TITLE: Art Philanthropists
DATE: 3/27/2006 04:20:00 PM
I met an art philanthropist last Friday.
His work was a combination of Norman Rockwell’s accuracy and emotion, and Andrew Wyeth’s mystery and nuance. Both artists, not so surprisingly, inspire him.
As we sat to talk, he thumbed through a dozen or so pencil drawings: A montage of childhood portraits for a young girl who was graduating high school; a drawn family tree with portraits from a family of women; a nature scene that looks as if it were traced from a photograph.
Talent is something so few people have, and this man had talent seeping out of his fingertips.
I ask the hard question, “How much do you sell your work for?”
He looks shy and pensive and fumbles through telling me he did many of these drawings for a man who commissioned them, and after the work was done he just didn’t know what to charge. He knows he spends too much time on the work, but he enjoys it. He can’t imagine actually timing himself as he sits down to draw.
I think about that… Yes, well, art making is his equivalent of taking a bubble bath. If I were about to take a bath, I wouldn’t want to look at a clock either!
We continue talking and he lets a price slip out. He was charging $300 for deeply personal drawings that perfectly portray individual expressions, snapshots in time, and the memories people hold most dear. If a photograph can speak words, his drawings speak volumes.
Because making the work felt so fulfilling, he was not just undervaluing his work… he acted as if he were cheating the buyer by putting an appropriate price tag on his therapy and enjoyment. With each drawing, he was giving his time and talent away for pennies. He has been acting as an art philanthropist!
We talk a bit more and he finally agrees to raise his prices, taking his time into account. His work will now start at $750.
Praise is a form of recognition. When someone pays you for your work, it feels good. When they come back and ask for more, it feels even better. But… money is also recognition and it feels very good to know that your time and talents are worth part of someone’s monthly income.
By being afraid to place value on his work, he was missing the rewards he’ll need to push his talent further.
Being an art philanthropist and giving away your work is just a nice gesture. If community service is your true intention, you’d be better off to value your work appropriately, sell your pieces, and then simply give the money away. Just, please, stop giving away the work.