In 2005 an art patron saw a piece of mine that was in a show in Houston, and decided to buy it. He kept in touch, I’d see him at different art openings in the city, and he’d invite me to parties he had at his place (very NICE, and my piece is still very well hung). When he bought the piece, he always said he’d like to commission me to do a portrait of him. To which I just sort of said I’d give it thought, not really knowing what to do. But now, a couple years later, I’ve actually got a great idea for the portrait, and am excited to do it, but things have sort of gone strange ...
Well, ever since I met the guy, there has been a weird unspoken sexual tension, which I mostly ignored. I sort of thought it’d keep him strung along and buying more of my art. Which has worked, but now I’ve actually come to really like the guy, but in a COMPLETELY non-sexual way. He is just an AMAZING arts patron, seriously. And he is handsome, but I guess he’s just not my type, or something. I mean, I wish he was, cause I’d probably have it made! But I’m just not, and I’m not one to fake that sort of thing.
Anyways, at a party he blatantly states that he’d like to have sex with me, to which I just sort of shook it off and said, “Well, maybe sometime.” I was basically like, I don’t want to compromise our enthusiasm for your portrait, and I don’t think now is a good time ...
So, MAT, what should I do with my arts patron? I really respect the guy, and truly want him to find a nice beautiful boy to not only have hot, carnal sex with, but also to love and nourish. I just know it’s not ME. I sort of feel like I ought to hook him up with a cute boy ... but not only do I not know any that aren’t too slutty, I also want it to be THE RIGHT boy, since I really do think he deserves it.
How do I avoid the weird sexual tension doing this commission while also trying to make him happy? IS THERE something I can do to make him happy as I do a kick-ass painting of him while also rejecting him at the same time?
It’s like, I really don’t mind being the hooker that fakes an orgasm to make someone happy, but here it just doesn’t seem right. How do I remain professional while rejecting sex, still doing the portrait, and also making sure he quenches his loneliness/lack-of-sex/whatever?
— Confused Artist
Dear Confused Artist,
I am a bit confused, too. I would think that if you sleep with him he might expect some sort of discount on the commission. And perhaps agreeing to make a commissioned portrait for him has made him think he’s earned a shortcut to sex.
You are doing right. Mostly. Turn him down if you are not interested. Be polite and direct. Don’t use the portrait as an excuse, because that is leading him on: When the portrait is complete and you are paid, there will no longer be an obstacle, which is not the message you mean to convey.
If he cancels the portrait because you won’t sleep with him, you are still making the right move. Just because artists are whores doesn’t mean you should actually fuck someone to sell a painting. Self-respect, young chap! Paint the portrait. If it kicks ass, then it doesn’t matter if he buys it — you can always sell or exhibit it elsewhere. Inspiration is for the making — not the selling — of the work. Be honest with your patrons and they will respect both you and your art. Probably.
I suggest staying out of the matchmaking end of this matter, too. If you stumble across a good candidate, great! But don’t waste time and energy looking. You are a painter, not a yenta. It also reads like total pity, not respect, to go desperately scrounging for a date for a guy you rejected.
Much love and success with your pants on,
Your Uncle Mat