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11 Comments an Artist Never Wants to Hear

Updated on July 11, 2020
PAINTDRIPS profile image

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

My photo depicting the effects of bullying.
My photo depicting the effects of bullying. | Source

A Question

I found this so interesting and struck such a nerve with me that I couldn’t resist sharing it. Dennie Bright on Twitter asked for people to post “Things an artist never wants to hear in 5 words or less.” Here are some of the responses that resonated with me most.

My collage of the photo Bullying
My collage of the photo Bullying | Source

“Can you draw me?”

When I was just about 14 years old, a friend spied me drawing a deer. This was the first time I heard this question. Back then I thought it was a challenge. I drew animals more than people at the time and shied away from portraits. By the time I was in my twenties I was still hearing this question regularly and came to realize people wanted a free portrait of themselves. After all these years, I still hear this question from time to time and have a standard answer, “Yes, I can for a price.”

“It’ll be great exposure!”

This has to be the most annoying statement an artist can hear. What it says is that they want free art, work that will take anywhere from 10 hours to 100 hours of my time for no compensation. The excuse was that work for this magazine/organization/publication would increase my exposure and get me more jobs. I fell for this thinking several times and I can safely say, I never received one single referral or job from the “exposure” any of those jobs gave me. I will never work for exposure again. I just can’t seem to pay rent or buy food with exposure.

Another commission for a pet collage
Another commission for a pet collage | Source

“Do you have a REAL job?”

It is a sad but true reality that many (dare I say, most) artists have to work at side jobs just to be able to pay bills while working on art projects. When the commissions are few and the painting sales are down, the rent and electric bill continues. Just because the artist has to get a second job it doesn’t mean it’s his “real” job. It means it is extraneous and outside of his real work.

Whatever happened to the days when patrons used to “adopt” an artist and pay for their room and board while that artist painted and created works some of their family members but also of religious or mythological scenes that struck the artist’s fancy? It seemed like those days were gone until I discovered Patreon. Patreon is a platform made available for people to support artists, musicians, and creators of all kinds in exchange for some small token from the artist. Musicians give musical downloads to their patrons on Patreon. Artists give monthly digital downloads and sometimes physical stickers and booklets and other keepsakes.

A collage of my grandfather
A collage of my grandfather | Source

“My kid can draw too.”

Actually all kids can draw. The problem is to maintain that talent into adulthood. Only after someone has made fun of your attempts or has asked in a derogatory way “What is it,” do children stop drawing and give up the idea.

Collage of a little girl
Collage of a little girl | Source

“I could do this.”

The snarky part of me wants to say, “I’d like to see you try.” But I never say that; I smile and go on. Years ago I used to take my arts and crafts on the flea market circuit, rent a space, and stand next to my wares for two days listening to people say exactly that. None of them really could or would do “this” art but they say it nonetheless. It gets pretty discouraging. Actually I do it well enough to get commissions and paid for it. Top that.

Portrait of a girl
Portrait of a girl | Source

“-Insert Chain Store- Sells This for Less.”

Honestly? Chain stores are not selling original art and if they were they wouldn’t sell it for less. They sell it for more: the artist’s price plus a mark up of possibly 100%. No. The chain stores sell prints because they can sell more of them for less and still make much more. Don’t compare an artist’s work with what sells at chain stores. Much of that art and crafts were made in China by slave labor for mere pennies. No need to help the chain stores make a fortune on the backs of poor laborers when the starving artists right here need support too.

Collage of a writer, later used for a book cover.
Collage of a writer, later used for a book cover. | Source

“It’s free because we’re friends, right?”

Should I even answer this? You would think this statement absurd but I’ve had it asked me before. A friend should be one of the first people to want to support me both emotionally and financially. And if I decide to gift a piece, it’s because I wanted to not because I was cajoled into it.

Collage of my granddaughter
Collage of my granddaughter | Source

“Nice hobby.”

My dad used to say this. It hurt then and it hurts now. True it would be a nice hobby if I engaged in it now and then, but spend 8 to 10 hours doing it every day even today. I have dedicated my life to it so I feel it has become much more than a hobby. It is my life and livelihood.

Collage of some girls, "Friends"
Collage of some girls, "Friends" | Source

“That’s not what I imagined” after asking for something with a vague description.

I’ve always said that language is so fragile a thing and no one seems to be its master. I have had so many people describe their idea with words and had me at the drawing board over and over because it wasn’t what they pictured. It is the same as if you said you wanted potatoes and I pictured mashed or baked but you were thinking French-fried. You just have to give me more words and better descriptions before we begin. This is why most illustrators put a 3-rough clause in their contracts. We will allow you to send us to the drawing board 3 times before we begin charging more money. It seems only fair.

Collage of a woman reading
Collage of a woman reading | Source

“Graduate school… for that… really?”

