The first time I met Author X was at a Comic Con party.  We were introduced through a mutual friend.  I didn’t really know much about him but had seen his big fat books at my local bookshop.  As we shook hands, I congratulated him on his success and told him I was looking forward to reading his work as I’d heard very good things.  I was only some five seconds into addressing him, on the tail end of our handshake, when I realized he wasn’t listening to a word I was saying. Instead, his focus had already shifted to the room at large as he scoped the area for more interesting contacts.  I walked off without finishing my sentence.  He didn’t seem to notice.

The second time I met Author X was at a bar, again in the company of that mutual friend.  We were re-introduced but, so far as he was concerned, it may well have been the first time.  Again, I congratulated him on his success.  Again, he pretty much looked straight through me and then spent the next hour or so sitting quietly by himself, glowering, while everyone around him chatted away.

My third experience with Author X wasn’t so much a meeting but a story I heard from someone who’d been on the receiving end of his shitty behavior.

I’ve always been someone who has been able to separate the person from their work.  I may not agree with an author’s political beliefs, but that has never stopped me from reading them.  In fact, I’d say I’ve read terrific books from authors on both ends of the political spectrum – and some equally dreadful books as well.  But my experience with Author X changed things.  I genuinely still intended to purchase one of his novels, but the second I went to pick it up off the shelf, I experienced a sense of revulsion so deep that I actually had to go walk off my anger.  It was a purely Pavlovian response.  The fact that he was an asshole didn’t make him any better or worse a writer.  And, even though I knew it, I nevertheless couldn’t separate my feelings for the author and my distaste at the mere thought of rewarding him with the sale.  So I went home and watched old episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm instead.

So, my question to you:

Are you able to separate the artist from the art?

Does it depend on the circumstances?  If so, where do you draw the line?

On the flip side, here are a couple of artists worthy of your support:


31 thoughts on “February 24, 2017: Separating the artist from the art!

  1. What an interesting post, Joe. Actually, I had a similar experience a few days ago. A friend mentioned that they could easily separate a person’s writing from their character. I told them that I could not. Her question to me, “So, if you didn’t like me as a person, you wouldn’t buy my books?” I told her, “no, especially if you were a raging Fascist”. As far as I’m concerned, people can act any way they want (as long as it’s not illegal), but I don’t have to buy their products if I don’t like them.

  2. That’s a complex question. I can usually separate my feelings about politics. However, pedophilia/rape is another matter. There are two actors/producers/directors that I will forever boycott. It turns my stomach how so many high profile people in Hollywood support Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. I just don’t get it.

  3. I’d like to think I am refined enough to separate the artist from the art, but I’m not. After being in the book selling business for almost 16 years, I had enough bad encounters with enough authors/writers, musicians, politicians, athletes, celebrities, etc. during signings at my stores to disillusion me for life. I could name names, but I won’t. But I’m really tempted!

    A vast mast majority of the people were gracious, even kind to my team and my customers, so those are the people I tended to support more with my purchase of their book, CD, DVD, etc. However, some of those badly behaved people forever earned my scorn and refusal to read/watch/listen to/purchase their product.

    As I’m writing this I am remembering a few specific people through the years who were so delightful, so engaging, so genuine that they became the standard against which I would look back and measure all others. Joe, you are one of those exceptional people. You are open, interactive, have care and concern for your fans and followers, are invested in people (and puppy dogs!) and are a smart and clever person committed to creating something people can enjoy. As a result, I will continue to support your art…and I’m so glad the artist/art relationship is copacetic and requires no separation.

  4. Alas, that pug artist looked quite disinterested in creating her art. The human helper/carrier was somewhat robotic. But LOVED watching the effort — more please!

    I wouldn’t have bought or read Art’s book either. Nor will I view a film or play if I don’t care for the author or subject, or actor.

    How is sweet Bubba today? Is the medicine seeming to help at all? Hugs and kisses to him.

