Saturday, May 9, 2009

Some Humor for the Weekend: What NOT to Say to an Artist

(A note on the image: This photo collage was an experiment in 'Uncomfortable Textures', and an obvious play on the fashion industry.) You can click on it to see it larger.

It's the weekend! (Which for many of us artists is just another work day, of course.) Still, even as we gladly slave away at the easel, it's good to always keep a sense of humor. Take the following article as you will. I hope you'll find something amusing here.


(note from me: I DID NOT WRITE THIS. I started keeping a binder full of cartoons and humorous art articles years ago. The following magazine article dates back maybe 20 years?)

"Artists would just as soon never have to hear some comments, but the 13 statements below always seem to crop up at one time or another. Feel free to use the responses provided-- or just grit your teeth and think them.

“My kid could do that.”
So where Is this genius--cutting a deal with Sotheby’s?

“I wish I could do that but I can’t draw a straight line.”

Unless you’re Josef Albers, it’s not that important.

“I have a cousin/brother/great-aunt (pick one) who makes art”
Let me guess, on Sundays?

“How long did it take you to make that?”
Since birth.

“That must really be fun to do.”
Yes, it is—If you like poverty, rejection, and working with potentially hazardous materials.

“I’d like to show some of my pictures in a gallery—by the way, what are slides, a résumé and portfolio.”
(No response necessary.)

“I don’t know anything about art but I know what I like.”
A real mental heavyweight.

“If it’s local it couldn’t be good...I buy all my art In New York.”
So move to New York.

“I wish I had time to do that.”
After flossing regularly and rearranging our sock drawer, forget it.

“Did someone make that?”
No, it just fell to earth.

“I’d like to buy some art, but as I look at my Rolex, I realize that I have to jump in my Jag, hop on my jet and fly to my home in the south of France. When I do buy, could I have it for half price since we’re cutting out the gallery?”
Please get out of my life.

“I would like something to go over my couch. Could you do that in mauve, puce and teal?”

No, buy a new couch.

“It’s perfect, I love it! But I’ll have to talk to my decorator first.”
Does he/she hold your hand through all of life’s big decisions?

Note at the bottom: These comments originally appeared In Tower news, the publication of the Watertower Art Association (Louisville, KY)."

I have one of my own to add.
At one of my first shows, a lawyer came with his art enthusiast girlfriend. After a bit of pleasant chatting, he says:"Don't you feel it violates the spirit of your artwork to put a price tag on it?"
It took me six months to come up with a response, which I doubt I'll ever have the chance to use: "Don't you think it's inappropriate for you to charge for your services, since, after all, your only Practising law?" (Don't get me wrong, one of my best friends is a lawyer! Just not that guy!)

What's the oddest art comment you've heard?


  1. "Only practicing law"...ha, brilliant! I'd hate to get on the bad side of you R. You have a sharp wit with grit.

    Love your collage...edible clothing... looks tasty.

  2. "But what's it supposed to be?" when looking at a piece of Abstract.

    Thanks for my weekend laughs R. I love that pickle hat. I wonder if it's a gherkin or just a dill.

  3. Hi Vern, hey, I'm a pretty nice guy... I only WISH I could have said that, but given the opportunity I'm sure I would not.

  4. Needed that laugh right now...and the 'only practicing' lawyer one is priceless!!!!
    Another artist I know gave this comeback to 'how long did it take...':10 generations of selective breeding,6 years of formal education, etc..." all with a straight face! Somehow just a long silent pause might do the trick.
    My pet peeve is when people come and eat all the free food, stare longingly at your work, then say they love it but can't afford it.( this with artwork priced well under most costs of dinner for two)
    Have a good weekend, R

  5. One comment we used to hate as decorative painters, is it finished?
    No we are just putting things away to get them out again...
    OR let me talk to my husband which means we will never hear from her again.

  6. Thanks, Jeremy!

    Sheila: correct answer: "It's an Abstract."

    Cathyann, ooohhh, Good Comeback!! and yes, the Foodies... at one 'inner city' gallery we had a regular guy who would eat with one hand while stuffing his pockets for later with the other. Neve missed an opening, that man. Obviously an art lover.

    Nancy, ouch! I can certainly relate!

  7. And that great-aunt never had a lesson in her life and she's even older than you are and she sells everything she paints and gives all the money to the Presbyterian church.

  8. R...good comments. I always like it when a professional (lawyer, doctor, etc) ask for a discount. I always want to say to the dr....the next time I have surgery, could you discount it?

  9. My personal favorite is, "That art is really good, it looks just like a photograph!" Great post!

  10. Charlene, that great-aunt gets around, I've heard of her, too!

    Hi Jerry, isn't that the truth?!?

    Paula, ow, I get that one a lot, too!

  11. I've had my share of the usual annoying comments, but my fave was "I'm not sure how long I'm going to have my job, so could you give me a break on the price?" I guess he should get points for creativity, but the answer was still "no."

  12. OMG,............I have to admit I did ask the question How long did it take to make....... and just recently too ha,ha,ha :(
    R, this post was so funny thank you.

