If you’ve followed my blog for a long time, or even just recently started reading, I am a huge advocate for original art. I am obsessed with one-of-a-kind jewelry, paintings, clothing, shoes, and tattoos. Art is diverse and inclusive and allows everyone to create freely.
Artists are constantly mocked for not making a lot of money and having a minimal lifestyle and honestly I’m sick of it. These are people who have chosen to live out their passion and their dreams. Maybe they don’t make a lot of money, but those people making six figures in their New York highrises, are they happy? Are they fulfilled? Most likely not, but that’s not for me to decide.
Now I know many of you feel the same way about this, but let me explain something. Artists, whether writers, photographers, painters, makeup artists, tattoo artists, etc, all make their money from their work. This isn’t simply a hobby, it is their life. Scott Powhatan Collins of Savage Cinema, explained “artist[s] not only has the right but the duty to protect their own intellectual property, which then all serves the artist’s full independence.” When you ask friends who create art to do things for free you’re taking away time and money and being an asshole. You’re saying that you enjoy their art, but not enough to deem them worthy of payment. A true friend will support their artist friends by paying them not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s their job.
See there are two sides to “mate rates,” and they are as follows: You are offered a discount by the artist or you ask for a discount. If they are going to offer your a discount, they will. Aly Kelly, an artist stated, “I have no issues with offering small discounts on my Etsy shop… like free shipping, or a rush order at no extra cost, especially because people are grateful for those small things, especially if they are on a budget.” In opposition though when people message her persistently asking for a free product so she can get reviews. Aly counters “I pay for Etsy to advertise for me, and I pay for Facebook to promote me, and it’s not expensive. I don’t want to give away a labor-intensive, hand-made product for free to someone who I don’t know and offers me no guarantee of followers or sales.” Artists advertise just as other businesses will, and influencer marketing though helpful, only succeeds in certain contexts.
Angela Chavez who created this beautiful painting of me offered a deal to the first five people to DM her on Instagram that she would do a free portrait of them. This was so she would be able to get more positive feedback on Etsy, and also to show future clients the range of her work. This was something she offered, not something I asked for. I had the original shipped to me, and paid shipping, but in the future I will definitely give her my business by getting portraits commissioned at full price.
On her Instagram she wrote, “Babes, I love you, but please don’t ask me for free artwork. If you’re a style blogger posting all the new clothes you buy and places you travel to, you can pay me for my time, years of practice, skill, and passion. Maybe I should charge more to be taken seriously? Illustration and teaching are my jobs. Asking me to do something free because you’re a style blogger with 3k+ followers is like saying I’m not worth getting paid, but you deserve special treatment.” Honestly, she’s such a sweet person, who I met on Instagram, who ended up doing something super kind for a stranger. Style bloggers, just as artists, are a community that should support each other. Please, please, please, give her some love on her personal Instagram, her art Instagram, and her Etsy shop.
Aly and Angelica are both commission-based artists, which means that they put in the most work trying to match customer visions. In opposition Alysa Powell has a style of art that makes it so she has stopped doing commissions at all. Alysa has a particular interest and style and has found that people looking for unique designs want what they want, not what she has the desire or vision to accomplish. “It’s really demoralizing to feel like people don’t actually care about the sort of work you do, they just want a cheap illustration . . . or a cheap portrait of a family member or themselves, where they ‘generously’ pay for the materials and nothing else. It’s insulting. I’m not a bargain basement artist. I have interests and specialized talent and a body of work that I’m proud of; if none of that matters to you, go find someone else.”
I see this as people who go to tattoo artists asking for an identical tattoo in a style they don’t do. Don’t ask a water color artist to do a full horror sleeve. Do your research and learn about what they specialize in, whether it’s a painter, graphic designer, tattoo artist, or writer. If you’re getting something done, have the respect to learn about them. Every artist wants to do a good job and by giving them challenges complete outside their norm, as Alysa said, it’s demoralizing.
In a perfect world everyone would get the credit and pay they deserve for their art, but Alysa stated it best by saying, “There just seems to be this attitude in our society that art should be cheap and or free; people want it, but they often don’t want to pay for it. It’s taken for granted.” The world is expressive and unique because of art, and if a friend or family member has dedicated their lives to their practice, support them whenever you can.
No one becomes an artist to be a millionaire, they do it because they have a passion for their craft. “Artists do not get discounts, deals or price cuts on their rent, groceries, car payments, children’s tuition etc.” So before you go and ask that photographer friend to shoot your wedding for free, or commission a painting “just cuz” remember that they deserve payment.