The (Mostly) Polite Artist

Dear Sensible Midwesterner,

Is it okay to write a thank you note on a card that has my own artwork as the image on the front of the card? It feels a bit too much like a PR move, which, of course, it is. Does it make a difference if I’m writing to thank a gallery owner for a studio visit? What if I’m writing a friend to thank them for sending me a clipping? A condolence letter to a friend?

The (mostly) polite artist

Dear Polite Artist,

First off, forgive me for changing your name – it goes against my policy of calling people by what they prefer to be called – but anyone actually sitting down to hand-write a thank-you note is just plain polite in this day and age.

So kudos for knowing that these various actions and occasions call for written communication.

For notes that fall under the rubric of “business” – to gallery owners, fellow artists, etc. – it strikes me as not just completely appropriate but smart to write them on such cards. (This might prove particularly true when writing people who may recognize your work more easily than your name.) In fact, the Sensible Midwesterner can’t quite imagine why else you’d bother to have such cards printed.

When writing friends and family, it depends a wee bit on the cards. Is there just a picture of your work on the front and perhaps a line in small print on the back that mentions that you’re the artist? That’s cool. I mean, I assume your got a sensible deal which means that you probably have quite a few and your friends and family who love to see your work.  This sensible Midwesterner, for one, would rather open up a thank-you note on a card like that then one with “thank you” pre-stamped on the front. (I’ve always found such cards a bit tacky. Is it asking so much for the writer to actually write out that thank you? And why a specific set of cards for thank-yous? It seems to hint at the fact that perhaps that’s the only kind of note the buyer writes. Based on the preponderance of such cards in stores and the difficulty in finding plain cards, however, I clearly stand alone in this view.)

Or are these cards you silkscreened one-by-one yourself or had a fellow artists letterpress? That’s a quality item people will likely be happy to receive. Or, are they more clearly business-y cards with your name stamped on the front or other contact info? Then I’d say better those cards than no note at all, but I’d more likely chose plain stationary instead.

When it comes to condolence letters, absolutely go with plain paper or a card that acknowledges the solemnity of the situation. Again, better one of your art-laden cards with a kind message written inside than nothing, but sensible adults keep a box of plain stationary in the house for just such occasions.

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