I received an interesting question via email last night, and all in good timing too as I was wondering what I'd write about today. Erin wrote, "Carl, I am an aspiring artist and I was wondering, has anyone ever said or done something incredibly rude to you in relation to your art that just left you confused and stunned? And if so, how did you deal with it?"
Well, thank you for the question, Erin. I've been very fortunate in my career thus far. Most people I encounter have been nothing but positive and respectful. That being said, there are always the exceptions to the rule. I've of course had people here and there say things like, "what's your real job?" or "how come this or that doesn't look exactly like "whatever"," but those types of comments roll off my back pretty easily because they come from a lack of knowledge rather than disrespect. That being said, there is one person who stands out and even now, 2 years later, I'm left scratching my head, but much wiser for the experience. There was a woman that found me via social media, we'll call her "A", she seemed nice enough, loved my work and we became fast friends, she even added my better half as a friend (red flag number 1). She bought a piece or two, paid promptly and paid my asking price, and soon she was sending me messages to chat every day, several times a day, like 12 or 13 times a day, before work, at work, on the way to and from work (red flag number 2). It all seemed harmless enough, she was married, and I was happily paired as well. She asked me to do a commission, and as a friend, I neglected to ask for a deposit, did the piece and ... nothing (red flag number 3). Okay, so, there hangs the commissioned piece, on my wall, but she continues chatting with me constantly and I figure, well, maybe the piece wasn't quite what she had in mind. Fast forward about a month, she asks about 3 pieces I had displayed. I worked out a deal for her, knocking a considerable amount off because she was getting 3. She asked if she could pay me in 2 weeks, when she got paid. No problem, right? She was good for it and at the time, I didn't want to jinx a good sale, especially because I needed the money, painting is how I eat. The 2 weeks pass as normal, chatting, etc. Payday comes, nothing. All of a sudden she's just gone, no messages, nothing (red flag number 4). I wait a couple days, then send a message following up, reminding her of our agreement. I wasn't rude, in fact, I know I wasn't because my better half reviewed my message prior to me sending it. Still nothing. A few more days pass, I poke her a bit, not even mentioning the paintings, just saying hi. Nothing. Then out of the blue, about 3 weeks later, I get a long and rather nasty message from her accusing me of all sorts of crap like pressuring her and I can't even remember what else. The kicker, she blocked me so I couldn't respond.
So what's rude about this, you might wonder? Well, the rude part is ordering something and then backing out without any word whatsoever. Artists, just like anyone else are people, hard working people who rely on sales to eat. But as people, we also understand that circumstances change and we're reasonable. If something happens and you have to back out of a deal, step up, say so, I'm well aware that life happens, but to just ghost me, then attack me, that's not only rude, it's childish.
The lessons I learned from this were many. First, when my wife says she thinks someone is off, listen to her, she's right. Secondly, beware of those who are what I call friendship tornadoes, you know what I mean, you hardly know them, but they're all of a sudden swarming you with compliments and messages and fawning all over you, there's a reason it feels too good to be true. Third, always get a deposit, whether it's a commission or an existing piece, if someone can't pay outright, get a deposit and set out and agree upon the terms of payment up front and in writing. Finally, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT mix business and friendship! I have always maintained, and have yet to be challenged in my assertion that art is a tough business in which to make a living. To that end, friends are friends and business is business. If a friend wants to buy your work, hold them to the same terms as you would anyone off the street, after all, if they actually are your friend, they wouldn't want to rip you off, now would they?