why i
   get mad
   (a rant)
A man with aggressively interesting eyeglasses steps to the podium. We artists shift in our seats.
He begins: “What’s the one thing every artist should spend more time on?"
No hands go up. His glasses reflect his tedious powerpoint.
“Branding." He lets that sink in.
“Now, I’ve spent the last thirty years working with brands such as....”
Some artists take notes with the fretful look of students who missed yesterday’s class. Some sit back, bored. And some stare at the floor, validated in their assumption that they are screwing up, they have done it all wrong. Yeah, why didn’t I spend more time on branding?
I clench my fist around my pencil; a familiar rage seethes in my belly.
This again.
Many non-artists want to “help artists.” They want to enlighten us, rescue us, save us from ourselves.
They know why we have a hard time, and they’re here to fix us. In their eyes, we are clever but naive, endearingly obsessed with our little art projects and incapable of functioning in the Real World of deadlines and bottom lines.
I want to say: Please sit the hell down.
Do you realize who you are speaking to, Mr. Branding? Artists take on profound, nonlinear, sometimes eternal questions of culture and self and perception. And we do it with little or no money.
We go to ten times your depth with a tenth of your resources.
You stand before geniuses and world changers, Mr. Marketing. Before you read aloud the business school bullet points on your tacky slides—trust no one who uses animated slide transitions—bow down.
Insufficient branding is not what makes an artist’s life hard. Know why it’s hard? Because artists do essential, arduous work that fuels everything in our culture, and we are consistently under acknowledged, under respected, and under compensated. That’s why it’s goddamn hard. Artists are not screwing this up. Artists are doing heroic work under intolerable conditions. This world extracts our creations and insights and abandons us economically.
* * *
A friend of mine started an artist residency. Before launching, she sought advice from two arts organizations—badass organizations, the ones that truly work in community and (often, somewhat) pay artists. Both told her the same thing: Artists are difficult. They offered tips for managing artists who can be unrealistic, demanding, and immature.
Look, in any profession, there are difficult, immature people. Obviously. And we are all free to talk smack about them.
But these arts administrators weren’t badmouthing specific artists; they were moaning that artists are difficult.
That’s a ridiculous bias and I hear it all the time.
* * *
To all the well-intentioned non-artists with your Five Must-Haves for a Successful Art Career and your tips for managing difficult artists:
Artists are crushing it. We are magnificently capable and accomplished. Don't fix us. Partner with us.
Partner with us after you acknowledge the magnificent capacity and competence we manifest every day.
And to all you artists: Making art is difficult even with full financial, cultural, and community support.
Without that support, it is near inconceivable.
And that’s what you are doing. Nice work.

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Don't forget: 12/12 is Artist Thank You Day
Tell an artist how their work is meaningful to you. 
If possible, write about specific works of art.
There may be other things you appreciate about this artist—their leadership, their teaching, their kindnessbut for this, focus on the art.
No need to offer anything else. No need to propose a coffee date or promise to attend their next show.
Just say: thank you.

I am writing to you because you took an Artists U workshop or downloaded Making Your Life as an Artist. Focus and attention are essential to artists, so if these emails take up your time without giving you something in return, please do hit the unsubscribe button and go make art.