Artists get no respect. At least not small town artists, at least not beginning artists. Andy Warhol got plenty of respect. So did Roy Lichtenstein and Willem de Kooning, and Paul Cezanne was venerated in his lifetime. Van Gogh, on the other hand, was ignored and laughed at by all but a few fellow artists.
But up here in the Pacific Northwest, and I'm sure in most small communities around the world, artists who show in local galleries are pretty much ignored until somebody wants something from them -for free.
It starts in elementary school when the teacher discovers you can draw. Suddenly you're the one who always gets called on to decorate for the Halloween party and later for Homecoming celebrations and prom. At first it's flattering, but by the time you're out of college and working fulltime at a crap job to put food on the table while making your art weekends and nights and struggling for a little recognition it gets a little old.
The worst is charity auctions. Artists are constantly asked to donate artwork to charity auctions. And we do it because we're generous souls who truly believe in the causes like cancer and AIDS research and equal marriage rights or renovating the neighborhood. And the artist sometimes sits in the back at those auctions and cringes in shame when nobody wants to buy the paintings he's toiled to produce - paintings that are the result of years of education and practice, and finally some friend bids $25 out of pity, and the artist spent that much on the damn frame.
I've seen, not once, not twice, but many times, paintings sell at auction for less money than a chocolate cake. That is embarrassing and insulting to the artist.
I remember once meeting a woman in an art gallery and she said she liked my work. I was truly pleased, and I thanked her, and I told her I had a show coming up and she said, "Oh, I never buy art from galleries." And then she bragged that she had two of mine she had bought in an auction. I can't remember if she told me what she paid for them or not. She did say... she had the nerve to say, that she'd be looking for my work the next time some of it showed up at an auction. I didn't tell her what I wanted to tell her, but I vowed to myself that I'd never donate another painting to a charity auction. Over the years since I have given in and donated one or two more, but I'm not likely to do it again.
So I encourage people who are setting up auctions for whatever good cause to at the very least set a respectable minimum bid on works of art, and to artists who are asked to donate I recommend donating money instead. Or offer to bake a cake.