I had a conversation this week with one of my clients that I had to stop midstream. That doesn’t happen often … I have space for just about anyone and anything … we are all in these human bodies with human brains and in this human experience together. But, even I have some things I just have to pull the plug on and deal with straight up.
This is how the conversation went:
Her: I am just so annoyed!!!!
Me: So what is annoying you?
Her: I am so sick and tired of seeing Artists like
(OK so this is where the red flag went off … I breathed deeply and cleared my thoughts and moved onward)
Me: And why does that impact you so much?
Her: My work is so much better than theirs. But they are busy doing gawd knows what for gawd knows who in order to get attention, gain recognition and move into the right markets. Makes me sick. It has nothing to do with their Art. It is so obvious.
(Now I was ready to burst again … no place to go but straight ahead so this is where I stopped the conversation)
Me: Whoaaaaaaaaaa, so you are the poor little victim to the unfairness of it all and now you are now going to go on a witch hunt? Will that really change your place in the market? Let’s just stop this conversation and get real about a few things!
Her: Victim????? But ….
Me: Yep, Instead of being responsible for where you are at in your career you are busy looking for what others that are more successful than you are doing “wrong” and being a victim to the whole thing so you can let yourself off the hook for doing the real work you need to do. Let’s back up and get in reality here …
Needless to say the rest of the conversation looked messy for a while but then took a very different turn and she had a new perspective by the time we were done. However, after the call I was left with how often I hear and see this happen again and again. Artist jealousy and rivalry is not a new thing but just because something has existed for centuries doesn’t make it any more appealing or acceptable.
The other unfortunate thing is that with Social Media it has become so easy to have it run the show in a big way. It comes in all forms … maybe a snarky remark here or there or a competition that is less than empowering or a blatant attack. The worst part is that it is all spread out in front of the global public and even has the ability to go viral. Besides being simply nasty, I think it just gives us, as artists, a bad name.
First of all, I just never quiet get how one artist can begrudge another for their success. It is just downright weird to me. It is so the crabs-in-a-bucket theory which, for those of you who don’t know it, goes like this: If you have a bucket of crabs and one tries to get out the other crabs will pull it back down into the bucket. So instead of realizing that if one crab can get out then they can all get out and helping each other out they pull each other back in and all die together. Bottom line the tone is: If I can’t succeed then you can’t either.
Funny how the rant always goes … if someone else succeeds then it must be some trick that they used or some unfair advantage … they cheated or lied or manipulated themselves to the top. What IF they worked their butt off for where they are? What IF they discovered something that worked and used it? What IF they did completely legit things (that other artists were unwilling to do) to get there? What IF they actually got there on their own? What IF the public actually loves their work? What IF it was even pure ol’ luck?
Why would we not be asking questions and learning what they really did? Why would we assume it was unscrupulous? Why would we be spending more time on attacking and belittling than doing the work ourselves to get where they are?
I have a different perspective about how Artists could treat one another, that I know many of my readers already engage in: We could help other artists get to the top! We could encourage those above us, below us and besides us on the success path. We could ask questions about how those that have succeeded have gotten there and learn something. We could stop looking for unscrupulous reasons that some are making it and start looking for what they may have done differently that worked.
We can push each other out of the bucket. We can pull each other out of the bucket. We can all tip the bucket over and all run free. There are a lot of ways out of the bucket together. But pulling each other back in is not a way out for any of us.
And just to set the record straight … it is not always success that seems to bring up this kind of behavior with artists. I see it go in many directions, with or without success being involved.
It is sometime subtle and sometimes more obvious, such as: More experienced artists belittling less experienced ones, artists of one medium, style or genre playing superior to artists of other mediums, styles or genres, less experienced artists insulting the path that has been cut for them by more experienced artists and artists throughout history. It even is seen when Artists just ignore each others work with some grand indifference. It is all just a form of ego-tripping that belittles us all.
Of course we have a long history of artists who have belittled other artists. Seems like today the mud slinging of more popular artists with each other is the thing to do on Social Media, in the news, in magazine articles, etc. It seems even more prevalent than ever, although perhaps it is just that we hear about it more due to our global media now.
To me, however, it is just a NO PASS for artists to attack other artists over success or anything else. Anyone wise enough to understand human beings knows that whenever we point over there to someone else’s “flaws” is usually just a mirror of our own flaws that we loathe and since we won’t deal with that part of us then we need to find a target for our loathing outside of us. If another artist triggers our egos into some inner dialog that is anything less than “Good for him or her!” then we might be better off looking inside rather than outside.
