You finally found it! Its perfect! It speaks to you, it calls your name, it works so well in your (insert space here) You must have it! Now you have to buy it. Here are some things to consider now you have found your art.
You may wonder why one piece is $300 and another is $3000. It’s not about how long it took the artist to make it, or how large it is, or how realistic it is (thought sometimes I would like to think so) but rather, what the piece is worth in the art market.
Has the artist been working for a long time and has established his or herself as a talent worthy of being carried in a couple of galleries? Do they have a reputation for pushing the boundaries of their craft? Do they teach? Have they been published? Do they have a number of collectors? Or are they just starting out, perhaps fresh out of school, still finding patrons or a gallery that will accept them?
Pricing can be tricky, but please don’t discount the agony, sweat, second guessing and talent that went into the work by asking for a bargain. The price is probably low as it is. Plus, if you are buying in a gallery, most take at least 50% commission. So that $3000 price tag means that the artist only makes $1500. But galleries do the lion’s share of the marketing to make sure you know about their fabulous artists. That gorgeous building that is the perfect setting for all of that art probably isn't cheap to rent. And if you do find the art in the artist’s studio or at an art fair, they have invested their time and money in booth fees, travel, and other expenses that are required to running a legitimate business.
So if you found your perfect work of art at an art fair or studio tour and if you’re lucky enough to meet the artist here are some “Do’s and Don’ts” when talking to the artist. Don't be intimidated to talk to them. We all love to talk about our work and with a few questions at the ready you'll be able to strike up an easy conversation.
What Not To Say
I’ve had the pleasure to meet so many people while working as a full time, dare I say, professional artist that I’ve had the spectrum of questions asked of me.
Not-So-Good Questions to Ask An Artist:
Why does your work cost so much?
My sister/cousin/friend is an artist. They could do what you do.
Is it finished? (ouch)
It looks like a photograph. (I get that one a lot. My hope is that it looks better than a photograph.)
I could find something cheaper at (insert generic home décor box store.)
How long does it take you to paint something like that?
It must be nice to be able to paint all day! (I rarely paint all day, and when I do its not usually fun. Its work!)
Now I’m not trying to sound like a bitch. But let me educate you. Many artists have invested thousands of hours of time into their craft. Our culture does not value (for the most part) fine art and does not see being an artist on the same level as say a lawyer. But that does not mean our work is any less important. We bring value to each and every person that lays eyes on our art.
The one question I get the most is how long something takes. I am guessing its because a lot of my work is very detailed and realistic. What I infer from that question is that the person isn’t sure how to relate to it or they are trying to equate it to their job where say they work forty hours a week- then how many hours would it have taken them, based on the price, for them to theoretically create it.
Good Questions to ask an Artist:
How do you decide what to make?
What inspired you to create this piece?
Is there an artist that you admire or influences your work?”
How or why did you become an artist?
Why do you work with certain mediums?
You’ll learn a lot more about their process and then perhaps understand what goes into creating the particular piece. I have some paintings that literally took me 10 minutes to create and others that took me a couple of months. But what go into all of them are my years of experience that add up to being proficient in color, execution, problem solving, and allow me to have a critical eye and know whether or not something is working just with a glance. Think of it like music. A really talented musician makes it look effortless. They hit all of the right notes, compose a killer improvised solo right on the spot without a bead of sweat on their brow. But what you don't see is that they got there through a million hours of practice, learning, trial and error, and sacrifice.
I love this little story about Pablo Picasso which sums it up quite nicely:
“Picasso was sitting in a Paris café when an admirer approached and asked if he would do a quick sketch on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed, swiftly executed the work, and handed back the napkin — but not before asking for a rather significant amount of money. The admirer was shocked: “How can you ask for so much? It took you a minute to draw this!” “No”, Picasso replied, “It took me a lifetime.”
So if you love the work, buy it and support the artist that created it and the people who brought it to your attention.
In our next installment we will discuss how to hang it once you have it home.