Thursday, April 3, 2014

Foxfire Daily: Art as a Business

A friend and I were recently having a (slightly) heated discussion about to sell or not to sell art. It got me thinking...

He made a simply stunning butterfly-wing rose trellis, which I spotted pictures of on his Facebook, and then he made a comment that he has a problem with charging people for his art. "It's a moral dilemma," he said. "...the Greek word for art is tekne. The Greeks never separated art from technology, so as I see it, whether I'm machining, welding, wood working, fitting pipe or otherwise, as long as I put love in it, it is art. The things that I make at home, I make out of love and share with love. If you want me to post pictures fine. But I don't like selling art."

I love his perspective. I love his attitude about it. He's right! We shouldn't (have to) charge money for our art... but this is the world we live in. It is unfortunate. It's a hateful thing. If I could, I'd give away every piece I make. But I can't afford that. I have to buy materials. I have my family to think of. I'm slowly building a reputation as an artist, both in the artistic community and with those who enjoy our art from the other side, customers and fans. And I respect other artists, who *need* the money their art brings them, enough to support the idea that artists should be paid for their art.

We deserve it.

Now, I have to say this... I do *not* disagree with his viewpoint, nor is this an attempt to rant or argue in response to his opinion, but as I said, it got me thinking.  And we all know, when something gets me thinking, I have to write it down. And I love finding out what other people think. I think there are a lot of things we don't think about when deciding whether or not to sell our art.

Namely, that there are other things to consider as an artist besides having a fundamental personal issue with selling art, or even whether our art is only supporting ourselves. I make gifts for Christmas or birthdays, or because I think someone needed a pick-me-up; I have donated to giveaways. I even donated to a friend's church's charity silent auction. However, on a day-to-day basis, there's also the artist/artisan/crafter community at large to think of. Gifting to friends and family is one thing. If you give away art as a rule, then someone who might have given money to another artist will come to you instead, and that other artist may have needed that purchase to pay rent, or buy food, or... well, you get the idea.

And, there are certain fundamental rules to follow as an artist. Some are more important than others.

My #1: Always document your work. The reason? It's *your* work.
::Use the pictures to mark your progress, improve on old mistakes, and discover how to make new mistakes work for you. I have kept every sketchbook I've ever doodled in. I go back and look through them sometimes, just to see how far I've gotten. It's one way I encourage myself to keep improving.
::If you ever get commissioned, you're going to want examples of your work to show your customer.
::If you ever get employment as an artist, you need a portfolio.
::And God forbid anyone should ever steal your work. But someone else claiming your work as their own and/or making money off your work, (whether you do or not) without your permission, is illegal, immoral, and just plain hurtful to us artists. Always, always, always have dated & signed/logo-ed/watermarked pictures of your work. Always.

If you do or don't sell your art, remember that you are a representative of thousands and thousands of other artists across the globe. Many of them make a living off their art. Many of them have a day job and use the money from selling to put back into their art - materials, tools, etc. Some few are successful enough to be able to quit that day job and pour every waking minute into what they do. Many of them trade on a well-earned reputation as much as, if not more than, how attractive their art is to their customer base.

A lot of people don't think art should be a paid occupation. There is this societal stigma that we're lazy, that we're superfluous and even shallow for thinking we deserve payment for making someone's life prettier. A lot of people see artists as stuck-up hippie/hipster/high-society pricks. (Let's be honest; some of us are. Many of us are not) A lot of people don't understand how much work it is, being an artist. We put blood, sweat, and tears into our work. We put love and sorrow, grief and joy into our work. Heart and soul are etched and soaked and carved and painted and melted into every line of our work. Our works are like our children... beloved, worried over, sometimes wayward, but always make us proud when they go out into the world.

We deserve it, as much as the power line worker or forester or construction worker or farmer or any one of a thousand other professions that keep our lives liveable. Yeah, so we're not necessary for survival or even for you, as a customer, to be successful at your life... but we make things prettier, brighter, and what is so wrong with knowing what our hearts and souls are worth when plastered on your wall, or worn around your neck, or adorning your yard?

Live, Love, and Make Art
-your Artful White Fox.