Have you ever wondered what to say to an artist friend when you are viewing their work? You don’t want to embarrass them or yourself by saying something awkward. Recently, a family member paid me one of the highest compliments, without even knowing it. I decided to give you, my readers, the inside skinny on some swoon-worthy words to lay on your Artist buddies.

try these compliments:

  1. I’ve never seen anything like it.
  2. Your work reminds me a little bit of _________________ (name a famous artist – but NOT Thomas Kincaid.)
  3. You are really hitting your stride.
  4. My friend/co-worker should really see this.
  5. I recognized it as your work immediately.
  6. I have the perfect place to display this! (Gets out Checkbook)
  7. I saved the best for last: It makes me feel ____________ (fill in the blank.)

compliments feel what you feel


Asking specific questions about the work can be another way to let your friend know you’re interested in the work. Here are some examples:

* What inspired this work?

* Do you have a favorite area?

* How does this work compare to the last one?

My family member casually brought up an unexpected experience with my art. She was at a large group show, and came upon one of my paintings. She said, she thought to herself, “That looks like Ruth’s work.” And lo and behold, it was!

Why is this such a wonderful compliment for an artist? Well, we artists are always trying to create something new and original. We want our work to communicate a unique message and to stand out, and stand alone. However, we also want our work to be recognized as ours.

When someone says that they recognize a work as uniquely yours, it tells you as the artist that you have a recognizable vocabulary. Even though the painting does not look like your other paintings, the viewer can see your marks or color or design as yours alone.

This kind of compliment also tells you that the viewer is really paying attention to your work as a whole, and responding to it. The viewer has internalized your work to a point that they recognize other work that you’ve made.

“Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom, while discouragement often nips it in the bud. Any of us will put out more and better ideas if our efforts are appreciated.” -Alexander Osborn

Even if you’re not familiar with the artist’s other work, telling them how the work makes you feel or what it brings to mind is another way to let them know you’re really enjoying it. After all, each artist puts so much of themselves into their work, they deserve a little bit of time and attention.

what not to say…

Here are a few things that artists often hear that are NOT complimentary or helpful:

  • My Grandmother (daughter, aunt, etc.)  is a painter too.
  • That curved area near the bottom looks like a whale (or horse or dog…etc.) to me. (regarding an abstract work)
  • Oh, are you still painting (drawing, sculpting, etc.)? Yes! Are you still practicing medicine?
  • How long did that take you?

For a few more, read this article on Huffington Post. I hope this insider’s guide has helped you to understand how to communicate more positively with your favorite artist! Leave me a comment and let me know: What’s the best/worst thing you’ve heard or said about someone’s art?

View some of my artwork: Click the image below to check out my galleries!

"My Father's Eyes" Abstract Acrylic 6x10"

“My Father’s Eyes” Abstract Acrylic 6×10″


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