Meet Wetchop, or Drey as I know him, a furry artist from good'ol Birdtown, USA. As you can see from the screenshot on the left, Wetchop has well over 3k followers and produces Anthro art in a style that is both unique and very eye-catching. Now, from the outside I could tell you a million different reasons why approaching Wetchop could be intimidating.
Just take a look at his banner. The lighting is excellent. The lines are clean. Look at the use of color and the detail that the whiskers add. Having art that is considered "good" by general standards is more than enough to make you intimidating as an artist. While Wetchop may not have a ton of followers just yet, his art and style are developed to a point where he certainly has a brand image. That alone can be enough to give you the impression that he might be a little elitist, right?
Now, let's take a look at another artist:
Meet Siroc, or Admiral General Siroc as I know him, a furry artist from the fictional town of San Antonio. I live in Texas so I definitely know that it's not real, however, the river walk is quite nice at night. Siroc has over fifteen thousand followers. Fifteen thousand. Let that sink in for a second.
To give you an idea of how many people that is, there are a total of 1,431 cities and towns in the state of Texas. Only 194 of those have a greater population than Siroc has followers. That is an impressive amount in the Anthro community, not the highest, but still enough to be plenty intimidating. Not to mention the use of icons in his profile, the addition of an exclusive account, and his spirited choice in banner art. It's almost as if he would rather not interact at all, right?
I can tell you, first hand, that talking to an artist that you have never interacted with but have been admiring for a long time is going to be intimidating. Especially if they have profiles with a ton of followers. Your mind is going to run away with you and social media isn't going to help. As a matter of fact, the reason that I opened the article with two twitter profiles is because I wanted you to get an impression first, so I could then steer you back with some honest advice about interacting with artists on the internet.
The first, and possibly most important, thing that I want to say in this article is this:
Always remember that artists are people. Real, live, breathing individuals who have needs, emotions, and dreams just like you do. This can be easily forgotten when all you see is their completed creations online. It can be very easy to just see them as part of the internet as a whole.
The artists that you conduct business with will be busy with things that you are completely unaware of. Some of them may be developing a game all by themselves, working through college course-work, or even taking care of small children! Always remember that they have a life outside of their artwork and that they likely do not sit in front of their tablet 12 hours a day just to produce work for commissioners. Patience is a virtue that will serve you well in the Anthro art world.
The second thing I want to mention is how important it is to communicate politely and with the proper understanding in mind. I could go on and on about this, but I think I will pull some answers from the community instead to add emphasis:
"Treat anyone you interact with as another person! There are a few bad eggs, but as long as you act friendly and professional, you'll get the same treatment in response! Never forget that there's another person on the other side of the screen when talking with someone. As an artist, I've always done my best to keep up communication throughout all phases of a commission. I'd experience bouts of art block, and likely kept my commissioners simply because I always kept people up to date on the progress of their work." -Lohkami
"I'm not an artist! Though I think I can answer this because I work in a similar job that requires me to take as much information from a customer to give to a graphic designer for them to do their job. Getting all the information and being very clear on what you want will improve your experience and also the relationship between commissioner and artist. If the artist wants simple description of what your character is doing, keep it to a few sentences. If they want as much detail as possible, give them something of a scene or an emotion that you want to convey. Be sure to read their TOS and just talk to them like any other person." -Kane Ewing
Communication is key when it comes to contacting an artist for the first time. Here is a quick list of tips you can take with you and always reference before noting an artist you're unfamiliar with:
Remember that the artist is a person, not a machine. Always be polite.
Try to read the artist's page first to see if you can get the information you need there. Things like commission status and prices are often readily available.
Try to avoid sending notes just to say hello or introduce yourself. I can understand the desire to interact with artists in a friendly way, but they are often trying to run a business and don't have time to answer every "hey" and "how are you" that comes flooding into their inbox. Imagine getting 500 "hi" DM's in a single day, it would be overwhelming!
When you are ready to send a note, keep in mind that this is business and you need to have everything prepared in advance. Be sure to include your reference images and exactly what you want drawn; especially if it is a full scene. This will be greatly appreciated and save a lot of time.
If you are contacting someone for the first time, only send one note. Do not spam them. Send something and wait at least two weeks before you try again. Artists are busy people and may not check their notes every day. If you do not get a response after three attempts, they may be on an extended holiday or unavailable to reply! Remember, you don't know what's going on in their life and being respectful is your best bet. Just be patient and try again later.
Always keep in mind that the artist can say no. If they do, it's okay! They are not a bad person for declining your commission. If they do, then you should thank them for their time and move on to the next artist on your list~
If you don't know what you want: then your best bet is to find an artist who openly advertises that they greatly enjoy "artistic freedom" or "wing-it" commissions. Some artists really love working with no direction, while others do not. Just keep in mind that you will have almost no say about the final product and no opportunities to make any changes.
When it comes to asking for changes in your artwork: Be polite and understand that you are adding time to a job that has already been paid for. The artist is not being paid for that extra time beyond the initial payment, so do your best to be understanding. Unless the artist has completely misunderstood or drawn a totally wrong character, asking them to redraw the art from scratch after coloring it would be an example of something this is generally considered completely unacceptable.
If you want to interact with artists in a more social setting, try going to their streams or simply commenting on their work! That's the best way to try and get to know them. Not everyone wishes to be super social online and we should respect everyone's desired level of privacy and space!
Now that we have covered how to talk to an artist, let's chat about Anthro artists themselves.
I'm sure you remember Wetchop from the beginning of this article. I can happily tell you that he is one of the nicest artists I have ever come across. He has known me for a total of maybe two weeks and has always responded to every question with nothing short of grace and kindness. The word "elitist" is the worst possible thing I could use to describe this amazingly wonderful artist. It's not only untrue, but just wrong.
How about Admiral General Siroc? This intense looking genet is such a goofball! Despite his appearance, he is so genuine and never takes himself seriously. I have bothered him almost daily on Discord and he has never ignored me or made it seem like he didn't want to talk. He can get busy and lost in his work, just like any other artist, but he is more than ready to chat with anyone who wants to ask him about his art or what he likes. Don't let his appearance fool you, he's a sweetheart.
The final point I want to make in this article is how important it is not to let anyone else's opinion of someone sway your own. Social media can be a very toxic place and it has destroyed the lives of so many Anthro artists. We don't need to buy into that toxicity or spread it around. If you want to know the truth about someone, just ask them yourself! Don't believe what everyone else is saying because rumours can not only be false but they can also be vicious.
The Anthro community is a wonderful place full of amazing, talented, and kind people. It's up to us to keep it that way. As long as we stick together and do our best to understand one another, our fandom will flourish~