The art world can be a pretty weird place, and talking to artists about their work can be intimidating. Unless you’re privy to what’s cool and not cool to ask (i.e. you’re a fine artist yourself), you’re better off smiling, nodding and shutting up. But if you’re feeling brave and don’t want to spend the night walking on eggshells, here are 10 questions not to ask artists at the next art gallery soiree you attend.
1. Where Do You Find Your Inspiration?
Seems like a harmless question, right? But after talking to dozens of artists, I now know that this question is off limits.
As Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs.” I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds witty.
2. You Charge How Much for That?
I’m sorry, it only took me six months to make this. You’re totally right – $50 would be a much better price.
If you’re even considering asking this question, then you need a serious lesson in gallery etiquette. Don’t like the price of an artist’s work? Don’t buy it.
3. Did You Go to School to Learn How to Paint/Draw?
Yes. No. Maybe.
Not all artists go to school, although it helps immensely. There are many self-taught artists out there.
4. Don’t You Think You’d Have Better Luck Selling Your Work in New York or L.A.?
I’m so glad you volunteered to pay for me to pack up, move, and find a new job in a city that costs an arm and a leg to live in.
A question like this is just insulting to an artist. Don’t assume they aren’t selling their work. Many artists sell their art online, or have their work on display in an online art gallery.
5. What’s This Supposed to Be?
A shark. I don’t know.
Art is supposed to be open to interpretation. What do you think it is?
6. Can You Paint Something That Matches My Couch?
Just don’t. Please. That’s what IKEA is for.
7. Did You Really Make That?
No. I found it in on the side of the road.
While this question may be a meant as a compliment on some level, you’re better off not asking it.
8. When Did You Know You Wanted to be an Artist?
When I found out I couldn’t be a space cowboy?
Artists don’t have a eureka moment where they say, “Gosh, I think I should be an artist.” They just are.
9. How Do You Know When Your Paintings Are Finished?
When I put down the brush?
Or when they completely lose their sanity. Whichever comes first.
10. Are You Selling This?
No. I prefer to starve and live in a cardboard box.
Do you really need an explanation for this one? If it’s on display, it’s for sale.