Monday, June 26, 2006

The Art (Spouse) World

Purple Blossoms, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24

Well, it's official, my husband, Doug is an art spouse. I am sure that he never thought he'd be one. Not that he doubted me, only that being an art spouse is a concept neither one of us ever considered. There should be a book about it for those who are considering marrying or becoming a partner of an artist. There is a lot expected of an art spouse, surprisingly.

Attending openings is practically mandatory. They have to be available, so that the artist doesn't have to stand alone looking awkward when the crowd is thin. When the the crowd reappears, the art spouse has to gracefully stand back and let the artist have all of the attention. The art spouse should be supportive, naturally, of their spouse's art, but also of the other art in the show. Doug handles all of this fabulously and really makes me look good, by being himself, which is personable, smart and very knowledgeable about art. He always has lengthy conversations with the most interesting, and usually somewhat eccentric people at the openings, while I am left to answer the questions about why do I paint landscapes and how long does it take to do a painting (my all time favorite). Doug also spends time talking to the other art spouses, I noticed at the last opening of mine, he was standing around talking with another art spouse (husband), commiserating and comparing their duties, he told me later.

I have noticed with many of the couples that I know who work as artists, that if the male is the artist, the female does a good portion of the business aspect, record keeping, phone calls, that sort of thing. If the female is the artist, the men seldom (at least I can't think of any) do any of the business. The men may build frames, move around boxes, pack shipping crates, even deliver work to a gallery, but talk to the gallery director on behalf of the artist? No way. This most definitely holds true for us.

An art spouse's feedback regarding the art, framing, and other details is crucial. Sometimes I feel quite certain that my paintings should have my husband's name on a byline. He tells me what is working and more importantly, what is not working. Although we have a running joke about that. The pieces that he doesn't care much for are generally the ones that sell first, the ones he thinks are amazing, incredible, stunning sit around month after month, not selling. Go figure. Anyway, he notices when my work is making a shift, something I don't really pay much attention to, and suggests other artists, past and present, whose work may be of interest to me. While I have forgotten most of the art history I learned in college, Doug has most impressively retained everything he learned AND he can put it all in context when necessary-I'm envious.

Anyway, I think our situation is somewhat bittersweet right now. Doug has a bit of longing to be an artist with the exhibitions and the openings to go to. Not that he isn't thrilled and way cool about what I have going but he is also an artist. He has spent most of his adulthood in other fields, some of which utilized his art skills and some that allowed him to develop his business skills. He'd have one kick ass gallery if he ever decided to do open one! I think he should be making art but he feels hasn't the time right now to focus on it in the way that he thinks is necessary. Plus there is that little thing about financially supporting the family, which he is better equipped to do than I will be any time soon. However I have no doubt that when he starts putting together his photography, he will gets shows, good ones too, and I will have to be the supportive art spouse, answering his phone and organizing his work. Uh, just kidding about that last part-I was just practicing sounding supportive.

When it is my turn to be the art spouse, I can say with complete certainty that I will not be as good at it as Doug has been.

I think today's painting might look a little bit creepy in the reproduction, whereas it looks merely moody in real life. It is kind of an odd image, but I liked the juxtaposition of the bare trees on the right and the new purple foliage on the left in the scene. It was a nice light and airy view, and the painting started out that way, but then things took a turn and it all ended up closer to the dark side. I am cool with that.


Shan said...


You just described my husband! He is supportive in all the ways you mentioned (no office work). He, too, knows a lot about art but if he dislikes a painting I know it will be the first to sell!

He's my most faithful critic but when he comes into my studio when I'm deep into my work and offers unsolicited feedback the resulting conversation is not pretty. The sensitive artist, not yet detached from what I've just done, kicks in.

He is also an amazing poet, with little time to write. I think he's fine with the way things are right now, as he's not really attached to publishing, but I do worry about his creative aspirations being fulfilled.

BTW-your painting looks moody and interesting. Not creepy!

Jeff Hayes said...

