Things that Artists Hear All The Time When They're Working In Public
I'm a photographer and sketch artist in my spare time and love working outside at cafes and bars so that I can people watch. Very often, people would stop to watch as I sketched, or sorted through my photography prints and it was a great way to meet new people. More than one of my ex-girlfriends were met for the first time, this way.
In any case, I noticed that a vast majority of people started talking to me by opening the conversation with the following tidbits. I'm sure there are a lot of artists that will appreciate this list and I'd love to add to it with whatever you artists out there would like to contribute:
(1) "Oh! That's beautiful! Did you do that?" about a sketch that I'm currently working on, graphite in hand. I'm actually surprised how many times this is asked over and above most of the others. ("No I borrowed this from an artist friend up the road and I'm just pretending so I can pick up chicks. You married?")
(2) "Can you do me?" ... there's several replies to this, but the best ones have never been successful for me. Let me know if the obvious ones work for you.
(3) "You should do tattoos! You could make a lot of money at that!" Ironically, I'm currently homeless, but usually when I hear that, I'm kicking back at an up-scale cafe on Newberry Street after a hard day of web design and programming. Do I look like a starving artist?
(4) "Can you do my girlfriend if I show you a picture of her?" The double entendre always escapes them and the variation, since I do a lot of figure work, is "can you do my girlfriend, nude...?" ("yes, but you won't be allowed to watch" usually works to drive them away, but not all of them... )
(5) "How come you only draw women?" if I happen to be working on a female figure, or "Are you gay?" asked by both straight and gay men, but not so often in Boston as in other parts of the nation. For one thing, why would you assume it from a single picture that I'm working on and for another, could you move to the left, you're blocking my light.
(6) "Why do you only draw/photograph thin / beautiful people?" Sometimes implied: "... instead of someone like me?" The answer is because I draw or photograph to amuse myself, or to sell clothing for clients. Other artists like Jan Saudek, who I'm a huge fan of, does work with corpulent figures that I'd love to be able to emulate. Of some of my "thin woman" work, I was actually doing a long-term study of a woman who was struggling with Anorexia in a photographic and written essay called "When I Grow Up."
(7) "I used to draw / do art / do photography" That's nice. I can tell by your $5,000 suit or your $2,000 purse that you're totally not regretting giving it up.
(8) After asking if I could do a commission for them and hearing how much I charge (actually not very much): "What? For that price, I could just do it myself!" and the next comment is how they used to do art, still have their photo camera somewhere in a closet, etc. I actually heard this from a lawyer whose daughter was getting married and impulsively asked how much I'd charge for photographing her wedding. This is the equivalent of saying, "you charge HOW much to defend me in a murder trial? Hell! The prison has a law library! I'll just defend myself!"
(9) "You can't make a good living with art." Who said I did this for a living? I'm a programmer. Further, you have no idea what kind of living I'm making and frankly, I know at least two artists that make more than your entire extended family of a single gallery show.
(10) "That's really beautiful and touching! May I buy that from you? How much would you charge for it?" I heard that exactly once at a bar and as I was still working on it (thus, still in love with it). I didn't want to sell, but she gave me a sob story about her girlfriend who was dying of cancer and when her girlfriend showed up, I was astounded at how much she resembled the woman I was drawing from my imagination. I sold it for $50 and got drunk.