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The Pros and Cons of Marrying an Artist

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Stephania Smith here. As a sociologist and sometime writer and poet, I have now been married to Breck, a full-time artist/painter, for 28 years. I thought it might be helpful to people out in the blogosphere to get a little advice on the pros and cons of being married to an artist. Please forgive my exclusive use of the male pronoun for artist, but I find he/she cumbersome, and I am a woman married to a male artist, so this fits for me. Also, I should point out that these characteristics apply to my husband and I am generalizing from them, without any scientific data whatsoever. Buyer beware. Given these caveats, here are my pros:



1. There is the romantic artist ethos – The basic archetype holds that he’s such a brilliant, creative genius he spends all of his time on his oeuvre and ignores his personal needs, hence he needs a loving woman to take care of him, this being you. You Juno, you.



2. They generally have a nice attitude about bodies – Like 66% of the population of America, I am overweight. Overweight women are a highly discriminated against group in America, with size discrimination falling just behind gender and age discrimination as the most common form of discrimination we experience. (Size discrimination is more common than race discrimination among women.) Artists, however, are trained to seek beauty in different forms, and are exposed to a variety of female body shapes that have been considered beautiful at different times. As a result, many of them see beauty in overweight women as well as skinny ones. Imagine my surprise and delight at being described by him as being “succulent, like a ripe peach.” Yes, you may park your slippers under my bed!



3. You may get an ego boost by being his muse or model – Directly related to #2. Never in my life did I even consider the possibility that an artist would ask to paint me nude. Breck did. It was quite strange going to an art show where some of these nudes were on display. But someone purchased one! Woohoo!


4. You’ll have a never-ending supply of wall decorations to vary the look of your home – I love our living room wall art (see #2 in cons) now and probably won’t change it for some time to come, but the art in the other rooms can rotate according to my whim. A few pieces I especially like so they stay: one of me at my computer desk and a view of a Roanoke, VA neighborhood is another. However, when he goes through his work picking pieces for his shows, I pick pieces I want to put up in our home.




5. He is usually a good handyman around the house – Your artist has likely tried different forms of art making as part of his artist’s education, plus he has to work with wood cutting, drilling, gluing, staining or painting and nailing, plus wall hanging, as part of his framing. This means he has worked with a variety of materials. Breck was an Exhibit Designer at the NC Zoo, where he did welding, carving in concrete, and painting. He has also worked construction, because he is good with his hands and with material things, as opposed to working with people and ideas (although he is good at that, too, being a teacher). The result? He can fix lots of things around the house. Whether he actually does them or not is a different matter!


Cons:


1. Things may disappear from around the house – When we first married, I was going crazy because ingredients that I had bought for recipes I was planning to make kept vanishing. Did I not buy them?? Was I losing my memory? No. I would find jars and cans of things, plus fruits and vegetables I planned to cook with, in his studio – often rotting. Eeeww.





2. The house will eventually overflow with the supply of paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, etc. that your artist lovingly produces – We began renting a self-storage room about 10 years ago. It is full and the house has filled up again. You can’t walk in the spare bedroom for paintings leaned against all sides of the bed. They are also stacked on virtually all wall space above cabinets (the small ones), layered in four-foot high drying/holding racks (works on paper), and stacked two high in the computer room against the wall. It is positively claustrophobic. At one point he was using the living room wall as a drying area. This was convenient because we have a vaulted ceiling and there is a lot of wall space. There were so many paintings the wall looked as busy as a Los Angeles freeway, and sitting next to it was bad feng shue and caused me anxiety. I put my foot down and now we just have one large painting, which hung in the NC Museum of Art some years back. Aaaahhh. I now have a coordinated living room décor and happier feng shue.


3. He may have less time to spend with you than you would hope – He is going to be a very busy man since he has both a day job (to pay bills & get benefits) and his art business (which is ideally profitable, but usually not enough to live on. The starving artist stereotype has some basis in fact.) Since this is two jobs, this may require him to be working very long hours. Be prepared to have hobbies.


4. Rotten at Pictionary. This is counter-intuitive, but my sweet husband actually tries to draw things when he gives Pictionary clues. Complete shapes. I do stick figure equivalents, which are faster and generally communicate just as well. I creamed him in Pictionary at a recent neighborhood block party. Tyah-hah!



These are a sample of advantages and disadvantages of an artist spouse from my perspective. Good luck with yours!

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