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Have you ever gotten hot-headed and needed to let some off some steam?  Yeah, me too.  I get big clouds of steam — fluffy, wisping, scalding collections of recurring indignities.  This one’s been piling up for a while, now, and I’d kinda like to get rid of some of it, so here we go:

Art is not my hobby.  It’s what I do for a living.

Cue the goons: “Derp, why not get a ‘real job’?”

Dear Goons, be so kind as to define ‘real job’ for me and the rest of the class.  Does it look like this?

Yeah?  No thanks.  I really don’t know what the goons are going on about, because making art is a real job.  It’s a tough one at times.

If making art it were easy then anyone could do it, including goons.  Remember this cheesy advertisement?  It was all over TV, in magazines, on matchbook covers, et cetera:

Do you have what it takes to be a Serious Art Student?

Take this free art test!  Draw Tippy the Turtle, or Pete the Pirate!
No artistic talent required!

“No artistic talent required.”  You’re kidding me, right?

Being an artist demands developing and honing of specialized knowledge and skills, and — yes — muscles.  Sometimes it means digging down, way down, deep into the dark and scary places.

Materials, tools, and work space are expensive.  Making art is time intensive and often stressful, just like a ‘real job’.  It’s frequently physically and/or medically hazardous.  Yet there are people — and not just a few — who are stunned and offended that artists set prices on their labors and their wares.  Why?  Bakers get paid.  Hairdressers get paid.  Tailors get paid.  Actors and athletes and babysitters get paid.  Hell, even preachers get paid.

Making a living in the arts, even in the best of economies, ain’t for sissies.  Nor is it for the faint of heart, because every knuckle-dragger and his idiot cousin thinks it’s his right and prerogative to criticize the results of any artist’s labors.

"Art Criticism", by Heinrich Kley“Art Criticism” by Heinrich Kley

Apparently, being an artist also means wearing a bright red bull’s-eye for the convenience of those who’re evidently threatened by what we do, or by the mere fact that we can do it.  But there’s a big difference between knowledgeable criticism and uneducated opinion.  There’s an even bigger difference between criticizing the art and slandering the artist who created it.

Fortunately some things become funny with the distance of Time.  For your amusement here a few of the half-witticisms that’ve been directed at me by folks born without the art-making gene:

What were you on when you painted THAT?!
I got this a lot while I was illustrating a number of RPG gaming modules.  Keep in mind that the commercial illustrator — being the one with the needful skills and tools — is the visual midwife to someone else’s notions.  Or, in some cases, nightmares.  Each goon asking me this thought he was being a wit — it’s that leering, vapid grin that gives them away.  Alas for them, they’re only being rude and embarrassingly unoriginal.  So, what was I on?  Simple — a deadline.

How about a family discount?
This bloke married into the same family I married into — no blood between us, I’m relieved to say.  Yet the first time we met at a big family shindig he wanted a deep ‘family discount’ (his words, not mine) on one of my high-end masks.  I asked what he did for a living.  “Dentistry”, he said.  I said, “Cool.  I could use a check-up.  How about a reciprocal discount?”  He turned red and mumbled, “I don’t want it that badly!”

I’ve got great ideas for paintings!  You paint ’em and we’ll split the money, fifty-fifty!
You’d be unpleasantly surprised by how many times I’ve heard this one — it’s usually preceded by a predatory gleam in their beady eyes, when their pupils mutate into little dollar signs.  But how does one say “no” to a crazy person without triggering a fit?

You shouldn’t be painting naked men!
If I paint them then they’re not naked anymore, right?  Grow up, already.  With all the naked women in art across the world, we desperately need some balance.  It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

You’re *selling* your art?  Then you’re *prostituting* yourself!
Now, there’s a truly asinine notion.  Or a transparent attempt to redefine what I do — through insults and intimidation — in order to shame me into bargaining with you on your terms.  In all seriousness, this is not a wise thing to say to any woman.  Especially if your nose is in range.

Hey, you drew that in my bar!  So I own it!
You know, I might’ve laughed if I hadn’t known you meant it.  This one’s so absurd that it doesn’t deserve a courteous response from me.  Seriously, you should hear just how delusional you sound — get professional help, now.

Those masks look like demons!
Really?  Wow.  All the “Demons!” I’ve ever met look just like regular people.

I hate your art!
Don’t like it?  Don’t buy it.  No one’s holding a gun to your head.

I like your art, but I can’t afford it.  Can’t I have it for free?
Again with the coyness — maybe you’re the one in need of a ‘real’ job.  If I said, “I like your car, but I can’t afford it,” would you give it to me?

The next time you see an artwork that you like, that you really really like, by all means let the artist know.  We love hearing that kind of stuff.  As a matter of fact we kinda get off on it because it means our efforts weren’t wasted, and that you get and dig what we’re saying.  Just remember that whining for freebies and discounts is not only rude, it makes you look cheap and ignorant — c’mon, is that how your mama raised you?

If any of the examples above made you red-faced or a little hot under the collar, pay attention to that physical sensation — that’s your conscience (and Karma) talking to you, begging you to not join the ranks of the goons.


Now you know.

Now you know that feigning ignorance to manipulate artists is just as insulting to you as it is to your targets.  Besides, we’re onto your game.  And if you weren’t feigning ignorance — well, now you know better, and this has been a good day for you because you’ve learnt something that’ll spare you future humiliations.


Oh-hhh, I feel so much better,…

… was that good for you, too?