Artists have three kinds of relationships. One kind is with other artists. A second kind is with people who claim to “not have a creative bone,” but often appreciate the creative spirit. The third kind is with people who are creative but do not use it in relationship to the production of art, but use their creativity in other ways. I will talk about all three.
In the first case, we have a situation where both people in the relationship are creative and use their creativity to produce works of art. Often such relationships start out in art school or on some neutral ground where both are struggling artists. As long as both are just doing their art work when and if they can, work at their jobs to support themselves and perhaps children, they have much in common, and can encourage one another. When one begins gaining gallery exhibits, or more praise and financial response for their art work than the other, a feeling of jealousy in the less recognized artist may occur. Whoever becomes more recognized may attribute this to being somewhat more realistic about getting out there and making all the right connections with work (regardless of what kind of art they create) or that their work is more cutting edge and is being seen as taking more of a chance than the other, or the the partner may believe that the success is due to the fact that their work is more conservative and has an audience only because it is a subject that people relate to easily. In all cases of success, and in all cases with jealousy, it is societyʼs point of view that is seeping into their feelings.
Jealousy is a fascinating phenomenon. It is actually on our side, though when experiencing it, it is impossible to believe that it is working for our benefit. It may please you to know that jealousy has an immediate cure that reverses it. Even in the case of jealousy because a person you love has a flirtatious or even sexual relationship with another person, one who lives on a daily basis with such a partner will notice that some people make us jealous over nothing at all, while others, no matter what occurs between that person and your partner simply does not make us jealous. Why is this?
In a book of mine entitled Identity Is the Crisis, I devote a chapter to this subject, but here I will be brief. We are all given, through social pressure and rewards, a specific self-definition. This is a kind of sphere that surrounds us. We identify with this set of things we do and do not do, things we are and are not. These are given to us in childhood and throughout the teachings of our lifetime. It is who we believe ourselves to be. But in defining who we are, we also define who we are not going to be. This leaves us well-defined, but also out of balance. More clearly, who we believe ourselves to be is only an infinitesimal set of qualities compared to who we truly are. We are Awareness. But that is not the road I am going down or up here. Life, however, is always inching us closer to that ultimate realization. Jealousy plays an important part in that ultimate teaching.
We become jealous of someone whose behavior extends beyond the way we have chosen to define ourselves. That is to say, if we have decided that we should never be sexually aggressive because it is just not the way a sensitive person acts, that is a polarity and an imbalance in us, because we have predetermined a behavior and therefore limited our ultimate freedom to act in whatever way a given moment seems to request of us. We are therefore limited in all of our behavior.
When we see someone act in a sexually aggressive manner, and we see that they are rewarded for that behavior by attracting, letʼs say, our own partner, even enticing a smile from him or her, we are devastated by jealousy. Why? Because our own emotional system is working in our favor, believe it or not, to make us so distraught by the sight of sexual aggression rewarding the aggressor, that it forces us to figure out why this is hurting so much. Ultimately we get mad. That is how we are supposed to feel. But we should never confuse this anger we feel for reason to tell our partner off or act out this jealousy against another person. This anguish we feel is meant to force us into changing our own identity, because that is the only thing that will make the jealousy pain go away. It not only makes it vanish, but it delights us. The painful truth is that we need to allow ourselves to be more sexually aggressive if that is what a given moment seems to need. We forbid ourselves from initiating a sexual occurrence by our current self-definition. That limits us in our experience. This does not mean we should become a sexually aggressive fool. It simply means that sometimes another person needs a little coaxing and a little sexual playfulness in order to get warmed up to the idea of lovemaking. But remaining absolutely non-aggressive may simply mean that sex rarely occurs. The person who exhibits more extreme behavior is unconsciously taunting you into behaving a little more like that. When you yourself begin acting more aggressive, the pain of jealousy immediately turns into playfulness and pleasure. You are restored to a more balanced state.
