As a person who spent her time drawing all through middle school and high school, and who is currently an art major in college, I've known a lot of artists. Some of them are not even in the same major or the same age. I've found that almost artists have a limit to how far they will tolerate questions like, "Can you draw me?" or "Can I have that drawing/painting that you did (for free)?" Tolerating other questions that are very personal or invasive is something artists are used to dealing with. Art is personal, and often very sentimental to the creator, but the wrong questions can be insulting or rude for someone to ask. I wanted to write about this, not because I've had any horrible experiences with people wanting free art, but because it is something that is helpful to know.
Even if you don't know any artists personally, it could help you to understand the thought processes of artists, whether they are tattoo artists or animators or photographers, and help you to understand the prices of the art you want done.
I work with children over the summer and I absolutely love watching the kids draw. Whenever I get the chance to grab my own piece of construction paper and a crayon, they are always intrigued at my work. They consistently ask what I'm drawing, if I'll draw them, or if I would draw them something. At other times, I've often been asked if I could draw a person, and while I usually am asked in a careless manner for a quick doodle, there have been a couple times where the person was very serious.
I've only ever done "commissions" for people twice. Most of the work I give away are made as special gifts for special occasions. My personal art style is similar to Japanese mange or anime style, and I usually draw people, but for classes, I've done various works. Outside of class, the only times I ever drew someone, or their pet, in a realistic way, I was in high school, and then a college freshman. The first time, it was a family pet, and I was given a picture and asked sincerely if I would be willing to try to draw their pet. I was in high school, and didn't think anything of it or of asking for money for my time. (We'll just put that down to my naivete and good heart because I don't remember if I ever was paid.) The second time, I was asked by a sweet husband if I would be willing to draw it for a secret anniversary present for his wife of 25 years. Although I was a little older, the story got to me and I eagerly accepted. After spending several hours on this piece, I gave it to him and he paid me, which I hadn't expected or discussed with him beforehand.
Now, something I learned in college was that an accurate pricing for an art piece includes the cost of the materials+ the time it took( # of hours at around $9 an hour) + a small bonus for some profit out of the entire thing. So, if I worked on that drawing for a total of 5 hours, using supplies that cost around $2, I could have easily asked for $50-60 for that piece. Considering that my art is work, I should be compensated for that with the amount a customer would buy it for. I wouldn't make any profit unless a sold it for more than the supplies cost at least, and more so for the time that I wasn't working somewhere else. This is why asking an artist for free or discounted art is inconsiderate and often very rude. Unless you are a close friend and your artistic friend wants to give you the gift of a lowered price, asking is not okay.
From tattoo artists to photographers, our art is valuable to us and takes up a lot of our time and efforts because we want it to look good. We want to do our best and asking for a lowered price or free art is insulting to our hard work. So, the next time you are considering buying a piece of art and feel dubious about the price, think of the time and money put into the piece before judging the price as too much. If you don't understand the reason why it's so high, ask the artist, if possible, or look up the process for making the piece you're looking at. (For example, a ceramic piece could take days of work- from throwing to glazing- and the materials are often expensive or timeconsuming as well.) An artist is almost always willing to talk abut their work, and questions about the making of a piece is better received than an abrupt question about the "high price." I hope you found this informative, and think of this when you go out to buy art for yourself or a present.