You Painted These All By Yourself?

“My friend’s granddaughter paints pictures on the shoes…Oh, what do you call them? Anyhow, she paints pictures of little animals and whatnot. And I believe the other children pay her for it. ‘Sneakers.’ Isn’t that what they call them? Anyhow, that’s something I thought you could do.”

-Art School Confidential

People mean well. I know they do. But when someone asks what I do for a living, if you really think about it, there are some things that just shouldn’t be said. It would be insulting to any other profession, but for some reason it’s perfectly acceptable to say certain things to artists. Here is a compilation of statements that I have heard:


  • “Did you make all these?”
  • “How long did that take you?”
  • “It costs $#@%*!!!! for that?”
  • “You should charge more for your paintings.”
  • “I can’t draw a stick figure.”
  • “You’re an artist? Oh, how fun.”
  • “So, do you have a real job?”
  • “I could do that.”
  • “You’ll paint that for free, right?”

  • “Wow, you’re really good at painting portraits. Can you paint my dog?”
  • “Have you ever considered painting Abstract? I know someone who wants Abstract work and they are willing to pay a lot. It would be like having a real job!”
  • “I would love to sit around and make art all day, but I have to work.”
  • “Since you’re not doing anything…could you do this for me?”

If you have ever said these things to an artist, please don’t take offense. I mean to bring attention to these comments in a lighthearted way. I’ve decided most people don’t know what to say in response to my profession and one of the above comments usually seems satisfactory.

The truth is, art is freaking hard. The hours are long with little pay. I study the figure’s minute details and nuances with either a three inch long razor sharp graphite point, filling in every pore of the paper’s surface, or a three haired paint brush until my eyeballs bleed and I’m physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

I apply to galleries, shows, and competitions and 99% of the time I’m rejected (notice I didn’t say my ‘work’ is rejected. It’s difficult not to take rejection personally).

Bill said he once had two doctors take one of his workshops. They were two of the most committed and hardworking students he has ever had. Why? Because they understood the definition of freaking hard work.

I love what I do. Or at least the thrill of the initial draft with the potential of greatness. Or the accomplishment of the end result. The in-between, day to day stuff is gristly and painful. Most days I feel like the depressed cliche who throws her painting in the trash bin with a lit match and runs for the nearest cliff edge. But I grit my teeth and soldier on.

So now I’m sure you’re wondering, “Well, what the heck should I say?” Artists are tender creatures. Compliments are always nice. If you honestly think the work is horrid, say something vague like, “It has a dreamy quality,” or, “I like the colors you used.” Ask questions about the artist’s education, influences, or process, questions that could be applied to any other profession.

And if you happen to forget What Not to Say to An Artist and excitedly tell me about your friend’s granddaughter’s wildly successful artistic venture painting shoes and recommend I do that as well…well. That’s okay too.

Art Pranks

Happy April Fools!

I love a good prank. One of my favorite sites is Improve Everywhere, which you should totally check out because I give awesome recommendations.

But since I like art and stuff, and it is April 1st, I’m going to talk about some great art pranks.  According to The Economist, the most well-known art prank of all time is Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” as pictured here:

Yes indeed. That is a urinal turned upside down. Hilarious (if you didn’t catch it, that was tinged with sarcasm). However, I personally don’t believe this was intended to be a prank.

Duchamp started a new art movement in the early 1900s called “Readymades” which consisted of found objects he decided to present as art. Readymades could be anything, from a bicycle wheel to a used handkerchief. The whole idea behind the movement was to question, “What is art?” This is coming from the same guy who painted mustaches on postcards of the Mona Lisa. And here’s the kicker. Marcel Duchamp is considered one of the most important and influential artists of the twentieth century, and “Fountain” basically rocked the world, giving birth to Conceptualism. Thank you art world. You’ve always had such impeccable taste.

Here are some contemporary art pranks. These two I’m citing directly from The Huffington Post which has an extensive list. For example, “The Office” writer and actor BJ Novak confessed to an art prank of his own. In 1997, when the funny man was still in high school, he made an alternate self-guided tour to an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts. He replaced the tour’s planned cassette with his own. The first three minutes were the same, then things started to get weird. Directions turned to: “Quietly remove the glass and inhale the rich aroma of the paint. Ah, that is good stuff!” The tape eventually asked museum goers to do the hokey-pokey.”

“On April Fools day in 2005, “Popular Photography Magazine” ran a special on how to “save” photographs from their unattractive wrinkles and expressions. The article showed Dorothea Lange’s iconic “Migrant Mother” as an example, notoriously recognized for her depression induced weariness. Yet the new and improved mother looked more like a real housewife, her wrinkles Botoxed away and frown assuaged. Although many readers appreciated the joke, others were horrified.”