In short, the simplest way to get over the pain of jealousy is to imitate the person who makes us feel jealous. That is why we automatically imitate people we hate, as a way of telling others how awful a person they are. We become them in a mocking way and then you and whomever we are talking to laugh at that other person for acting in that way. What nature is doing is getting us to imitate that energy and heal ourselves of the limitation we are burdened by. Ultimately we forget how we got to that new self-definition, and simply have the freedom from that limiting identity. We are also less judgmental of others and of ourselves. We are led a little closer to freedom and presence. After all, as children we had no identities and we acted out anything that came to mind, even jealousy, but briefly, and in an instant it was gone and we were on to some other feeling. As trained adults, we are capable of formulating an entire lifeʼs philosophy based around some experience of hurt that we believe was “caused by someone else.” That is the pain of having an identity. It is something we need to let go of as we begin our search for freedom.
If we apply this understanding to two artists, one who is suddenly successful while the other feels that they never have time to paint because they are taking care of business, the kids, the income or whatever, we see that there is something here to learn. Whatever the successful partner is doing, the less successful partner needs to imitate. They may need to find time to paint no matter what. They may need to explain to the children that they need to paint for an hour every other day. Children are given permission to fulfill themselves only by a parentʼs example of the parent fulfilling themselves. Words donʼt do it. The parent must show the child that they are willing to take the time to do what they need to do in order to feel good. The child is then free to do the same. But if the parent self-sacrifices for the child, the child is indebted to self-sacrifice for others. That means that no-one gets to do what they want to do in their lifetime. Nature is trying to teach us not to suffer, and jealousy of the people who succeed is nature’s way of teaching us to be free to apply that other personʼs freedom to our values.
In painting, often an artist will become very successful painting imagery or styles that are 100 years old, whereas cutting-edge work, which we are taught to revere in art school, is still a strange animal that no one knows what to do with, most especially gallery owners who desperately need art work that sells on a monthly basis.
When one partner starts to make a splash, even a little splash, as an artist, this can seriously threaten a beautiful relationship if we attach our own self-worth on viewer reception to our work. We are best to show and promote our art work as a future business that requires slow but consistent development. See the business aspect of art as separate from who we are, just as selling shoes would be separate from who we are. In this way, the success of one partner will be a good thing, and not something that either base their self worth on.
A great danger in two creative people being in a relationship with one another, especially living together, is that they share a sense of not prostituting themselves for money. This can be a deadlock that can lead them down a path that increases poverty. If both people keep an eye on one another and themselves to be sure that neither is doing something that a “real artist would never do,” they may find that there are fewer and fewer ways to make money. If they insist upon both making their living as artists, they are, in a sense, burdening their creativity with a job it was never meant to do, like using a unicorn to pull a plow. Itʼs bad enough that horses are made to pull plows, let alone unicorns, symbols of creativity. I suggest getting a tractor, maybe even an electric one. That is, by finding some tolerable way to make a living, we can keep the art work as something that surfs a wave of greatest fascination, and therefore expresses us perfectly, while we have bought ourselves time and income to keep slides or CDs in the mail to galleries or keep some kind of promotional ball bouncing. Eventually, we have a better chance of quitting the job after a few years when we have made enough connections to sell at a consistent rate. Creativity suffers totally if there isn’t a dime to spend on materials and the anxiety of having no place to live hangs over our heads. Anxiety about money can cancel creative energy totally. As one who took the lesser road, trust me when I say it only leads to less, not more, creative expression.
A second type of relationship is one in which the partner is a person who defines himself by his degree of un-creativity. People like this are “realists.”, as they view themselves. This kind of relationship also has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that we may find that our work may be supported financially, to a certain degree. Often this may hang on the prospect that the work will sell one day, but perhaps that is not part of the silent agreement. This type of relationship between artist and so called non-artist has one problem that is perhaps always showing itself. The artist needs to cultivate a deep sense of personal integrity in order to make pure art and have it all integrated as a body of work. The business world often has to go close to things that are less defined by integrity and more defined by staying in business, or by simply doing whatever one is asked to do in order to keep oneʼs job. Trying to paint to sell, in order to comply with a financially supporting partner’s wishes, is not what the artist is trying to do. This should be made clear to the non-artist, so he or she does not keep seeing the artist as a business they are trying to get off the ground.
