The Phrase I Dread Most as an Artist.

WARNING: much sarcasm ahead.

As an artist who sells her art and attends shows, there is one phrase I dread hearing the most from people looking at my art.  I am sure many of my fellow artists or entrepreneurs can relate.

“You know what you should do is…”

I cringe inside before they’ve even finished.  I plaster a fake smile on my face.

Because 95% of the time…

They are not a fellow artist,
They do not own a retail shop or gallery,
And they know nothing about art or selling it.

%5 of the time (1 in 20) the person speaking DOES know what they are talking about.  But I’m usually the one who initiates these conversations by showing interest in their art or business.

This rant is not for the 5%.

For the 95%, I smile and nod, saying thank you and changing the subject as quickly as possible.  Because that’s what you are supposed to do for good customer service.

What I wish I could say is…

Yes, I did try that local store.  They rejected my art, twice.  Thanks for remind me of the constant rejection that comes with being an artist.

Yes I talked to that other store. I don’t fit their style and they don’t serve my ideal customer and/or fit my price point.  Oh you think my stuff would fit there?  What, are you blind?

Yes I would love to be in that gallery/museum store.  They have ignored my emails and the buyer or owner is never there.  Do you know the owner?  No?   They want a 50% cut anyway.

No I will not go on Shark Tank.  Or QVC.  NEVER.   Shoot me now.

Yes, I tried and failed at a kickstarter.  Most crowd funding campaigns fail.

I should use (insert fandom) image from a popular TV/Movie/comic?  Hahah (fake laugh) that would be so cute.  Thanks for suggesting I break copyright law.

I should get on (hugely popular) blog?  They haven’t responded to my e-mails, they are probably buried among the hundreds of spam messages they get.

You don’t like something about my style?  I should change the thing that makes it unique?  Ah, I see, it might appeal to a wider audience.   Yes, I will just neuter myself right now.  I am happy to start all over from scratch on my business and art just to please you.  On second thought, your opinion doesn’t matter because you aren’t my target customer. 

Ooo, yes, my prices really are too high.  Forget retail vs. wholesale pricing, gallery or consignment.  You are right, I deserve less than 3rd world wages for my time.   And no extra for equipment, student loans, rent, food, gas, the occasional glass of wine, etc.  I’ll just eat cardboard and drink rainwater while living in a van down by the river.

ETC ETC ETC.  You get the picture.

I am not making any of these comments up.  Every single show there are a few people like this.

I sometimes wonder if other artists receive this much unsolicited advice.  Or if I get more because I’m female and look young.  I have no idea.

Whatever the reason…

Pease people, for the love of Einstein, STOP giving unwanted, uninformed advice like it’s a gift!  

It is not. It’s arrogant and presumptuous.  You are not helping.

Stop thinking that you (who has seen my art all of 3 seconds) know better than me, the person who has slaved away night and day for years.

Sometimes I don’t have the energy after a long day talking to the public to pretend to coo over your opinion and say how lovely and smart it is.

Remember, I never asked for your opinion.  You offered it unprompted.  I’m not obliged to take it.

If I change the subject?  Shrug, say “no thank you”, “not my style”, or even explain why your suggestion won’t work?  Please don’t get defensive.

You may think it’s clever, but to me the advice is your deformed inbred pet and you are pushing it onto my lap without consent.  No thank you.

No, just no.  Stop right there.  Don’t continue speaking.  Quit while you are ahead.

Ah, that’s better.

If you really want to help an artist, what could you do instead?

  1. Praise their art and recognize the skill that went into it.
  2. Bring a friend to see it.
  3. Talk it up on social media.  This helps more than you know.
  4. If they are alone at a show, ask if they want a glass of water or a pee break.  Or a sandwich.  Just the offer can make their day
  5. Most importantly if you can afford it, buy their art.  Support artists financially.  Very few of us are living large off our art.


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1 Comment

  1. December 20, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    But my advice comes from ME. I’m important. I like giving advice. Let just me explain why that’s a gift from me to you. {/sarcasm}

    I sometimes wonder if other artists receive this much unsolicited advice.  Or if I get more because I’m female and look young.

    FWIW I got this when I was working as a photographer, despite being a SWM.

    And don’t even talk about “negotiating” prices after the photos are taken and sometimes even after  the post-processing work is completed. No, if you’d thought about it honestly you would have realised I’ve done the work that you agreed to pay for and now it’s time for you to pay.

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