It took me years to be comfortable enough to address myself as an artist. Part of this was because of the endless stream of painful questions and requests that tend to come your way. Dear friends and family of artists, please avoid the following scenarios at all costs. Dear fellow artists, feel free experience my empathy for you. I'm sure there are many more steps than 7.
1. Immediately ask us how we intend to make money.
Not sure when it became appropriate to ask acquaintances about their finances. I know you want to understand the art world, dear friend, but let's start with some questions not focused on my bank account. The truth is, artists are not all funded in the same ways. We teach, sell work through an endless number of sources, and there are these things called grants, where people actually give us money to make art... and no, those grants are not comprised of a large enough portion of your taxes to deserve a discount.
2. Can you do [blank] at my wedding?
Fine art and crafts are not the same thing. They serve inherently different purposes and it is perfectly acceptable for artists to love fine art and not enjoy crafts. Moment of honesty: I hate wedding planning. Since pinterest threw up grand ambition all over the internet, weddings have turned into DIY nightmares. I did my own wedding and that was enough. There were those beautiful wonderwomen who volunteered their time and energy (and were huge blessings) but I recognize that not all people have a deep urge to fold napkins. Yes, I own a DSLR. No, I am not a wedding photographer. Yes, I like cake. No, I do not want to decorate yours. Yes, I like pretty weddings. No, I will not be your decorator. Yes, I like to eat HAHA... you want ME to cook? Prepare for severe disappointment. For the love of [fill blank with appropriate angst] let the artists in your life offer to help you. If I took people up on all the crafting they expect me to love, I would never have time to make art. We seem to have forgotten that the last letter of DIY stands for "yourself". That being said, if you can't do it yourself and won't sacrifice your vision, then perhaps you should be paying an artist to do it in the first place and get the quality you want for a fair price.
P.S. If the artist is in your bridal party, they are probably expecting to be called on for some creative input. I myself have loved helping some of my closest friends with their wedding preparations. In these cases, just remember to say thank you and don't change your requests at the last minute.
3. Asking for art as christmas/birthday/wedding presents.
No. No, you can't. Because you asked for something worth 20x the cost of a regular christmas/wedding/birthday present for free. Artists are business people and don't make a living by giving product away. If you get a present from an artist - rejoice! They love you more than you know. If you want something, be a good friend and support your good friend: offer to buy it at full price.
4. We are not all interior designers.
I have a secret short list of people who I love to do this with, headed off by my mom, mostly because we have genetically-linked shared taste. Most of the time though, I would rather fall down a flight of stairs. I love interior design and, when I reno a house, I go all out. There are mood boards and swatches and houzz accounts full of idea books that I drool over. Good interior design takes a tonne of time and those homes you love online are no exception. Before you ask an artist to be your decorator, ask yourself these questions: do we have similar taste?, do you already know what feeling you want?, have you accumulated visual aides that said artist can have an opinion on? I am not interested in designing someone else's home from the ground up. It's fun to chit chat about backsplashes if that's your thing, but we don't all love choosing paint colours and furniture.
5. Artsy & Fartsy: the face-palm twins.
This comment achieves the ultimate mental face-palm in my mind, or if I have heard it more than once out of the same mouth, I may throw caution to the wind and pull out all the stops. Either way I will probably stare at you and repeat this term to you with all the chagrin I can muster. I am not a fan of "artsy", mostly because it just sounds frivolous and unspecific. I don't dance in rainbows and roll in paint when I get bored. I don't turn clothes pins into adorable finger puppets in my downtime. I am not a magical fairy creature from whom radiant inspiration flows forth; I am an educated human being who spends time becoming good at something specific. I develop critical ideas and translate them into visual and conceptual platforms, working hard to help disperse them. "Artistic" though not much different, is somehow a better alternative in my mind, as it communicates skill. Also, flatulence? Really? Adding the word "fart" after someone's chosen profession is just never a good idea.
6. Ask us if we just draw all day.
No. I work all day, then come home and draw all night. Then on those nights where I'm not drawing, I find myself scavenging the internet for opportunities I can apply for and funding to secure. Most emerging artists are not yet sustainable and we still have day jobs (related to our field if we are lucky). This life requires a high level of determination and can be exhausting. All you have to do is walk into a studio mid-production to understand this- so do the kind thing: show up with coffee (or tea).
7. Try telling me that art school must have been easy.
Ask my roommates. I did not sleep for 4 years- I have the thyroid problem to prove it. Art school is gruelling. You are being graded not on your ability to regurgitate facts but on your identity as a person. You take at least 2 3-hour studios a semester, with 12 hours of homework a week for each class. You will spend 36 hours a week on those 2 classes and then follow that up with an art history and whatever other credit course you need to complete by the time you graduate. You will easily be doing over 50 hours of school a week. So once again, just show up with hugs and caffeine.
Artists! Feel free to add on any of your most memorable misunderstood moments. They are often hilarious and worth sharing.
Non-artists! If you have done any of this to an artist (or me), don't worry, we're probably over it. If you're not sure if a request is appropriate, just ask. Ex: Can I ask you about how artists make money? (or) Do you like making finger puppets? If possible, we will love you even more.