Sunday, November 14, 2010

Things Artists do That Annoy Me: Begging OR the Guilt Game-- Followed by Anger

Things Artists do That Annoy Me: Begging OR the Guilt Game-- Followed by Anger 

One of the most annoying aspects of being a humble art writer is that one is often faced with artists who can’t take a kindly “No” for what it is worth. Artists who beg for coverage-- even more so if they turn their petty begging into a Guilt Game against me-- happens to be one of the unfortunate obstacles an art writer faces if it is known that he or she has a following. I say obstacle because I don’t really enjoy turning artists away-- but sometimes I must in order to uphold my integrity and the integrity of every artist and art professional who has offered their time to me.

If I was all-inclusive my writing-- specifically the interviews-- would have never been as successful as they have been. Needless to say, I’ve upset my fair share of hopeful artists during my years writing for and other art related companies and magazines. Sometimes those artists get trapped by their anger. Thus, I felt it important to discuss this aspect of my experience so that hopefully more artists will think before reacting.

I want to make it clear that I’m not talking about artists who contact me out of the blue with a link to their art-- I actually appreciate when artists do that. In fact, I often make open requests of that nature in order to discover artists that I was previously not aware of. No-- I’m talking about something far more sinister. I’m talking about artists who send one message after the other asking to be interviewed after I’ve already made it clear that I’m not interested. I’ve broken the common traits down to a science. Thus, I can tell when an artist is going to resort to begging followed by petty name-calling or worse.

After half a decade of writing about art and conducting interviews with various artists-- from all walks of life and levels of success-- I can sense when a rejected artist is going to get catty-- or simply give in to anger. In some respects it is like a study of the human condition to me-- one heightened by the fact that artists, in general, tend to be far more emotive than other individuals I converse with. So I’m not surprised when an artist I reject bombards me with colorful language, interesting threats of violence, or strong conclusions as to why I’m the “worst art writer every“. (The last of which amuses me because if my writing is so bad why on Earth did they contact me with an interview request in the first place?)

I’ve heard it all over the years upon refusing an interview request-- “I’ve dedicated my life to my art!”, “I’ve won art awards!”, “I deserve the exposure!”, “It would help me with my college application.”, “My family would be so proud of me.” and so on.

These statements are meant to make me reconsider my decision by forcing guilt upon me. This often results in hostility-- and me breaking out the worlds smallest violin-- when I continue to refuse.

“You don’t know anything about art!”, “You are just a company man!”, “You would not know talent if it hit you in the face!”, “I bet all those artists paid you for an interview!”, “You write because you could not make it with your art!”, “You are just a blogger!”… and the list goes on, and on, and on.

Those angered never stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, their artwork is not on par when compared to other artists that I’ve interviewed-- or the direction I went with the series as a whole. Artists tend to be very bad at acknowledging the weakness of their artwork. Thus, to some I become a threat-- someone to lash out at when rejected.

Some of the artists who reacted in that manner went on to create artwork that caught my eye. However, due to their previous hostile behavior I stuck by my decision. That is why I suggest that some artist need to learn how to handle rejection better. I’m not making a personal attack when I refuse to interview an artist-- it is simply a professional decision. It is a decision that I feel is best for myself as a writer and for all the artists, curators, gallery owners, and art critics who have offered their time to answer my questions in the past.

In conclusion, if I refuse an inteview request it is not personal-- so please, please, please don’t make it personal. If I refuse an interview request-- and I’m always as nice about it as I can be-- simply move on to the next writer. Better yet-- march yourself back to your studio and prove to me that I was wrong. It is very true that actions speak louder than words-- especially if those words are laced with vulgarity or emotive dribble. Point blank-- throwing a tantrum does little to impress and it certainly won't provoke me to write about your art.

Links of Interest:

Things Artists do That Annoy Me: The Sex Game

Things Artists do That Annoy Me: What’s in a Name?

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


  1. Hey Brian,
    People are people and that's the wild card. I look at it like I don't have to be them and let it go. You could always do what my mother used to say..."We'll see..." If they persist..tell them that the piece is in the works but you need more information about their exhibitions from other sources...that'll slow them down....after all an artist usually proves themselves by garnering attention first without the help of a critic. A few well picked art shows might be the first leg in the journey if their work is good enough to get notice. I know Dianne Bowen who is a performance/installation artist...Dianne is a plodder...I give her a lot of credit because her work is not about a product but about an artist making "art"which is not to be hung or collected necessarily since it takes place for the moment. Anyway let them know they have to be noticed by non critics before a critic will take kind of works that

  2. If there were more book reviewers who had your outlook and integrity, the world would be a different place. Bravo - don't let the guilt shoveling get to you. I'm sure you know it comes with the territory.

  3. Integrity is something to hold on to-- art writing does not exactly make one rich. At the end of the day I'm comfortable with myself. That is the most important thing.

  4. Brian, glad you wrote this post. I've had my share of those who tell me I write poorly (they say it in meaner terms). Because I'm an artist, they usually go on to say that I'm not a very good one either. I have proof to the contrary, but it does no good to reward their ugly behavior.

    Glad you have joined the writing team I work for ;-} good to have you on board!