When people find out you can draw it seems like the world around you begins asking for free work. From tattoo designs for friends to your great aunt’s logo its as if, overnight, you’ve become an art-making machine in the eyes of the people that know you. Much of the time it can be flattering! I mean, who doesn’t want to hear the people they know and love tell you how much they appreciate your work? And who doesn’t want to make beautiful things for their friends and family when you know it would make them happy?
But when you’re trying to go in a specific direction with your work, the requests start to become tiresome or even daunting. Nowadays I downplay my love for art around some of my friends at work because I don’t want to be tasked with another favor to draw another wolf tattoo or backdrop for a shop event or – surprisingly – be volunteered to design a birthday cake for a co-worker’s kid’s birthday party because, apparently, if you can draw at all, you must have experience designing cakes.
While it is nice to know that people are enthusiastic to the point where they would want something that I drew to be permanently inked on their body or put on a shirt they can wear around, it kindof sucks to find that they expect me to put in those hours for free. The twelve-year-old me would be ecstatic. The current me? ….Not so much.
I do my best to make things for the people closest to me when I have the time. I would never expect my parents or close family to pay a cent for a doodle I would have fun sketching and putting care into anyways. But when the demand or the circle of people asking for free art ‘as a friend’ grows I find myself looking at my portfolio and then at the time I have. Do I really have time to work on other people’s projects when what I truly want to do is prepare myself for a future in animation and fantasy illustration?
I’ve recently learned that sometimes it’s okay to tell people that I don’t have the time to draw them something. I am no machine and I’m definitely not a jerk for declining a workload that I won’t have the time for or that doesn’t teach me anything.
It’s okay to recognize your worth as an artist; to put the time and sweat you’ve spent honing your craft in front of you and say, hey, my time is priceless, and it is worth more than taking every single ‘favor’ job for free just because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Sometimes you just gotta say no to certain favors and move on. Especially when they do not align with your personal goals. Be respectful! But also respect your own time and effort.
That’s how I see it anyway!