Not only am I a working artist, but I also work in a small local art gallery, so I’ve pretty much heard every excuse for people not buying fine art or handmade goods. “I love this, but it’s just a bit more than I’m willing to spend,” or “Oh… I thought it wasn’t going to be so expensive,” or (we all know this one), “Well I could do that.” I even heard someone say that I put the decimal in the wrong place, as in instead of a $500 painting it should be $50. And I get it—well not that last one, that guy was just a dick—art has been a luxury for centuries and is still considered one today.
You’re not wrong. Contemporary art can be a luxury that only a small percentage can afford, but nowadays that’s often not the case. Even if a piece of work seems beyond your means right now, it can still be worth the investment. So in today’s blog post, I’m going to attempt to convince people why art is something you should invest in, why the number on the price tag might seem a bit high, and the positive results of owning artwork you love.
I’ve often struggled with my career choice as it’s made me wonder, what’s the point? I’m just adding to the problem that is capitalism and I’m not physically doing anything to help better the world. It took a while to come to the realization that art, in it’s own way, does help better the world.
I’m going to state here that I don’t believe everyone should invest in art, especially if it means not having enough money for groceries. The costs of living should always come first. But if you’re of the means where owning a computer and a tablet is the norm, I think it’s safe to say you can afford art. Moving on…
I’ve been trying to write this piece for several weeks now, but I’ve been pushing it off because I’m afraid of offending people or seeming like I’m calling out specific readers (which I’m definitely not). After a week of listening to inspirational art podcasts (I’m working on an art podcast post so you can listen, too!) I’ve decided that the truth needs to come out, even if it seems harsh, because otherwise these feelings just keep bubbling in the stomachs of all artists, becoming more volatile every day. Let’s face it, artists venting to each other is not going to solve anything, we need to bring these private conversations to the surface.
There’s this thing that happens as you’re an artist getting older, stepping into the “professional” world. You grow up painting and drawing, getting commissions from family friends right and left for custom artwork; this generally lasts through high school, as well. But then you graduate, and you try to start making a living off of your art, and suddenly your art isn’t worth the money to buy it.
It’s universally understood that art is meant to be appreciated, but what about the artists creating the pieces you enjoy? The idea of the “starving artist” is so ingrained in our culture that we’re caught off guard when the price of something is greater than what we expect to pay for it. It’s unconsciously believed that artists create art only because it’s what they love doing. This is true, why else would we continue making art while struggling to come up with the money for the electricity bill? Why would we go through the constant financial stress if we didn’t love it? But here’s the catch: if artists can’t make a living from their art, they can’t continue making it.
As much as we love knowing our work has made an impression, appreciation can’t feed us or keep us working. So I’m asking you to consider this: if you like what you see, find a way to show the artist, even if it’s just buying a $20 print or a $3 sticker. Do you like supporting local businesses? Consider artists as small business owners, because that’s exactly what they are! And like a small business, we need income to stay in business. For professionals, art isn’t something we do when we get home from work, creating is our work. This is also why the majority of artists give themselves an hourly wage instead of pricing work on it’s perceived value, because time is money! A small painting that had 15 hours of work to it is going to be more valuable than a painting twice the size but which only had 7 hours of work put into it.
“I really love your work. If only I had the money to buy art,” while frustrating is better than hearing someone turn down your work because they don’t believe it’s worth the price. “Ohh…I thought it was going to be less expensive,” in all honestly makes me want to end business with that client because it shows disrespect and a lack of understanding (especially considering many artists, especially “up and coming” ones, severely underprice their work as it is).
It’s also interesting to consider that many feel art is a luxury beyond reach, but expensive gadgets are commonplace; the fact of the matter is, the minute you buy something like electronics it’s value decreases. The opposite is true with art. Not only does art last lifetimes, but it only increases in value over time. I know people aren’t going to stop buying consumer goods and start buying art instead, that’s not even the case with artists. We all like our iPads and gaming consoles and smartphones, but I truly believe that art—in the long run—is more valuable than these fleeting things.
So that’s the purpose of this post, to help appreciators of art to understand just what goes into it and why the price tag is worth it. Of course we artists love knowing our work has made an impression or is appreciated, but at the then of the day it just won’t pay the bills. Consider this: not only do the artists have to buy the materials to create, but they need to pay the bills to keep the lights on and the water running, buy the promotional materials (business cards, for example), but they also need to make a profit from their work just to continue living, let alone to continue creating art.
In today’s world especially, art is not exclusive to the rich or the educated. You don’t need to have a knowledge of art and art history to become a collector, all you need to know about art is how it makes you feel, why you are drawn to it or just the fact that it stirs something in you. Contemporary artists go to great lengths to see that their work is affordable to the general public in many ways: prints, t-shirts, postcards, pins, patches. While these things are inexpensive and small, the sale of them absolutely helps support the artist (otherwise we wouldn’t offer those things).
All I ask is that the next time you’re admiring the latest work of your favorite artists, you take the time to consider the time and energy that went into that thing. Sometimes, if you show you’re appreciation to the artist and their work, they might even consider giving you a discount or a deal just for being a dedicated fan. If you’re confused about the price of a piece, you can ask the artist why it is what it is; as long as you’re polite and not accusing the artist of overpricing, they’ll probably be appreciative that someone has taken an interest in the process of their work and not just the finished product.
Thanks for making it this far! I hope this hasn’t come off as accusatory and I hope it has helped bring about a bit more understanding. My next blog post is going to add onto these ideas; I will discuss why art is essential, why it moves us, and the benefits of not only viewing artwork, but of owning it. What are your thoughts? As buyers? As artists? I’d love to hear anything you have to add, until next time!