Lyrit Twilight (lyrit_twilight) wrote in artists_beware,
Lyrit Twilight

How does one politely decline an art trade?

Hello, all.
I've recently joined this community because I haven't found a good answer anywhere for this question.


How do I politely tell a (usually persistent) person that I do not want to arrange an art trade? As you can imagine, the usual reason for declining the trade is that the other artist's skill level is considerably lower than mine--but, saying that just sounds mean, and when I've tried to word it with more tact, the message either goes over the person's head, or the person INSISTS that there is nothing wrong with his or her lack of anatomy/shading knowledge/crayon doodles. The usual excuse is, "Everyone has a different style! Therefore, our styles are equal and you should let me trade with you!" And, of course, at this point it is usually impossible to explain to this person that a foundation/base of properties of the real world(anatomy, perspective, etc.) must be formed before style. (At least, this statement should be true for my example situation posed here. =) )

I've tried Google searching "decline an art trade," "say no to an art trade," etc. I've looked through previous journal tags here with 'trade' in them as well.

The perfect chance to address this question came up lately in a conversation on Deviantart(I've hidden all the messages to protect the artist's identity):

Anonymous Artist: Nice art!

Me: Thank you!

Anonymous Artist: Do you do art trades?

Me: If I like the other artist's style enough... I browsed through your gallery, and your art seems a bit too simple for what I'd draw in return. If you really want some art from me, I prefer commissions!

Anonymous Artist: a see your point. you see my newest 4 were commission or requests and for those, the person already knows what to expect. I have more than one style of art for my cats foxes and dogs but havent uploaded any yet, if u prefer a style give me the link and i can tell you if i can draw that or if i use that style or not

Me: Basically, if you look at my rules on my journal:

"Trades: Equal skill level at a minimum is a MUST. I probably won't agree to an art trade if the asking artist cannot sell his/her pieces for the prices I put on my own commissions. I have the right to refuse a trade if I don't like the style, sorry!"

So, I don't think you're making money off commissions yet, let alone $30-40 for an art piece. I'll have to decline this art trade. Thank you for your interest though!


Did I handle that properly? I've never figured out how to politely say no to art trades I don't want to do. I used to say, "I don't have the time." But then, people who want to trade with me ask when I WILL have the time. Sometimes, after I've done art trades with other people, artists I've declined before ask again("She had the free time to do those other trades, so surely she has time for me now!").

And if I say, "Sorry, no, I don't do art trades," people I don't want to trade with will label me as a liar when they see me do future trades with others. Awkwaard.

I can't think of any other response besides saying no and then telling them why, but I'm afraid they'll take offense to that. Do you think there's a better way of handling this?

Also note that this person worded the question as, "Do you do art trades?" instead of, "Would you like to do an art trade with me?" I don't know if the wording was intentional, but asking the question the first way complicates things, as if I said, "Yes," the person might take that as a guaranteed art trade.

Touchy subject and wording are touchy. @w@

If you know of a useful link about declining art trades, I'd be more than happy to look at it as well. Surely I'm not the only one who has encountered this sort of situation before!

Thank you for reading. =)


UPDATE: here's a new reply from Anonymous Artist continuing from the conversation above:

Anonymous Artist: awww. i could its just i dunt have paypal yet XD

Hehe, so the first who mentioned it, Kayla_La, you were right about how simply saying "No thanks not interested" is the best policy. Because here, THE LOGIC. IT DOES NOT WORK. I think I tossed 2-3 reasons why I wouldn't take the trade, and every time this person has made up a way around the reason. The last one has got to be the most ridiculous... In my experience so far, I haven't seen someone give $30-$40 for a single art piece of her skill range. Heeere it looks like she's assuming she can, maybe easily? It overall sounds like another excuse to try to convince me to pick up the art trade. I'm dropping the conversation with her.

