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Artist Irate After Boyfriend Offers Couple A Free Portrait So He Doesn’t Have To Get Wedding Gift

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Artists often find themselves in the position of defending their prices.

They’re often asked to provide their time, talent and efforts for free to “expand their portfolio” or “gain exposure.”

But art is a luxury that an unwillingness to pay for is on the consumer to resolve, not the artist.

An artist dealing with these issues in her personal life turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.

Beneficial-Survey804 asked:

“AITA for refusing to do a portrait for my boyfriend, leaving him without a wedding gift?”

The original poster (OP) explained:

“I do digital portraits, mostly as a hobby, but I have gotten a few commissions here and there. It is like a painted portrait, but I use a digital painting app on my iPad instead of a canvas and paints.”

“A while ago, my boyfriend and I were hanging out with mutual friends and my boyfriend suggested in front of everyone that I do a portrait as a gift for someone’s upcoming birthday.”

“While it was a little annoying to be volunteered by him, I did think it was a good gift idea and went ahead and did it. The next time a birthday in the group came up, my boyfriend made the same suggestion and as a result ‘the birthday portrait’ has kind of become my thing.”

“My boyfriend will get something small as his gift since he views the portrait as being ‘from us’.”

“The part where I may be the a**hole here is that I haven’t told him explicitly to stop volunteering me for these portraits.”

“It is my fault for going along with the birthday gift thing for our friends without saying anything, but I kind of assumed that he would at least keep these requests within the realm of common sense.”

“Well…his college buddy is getting married, and my boyfriend told him that I would make him a portrait of him and his bride as a wedding gift. I have never even met this person!”

“I feel like I never did anything to lead him to believe that I was OK with doing free portraits for complete strangers.”

“To make matters worse, he apparently made this promise weeks ago but only told me about it today, and the wedding is this Saturday.”

“I finally lost it at him and told him that I’m not his personal portrait sweatshop, and that he only does this because he’s a cheapskate and it gets him out of spending any money on a gift, even though it costs me a lot of time.”

“He argued back that a bespoke portrait is so much better than just buying something off the registry, that it’s a generous thing for me to do, it helps build my portfolio, and that I don’t get very many paid commissions anyway.”

“For the record—I don’t get many paid commissions because I don’t charge peanuts for them. I have a full time job, so I price according to what would be worth giving up the amount of free time that it takes me.”

“He told me that I put him in a really difficult position, that he hyped up the portrait, and they were both really looking forward to it.”

“He said please just do this one and I won’t ask again. I said no, I don’t even know these people, this is so not my problem.”

“He looked up a couple of portrait artists online, but none of them were willing to do the piece on the short turnaround he needed + at the quality he wanted + at the price he was willing to pay.”

“He even tried using an AI image generator—which was a complete slap in the face to me as an artist—but all of the outputs were very obviously AI.”

“He’s begging me to please just do this one and he will make it up to me on my birthday, but—especially after he apparently thought my work was so worthless that it could be effortlessly reproduced by a machine—I’m just really not in the mood.”

“He has never paid me before, since it was considered my/our gift to mutual friends.”

“But for this one he says my asking price ($300) would be too much out of pocket to spend on a college friend’s wedding gift.”

The OP added:

“I just reached far back in my brain and remembered a time he got me a new purse decorated with what was obviously my best friend’s embroidery.”

“At the time I just assumed he had paid her for it (because why the hell wouldn’t he?) and this whole conversation about the portraits has me realizing the probable truth.”

“I just texted her asking if she got paid, if she says no I am going to be very unhappy.”

“Update: I am very unhappy.”

The OP summed up their conundrum.

“I held my tongue on not liking the ‘volunteer’ portraits until my refusal actually put him in a tight spot.”

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors declared the OP was not the a**hole (NTA).

NTA—It would be one thing if he gave you a months notice.”

“I suspect that he had a hunch you wouldn’t want to do a portrait for someone you don’t know and haven’t even met. That’s likely why he sprang it on you last minute—so that you felt like you could not say no.”

“He can go buy another present and apologize to his friend. The fact that’s he’s trying to twist your arm to get you to do this rather than taking responsibility for his poor planning and rude assumptions is absolutely his problem.”

“I would not back down, and if he won’t let this go, I would seriously take a look at the relationship and evaluate how often he has devalued you and taken advantage of you at the same time.”

“I don’t believe that the boyfriend was completely clueless.”

“Certainly OP has made some previous insinuation that when it comes to friends’ birthdays, he buys a cheap gift and piggybacks on her hard work. Or maybe even their mutual friends have ribbed him over this.”

“Either way, he knows that what he is asking for is too much, and he only got away with it in the past because the portraits were for their mutual friends. His choice to drop this request last minute was completely orchestrated to try and manipulate OP.” ~ neoncactusfields

“This really all boils down to his cheap a**. Saves him time and money yet he’s able to bask in the glory of a gorgeous bespoke portrait.”

To be honest, I’d dump the lump but that’s just me. OP is NTA as long as she charges him full price PLUS a rush fee.”

“Big bucks. Hit him where he can feel it. He’ll never volunteer her again—guaranteed.” ~ Fuzzy_Laugh_1117

“He thinks so little of her art and skill, as well as her time, that he thinks she can crank out wedding gift quality portraits in a couple hours because ‘photoshop is so easy’.”

“OP, you are NTA. Don’t do it unless you both charge him AND make him watch your painstaking process.” ~ notpostingmyrealname

“‘He told me that I put him in a really difficult position’ = HUGE RED FLAG. He is blaming you for a situation 100% of his own making.”

“What else does he blame you for? He’s late for work because you didn’t wake him up? He has no clean clothes because you didn’t do his laundry?”

“Putting aside the obvious lack of respect (not wanting to pay you, etc…), just the fact that he blames YOU for the situation HE created bodes poorly for any long-term relationship with this guy. NTA.” ~ Ashamed_Ad4280

“NTA, but I’d gift wrap this with a breakup because of the sheer amount of entitlement and disrespect he has towards you.”

“This is not a behavior that can be talked out, he’s trying to save face more over making things better with you. The fact he voluntold you and has done so multiple times without thinking of you and your feelings says it all.”

“He only cares to make himself look good.” ~ Proper_Strategy_6663

“As an artist, I’m absolutely disgusted by his behavior. NTA, and this would be breakup territory for me too.” ~ tweetthebirdy

“Voluntold and then is also taking credit for it—’a gift from US’. Even the gift for his college friend’s wedding is all from OP.”

“Doesn’t the college friend realize that??? I would feel so weird to have a friend volunteer SOMEONE ELSE to create/design/make a wedding gift for me.”

“Plus, I just realized that what if my boyfriend had been able to create something okayish with AI or Photoshop? He then would’ve said it was OP’s work and let folks think OP did shoddy work. NTA.” ~ One_Ad_704

“NTA. He needs to admit that he promised your time and work without asking you and that it turns out it isn’t possible for you to do it. He needs to put the blame rightly on himself and not throw you under the bus.”

“He can wear some well-deserved egg on his face and make it up to them by buying them a decent wedding gift. He can mitigate his foolishness by spending a bit more money, surely. He should suffer, not you.”

“Even if you were willing to do it one last time, he screwed that up by waiting until the last minute to even tell you. That’s just the absolutely inconsiderate cherry on the taking your time and work for granted cake.” ~ kurokomainu

Most Redditors weren’t sure there was hope for this relationship.

OP certainly has a lot of things to consider.

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metís Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. A member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, she considers herself another proud Maineiac.