Deep Thought Thursday: Questions or comments that turn your stomach

What do people ask you or say to you as an artist that drives you nuts?

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39 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: Questions or comments that turn your stomach”

  1. Marilyn Sholin

    That is an easy one. They think because we moved to Asheville,NC and we work out of our home that we are retired. We work just as hard, get up early, have goals and jobs the same as them. But they always look at us like we are just sitting and playing or creating art and not working because we do not get in the car and drive to a business every day. It is really frustrating to describe our lifestyle of working to others. They have it easy because if they are sick they still get the paycheck on Friday, but not us. We have to be self motivated to work and not dependent on others.

  2. We get this combination of questions at least once a show. Bill and I are landscape photographers. 1) Do you take all the pictures? Yes 2) Have you been to all these places? Someday I’m going to tell one of them – no I’ve got this great UPS guy who all I have to do is box up my camera and hand it to him with directions for what I want for photos and he brings it back with the photos on it. The other thing that drives me crazy is when people ask me if I have any photos of fairies, dragons or unicorns! I might just answer that of course I do – can’t you see it in the photo hiding behind the tree? 🙂

  3. “why don’t you paint X? X sells really well” “yeah, but it’s not like you’re really working, right?” “you have free time, can you do this menial task for me?” “why do I like this painting? tell me why I like this painting?”

  4. 1. “It looks just like a photograph!” I know people think they are giving me the ultimate compliment when they say this about my drawings. But I almost have to bite my tongue off to keep from snarking back, “No, actually it’s a huge improvement over the terrible photo I had to work from!” or “Why on earth would someone pay me hard-earned cash to draw a portrait that looks just like the reference photo they gave me?” 2. “Can I use your picture of [whatever] in my logo?” Why, sure, feel free to use my artwork to make money for yourself without compensating me! 3. “We’d like to use your drawings to represent the dog breeds on our site in exchange for a link to your site. We’d also like a reciprocal link on your website.” I actually got this request this week! I have the opportunity to let them use ALL of my drawings free but only if I give them a reciprocal link? What a deal! This is a great blog discussion starter, Alyson! Thanks for letting us vent!

  5. I can get the same thing at Wal-Mart. The Tetons don’t look like that! I’ve been there, and I know! That would look really great on a coffee cup, don’t you think? Come on Sally, let’s go look at the cute jewelry. My (kid/wife/brother/sister) is a photographer, too. I had one kid/mom pair come to me to ask which camera is best to learn on. The kid was wildly disappointed when I told mom that a cheap point and shoot digital would be perfect. Only after kid learned how to make good pictures with that, would it be time to move up. Mom was happy to hear it, and I wasn’t fibbing. My all time favorite: If I had a good camera, I could do that, too!

  6. Like a few other have said: “How long did it take you to paint that?” It’s by far the most common question people ask me. And I know they’re genuinely curious but it’s a tough question to answer because some of my best paintings are the ones that are done the quickest, and I’d rather not get into discussions about pricing!

  7. Could you make one of those (ceramic glazed torsos) in this (very particular, wonderfully odd, completely impossible to replicate in glaze) color for my bathroom?

  8. Comments like these used to make me crazy, too, until I realized that people don’t always know how to start a conversation with a stranger and they go with the obvious question, sort of like asking about the weather. But if they’re talking to you they see something in your work that caught their attention – and I’m a heck of a lot happier drawing attention than being totally ignored

  9. These are hilarious and then not! I especially loved Patty’s questions. They are the questions that will just drive you crazy, but as Bruce Baker says, they are permission questions that allows you to now start selling to the person. They are just trying to figure out how to talk to you, an artist.

  10. Easy one. When folks use words like “cute” or “adorable” in reference to one of my paintings…arrghh.

  11. Allison J Smith

    I agree with Sue. I used to be annoyed with “my bro/sis/mom paints”, but now I see that they have already made a connection for me, between my art and them. Now it’s just a matter of enhancing the connection. My chances of a sale are much greater when the person can relate somehow, feels connected to my work. As far as “How long did it take to make?” I translate this in my head to mean how long did it take me to plan, buy supplies, build support, apply paint, frame or finish and market the piece. If I had said 5 hours, the apply paint time, they would have been offended and left immediately. So when I say it took 15 hours for this $500 piece, they are happy and impressed.

  12. When I was looking for a part-time job to pay the bills, people would ask me what I wanted to do for a career. I would say “make my jewelry.” Then they would sya, “no, what do you really want to do?”

  13. It sometimes depends on the tone or attitude when people ask me questions like those mentioned. Sometimes it is harmless and not meant unkindly. If it seems to be dismissive of my work it is offensive. Occasionally, it is downright funny. I paint a lot on stones which I often frame. Last year at a show a woman rushed into my booth exclaiming “What beautiful frames!”, only to stop short and squeal, “OOh, but they have things in them!”. She then tried to pull her foot out of her mouth by saying “Cute, though” as she scurried out of the booth. They are not cute – but she tried.

  14. I work with textiles and have overheard “I could do that, just go to JoAnn’s and get fabric” I have to laugh and think, sure you can go to JoAnn’s and get hand dyed fabric, free form cut and stitch together. I have a much thicker skin than I used to.

  15. “…so you’re an artist….Could you donate a piece for our auction? You’ve just donated your last two pieces? Don’t you have something on your wall you can take down?” This was really said to me. I was so upset because she just wasb;t taking no, I took off a bracelet I was wearing and!” and walked away.

