Thursday, September 3, 2009

Value. Gotta Get Paid...

My friend, Brenda Carrasco, invited me to speak to artist during a class she was teaching at the Fresno Arts Council. We were discussing the "business" challenges facing the proverbial starving artist. Essentially, the recurring theme was: why won't people pay me?

I know artists suffer from Kincade-aphobia (the fear of becoming a "painter of crap"). But there is a happy medium. More than the worry of Kinkadeism, is the difficulty of communicating the value of art. This is true for several types of media. People almost seem to approach it as if they are doing the artist a favor. The artist would be lucky to have their artwork in the "art lovers" home. Afterall, the art lover is very influencial and can help expose this artist to other like-minded cheap bastards who want to help "promote" the artist.

Maybe I can visit my accountant and have him do my taxes for free...well, it's not really free, because I will promote the hell out of his ability to make my forms look good.

A local photographer, Raffi Mouradian, shared this video with me after the workshop ended. I thought it communicated the point very well.

Artists: Know your value and how to communicate it...don't assume people will "get it"...they won't...they are dumb.
Patrons: If you like something, BUY it...


  1. Great video! Although, I did make me feel a little like I was being cornered at a family reunion by the crazy/angry uncle.

    In patent work we deal with a subset of this idea. A patent is technically only worth the paper it is written on until someone sees a value in it. And, it's difficult to put a tangible price on "value". Same thought goes for an artist. So they spend $20 on supplies, well, why won't they sell it to me for $20? That's all it is physically worth, right?

    Our society has a very consumerist attitude. We want to get the most out of our dollars and value seems to take a back seat. Like Mr Ellison, artist need to demand that they are compensated accordingly and hopefully consumers will take heed.

    Or maybe, they just need to make their art "glow"...

  2. Personally, I don't mind paying money for art, but I don't like paying anything extra for prints. If I see a print selling for more than 10-20 dollars, I think it's a rip off.

  3. Great comments, Amanda and Anonymous. I would agree with both of you that the term "value" is very subjective.

    Anon, your position on "prints" is justified. Art should be accessible on some level without the artist compromising. But a print (a poster) priced too high, it a bit pretentious. The only place I would disagree is in the area of hand-pulled screen prints. I happen to be a big fan to George Rodrigue and see his prints as being valuable. But I ascribe the value.

    The market ALWAYS has the last word on value. Like Amanda said, a patent is only worth the paper it's printed on...unless a "buyer" thinks/behaves otherwise.

  4. Harlan Ellison is wonderful and I love this video.

    And while this conversation seems to be focused on visual (and language arts), I think it is appropriate for performing arts as well, especially for musicians. It seems like a lot of venues/promoters don't see the value in live music (at least not enough to pay up). And many musicians, myself included, just feel lucky to have a place to play and an audience willing to show up, so we're willing to forgo formal payment. So while you'd love to be Ellison (getting paid to piss), you might end up with zero opportunity. So I am the amateur that's fucking it up for the pros, I guess.