Art Scams & the Inner Motivations of an Artist

Recently, I received an unsolicited email from someone wishing to purchase artwork from me. The email is below, unedited and with grammatical errors included:

My name is  Potter dennis from SC.  my wife have been on the lookout for some artworks lately viewing your website on my laptop and i guess she likes your piece of work, I’m also impressed and amazed to have seen  your various works too, : )  You are doing a great job. I would like to receive further information about your piece of work and what inspires you. I am very much interested in the purchase of the piece (in subject field above) to surprise my wife. Kindly confirm the availability for immediate sales.
Thanks ,

According to the internet, this is a popular and prevalent scam being perpetrated on visual artists, one of many that are floating out there. I also get occasional scammy emails from random “music labels” who phish from ReverbNation and other indie music sites, telling me that they loved a particular song of mine and want to represent it. Most all are scams.

If you are an artist of any kind, please be wary and do your homework whenever you receive any suspicious emails or offers. If you are a visual artist and you think you are being scammed, I highly recommend reading this blog post titled, “How To Recognize An Art Scam,” by the NYC-based Agora Gallery. I also recommend being a part of an arts community like the Facebook community, Thriving Christian Artists, where you can ask questions and get the benefit of other’s experience. If you are a musician, there are several on-line articles (many conflicting in opinion) that you can read up on, like this one by Digital Music News.

In general, the legitimacy of any artistic opportunity should be ascertained with caution and discernment. There are a few general guidelines to follow, such as: (1) If it is too good to be true, it just might be; (2) Do your research and be aware; and (3) When in doubt, lawyer up.

That all being said, this blog isn’t about scamming per se. It is about our motivations as artists.

In my less spiritually-formed days, the motivations for my music were naive and superficial but powerful nonetheless—simply put, I wanted to be famous. In some convoluted way, fame meant validation, validation meant I was worthy, being worthy gave me permission to merit the applause, and the applause meant that I was loved. For me, I equally craved acceptance and approval—the acceptance of my peers and critics, and the approval of the audience. Performing (and succeeding) in all manner of living was how I fed the addiction to this part of my false self.

I think that many of us, as creatives, deal with these issues of acceptance and approval in subterranean ways that we may not even be in touch with. We seek some semblance of significance through the artistic expressions we create. We want people to like our work, because we believe that somehow that means that they must like us.

There is a part of us that quietly pleads, Please notice me. Please like what I do. Please like me.

It is in the midst of this natural, but not necessarily spiritually-formed version of ourselves that we receive the scam email. And these emails notice us, and like what we do, and apparently like us.

There’s a reason why such scam emails continue to be sent out daily. Sadly, it’s because they work.

Perhaps the temptation to believe is too great. Perhaps we want it too much. Perhaps we just don’t see the well-posted warning signs. So we set aside our rational doubts and suspicions and succumb to the inner need to be noticed and validated and loved.

So let me speak into your souls for just a moment. Let me remind you that you are infinitely beloved by an infinite God that you cannot possibly impress, but still loves every artistic expression that springs from your heart. Let me remind you that it is through His grace that you have your talents and abilities and creativity, and He delights in you when you use them. Let me remind you that He is the Audience of One, and His opinion of you is the only one that matters.

It is my hope that every artist of faith is able to completely embody these truths and let them form your true identity in Christ. Then the criticisms, the self doubts, the discouragements, and even the email scammers would truly have no power over us.

[Photo by Lubo Minar on Unsplash.]