This is where the concepts of realist vs. idealist come into existence. If we understand that neither title is accurate, we can begin to soften this difference. Artists are not idealists, and people who have no compulsion to be creative are not realists. Given that reality is that which does not crumble and one day disappear, but that which is always, what does making a living have to do with reality or being a realist? Just as Americans claim to be materialists, yet have no love for materials, realists may claim an edge on reality, but have no interest in what reality actually is. Artists who have been branded, against their will, as idealists, is a way of making ideas, visions and personal insights sound like dirty words, or at least, silly and not to be taken seriously. If someone calls us idealists, they have just dismissed whatever it is we are talking about. Artists should never identify with such labels, any more than business people should identify with being grounded in reality. Identification with concepts itself is a serious problem that causes all of the worldʼs suffering.
With this in mind, we have two people in a relationship. One works hard and never thinks about making art, so they claim. The other thinks about making art and works hard at doing just that, and may never think about making a living at it. A closer look, however, shows that these two people are attracted to one another because each expresses an aspect of themselves that they have denied is an aspect of themselves. Anyone who gets into a relationship with an artist is an artist themselves, who has denied that part of themselves. They need to see stuff happen on canvas, grow, change, develop. They need to see color and form and meaning in every gesture, but they have forbidden themselves or have been forbidden by others to do it themselves. Their hands are tied by their identity. But one day they meet an artist, and fall in love. They must maintain their distance, claim to be the realistic one, call you an idealist, but you as an artist are vital to their sense of well-being. You express what they forbid themselves to express.
On the other side of the fence, by our focus on only making art, we have subtly made a silent agreement that someone else will handle the more daily requirements. Our purity as artist creates a condition wherein we will be attracted to someone who is as one sided in their identity but on the opposite side. Together, we have a team that can claim their realism and their purity till death, because they are each riding shotgun for one another. But only together do they create a simulated whole human being. That is, separate, the realist has no magic in his or her life, no madness, no irrational joy or dream time that makes life fulfilling and worth everything. Separate, the artist finds it nearly impossible to support their art materials, their rent, their matter-of-fact everyday bills and expenses.
The way that we may each grow to where we are more whole as human beings is for the artist to begin making moves to support himself or herself through their artwork or through whatever other means they find fascinating. Similarly, for the realist to begin adding a sense of creativity, either to their work or to actually begin working in some medium of self-expression, no matter what that medium is. Even if they collect photos of vintage cars, write a book on banking, do anything to start melting that block that had been holding back a sense of color, form, meaning, living spirit in everything. While each rides shotgun for the other, we give one another time to tiptoe into those frightening worlds of making a living or creative expression. Moving toward this will ultimately make both people whole, and their love relationship with one another can begin. Until then, there is so much need that it can create anxiety about losing one another, but for all the wrong reasons. Two such people are perfectly made to help each other step more into one anotherʼs worlds. They may take the other by the hand, and lovingly introduce them, as the other shows interest, in the worlds they have each mastered. This gives the other freedom from their fears and a sense of being a whole human being.
Too often, of course, the realist believes him- or herself to be the sober one, and believes the creative partner to be a dreamer. The creative one unfortunately often sees the partner who claims to not be creative as a stick-in-the-mud who has no imagination and has buried himself in money matters, paperwork or some such uninteresting obsession. This misses the point of their being together. That is, human nature is always smarter, however, and has set up a situation wherein we learn from the partnerʼs ways in spite of ourselves. Indeed, if and when the described relationship ends, the artist will find that her or his next relationship will have reversed the roles in each of them. The artistʼs next relationship will, I guarantee it, be one in which the artist has found someone so to the left of himself that our artist friend will be the one who appears to be the rigid one who takes care of business. The original business keeper will find him- or herself in the role of being the zany one next to their new partner, who writes books on marketing and lives only for work, while the original stodgy one will always be coaxing their new partner to take a break, do something a little on the wild side, let go, take a few chances with life and expressions. It is just natureʼs way. Eventually people find a medium ground, and people who are both creative and self-sustaining find one another. That is a relationship between two people who have become more whole, creative and self-sustaining, who can begin exchanging worlds to where they grow into such a balance as mentioned. The older Chinese culture used to take a young boy and a young girl and pronounce them husband and wife. The understanding was, by the time they are fifty, they will love one another. Ours has more of an illusion of freedom. Yet, the Western world of today grows with each relationship until we are mature or whole enough to be who we are, sustain who we are, and find someone who has learned the same. But one thing is common to all. We cannot love anyone until we have learned to love, and therefore care for, ourselves.
