OK Let’s Talk: Mind your own [art] business

A couple weeks ago, Art Twitter* went ablaze in dignified collective anger when artists shared screenshots of random people sliding in their DMs telling them that they were “not yet ready to commission art.” (Hm.)

That their art style is not yet of “high quality.” (Hmm.)

One troll account even told an artist to close their commission as “people won’t get the quality they deserve in art” if the artist keeps at it.


*Or at least my side of Art Twitter; it is quite a big community.

The troll said so many questionable things in their seemingly polite paragraphs-long message but that statement really stood out for me.

Let me tell you what the heck is the problem here.

Art, I find, is an extremely personal thing – especially to the person who creates it. It can be anything. It can be a way to visually express emotions that are difficult to communicate verbally. Or it can be a way to show love or support for someone or something.

Art can also be treated as a business.

Taking art commissions is a common way for artists to make money from art. It’s when a person approaches an artist to create a specific personalized artwork for a specific price. It’s like going to a bakery for a custom-made cake. And much like a bakery – or any kind of creative business for that matter – art commissions have evolved in order to adapt to this mainly capitalist society we are in.

Nowadays, artists will announce on their social platforms that they are opening commissions. They share their commission sheets which contain important details like the type of art they’re willing to make, the price, and their terms and conditions. In this case, it’s like when a bakery have a menu of all the cakes they create and you can personalize it with your choice of flavor or message.

When you think of it that way, taking art commissions is like any other creative business.

Going back to the cake comparison, let’s say you want a triple layer chocolate cake with raspberry jam and chocolate ganache filling. (I love watching The Great British Bake Off and Masterchef Australia fight me.) So you look at all the options available in the market. You narrow down your choices to a handful of bakeries you like and compare them – their prices, their availability, whether or not they use cocoa powder or 70% dark chocolate etc. Then you make an informed decision and choose the one that meets most, if not everything, you want. The bakery may or may not accept your order, and you may try to negotiate with them. If they still won’t accept, you go back to your list and see the next best bakery for you. And you do this until you ultimately find an available bakery that has what you’re looking for.

The same goes for art commissions.

Which is why the idea of “an art quality people deserve” is complete bananas. What quality is that? Why do people “deserve” that specific quality? Is it because of the price they pay? Is it because they’re a paying customer in the first place? Or is it because people generally don’t find monetary value in art? (Lots to unpack there for another post.)

But see here’s the thing. None of that is relevant. Because just like bakeries selling cakes or any other creative businesses selling creative products or services, an art commission is a transaction often arranged with an individual. In business, we call that a business-to-consumer (or B2C) model.

Every individual have their own specific wants and needs. And so they look for the businesses that can cater those wants and needs.

You don’t go to a vegan bakery and put your hands on your hips all, “I want eggs and fresh cow’s milk in my cake. That’s the quality I deserve!” In fact, you don’t even think about that bakery because it isn’t what you want in the first place.

Here’s a hard pill to swallow:

Not every business is catered to you.

The world doesn’t revolve around your specific wants and needs. Customers aren’t always right.

(I can feel the ghost of my marketing professor haunting me, but I stand by it.)

It is So Easy to look at other people’s business, realize they’re not for you and (hold on, this is the important part) walk the heck away.

“But I’m only saying all this to help. I’m an artist too so I can relate!,” defends Troll Dude.

Look, Troll Dude. You can be in the same industry. You can have a similar career to that person you’re giving unsolicited advice to. But unsolicited advice is still unsolicited advice. Their business is not your business.

If someone wants to open commissions, that is their call.

And if people pay for their commissions, good for them!

If nothing happens, then perhaps they need to reevaluate things. It could be what their offering. It could be improving their art. It could be improving their commission process. But it’s their call.

(Notice any pattern?)

No one gets to tell an artist when they are or aren’t ready to take on art commissions. Or Not even fellow artists themselves.

An artist can ask for advice, sure. And you can give said advice if they’re asking for one.

But at the end of the day, it is their call whether they take that advice or not.

You don’t have to forcibly insert your own values and standards on places they aren’t wanted or needed. But we all can benefit from collectively supporting each other. Focus on your own goals, and wish others the best of luck in their own endeavors.

Note: One of these days, I will learn what the square brackets are actually used for. Today, they are simply for aesthetics.

Featured photo by Buse Doga Ay on Unsplash


Angela says:

Wow, the things people do blow me away sometimes. As an artist, I wouldn’t like anyone telling me what to do or make comments on the quality of my art without me asking. So I keep my opinion to myself. It’s best to focus on your own goals and support other artists. There’s enough negativity out there, and I don’t want to add to it.

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