And thanks miryhis, for mentioning that considering trades based on how much others can sell their art for is not always reliable, since there is so much variation in "better skilled" artists selling art for low and "less skilled" artists selling for high. I actually got the idea from another artist who seemed to be doing pretty well on trades via that as a general rule. Although that reasoning was logical to me, it sure might not be to the artist trying to trade with you, as shown in my case.

One more thing from owl_eyes_4ever that was WAY too interesting not to quote in regards to comments: "Amusingly enough, so much of that goes for turning down someone's romantic advances."



So I screwed up, like, big time in my response to Anonymous Artist. I screwed up SO big time, I should change the title of this post to "How does one decline an art trade like a butthole?" (Nicely put.)

I didn't know that a simple no would suffice to decline an art trade. So, I also explained to Anonymous Artist that I didn't want to do the trade because her art "seem[ed] a bit too simple for what I'd draw in return." I thought that would end the conversation, but Anonymous Artist thought my reasoning was wrong. So, I tried to reason with her that I wasn't interested in her art because I was looking for art of a higher skill level, and I brought up my rules which stated I'd be more interested if she could sell her art at equivalent prices to mine. She still didn't give up after that though, so I dropped contact with her. Then, I included my thoughts on this Artist Beware entry about how she was still trying to "convince me to pick up the art trade" by claiming that she could sell her art at $30-40, even though she had never taken money commissions before.

There are THREE big no-no's I made here.

1. I gave an explanation of why I didn't want to do the trade.
Kayla_La: "Honestly, don't even give them a reason. Why do you need to? They don't need one." By giving the reason I was declining the art trade, I left the matter open for argument. A "No thank you, thanks for the interest" was all I needed.
It was my first time saying no to an art trade I was not interested in, so I thought an explanation would be the polite thing to do. Not in this case; it brought more trouble instead!

2 and 3. I brought up the artist's skill and ability to sell art as grounds for declining the art trade.
miryhis: [Your rule about] "not trading with someone who would doesn't sell their art for as much as I do" seems kind of iffy."
celarania: "You said that her art was worth very little and she was below your skill level. Even if that is all true, you're still not professional for saying it. You wouldn't want to ask someone out for them to say "I only date 8's or higher and you're lucky if you're a 6." Whether or not it's true, it's not helpful and only serves to demoralize."

The last thing I said to Anonymous Artist:
"Trades: Equal skill level at a minimum is a MUST. I probably won't agree to an art trade if the asking artist cannot sell his/her pieces for the prices I put on my own commissions. I have the right to refuse a trade if I don't like the style, sorry!"
So, I don't think you're making money off commissions yet, let alone $30-40 for an art piece. I'll have to decline this art trade. Thank you for your interest though!

I saw my posting of my rules to her as a reminder that I was not obligated to do the trade, and that there were valid reasons I could refuse(Namely, I used the commission price comparison to try to gently hint that I wasn't looking for something at her current skill level.)

Ok, so I'm taking advice here and there from the comments so far, how others have dealt with it, and most of the responses are neutral to "You handled it fine, this is ok." So I did not see this next part coming. At all.

Celarania (and many others!) saw my reasoning as belittling Anonymous Artist, and I did not realize that it sounded like this at all until they pointed it out. Belittling was not my intention, but because that's what my lack of tact looked like, I was accused of being arrogant, and scoffing at artists with less skill. (You should really read the comments here! Interesting stuff!) I ended up probably offending Anonymous Artist AND half of the artists who have ever skimmed this post. Whoops.
Well, I had to learn somehow, and I'm glad so many here weren't afraid to point that out.
Bottom line, say "No thanks, but thank you for the interest," and you're done declining an art trade. An explanation might weave itself into the really messed up monstrosity you see here.

So, thank you for all the advice. You guys are awesome, and I would probably still be quite tactless about this if I hadn't asked. <3

I'm going to leave everything I said exactly, unedited, in the hopes that everything that went under debate in this entry will be useful for other artists. Let me know if anything looks like it needs to be changed, or worded better!
Tags: advice for artists, trade

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