How NOT to contact a professional artist! Part 2

I just had to post this..

Yesterday morning, the head of Dept of Industrial Design at Newcastle TAFE called me to apologise for his student’s poorly drafted email, (see last post, ‘How NOT to contact a professional artist!’).

I called this gentleman back today and we had an interesting chat. He had taken this issue up with the student’s direct teacher who.. didn’t think there was anything wrong with the email and/or approach made by the student! What?!

I was floored!

Well Mr Teacher who thinks that was ok.. Looks like very few of your students will ever make it out there in industry if you advocate that sort of approach. Because they WILL get out there and they WILL come up against working professionals who DO NOT tolerate poor communication skills and equally poor manners!


  1. Jon Roth says:

    Just came across this and as a past student of that paticular course and now employeed in the industry I can see how you may have taken offence to his email. I understand that the questions he asked were, well not only poorley phrased, punctuated and in my opinion generally lack lustre, but I have to ask does it need to be answered by some kind of raging flame of a post. There was gossip about a person of your ability moving into our region (whether that is true or not) from that year of students and it contained a certain excitedness, they seemed impress, touched to have you in our area.

    I know these students and in thier defence I feel that this may be a case of you over reacting just a little, for instance posting it here and sending a message onwards to the head teacher. These students seek your guidance, they look up to you and when you tell them thier communication skills are not professional that message should also be devliered in a professional manner. Thats my piece.

    When you see a worthy person, endeavor to emulate him,
    When you see an unworthy person, then examine your inner self!
    Confucius, 551-479 B.C.

    • Ankaris says:

      Hi Jon, thanks for your comment.

      I didn’t actually take personal offence to the student’s initial contact or it’s presentation. Nor did I write such a ‘raging post’ as you put it. What you have missed entirely is my criticism of the education system firstly and the student’s lack of ability to think for themselves, second. Not only was my response instructive – How NOT to do it… it was also an invitation to make amends. If the student had come back and apologised and/or attempted a more thoughtful approach, I would have accommodated them. That they didn’t is their loss not mine.

      Having said that, I found the student, their school and head of dept within about 15 minutes of starting a search on google. I was making a point. If I could find out the student’s full name, city of residence, school, course and head of dept, then the least they could do before contacting me is to find out how to spell my name correctly! If they were unable or unwilling to do that basic groundwork BEFORE asking for advice then they should expect to be met with a harsh rebuttal. Being a visual artist does not relieve you of the obligation to communicate clearly via the written word either.

      The student in question was in their third and final year and ought to know better. Where was the student’s self responsibility in all of this? Or did they expect me to just cough up for free because they “seek guidance and look up to me”? It was self centred and delusional on the part of the student. If they haven’t exhausted all available options before contacting me, then why should I make an effort for them?

      That teachers must now deliver the message in a way that wont upset our darling students, their helicopter parents or legal representative suggests the pendulum has swung too far towards this mamby pamby philosophy that no student loses, that they can all attain greatness for bugger all effort and explode out into industry as the next hot property.. (assuming you’ve paid your upfront fee’s of course – thinking for yourself sold separately). So if my response oppresses the delicacy of today’s art student, then may I suggest another profession. Because let me tell you, out there live Art Directors, Producers, Supervisors, Clients etc that will skin you alive for less and openly call your work into question publicly because it’s their job to do so or because they don’t want to pay you or because you threaten their position or all of the above. If students cant take criticism whilst in school, then they should walk away now. Really.

      Also I have not at any point considered moving up to that region so you must have me confused with someone else.

      In modern computerised age, it behooves people to use a spell checker (or learn to spell) before criticising another of delivering messages in unprofessional manner! W Haag 1967 –

  2. Ankaris says:

    Thanks for the comment Alison! The head of Dept and I had a good chat about it all, he is old school and was somewhat perplexed by the younger teacher’s attitude. I also wonder what will become of them.. It’s hard enough these days without putting yourself behind the Eight Ball like that! Oh well.. I’ve said it on Twitter before, but great blog you have too!

  3. Just found this. Sadly, it happens all too often. This is why I worry about art students. They’re often being taught by teachers who haven’t had to be “out there” in the world. Fortunately, there are some great teachers out there who are the exception, but many don’t have real-world skills. Good for you for pointing it out. I wonder what became of this story after you posted and the department head discussed it with the teacher. Sounds like the teachers need to brush up on some skills.

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