OK, so I feel like getting unusual requests is a problem a lot of artists face so I thought I'd make this the topic of this month's post. This is rather difficult for me to write because I don't want to come off as whining or complaining about being asked to use my artistic talents to create unique projects for people, but I feel like sometimes others don't take into consideration my limitations. As I mentioned in last month's post, even though I am an artist that doesn't mean I excel in every aspect of art. I have strengths in certain mediums and weaknesses in others and if I am asked I to create artwork for someone, be it a large or small project, I always want to do my best so the end result is something I can be proud of. So please consider this as a sort of Public Service Announcement for artists.
My brother, who studied to be a musician, often complains of people treating him (and musicians in general) like a human jukebox. "They think they can ask me to play any song they like and I'll just sit down and play it, no problem!" While yes, he can read music and probably play an easy tune by sight without much difficulty, it's still hard to perform at the drop of a hat and without any chance to practice. This same thought applies to artists.
I often get called on to create craft projects for people because "I'm artistic and they can't even draw stick figures." Most of the time these projects are rather small and don't hold much importance so there's not too much pressure to make them perfect; so I don't mind. However, on occasion I've been asked to do work that holds much more significance and therefore there is much more pressure to get it right. For example, more than once I've been asked to be a free wedding photographer because, again, I'm artistic and the couple was on a budget. And because "you like doing that sort of thing, right?" *sigh*
Well, yes I do enjoy taking photographs and while I can appreciate the need to stick to a tight budget, it's rather frustrating to be asked such a big request when I do not consider photography to be a strength of mine or even the focus of most of my artwork. I do photography more as a recreational hobby than anything. Not to mention it's always frustrating to be asked to work for free. There is a reason photographers charge what they do. There is a looooot more involved with taking professional looking pictures than just pointing a camera and pushing a button. There's even a lot of extra equipment needed other than just a really nice camera. And if it's your wedding... wouldn't you want the best quality photographs to remember your big day anyway? So in the case of wedding photography, sorry, but I will always say no.
That doesn't mean I am opposed to taking on a challenge. I was recently asked to draw a picture of a woman's dog because the dog had passed and she wanted something as a remembrance of her. Now, if you look through my portfolio, you will see animals rarely feature in my work. In fact, I think the last time I drew any animal it was for my senior show in college. While I was rather overwhelmed with the thought of doing something that was out of my element and that held such emotional weight for her I figured I'd give it a shot (even though I was saying to myself, "What are you thinking?! You don't DO dogs!". Thankfully, it turned out much better than I expected and she was very happy with the end product.
So, here's the thing - artists do like to challenge themselves and step outside of the box every now and again rather than become stagnant doing the same thing over and over again. However, before you ask your artistic friend if they will work on a project for you do them, and yourself, a favor by checking out their portfolio first. Is your request something that really will be easy for them because it's the sort of thing they do all the time or is this something they've never done before? What features most prominently in the work they do most often? If your project is something that will be extremely challenging or time consuming be prepared for them to say no. It's nothing personal, but again, each artist has different strengths and knows their limitations. Even famous artists usually stick with their niche rather than cover a plethora of media. Georgia O'Keefe was most well known for her paintings, Richard Avedon for his photography, and Anish Kapoor is known for his sculptures. While they all may have dabbled in other areas of art at some point or another, you will find that people know each of them for one specific genre of art.
So to sum up, don't be afraid to ask your artist friends for help with your projects or to create works of art for you. It is fun to use our creativity to work on new things. Just do us all a favor and stop and think before treating us like the artistic version of a human jukebox! Thanks!