Paying for art

Recently I’ve been discussing monetary value of things. I was discussing how we price art but I think there is a wider issue about how people value art in general.

I am what some term as an amateur artist, I make art in my spare time. I don’t have to spend a lot of my time marketing my work to make sure I sell it to keep body and soul together. Many artists do. I exhibit my work and do commissions. I normally charge a small amount for these since if I charged a living wage for them (currently £7.85 in the UK) no one would buy one. For instance an A4 single colour drawing takes about 24 hours (spread over a couple of weeks) to do, so that is about £190. One of the A2 ones is anything from a month to 6 months.

Many artists have faced this issue how much do you charge for your work. I think very few of them charge a living wage for them, and like me are afraid that if they did no one would buy it. So we undervalue what we create often or just give it away.

One of the artists I greatly admire Amanda Palmer has talked about this a lot, yesterday she announced on Facebook that she had started a Patreon page

It works like this:
The artist puts together a package like Kickstarter, but the sponsorship is per item over the long term. Since yesterday 1,496 patrons are willing to give her $13,507.19 per thing. Which is pretty amazing. You can also put a cap on your sponsorship. So for instance I’ve set it at $3 per item to a max of $15 per month. Which means I control how much cash I pay out and the beauty of it is that I still get the material. There is no guarantee but also no money will be taken if she never creates another thing. And I trust her.

I think it is a pretty liberating thing to do. So every time she creates a piece of art we get it. The artist is free to create and do their magic and knows that at the end of it they will get a sum of money which will allow them to pay for their electric or phone bills, staff, food, etc. Does it sound familiar? It should it is how doing a job and being paid a salary works. You agree with your company to do work they pay you a sum of money for it.

Most artists don’t work like that. Most struggle day to day from commission to commission. Many have to have a paid job as well to keep themselves going while they create their art. Isn’t it time we recognised Artist as a legitimate job just like school teacher or administrator.

This way when Amanda creates a thing, she can push it straight out to the fans and won’t have to spend all her time pushing it out into the public domain, so she can create more art for more people.

I’ve read a few comments on people being negative about this approach but who said artists (whatever their art) have to live on the poverty line and live in a garret. Why shouldn’t they be paid enough money to live a decent life.

Since I last checked her page is now 1,527 patrons $13,680.19 per thing. I for one am very happy for her.

I wonder how it would work for an unknown, for instance what would happen if I did it? I wouldn’t expect anyone to give anything like this to me. But could I be paid a sum of money to create art to legitimise (if I need to) what I do? To give myself hope that my art is worth something? On the other hand do I care? I’d still do it without the payment.

What do you think?

Have a look at the other Patreon stories.




3 thoughts on “Paying for art

  1. kzzinsky

    This is a subject that I’ve thought about on and off in the last year as I have been casting around for ideas for what to do in the future. A good example of my thinking was back when I was knitting last year. I knitted simply because I wanted to create things, and also in the end because I wanted to give them to a homeless charity as Christmas presents for people. Now, each scarf cost me between £9 and £15 in wool, and because of the way I knitted them, took me three hours. Quality aside, (and I also know that because of the way I knitted them the wool would stretch quite a bit), the basic material and time made the cost of each scarf between £31.55 and £38.55 – assuming the living wage as a unit. NO-ONE is going to pay that for what they were – they were NICE, but you can probably get the same thing from China for half the price.

    The same I feel applies to art – the people who care, and want to support you, will pay for your creations. However, until you can get to a point where either your paintings or music can be mass produced and sold on scale, or you’re so damned good that people will pay a fortune for individual pieces, it’s never going to be an industry that will comfortably reward talented people.

    Not that I class myself as talented, but if I wanted a career in writing, the same applies sadly.

  2. awedjob

    If you had a Patreon page, I’d support you. Based solely on the art in your post above. I like it. I’d like to see more. I’m willing to give you some money to see that happen.


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