What Not to Say to Artists
14 Things You Shouldn't Say to Artists.
I can't tell you how many well-meaning people have said these things to me. One day I was reading an article about things you should never say to authors of childrens books. It so mirrored the things people have said to me as an artist that I had to poop. This reflective list of dos and donts things to say to artists may sound familiar to you because all creatives have similar bears to cross (and crosses to bear). This is by no means a complete list either. I can think of so many things unthinking people say; however, this is a short list.
1. I wish I had time to paint.
No one has TIME to paint unless the MAKE the time. It's the same with writers and poets, artists and musicians. It's a career choice and a priority thing. Lets face it. You make time for the things that are a priority in your life. I get up early and go to bed late. I purposefully squeeze in time for my painting or I would have no time for it at all. If it is important to you, make it a priority. Whatever it takes, keep painting.
2. Art is a nice hobby.
Maybe, for some. But I got enough of that from my dad and my first husband and my kids. For me it is no hobby; it is a burning passion that demands my time and attention. Without that determination to do this, it would be little more than a nice hobby. I am an artist. I choose to do my art everyday. A hobby would be something done when I find the time.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.— Thomas Edison
3. Maybe one day, I'll pick up a paintbrush and learn to paint masterpieces.
This statement doesn't make me mad. It makes me sad.
That is the saddest thing I have ever heard. So many people I have met think that they can cram a lifetime of experience into their retirement years. I suppose a few have done it, but precious few. It isn't something you just pick up. Each painting builds your experience and skill for the next one. Like playing a musical instrument, it takes time and practice, dedication as well as talent.
4. Do you know any famous artists?
Well, I know a lot of artists. Some are highly skilled and proficient in their craft. The problem here is that most of us don’t become famous until we are dead. So, no. I don’t know any famous artists. Yet.
Pastel on grey paper
5. You should paint more like this or that artist.
No. I am not going to try to dilute my own style because it isn't popular yet or it doesn't fit into someone else's box. I have my own spark of divine inspiration and that is what I must follow. You shouldn't tell a writer how to write or an artist how to paint. I don't care if Manga is more popular than what I draw. Someday they will tell the manga artists to draw like me.
Pastel portrait of my husband, Kevin, on grey paper. - Photos taken by Kevin McGill, watching me over my shoulder.
6. Remember me when you are rich and famous.
So this artist calls the gallery where his paintings are featured. “How are my paintings doing,” he asks the gallery owner. The owner says, “Well, I’ve got good news and bad news.”
“Give me the good news,” the artist says.
“Okay, yesterday,” he begins, “a man came into the gallery and asked if your paintings were the kind that get more valuable when you die, and I assured him that they were. So he bought all 12 of your paintings right then and there.”
“That’s wonderful news. What could the bad news be?”
“Well, you see, the man was your doctor.”
First of all, I don’t paint because I want to be rich and famous someday. I do it because it is so a part of me that not to paint would be like not breathing. Second, like I said before, I probably won’t be rich and famous till I’m dead. Sad but true.
7. Have you ever thought of selling your work? Ever thought of putting your work in a gallery?
Really? Why do people ask that? Do I look like the dumbest cabbage head that fell of the truck? Of course I have thought of selling my work. It isn’t as easy as that. Art has to fit into a certain niche for people, and when the economy is down, art is sadly the first thing that people decided to do without. Also, galleries want to be doing the asking, not the other way around. Most artists (including myself) enter competitions and art shows in hopes that a gallery owner will see their work and pick them up.
8. You will starve to death as an artist. Art never sells.
This is a hard one to overcome because there is a grain of truth to it. Art rarely sells, not never. However there are many different directions an artist can take and keep on painting. Fine art (paintings for the wall) is only one form of art for the artist. We also do advertising, graphics, calligraphy, creative photography, backdrop design for theaters and movies, fashion design, costume design, logo design, web site design, greeting card design, poster design, animation, comic book art, graphic novels, book illustration, children's book illustration, editorial illustration, cartooning, caricature, etc. The list goes on and on. These directions for the artist help pay the bills while they wait to sell fine art. Photo of my oil painting called Salad Time. It won a 3rd place ribbon in a recent art show and then sold.
