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As a friend of an artist I commissioned before approached me and mentioned that I came off as obnoxious, pushy and rude for giving out criticism after my last commission went a bit awry, I'm really confused and sad now, because I never intended to come off as that. I really find her to be a nice person and like her art, so I planned to stick to her as my "to-go"-artist.

To clarify:
I commissioned a cover for a story I wrote, paid 40 dollars and gave every detail in the notes. After waiting several months, I received it and while I really liked the quality, a few (important) details were forgotten and/or ignored, and I got the impression that she works chaotically. As I wasn't entirely satisfied with it, I asked her if she could do the changes and that I want to talk to her about a different topic later (the criticism) and she agreed to the changes.
Then I sent a note with all the criticism and friendly advice, which she thanked me for and explained herself professionally, which I found excellent, because I always fear that the person on the other end might rage at me. So considering that she is still young (No offense, but my experiences tell that it are mostly the younger ones who can't take it well), I found it very impressive! And now I have to hear that she actually took it very harshly.

This is my note for everyone who is interested:

To be frankly, the only sentence which I could find rude is the assumption that she works chaotically, that she did those things where she wasn't entirely sure on her own without asking me first and where I asked her to think about my points, as I would it find really sad to lose her (As if I would be her only customer).
And now I'm asking myself what I have done terribly wrong that the artist thinks of me as a jerk and that I would think I would be too good for her art. After trying to get out more information of the friend, he told me that Americans take it differently.

So my questions are:
Where did I appear as a jerk and is this sort of a mentality-thing, where it's considered rude in the US of A to give out unwanted criticism? Because at least here in Germany if you are presenting your work to the public, you are simultaneously free to be criticized and shouldn't complain about that, as long as its friendly and constructive.

Advice is really appreciated, as I would like to keep good business relations to artists I commission and not destroy them because they were actually offended by something.

THX 11-38 in advance!

EDIT 1: Edited for clarity.

EDIT 2: Cut isn't working, so I'll just point to my first post in the comments, which contains further explanation and replies to some comments.

EDIT 3: After receiving a confusing answer from the artist to my apology so I have finally no idea what to think and/or do, I'll just leave her alone. I consider the matter resolved - sort of. Thank you for all your answers, as they really helped me showing my wrongdoings and how to behave in future commissions!

EDIT 4: Now my commissions were deleted (also replaced with a simple placeholder-image) from her site with a text that I harrassed and treated her bad, she would fear for her safety and no refunds would be eministered. She also blocked me from commenting and messaging her, making me wonder how I am going to get those images back in case my HDD dies.
Now that's what I call an overreaction...
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( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 4th, 2017 11:57 pm (UTC)
Well- yes, it did come off as a little rude.

Your mileage may vary, but for the most part it's safe to assume that critique is unwanted unless asked for. Now, asking for details that got left off isn't critique; they were a part of your prompt and needed to be brought up.

But for this specific instance it's important to keep in mind a few factors:

- Text lacks tone. What may sound as neutral, friendly or helpful to you can be read differently to the receiver. In this instance your last paragraph seems like it wants to come off as friendly, but it can also be interpreted as condescending.

- Some folks are more sensitive to more direct communication. Not everyone will respond well to someone else being blunt with them.

- I don't know about German culture and what level of being direct/ blunt is considered rude. In the US, however, (at least where I'm from) it's seen as rude to behave this way. Of course, the US is vast and the population is not a monolith. What may be unacceptable in this tiny Texas town may be considered over sensitive to someone from a high drive city like New York.
May. 5th, 2017 12:23 am (UTC)
One bit that came out rude
To me all the critique and suggestion portions seem like being friendly, I don't think saying 'working chaotically' is rude at all.

But there is one part that comes off as very rude: "I can't afford someone else" - is essentially telling that if you could afford someone else you'd go for them instead. And "I would find it sad to lose you" comes off as guilt tripping, which isn't a polite nor professional way of interacting.

Generally when writing critiques it's good to start with nice things, then go for the actual "what could be better" and then end the message with nice things again - it wraps up the message to a happy package.
(I'm from Finland btw, I've experienced Americans being a bit more sensitive in average, but I think age is a bigger factor in this case.)
May. 5th, 2017 12:31 am (UTC)
To me, a Canadian, your note comes off as condescending. You're making a lot of assumptions and more of telling her how to run her business, without being asked for said advice.

Bluntness may be okay but I think like... framing it differently would have helped. "Don't take it personally" is like a signal for people to do just that. Instead of giving her a pile of unwanted advice, maybe say something more like, "If you need any more information, references, or clarification on anything, don't hesitate to contact me! I would also appreciate seeing progress sketches." That puts things more in the artist's control but still gets across your expectations. Just sneak it in there without making assumptions.
May. 5th, 2017 01:03 am (UTC)
I don't know...also from the US here and your message didn't really come off as rude to me. I've always lived in small towns, so I don't really think I'm desensitized or anything...I just think it read like critique to me.

