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12 Things an Artist Never Wants to Hear

Updated on July 27, 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 digital image photo composite of Water Pixie friends.
My digital image photo composite of Water Pixie friends. | Source

Things an Artist Never Wants to Hear

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.” A while back I published the first 11 things but here are 12 more of the responses that resonated with me most.

"Unearth a good book and let it take you away."
"Unearth a good book and let it take you away." | Source

When you do digital art: “Do you do real art?”

Define “real art.” I honestly put more time and effort into digital art than I do in traditional painting. Usually, I can get better detail and more range of color variation and vibrancy with digital. Honestly, digital IS real art.

“I liked it better before.”

I had an instructor say this to me after having me make 11 edits to an illustration. It is a maddening statement. I’ve never had a client say it yet but knowing how I felt when the art teacher said it, I don’t want to. This is one of the reasons artists put a “3 changes only” clause in their contracts. After 3 changes to an illustration, we could and should begin charging more for our time.

Finished book cover after 9 requested changes
Finished book cover after 9 requested changes | Source

“You should’ve done ___ instead.”

This statement usually comes from someone who doesn’t know art or doesn’t know my process. If a client says it, it’s time to cut them loose or start over on a new illustration.

Changes made to the heads so they all looked forward
Changes made to the heads so they all looked forward | Source

“Can you do it cheaper?”

I’d like anyone to try saying that to a surgeon or a lawyer. Asking for a cheaper price is begging for sub-standard work. The illustration says it all when it comes to doing cheaper or faster work. The more time we put in, the better and more detailed the illustration. To do it faster or cheaper, you can’t hope to get top-notch work.

My grandson decorating my sidewalk for free.
My grandson decorating my sidewalk for free. | Source

“Can I have that?”

I had that said to me more times than I’d like to say. When I taught senior citizens watercolor classes, invariably I would get a bystander who looked over my shoulder and asked to “have” my work. My usual response is “for a price.” That’s when they walk away. Why should art be free when I just spent an hour or two working on it. Your labor isn’t free unless you volunteer to give it away. Am I less valuable somehow?

My daughter can draw too.
My daughter can draw too. | Source

“I have to pay you?”

The short answer is YES. Again, why should I give my art away for free? Most of my paintings have between 10 and 20 hours of intensive work put into them, not to mention a lifetime of experience in art. That’s not free.

Darling Angel in watercolor by Denise McGill
Darling Angel in watercolor by Denise McGill | Source

“Draw me a tattoo!”

This statement is right up there with “Can you draw me.” Yes, I can draw a tattoo. No, you can’t have it for free. If you are talking about commissioning me to draw you something specific, then we can talk.

My pencil drawing of a bird someone wanted to have as a tattoo.
My pencil drawing of a bird someone wanted to have as a tattoo. | Source

“Give me the family discount!”

I don’t mind giving the family a discount when it’s my idea and I have the free time, but I prefer not to have it demanded. Is that too much to ask? Many members of my family only claim my membership when they want something from me for free.

Drawing from a live model
Drawing from a live model | Source

“Did you draw that?”

This statement is usually from someone looking over my shoulder watching me draw. The sarcastic part of me wants to reply, “No, the fairies drew it and I just now stole it to impress you.” But, I usually don’t say what I’m thinking. I usually just smile and nod.

My 20 minute sketch from a live model
My 20 minute sketch from a live model | Source

“Is it worth it?”

Is breathing worth it? If you took art from me it would be like taking away breathing. I need to do it so, yes, it’s worth it. I love it with every fiber of my being. It is my fifth child and my other lover. How could I not embrace it daily? Do you find what you are doing daily worth it? If not, you should be doing something else.

Ghost Cats in watercolor by Denise McGill
Ghost Cats in watercolor by Denise McGill | Source

“Can I get this free?”

This statement is usually referring to digital art like I didn’t have to work on it as on any other piece. What a ridiculous question. I do offer digital downloads of my paintings on my Etsy shop (Dancing Paintbrush Co) but they are not free. They are at an extremely reduced price but not free. With a digital download, I offer 4 sizes so you could print them yourself on a home printer or take it to a printing place and have it printed large on nice paper. I feel that for pieces where the original has already sold it is the next best thing.

