Play nice (artist ethics)

Artist ethics is a subject that is usually overlooked until someone has done something unethical. Dictionary.com defines ethics as “the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christian ethics.” Of course, the particular group we’re concerned with is artists. So, artist ethics is the rules of conduct recognized in respect to artists.

As the Internet brings us closer together, the world becomes smaller and smaller. Ethical violations that might have gone unnoticed in the past can spread like wildfire today. Your little misstep can get you blackballed, and your story remains online for everyone to access instantly.

Make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Play nice. Here are 6 common ways for you (artists) to exhibit ethical behavior.

1. Don’t copy someone else’s art and try to pass it off as your own. Painting directly from photographs that were taken by someone else is not only unethical, it’s a copyright violation.

Fred Bell

Fred Bell, Folding Chair.
Oil on canvas.
12 x 12 inches. ©The Artist

2. Do not undersell your galleries . . . ever, ever, ever. You have one price for your art. Likewise, if a collector finds you at a gallery and then tries to buy directly from you, you either (1) send the collector back to the gallery to finalize the sale or (2) give the gallery their standard commission since the collector would never have found you outside of the gallery.

3. Don’t add people to your email list without their permission. That doesn’t mean you can’t email them. It just means you can’t send them regularly scheduled newsletters and updates if they haven’t asked to receive them.

4. In an email that goes out to numerous people, don’t put all of the addresses in the TO line. This is sharing your list with everyone else on it and is a violation of any privacy policy you may have.

5. Don’t promise your work to one place and pull it if you get a better venue. (Thanks to aspenshimmers on Twitter for this one.)

6. Don’t use someone else’s art or words on your Web site, blog, or in your marketing material without giving proper credit.

Here are 4 more that I’d like to see in place:

7. Do not harm a living creature for the sake of your art. The thought of hurting a person (including yourself) or an animal seems to fly in the face of everything art is, should be and can be.

8. As much as possible, use materials that do not endanger the environment. Materials that hurt the environment are probably also damaging your health. Start demanding politely that art-supply companies pay attention to the ingredients in their products and how they are made.

9. Don’t elevate your own art at the expense of another artist. Example: All artists who sell giclées should use that term (or “reproductions”) instead of calling them prints. Saying a mechanically reproduced giclée is a print is dishonoring the tradition of handmade prints that has been around for centuries.

10. Be aware of the materials you use and how they interact with one another and any kind of support. If you don’t know how your materials behave, you can’t guarantee they’ll last six months.


KNOW THIS———-~> Your code of ethics is a big part of who you are and how you are perceived by others.

THINK ABOUT THIS—~> Ethics are fairly transparent these days. And unethical people get tagged quickly. Word gets around!

DO THIS————~>Play nice. Create a code of ethics that you live by and that helps you live with yourself.

Add to this list, read my code of ethics, and listen to the podcast on the Art Biz Blog.

See similar articles: Art Business Practices

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