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8 Relationship Rules Every Artist Should Know

Luuk Lijten

Building and maintaining strong relationships in life is complicated enough. However, establishing strong bonds in the arts can be just as if not more complex.

You may be friendly with a fellow artist but simultaneously be a little more than envious of his or her skills. Or, you may dislike a gallery owner or collector but decide that the connection is too valuable to abandon. Perhaps he or she is your sole advocate or only customer.

1. Accept that your creative boundaries will broaden.

You can make art as if you were on an island. But as soon as you want to share your creative efforts with others, you’re embroiled in a world of others — there’s no getting around that. Accept this reality.

2. You get to decide who you are.

Even if you feel pressured to be someone else, you ultimately get to decide how you want to be in your relationships.

 3. You don’t have to reveal your true feelings in all of your relationship dealings.

You might act friendlier than you actually feel, or maybe you don’t want to let people know of your reservations about your work. Create a professional persona that serves you.

4. Know your intentions and choose them wisely.

Want to blow up your relationship with your gallery owner because you’re embarrassed to tell him you don’t have paintings ready for your show? Or, do you want to do the right thing and make your confession early on in the conversation?

5. Expect people to come with shadows.

Everyone you’ll deal with is a human being with all of the baggage human beings acquire along the way, including hidden agendas, thin skins, passive-aggressive tendencies, self-interestedness and so on.

6. Be strong when you need to be strong.

It may be smart and strategic to be pleasant and low maintenance in most interactions, but you also need to be assertive when necessary.

7. Ask questions.

Marketplace players have plenty of reasons for not always being clear. Ask, even if you feel embarrassed or aren’t sure the questions really need asking.

8. Ask for help.

If you want to make contact with a journalist but think that the contact ought to be made by your gallery, ask your gallery owner to reach out to the journalist. Request what you need.

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