Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"That's Good Enough!" – The Sloppy Side of Convention Sketches

While attending Supanova Melbourne this year, I met an Australian artist in Artists' Alley who focused on fantasy art. This artist was selling self-published items like A4 prints and bookmarks at her table. I would describe the artwork as the work of a "talented amateur". When I looked through them I was (quite naturally!) attracted to three mermaid illustrations. I decided to be supportive and purchase an A4 print of the one I liked the best (reasonably priced at AUS$10). As I also collect original mermaid sketches and get the artists to sketch them directly into my sketchbook, I asked this particular artist if she could do the same. There was no convention sketch pricing listed on the table, but she responded by saying that the price was $25 for a sketch. A little steep for a non-professional, I thought, but nevertheless I was enthused and so I agreed to the price. 

The artist then began sketching and before I knew it she proclaimed, "That's good enough!" and then handed the sketchbook with some distain back to me with a piece of unfinished artwork. I was quite surprised and taken aback at the dismissive attitude she had to the actual drawing – or should I say – lack of drawing. As she was asking a rather inflated price, I expected some element of professionalism and effort extended towards me and in the quality of creative care endowed into the sketch. This did not happen.

I had better experiences with other artists for the remainder of the convention, and was happy to purchase other mermaid sketches from locally- and internationally-published professionals – none of whom charged me more than AUS$10 when the pieces were quite obviously worth considerably more. I even received a few gifted/free sketches (from artist friends) at the convention. Each of these artists took pride in their work, and you could see that they were never dismissive about the quality of their work.

As an artist who has done convention sketches in the past (free up to now), I understand that the experience of doing a live sketch with the "purchaser" watching you is a keenly intimate shared moment. "You" (the artist) are doing this for "them" (the purchaser), and  as the artwork is born with every sketched line, the purchaser takes on some ownership and pride that this artwork is being created specially and specifically for them (which it is), especially when a crowd is watching the work being realised. A sloppy attitude and sloppy artwork creates a very negative experience for the purchaser, especially when money is involved.

I guess I should have been forewarned seeing that this artist was a "talented amateur", and that "amateur" was inclusive of all aspects of the work and how the artist interacted with her customers.

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