Friday, September 10, 2010

Getting Paid for Your Art #2

Long before most artists become professional, they have spent many years developing their craft through education, experimentation and practice.  Many have paid their dues in myriad ways when they enter the marketplace.  It can be daunting to discover that there are those who will try in different ways to either steal your work or own it without paying for it.

Before I actually sold any work, I had a few experiences where my art was stolen.  The first time was by a man my sister was living with.  When she asked him to move, he took with him the beautiful charcoal drawing I had given her as a birthday present.  The second time was when I gave my uncle, who lived in another state, a nude charcoal drawing.  When he died a few years later, the drawing disappeared from his living room wall during his funeral.

Later, at the beginning of my professional career, there were experiences where greedy people attempted to purchase my work at less than the asking price because they figured I would be hungry for exposure - which I was.  There were a few times when I made poor decisions based on my desire to have my work seen by a larger audience.

The first time was when I was asked do a painting for a local restaurant through two art "businesswomen" who knew the owner.  Had I been less naive, I would never have agreed to a transaction that involved a three-way monetary split.  With a bit more business savy, I would have approached the owner myself without a middle person - which I  now tend to do with better results.

The second time was when I sold a painting to a well-known person at a lower price than I felt the work was worth.  Again, getting more exposure was my reason for doing this.  

Perhaps the most insidious way that artists are cheated out of their work is through non-profit organizations who ask for art donations for charitable causes WITHOUT ANY OF THE PROCEEDS GOING TO THE ARTIST IF THEIR WORK SELLS!!!  Many of these organizations make it clear that the artist will "gain exposure" in various ways that will be beneficial to him or her.

Although most art auctions do give the artist a decent percentage if their work sells, more and more of them have the audacity to give no percentage.  This is unfair because of the time and expense that goes into creating just one work of art.  Fortunately, art groups are forming around the country protesting artists unfair relationships with non-profit organizations.

I know some people will get mad at me for saying this, but I think an artist's donations should be proportional to their sales.  It's only fair.  Why would you continue to donate work on a regular basis if your work is not selling?  While I believe in giving back to the community, you are only harming your future sales prospects if most of your transactions as an emerging artist have been freebies.

Only an artist can understand the struggle necessary to become an artist.  Most of us work other jobs while finding the time and space to produce work.  In addition to juggling many other responsiblities outside of our art, we feel the grind of applying for grants, art exhibitions, media exposure as well as constantly promoting our work.

Making art is a noble pursuit in which the artist is really giving back to the community when he creates his work.  Like any other fair exchange, he should at least be paid for the blood, sweat and tears of his work.