My sister still talks about that. She used to scoff when I said I had homework and she would tell people “SHE MAJORS IN ART” like there is no homework or it isn’t hard and doesn’t take 15 to 20 hours to complete. Okay, so she majored in Microbiology and that was hard. I couldn’t do her homework and I daresay, she couldn’t do mine. I just shake my head when she still tells that story. She will never get it I suppose. Time to let it go. I went to graduate school to be the best illustrator I could be. I learned more than art. I learned about the requirements of freelance record keeping and taxes, pricing my work, marketing myself, approaching publishers, creating postcards and flyers that catch the eye, not to mention honing my skills and trying new mediums. I worked at it, drawing and painting 8 to 14 hours each day. That is no hobby.

Collage of a black girl
Collage of a black girl | Source

Final Thoughts

Do any of these strike a chord with you? What would you answer someone with statements like these? I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments below.

Comments

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Dora Weithers,

      You are always so encouraging. I appreciate you so much. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Linda Crampton,

      I'm so happy you think so. It makes a difference when people begin to see the problem. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      12 months ago from The Caribbean

      "Do you have a real job?" I find that most offensive, but folks don't always know what they don't know. I'd be tempted to ask, "Do you have a real question?" but may not ask out loud. Be encouraged! Your effort to make use of your God-given talent will bring its reward sometime.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      12 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Your art is lovely, Denise. I'm sorry that you've had such a frustrating time. Artists deserve more respect.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Diana Carol Abrahamson,

      Sometimes it is hard to keep on keeping on but I do it anyway. It is my life and my breath. You may as well ask me to stop breathing. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Nithya Venkat,

      Thank you for your appreciation. I'm glad you like my work. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Dianadee profile image

      Diana Carol Abrahamson 

      12 months ago from Somerset West

      Artists are not appreciated as they should be. They bring life into a dreary world and hope with a flick of an artists brush and splash of paint.

      I have also heard these sayings and actually think that people criticise what they do not understand. Love your collages, by the way. Keep on keeping on...you are good! :)

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      12 months ago from Dubai

      It must be tough to listen to such comments. These people do not know about the creative process and the hard work that is put into an art piece. Your artwork is beautiful!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Heidi Thorne,

      Oh, I'm glad these resonate with you too. I'm also very honored that you said my work on HubPages is delightful. So kind of you to say so. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      12 months ago from Chicago Area

      OMG! I would want to scream if I heard any of those about my art!

      Well, as a writer and editor, we get our share of the "anybody can do this/what is your real job/my kid can write" kind of commentary, too. And the "free because we're friends" comment, I have a post coming up where that scenario for writers is included. So, yeah, the creative life is challenging!

      Good for you for being professional! Stay strong. The work you share here on HP is delightful!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Glavind Strachan,

      Thank you so much. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Devika Primić,

      I love being able to share my art with people. It makes me feel they are worth more when shared than they are hiding behind the couch or under the bed. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Bill Holland,

      I am forewarned, but I dare say I wouldn't say to you what I don't want to hear said to myself. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Lorna Lamon,

      I have to agree with you. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt,

      I hope it was interesting for you. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Poppy,

      Oh, you are so right. I think I added 3 or 4 to the list of things I hear all the time. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      John Hansen,

      Ah yes, a fellow artist who gets it. You are so right that people rarely appreciate the time and effort, not to mention the expertise that goes into what we do. My heart goes out to your wife. I love to knit and spin and card my own wool. I rarely have time to but I do love the experience when I can get into it. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Glavind Strachan profile image

      Glavind Strachan 

      12 months ago from Northlew

      Brilliant Denise

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      12 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi Denise what you do is incredible! Questions such as you mention are for those who do not understand it. I am impressed at your beautiful illustrations.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You could apply many of them to writing and I've heard them, and yes they hurt, and yes, I can be snarky, so that's a forewarning to anyone thinking about saying those things about my writing. lol

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      12 months ago

      People just don't realise the amount of time, preparation and sheer hard work that goes into creating art; otherwise they wouldn't be so thoughtless.

      I have friends who are artists and designers. Unfortunately they have to deal with similar comments, which make them even more determined to succeed.

      Judging from the comments, I would put it down to ignorance and perhaps envy. Take care Denise.

    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      12 months ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      Very interesting article, touching the reality of life. Great work

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 

      12 months ago from Enoshima, Japan

      I think I actually saw the tweet you're referring to. I replied to it saying "Can I have a discount?" Artists put up with so much mess and the general public can be very rude and entitled.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      12 months ago from Gondwana Land

      Denise, I can totally relate to many of these. My wife is a fabric artist and cards,spins, dyes her own yarn and then knits or crochets garments etc. Uneducated people constantly say “I could buy that cheaper at a Department Store.” What they get at a department store is acrylic, mass produced and poor quality.

      As a freelance writer I sometimes have clients who provide very little detail and then say that what I wrote wasn’t exactly what they had in mind, at other times a client will virtually tell you every word to write and I think, “Why didn’t you just write this yourself?”

      People rarely appreciate the amount of time work artists devote to projects. Thank you for sharing.

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