When the creators are busy destroying other creators then who is going to do the creating? I wonder what would happen if we actually supported each other and learned from each other and honored each other? Call me naïve but I think that Artists Globally could create amazing changes on this planet if we could move our own egos out of the way long enough to create together.
I KNOW THAT MANY OF YOU READING THIS ARE UNTIRING SUPPORTERS OF OTHER ARTISTS! I THANK YOU & I HONOR YOU!!! Please keep pulling and pushing with me to get us ALL out of the bucket.
For any of you who know any artists who play the other ugly little jealousy and slander game feel free to stop the conversations and gossip like I do if you don’t already. Please note you certainly don’t need to do it like I did in the conversation above – that was a client who was paying me to help her move forward in her career.
Simply not engaging can stop the conversation at times. One conversation at a time we can have an impact. We deserve to flourish together and celebrate each other. Change begins at home as they say. Let’s be home for one another!
What kind of support do you provide for other Artists?
What kind of support has other Artists given you?
Since I suspect that most of my audience is really great about and with other artists so please feel free to share any feedback or any ways you have helped other Artists out of the bucket. I love hearing from you and I am sure there is so much we can learn from one another!!!
Good strong article.
Wendy – Thank you for taking the time to let me know your thoughts – I do appreciate it!
We can definitely use all the support we can get. Support us by buying our art, organizing exhibitions, or make an artist in residence possible an retweets and likes are always welcome. (Jealousy brings nothing!)
When I “succeed” (purportedly more than another) it is always “destructive” to some. So how dare I succeed! When someone else is “above” me, especially in the visual arts, it is too often retaliation time. . . (Nothing new. Oh how we love tho berate more than we love to recognize and appreciate). Oddly, rarely, if ever is real success about financial, social network, gallery, art fair recognition or concepts (usually exaggerated) such as “international renown”. Success is about being privileged enough to enjoy doing every day something as extraordinary as having a thought, an idea, a concept a premise which I can then render concrete through the creativity that is afforded me. Above and beyond that success formula is more fate, luck and head-scratching fortune then about anything else. To expect more (in the visual arts) is to dream bigger than our capacity to produce and sell (since, it seems, success always has to do with money. . . ) Ongoing success is always better than end-game success. It neither belittles nor does it aggrandize commercial success. It simply is the better part of it.
Those who criticize other painters and sculptors for their (never mentioned) hard work, ethics, integrity, determination, etc. are those who would never be happy in any other profession anyway. So, all in all, “c’est la vie!”. Cause you know what? Critiquing matters; criticism, not.
Bernard – Brilliantly said (as you always do). I so enjoy your view of success. It is so refreshing. I think if more of us were involved in the ongong success you describe vs.the end-game success we would be so much more fulfilled that we wouldn’t have the need for the belittling & berating. In your definition of ongoing success if we are involved in that we are free to wish that for everyone and encourage it. It is not a competition it is an internal state of being. I also love the distinction between critiquing vs. critism. It is so very different & I think so much critism is leveled under the guise of critique. I am applauding!!!! Thank you!!!
Thought I’d just add . . I’ve often been criticized for my “success” – and this accompanied by all the noted above reasons as well as others nearly if not fully libelous or slanderous. And often it boils down to “how dare you be so “happy” despite all the drawbacks or difficulties encountered. How dare you not be as miserable as we are!
Bernard – It really is like that isn’t it? That is the crabs in a bucket thing again. If I suffer & am miserable then you then you certainly should be too & if you aren’t then I will do everything I can to bring that upon you. LOL.
Great comments and observations. Taking this one step forward let’s make an effort to share ,not keep our techniques secret if we are asked to share. Encouraging success for others in our profession, is empowering .
“snarky” behavior is, of course, in every profession when people lack self-confidence and fear failure. Humility and generosity is a wonderful snark deterrent.
Mike – I think your snark deterrent is a very powerful one! Sharing our techniques is a great place to start. Obviously you are not someone who suffers from a lack of confidence or fear of failure. Hopefully everyone who reads this takes a page from your book. Thank you so much for joining in!!!
Thank you for a good article.
Thank you, Susan!
Love the crab bucket analogy! Good point and well written. Thank you!
Katya … Glad you loved that analogy … I do too! Thank you for letting me know what you thought about the article!