Myths and misconceptions exist for every industry. There are things we believe to be true that couldn't be further from reality! The art world is no different. Whether it's the "starving artist" idea or the idea that all art is "incredibly expensive," there are a ton of misconceptions about the reality of artists, working with artists, and how clients should approach an artist. I put together a list of ten of the misconceptions that I have personally encountered. I hope these ten explanations give you a better idea of what working with an artist is really like, and either encourages you to reach out to one OR stops you from reaching out to the wrong one!
- We all work the same way and use the same techniques, timelines, etc. - Absolutely not true! Every artist can do different things in different ways and it will take them a different amount of time to do it. Some of us can create massive pieces in a day, and some of us will detail something to death over the course of weeks or months! We all work in our own way, according to our own schedules. So my advice to you if you are looking to work with an artist: ask them how they work. Ask about timelines. Ask about how they create. Ask any individual artist you would like to work with any questions about the things that matter to you.
- We all went to school for art - Look, being an artist isn't something that requires a degree. And while I admire any person who dedicated the time, money and effort into going to school for art, I absolutely don't think it's necessary. Can an art degree get you certain jobs, gigs, whatever it is an artist will try to do? Sure. But NOT having a formal education in art doesn't make someone less talented. So to my fellow "natural born artists" out there...don't worry about going to art school unless you honestly want to do it. And if you do...KICK SOME ASS.
- Just because we can draw "x," that means we can paint "y." - "Oh, you're a portrait artist and you work primarily in pencil. COOL! Hey, could you paint me a picture of my dog?" It sounds really silly when it's spelled out that way, doesn't it? The truth is, just because an artist is good at one thing doesn't mean they're good at another. Just because someone can paint really well with oils doesn't mean they can necessarily sketch you a pencil portrait. Just because someone is great at drawing dogs doesn't necessarily mean they can sketch your sister. Some can do multiple things really well, and some can't. So my tip here for those of you looking to work with an artist sometime - please approach that artist with work that fits what they have shown you already.
- We can all design you a tattoo. - While I would be absolutely flattered for someone to want to put my work on their body forever, there is a major difference between "using my art for a tattoo," and "asking me to design a tattoo. Tattoo artists are who you should approach regarding tattoos. They will know how a design will work on skin - a moving and constantly changing canvas. They will know what details will or won't work, and they will know how to adjust things to make it work not just as an art piece, but as a piece of body art. I have had many people ask me about tattoos. And I will always tell them the same thing: "I can create a painting or drawing for you based on what you are looking for. HOWEVER, please take that art piece to the artist who will be tattooing your body, and make sure they are able to transfer it to skin in a way that makes sense." (And yes, I will always require any "tattoo design" art to be done as a physical art piece.) If an artist is great at designing tattoos for you, great, let them do it. But just because we are artists doesn't always mean that we can make that happen!
- We are "too busy" to contact about taking on a project. - Are we busy? Sure. Are some seasons busier than others? Of course. Do many of us have jobs, families and social lives? Yes! Now I can only speak for myself here, but I can tell you that even in my busiest seasons (the holiday season and the start of hockey season, usually), I absolutely encourage people who are interested in a piece to contact me! Even if my workload is completely full, reach out. If I know you're looking to have a piece created, when a spot opens up, I will have your name in mind and contact you! If you never mention your interest, that can't happen! So if you're curious about an artist creating a piece for you, don't ever shy away because you think they're too busy.
- We are all graphic design wizards - I have been asked multiple times to design logos, do weird Photoshop projects and various other things of that nature. I say no every single time. Why? Because when it comes to graphic design, digital artwork, etc. I have absolutely NO IDEA what I'm doing! That's like handing a cellist a violin and saying "Hey, you play a string instrument...can you play at my sister's wedding?" Can some of them do it? Sure. But can most? Nope. It is a similar but very different task. If you want graphic design work done, hire a graphic designer.
- We work for free, make trades or will give out discounts to everyone. - I shouldn't have to mention this, but I'm going to anyway. This is a pet peeve of mine! Now maybe it's because I work primarily in the sports world, but it's not uncommon for clients to come to me and offer trades for art. For example, "If you draw this player on this team for me, I'll give you $30 and a signed jersey." While the sports fan in me likes the idea, the artist trying to make a living and take her art seriously does not. The same goes for asking for a discount or free art. Please don't ever ask for a discount. If we want to give one, we will. I do it all the time, but it is at my discretion. You don't go into a restaurant and say "hey, I've been here 30 times this year, since I'm a loyal customer, can I get my meal tonight for half price?" If you wouldn't do it at a public establishment, don't do it to us either!
- We are all desperate, starving artists who should be grateful for every single request. - The "starving artist" thing is not reality. It may be true that most of us don't make enough to support ourselves just through art, but that doesn't mean we don't have other means of income - like a full time job or other freelance gig. By assuming an artist is "in need" of your request and "should be flattered" that you want to commission a piece, you are actually insulting them. There are many requests that I have had to turn down for one reason or another, and it has happened to me more than once where the individual would get nasty with me by email simply because I said I would not take their project. Don't do that. Please.
- Our work is always insanely expensive! - You have no idea how wrong that is! Some of my works may be a higher price point, but I personally have plenty of pieces that are in the lower end of the price spectrum. I love creating art at lower price points. Original paintings from some artists may go for upwards of $1,000 but not all of us! If you truly admire an artist's work, do a little digging. Are most of their originals out of your price range? Then maybe ask about a reprint if there is something you really like! If you see that their work covers a broad range, reach out to them. You never know what could happen! For instance, if someone reached out to me and said "Hey, look, I love your work. I would love to have a piece made for my mother's birthday. I'm working with a budget around $X.XX, is there anything we can create in that range?" I would absolutely do my best to meet a client where they are in their budget. Of course, if you see that an artist creates $5,000 paintings, don't ask with a budget of $50 - that's not going to fly.
- We only do one thing/work with one subject. - This is somewhat contradictory to point #3, but let me explain. My point in #3 is to never assume that an artist can do everything! While we all have our niche topics and things we love to do, most of us aren't stuck in there! For example, just because sports portraits are my jam, that doesn't mean I can't sketch a portrait of your wife with the same amount of love and care. An artist who specializes in landscapes and architecture may amaze you with their ability to also paint sea life. While our mediums, techniques and timelines may be pretty unique to who we are, subject matter is usually a little bit more flexible. If it's in our ballpark, feel free to ask about what we can do for you!
Artists are, in general, not crazy. We are not loners, we are not starving and desperate beings who howl at the moon and wear paint splattered clothing all day every day. We are regular, honest, working people just like you are. We are all different, work in our own ways with our own preferences. So today, I encourage you to either reach out to that artist you've wanted to work with for a while and get the ball rolling...or stop yourself from reaching out to that artist who is not right for your project! If I can encourage you to do that, today will be a success!