  5. Bubba and Suji’s art is both sublime and subtle. Contrasting styles, Bubba is bold while Suji is delicate. Both seem to come from an organic place. Definitely artists ahead of their time.

    “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Can’t wait for the new ones to start this year.

    I have the dilemma that I go back and forth about Michael Jackson all the time. I have so many wonderful memories from my life connected to his music. But now with all the truth that has come out about him, does liking or listening to his music somehow condone the predator that he was? And that makes me feel like I want to vomit.

  6. I wonder how many more Dark Matter actors will be at Shore Leave 39? Mike Dupod and Marc Bendavid were announced today, and Jodelle was announced a few weeks ago. Roger Cross has already signed my Dark Matter copy, now to get the rest. 🙂

  7. Well, the first time I met Don, before we started exchanging emails, I was hesitant to approach a “general”.

  8. I had a favorite actor from a soap opera; named my first born after the character he plays. Met him at an event once; was no longer my favorite actor. Still loved the character he played though…

  9. Depends on the magnitude of shittiness. For example, I recently read Arthur C. Clarke’s “Glide Path,” his only non-science fiction novel. It’s a fictionalized account of some radar tech development he was involved in during the Second World War, but by his own decleration largely autobiographical and based on real incidents. Anyhoo, there’s a section where’s he’s pretty douchey about the Irish, which I found immensely disappointing, but I’m not about to toss my copy of “Fountains of Paradise” because of it (indeed, if I started stripping my shelfs of every British author with condescending colonial attitudes, I’d have little left that was written prior to the 1980s…).

    On the other hand, there are some movies I find myself completely uninterested in watching due to the off-screen life of the director.

  10. Love the pug art!

    As far as artists vs. art goes, for me it depends on how much I like their work I suppose. Also, there’s some things that I simply cannot tolerate and are deal breakers, like if they believe/promote things which clearly harm other people. If they’re just idiots though, I’m a bit more tolerant. So yeah, complex question.

    In your Author X situation, I can completely understand your revulsion. As soon as it’s a personal experience, you’re right it’s a conditioned response. The guy sounds like a real jackass.

  11. @The fact that he was an asshole

    You pretty much summed up what I was thinking from reading the first paragraph with this quote. I wouldn’t worry about it, some people just have massive egos and can’t see how bad they look to others, or rather they don’t care. It probably hasn’t occurred to Author X that they wouldn’t be in the position they are without their fans.

  12. As from yesterday’s blog entry, I take it that you do not suffer fools lightly. As for the above aggrievance: I’m split. My favorite movie star is John Wayne. I don’t agree with his political beliefs but I will watch his movies. (It helps that he is dead.) I think Tom Cruise has gone off the deep end with the whole Scientology thing but I still watch his movies. I hated Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Open – in my opinion a horrible movie and could barely watch her for years in anything else. For the most part I can separate the person & the character and the person on the pedestal & the real person except when they are a total douche. Everyone can have an off day. It happens. But somewhere there is that old adage of first impressions. If you ever get on my “shit list” then that’s it.

    I have gotten to an age where I don’t seek out approval or acceptance as I did when I was younger (as when a child). I have less patience and time for inconsiderate people. Life is too short to waste it on those who can’t be bothered. I’m sure in the same situation, I’d put the novel back on the shelf too.

  13. I’m afraid I can’t separate bad behavior of an artist from their art. I enjoyed Adam Baldwin’s acting until I started to read his ridiculously ignorant, inflammatory, right-wing tweets. Now I can’t watch anything with him in it. Even though I heard The Last Ship is pretty good, I just can’t watch it. In another case, I waited with others for 15 minutes to get an actor to sign his book for us, while he chatted away with friends nearby. We were spending money on his book, and he ignored us. He did come over eventually and was nice, if sort of phony. That actor, I manage to still watch, but it did color my view of him. I never did read his book 🙂

    I have to say all my encounters with anyone associated with Stargate, at various conventions, were very positive. Even when folks were tired (or a bit tipsy, haha), they treated fans very well.