A third generalized kind of relationship for an artist is with someone who is creative, but who uses their creativity in fields other than in the production of art. In such a relationship there is an understanding and appreciation of what the artist is about, and often the world of the artistʼs partner is appreciated and understood by the artist. The non-artist may be in an innovative field. Or, the partner may be a teacher who uses his or her creativity in relation to the students. This gives them a solid profession and the status of a normal citizen, but creative expression also exists in both worlds. In this kind of relationship the artist has also found some way of making a living doing what makes sense to him or her. In any case, the artist and the partner have a great deal in common and can carry on endlessly about new ideas and ways of being. Unlike the second type relationship wherein the artist and the partner have little to talk about, but a powerful sexual attraction, this third kind of relationship has much to talk about, but sexuality is not their primary release of energy. It is just one of many ways that these two can relate to one another. It also does not have the danger of both artist and partner being jealous of one anotherʼs success. In this case, success is brought about more easily because there is often a simple need for financial stability as well as an encouragement to make the art and get it shown. There is even help in this direction, through meeting people that the artist alone would never have come in contact with who may buy the art or know of galleries due to the contacts of the partner.
All three kinds of relationship have one thing in common. The artist is in relationship to some other human being. This can cause great growth. The artist, as an aside, should question any relationship where the partner has a genuine dislike for the arts, or looks down on the arts as actually a waste of time. If this is the case with a reader, then trust that there are relationships wherein the art is recognized and appreciated. This makes a great difference in how one feels about oneself. If this book has a constant theme, that theme is to allow artists to recognize their intrinsic power and value in any society whatsoever. Artists are a powerful force in human consciousness, whether humanity has been culturally made conscious of that or not. There are societies that support the arts, such as Holland which financially supports its artists. Conversely, Germany during the Nazi era, where so-called decadent artists were persecuted and even killed, driving artists like Paul Klee out of Germany, is an example of a society that has no value for art which the rest of the world and history value immensely. The artist has a humble but profound role to play in the evolution of human consciousness, and one should at least be in a personal relationship with someone who appreciates art as a phenomenon, and your work in particular.
The artist who is not in a relationship presents very different considerations. People who have broken through to a creative perception of life – that is, who see life as an ever-changing expression rather than as a given, absolute condition, the structure of which is never supposed to be altered or questioned – have many qualities. But these qualities come with certain precautions and understandings in order to be able to sustain a relationship with others. The first understanding is that it is perfectly fine not to be in a relationship with anyone as a single partner. But with this, one should have friends who balance out oneʼs aloneness with the pleasure of other people’s company, discussions of art and ideas, and a general celebration of their values. If one has no partner and no friends, there is something to question. Absolute aloneness, like that of Van Gogh, who slept in the coal mines in order to be “of the people,” to the shock of the coal miners who were the people, has been mistakenly associated with the “true artist.” In truth, Van Gogh would have had friends and followers were he not one of the only Energy Conscious people in Europe at the time and had instead found his way to India. Anyone in India would have recognized where Van Gogh was in consciousness and revered that state in him. While they may well not have appreciated his art work, they would have appreciated the man himself as a teacher and awakened at least to the energy nature of reality. He would have had many friends and admirers in India.
Just as Van Gogh had his brother Theo to help him, any artist who finds that they chronically have no friends and no partner should seek out someone or some way of helping them look at this, because such a life, without deep spiritual grounding, can be less creatively productive than it might be with connections. But this is an extreme condition.
