How Do You Value Your Art?

How Do You Value Your Art?

This week’s question for a panel of inquisitive minds:

How do you place a value (whether it be money, time, or something else) on your art/creations?

Personally, I’m dealing with valuing my art in many ways these days.  I quit my full time job of being a director of ecommerce late this summer to focus on more artistic endeavors.  Since then I’ve had to find ways to make my art valuable to others commercially including figuring out how to price it so that I feel well compensated and that the customer doesn’t feel ripped off (for music, lessons, coaching, consulting).  For many of them this has involved doing a little research of the market and pricing myself in the mid-range since I have expertise, but not 30 years of experience.  Then there’s valuing the art I do that isn’t commercially viable.  How do I value making time for this in my schedule?  It’s all a very complicated equation that is constantly being re-evaluated in my head.  I find myself often writing down in a notebook all the projects I have going on and assessing their financial and personal enjoyment value then resetting my priorities for the week.

One of the more interesting projects I’m doing currently, from a value setting perspective, is my 50 songs project.  The 50 Project is an undertaking of writing 50 songs in 52 weeks under my solo instrumental moniker The Champion of What If that I started about a month and a half ago.  I’m attempting to release my music for free listening and download and funding the project primarily through patronage on Patreon and tips and donations on my website and elsewhere.  To make money through these means I need to make a connection with my listeners and have them get involved in my story and journey.  Not coincidentally, the handful of ongoing patrons so far are all people I knew before the project began.  I have not been able to get a stranger to buy in to my story enough to have them take the leap and join the support.  I do have strangers that are listening and downloading many of the songs, but they’re not engaged enough yet to support the project.  In one aspect I’m connecting with them and sharing my art which is great.  On the other hand I like the idea of this business model and would like to have it succeed financially.  So the next step for me is breaking down barriers with strangers and figuring out how to make them value their relationship with me and my music enough to sign up as patrons so I can continue to spend more of my valuable time making the music for this project rather than some other project that doesn’t have as much personal enjoyment value.  Sounds like every artist’s dilemma right?  Have any of you had experience with this type of patronage model?

Matt Hanna
Musician/Composer/Teacher/Ecommerce Strategy Consultant/Personal Coach/Lover of Thinking and Learning
Boston, MA

Value is hard to define – art is created by some to make creativity accessible, while others view it as income generator, and simply some create and make to unwind, get away from the TV, or share a little piece of personal insight in an innovative medium. As an amateur photographer and ceramics maker, I view value in relation to making creativity accessible, hoping to spark interest and empower others to explore new mediums of expression. All my photographs are accessible for free – if someone wants to create a print, they’re welcome to my digital file. As more my ceramics… Yeah, I’ll spend over 10 hours on one piece and give it away to a stranger, why not? Value for me is measured by accessibility of creativity (which happens to be free in my books!). Tapping into art for me is a stress-relief, a way to mix my thoughts and let loose – for others, it could innovate their mind to all sorts of possibilities. So why not value that as well and share (mi casa es tu casa, anyone?). Though, I do understand that making is expensive, and a money value is a necessity for most. My thoughts on consumerism? With that, value art and creation the way you’d buy it if it wasn’t yours.

Kendra Moroz
“Human in progress”

Business-wise, placing a monetary value on a digital or silver gelatin piece has a base formula. I have certain prices depending on the size, format, and limited total created in the series of the work, that don’t change. On top of the base price for a piece I add framing costs, transportation costs, and the commission to the gallery.
For instance, I have a silver based photograph. I keep the limit to 5 finals that will be sold(this also includes my copy)…in this case let’s say 11″ x 11″…hand-printed in my darkroom by me. The frame will then be 16″ square with a professionally cut double mat presented ready for hanging. The gallery is in Boston and the framed piece is sent via a protected post. The commission of the gallery is 40%.
$400 – 11″ square archival fiber-base silver gelatin print 1/5
$60 – 16″ square mat and frame
$75 – Packing and sending cost
$535 – Total before commission
$875 – Rounded price asked at the gallery to achieve $535