However, a LOT of folks generally don't respond well to unsolicited critique. People want to ask for it first and have it be expected. Also taking into account the artist's younger age, she may just be inexperienced in these matters. Personally, the advice you gave to her took me years to learn and I really wish someone had taken the time to make those suggestions to me far before I eventually heard and then implemented them. To be honest, to this day I'm still struggling with a couple of them due to other issues in my life and not having them rooted in routine quite yet.

For the future, my advice would be to stick to what you as a customer specifically need. Maybe say things like "in the future, please link me to the artwork before it's posted." Or "next time, could I see a sketch before you finish the piece in case there are details you forgot or that I didn't make clear initially?"

I would also suggest keeping everything you want in your commission in one message, rather than spread over a few. If the artist ends up having questions and you answer them in further notes/emails, make sure you quote the last email you wrote into the thread and add the new information to it. That way, they have all the info in one message and won't have to worry about reading through 2-5 of them to get the details needed for your commission.

However, I realize this is asking more of you than should be expected. An artist should be professional enough to take notes and make sure all the info necessary is in a place easy for them to get to. BUT a lot of artists, especially younger ones [and myself included at times] end up not taking notes for one reason or another...being on their phone, having a hard time in life, just forgetting in general...

There just really isn't a solid answer for this, unfortunately. Each person is different and each artist will have their own ways of doing things, their own sensitivities, etc.
Next time, I'd ask specifically if the person is okay with business practice critique rather than mentioning a "different topic" [which she may have assumed to be discussion of a further commission or just small talk]. And in regards to this artist, now that you know her habits, if you commission her again, you'll know what things to avoid and which things to do to help her remember what you want in your piece.
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May. 5th, 2017 01:27 pm (UTC)
I like this and it's more or less what I was going to comment to say.
May. 5th, 2017 05:36 am (UTC)
The statement from mortymaxwell would have been the best.

Its best to keep from assuming you know anything about the artist and how they work, and then commenting on that assumption. By calling her a chaotic worker, it may have been taken as an insult. Like you are saying they dont have their stuff together, that they are a mess.

The last statement is said as a threat, and honestly, had somebody said that to me, I would drop them as a client and refuse other works. (Though I would also work to fix errors on past project.)

Would also refrain from calling their work cheap. While I understand somebody looking for a good deal, I never think its appropriate to say "Im getting a bargin with you, you are underselling yourself and I am going to take advantage of that." Because thats how I took that last statement.

This is my personal opinion though, and how I would have read things if it had been sent to me.
May. 5th, 2017 06:18 am (UTC)
Like a few others, I'd have taken that last paragraph as "I'm only coming to you until someone more skilled who's also affordable comes around" which is rather disheartening.
Otherwise I'd say it's not what you said but how you said it as you made some good points but they translated as patronising and I'm sure that wasn't your intention.
I can completely understand if the artist was taken aback or hurt by the note: it lacked tact. In future I'd go the route Tinysnorlax suggested and if the artist is receptive, follow Mortymaxwells advice
May. 5th, 2017 07:08 am (UTC)
THX 11-38 for all your input, I really appreciate that. :)

I know that I can appear unintentionally unfriendly at times, so I actually asked another friend of the artist before if she can take critique (He said yes) and gave the note to an American who works as my beta to check if the note is rude somewhere – he found it to be okay.
Even after the incident yesterday, I spoke to two other Americans about it, especially the note and both answered that it wasn’t unfriendly.
But then again it might be different if it’s not directed at you.

So considering the different answers here, I guess, it is a problem of two different mentalities clashing together, bad phrasing and it’s entirely my fault to have not taken it into consideration when I wrote the note.
I really want to commission the artist again (Already asked), but as her friend told me, she doesn’t want to work for me anymore after that note, which I would find perfectly acceptable in this case. I only would have preferred it more if the artist just said it right into my face instead of leaving me with the impression that everything is alright and then hearing from a third party that she actually heavily disliked it and thinks bad of me now.

When writing reviews for stories, I’m working like you suggested: telling the nice things first, then the critique and finally something positive again. But as the positive points tend to repeat themselves, I shorten them in the following comments or skip them entirely together. I even ask first if they are interested in critique, but here, after getting the information that the artist can take it well, I refrained from that and already praised her art in previous notes. So I thought that it was okay.

Will try to sort things out with her, I hope she can forgive me. :(

Edited at 2017-05-05 07:20 am (UTC)
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May. 5th, 2017 10:53 am (UTC)
New Yorker here.
I personally wouldn't have been offended, if anything I'd give you the benefit of the doubt if something seemed rude, mistakes in wording happen.
May. 5th, 2017 01:34 pm (UTC)
Basically, framing it as 'general advice' comes off as condescending and a little passive-aggressive. Most people will take what is said to them and review it as it applies to further transactions/interactions with you and likely realize that that sort of thing is also what others may want - and if they don't and it ends up pissing off someone else that's on them and ideally, they'd learn at that point/put it together.

