The Cost of Art

This is the lovely time of year for tabulating and organizing taxes.  For artists, it’s an honest look into the “real” cost of their endeavors.  For the outside world, the financial burden to produce “beauty” destroys the romance.  However, smart creatives need to be keenly aware of the bottom line.

More than just sum of its parts...
More than just sum of its parts…

Let’s analyze the above painting.  Costs include the wood panel, oil paints, mediums, studio space, labor, delivery, and student loans to mention a few.  By the time a gallery “possibly” sells a piece of work, an artist normally receives 50% of the sale.  BTW, the gallery earns its piece of pie because they have to recoup the price of rent, employees, electricity, and etc…

Nothing in life is free...
Nothing in life is free.

I’m shouting and screaming this: a successful artist is one that makes enough money to be able to continue making their art!  There is nothing sexy or exciting about this revelation.  Reality isn’t glamorous but hard work.  Perhaps a reread of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is needed, it’s survival of the fittest stupid (eye roll).

Got supplies?
Got supplies?

Suze Orman would like this tip: artists need their own capital to stay afloat.  Got bad credit?  Time to fix that or you’ll run into some big problems.  Because sales and rentals can’t be predicted, flexibility in credit and saving is essential.  Without a financial plan, creatives won’t survive.  Usually, any profit is put right back into the art for supplies.  Thinking of going out to dinner and having that $12 dollar glass of wine in the latest San Francisco hipster pop-up restaurant?  Think again!  That money must go right back into the business.

But why do artists continue to be delusional?

Artists have a dream, inspired by a bad romance novel, that they will be swept away and saved by a rich individual who grooms them to be famous by paying for a studio and lavishing them with endless buckets of resources.  Seriously, I’m not making this shit up (pardon my use of language and eye roll again).  This isn’t a joke or fantasy.  In fact, it seems to becoming more outrageous and elaborate as time passes.

As an educator, I sometimes feel like no matter how honest my pleas of reality are- denial, hysteria, or the student loan due date works best for some.  The true cost doesn’t include the personal sacrifices.  Being an artist is not a logical profession but a commitment one makes to their practice.  Bottom line: sometimes natural selection prevails and sometimes the “best” will only survive.

Charles Darwin: “The very essence of instinct is that it’s followed independently of reason.”

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