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What to say to an artist

At the many private views, exhibitions and fairs I’ve been to over the years, I often find people are at a loss as to what to ask me, and say the first thing that comes into their head, which is often, mostly unintentionally, rude. 

So, a light hearted guide of suggested questions;

1. Where do you get your inspiration?
2. What materials do you use? (Do not get an artist started on types of paper, unless you want to be there all night)
3. How do you achieve …. insert suitable aspect of painting (colour/effect/perpespective/technique)
4. What brought you to this subject?
5. Have you always painted in this style?
6. Which other artists influence your work?
7. Apart from yourself which artist would you invest in? (Artists often buy art, I love collecting work by others, and often am in a position to know whos ‘up & coming’. Phrase it carefully though, implying that you’d rather buy someone else work is rude…)
8. Which is your favourite gallery/museum? 
9. What is your studio like? (This could be another long rant)
10. May I get you another glass of wine? (Dear god, yes.)

Here are a few questions I’m asked a lot – in order of popularity! Not rude per se, but asked so often they make me want to scream, or at least reply sharply…


1. How long did it take? (There is no right answer, it takes a lifetime to learn a skill, the better you are, the faster you can do it.)
2. Is it for sale? (That is WHY we’re here.)
3. Is it in oil? (It does say ‘Oil on canvas’ on the label)
4. Can you teach my son/daughter/aunt? (Artist, not art teacher)
5. Have you always been an artist? (Every child is born an artist – Picasso)


And these are just plain rude. Expect a retort in kind..



1. How long did it take? (It’s too annoying)
2. It must be lovely doing your hobby full time. (ITS MY JOB, only about 20% of my long working hours are actually spent painting.)
3. How much do you make? (How much do you make?)
4. It’s like a photograph (It’s a painting/drawing so it’s really not)
5. It doesn’t match my walls. (That was never my intention)
6. Are you any good/famous?(Define that for me…are you judging me against Kim Kardashian?)
7. Can I buy it more cheaply direct? (You want me to jeopardise my business relationship with my gallery?)
8. Can you do x for free, it will be great advertising. (A very dangerous question likely to make an artist boil over, try it out on your plumber to gauge a likely reaction first. On the flip side I often donate work for charity, so it’s always worth asking in the name of a legitimate cause.)
9. You’re so lucky being an artist. (It was mostly hard graft and bloody mindedness. It certainly felt more like a curse at times.)
10. When are you going to get a paid job? (A parental prerogative to ask this one….)

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