Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Being an artist is fun - you get to create what you love and, if you're so inclined, sell a couple pieces of work here and there. At least, being an artist seems fun until you remember that difficult customers exist.
How difficult, you ask? Well, I went to some fellow creatives with the same question to find out what makes artists want to put their heads through the wall:
1. People who ask for free or discounted drawings
"[For] People who say ‘woah that’s expensive’ and then proceed to ask why - [it's] because it’s a bespoke price of artwork that will take me a lot of time. Don’t like the price? Do it yourself or find an artist who will do it for a cheaper price. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for." - Anonymous
"Being an illustrator isn’t easy. It takes a lot of mental work to draw out what you want and hoping you like what I’ve drawn for you is quite nerve racking. And don’t get me started on staying up all night to finish off the piece of art." - Anonymous
Behind every pretty picture you see an artist paint is hours (and sometimes days, weeks or months) of concentration, money spent on art supplies and years of practice. If your artist is selling physical copies of their work, their budget for selling to you will also include postage, packaging, possible commission taken from the sale (if your artist is using a platform like Etsy or Asos Marketplace which charges you to use their website) and several other costs.
So, with all these hours and financial costs, why would you want your artist to do all of that without compensation?
It's honestly heartbreaking as an artist to hear people tell me things like:
"Mates rates? Can you give me a friendly discount?"
To ask me for a discount, whether you're a friend of mine or not, is deeply insulting. It tells me that you don't believe my art is worth any money. Every artist prices their work appropriately to ensure that all financial losses are covered and they can make enough profit to reproduce that work again for more clients.
"That's so expensive, how about [suggests a lower price] instead?"
Like any other service, art is one that deserves recognition and financial payment for the effort behind it. Every artist is a regular person like you - we all have to pay for things like bills, housing and food and, as much as we love doing our craft for fun, we deserve payment for the time and effort it takes to make the perfect item for you. You wouldn't negotiate the price of a burger at a restaurant, so why do artists get treated differently? Art is a profession just like any other and deserves just as much respect.
"Creating art takes more time than you could ever imagine (and part of that time is brainstorming ideas, talking to the client, going back and forth and sketching/reworking). So please understand when fees are higher than you expect - there is a reason why they are what they are." - Lauren Rust (https://www.instagram.com/laurenrustart/)
"But you didn't even do that much, why should I pay?"
The very fact that you need an artist to complete a piece of work for you means that they possess a skill that you need but don't have. That in itself is deserving of some form of respect and if the artist really "didn't do that much", then you should be able to recreate it yourself. If you can't do something yourself, you better show respect for the people that can when you need them to do it for you.
"But [Insert name of other artist] doesn't charge that much"
If that's the case, and you prefer the work of someone else, then why are you asking me for art?
"But I can't afford your prices because [insert sob story] so can I get it for free?"
"People should know that art is HARD. It takes time and a lot of technical skill combined with creative direction. As an artist you’re the visionary and the technician. It’s kind of like Steve Jobs creating every iPhone by hand. That would cost a lot of money. So asking for free art is simply out of the question." - Aaronya (https://www.instagram.com/aaronya_paintss/)
"I'd wish if people would understand that free art isnt an option for me since I buy the supplies and the paper and and it's really time consuming so I don't do all this for free art." - Anonymous
"People who think they can ask for free art need to be aware that art takes such a long time to complete, it’s a hand crafted piece of work that takes patience, skill and talent to complete. Asking for a free piece without giving anything back for that artists time is rather insulting and makes artists feel as though their work is not valued" - Anonymous
2. People who repost work without crediting the artist
"It's annoying when people repost [art] and don’t give credit as if they did it or remove the tag name and... blur out your tag name" - Daeartt (https://www.instagram.com/daeartt/)
"Always add the artist’s @ or name when you want to reshare" - Anonymous
Knowing how much time and energy artist put into their craft, it would be completely disrespectful to repost this work without crediting the artist. When you repost someone's work without crediting them as the artist, you're robbing the artist of an opportunity to gain exposure. You have no idea who will see the artwork you're reposting - perhaps that person's art will end up on the cover of a bestselling book, a gallery owner could see it, a news article could repost it or maybe a potential long term customer could see it.
These opportunities deserve to be given to the artist and if they are not rightly credited for their work then their art could be taken and used for any sort of purpose - maybe even resold - without their permission.
"Some people have misconceptions about who made the art and sometimes the repost gets more views than the original piece which is a bit disheartening." - Pink Artist (https://www.instagram.com/kottonkandyqueenie/)
3. People who think all art must be hyper realistic
"That painting doesn't look exactly like the photo"
Visual art means many things to many people. It can range from hyper realistic oil painted portraits to random cans of paint spilled on the pavement and everything in between. All of these styles are individual and beautiful and all of these styles need to be examined before you ask for a commission.
I have had clients message me in the past to ask me for commissions, only to complain that my style does not perfectly match the details or colours provided in the photo. Personally, I am not a hyper realist artist and do not advertise myself as such. Like many artists, I paint in my own style which slightly differs in colour and detail from photos provided to me.
