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Why Artists Don't Accept Requests

I can't draw, and I want a picture to use for my character.  A special picture.  I don't have any money to pay the artist, but I thought if I asked nicely they might draw something for me.  It's so easy for them and I'm sure it wouldn't take long to do a sketch.  Maybe ten or fifteen minutes, or an hour?  But no one will draw anything for me, and the only artists I have found that say they accept requests aren't very good.  Why are artists so selfish and mean and snobbish?  I just want a free sketch, and I'll give them credit for it.  I'm giving them free publicity, so they should be grateful.  I'm even giving them the idea for the drawing.  Why won't anyone draw for me?

Problem #1:  I can't draw.

The phrase "I can't draw" is guaranteed to make a skilled artist see red.  The only reason the artist can draw is because he or she spent years practicing.  Art is not easy, but the artist stuck with it.  When you say "I can't draw", what the artist hears is "I started drawing the other week and couldn't draw like you immediately, so I gave up."  You can draw.  It will just take you five or ten years to acquire the skill to do it well, as well as a small fortune in art supplies, so you'd rather ask for free art than put in the effort.

Problem #2:  I can't pay.

While it may be true that you are a poor student or teenager and don't have the funds to commission the artist, you would be wise to offer at least something in exchange.  Perhaps you have skills elsewhere that would be useful, or perhaps you could offer to trade a possession of yours for a drawing.  The point is not that you can give the artist money; the point is that you are willing to give up something of value for a drawing.

Problem #3:  Art is easy for skilled artists.

Assuming that drawing is "easy" for an experienced artist is not true.  Drawing never gets "easy".  There are always more things to pay attention to, and I have found that the more skilled I become, the more difficult it is to live up to my own standards.  Only non-artists assume that art gets "easy".

Problem #4:  It won't take long to complete a request.

It can take hours of work to produce a simple looking piece.  The artist might try several different approaches.  Materials will be wasted.  Time and care must be taken to produce something worth looking at.  Assuming that your request will only take ten or fifteen minutes of the artist's time is extremely naive.  Besides, the artist could be applying that time to a paying commission or to their own work.  For many artists, "art time" is limited and precious.  Generally, the more skilled the artist, the more important their time is to them.

Problem #5:  Credit will be given for the image, so this is actually free publicity for the artist and is doing them a favor.

This is the biggest pile of crap ever.  If you ever write a request email offering "free publicity" because you will give the artist credit and act like this is something new and special, expect a quick and terse rejection.  Offering to credit the artist should never be considered a "perk".  This is basic internet courtesy.  Giving credit to the artist is mandatory, and to suggest otherwise is insulting.  To suggest that you are doing the artist a favor is even more insulting.  More than likely, the sort of "publicity" you will give the artist is to spread the word that they will do artwork for free instead of requiring payment, and this is not something the artist wants.

Problem #6:  Artists should like to do requests because it provides them with ideas for drawings.

Most artists are highly creative people.  They could come up with a dozen ideas for drawings while sitting on the toilet picking their nose.  You are not doing them a favor by "giving them the idea" to draw your half-elf ranger.

In general, you will be hard-pressed to find an artist skilled enough to accept commissions who will also accept requests.  Once artists get to the stage where they can be compensated for their time and effort, there is very little payoff for them in accepting requests, and much negativity in doing so.

The main problem I have with accepting requests is this:

People's appreciation and percieved value for a piece of art is in direct proportion with how much they are willing to sacrifice for it.

This means that art means nothing or less than nothing to the person who asks for free art, because they did not value it enough to offer something in return. These people are likely to take my effort for granted and abuse my rights as an artist.

In general, I find that people who are willing to pay money for a commission are far more appreciative and respectful of artists because they value my work highly enough to pay for it.  This is important.  I put a lot of time and effort into my pieces and they have value to me.  It makes sense that I would want the person who receives them to value them as well.

This is why I will never accept requests.

If you must persist in asking for requests, read Ellen Million's excellent article about how to do it right.

Places that accept requests:
- DeviantART forums
- Livejournal community The Dark Corner

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