The Life of an Artist
Please follow this link in the first row to read an interesting debate on compensation or lack of it for artists... It has inspired me to write this blog post...
For many years I worked as a full time painter. I took an unexpected break from painting when I launched a line of Artisan Perfumes, but never intended to not paint, or stop painting, it just happened and life went on. Now that I am painting again I find myself in an interesting situation. I could put my nose to the grindstone and pump out a body of consistent work to show to galleries and go back to the gallery system, or I can do as I have been this past year or so and represent myself and sell my own work. When I think of all the work I have sold I can say with all honesty that I have no idea where most of it is now. I have no idea if it has been resold, placed in a dusty attic, lost, stolen or given away.... What I do know is that this work and my Artisan Perfume line are my only means of income. This work supports me. Buys food, pays for gas in the car, pet food, pet care, clothing, household expenses and whatever else comes up. It also covers business insurance, taxes, studio rental, internet access and all the expense of that, as well as general supplies and all of the things that one needs to sustain a business.
So often in the art world people will look at your work and tell you how wonderful it is, how much they would love to have it, but never buy it or even offer to buy it. Not that they can't afford it as many folks will pay a piece off over months because they really want it in their home or space. There is a strangeness there that I have never really understood. I have clients who will spend more on my perfumes than many of my paintings are listed for, and not think a thing about it. They don't haggle over the price, they just place their order and life goes on. With art people always feel they deserve a deal. Galleries accommodate this way of thinking as well, always knocking something off the price to make a sale. This is so prevalent in the art world that artists and galleries increase the price of the work to offset the discounts they will ultimately give to the buyers. This is not always true, some folks will pay your price without asking. But more often than not an art sale is reduced to a flea market like environment. Why should something as interesting and unique as original art be reduced to such ugliness. It ruins it for all of us.
I love when people buy my work, because it is such a wonderful feeling having original art on your walls. I have original art on my own walls. Art from artists I know and don't know. Art that I love to look at. Some of my own art is on my walls as well. I live with art, I have lived with art my entire adult life. If I see a painting that I can afford and I really want it, I buy it no questions asked, no haggle..
The internet has opened up a whole new world for artists who are willing to do the work to get the art out to the people and maintain it on a day to day basis. Over the past six month I have been doing this for my own work, trying to find the best places. Juried sites, popular sites and sites with good reputations. I have sold a few pieces online and would love to sell more, particularly through my own websites. As with galleries most of these sites have a commission rate that ranges from 30% to 50%.. Very much in line with a traditional gallery, and perhaps with the same success rate. I was in a conversation with another artist recently who told me about the work of yet another artist who had an exclusive contract with a gallery in the city. The gallery only sold a handful or less of this artists work in a years time. At the prices of the work minus the hefty gallery percentage, this artist was giving an exclusive contract to a gallery who only made them around three to five thousand dollars pr year. Nobody can live on that. To survive on this kind of money an artist would have to have contracts with at least eight galleries to make ends meet, and gallery contracts are not easy to maintain. You have to be very productive to supply that many galleries. But to some artists, this doesn't matter, there is still the status, it is more important to be able to say I have an exclusive with so and so than it is to actually survive as a human being. Galleries really don't care about the dignity of artists. or I should say not many do. I know for myself if a gallery had my work tied up within say a 100 mile or even 50 mile region where I could not sell it, and they were also not selling it, something would have to give.
Being self employed means that I am the one responsible for everything. For me to remain successful I must make money. For me to continue what I do, I must sell my work. Whether it is custom perfume or art, I have to make money to stay in business. The majority of people understand this, but there are always a few who don't.
Someone was in my studio last Saturday going on and on about my work. I said if you like it buy it. This is how I feel about it these days. If you like my work buy it. When you buy it you are not only supporting me but my family. You are supporting a hard worker, someone who never gives up or gives in. You are supporting honesty, integrity and determination. You are supporting love and passion and joy. You are supporting the very best of who I am. Because when I am creating I am in a perfect place and that energy is passed on through my work. and like most artists I don't care about all of the time spent, the vacations lost or the days off that never come around. I just want to do good work.
So as I come to the end of this post I will leave it here. I have come along way since my early days in this business and I have learned a lot. So yes it is the way I really feel, if you like my art, buy it. It's that simple...