If you ever needed a crude sketch of a demon happy to be holding money, you got it….
I secured my first commission last week which was just brilliant. In excitement, I worked day and night on the piece and it was an absolute joy and privilege. It also brought with it the excruciating (well, for me) discussions of money and value.
Perhaps it is because I am English and that the awkwardness of money is part of my identity, or perhaps it is because it is so hard for me to believe in myself.
When I was approached by the individual and had to come up with a price, I suddenly seemed to develop some incredible, fast-acting virus. My pulse quickened, my palms were clammy, I lost the power of speech… What was I worth? Shouldn’t I just be thankful people were asking me to do something for them and give them my valuable time for free? Yeah, because civil engineers are constantly popping up a free building here and there… Those charitable surgeons are just waiting to for someone to have a myocardial infarction so they can negotiate a good price on the cut.
So I asked my Husband. He seems to be the wisest person I know. He also makes music, so he ‘gets’ how difficult it is valuing your time and creativity. He is tattooed (not in that ridiculous hipster way, but more of your old fashioned salty sea dog way). He said to me ‘When I go for a tattoo, they charge £50 an hour. Value what you do. If you don’t, no-one will’. What he said really resonated with me. There are some awesome tattoo artists out there, by the way, so no sleight on them at all. But why are people so unwilling to pay for art they love? I know that at the moment, it’s hard to put food on the table so I’m not talking about art being seen as a ‘necessity’. It remains a luxury for a lot of people and I completely get that. I am talking more about it’s value in relation to ‘other’ luxuries. People will pay obscene amounts for shoes and handbags, even tattoos, but art? Hmmm…
The commission also raised another interesting point. I asked the lady how she felt approaching me about prices and we talked about how awkward that conversation is and she said something that made me smile and totally hit the nail on the head. She said ‘Well, it’s ‘Art’ isn’t it?’ We both laughed. I get it! I have totally felt this way too. I would be so reluctant to approach someone myself as you don’t know what the ballpark is, you’re afraid of looking a fool, of not ‘getting it’. So from now on I am going to ask and if I can’t afford it, I am going to say so.
To anyone thinking of requesting an artist undertake a commission, please just ASK!