Digital image of The Invisible Man
Digital image of The Invisible Man | Source

“What’s taking so long?”

I’d like to hear you say that to a surgeon or a car mechanic and see if you get speedier service. Art takes as long as it takes for good work. Even when we budget our time for a deadline, we sometimes miscalculate and have to ask for more time to get it done right. It takes as long as it takes. Get over it.

Collage of a writer
Collage of a writer | 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 

      11 months ago from Fresno CA

      Ivana Divac,

      I'm so glad you said that. I think we feel things more deeply too. Thanks for your comments.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Ivana Divac profile image

      Ivana Divac 

      11 months ago from Serbia

      This is such a great article. And it's also very true: people often look down on artists and make them feel like they're not doing a real (and hard) work. But in reality, they're doing absolutely amazing things as they pour their soul, time, and mind into their art. That's as real as anything else in the world.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      11 months ago from Fresno CA

      Anya Ali,

      I know you have a good point, but it still hits me as an odd question. I always want to be sarcastic when I hear that. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      11 months ago from Fresno CA

      William Kovacic,

      Well said! I think writers are artists too. You paint with words. And beautifully, I might add. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      11 months ago from Fresno CA

      Adrienne Farricelli,

      You hit on it. They offend with the question, put you on the spot and embarrass you but have the nerve to be offended when you say no or ask for money. People are funny! Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Bushra Iqbal profile image

      Anya Ali 

      11 months ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

      I think people who say 'Did you draw that?' mean it as a compliment. They're not expecting you to take it literally. : - )

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      11 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I'm not an artist, Denise. I'm a writer, but I think there are similarities. One thing I do regularly is to give my books away. They are an extension of myself and I have poured hundreds of hours into it. If it's worth writing, it's worth reading. But as you say, please don't ask for a freebie. I'll give it to you if I choose to.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Devika Primić,

      You are very kind. I'm happy you like my work. It gives me the courage to keep on. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      12 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Denise it is rude for people to ask such questions and most times blurt whatever they have in mind. Your work is beautiful.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Linda Crampton,

      I'm so happy you like that piece. It's been a while since I pulled it out and dusted it off. It's actually one of the first photo composites I ever made and I really like it too. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Dora Weithers,

      Very clever come-back for the cheaper comment. I will have to remember that for next time. And I don't worry about thinking, caring people like you. You seem to have empathy enough not to ever offend purposely. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      12 months ago

      This was an interesting read. I can see how people saying "Can I have that?" or "Can you make me one for free?" risks to offend artists. Back in the days I used to paint, I went through that and it puts you in an embarrassing situation, especially when the people asking are people you know. Then when you say no or ask money for it, they act as if they get offended.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      12 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Your art is lovely, but my favorite piece in this article is the first one. I think it's beautiful.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      12 months ago from The Caribbean

      You do have some challenges based on the client's lack of appreciation for your work. To the one who wants it cheaper, I would ask, "Which part do you want me to take out?" I'm getting some education and gaining appreciation just by reading about these situations. I pray that I will never offend an artist the way these people do. Stay on your course!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Lorelei Cohen,

      I'm happy you like that piece. It is one of my first photo composites. I took the photo of two little girls dancing in the street to the music of a street band. Then I had to "liquify" their hair to make it float up as if underwater and a few other changes. It was fun to make. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt,

      I'm glad you liked my responses to these comments. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Nelvia,

      Very good point. Why do you think the world is so short on respect and value of people these days, do you think? It is almost as if many people had no mothers to teach right from wrong... or they just didn't want to learn those things. It's a mystery to me. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Drew Agravante,

      I'm glad this was helpful for you, Drew. Good luck on your novel. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      GanttPRO team,

      You have two names with the same comment. I have to check this out. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Danny,

      I like the way you think. Art is a treasure everyone wants but no one seems to want to pay for. Oh well. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Ladymermaid profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      12 months ago from Canada

      Wow I love your artwork. The opening picture is such a wonderfully powerful image (actually they all are). Fantastic subject and article.

    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      12 months ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      You have expressed them so nicely.