More commonly, an artist may find that when partnerships dissolve, friends fill in. Looking at this more deeply, and on an energy level, we may notice that there is a constancy about oneʼs life. That is, our relationships are expressions of our relationship to ourselves. If we are close to our Self, our relationships express that closeness. If we are estranged from our Self, our relationships reflect that distance from heart or tenderness. We know love, as we all know now, only to that degree that we love and accept ourselves. Without self acceptance, there is only guilt, shame, and constant harassing of ourselves to be better than whatever we happen to be.
We are in a culture that teaches boys to be self-accepting no matter how they are, and girls to be always self-improving no matter how wonderful they are. It is the American way of assuring that there will be an attraction between the two sexes. It keeps women preoccupied with self-improvement, and men preoccupied with doing anything they need to do to keep a job, with no overriding evaluation of whether that job is helping or harming life itself. “I do what I have to do” marks complete self-acceptance without any evaluation of its effect upon life itself. Women are out of the way, working on themselves. This is cultural. A sane compromise to this would be if men were raised to ask themselves about the overall value of what they do to make a living, and girls were raised to be self-accepting as they are. This would make a remarkably different world from the one we seem to be racing toward unconsciously.
One difficulty with artists finding partners, if that is a difficult thing to do, is the recognition that there is a difference between creative people and people who are of the opinion that they are not creative. Once a person goes through a portal of creative self-expression, he is in a position to see other peopleʼs hiding places. The rest of society has learned to pretend that they cannot see these hiding places. That is, if a person is asked how they are doing, the answer is a stock, “Great!”. The artist wonders why they are saying great when they are clearly being torn apart by something. It is in the tension of their overly exuberant voice, the hollow metallic sound of their laugh, the way they turned away as if the conversation never happened. On and on, we can read the person. A person who is not used to the creative life, where one is being always taught to be increasingly present through their own creative process, and therefore can see very clearly that something is troubling this person, such a person who is not that, would take “Great!” as the answer. The artist, however, without realizing that they are breaking one of societies unspoken rules, says, “No, really, whatʼs up?”
This violates the other person. Everyone else in their circle knows that “Great” means, “Donʼt ask any further questions. If you think Iʼm great, then the problems I have are invisible, and Iʼm safe from social judgment.” In other words, say that an artist is looking for the emotional whereabouts of his friend. The artist can see the friend emotionally sitting in a dark closet that they believe is hidden from everyone. The artist innocently goes to the closet door, opens it, turns on the light and says, “How are you doing? Do you want to talk about what happened at work?” This terrifies the other person, because they are supposed to be invisible. The artist has no concept that he has committed a socially taboo act by seeing into hiding places.
The artist should therefore be aware that they have this effect upon people, and recognize that there are people who are willing to be seen, and people who are deeply offended by being seen. Once the artist is aware that this phenomenon is taking place, he is less likely to choose a partner who is hiding, and more prone to find someone who is willing to share his feelings at least with one other person.
This kind of phenomenon comes from a parent who is clearly upset about something, as mentioned earlier, and pretends that nothing is wrong. We create a society that is all right with dishonesty. Artists see through that dishonesty and want to talk about their true feelings. This is not a fault. It is a virtue, if not taken to excess or obsessive degrees. People also need their space and their time to work their private feelings out as well. A sense of timing is always important. Often people come around if given time alone to work things out without forcing the issue and making them explain all of their feelings. This can be a need of one who is insecure, to make the partner talk about all of their feelings. One should simply become aware that these dynamics are all taking place, and most of all, however we find ourselves to be, first and foremost, accept ourselves and our partners exactly as we are if we possibly can. Acceptance usually gives a partner the space to change habits that don’t work for either of you. Resistance, and trying to change their behavior, reinforces the behavior. . From acceptance, change can take place if it needs to.
Ross G. Drago
The above chapter is from the eBook Painting a Pathway Home, by Ross G. Drago. It is about the spiritual aspect of the painting process and the psychological world of artists. To view or purchase Painting a Pathway Home as an eBook visit:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/265154 $2.99 as a download to any computer or digital reader.
Paint Rag Magazine