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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thoughts about the Price of Art

I feel a need to talk (o.k., rant) about something that has been a issue for both myself and my husband, as is an issue with anyone who pursues an artistic/creative endeavor.

Getting a foot into one's chosen field is hard enough. Art is subjective, so artists--whether it be writing, painting, filming, video editing, music composing, dancing, etc.--are always at the whims and choices of others in order for us to get our work/skill noticed and exposed to the public.

Self-publishing has grown in popularity due to this fact, and some have found success with it because they know how to market themselves and they have the expendable income to produce their own work. I congratulate you who have found this route profitable and satisfying.

But then there are those still living paycheck to paycheck, who have no expendable income to spend on massive marketing campaigns or even if we did get our foot in the door and are being noticed by the community, we get little to no assistance in getting our work promoted so we are easily ignored or not taken seriously.

Now before you believe that this is a "whine and cheese" fest, it is not. I am happy with the publisher I have, and understanding that it is small and independent I don't expect it to have the resources to market its books like Random House or Tor Books can. And honestly there is something very nice about having say and some control over how my book is marketed and presented. I thank my publisher for that. I have no complaints in that department, nor do my fellow authors who publish with them.

What this is about, is the general public belief that artists ask for way too much for their work, and therefore should be happy with receiving the bare minimum--and some people consider the bare minimum pricier than what they want to spend.

It's even worse when an artist and their client agree on a set amount at the start, and then gradually the client--whether because they discovered they couldn't get the funds that they hoped to gather, or figured they could use their budget more "wisely"--comes back and tries to argue down the price the artist agreed upon. Sometimes to less than half of the original quote. If the artist doesn't budge, the client might turn to a college student or a budding freelancer who doesn't know the value of their own work, and therefore will do the work super-cheap (and super-amateur. But hey, even amateur work gets the job done, right?).

I get that people are trying to save a buck where they can. I understand that people often view what artists do as "fun," a "hobby," or "self-gratifying." And I don't disparage college students or freelancers who need opportunities like the rest of us. I was once one, too.

But I can't count the number of times I have been to an art fair, an independent movie screening, or some other public fine arts events where I heard someone look at a piece of art and mutter, "Pfft, I could do that."

That. Is. Bull. If you could do that, I would slap a canvas and set of paints and brushes in front of you right there and then, and demand you pump out an exact replica of what you're looking at. And, if you can, tell me afterwards that what the artist is asking for that piece of art isn't completely justified by the time, effort, and dedication they put into it.

Just like any other job, art takes time, skill, hard work, passion, and perseverance. Art is also deceptive; artists can make something that looks easy and pretty but it cost blood, sweat, tears, and hours upon hours that could have been used for sleep or relaxing. Art makes the world a more beautiful, colorful place; it has the power to unite and create, to dispel sadness and loneliness, to educate as well as entertain. It is what makes humankind more than just animal; it is the means by which we express our hearts and souls.

So, all I ask is you understand the value of art, in all its forms. The next time you scoff at the price of a book, a painting, or a sculpture, really think about what work went into it--how artists spends months to years of their lives creating something for your enjoyment, or improving upon something that perhaps you do for a living. Support your artists, your writers, your world-beautifiers. If you're willing to pay $10 for a movie ticket, you can pay the little extra so that artists can keep doing the work that they do.

Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. The artist's "time, effort, and dedication" added together are not worth a dime to the buyer -- only the finished artwork can determine its own value. This is why you might see people look at a splatter painting, for example, look at the price tag full of zeros, and scoff. Art can do all the things you say it can in this post, but it shouldn't make a difference whether the artist slapped off his painting in five thoughtless minutes, or if he spent a decade in planning and executing his work -- the buyer can not ethically be asked to pay the artist surplus value to compensate for the potential TV-watching time he gave up to make his painting. The buyer should not be asked to subsidize the artist just "because," though if the buyer decides that the artist and his art are worth subsidizing, that's different.