I asked if I could hijack Bill’s blog this week. I’m Kristie, spouse of an artist, and there are a few things I feel prompted to write about concerning my station as an artist’s wife. I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of all spouses of artists out there, but I have found that we are very similar in many aspects, some of which even our talented counterparts may not be aware of.
On May 5th Bill and I will be celebrating 28 years of marriage. I grew up a country girl, and the only things I can remember adorning our walls were crochet plant holders. I was blessed to grow up at the base of Pikes Peak and was outside playing on my horse most of the time. The only art I appreciated were the Sunday comics.
I was destined for the rough and tumble cowboy husband, but then I met Bill. Without boring you with all the details, we obviously got married. Before the wedding bells rang Bill took me to the Outlaw Gallery in Montana where he had a piece hanging. I had never seen his artwork before, so this would be my introduction. As we climbed the stairs to the upper portion of the gallery I saw a piece and knew immediately that it was his. I could feel the connection.
I have watched him paint on numberless occasions and now I edit many of his videos. At times, I see him put a brush stroke in and think “Ew, that was a mistake.” Then somehow as he continues building up the scene that brushstroke ingeniously holds the story together. I’ll never get used to that. How can a mind work so far in advance to know how these strokes of colors will work together eventually to create such a lovely picture? The artist’s mind baffles me!
This delight and awe of the process also gives me a slightly biased opinion of Bill and his art work. They say an artist needs to have tough skin. Well then, an artist’s spouse should have leather! Juried shows where he’s won the appropriate amount of accolades are wonderful, and I get to bask right there on his arm. But not all jurors saw his genius! Some didn’t even give a nod to his work in passing.
The frustration of those instances is only magnified by knowing that on the drive home he’ll go through all the self-doubts and occupation misgivings that can come from being ignored. It’s the companion’s duty to soothe and encourage, even when they themselves might be feeling a lot of those same emotions.
We’re not the norm in any niche. We have a rather large family (7 children), and I have been a stay at home mom most of the time. That means that the major wage earner has always been Bill. Sure we’ve had to live simply at times, but never in want. I learned how to make bread, cook from scratch (which is not an easy chore for an outdoor horse gal), and find the best thrift shops.
I now realize that any gallery would be very lucky to carry Bill’s art – we pray over them night and day! Slowly through the years we have reached a point where we no longer have to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul”, and can breathe easy when a new month starts and new bills are due. I say this because it was, and still is, a sacrifice!
An artist’s success depends on their ability to concentrate on their talent. I have had my whiney days when I’ve seen friends buy bigger houses or drive newer vehicles, but I get over it quickly when I see my husband doing what he loves. I’ve seen him try out ‘the working world’, and he is akin to a fish out of water, slowly shrinking. He thrives in the studio!
Here are 9 things I’ve learned through almost 3 decades with an artist:
- While miraculously never having had an accident- driving with an artist can be a very stressful event when he takes his eyes off the road for extended periods of time to ‘notice the shadows in a clump of trees’. I drive more and more to allow him the freedom to study landscapes so that we can arrive in safety.
- Family trips – from our early married days to just last month – generally revolve around National Parks, galleries, and museums.
- Sometimes I need to back off if he gets ‘in a mood’. Quite often he takes it onto the canvas and has produced some amazing pieces. Art therapy!
- Simply telling him it’s time for lunch … 7 times … is not enough to get him to come in for lunch. I now take him his lunches, otherwise he forgets to eat altogether.
- Many times children of an artist inherit those artistic abilities and utilize those abilities in interesting ways. You should see some of the crazy projects produced in our home! This was a recent one, within the last couple years, when 3 of our daughters decided they wanted to be broken porcelain dolls for Halloween.
- Being self-employed leads many to mistakenly believe he doesn’t have a job, and therefore is free to help out anytime, day or night. What they don’t realize is that he generally goes to his studio early in the morning, comes in for dinner around 6:00pm, and often he goes back to his studio after putting the kids to bed. He does this everyday but Sunday! I’ve learned to field requests so that he doesn’t get called out of the studio more than he should.
- Artists are different! I would say sorry, but you know it’s true. They have to be different to create what they do. They are more compassionate and sensitive. You would think armed with that knowledge I would act and speak with a little more thoughtfulness. It’s a process…. a slow one.
- Things get forgotten. Like Christmas. When an artist spends every day – basically alone – in their studio, the days can run together. The spouse must remind the artist of things like weekends and holidays. If the spouse doesn’t there’s a good chance the artist may wake up one morning and say, “Is it Christmas?”. No joke. Once when Bill figured out it was Christmas morning he ran into the basement, rummaged through my craft materials, and produced a gift for me an hour later. I still have it and cherish it, though admittedly I wasn’t thrilled with it that particular Christmas morning.
- My artist is a humble one. I realize they can come with all sorts of personalities, and I’ve met some who expect automatic edification from those around them. I’ve been blessed though. All Bill wants is for everyone to experience the beauty God has given us. If you’re not married and want to marry an artist, find a humble one because it’s an amazing thing.
Bill doesn’t treat me like a lackey. I’m not here to wash his brushes, help him set up his easel, film him, or pack up the van. But I do those things, and so much more, because I love him and it’s our business! He doesn’t call a painting done until I critique it. He values my opinion. I have not lost myself while supporting him, and he is constantly supporting me in my venues.
Artists are needed more now than ever! The digital age has a lot to offer, but the raw paint and canvas type of art will survive through the ages, long after the latest smart phone craze dies off. It’s up to us – the spouses, companions, supporters, to keep our artists fed, make sure they get some sleep, remember when major holidays are approaching, and that they know what amazing people they are and how much they are valued.
This is a great work, but when all is said and done our greatest work is our family, and we’re grateful for the unusual opportunities and stories having an artist with us has brought about!