I have joined Jeff Goin’s 7-day writing challenge because I thought it was a good time to take stock of why I paint and do what I am doing, and to improve on my writing. Day 1 was writing my manifesto, Day 2 was creating a lead magnet and mine was my free e-book, “You Are Creative”. Day 3 (today) is making a statement (more controversial the better) and picking a fight. I don’t think I have succeeded in picking a fight but this issue of the devaluing of art has been annoying me.
Something has been gnawing at me for months now. I first encountered it when I set about writing my business plan. Then, I met it again when I was approached for my first commission. I had a face-off with it when I was developing a new product for my shop. Every single time I read an article about it, it slaps me in the face.
I am talking about the shrinking figure the everyday person is willing to pay for quality artwork. I am talking about self-doubting artists who undersell themselves. I am talking about the devaluing of art.
For many artists who have been in the art scene longer than I have, this is old news. For me, this is all very new. Prior to opening my Etsy shop six weeks ago, I never really gave it much thought because I only ever painted for friends and family and I did it all for free. But now that I have to put a dollar figure against my work, I have to confront it.
I believe there are two factors at play here. The first is an external one. There is a perception that good quality art can be got for free or cheap. This could be due to knock offs and mass produced prints, which to be completely honest, look pretty good. You can now have a quick fix and freshen up your rooms with a purchase from Kmart, why spend the money on an expensive piece of art? Home improvement TV programs sing this song the loudest. You can do it yourself by splashing some paint and voila, art for your wall!
The second factor is an internal one. I believe, the bigger factor at play. With the rise of direct sales between artist and client, artists are setting their own prices instead of galleries. This is a good and bad thing. Artists have more control of their pricing than ever before with no middle man taking a huge cut. However, this also means that artists need to be well versed in the appraisal of their own work. This is where it breaks down. Many artist I know are riddled with self-doubt, me included. We question if our work is good enough. We undersell ourselves, sabotaging our success and in the long term, our art.
A fellow artist friend recently gave me a new perspective on this issue. Many would willingly part with $200 for a visit to a reputable hairdresser. The look will last at a stretch, eight weeks. $200 for a fleeting look. How much more should long lasting good quality art be valued at?
So I’m making a stand for myself and for my fellow artist friends. I will choose to value my work by not underselling myself. Will you stand with me? Will you join me in promising not to undersell yourself for your sake and the sake of the wider art community?