Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It Takes Two (AKA How To Be Married To An Artist)

Christo + Jeanne Claude

Frida Kahlo + Diego Rivera
Georgia O'Keeffe + Alfred Stieglitz
Being married to a creative person isn't easy.   Our emotions tend to run close to the surface, we collect strange objects that we tell our spouses will "one day" come in handy for a project we're sure, and we spend ridiculous amounts of time and energy working on projects until they are just right, only to then turn around and tear the entire thing apart and start over because we just weren't "feeling it." 

We study hard to fine tune our craft and work for months or years on end to get into the public eye, and then once our big moment is upon us are utterly terrified of anyone seeing our work.  

Not only do we need a partner who can encourage us to keep going when the road seems to all but have vanished before us,  we also need someone who can be there to tell us when we are straying off course and losing sight of what is really important.

But mostly we need a partner who pushes us to be better, to take risks, and to dig deeper.

I'm not quite sure my husband knew what he was getting into when we got married.

Sure he thought, "Oh, she's so creative," but I'm pretty sure he thought that would translate as "Oh, she'll have good taste in decorating", or "Free art for the walls, score." Not, "Dear God, it's 3am and she still hasn't gone to bed because she's having a panic over her show and almost threw all the work out the window because she is having last minute doubts about her talent," or, "You want me to do what while you photograph me for your project!?"

But over the years he's adapted and gotten pretty damn good at it.  I mean now he hardly bats an eye when I ask him to photograph me stuffed in an old trunk holding a tiny candle and hiding my face.  Or tied up from head to toe in an old abandoned building.  (Which worked great until the cops showed up because someone had seen us and reported that a man had kidnapped me and tied me up and was photographing me…)

And in that time I've learned a couple things about being a good creative partner from him.


1) A good partner makes you do your own work.

You know back in school when they made you do those terrible group projects and one person always just took over and pretty much did the entire thing while the other people in the group just sat around twiddling their thumbs and throwing paper airplanes at each other?  That's not what we're looking for.  A good partner doesn't just do the work for you, they come along side you, encourage you, but make you do your own god damn work.  Every creative needs to struggle a little in their work, it's what tells us that the work is worth doing.  If it was easy everyone would be making it.  The struggle lets us know we are on the right path.  If your partner comes along and makes the road too easy because they think they are trying to help us, they can really keep us from forming the passion and connection to our work that we can only gain through the struggle.

2) A good partner believes in you 
more than you do in yourself.

The honest truth is that almost 99% of creatives never really feel talented or good at what they do.  Most of us are self-conscious, and constantly doubting our skills and talents.  A good partner can see through all that.  They can see the talent we are afraid to show off, and they can help us see it as well by pushing us towards situations or people that will be able to reflect it back to us.

For example, my husband once sent an anonymous email to a major art publication saying he had come across this great young artist that he thought they should take a look at.  A week later I got an email saying they were going to run a 5 page article on me.

3) A good partner can keep calm 
and problem solve.

During almost every creative project something always goes horribly wrong.  It's just fact.  At that moment, while I'm running around having a panic attack because I think my creative career is ruined and that I'll never work ever again, my husband is quietly sitting in the corner making a plan.  It never fails.  I freak out and he calmly saunters in, breaks down the problem and offers a list of possible solutions that I couldn't see because I was too busy freaking out.

4) A good partner takes you seriously 
when nobody else will.

One of the things I love most about my husband is that he has always taken me and the work I do seriously.  As a creative people we are belittled right and left as we go through life. People say things like, "Do you actually make any money doing that?" or, "You just sit around and play with crayons all day, why don't you go and find a real job?"  A good partner doesn't see your work as frivolous or silly, they can see the importance that it has to you and take it as seriously as you do without jokes or laughter or belittlement.  They would never tell you to go get a "real job," because they know you already have one.

5) A good partner cares more about you 
than about your work.

It's easy to get lost in a project and lose your bearings in life.  You forget to eat, you stop sleeping as much as you should, and bathing becomes very low on your list of things to do.  A project can also consume you to the point that your mood changes, and you start acting like someone you're not.  The project can become so important that nothing else matters.  But a good partner never looses track of you, the you that you are supposed to be.  And they care more about making sure that you are happy and healthy than about the well being of your project.  They can see where passion has stopped and obsession has set in and know when to intervene to keep you safe physically and mentally.

I think I'll keep him :)


  1. Love this, it really touched my heart

  2. I knew from that one weekend at our house when in the morning Joe carried you from the bed into the living room and laid you gently on the sofa that you have to keep this guy because this is a match made in heaven. Joe has qualities you don't find in many men, all good! Yes, keep him!

  3. Thank you! We have been married 40+ years, and it's been the last couple of years we have been fighting over stuff, me and my stuff. I'm sharing this with my husband, you said all the things I have not be able to say..yes I need him and his wisdom, just acknowledge my wisdom as well from time to time. Thanks again.