My watercolor class
9. You’ll get used to the rejection letters/gallery rejections.
Actually, no. Rejection stings whether you have been working your craft for one year or 40 years. You learn to work through it and go on because as an artist, you won’t give up. The most hurtful rejection I ever received basically said, “give up art, you are no good.” I understand Walt Disney received one like that too, but he didn’t let that stop him, and I won’t let it stop me either.
I’ve received enough rejection letters to paper my whole house. I save them in order to laugh at them some day. I’ve managed to work through the sting of them by sending a rejection letter back to the publishers who sent them, rejecting their rejection. Many publishers have found it so funny that they call me and publish my work because I have a sense of humor. Humor is a great way to work through hurtful issues. I still reject rejections of the ground that it doesn’t fit my emotional needs. Daily.
Torn and cut paper collage
10. I wish I could paint like you.
Not really. Like all the masters taught, you study their technique but don’t paint like them. That makes you little more than a forger (they send you to jail for that, you know). No, you want to improve your technique and then paint like yourself. Develop your own style and voice. Each of us has a unique fingerprint, signature, and style. That is what you want to develop.
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.— Zig Ziglar
11. Which is your favorite painting?
To even ask that is to say you know nothing about art or artists. I actually had a young person ask me that and I gave him the answer I give most people. Each painting has a piece of me in it. I sweat over it, love it with each brush stroke and sometimes cry over it. We sometimes even shed blood over them. I understand that Thomas Kincaid varnished a drop of blood into each painting so that it contained his DNA. If Van Gogh had known about DNA, I figure he would have done the same. The point is I put time and effort into each one. They are like my children. How could you ask a person, "Which is your favorite child?" Well, all of them. You love them all. Each one cost you something a little different sometimes but you love them all. This is why artists should never put prices on their own work. How do you put a price on and sell one of your children? To this day I think of the pieces I sold and hope they are happy and loved in their new home.
12. When will you retire?
Really? Retire from art? Never! This isn't like a regular job where you earn a pension and retire to Florida. Art is not something you can't retire from. I figure I will be painting till they pull the brush from my cold dead fingers. Then I retire.
The Starving Artist: Nothing scarier!
Classical Art Coloring Books
13. Those who can, DO. Those who can't, TEACH.
I have to thank my friend, reasonablerobinson, in the comments section for this reminder. How many of us have heard this one? Everyone, I bet. The problem here is most artists can, do, and teach! And still we suffer from the starving part of the scenario. Also, there are very famous artists throughout history who could, did, and taught. Grant Wood is a good example. Many people remember him for his famous Regionalist painting of a farmer and wife called "American Gothic." Grant Wood made a living by painting anything and everything people would pay him to paint, including storefront signs and posters. His fame lasted only a few years, he was granted an honorary degree, taught and still died in relative obscurity. Yet his paintings live on. Like I said, we artists aren't doing it for the fame or money, but for the sheer love of painting.
Children's Book Illustrations
More coloring books
14. "Oh, I could do that!"
Really? Let's see ya try! I used to create crafts and things to take periodically to Art Fairs and Craft Shows. I spent weeks preparing, spent lots more money than I would like to admit, got up before the crack of dawn to drive to some far away Craft Show site, pulled so many muscles setting up tables and awnings, just to hear some unfeeling amateur say, "Oh, I could do that" or even, "My daughter could paint that." Perhaps so but I don't see you here with all the rest of us doing it. It was a lot of hard work and hours away from my precious babies to make only a pittance for my labors. Even today at Art Shows I can hear the whispers, "I could do that," from people who have never shown a painting in a show. What I have to tell myself is they are probably thinking, "I wish I had done that," and go on. Lots of people think they could paint like Van Gogh but there is only one Van Gogh. Perhaps this is really the truest form of complement. They want to paint LIKE me but there is only one ME.