  14. Maybe Author X has Asperger’s or some similar disorder that effects his ability to interact socially.

    I am upset by folks who put their disagreeable political opinions front and center and then have the nerve to write excellent books i.e. Orson Scott Card, anti-gay activist/board member, author of Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead.

    One reaction I read about is to go ahead and buy the book and then donate an equal amount to a counter organization. Easy to do regarding LGBT issues; more problematic when the issue is a**hole behavior. Maybe a donation to work against Asperger’s made in Author X’s honor.

  15. If a person was that rude or ignorant to me, I don’t think I would be all that interested in buying their books or watching their movies or shows.
    There are loads more talented people out in the world to support who appreciate their fans and enjoy connecting with them.

  16. The saying that success or money doesn’t always bring you happiness appears to be true in regards to Author X. This is not a person who lives a happy life, enjoying and engaging in the world around him. How sad for him. All the wonderful possibilities forever missed.

    Would I buy his work….not if I felt a personal revulsion and by the same token I met a favourite fantasy author at book expo in LA one year and after complimenting his work (he was there promoting his soon to be released book after all) we engaged in around 30 minute conversation on solar energy that was very interesting. He puts his money where his heart is and the respect I walked away from that conversation with guaranteed that to this day I buy everything he writes. Period.

  17. Usually I get to meet the art and never the artist. Although, I had a similar experience a few years back when I had the opportunity to meet one of my favorite voice actors. He clearly was not interested in our meeting and barely shook my hand before turning around and walking away. In that sense, I still enjoy my favorite film of his because he was only one part of a bigger project and his slight was only against my person. Now, if he was cruel and abusive to other people in general (or anything of that equivalent), then it becomes more difficult to separate the art from the artist. For me to support the art is in itself me supporting the artist, which, in essence, is me supporting their person.

    Art museums/galleries don’t fall under this category for me, though, since I’m more so admiring than buying. Perhaps it’s also for this reason I prefer an exhibit or museum any day.

  18. I would love to say I can separate the artist from the art, but I can’t.

    A few years ago now, I was working in the gardens of a particular Abbey. It was autumn, chilly and windy so in my lunch break I decided to pop into the local RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) show at the Lindley Halls. On display were all manner of harvested delights. Quite amazing. The people around me, mainly from Westminster and Chelsea (posh) areas paid no heed to me in my gardening attire.
    At one stall there were books on fruit varieties (yeah, stunningly interesting stuff!) were for sale. One book in particular caught my eye and asked the guy there if I may take a peek. He turned around, looked me up and down and said ‘I don’t sell my books to people like you’ and turned his back on me! Stunned, I looked at the person next to me – who was as equally surprised, and we both walked quietly away.
    I surmised later he must have thought I’d come off the streets – my face and nose bright red because of the heating in that place, my hair styled in that windswept look and lots of heavy clothing on (never bothered to notice it was a uniform with *** Abbey Gardener embroidered on it!)
    Turned out he was the author of THAT book.
    I nearly got my revenge by looking it up on Amazon, where it was greatly reduced in price but still couldn’t bring myself to buy it….
    Shame, as it’s supposed to be excellent….

  19. A difficult question.

    There is a really interesting documentary about just this dilemma with Stephen Fry. He happens to be a huge fan of Wagner´s music, but the man was also a Nazi. In the end Fry concludes that artists are humans like everyone else and can be flawed, but their art stands above them, and can be enjoyed by all.

    One of my favorite painters, Paul Gauguin, was by all accounts a real asshole and “married” to a 13-year old girl on Tahiti. Even though I find him repulsive as a person, I love his paintings. I guess it´s easier when the artist is already dead.

