A wonderful email appeared in my inbox recently, suspiciously arriving six times and from six different people. Here’s one of them:
My name is George Barbara from California. I actually observed my wife has been viewing your website on my laptop and i guess she likes your piece of work. I’m also impressed and amazed to have seen your various works too, You are doing a great job. I would like to purchase one of your paintings “watermark, 60 x 60 inches, oil on canvas, 2014”, as a surprise to my wife on our anniversary. Also, let me know if you accept check as mode of Payment.
Thanks and best regards
While this cheque fraud scam has been around for years, artists are increasingly popular targets. Maybe it has to do with our unique vulnerability to positive feedback. As solo travellers, a message of obvious good taste and decisiveness can feel like a windfall, especially in periods of sporadic sales or patchy praise. With it rushes a flood of validation and a feeling of connectedness and independence. A bona fide sale is what my dad called “green feedback,” and he advised to understand and appreciate its specialness. More reliable than fame, the adulation of an inner circle, critical acclaim or public stipend, “green feedback” is a path to freedom, autonomy and joy.
In the case of George, the green — and the feedback — are fake. Here’s how the scam works: George sends you a bogus cheque by courier for far more than the value of the artwork. George, by way of a complicated explanation, needs you to pay an independent shipper with the extra amount. Often, he’s indisposed in the North Atlantic while in the midst of a transcontinental relocation. In two weeks, when the cheque bounces, your painting’s gone. You’re also on the hook at the bank. What George plans to do with his new, bulky art collection remains a mystery.
PS: “The best feedback in the world, the only feedback you can trust, is sales.” (Barbara Corcoran)
“In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” (Warren Buffett)
Esoterica: Trust and optimism can spark the fire that warms the easel, day in and out, but don’t let those fake feedbackers cool your jets and get you down. Instead, harness that initial jolt you get when reading an email entitled “ARTWORK NEEDED,” and consider reclaiming it as a personal, empowering mantra. When the real sale appears, you’ll recognize it immediately and take it to the bank.
“Better to be occasionally cheated than perpetually suspicious.” (B. C. Forbes)
There’s a hush… a palpable electric presence radiating from some of the paintings in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the galleries of the Frick Collection.