  13. Hi aRt,
    First of all, thanks for your nice comment on my Cello painting.
    And this is GREAT! I laughed so hard, my tummy still hurts. Most of them sound so familiar - I probably heard them with my own ears some points in my life. But I love your responses - they are so hilarious! Some are painful yet fun.
    Sometimes when people say to me "You must be natural. I can't draw. not even a stick figure." I know they are complimenting, yet I have to ask "How much time have you really spent on drawing? It's all the training and practices that make difference just like any other occupations."

  14. "I'm going to go home and do that in orange"(it was an all-black construction)
    and "you paint like a man", anyone have a good answer for that one? I think I said,"thanks,I think"

  15. When I am getting to know someone, and I tell them I am an artist, the inevitable, kneejerk comment is "I can't draw."

    I hope they are trying to tell me that they admire the skill I have, I like to keep that in mind, but usually I tell them they can can draw, they just have to practice every day for 50 some years.

  16. Great R - you always have the ability to bring a smile. Mine was also along the lines of 'when will it be finished?' Love the bacon skirt!

  17. I ran into a contractor once who wanted to commission a large painting, but couldn't understand why paintings are "so dang expensive." He had quoted triple the painting's price to install a mail slot in the door. There aren't many other professions linked to the word "starving." Wait...are there any other?
    At one point I was painting murals and "custom pieces" for an interior designer. I re-did one couch painting 4 times until the colors matched the ever-shifting decor. I still refer to it as the couch potato. soul sapping!

  18. Said by a client who needed an illustration of a dog greeting his family for a publication, "Isn't the dog's tail a little threatening?"

    Here's another one "It must be nice to just sit around all day and draw".

  19. Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog. I like your paintings very much.

  20. Love these! The one I usually get is they want to match the artwork to their decor! Ugh!

  21. Hi R.,

    You are so funny. People do say odd things at shows. My friends and I have a saying "blocking for blocking!" Which means we delete that negativity from our minds. With portrait painting, it's quite different. The client is in your studio, ormthe sitter's home, and the reaction is usually a big hug and then a cup of tea, or glass of champers. I must say I like that part after the nail biting worry of the reveal.

    You rock!


  22. Hi Chris, Good for you for saying No!

    Thanks Akiko and Dominique!

    Thanks Peter, but I didn't write this, except for the last one. And I really would never say these things out loud.

    Cagg, not that it helps a bit, but they probably thought that was a compliment. Which if you really get to thinking about it somehow insults an entire gender. Maybe both genders.

    Maryanne, great story.

    Liz, painful story, oh, ouch!

    Cindy, "Fun". Ouch!

    Manon, I feel for you. One of the greatest (after-the-fact) compliments I have received is to learn that buyers of my paintings have repainted their walls to go with the art.

    Thanks Barbara, I find that if we can find a way to laugh at these things, it dissipates the pain. I like your "blocking for blocking!"

    Irit, always happy to give you a laugh.

  23. I love this list. It is so typical and your responses are great, even if they have to remain in the head.

    Lovely artwork too. I really like the mystical tangerines. That blue and orange really zings.

  24. What a world of wonderful information and beautiful images to see and learn from in all of your blogs. Thank you for making a comment on my blog because it has brought me to your's.

  25. You my friend have hit the nail on the head.

  26. Ha, great post, very funny!

    I do have a few of my own. Painting plein air subjects me to all kinds of comments from passersby.

    My favorite...."What are you doing, painting?" No, I'm baking a cake, duh!

    Here's another. A man and his son walk over to see what I'm doing and he says very loudly while turning around and walking away, "Oh, it's just art." God forbid you show your impressionable boy anything cultural!

    And when I take a workshop and there are 12 or more artists painting together in the same spot inevitably 2 or 3 people come along and ask, "Is this a class?" No, 12 of us just decided to paint in the same spot at the same time today, what a coincidence!

  27. Something along the lines of "So how much do you sell?" after they spent 1.5 seconds looking at 6 months' work.

  28. Loved this posting so much and can say I've heard way too many of these! One that I've heard too often is, "Could you paint ____ on a saw blade?" or shovel. It is a running joke with another artist friend of mine who frequently ribs me about getting a saw blade painting. Thanks for sharing this.

  29. Gallery patron: "your paintings are so cute"
    Me, upon spitting my drink: "i live for cute"

    Later: "note to self, add more birds of prey or reptiles and blood to seascapes"

    p.s. "Uncomfortable Textures" works! good one.

  30. Hi R... It seems Plein Air is a relatively 'new concept' for Fort Lauderdale. When I have been out painting downtown I have had drivers stop and ask me if I am taking money for parking.I look at my brush, then my easel, then at them and I say." That will be $20, park over there!" Ha! ... Greg

  31. Great list! I need to share this with other artists I know.

  32. Thanks, Cathy, Clever Pup, and Mary for stopping by!

    Thanks David! (but what can we PAINT on that nail head... (see John Vander Stelt)

    Thanks, Kim! Those are some great examples (that second one is laughably painful), and a great explanation for why I'm too phobic to paint in public.