  20. First and most important – love the pugs and their artwork. Suji seems a little bewildered at what is happening.

    Re: jerks. I don’t try to separate my feelings. My experiences have been more with actors. Those who seem to want to “give back to the fans” because in some of their words – they would not be in their good situations without fans following their work and productions. These are actors that I do love and love to see in any production and of course at conventions.

    We have a great Raza crew who love us as much as we love them.

    Unfortunately there are other actors who don’t want to acknowledge fans. I once went to an actor’s table to get an autograph. It is not like his table was that busy either, but he seemed to look through me and basically reject me as worthy of his presence. So, I left.

    climbing off soapbox.

  21. An artist, writer, actor can shape how you perceive their work just by meeting them. Isaac Asimov, Terry Pratchett, Paulina Porizkova, Anne McCaffery, Cindy Crawford, Forrest Ackermann, the cast of Dark Matter were absolute joys to meet and made their work more enjoyable. Good public relations, it doesn’t take much time, but last lasts a lifetime.
    On the other side are the writers who steady themselves for conventions with drink, smile on the face and blast furnace disdain in the eyes. Is that better than a British performer that lies repeatedly at cons to fans, and then blames the agent for it? If the devil didn’t do it, the agent did?
    Wonder afterwards how many are now tuning out either the writer or performer now?

  22. Nope, can’t do it. Ever since I found out that a certain actor thinks it’s OK to strike women ‘with an open hand’ I can’t watch my favourite spy movies without that feeling of revulsion you describe. I can’t get past it.

    I also met a band in their VERY early days and went to get an autograph, the guy looked around the room as he was signing and didn’t really acknowledge my existence. I was a bit pissed off but I still bought their next album – it was too good not to just because one of the members was a bit of a tool.

  23. For me, it is a yes and no. Some people are so repugnant or have committed such vile deeds, it is difficult to enjoy the art. Sometimes the art is so good, it glosses over the artists’ bad behavior. I often end up feeling conflicted.

    I have never met any artists, actors, authors, whathaveyou. I don’t go to cons, or book signings, or seek out backstage pass style experiences. Nope. I am fundamentally shy, and get flustery panic attacks which leave me looking like a drooling fool. So I’m good at a distance.

    Being a public figure with fans eager to meet you seems like a special sort of hell. I would hate it. Several years ago, I had one person at Burning Man drop in our shade structure saying “I lurk on eplaya, and I’ve always wanted to meet you”. Freaked me right the hell out, although I should not have been surprised, I have an on-going art project, it is on the BMan discussion board, and I post the annual address. People do seek out the art, but most of the time when they come to talk to me, I’ve interacted with them online beforehand. This was the first time someone showed up with more of an interest in me than in the art. Eeek! Yep, I turned into a tongue tied bowl of pudding.

    I have no idea how real celebrities do this on a regular basis, or put themselves out there at conventions. I know it is part of the job, but it has to take a special temperament and personality to pull it off well and professionally. Perhaps some people simply are not suited for it, and end up looking like jerks? Or maybe they are jerks.

    LOL, ramble mode off.

  24. Good point Maggiemayday! ” Perhaps some people simply are not suited for it, and end up looking like jerks?”

    Agree with Jenny Horn’s Joe, you are one of those exceptional people. You are open, interactive, have care and concern for your fans and followers, are invested in people (and puppy dogs!) and are a smart and clever person committed to creating something people can enjoy.

    Hope the pups are good today!

  25. Do you consider yourself foremost as a writer or as an artist?
    I believe the difference is exponential…I’m an artist , criticism is exponential…

  26. This is an interesting question. For me, I don’t separate the artist from the art. That might be wrong, especially if you yourself are an artist, as in what if the work of that someone is so good that you could learn new things that would enrich your craft, and you can’t because of your feelings? But, whether it’s a writer, actor/actresses, singers etc. If I connect to an artwork, next step is for me to connect that artwork with the artist who did it and therefore I connect to the artist in a way. And then If I hear he or she is a Trump supporter, I’m outta there. LOL… but seriously, I do understand your situation and I would react the same.

