So, you’ve decided to talk to an artist
I don’t consider myself an artist, but most of my friends are, and I’m married to one. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of behavior that ranges from awkward to outright unacceptable. Here are some dos and don’ts to ensure that your experience with an artist is a good one for both parties. This is based on things I’ve seen myself, and from stories told to me by artists.Don’t tell an artist, “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!" or "I would totally buy that!" if you’re not ready and/or willing to back it up with an actual purchase. Artists love that you love the piece, but often produce pieces/quantities based on apparent interest and potential customers. Gauges of potential buyers and gauges of general interest are both very important, but they are very different.Do tell an artist that you love the piece. Just be honest about it. It’s OK if it’s out of your price range. It’s OK if you have no practical use or place for a piece. Most artists get the warm fuzzies just from honest compliments even if you’re not going to be a paying customer.Don’t assume that every message to an artist is going to get a response. Most artists read every message they get, but don’t always have time to respond to everything.
Do give the artist some time to respond. Some artists get a lot of messages and have to balance their time responding with their workload and still make time to be a person and have a life outside of art.
Don’t comment on a piece telling the artist how much it reminds you of some other artist’s work or other character (unless you’re calling them out on a blatant copyright violation). In your mind, you may see it as a compliment. You loved the art style in some movie, and this seems similar to you - you’re complimenting this artist, right?! The artist may have been influenced by that same work, but most are consciously aiming to evolve from that influence. Just as it’s dangerous to tell someone that you notice that they look good after losing some weight (“What, I didn’t look good before?!” or “No, I haven’t. Do I normally look fat?!”), not everyone sees this as a compliment.Do be specific about compliments. “I really like the pose” or “This really captures the movement well.”Don’t tell an artist what they should do next. “This is awesome! You should do this other character next!” The only people artists need to take instructions from are themselves and paying customers.Do politely tell the artist what subjects you might like to see. There’s a big difference in tone between, “Do my favorite character next!” and “I would love to see more art along these lines, possibly of this character.”Don’t tell artists how to use their tools or materials better. You don’t know what they’ve tried or what they do. They may have tried it and it didn’t work. Lots of ideas sound good in our heads or on paper, and don’t work out as well in reality.Do ask artists how they use their tools or materials. Ask if they’ve tried it your way. Offer informed insight. This boils down to attitude and tone. Bad: “Do this instead.” Good: After a conversation leading to it, “have you tried doing this instead?”Don’t assume or expect artists to share their tricks, techniques, sources of materials or services with you. Some are open; some are guarded. There is no right, and no wrong. They don’t owe you anything. Most sources of materials or services are near the top of the page if you do a simple web search.Do be gracious and actually respond if they answer your question about tricks, techniques, sources, or services. If they took the time to answer your question about something, a minimum of “Thank you.” is in orderDon’t ask for freebies, or free/spec work. For many artists, art isn’t a hobby - it’s their living. They don’t have time to make you free art. We’re all very sure that your new game/book/comic/restaurant/store really is going to be the next big thing. Part of building a business the right way is properly valuing your talent and assets - that includes the artists you hire - “hire” being the operative word. Exposure is great. Food on the table is even better.Do contact artists with well thought out opportunities that acknowledge and value their time, skill, and effort. Just understand that they may not be as passionate about your project as you are.Don’t be a creeper or be inappropriate. Just because you’ve gotten a response to an email or comment, or because you’ve purchased something from an artist, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re BFF’s now. Being friendly is not the same as being friends. Until you’re friends, a general rule would be to not say anything that would be inappropriate to say to any random person on the street.Do be conscious of boundaries. Be polite, complete your transactions or interactions, and move along.Don’t come across like a five year-old (unless you are one). No one is expecting your message to read like a Pulitzer winning story, but thoughts should be mature and cohesive. Proper grammar and punctuation go a long way.Do proofread your messages before you hit post/send. If you’re dealing with an artist in person, pause for a moment and think about what you’re about to say - and don’t ever be a creeper or inappropriate.Don’t ask if you can ask a question. This tip is brought you by the Department of Redundancy Department.Do check the artist’s FAQ and relevant descriptions if applicable. If your question has not already been answered, just ask it.Don’t automatically assume that the artist knows as much about your favorite fandom as you do. Artists often know just enough about a subject to complete a piece.Do express your love for your favorite character or fandom, just remember that you may be the only one who shares the love.Don’t ask why a piece of art “costs that much”. A piece of art is not the end product of just the time and materials to create a piece. It is a result and sum total of the artist’s career as an artist as they learn and hone their skills, as well as the materials and time spent creating that particular piece.Do ask how much an available piece costs (assuming that the price isn’t already listed. You looked right?)Don’t tell an artist you “wish [you] could afford this.” Most artists see this as a passive-aggressive complaint about their prices, which are usually underpriced to begin with. If you can’t afford a piece, that’s on you, not the artist.Do begin saving up for a piece if you’re honestly interested in it, or contact the artist about getting a custom piece done in the future.Don’t ask how much another customer paid for a custom piece of art. The price charged to the previous customer was the agreed upon price at the time. It is possible, and even likely, that the price will be different. Artists learn something new with almost every piece they do. What took 10 hours the first time may only take 8 hours the next. But an artist’s hourly rate may have gone up. Prices of materials may have changed. The cost to produce a piece varies constantly. Plus, it’s just a little gauche.Do ask if prints are available (after checking the description, of course).