10 tips to dating an artist

So, it has recently become blatantly obvious to me that my artistic friend end up with the wrong people. Part of it is against the artist for following the bad folks, but it also goes to the people they date. Artists are not the easiest people to be romantically involved with. So, I give you my tips.

1. Know the difference between an artist and an artiste. An artiste is someone who’s gotten caught up in their own BS. They’ll wear you on you arm to show of to their other artiste friends and ignore you. An artist is usually completely shocked you’re there with them and will want you in on all the gossip. They’re good fun.

2. An artist is compelled to be artistic. They don’t need a “mood” to do their work (see artiste). They have to do it. They’ll get sick or stressed or crabby. I, for example, feel like my brain will burst out of my skull and kill someone if I don’t write. Expect it and embrace it.

3. They’re going to ignore you. Because their work compels them, they might disappear for days at a time and re-emerge from their studio covered in paint, ink, dark circles, etc. with a dazed expression on their face. They NEED you to drag them back to reality.

4. LET THEM WORK! They need alone time. Creativity doesn’t come when you’re playing 20 questions. My boyfriend knows when I ask him for some time to myself, he needs to grab the dog and go play in the garage for a bit or he needs to let me go hide for a while. This plays into three a bit.

5. Don’t, don’t, don’t guilt trip them. They do this because they love it and because they want to be successful. YOU are part of this success. They want to take care of you, believe it or not. I want to be a successful writer so I can support myself AND my boyfriend. If they take some time away from the relationship, remind them, kindly, that you want some one on one time. There’s nothing worse about feeling bad about wanting their dreams.

6. Ask them about their work. Artists want their partners to be interested in their work. Watch them as they paint, write, compose, etc. if they’ll let you. My boyfriend has read everything I’ve published, behind my back. It’s adorable and I know he supports me. Now, I send it to him before it goes live. If they tell you that you wouldn’t understand, they’re an artiste. RUN!

7. They’re probably shy. Artists are notoriously the worst judges of their own work. They may try to hide their work from you, explain it away, and make excuses. Don’t let them. Build them up.

8. Be willing to drag them away. Sometimes, they get too obsessed and worked up. They need to have a distraction. Learn when this is appropriate.

9. Get a hobby. You’re gonna have a lot of time by yourself as they get more and more engrossed in their work. If they’re working, find something to entertain yourself while they’re working. Not only that, but an artist appreciates an artistic person. They GET it. Explore.

10. Please, understand if you can’t deal with this. If you have to have attention ALL the time, you’re not artistic, you can’t stand the solitary lifestyles, be willing to step away. Don’t suck away their creativity and don’t make yourself miserable.

I’m sure there are things I’ve missed. Please feel free to add them. This is what I have for right now.


About amandamccarter

I am an aspiring writer. I spend most of my time balancing my work, my personal life and my craft. It is my hope that my craft and my work will one day be the same thing and I can spend more time on my personal life. I live with my boyfriend, my insane fluff ball of a cat, and two snakes. In what little spare time I have, I play video games, read, knit, and help out with the local conventions.
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14 Responses to 10 tips to dating an artist

  1. Naamah says:

    Aww, yeah. As a writer married to a writer — successfully so far, for 15+ years — yeah, true.

    I would add:

    This is sort of a continuation of #4: Work sometimes doesn’t look like work. This is not to say that if they are playing Minesweeper, they are actually Deep In Thought and should not be interrupted. They may be goofing off. But sometimes, what looks like goofing off is actually intense thought, or it’s equally-vital brain-reboot time where they need to Not Be Thinking. Respect it. ASK if they are busy, don’t just assume that they aren’t.

    There’s honesty and there’s tactlessness. “I hate it” is probably not the right thing to say, even if you hate it. You might be able to get away with it if you are an able critic and can articulate — helpfully — exactly why you hate it. If you can do that, however, you are almost certainly articulate and intelligent enough to say “I hate it” without, in fact, saying those words. Some artists LIKE brutal honesty, true. Just as many hate it, and there are a few confusing, frustrating people who say they like it, but don’t (not because they are flaky, but quite possibly because they are TRYING to be okay with it and just aren’t there yet, and maybe never will be). Overall, learn what constructive criticism is, and give it. It’s also okay to ask questions like “Do you want general impressions and feedback, or do you want me to try to find things that need to be fixed, or do you want me to tell you just what I liked about it?” When in doubt: “I liked this. This other thing was a little iffy. But I really liked this other other thing.” Good, bad, good.