  16. Agree, all questions are conversation starters… As for ” how long did this take you?”, my favorite answer is, “my whole life.”, especially for the looser stuff where they expect a short time frame. As long as you don’t answer smugly or dismissively. Then I might follow with a more specific answer, along with an explanation that if I’m open and loose enough, the better pictures take less and less time. (I actually enjoy trying to demystify the idea with the general public. that better work takes ‘longer’ time at the easel.) Every time I’ve taken the effort to explain it, it has worked. The other red flag comment we all hear once a week is “I can’t draw a stick figure!”… which always makes me stop to say- “who wants stick figures anyway?” and I take a moment to talk about creativity, openness, the roots of innovation, how many kids become afraid to draw around middle school age due to preconceptions and peer pressures– and how a little drawing can be healthy for truly everyone…. sometimes I get deer in the headlights, but occasionally I get someone truly glad and newly empowered that I spoke up. Worth it to me!!

  17. Miriam Badyrka

    The comment “I/my kid/ could paint that!” used to make me seethe. It stopped bothering me on the day that I asked, with genuine interest, not sarcasm or annoyance,”So what is stopping you?” We went on to have a wonderful conversation and I sold the painting.

  18. Every show I get at least one person that asks how long it took me to paint that piece. I heard it so many times that I just started throwing out guesses until I started to actually keep track. One of my current pieces is up to 200 hours. I would have never guessed it was that amount of time, so now I realize that I should not be so quick to answer the “silly” questions. Sometimes they are good questions to ask.

  19. If it’s my jewelry they ask “How long does it take to make these?” Mind they don’t specify a larger piece versus a smaller one. And the “My daughter likes beads…” And then I find out she’s 8 and strings them. My work is complex weaving. If it’s my paintings they ask, “How did you learn to do this?” Um…. In both instances I put it down to people wanting to admire and being impressed and not really knowing how to start a conversation. Another poster already pointed out Bruce Baker’s take on this situation, and I do think that’s really the case. So while the questions may be old to us, to the person doing the asking they are new and we can use them as conversation starters. 🙂

  20. Recently a woman, when I told her what I do (People and Pet Portrait artist) exclaimed,” An Artist? Don’t you like to eat? Oh, you must be married!” This was said at a monthly small business networking meeting. I was flabbergasted, especially considering the forum in which we had just met. The other routine comments, “My so and so paints, how long” etc. don’t bother – I’ve always found them an ice breaker. Shelly

  21. No question upsets me, I just use the opportunity to educate the general public about my art – or any art in particular. I hear so many artists whine about the way the art world is perceived by the general public as if they have no control over changing these perceptions, but here is our chance, let’s educate the public -even if it is one person at a time!

  22. My least favorite question is the above mentioned “How long does it take to make this.” I answer with the Picasso quote “all my life.” The other set of questions I deeply dislike are the ones about “How would I copy your work.” I’m totally open to talking to people about how they could train to be an artist, but I’m not interested in helping them to steal my own designs. There’s a difference. Oh, and I *HATE* it when people describe my work as “whimsical.” I have made a small amount of work that could be accurately described that way, but most of my work is not even close to whimsical… In general though, I agree with the artists above who suggest that these questions are just a way that people try to start a conversation about the work… and it’s our job to use that opportunity to help educate them. @Patty Hankins… Actually, it would be pretty cool if you did UPS or FedEx your camera around the world and request specific shots. Sound like a cool project!

  23. I’m pretty tolerant of non-artist’s questions: They are simply trying to connect and find grounds for conversation. One comment did fry me, though: An elderly woman wanted to see more paintings than were in my tiny studio, so I took her into my home to see the paintings on my walls. THEN she expressed disapproval that I should consider selling them for money–that talent is a gift from God for which I should not expect to be paid. I wanted to retort that her surgeon and her husband’s employer would be glad to hear that.

  24. I got a good laugh (and a few winces) out of these comments! My latest experience: my neighbor was talking about conditions at work, personality conflicts and dealing with difficult people, etc., and then stopped himself and said “Oh, you wouldn’t know about that since you’ve never worked!” My reply was, “Oh yes I DO and I’ve dealt with plenty of weird people!” (Should have added, “present company included!”)

  25. I make digital paintings. I used to hate it when people would come in and say “what program do you use?” as if it’s the click of a button….now I just point to my head. The other question I get a lot is “How did you do this?” My answer used to be in depth until I tracked the sales and found that people that ask that question prior to paying for one of my prints do not intend to buy one, they just want to kill time or something, find out how they can do it? I don’t know. Now I just say “I paint them” and let it go at that.

  26. “What a beautiful photograph; you must have a really good camera.” To which I reply “what a fantastic meal, you must have a really good set of pots and pans.”

  27. My “favorite” comment to receive is: “I really love your art, but I will have to win the lottery to be able to buy one of your works.” I do not understand this since my work is underpriced and ranges from $100 to $14,000. Not to mention that I know very few people who actually PLAY the lottery . . .

  28. When I get the question, “How long did it take you to paint that?” I answer, “About 40 years!” My answer is a conversation-starter and gives me the opprotunity to explain that my experience and training started 40 years ago and I use all that in every painting I do.

  29. Oh you are an artist… I wish I could draw, I can only draw stick figures. (followed with laughing that implies I am supposed to laugh at that hilarious joke for the ten thousandth time) I wish I had a dollar… hehe

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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