It is so frustrating as an artist to be asked for a commission by people who haven't even taken the time to look at my style of painting to see what they're getting for their money.
"Sometimes your opinion isn’t as necessary as you think. Especially if it is negative, unprovoked and unhelpful" - Chantay James (https://www.instagram.com/artworkbytay_/)
If you don't like the work that an artist produces, you are fully entitled to your opinion but insulting the artist won't get you very far. Even if you pay for your art, you have no right to to insult an artist's personal life or art style.
4. "When people send very dark or low quality reference and you have to invent half of a persons face" - Brynn Eckert (https://www.instagram.com/brynniebrynn33/)
Artists can often produce work that looks stunning and fantastic, but we're not magicians. If you send us a photo to complete a portrait, you must ensure that every part of the photo is visible. If half of your photo is in a dark shadow, or if you send a photo of yourself with a Snapchat filter that blurs your features, your artist won't be able to see what you want them to paint and they won't be able to do the best job that they can.
5. People who give unwanted career advice
"If you wonder what people do with a fine arts degree then you need to get a little more in touch with the world around you. Observe - behind every city design, behind every ad and every product, and every tv show and every magazine spread, there was an artist. A visual artist. An art director. A photographer. A graphic designer. Take note of this and you will see it is everywhere!" - Isabela Escobar (https://www.instagram.com/isabelaescobart/)
Almost every creative has had that awkward moment where they tell someone they want to be or already work as an artist and are met with the cold response of "That's a nice hobby!" or "So... when are you going to get a REAL job?"
Art is a real job. The website you are reading this on was designed by an artist. The font in which I am writing this article was designed by an artist. The laptop or phone you are reading this on was designed by an artist. The chair, sofa, carpet, bus or train you are likely sitting on was designed by an artist. The house you are likely sitting in to read this was designed by an artist.
Art is not an easy field to break into and not every artist will become a famous millionaire from their work. Not every artist wants to become a famous millionaire either - everyone has a different definition of success. If someone's definition of success is art that makes them happy then so be it - unless you are bound to a financial agreement with them such as sharing rent then how much money they make is none of your business.
6. "When people expect endless rounds of free alterations" - Brynn Eckert (https://www.instagram.com/brynniebrynn33/)
If you don't like the work your artist produces, they will usually amend any details that you don't like if you ask politely. Asking artists to amend so many details that they almost completely redo their entire piece of artwork without being paid, however, is possibly something that may not be so easily accepted. When you ask for that many amendments, you're pretty much getting a second free piece of artwork and this may take your artist hours of work and planning which they may not be willing to do for free.
7. Customers who are too demanding of your time
"It’s clear in my highlights that it takes 2-3 days to complete edits. However, some customers assume they are an exception and demand immediate edits. They should not assume they will get them the same day. They demand them with words like ASAP." - Destiny Butler (https://www.instagram.com/destinydarcel/)
"It's not fast fashion or fast food... someone put time and care into devising the piece you're purchasing." - Anonymous
Sometimes when you order art, you may be in a rush or hurry to get things done by a certain date, but remember that artists do not work like Amazon Prime and we are not machines that can immediately churn out new work just for you. We often have personal lives to deal with, jobs/studies to get to and, on top of this, clients ahead of you who we need to do work for. Despite you being in a rush, artists are not obligated to drop everything to suit your time schedule and you should bear this in mind when making orders.
"Art is not as easy as it seems to create. Especially if you’re talented, there’s so much thought, anxieties and second-guessing that goes into each fragment of the entire piece." - Pristina (https://www.instagram.com/pristina/)
8. People who spam your comments section
"Commenting “follow me” does nothing for your page engagement and doesn’t get you new followers. It drives people away, its annoying and bland. You want new followers? Find genuine ways to engage with fellow artists. All generic comments accomplish is a swift block" - Isabela Escobar (https://www.instagram.com/isabelaescobart/)
Growing your social media page is hard. I understand. When artists with a larger number of followers post work, the comments section can sometimes be the perfect place to get your name out there and reach your ideal audience. It's very difficult to do anything but annoy people, however, when you spam someone's comment section by saying "Follow me" ten times.
WHY should people follow you? What do you have for them to offer? If you're trying to get people to follow you just for the sake of it then you won't have any genuine followers who are really engaged with your posts - you'll just have a bunch of ghosts on your page. It is always better to have 50 followers who love and engage with your posts than 50K who don't care about you, so give people a reason to love and engage with your page in the comments.
Using my page as an example, if I wanted to reach a new audience using the comment section of a popular page I would say things like:
"I'm a young artist with a passion for making black art mainstream - follow to join me on my journey"
"I'm a young watercolour artist trying to grow my page, can someone look at my art and tell me how I can improve?"
With these comments, it is clearer what I stand for, who I am trying to reach and it is more likely to engage people than spamming a comments section with 'FOLLOW ME's.
So, being an artist is fun and, most of the time, creating work for other people is a heartwarming experience. For those of who who relate to any of the types of people listed above: there are very simple steps you can take to become the perfect customer.
- Credit artists when you repost their work
- Respect art as a noble profession that is deserving of payment
- Look up the artist and their work before ordering because everyone has their own individual style