    Jala, Ouch! Yes. (Although I usually just tell them I can't paint fast enough to keep up with the demand).

    John, Priceless!

    Doug, That's So Cute (JUST KIDDING!!!-- I hate that word!)

    Greg, I admire your enterprise! (Funny!)

    Thanks Kathleen, Feel free to send your artist friends over.

  33. These are great! Thanks for the laugh!!! :O)

  34. "How much is it if I buy my own frame?" was one comment that would drive my artist mother nuts.

    Thanks for the post.
    Ken B

  35. Its obviously painful when you tell people that you are an artist and they ask innnocently ; "Well, what do you do, exactly?"
    And when you show your latest work to someone you know and he comes up with "when are you going to paint something for me?" ( free of cost, of course!)

  36. Hi R, and thanks for this thread -- fun to read the responses.
    Mine isn't an odd question so much as my most dreaded one. After your art show, people asking "So did you sell anything?" or even more specifically "How many paintings have you sold?"

    I was at dinner with friends once and was asked, "So Camille, I want to hear about your artwork." I replied, "Ohhh, there's not really that much to tell..." when the guy next to me sarcastically and dismissively said, "Oil?... or acrylic?.... oil?... or acrylic?" That shut me up pretty quick; he thought that covered anything I might have to say. I do think with some people there's an envy of our perceived lifestyle and it comes out in jokes like that. I have to keep that in mind :)

  37. hahahahahaha that was funny! the oddes thing i ever had said to me was at an exhibit of my own work, and someone asked me 'did you paint that?", i responded plainly 'yes'....and they said 'wow, really?" if there was no way i could ever have enough talent to paint it. as they leaned in for the 'close inspection' i walked away.

  38. Great posting. Running a gallery and doing many shows I have heard many of these.
    One of my answers to the question, Wow. It must be nice to just sit around doing this. My reply is "that it sure beats working for a living." One of the best ones I ever heard was when I was just starting out selling my art and had sales in banks[this was befor drive up banking which killed that endeavor]2 little old ladies were intently looking my paintings over and at the time I had put a c with a circle around it.{Befor copyrights were a sure thing}One lady asked the other what that meant. The 2nd lady answered that that meant I had copied it from another artist.

  39. Okay... just the picture made me smile, but then I read the comments...
    Thanks for posting them r... I love to laugh.

  40. Teresa, Glad it gave you a lift!

    Thanks, Avocaken! I bet that drives a lot of artists nuts!

    Arti and Camille, I think you've given me an idea for my next post, stay tuned!

    Christine, that's a good one!

    Gary, you are a funny man! I LOVE this story.

    Thanks, Marian; I love to laugh, too (or is it I have to laugh or I'd cry??)

  41. Oh my, Gary's copyright comment, that is priceless. Another great post! My favorite is when they say,

    I really like this one, but will it match the couch?

    pughugs from Flower Mound....

  42. Great post, great comments - Gary, you win the prize with your copyright story! My favorite came from an acquaintance who couldn't understand why I would paint large (30x40) canvases "They won't fit in anyone's home!" (this was when I lived in rural Montana, and she was right - no space between all the mounted animal heads and antlers...)

  43. These are great! I was recently painting outside with some fellow artists and there was a woman who was taking a ton of photos of all of us and our artwork. When asked why, she said "I'm going to make cards." Hmmm?

  44. I'm a little late to the post, but this is really cute. Thank you for sharing the article and the great comebacks. I did a painting of a woman juggling little balls in the air, I was thinking a woman's life when I painted it. Three young women were looking at it at a show. One of them said this is to represent Jesus and those balls are the disciples. It is kind of frightening to eavesdrop when people are talking about your work. This made me laugh, I wasn't that deep when I came up with the idea. I guess it was all of those art history classes lurking in my subconscious.

  45. Thanks, R, Great Humor! Like Christine, it gets me when folks ask "did you do this?" ...even when you're standing there and your name is signed plainly. In a good mood, I'll respond "Not today". In a bad mood, I'll respond "Hell, no, I had to hire someone with talent"

  46. So funny! I don't know if I'd say this was odd but someone recently said to me...

    "Your new work is really nice, but you have to get away from those red trees...that's just my opinion." Gee thanks...

    I told him I was trying to get a series of paintings together, which means most of them may have red trees. Duh.


  47. Reading through all these comments has given me a real chuckle! I have had every one of those remarks made to me...more than once! The one about how much "it looks just like a photograph" is a hard thing to keep my smile on for...I want to scream at them that if I wanted a photograph of this subject I would have just taken one, but I am learning to smile nicely and point out the more than obvious brushstrokes and try to educate them a bit on the difference between what I do and what Photorealist painters do.

  48. YES!! It's been over 20 years. I have a copy of this from a photocopied magazine page that I made while going to the Art Institute of Dallas Fall 1987 or Spring 1988, so you are correct in how old this is!! Cheers!!


Thank you for your kind comments! They always make my day.