The Business of Art

This is going to be an interesting post…at least to write, if not to read. I’m going to talk about a side of things that people don’t typically mention. As someone who sells anything that they create, the element of business weaves its way through what you do.

There are a lot of odd beliefs in the art world. One is this notion of the idolized mystic who hangs out in the garrett to paint or write or compose or whatever and starve. He or she must starve to be truly dedicated to their artwork. Sacrificing health and relationships is encouraged, but not exactly verbalized per se.

businessofartalicearlene.comAnd yet, I heard Ann Rae of Artists who Thrive speak recently, and she stated a statistic that $45 BILLION was spent on artwork in the US in 2015. $45,000,000,000!!! That’s a lot of zeros and a lot of money that someone is making. It would be interesting to see who was making the majority of the money, the artist? Or representatives of some sort? But, the point is, that there is money out there for art. So clearly, not everyone is starving….

As a Christian growing up in the church, there was also this sometimes not so subtly stated belief or paradigm that to be poor was to be holy. And conversely, that to be wealthy was evil. It was worldly, and we are not to be of the world.

businessofartpaintalicearlene.comTo become a Christian artist and to offer your works for sale is to set yourself up for a whole lot of cognitive dissonance. There have been many internal adventures that I’ve gone on to resolve the opposition in my own head to what it is I feel God has called me to do. To go through all of that, would be the work of many days and certainly exceeds the limits of a simple blog post.

But the one that I’ve been struggling with recently is related to the concept of honor and from there value. Again, these are huge topics, but I’m referring to them in the context of my work. I heard Shawn Bolz speak, probably at Bethel but I don’t remember the details. He spoke about creativity and art and what honor and value look like within those contexts. My take-away from what he said, was to ask myself if my prices reflected the honor and value that I have for what I do. If I do not honor my work, then I cannot expect anyone else to, that’s ridiculous.

I’ve had many convoluted discussions with myself. And, they got even more interesting when I started offering gicleés. The prices just to have them printed are a bit staggering if you’re used to paper prints. However, they are desirable for collectors and artists because of the accuracy of the colors and their longevity which far exceeds paper. They also more closely resemble an original piece as they are painted on thicker surfaces, such as canvas.

Business of Art PaintingI was excited to offer them, but I was having a hard time with their cost, especially relative to the price of an original. I ended up pricing them with very little profit margin. And the internal dialogue continued.

I really had to decide if I was in business, or not. The IRS will tell you unequivocally, that I AM in business, so it wasn’t a legal decision as much as an emotional and spiritual one. Do I have value to share through my artwork? Am I courageous enough to set a price that reflects that value? Am I honoring my work by setting an appropriate price?

If you’ve taken a look at my site today, you’ll have an indication of what I’ve decided. I raised my prices, and by quite a bit. I’ll focus on one practical reason for this, as I tried to verbalize my emotional and spiritual reasons and was not successful.

I recently came across a book that talks about how to get your work before the decision makers for corporate art purchases. This has been a dream and goal of mine for several years. I essentially become a wholesaler in that transaction. Should I offer my work to big corporations, hospitals, and such essentially for free? I don’t think so. Yet had I made any such sales at my previous price points, I would have lost money because of the costs of having the things printed.

businessofartplanalicearlene.comThat’s not a brilliant business plan by any stretch of the imagination. Or even a ministry plan, if you want to look at it like that. Which, I pray that my work does bring the Peace of God into those spaces, however, the printer isn’t going to be excited about getting paid in “Peace”. No, because they are in business. They need to make sufficient funds to pay all of their expenses and their employees, and themselves with hopefully some left over.

So, I had to reconfigure my pricing structure to accommodate these goals. And those prices jumped significantly. Considering that I’ve never raised my prices, and my work has improved significantly over the last 12 years, it was probably long over due. It would have been, perhaps, smarter to have done so a little at a time over years, but I didn’t and so I’m offering somewhat of an explanation of that here.

One of my values, though, is to have artwork accessible for most people. To that end, I’ve created necklaces with my images, and I’ll be working on having various other items with my images as well. I’m also keeping my paper prints the same prices that they were for now. I’m hoping to have photos of the necklaces up in the shop soon.

businessofartbankalicearlene.comI may not have done this correctly, but I’m at least moving in the right direction to face off against the lies of the starving artist and the poverty=holiness mindsets. I am going to embrace the business side of art and do my best to honor God and my work in all that I do. And, when I’ve figured this out a bit more, I’ll be able to support a few ministries as I’ve dreamed of doing as well.

Have you taken any bold steps in your spiritual and/or business life recently? I’d love to hear them and cheer you on! Are you in a business of some sort and are your issues around money holding you back? I’m curious to hear what they might be…

(Fair warning: I do know that this is somewhat controversial. And, you don’t have to agree with me or what I’ve done or why I’ve done it. You are free to disagree with me or anyone who comments, but you are not free to be mean or rude about it. Such posts will be deleted.)