  27. This is very interesting and I will answer even though I’m late… as always. I’m sorry for that.

    First, I thought this is just the same as when you work with someone, but I guess you put up a lot more with someones attitude, if you get paid for it and if the project is on the line.
    But no, it’s not the same and I think I can say I’m making a gut decision when I find out bad stuff about someone. Depending on what the person did and how incredible I find their art. Fortunately I have never had the experience of being repulsed in a manner where I had to drop someone as my favourite artist/actor/writer. But there was one digital artist on youtube who was simply amazing and he has some great teaching videos as well. However, this person also has some videos where he just draws something and then starts rambling. All fine, but in the end he admits that the story he just told was a lie. What? The artist was trying to prove a point by telling a false story? Not that’s not how it works for me, sorry. This kind of action made me feel like this person was an amazing artist, but maybe not the smartest person around. This did make me look for other teaching sources, but at some point I watched other stuff he made and simply took his words with a grain of salt.
    Mostly, I’ve only had positive experiences. Like finding out more about J.K. Rowling. Meeting the stargate actors in person or just recently, the actors from once upon a time, who met a huge group of fans on a day of shooting in Richmond. Everybody was so nice, so I guess I’ve been lucky AND I have good taste in people/artists lol.

    To sum this up. I think that it’s important to remind yourself that in our time we can find someone just as amazing in no time. We have the privilege to choose who we follow online and through other media. Thus we make a statement. But if I would make a bad personal experience with someone directly, I doubt that I would support them any longer. After all, there are better people out there.

  28. Oh and what I wanted to add is: I think the work of any great artist should be respected, whether you support the art/the person is a different matter.

  29. Ok here’s one for ya:
    This is similar to Maggiemayday’s point of view – but takes it a bit further
    and challenges ‘you’ to examine your own behavior
    and feelings of repulsion.

    I always try to understand why a person might
    have acted poorly or coldly, dismissive or inconsiderate toward me
    and do my best to examine how my own behavior might have
    provoked a particular reaction or in this case, lack there of,
    before I simply judge and dismiss them as entirely unworthy
    of my precious little free time and energy.
    (I don’t always succeed at it – but I do at least make the effort
    because I know I cannot control what others do
    Only that which I do.
    And yes, even with me, it does depend
    on the circumstance and the degree of the poor behavior.)

    What you ‘perceived’ as arrogant
    and rude in the situations you described
    may have absolutely nothing to do with poor manners
    or arrogance, at all.
    In all likelihood,
    it has to do with his “own” deep inner struggles
    of separating the art from the artist.

    Perhaps , as Maggie said,
    he’s simply someone
    not well suited for celebrity life.
    Perhaps he doesn’t know how to fake a polite smile and handshake.
    Perhaps he really just sucks at and truly loathes the aspect
    and demands of his chosen career path and success
    that now dictates he must “constantly” market himself
    and act gracious of every potential new customer of his art
    every time he elects to venture out in public”.

    Perhaps when he’s at a party or at a bar
    with his friend or friends,
    (not working or has already fulfilled his obligatory meet n greet fans quota for the day),
    he just wants to leave the work and marketing stuff behind.

    In other words,
    he will talk with you
    if your opening line lets him know
    you are introducing yourself
    personally as a human being and addressing him
    as just another human being you are meeting for the 1st time,
    “like any other human being”
    rather than as a best selling author.

    It may very well be that
    its not only taxing and exhausting
    for this person to have to constantly be saying thanks
    and talking about his latest work
    but it might also be something
    that makes him feel
    overly self conscious,
    limited as a human being
    and stiflingly small.
    As if his books and his writing
    is all “he Is” or has to offer in his existence on earth.

    if Author X weren’t a best selling author
    and your mutual friend introduced you to him,
    your opening introduction line
    would have been very different, right?.
    It would have begun with something
    more like:
    “Hey cool con this year, eh?!
    Did you check out xx booth yet?”
    Or “I see so n so
    is here this year- are you familiar with their work”?
    Then you might have looked
    for something of commonality
    to chat about.