    If they are a certain kind of artist, especially a writer, they’re going to talk about it. A lot. Try to be patient with this. Sometimes they need you to bounce ideas off of, which often looks remarkably like you not being able to get a word in edgewise until they suddenly stop mid-sentence and run for the computer, because they just figured out the answer to the problem.

    Things will inevitably be going badly for them creatively. At these crucial junctures, please don’t remind them of the awesome thing they did last year, or the award they won, or the hordes of screaming fans outside the door waiting to have the last book autographed. It doesn’t actually help boost their confidence. It also happens to all artists, even wildly successful ones, even Neil Gaiman, and no amount of success will stop it from making them miserable. Make some tea and prepare to wait it out with them, knowing it may get worse before it gets better. Sort of like tornado weather.

    • Naamah, absolutely. I’m not playing games, I’m thinking, most of the time. Sure it looks like I’m slacking, but, really, I’m deep in thought. I also hate reading my own work because I’m super self-conscious so any criticism needs to be spot on. And I always need extra hugs and wine when I hit a slump.

      I should also add, artists don’t work 9-5. They may stay up til midnight or wake up at 3 in the morning to do their work. They don’t have a set schedule. Get used to it.

    • deeznutsg1@aol.com says:

      Well said addition to this post.

  2. D.M. Bonanno says:

    I love this! I love the reading behind your back bit. 🙂

  3. Joseph Zieja says:

    I just wanted to say I really liked this post. That’s all. Good luck in WOTF – I see you on the forums occasionally.

  4. Jessica says:

    I have a question for you if you can email me i would appreciate it.

    • Jessica says:

      I am dating a wonderful amazing artist. I was wondering because you wrote such a wonder blog about it dating an artist if I can ask you some questions?

      • Sure thing, hun. I’ve sent you an e-mail. Just keep in mind, I’m not an expert. I’m not a therapist or a counselor. I’m just a gal that’s watched a few failed relationships and had a few failed relationships of my own.

  5. avdoug says:

    I appreciate your tips for dating an artist, as well as distinguishing between the artist and the artiste!
    I had seen her in my dreams before she walked into the room about six weeks ago (after several years of declared celibacy for me and three dreams about her). She has painted since she was a youngster – about 35 years ago. Her child-like enthusiasm about virtually anything is so refreshing. She has achieved a level of artistic expression, which allows her to paint until, and only until, the act of painting that particular work loses it’s spontaneity. Then she’s done with that work. As a Taurus, I enjoy a certain level of order in many aspects of my life – from my tool shed to my underwear drawer. However, my respect for her individuality, as well as my appreciation for her gloriously, pure spirit, expands my psyche and obliterates many preconceptions about norms in relationships. Yes, there are times when I feel like she totally shuns me. And ya know what, these are simply times when she is formulating a idea or maybe feeling frustrated with not producing or……….. !?! The first time this “separation” occurred, I walked around for a couple of days with my “heart in my throat”. After a few days of me practicing patience, she called me and said she was really looking forward to seeing me (for a scheduled date in a few days). I have found that dating an artist is not like riding a roller-coaster ride, but more like a priviledge to be so close to such a creative individual!

  6. cleamonet says:

    For tip #8, how does your boyfriend know when it is appropriate to drag you away from your work? I feel like this is difficult particularly if you don’t live together. Also, with you primarily focusing on doing your own thing a lot of the time with your art, do you feel that your boyfriend mutually benefits from being in a relationship with you? What does he get out of it if you are physicallaly or mentally away being artistic?

  7. Great article, there is a lot of truth to this. There really is nothing worse than feeling like you are making someone feel crummy about themselves because you aren’t giving them what they want out of a relationship.

  8. A.lu says:

    Love this post!
    I am dating a artist too now and realized how DIFFERENT this relationship is to my past relationships.
    Another factor that “might” add is that we are from very different cultures (I’m American living in japan and my bf is Japanese.)
    Soooo, my question is, we don’t live together since it might be too soon and we are still having some issues and adjusting to eachothers persoanalities and what not. And since we don’t live together the distance is even farther and we don’t see eachother as much. I know I am much more needy than he is, and he does mention that he feels guilty a lot for not giving me the time I need…
    I REALLY am trying to work on my independence and trust with him (we had some lying issues on his behalf before)
    I KNOW he loves me and really wants to support me (he shows me in many ways when we are together..)

    Any advice? Am I just overthinking too much and not appreciating what I have with him?

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