When Other People Don’t Understand
I think it’s human nature to want to be understood. It’s part of why we tell stories and create art and explain things. And yet, I’m not sure that we can completely understand other people without the ability to read minds.
That’s why, even when people are trying really hard to understand, they sometimes don’t quite get it. Often, people aren’t trying really hard. Sometimes they think they already understand, or at least understand well enough. Sometimes they are too busy or don’t think whatever-it-is is worth the effort.
With art, this may mean that your loved ones belittle or resent the time and money you spend on your work. Even simple daily sketching costs money in sketchbooks and writing utensils. Once you add color, the costs just go up.
The time spent adds up as well. I’ve found that anything that takes a loved one’s time and attention away isn’t always tolerated. It’s easy to selfishly want a loved one available whenever you are available.
There are times you can invite your loved ones to participate in your art. I sometimes paint and draw with or alongside my children. I share my comics with them and ask if they’re funny. I invite my children to read my stories and tell me what they think. My husband works on my website and does digital coloring for me.
But, a lot of times, art is a solitary activity. From what I’ve read (in the amazing book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” by Betty Edwards), that shift into right-brained art space taps into a different part of the brain than the part that does the talking. I can sometimes try to talk while I work, but I trail off mid sentence, or zone out when the other person is talking. Or I say, “Just a minute, let me just…” and then I start working and forget I was talking to someone at all.
I’m still learning. Maybe talking and painting is easier for better artists. I don’t know. I’ll let you know in a couple of decades.
Denying your desire to create in order to please others isn’t a good long term solution. From my experience, the times I thought I was too busy for art weren’t good for me. I felt guilty that I’d stopped working on my art. I resented the things that kept me away from it. During the stressful times, I needed that escape, and nothing else really substituted all that well.
And so, to preserve your relationships and continue to create art, you need to communicate. You need to share your needs and your goals and what they require. You also need to be willing to listen and understand where other people are coming from. Often, compromise is necessary. Listen, think, communicate, pray, and find a way.
I’m lucky, and my family is very supportive. However, getting here has required, and continues to require, a lot of communication. Things that seemed obvious to me have turned out to be not so obvious and need to be explained. Things I thought were important turned out to be not so important after talking them through.
And so, one of the ultimate, important art tools turns out to be communication. Unless you’re in the middle of creating art. Then it doesn’t work so well. So, pick a better time. Choosing an appropriate time and place to talk is part of communication, too.
Do you feel like your loved ones understand your art? Have you found ways to include them? What compromises have you made to fit art into your life? Can you talk and create art at the same time?
2 thoughts on “When Other People Don’t Understand”
I don’t feel like most of my loved ones understand my art and for a while it bothered me. Eventually I had to tell myself that my art isn’t a team sport, meaning that I stopped asking others their opinions during the process and I stopped explaining what a piece is “about”. There are a select group of people, fellow artists, that I will occasionally ask for guidance when I’m in the middle of a piece but i have to learn to trust myself and gain confidence in my abilities. As an artist and art historian I have also stepped back when people come to seeking interpretations of some of my pieces- art is subjective.
I admire your confidence. It is difficult to feel misunderstood and carry on anyway. Well done!