughts. But when your artist asks, “What do you think?” share honestly yet constructively. Your artist loves you like a lover and a Muse. They ask because they truly want your opinion and respect your point of view.

Be gentle. Be kind.

3. Engage

Ask how projects are going. An artist’s work comes from the depths of innermost self (After all, you can’t spell “heart” without “art”) so showing interest in their work is another way to communicate, “I care about you, and I love you.”

4. Alone Time

Artists must step back into the shadows and be alone. Time to sit with thoughts, materials, and recently learned information to see how it all fits together for a future project. Or they need time to decompress.

An artist is constantly triggered and inspired by sights, sounds, people, food, you name it, and for this reason, art and life are one of the same and cannot be compartmentalized. They can’t clock out and clock in the next morning.

Being an artist is a twenty-four-hour thing.

This is why time alone is essential and can be found (but not limited to) at home, among a crowd, in nature, or any cafe possessing high-speed internet.

5. Community

Besides money (let’s be honest), what an artist really needs is the company of other artists. It is therapy as much as it is essential to learn new skills, forge collaborations, and, most of all, evoke inspiration with people who speak a similar language. Artists create to be heard, to connect, and to realize they are not alone.

Taking your artist to (or notifying them of) an art walk, a gallery opening, or a live performance is a simple way to woo the one you love.

6. Believe

Artists are passionate people, and since you are their chosen person, they are passionate about you. They believe in your dreams and need you to return the gesture. Show your faith by gifting a certificate to an art store, a new thumb drive to save files, writing a love note, picking flowers to place near their workstation, or making a snack while they work.

More than anything, simply believing your artist can actualize their dreams is more valuable than any tangible gift could ever be. A good hand massage – with oil, rubbing the meaty parts of the palm and slowly graduating to the tip of each finger – is a close second.

What’s your take? What advice would you give on loving an artist? Please share in the comments below! 

If you liked this, you’d love the story that inspired the How-To Love An Artist here!

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  1. I wish someone had suggested this to me earlier in my life. I live with an immensely talented partner and some of the things discussed above make perfect sense for me now.

    Thank you so much for this amazing write up.



    • Tasaduq, thank you for your comment! It really means so much to hear the perspective from an artist’s partner that you found this valuable and applicable. The fact that you even searched form this topic shows your love. Your partner is lucky to have you. 🙂

      If you’re open to sharing, I’d love to learn your thoughts on how artists can be more present and open for their partners. What’s something that comes to mind that would have helped you when you first started dating?

    • Hey Katie Marie! That’s kinda amazing and you’re right! That would fit perfectly! (Insert crying laughing emoji here.) Nice to know there are other psychos out there. Thanks for reading and sharing your artistic thoughts! 🙂 xo