One of the biggest complaints artists have about some of the patrons at art shows is the one comment we hear constantly, and often rudely; "How can you charge so much for that?" Or my personal favorite from one man, heard loudly grumbling the same sentence through the entire venue; "Who do these artists think they ARE, charging these prices?"
Who am I? Well, I am not "just an artist". I think some people have this perception that artists are sitting at home doing something fun and not really working so they should be putting lower prices on their art. I am an average joe, but I am also the sole owner and operator of a small business. Of course I love what I do, or I wouldn't do it, but it is still a job and requires hard work.
So for those who were wondering (or grumbling )... when you buy an original work of art, here's a small sampling of what it pays for:
- My wage for the artwork itself. If it takes me 4 weeks to complete a piece, then the price reflects what I would expect to earn at any other job with a moderate wage in a month. Compare that to your own monthly salary...
- My expenses in creating the artwork. This includes all materials used in the creation of the artwork itself, camera gear for reference photography, framing and shipping fees ( for the materials)
- My show/exhibition expenses. Includes, but not limited to; membership fees, booth fees, shipping fees, gas, hotel charges, meal expenses, parking, all banking fees related to processing credit/debit transactions, and vendor permits.
- The materials for my booth display - lighting, backdrops (usually custom), tents, tables, chairs, rugs, fabric, easels, labels, hardware, tools
- Commissions. This is all the money the show/gallery gets - anywhere from 20-50% of my total sales. Keep this in mind when pondering my first point about wage. If a show is taking 40% of my wage, I may have to increase the price of the art by 40% to make sure I get paid.
- Promotional materials - professional photography (required for juried shows - at least a hundred bucks an artwork), brochures, business cards, website hosting fees, signage, any renovations to my home in order to house a studio/gallery , also includes donations of artworks to fundraising events.
- Advertising. Social media ads, magazine ads (huge $$$), ads in other publications
- Banking/Accounting/Taxes. Small business fees are ridiculous. I don't think I need to say more....also the fee for the accountant when dropping off a giant box of receipts for them at tax time and whatever I have to pay the government if I actually sell anything.
- Transportation. Investment in large storage vehicles to haul booth display, equipment and artwork to shows, plus all the expenses that come with owning said huge gas guzzling machine.
- Time. The years spent in classes/workshops/schools honing and developing my skill, the 5 to 10 years it took to grow the business without earning a penny, the countless hours spent working on artworks and the business even when working other jobs and still trying to maintain a home and, with luck, a relationship. The endless days and nights and stolen moments spent doing accounting, building a website, building a social media following, writing articles and/or blogs to promote myself, making labels, editing photos, travelling to shipping outlets, galleries, framers, photographers and other business related places and countless weekends away from family and friends to attend shows/exhibitions.
- Cultural, emotional and monetary value for you. Historians studying past cultures use several ways to come up with a theory of how a particular civilization existed. Written text, archaeological evidence, stories passed down through generations, and the artwork of that time are often indicators. Artists have, over thousands of years, provided a lasting record of events, beliefs, sights, and emotions. We continue to do so and the work you buy has cultural significance as a result. As well, when you buy an original piece of art, you are not just buying any old object like a shoe. Granted, one could argue, a shoe has a purpose - I need it to protect my foot. But once that shoe is worn out and tossed, there is nothing left - no personal connection at all. The opposite is true of original art. Before you buy a piece there is an emotional connection to it - maybe you have been to that location and had a great time there, or you love elephants, or that bike looks like one you owned as a kid etc. Some people find emotion in simply connecting with the artist themselves and consider the work made by that persons hands a token of that connection. Hard to put a price on that. In any case, an original work of art has something that many costly items do not - lasting value. As a society we spend millions on extracurricular vehicles, electronics, computers, clothing etc. - none of which will be there when you have grandchildren. Original art increases in value over time, and especially so if the artist is successful in their career. It can be a lucrative investment if you are a collector, or simply a treasure that you wish to pass down to someone in your will.
Not everyone is in a position to be able to afford an original work of fine art, but please know that artists are not offended by that! In fact, we welcome those who want to just look at our work - we are proud of what we have done and want to show it off! We LOVE, and feed off of, your favorable comments - it boosts our confidence and keeps us motivated!! We love talking to you about anything, even if it isn't art!
So, next time you are at an art show, take a moment to appreciate all of the time, money and emotion that went into that artists work. Perhaps one day you will be the proud owner of an original and your love of the piece will be only be heightened by the awareness of the sacrifices that went into its creation.