The Afflicted: Michael Auger, a 32-year-old Gaithersburg artist who creates vibrant, cartoonish paintings, including a 2-by-3-inch blacklight-reactive bucktoothed whale and a 24-by-20-inch spider webbing its prey

Diagnosis: Little work lost. Auger’s smaller illustrations are perfectly sized for pocketbooks—and, sometimes, pickpockets. “My small pieces sell really well, but they’re also the most likely to be stolen,” he says. “At art festivals, the small pieces can just walk away.”

Symptoms: Size matters. Auger says he’s had a few of his palm-sized works go missing in the past year, including one stolen from this year’s Artomatic. “They just took it off the wall,” says Auger of the artful dodger. “It’s really frustrating when you have work that is small enough to stick in a shirt,” he says. “It’s not like my artwork is all that expensive. To me, it would be bad karma to hang something on your wall that you didn’t pay for.” Adds Auger, “on the flipside, many of my pieces at Artomatic have sold to good homes because they are small and affordable.”

Treatment: Go on wife support. “When I can con her in to coming, I try to have my wife with me at art fairs,” says Auger. “When you’re busy dealing with a customer, it’s helpful to have an extra pair of eyes to watch out for anything fishy.” Auger also plans to outfit the art itself with some extra security. “Instead of just hooking it on the wall, I’m going to rope it in with extra wire to make it a challenge,” says Auger. “Thieves will have to struggle with it a while instead of just popping it off easily.” —Amanda Hess

Artist with a problem? E-mail problem@washingtoncitypaper.com.