One beautiful Sunday afternoon, I looked out my office window to see three unexpected visitors coming up the driveway: two nuns and a priest. No, they were not soliciting donations. In fact, one of the nuns was carrying a tray of sushi - my favorite food! Was I dreaming?
Had the trio not been dressed as they were, I might not have responded to the doorbell invitation. Their attire was a signal that it was probably safe to at least open the door to a conversation. We quickly established that what they had to offer was not for me. Sadly, the sushi was for a neighbor, so I redirected them to the correct house. Still, I had enjoyed the prospects of a delicious snack.
One of the myths about artists and fame is that one day they will be discovered. When an e-mail shows up full of praise for your art, of course you feel good because someone likes your work.
In A.C.T. Featured Artists: How Professional Artists Create Opportunities I said, "When opportunity knocks you must be ready or luck will slip through your fingers." I want to add a note of caution about making sure that whoever is knocking is offering an opportunity for you and not just for themselves.
Here's a simple example that one of my clients recently brought to me:
I collect authographes and letters from very important artists in the world. Now I have Internet and find your e-mail.
Please very much to send me (not with e-mail please) a photo from a work with your dedication and a short letter in your handwriting. My address: (was included in original e-mail)
Thank you very much and all my best whishes and continuous success
Yes, this seems like an innocent request - and an ego boost. If you have the time and inclination, you might just pop a photo in the mail.
The autograph collection may be legit but who knows?
While the e-mail was addressed to my client, a web search revealed that this is a form letter. The sender simply changes the type of autograph collected to other professions. I also found the sender's name and location on social media but no profiles, photos or web site.
That sent up a red flag, so next I went to snopes.com but I could not find any reference to indicate that this request was a scam. The sender could be a bona fide autograph collector.
If you are careful about how you spend your time and share information or art, you might ask yourself four simple questions before you act:
- How does this request fit into my goals to become better known or sell my art?
- What assurances do I have that the autographed image won't be used for any other purpose than to add to a collection?
- If the image is used to generate income for the requester, will there be any money shared with me?
- What if the photo is misappropriated and used for a purpose that could damage my reputation?
Forgive me if these questions sound cynical - after all the person was only asking for a photo and an autograph. It's your choice, of course. Please just do a quick assessment first, especially if there is any remote chance that you might have regrets later. I'd hate for something bad to happen when you started by feeling so good.
If you've been the recipient of a similar letter, what did you do and how did it turn out? I'd love to hear that you were the recipient of good things from good people.
Please comment here, or, post your replies on Facebook and Twitter.
And if you want to send me sushi, drop me a line...