This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She is a Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews and her freelance writing appears in regional newspapers, online magazines, and her humor blog, Middle-Aged Plague.
I know someone whose father just died. Ten hours after it happened, she found herself in the grocery store, picking up food for the family.
"And how are you today?" the clerk asked.
"I'm fine," she answered. ("My father just died," she said to herself. "I'm not fine.")
"Oh, good. Good. That's quite a nice roast chicken. It smells delicious."
"Yes it does," she answered. ("It wasn't unexpected, but it was sudden. I'm in shock.")
"Add a salad and some bread, and you've got a meal!"
"The white wine will complete it." ("Actually, I don't feel like eating at all.")
"Have a nice day!"
"You too." ("Thank God that's over.")
I imagine that the clerk had no idea of the actual state of his customer's mind or being, which isn't surprising since the main clues available to him would have been the woman's words, demeanor, and body language -- all well under control.
Most of us who are grownups have learned that, when someone asks, "How are you?" the standard and acceptable response is "Fine, just fine," since general acquaintances and daily contacts aren't looking to hear about the perforated ulcer, the messy divorce, or the child on drugs.
Translate this into the art world, where chicken by-products come in the form of depressed art sales (or none at all), galleries closing, lack of inspiration, creditors knocking, canceled shows, rejection letters, dried-up publicity, and general discouragement.
Seriously, is this the kind of stuff that artists post on their website or Facebook page?
"No sales in three months, and a backlog of 48 paintings. Turned in my application to Burger Babe today!"
"Spent more on cookies and chocolate nuts for the reception than we'll ever see in sales!"
"Wii came out with a new painting exercise game -- have been at it for hours!"
One of my favorite comments was actually a real one, uttered in a moment of absolute honesty from the curator of a non-profit art association:
"I don't know why we bother with insuring the work in this building. I mean, if we can't sell it, how would the thieves do it?"
Okay, this all sounds bad, real bad, so before you get depressed, remind yourself that life has its ups and downs, and both bad things and good things happen, generally concurrently. The important thing is this: when things are good, people talk about them; when things are bad, people keep quiet.
Remind yourself of this, as you read about or attend other artists' shows, look through other artists' sites, glance at other artists' hoots and Tweets and Facebook bleats.
"Despair!" -- such is the Facebook post of high school drama divas who precede it by "He loves me!" and follow by, "It's complicated." Professional artists, however, are not of this caliber, and they refrain from cataloging every emotion in the public sector.
Whether the times are bad or good, they post their new paintings, provide information about upcoming shows, report on recent publicity, showcase their artwork in a positive light and encourage communication and dialogue. They look like what they are: adult businesspeople who conduct themselves with propriety and maturity in the public marketplace; their actual affairs are personal, shared with only a few close friends or family members, probably not you or me.
Tired-of-Being-Youngest, our youngest progeny, offers these words of advice about Facebook, but they can be interpolated to a broader spectrum of all human interaction, be it face to face or social media, written or spoken, direct or indirect:
"It's not like you post anything personal on Facebook, and only a few people really get into splattering their lives and their feelings there. I usually block them.
"You post news -- what you're doing, where you're going, what book you just read, the movie you've seen. You keep things positive, because you're updating people, and they want information, not drama."
Let me summarize this: Do Not Covet.
In the same way that we do not look at the neighbor's car, dog, house, job, spouse or waist measurement and compare it to our own -- wish it were our own -- we do not look at other artists' information, guesstimate how they are doing, and slink to a dark corner where we uncontrollably weep.
Good times and bad will be had for all. We all walk our own path. It is easier to do so when we keep our eyes on the road in front of us, and don't let them wander in every direction but forward.