One-off pieces are a different matter with the core monetary value determined more from my heart than a formula. For instance, if I’ve created a one-off 19th century process carbon print on special paper from a shoot using a 20″x 24″ camera of a subject that I’ve studied for some time…the process is time-consuming, the materials are expensive, and my emotional investment is high. Any monetary determination comes down to not really thinking about this area of work as anything other than art creation…in other words, there’s no rhyme or reason. I put new flat work on my work wall where I stare at it, sometimes for weeks. If it is an object, then it goes onto my desk where I basically pick it up, hold it, experience it, and see what happens. I have very mixed feelings about selling one-off’s…spiritually, I don’t like to sell them.

Chuck Baker

The value I place on my creations is if I actually completed a thing or not. Did I believe in it, did I learn from it, and can I confidently stamp my name on it? Each project completed is like another brick in the wall of your reputation. We seem to respect and value artists who finish projects more than ones who have tons of good ideas left alone in a notebook.

Drew Gneiser
Social Media Specialist at Feed My Starving Children
Social Media Strategist at CreativeMornings/Minneapolis

Art is an addiction to me, like smoking is to chain smoker. There is always a time to sneak in a moment to create art, letting go and selling it can be the hardest part of it. I usually do my work drawing on my iPad due to the fact that the cost of materials can be too much on my wallet, and I want to get something across without having to wait until I have all the materials.

When it comes to placing a value (money wise), I had asked a gallery owner earlier this year, and he told me, we as artists want to place a large amount of value in it, due to how much we put into it. The reality is the value is in who the artist is, where you place your work, and how much as an artist you make yourself into a brand name. When you place your work in a gallery where the pricing is a certain way, then your work should reflect that pricing structure. You have to work on a reason why your art stands out and is worth more than that, and when you do, move it to another area. Like with anything you do, you have to work on it, and grow, then adjust to do more.

Paula B.

I can see two ways to interpret the question: how is value invested in the creation of the work, or how is value seen to be represented by the work. What I find interesting is the historical relationship of money to art in both of these respects. Money is often viewed as corrosive to the avowed spirit of artistic creation. Wealthy patronage of the arts, for example, shackles the artist—whether implicitly or explicitly—to a class system, just as government patronage comes freighted with political expectations. On the other end, I feel like we tend to denigrate the production of creative people who do not bother to pretend they aren’t working in a commercial industry, that they aren’t selling something. The job of an illustrator, for instance, is objectively different than that of a painter creating work for a gallery, but there’s trouble when that difference winds up expressed as a value judgment. Both maintain relationships with money: one creates a ridiculous number of iterations of a piece all reasonably priced, while the other creates something one-of-a-kind with, often, an unreasonable price.

Briefly, the evolutionary perspective on the value of art: there is reason to believe that artistic behavior serves an evolutionary end, speaks to the “fitness” of the artist. Interestingly, it’s the same argument for why some birds have cumbersome, disproportionate tails, why gazelles will sometimes jump in the midst of being chased by a lion, and why people do drugs. The theory is that the only way to publicize one’s genetic fitness without the opportunity to lie is to undertake a display that punishes lying. Only the fittest can afford traits or behaviors that are actually detrimental. Thus, in art, you put time and resources toward something entirely pointless (to biology). If you were barely scraping by you would hardly be expected to turn around, purchase canvas and oil paints and create a masterpiece. Similarly for those who purchase art: their message being that they can afford to dispose of resources on something utterly impractical.

Ultimately it’s worth mentioning that I have not lately felt the genetic security of “wasting” resources on my art. Too much have been the demands of food, shelter, etc. Instead I have invested much of my creative instincts into teaching art to kids, so that someday they might make something better than I could afford to make right now. In the form of these little minds, I place enormous value on my art.

Colin Glanovsky
Art Educator

What do you think? How do you place value on art? Share your thoughts below.

Photo by Matt Hanna