Art Scams & Red Flags for Artists

How do you know if an opportunity is legit as an artist? There are many scams for artists out there, it’s inevitable you’ll encounter them. People demanding artists to work for free, vanity galleries that charge lots of money to exhibit your artwork, sketchy requests to purchase your work and more.

43 min. video

This video explains in detail how you can distinguish legit inquiries vs. scams. Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artists Alex Rowe & Jordan McCracken-Foster.


Video Walkthrough

  • Emails that are written without proper grammar are a red flag.
  • Often scam emails begin with a woeful family story about “an uncle who just came back from a funeral.”
  • Before you reply, look up the person who wrote the email.
  • A legitimate person who works for a company is often listed on the company website. (although this is not guaranteed)
  • Look at the company website, does it have established services that look real and substantial?
  • Even a well written email from someone who seems legitimate still warrants the same research to make sure it’s real.
  • Working “for the exposure” rarely gets you visible career advancement and opportunities.
  • There are reasons to do work for free: if it’s for an organization you want to support, say via donating your art at an auction.
  • Don’t donate your artwork to an auction with the expectation that it’s a venue for promoting your artwork.
  • Any client what refuses to adhere to your payment methods (Venmo, Paypal) is fishy, don’t try to accommodate them!
  • Creating artwork for friends and family is always dicey, and can lead to some very awkward situations.
  • When a person asks for a general price list of work that is available, that’s usually the sign of either a scam or someone who really isn’t that invested in purchasing your artwork.
  • Serious buyers generally are specific about the piece they want.
  • People will often approach you for work, claiming that they will split their revenue with you “when they are successful.”
  • Vanity galleries, where the gallery charges you a fee to exhibit at their gallery are a scam, and are not stepping stones to legitimate art galleries.
  • Vanity publications will charge you money (often large amounts, like $300) to have your work in their hard copy publication.
  • There are many illustration societies that publish “illustration annuals” that they charge fees to artists to have their work published.
  • These illustration annuals claim to be a place where art directors find new artists, but that is generally not the case.