Monday, 17 June 2013


My last post wandered into some very deep areas. I had been stuck in that place for quite a long time and I hoped that by sharing my meandering thoughts someone would help me to see the situation differently. I knew I was venturing into some very personal areas, but the risk of that vulnerability seems to have paid off. Something in these two responses (from two different people) shifted things for me:

...this is a very interesting area. Your true reward is in doing the work but putting it into the world requires a price tag. I don't think there is an easy option, too cheap and people don't respect it, too expensive and people baulk at it, so you have to find a price that ultimately you feel comfortable with. The whole pricing structure of art is totally crazy anyway and I have never come to terms with it personally, my only advice is don't make it too cheap because people that are passionate about their work tend to do that.

Hm... I have a feeling you are undervaluing yourself. You're quite right about this inner battle and finding what replaces that feeling of 'wrongness.' So many people, however, have an uneasy relationship with money. It is just another form of energy and it needs to flow like any other. People are buying your artistic intention and energy. The higher value you place on this the more likely people are to see it as "something" of value (particularly people outside of your social group). It's a strange world we live in where people think money means quality but unfortunately this is the belief that a lot of people seem to have. I'd honestly be inclined to charge a bit more than the £50 to £70 you suggest. It's one thing to say you may sell more at the lower price but on the other hand you only have to sell fewer at the higher price and they'll be bought by people who really want or appreciate them.

I suddenly see what is of value here. My artistic intention and energy actually are something. I'm not sure I properly saw that before.

I'm finding it a little sticky to be getting so personal here, and yet I don't believe that this problem is confined only to me. We don't see ourselves. We don't understand our value. Our unique, human value, simply as who we are. No-one special, no-one more valuable than anyone else. Each one seriously, properly, valuable.

Perhaps this is one of the roots of blocked creativity.



  1. Monetary values mess up a lot of things, and none more so than people. Pricing is a bloody nightmare. My rule of thumb for students is to work out how much it cost to make and double it. That way you get paid for what you made plus enough to make another. The problem with this neat little formula is that it leaves some work ridiculously cheap and occasionally, with very laboursome work, ridiculously expensive.

    Put it this way. A couple of years ago I had some work in a show (12 archival inkjet prints from an edition) and decided to make them inexpensive so that people wouldn't be put off buying one or two. I liked the idea that, at a push, one of my students might be able to buy one. Anyway, I mentioned this to a friend who makes a living from selling work and she was furious. We had quite a heated discussion about it but her line was that I was taking advantage of my salary to undercut people who have no alternative than to charge 'reasonable' prices. She had a point. What's more, on the last day of the show someone came along and bought all 12 just like that. Even with that lesson I still don't know how to price work. Felix Gonzales Torres' work is given away and I love that. But even his work get's dumped in trash cans within meters of the gallery. I have images to prove it.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

  2. Interesting that you mention the trash cans, I had the very same vision, imagined seeing my cards in the gutter outside the arcade! Thanks for your comments, I value them particularly as I haven't had any insider perspectives in this discussion so far.

  3. My advice would be to always remember the relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

  4. Can you explain what you mean? If I had to use this binary, I would say that my painting is entirely intrinsically motivated, and that that's the point. This doesn't mean I don't want to share what comes out - that to me is a separate issue.

    Awareness of how easily it can become extrinsically motivated if you're looking for the approval of buyers/the art world is why I've kept away from any kind of public exposure up to now.

    But how does this relate to pricing your work?

  5. Because selling work might be thought to be an extrinsic reward that might corrupt or distort the intrinsic basis for what one does as an artist. Self Perception Theory is relevant here I think (and a bit scary too). Ultimately, if you want to feel good about the transaction then make it free if you can. Failing that, swap for something you like - honey is always good (all those hours of selfless devotion). Otherwise just apply a formula and spend as little time considering the implications as possible once you've made a decision. Either way I think it's vital not to let either success or failure in selling work influence what you do. Brain Pickings has a great post from Foster Wallace about this some while back - I think you might even have quoted a bit of it.

  6. Yes, I see what you mean. I've seen this very clearly all my life, which is why I've been so protective of what I do up to now. Now I have to face the world and hope it all holds...

    I'm not sure I would feel good about the transaction if I made my stuff free now. See how I've moved on?? :-)



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