Don’t ever, ever do this!

I just got back from a new "artisans" (their word) space. Two women were in there shopping and I believe at least one of them was an art teacher. They went around looking at how everything is made and talking out loud about how it could be made. (Read: I can do this at home so I don't have to buy it here.)

Tacky, tacky, tacky. Artists should know better.

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8 thoughts on “Don’t ever, ever do this!”

  1. Alyson, I encounter this sort of thing all the time: “Oh, I have a camera, I can take pictures like that.” Also: “You were sure lucky to get that sunset like that.” And silently, I say, deep in my heart, “Did you spend 15 thousand dollars on camera and printing gear? Have you spent months and years practicing your skills?” And, “It was three long days in the high desert heat, to get that lucky.” But I don’t say those things out loud. I nod agreeably and say with a smile, “You sure can, if you work at it.” And, “It _was_ a lucky day for me.” Alas, people who speak in that way to an artist seldom buy anything. I’ve found it’s those who think *they* are the lucky ones, for having found my stuff, that buy and become friends. Walt PS — It seems to me that school ‘art teachers’ are among the worst (though certainly not the only) offenders. I think it’s because they don’t need to sell anything to make a living and can’t imagine the need to do so.

  2. Hi Alyson, Thanks for this good reminder. Given that many of my works are playful, sometimes I get similar words directed to me. I have started to learn that my mark and my eye are unique and it is just right to paint as I am moved to paint (and as my marketing analysis deems whatever …) I used to be more threatened and now I am glad to share my techniques … they still won’t get exactly what I do. And then they are more willing to buy! But you are right – not very kind at all. ~ Diane Clancy

  3. On the one hand, I can see where they are coming from – an art teacher especially would probably be the personality type who’s natural tendency is to deconstruct things so they can teach about how it’s made. But I agree totally with you – it’s tacky, rude and disrespectful to walk into a selling environment and remark out loud for others to hear about how “I could just make that at home”. I’ve been in a situation where some of my simple-looking objects have been remarked upon in public as “a great idea for my class to do as a project”. And no, she didn’t buy anything from me. However, I’ve noticed that no-one has ever remarked to my face that “my kid could do that” about any of my more complex works (like my realistic pet portraits). There’s a disconnect in the minds of the public when it comes to art that “looks” easy, and art that “is” easy – they don’t understand that a photo you took that turned out great took several hours of prep-time, years of experience, and thousands of dollars worth of equipment to produce. They don’t understand that their kid doesn’t have the same color and design sense, hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of materials, and years of experience to guide their hands to re-create that collage. What they do know is that complex, realistic drawings take real skill (“Wow, you’re good, I can only draw stick-figures!”) – and if they don’t understand that you can’t whip one of those out in an hour or two, well, that’s another story for another day. My theory is complex-looking art draws them in enough to stop and think before they blurt out a “my kid could do that” statement. If it just looks like paint thrown at a canvas, some people go into “crafty mode” and try to deconstruct it (the volume level of this is directly proportional to the outer appearance of simplicity). There are people out there who are rude and inconsiderate – and like previous commentors, you just learn to deal with them. Take heart, however, because I know from experience that these exact types of people don’t only exist in the art world, but they walk into other shops and remark the same things, don’t end up buying anything there either, and frustrate the sales staff as much as they frustrate us. So, we’re not alone. 🙂 Cas

  4. Hi Alyson~ One of my art students ( a mature adult woman) brought in an image she admired, stating she would paint a copy for her next project because it “looked so easy.” A few days later we held our critique. After we talked about her work and why it wasn’t working the way the artist piece worked, she began to realize that the “simple painting” was created in a very complex and conceptual manner. Although she was somewhat discouraged by her own lack of knowledge, she began to understand what really goes in to creating “simple” art. But I, too, get weary of the comments like “my daughter/son/aunt/etc is a fabulous artist.” I used to want to scream “yeah, but is that person selling their art here?” Now I look at it as nothing more than a way for one stranger to communicate some common connection to another stranger…or an inept artist trying to impress her companions or make him/herself feel better about not being able to produce good art…”I could do that if I wanted…” I’m just happy that I can! (sometimes)

  5. I often catch myself thinking this same thing at shows, but never say it aloud because I’ve heard it too much myself. When it pops into my head, my second thought is “yeah, but would I? or would it be a too much work and time? And would it be as good?” Invariably, the answer is “way too much work and time, not anywhere near as good.” And if it’s something I like, I’ll buy it. Our society equates art with play, not “serious” work, or with hobbies. My mother was an extremely talented china painter and got very little respect for education she pursued, or the hours of work she put into each piece becaue it was viewed as a genteel hobby. But I’d put her work beside some of the finest in any museum, and not just because she’s my mother.

  6. Alyson B. Stanfield

    To all: I do believe there are times when we really want to know how something is made. I can spend a long time looking at the glazed surface of a canvas trying to figure out which colors came first. And I even figure out how other things are made. I think the difference here is that these women sounded like they were taking an idea and using it instead of buying the art. And what was so awful is that I could hear it from across the gallery. I think you all get it. If you want to emulate an artist’s technique, write notes or whisper. BTW, there is nothing wrong with emulating technique. Artists have been doing it for centuries. It’s blatant copying that points to an inferior artist. Walt: I don’t think you should bow to the word “lucky.” You weren’t just lucky. You are always out there with your camera looking for the perfect shots. You know how to see through the lens with your trained eye. Sue: I think a good response is, “Well aren’t you lucky to have such talent around? We artists are a pretty special lot!”

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