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12 Things You Should Never Say to an Artist

By: Isabelle Kohn - Source - The Rooster:

The art world is intimidating. Between grasping for meaning in scribbles and splatters, suffering the haircuts and pretension, and weathering gallery openings where there is only Fat Tire and rosé to drink … shit can get weird.

How are you supposed to communicate with these people? How do you talk to an artist about their work in order to simultaneously appear both not-dumb and interested in their work? To be honest, I don’t know. I’ve never known.

What I do know is how not to communicate with them. I’m privy to this information not because I’m an artist myself, but because I have are several artist friends who are also models (objection: relevance).  One of those is Robert Rutherford, who is a painter, a motorcycle owner and a boyfriend to someone. Based on the number of times I’ve tried to interview him for this magazine and the degree of side eye he’s given me, I’ve been able to surmise several questions to never, ever ask an artist, which I’ve listed for your ass below.

Robert, ever the helping hand, is also here to answer these inane questions from an artist’s point of view so you can see their inherent shortcomings. It’s for your health.

Here they are, in all their cliche glory:

1.”Oh you paint, abstract or real?”

I make stuff, so it’s real, but not that real.

2. “What was your mood when you made this?”

Heart crushing caffeine anxiety.

3. “What inspires you?”

ConEdison final notices, dappled light.

4. “How long did it take to make this?”

25 years, which is my age. This is most dick headed thing I’ve ever said to someone asking me about a painting, I immediately regretted it but they fucking loved it.

5. “How much does your work go for?”

It takes the train for $2.50 but sometimes Uber pools for $5.00.

6. “How would you describe your work?”

A masterful impatience … fuck off.

7. “Is this for sale?”

Come on baby kick my tires. (I don’t know what that means, but an artist said it so it’s eloquent).

8. “It must be nice to not have a real job, ha ha, I’m a dick!”

I have to pay rent for my “office.”

9. “What’s that supposed to be?”

It’s a wolf, it’s always a wolf

10.  “I love the way you use colors! But do you have anything in black and white?”

You gon die.

11. “When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?”

When I realized I couldn’t be a cowboy.

12. “How do you know when a painting is finished?”

There’s typically a moment where I step away from the painting, sit down and think “This is either the best thing I’ve ever done, or complete shit.”


… Yeah, so basically everything you wanted to ask them is unsafe; your woefully basic sensibilities will show through. However, there are a number of sanctioned artist interrogation questions I’d like to share with you for your own good. Thank me later, or don’t.

1. Where’s your studio/ how long have you been there?

2. What do you listen to while you work?

3. What aspect of your art are you focusing on right now?

4. What do you envision people doing in a house where your art’s in?

5. Whose art have you been looking at lately?

6. Are you hungry little guy? You want some lunch? Some munchies?

So, there you have it, guys and girls. In essence, avoid asking them to explain things you don’t understand, because art doesn’t always have/need an explanation (cue string orchestra and zooming out shot of a painting in a gallery, then a crying Indian). Instead, focus on the person and buying them a burrito. They need sustenence. They are hungry.

Source: The Rooster

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