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Artist Problems: Commissions and Request ...

Artist Problems: Commissions and Requests

Jul 02, 2023

You’re not entitled to free art.

I cannot stress this enough. I’ve seen people demand free art from artists and they get nasty when told “no”, often insulting the artist’s skills in retaliation (if you thought they sucked, why did you want them to draw for you, hmm?). I had someone tell me they had a “free commission” for me after I told them I don’t take requests (first, that’s an oxymoron and second, it’s the same as a request). Talk about insulting.

Never ever demand or even ask for free art from anyone ever unless they explicitly state that they take requests. Even then, it’s important not to take advantage of people as there are plenty of those out there that have trouble saying “no” even when they want to.

You wouldn’t ask someone to build you furniture or sew you clothes for free. Art takes time and skill, just like any other craft. 

Also, for goodness sake, do not attempt to befriend an artist just so they will draw for you. That’s an abusive relationship as far as I’m concerned.

Don’t complain about commission prices.

First and foremost, artists can charge whatever they feel like charging. Anyone can charge whatever they feel like for any goods or services. It’s none of anyone else’s business. Plus, art is a luxury and, as such, is going to cost more than everyday items. Custom pieces will absolutely cost more than mass produced art found in the store.

If that reason isn’t good enough for you, I’ll elucidate. Artists don’t just magically print out art like a machine. You’re not just paying for the end result but the artist’s time and skill, which took time and hard work to achieve. This could also include money spent on an education. Artists need to pay bills and eat too.

For a historical perspective, art used to be so expensive that only royalty, nobility, and the clergy could afford it. Let that sink in. You are fortunate to even have the opportunity to commission an artist. 

In my Art History class's book, it says this about artists in the Renaissance period. 

Throughout the Middle Ages, painters were considered skilled crafts workers on a level with goldsmiths, carpenters, and other tradespeople. By the mid-16th century, in contrast, Michelangelo could claim that "in Italy great princes as such are not held in honor or renown; it is a painter that they call divine." 

Source: Living With Art by Mark Getlein, 11th edition, page 365

Somewhere along the way, art became devalued. Is it that more people have access to being artists? Is it ignorance of what goes into art? Is it part of a larger problem of entitlement? Whatever the case, something has to change. Artists are people and deserve to be paid for their time, effort, and skill; and they deserve to be paid what they ask, not what you feel they should get paid.

Another side to this issue is artists themselves devaluing their art and charging way below industry standard, which makes it harder for those who do charge industry standard to get work. I understand that newer or unknown artists need to compete by having lower prices, but this problem will never go away unless all artists charge what they are worth. Commissioners can help by giving tips to undercharging artists, which may give them the confidence to raise their prices.

As a side note, this all goes the same for sewing. As the daughter of a seamstress, I know just how undervalued it is and how cheap people are when it comes to wanting custom things made. As with artists, it takes time and skill. Also, with today’s prices, it often costs more to custom make an item than it does to buy it in a store and I’m talking regular stores like JC Penny not cheap stores like WalMart.

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