As my artist's statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance. -- Calvin and Hobbes

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Geez Louise, what's 'cost of doing business'? (...art business)

4x4" panels from my "Ethereal" collection.
Available on Etsy
I need to raise money to pay for festival booth fees this year.  Fun fun fun.  Time to see this emerging career blossom!

I have noticed that the average person's (out loud) thought about art is that it only costs the price of a canvas and maybe a little paint. In fact, potential customers generally seem to think most art is overpriced. I know this because I have ears.  So, how does that stigma label art in terms of the average buyer? "Pretentious and unnecessary." sad.  "Art is for rich collectors." very sad thought indeed.  The truth is, Art is for everyone and it doesn't have to cost a lot, but it should at the very least pay for the fair wage of the artist.

Being a professional artist has all the same business costs as any other business; overhead = lighting, electricity, heat, office space, computers, printers, cameras, office supplies, art supplies (which range in the thousands each year), festival fees (also ranging in the thousands), commissions to galleries and online retailers, credit card fees, website hosting fees, subscriptions, advertising, travel, taxes, yada yada yada.

I'm telling you all of this because I want you to know what it means to be a professional artist.  So hopefully the next time you see a painting, you may remember that although the cost of doing business is high, art is worth the price! Unfortunately, many artists haven't quite learned to pay themselves properly, or can't because they want to sell paintings and succeed, for cryin' out loud!  But, we can't prostitute ourselves to achieve this desired result and call it success, can we?

6x6" panels from my "Ethereal" collection.
Available on Etsy
The idea that art prices (which means literally "my salary") are always negotiable is prevalent, even understandable because most think it's a hobby, not a way to buy food and pay your mortgage. Especially at the Saturday market and festivals, where people will try to whittle you down to selling low.  That being said, I will usually negotiate a little, particularly if I'm hungry (lol). Keep that in mind.  Seriously, we really do want to sell our work, but we don't want to give it away.  I have polled my friends, who are very forthcoming about what they make on average. Would you believe that we are talking a starting wage of about $1.50 per hour for the hobbyist artist?  One friend said, "it's more like $.15 cents!  You might wonder why the heck we bother?  Well, it's because we believe in it what we do, and others may be telling us to keep it up because we have talent. Plus, it makes us feel good and stopping would mean a slow agonizing death.  For me, personally, I also have a decorative painting business, so my entire income is dependent on being paid to be creative.

Yes, I chose this career, and yes I know it's a tough one to survive in, but what would be my alternative?

What if I didn't do it? 

What if no other artist did either? (Heck, the New Yorker wouldn't even exist without its cartoonists!)


6x6" panels from my "Ethereal" collection.
Available on Etsy
Where would the world be then?  Life without art, can you imagine?  Can you really imagine that?  Advertising would be dead without art. Publications of all kinds would be dead without art. No museums, no monuments, no rich visual history, no Michelangelo? NO!!! (Rebecca, patrons went away 500 years ago! - Not true, they still exist, just in diminishing numbers and not enough to keep artists like me well fed.)

Where is a Gertrude Stein when you need one?

Imagine nothing creative in the world, just think about it.  Photographers, painters, illustrators, designers, gone.  And writers, our sisters of the underpaid? Musicians? oh boy, don't get me started!  My art education is just as important as your engineering degree.  It's just different.  Luckily, there are many artists who are compensated well, graphic designers, for example, because they are hired for their commercial art by corporations or small businesses.  The simple difference is that fine artists are self-employed.  We have to find a way in the world on our own.

Collage of 10x10" and 4x4" panels from my "Ethereal" collection.
Available on Etsy

So, the next time you are enjoying the view, even if you have no intention of buying, keep a warm fuzzy thought for me, an Artist.  Think positively about how much you enjoy all the art in your everyday life and help pass along the strong and important message that Artists deserve to be paid a fair wage - It is a REAL career.  Please support them in any way you can - your reward will be a beautiful world!

10x10" panel from my "Ethereal" collection.
Available on Etsy
Have a great day, Rebecca
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3 comments:

  1. Thank you Thank you Thank you for writing this piece. Artists in general tend to undervalue their own work.....it makes it really hard for the rest of us, who actually would like to make something...even a little.

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  2. Yes, yes, yes! Awesome post, Rebecca! Thank you for writing this. I think I need to print it out to post at my next festival.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Ladies. I'm glad you read stuff I write. I really admire both of you! LOL ;)

    ReplyDelete

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