    That’s not to say – you have to pretend
    ‘not’ to know he is a best selling writer
    or that you cannot mention to him at all
    that you look forward to checking out his work
    at some point.
    Its just not the most thoughtful
    or most considerate thing to open with
    if your’e not there at the party meeting him
    with clear professional/business intent
    such as wanting to get more info on him before reading
    his books to consider offering him a writing job on your latest show.

    And before you come up with a “righteous” reply
    to defend your behavior and condemn his failing
    as a human being for ignoring you,

    Quietly ask yourself, if ‘you’ hit the like button
    or respond with even so much as a thank you
    to every single potential new fan
    (or even a current one)
    on twitter or reddit or the blog
    who opens with the line “Love your work”.
    Or “Heard good things and look forward to checking out your work”?.

    Of course you don’t!!

    It would be terribly taxing/exhausting and boring
    and make you hate being on twitter, reddit and the blog if
    you had to respond to every single person
    who said congrats on the success of your latest work
    I look forward to checking it out.

    Another possibility is that this person severely struggles
    with interaction when
    he’s around group gatherings as opposed to meeting people
    in an intimate “one on one” setting.
    For people like that – its very easy to perceive them
    as completely arrogant
    because they might feel so awkward and stressed
    by the situation
    they will completely fail to respond to you and just walk off to talk
    to the bartender about something completely trivial
    like where that piece of memorabilia on the wall came from
    or they’ll go chat up some random attractive person of the opposite sex
    that they can just flirt/play with and not have
    to worry about having to say anything too real, intelligent,
    or personal.

    I have a few writer friends like that and must confess I was offended by their behavior at first. But I took the time to understand them and the seemingly poor behavior and am glad I did because they are no less
    wonderful people to have in my life than any other friend

    Have you ever wondered why Author X
    apparently likes and socializes with this obviously warm decent mutual friend of yours? (I say “obviously” because I doubt you’d remain on friendly terms with someone who wasn’t “a warm kind decent human being”).

    Have you ever asked “your mutual friend” under what circumstances he and this Author X person met? and what his opening introduction lines with him were? and what makes Author X
    worthy of his time and loyal friendship?

    The point is: You really just dont know this person or why he behaved the way he did
    and yet you judged and dismissed the book by its ugly cover simply because
    there were more appealing ones sitting on the shelf next to it.

    In some ways – your behavior of dismising/ignoring his work- because he seemed to dismiss/ignore you
    makes you both equally guilty of poor, small minded, behavior

    Always remember, you cannot control what others do
    – only that which you do.

  30. It all depends. When it comes to movies, for instance, it really depends on whether or not the actor gets lost in the character. For instance, I love Mad Max, but I’m not particularly keen on Gibson. Max is Max, he’s NOT Mel…or even Hardy (though I do like the latter as a person, too).

    Some actors I can forgive for most everything in their personal life, like Johnny Depp. Same goes for Eastwood, Cary Grant, and Bogart. I love their roles and that’s all that matters.

    Then there are some actors that I can’t stomach no matter how good their characters may be, or how nice they may be…like Will Ferrell. There’s just something about him that repels me, and because there’s no reason for it I actually feel a bit guilty for disliking him so much.

    As far as art/artists in general (books, movies, music, etc) I have found myself very tolerant of average work when I have had a chance to actually meet the person, if said person turns out to be a fantastic guy. So it goes to reason that if they turn out to be arsehats, then I’m guessing my reaction would be much like yours. Of course, outside of comics and The Pendergast authors, I haven’t really met that many artists, or actors, or musicians, or writers. I have interacted with a few online, however, and most of them have been great…like you. It’s why you’ll always have a special place in my heart, even if you write a shitty episode or two. 😉


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