    • Nelvia McGrath profile image

      Nelvia 

      12 months ago from Atlanta

      So much comes down to respect and value, commodities that seem in short supply these days.

    • Drew Agravante profile image

      Drew Agravante 

      12 months ago from Philippines, Currently in Qatar

      I can feel stress from the last part "What’s taking so long?” LOL. That's why getting a longer deadline than one could actually need is important. Negotiation is the key. At least, when you finish early it will be more of a boon than a bane. I know now what are the things to avoid or at least minimize when I commission art for my novel. Thanks for the info.

    • GanttPRO team profile image

      GanttPRO team 

      12 months ago

      So true Denise. This puts light on the fact about bargaining with true art, which should never be the case. Artworks are treasures and should be given its correct weightage.

    • Danny Fernandes profile image

      Danny 

      12 months ago from India

      So true Denise. This puts light on the fact about bargaining with true art, which should never be the case. Artworks are treasures and should be given its correct weightage.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Abby Slutsky,

      Ah yes. You are a food artist. You know! I did shows for a few years and it really cuts down on the profit. The cost of the space (they aren't free like people think), the travel time, the carting of things too and from the car, a place to sleep (if it's a two-day event), packaging, display, etc. I remember one year after tallying all the costs I discovered at one show I only broke even. That's when I decided not to book another show there. I can't work that hard for two days for nothing. It's not right. That was the time I heard one lady walk past and say "I could do that." Sure but does she? People are so rude. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Peggy Woods,

      You said it my friend. They don't know. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Mary Norton,

      It is a lack of understanding mostly, I think. I will take your advice and ignore these. Thanks so much for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Abby Slutsky profile image

      Abby Slutsky 

      12 months ago from America

      Ah yes. When I first started my business, my mother kept questioning my prices when I raised them. I would go tell her to check out prices at the local gourmet market or the deli. I insisted I was not overpriced, but I certainly was not going to give my stuff away either. After six years, she finally realized that my products are worth the price that I charge.

      It is also interesting that people discount your time. When I go to a show and sell (for arguments sake $1000.00 worth of baked goods). If the show is 4 hours, my mom will say that is great $250 an hour She forgets packaging costs, hours I spent creating my product, and traveling time. (She usually has no idea, but once in a while helps me with a show.)

      This article got me on a rant, but I feel your pain.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      12 months ago from Houston, Texas

      People who do not create art have no idea of what it takes by way of time and effort to produce it. If they knew, they would not ask such silly questions.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Bill Holland,

      That's real maturity, I think, to be amused at rude remarks. I think I still roll my eyes when I hear them, but I don't get as furious as I used to. I look forward to the day when I'm just amused. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Lorna Lamon,

      Ignorance is bliss. I wish I hadn't heard some of these but I believe I've heard them all and if Bill Holland is any judge, most writers and other creatives have heard it too. Oh well. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      12 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I think it comes from a lack of understanding or thoughtlessness. So, ignore these.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Apply it to writing and I've probably heard most of those. It used to infuriate me. Now it amuses me.

      Blessings always

      bill

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      12 months ago

      After reading these thoughtless comments I have come to the conclusion that "ignorance is bliss" or they are making rudeness into an art form. I think I will go with rudeness.

      It's lovely to see that your daughter has inherited your talent Denise, and I think this article will definitely make people think before they speak. Take care.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Liz Westwood,

      Indeed! I have heard some of the rudest things. It feels like it belittles me or belittles my art or both. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      12 months ago from UK

      The cheek of it! I am amazed that some people would be so forthright and rude in their comments. I'm not surprised that you don't want to hear these comments. But I am also shocked that people should say them in the first place.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Ann Carr,

      Interestingly I make the Invisible man using my husband as the model just for fun, for me. And a paranormal magazine bought it for an upcoming issue. The ghost cats also sold recently and I am still selling digital images of it but the original is gone to a nice home. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      12 months ago from SW England

      It's amazing people don't think before they say such things! I bet if it were them drawing or doing something else they spend time over, they'd be insulted to hear these questions.

      I've never sold any paintings but I've sold articles and fortunately never had any quibble with the price.

      I love the Invisible Man and the Ghost Cats - intriguing.

      Ann

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