Jon Arton, an accomplished photorealism artist from Birmingham, England, is winning acclaim for his hilarious portraits of customers who didn’t want to pay for their commissions.
“Sadly, I have to fund my expensive pencil habit,” Jon joked, speaking to Bored Panda. “Art isn’t really seen as a job [or] career, so people assume you would be happy to do it for a little bit of ‘exposure.’”
Jon has, nonetheless, made art his full-time vocation.
He has loved drawing since he was a child, saying it’s all he has ever wanted to do. In the school classroom, the budding artist would pass the time doodling “insulting images of the teachers” to the sheer delight of his classmates.
“It got me in trouble a few times,” he admitted, “but was worth it for making people laugh.”
Over the years, Jon honed his craft, and the work he produces today has earned him a dedicated fanbase. However, Jon admitted feeling a little affronted when people expect him to fulfill commissions free of charge.
The good-natured artist thought outside the box and came up with a way to deal with the many requests he receives for free work. Ironically, what started out as a gag has ended up earning him a supplementary income.
“One day, after far too many of these freebie requests, I mentally snapped and decided to send a poor-effort silly doodle instead of the ‘masterpiece’ they were expecting,” Jon wrote on his JustGiving page. “I laughed to myself so much that I began to do this with every request for free art, trying to find interesting and humorous ways to illustrate these ungrateful freeloaders.”
“Sadly the requests kept coming, so there was only one thing to do,” Jon continued. “I would post these silly drawings online to raise awareness of my plight … The response to this was huge!”
Jon became an overnight viral sensation, posting his best doodles on his Instagram page and quickly amassing upward of 100,000 followers.
“My ‘free art’ doodles were overwhelmingly popular, receiving tens of thousands of likes online,” the young artist reflected. “Far more than my actual art that I’d dedicated so much time to!”
Jon’s “free art” takes the form of childish, crudely drawn figures in black ballpoint pen. The artist takes creative license with many of the finer details and humorous speech bubbles; doodles like the ones that used to exasperate his teachers have been happily resurrected.
The talented photorealist sorely wishes that he could fulfill every genuine commission without having to charge. But for the small fraction of people who don’t fully appreciate his livelihood, Jon’s sarcastic doodles are the perfect comeback.
As Jon’s humorous side-project started to gather fans from far and wide, people started offering to pay for his funny sketches as well. However, thinking of others, Jon decided to “trade the cool hard cash for karma points” and donate the proceeds to charity.
Jon now sells his doodles to raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital, gifting a commissioned doodle to anyone generous enough to donate 10 pounds (US$12.50) or more. To date, Jon’s fund has raised 3,394 pounds (US$4,243), far exceeding his original 250 pound (US$313) goal.
The artist is still having fun having at his freebie-chasing fans. “Sometimes I use my left hand,” he joked, talking to BBC News. “A parent wouldn’t put it on their fridge!”