Permission Granted: Don’t share your art with everyone

I’d like to give you permission to not share your artwork with friends and family. Not that it’s in my power to grant, but if it makes you feel better you can go ahead and pretend it is. During a conversation with a writer friend the other day I admitted to not even showing my partner finished pieces a lot of the time.My friend replied that I must be very internally motivated in my art-making.

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What I didn’t mention at the time is that when I first started out I absolutely showed my partner the little creations I was proud as punch of… and was shattered when he couldn’t muster up what I considered to be the appropriate level of enthusiasm.

As an artist, you need to begin cultivating an inner source of validation for your work as soon as possible (and as a human being but that’s a tad beyond the scope of this post). When we seek support from friends and family for our artwork without a strong internal source of validation, we’re in trouble. There are many vast and varied reasons why you might not receive the support you think a loved one should show for your work, which are entirely independent of the worthiness of your art.

If they’re not already enthusiastic about your work and your plans for it, it’s not your job to win them over. Work to impress yourself. I adore this fierce statement of self-belief and independence of spirit from an artist I follow on Twitter:

“My art is just what I think art should look like. Feel free to make your own.” — @ArtistJV

The very special group of people who agree that your art is what art should look like might not include your partner or your mum, and that’s okay.

In an ideal world, we’d all have a nest of kindred-spirits to snuggle up with and talk about our soul-projects to with wild abandon. I do believe it’s important to put tendrils out into the universe, and be as authentic as we can whilst doing so, in order to find these rare folk. In the meantime however, let’s:

  • Find a way to give ourselves what we’re looking for in others.
  • Recognise that some folk in our lives can’t give us what we need in this area.
  • Let them and ourselves off the hook and stop expecting to get what it is you’re looking for from those quarters, and
  • Give others what we ourselves are in search of (because it’s a nice thing to do).

6 Comments Permission Granted: Don’t share your art with everyone

  1. Keith

    Wise words. It can be hard to believe in what you’re producing, that it’s better than what the average person can do. Art for art’s sake is a beautiful thing. When you add in the desire/need to make a livelihood from it, though, it does need to be something others believe is special.

    But then I think you’ve got it when you say “give others what we ourselves are in search of.” I think that might be all the compass any artist needs.

    1. Katherine

      Keith, I’ve been pondering your comment for a while now. I think it’s such an interesting conversation because it’s all depends on one’s perspective. Of course, you’re right when you say this: “When you add in the desire/need to make a livelihood from it, though, it does need to be something others believe is special.” I don’t think everyone needs to think it’s special though. My partner isn’t exactly my target audience ;)

      I also think there’s a lot to be said for protecting the fragile suspension of disbelief one needs in the vulnerable early stages to pursue such things.

  2. Linda Kinnaman

    Katherine ~ these are interesting thoughts you have. I think we naturally go to the ones we are closest to for validation and support, but when they don’t share our visions, then that does sting! Why we keep going back and asking again and again is beyond me. The idea of “letting them off the hook” is brilliant! I never considered doing that. I will try from now on to look for those who share my enthusiasm for my work somewhere else and stop asking my family and husband for support they can’t give. You are such a clever one!

    1. Katherine

      I really do believe that our partners can’t be everything for us — although for some reason, I do think we expect them to be. To acknowledge this and then find the support we need somewhere else is such a liberating feeling.

  3. Stacey M. Curry

    Interesting post…when I read the first line I thought – no we should share – I took your friends side. But then I continued reading and I agree with what you said! Build up our own self worth!!! Because it can take the winds out of our sails when they don’t respond they way we think they should…and I’m sure that wasn’t their intention…they might not just “get it” yet.

    1. Katherine

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the “some people just don’t get it” comment. This is the very reason why I don’t often share my artwork with my partner — it’s just not his bag.


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