People in your life think it’s romantic to know an artist. They are impressed by what you do, or they love your work but they don’t always understand what professional means. Heck, they don’t understand that any creative work takes time, financial resources and energy from the creator. Maybe it is because our grandmothers used to make so much for us when we were growing up. Perhaps we are taught then that people make things to just give away. The result is that you will have businesses, non-profits, friends and family asking you to give your work away like it only has sentimental value. It isn’t true and don’t let anyone guilt you into it.
One family member always says to me, “Paint me a pretty picture.” Sure, and I will sell it after I’ve done it. She fails to understand that my art is my job. I don’t think she will ever understand that, so I just smile and nod. We give our art as gifts too, which will add to the confusion. I stopped doing that. If someone specifically asks for a painting as a Christmas gift, that is different. My mother wants one of my pieces for her Christmas, that is huge. Above everything else, she wants to have something I have done. She is also a professional artist, she understands.
I give you permission to say, “no.” Not, NO, just softly, no. I give you permission to say it without explaining. You don’t have to explain anything. In fact, explaining sometimes invites argument. I don’t want to deal with the drama of it all, so I just use the one word. If an organization or individual takes offense? Not your fault. They probably don’t really know you, if they did; they probably wouldn’t ask in the first place. I also give you permission to chose to say, “yes.” What!? It is always your choice. Perhaps the organization that solicits you is one you are emotionally invested in, why not donate. The point is, you should feel free to choose where, who and what you are comfortable giving. Be firm in your decision, you do not need to defend it.
The same goes for promoters. “Will you do my show? It is for a good cause.” I’ve heard that too over the years. “I am trying to start up a new show in this small podunk town, 20 miles off the beaten track. You would be such a draw. It is only $400 for a 10×10 space.” Many times, they feel that if you put on a show, artists will come. If artists come, buyers will come. Not exactly the field of artistic dreams here. Kevin Costner’s character paid dearly for plowing under all that corn and building a ball field. Most artists are living on a shoestring, we can’t afford to be a part of the baseball diamond. If there are promoters who are reading this, feel comfortable to say no to artists as well. We can ask, you can tell us no. You guys are generally better at this than we are (lol). This is about having healthy boundaries. Healthy for you, not the person asking the question.
Who ever is asking, whatever the question; think it over for a minute and state your final answer. Be it yes or no, the only person it needs to be right for is you.