Even if I fully realized you meant no harm I'd find the way it was framed a little irritating and presumptuous. Presenting the information as a personal preference (which it is, even if it's shared by a lot of people :P) sounds less like you're talking down to someone/telling them how to do their job in a general sense, as opposed to how best to work for you. Framing it generally has an unspoken assumption that the person is too thick to understand that maybe your preference is one to keep in mind/at least ask about in the future.
May. 5th, 2017 06:56 pm (UTC)
Do other countries really see Americans as fragile glass like this? I'll admit I'm an American and unwanted criticism can get me down but that's just my personality. I'm really insecure about my artistic abilities and often end up putting myself down over not being good enough. But I don't think it's because of my being American.

I agree with many talking about the last bit implying that you're only commissioning her because she's affordable and able to draw vehicles and as soon as you find another artist she's losing your business. I also find it interesting in your post that you said:

"To be frankly, the only sentence which I could find rude is the assumption that she works chaotically, that she did those things where she wasn't entirely sure on her own without asking me first and where I asked her to think about my points, as I would it find really sad to lose her (As I would be her only customer)."

"As I would be her only customer"? Does she not have any other commissions than yours? Sorry, this just came off as really rude to me that you are thinking she needs your business, or she doesn't have any at all. (That is how it is phrased to me.)

I think your phrasing just need work. Take a moment and try to find ways something could be seen as rude/mean. I basically read over my words and assume the reader is very sensitive and will flip out over nothing. That's how I avoid most issues online.
May. 5th, 2017 07:07 pm (UTC)
The sentence in brackets was not in the note and is my very own interpretation of how I would understand it now. And I agree today that it was a very bad move. Too bad it's a half-year ago and the damage was already done. :/

I thought about editing it in the post to (As if I was her only customer), but feared that edits of the entry post might appear like I'm trying to alter the facts in my favour.

Edited at 2017-05-05 08:00 pm (UTC)
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Hunty Belmnt
May. 5th, 2017 09:28 pm (UTC)
If I was an artist and got a note like that I would be annoyed and block you.

Learn from your mistake and perhaps be a little more considerate of the next artist you commission. Be clear with your descriptions, should an artist do a WIP then you point out whatever missing details. If it's after the fact, point them out in a way that's not disrespectful and maybe offer some extra compensation. You don't seem like a bad person, but it looks like you worded your message poorly. Have a friend read and edit it before you send it out.
May. 5th, 2017 10:52 pm (UTC)
I can't put a lot on the artist here...

There are a whole lot of people in America, and they all have varying levels of what they can personally deal with. Some of this has to do with where they're from and how they were raised. Some is just because they might have some stuff going on in their life that they don't share and you don't see. You can't rely on one American you know, or even a small handful, to tell you if something is offensive or not. Especially if they are older than the person you're going to be talking to.

And really, if you have to ask: assume it is.

Had I gotten this, I might have responded like the artist at first: seemingly happy about the advice. That's from me being raised in Tennessee. But I would be on my side of the monitor, quietly seething, because I do see the note as rude, and not friendly. The fact the artist is still communicating with you in anyway is more than I would have done. I have walked away from customers in my retail jobs, rolling my eyes so hard they should have popped out of my head, or just needing to go out back and kick the dumpster.

A lot of it is in your phrasing. I know some of this is cultural; I worked closely with a German when I modded a certain chan board, and that was a big sticking point in communication between him (the server guy) and us (the moderators).

I'm also put-off by the emojis and the use of informal language. Anytime you are dealing with a business transaction, any sort of smiley or emoji or what might be silly with a group of friends can come off as condescending, so they're best to avoid, period. Artists are not here to be your friend, they're here to provide a service.

Tone does not come across in text. I know mine is not going to come across right here. Most artists I know, don't particularly want to hear critique from a commissioner, because it's like, "If you can do better, then do it yourself." Comments on the lines of "Hey, can you do X instead of Y here?" are great, though.

Like someone else said, the comment about the price for what they were getting was, to me, offensive as well. If the artist is young, they are probably undercharging, and that's like admitting you are more than willing to take advantage of them.

The advice you gave, about sending WIPs and confirming with the customer that everything is correct before posting, is good. The rest is... unnecessary.

mortymaxwell's post was best. It's to the point. That's all you need.
May. 6th, 2017 07:11 pm (UTC)
so glad someone else also saw this!

The text itself came off as unwanted advice, but with the added chat speak and emojis it came off as very condescending. To me at least. Also - for "making it right" with the artists, I wouldn't push that. I am not sure how you apologized, but if it's anything like the first note it might have done more harm than good to be honest.

something like "sorry if the previous note came off as rude, that was not my intention. Hope to work with you again in the future" is all you need, so any mention of the friend or such just leads to chaos or potential drama. Always keep communication between the original parties. And if the blocked you, cease contact as they don't want to deal with it then. (Not saying the artist blocked you, just that going via a friend is a super bad idea).

Also as other's have mentioned, it's not a US thing. As a Norwegian our stereotype is cold, blunt and emotionless - but after that first note I would rather not work with you in the future. Mostly because of the sentence build-up and emojis.
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