One of my partner Sean's favorite stories about an opening was the time I had ducked out for a minute and he was having a very engaged conversation about one of my paintings with a guest. When the guest finally asked if Sean was the artist, and he said no, the guest abruptly turned on her heels and marched right out the door. We have laughed about that often; it's a great thing he doesn't have an ego.

I really like the composition of this piece.

Tracy said...

That's funny, Shan, that your husband seems to do exactly as mine does. I get a bit upset sometimes about a critique from Doug, but usually it's because I am feeling lazy and am trying to convince myself that I don't have to go back into it. If I let go of that, I can see that he was right in his comments and then I go back into it anyway.

Good story Jeff. Boy if I was ever so rude as to so abruptly walk away from someone like that, I would feel awful about it forever! How odd that she wouldn't have just laughed about it and kept going with the conversation.

S.L. Peterson said...

Sounds like my husband too!! No office work, but he helps with framing, dropping paintings at the gallery, and ongoing critiques. I have a tendency to get cranky when he critiques my paintings, but I usually see the light a day later and end up fixing whatever was causing the problem. He's my biggest fan, so I give him some leeway when he says something not so nice about a painting every once in a while.

The funny thing is, he's got an MBA and works in sales, so you'd think he'd be the perfect person to help out with the business side of my art. I just feel more comfortable doing it myself. Control freak, I guess!

Ed Maskevich said...

Generally, if I really like a piece I just finished my wife will smile and tell me that it's "nice" but she doesn't necessarily care for it. If she really likes something that I've done then I know that it will probably sell.

Anonymous said...

My husband is good at the helping out putting wire on and packing and all the other muscle jobs. The best part is that he never asks me to get a "real" job, he supports my art even in the bad times. That's what I appreciate the most.

Ed Terpening said...

You're so right about how important a supportive spose/partner is. It almost seems a little unfair. My partner, Mike, doesn't ask me to go to dozens of events "after work hours", and yet I ask that of him. He's a good sport about it.

Nice painting today; great color harmony.

Tracy said...

Stacers, Doug is an excellent businessman but he doesn't help me with that aspect either. I may ask his advice once in awhile but I handle it all myself.

Ed, Does your wife handle any of the business for you? Talk to galleries etc? Nice to have a prognosticator on hand!

Hi Lauren, Clearly we all put our husbands to work, simply using them for their strength, with the added bonus of full emotional support as well:-) Good for us I'd say! Do you have a website or blog, Lauren?

Tracy said...

Thanks Ed, for the compliment about the painting.

Good point about after work hours events. Although i have attended more than enough god-awful, painfully boring and torturous xmas parties. I think Doug owes me 100 art openings per each xmas party I endured. That would only be fair:-)

Lesly said...

I love this painting ... really has something!

my daughter is a good asset .. she has a great eye (and is the only 'un-arty' offspring out of four) and will tell me what's what! If she says it will sell then it generally does.

My spouse is a total Philistine when it comes to art but he does his best to enjoy exhibitions and shows .. and will go just to give me moral support! But I wish he could be more appreciative of what I am trying to do ... he only really likes photo-realism!

Doug sounds a real tower of strength ..... AND with a good eye!

Ed Maskevich said...

Tracy, no, my wife dislikes the business end so I do it all. Sometimes it's tough getting her to go to openings with me.

amber said...

Great topic
My husband is also wrong most times if he doesn't like it it will sell funny about that
he's great about babysitting while i work without that i wouldn't be able to paint at all
tracy your painting is very moving,my heart skipped a beat
It's quite profound

Anonymous said...

Tracey, yes I have a website and I've just been inspired to start a blog too (thanks to your wonderful blog) you can see it here

Tracy said...

Thanks Amber for the compliment about my work. Hope you don't skip too many beats, though:-)

Funny about how many of our spouses can predict what will sell, whether by saying the piece is great or bad.

Thanks Lauren, for the link. Nice work! I love the simplicity and elegance of your paintings. Looks like you have a lot going on too. I look forward to reading and seeing more.