In a recent podcast, we talked about the remark often made about abstract artists --” my kid could paint that.” But there are lots of other things people say to and about artists that show a lack of understanding or even hostility toward art. When these happen in conversation, they can create some awkward moments. Most of us tend to feel defensive when this happens, and we can miss an opportunity to elevate the conversation. Today we’ll talk about some of these common remarks, consider why people make them, and ways to handle them gracefully.
As artists we’ve all had these moments. Sometimes, what we hear is an innocent question with a complicated answer, for example, “how long did it take you to paint that?" --when clock time is not the issue. Sometimes a question or remark comes across as aggressive, as when people ask about the price in order to look askance when you answer. Or an observation like “it must be so fun to just paint all day” can come across as “how nice to do whatever you please-- most of us can’t do that.”
Most remarks are well-meant though. People who know little about art are usually just trying to find a way into the conversation, as we all do when trying to understand another person's profession that is unfamiliar to us. But many times, a remark that indicates basic ignorance of our work can seem offensive and awkward. If we make an attempt to move the conversation forward, though, it can be an opportunity to help the other person understand.
It's easy though to feel misunderstood or hurt. Sometimes artists consider remarks critical or insulting but from an objective point of view are simply misinformed or out of context. Many times these remarks are much more about the person making them than about the artist. They are attempts to relate the artist's lifesto their own experience and as such, they should not be taken personally. Take opportunities to educate people when you feel there is an opening for a more elevated conversation and use compassion and humor to do so if you can.
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