As it is, the general population already undervalues artists and the work they do. This is promoted by a culture where free is not tempting, it’s the obvious choice. This filters directly to kids, and they don’t learn to respect artists at an early age.
Let’s say you’re artist alley-ing at a convention. A kid that’s wandered far off from their parents shows up and grabs everything at your table, bends the edges of a few stickers, y’know: the whole kid play.
They look up at you with those huge eyes and go “I don’t have money. Can I have this sticker for free?” Immediately, you might feel bad saying no. You might feel that this little kid doesn’t have any income and they just want that adorable sticker you designed. That’s what the immediate thought is.
But think of it this way: you put the labor into this design, you purchased the materials to make this design a thing, you purchase the materials to reproduce your work in sticker form, you cut those stickers out, you paid to get the table, you worked for hours on items to put on that table.
This is what the kids don’t consider. When you were little, did you ever really think about the work that goes into anything? Not really, and by a slim chance you did- it would be barely scraping the surface.
This is why when the occasional kid comes by and asks for something free, you should say no. The first time this happened to me, I was so satisfied with my response. The adorable little girl in cosplay comes and asks if she could have something for free. I said a soft, “no, sorry sweetie” and attended to the other people looking at items on my table. She stood their with her sister a bit longer, looked at me and said “Then I’ll take it, ok?” Wait what? She just asked my if it was ok to steal my art? My immediate response was something around the lines of:
“Unfortunately, I cannot give it to you for free. You have to understand that aaallll the artists here put a lot of work into their drawings. They have to learn to draw, plan the drawings, draw them, print them, prepare them, and then even pay JUST to be here selling. It’s really a lot of work! If you like the drawings you see here, you have to understand that a lot of work is put into each and everyone one of them- you understand?”
See does a polite nod and smiles at me. Then she said-
“I’ll ask my parents if I can have some money to buy it then!”
I didn’t see here again after that, but I feel my message resonated in her- even if just for that day.
It really isn’t about the money. One sticker will not “break the bank”. It’s the culture built by the decision to give that girl a freebie. She’ll go to other tables and ask for more, where she really doesn’t know that she’s doing anything wrong. As she grows older, who knows if she’ll ever consider the work put into it or keep assuming she’ll get it for free. I know if might sound dramatic, but to me it is a big part of building the platform for future artists.
And that, my friends, is why you should not give kids free artwork.