The Starving Artist
An acrylic painting by Ronnie McInnes My Corner © 2014.
Do artists deserve to be paid and if so, how much?
Of course, as an artist, I say we should be paid. But there are some people who seemingly think that the starving artist is a better one. Personally I fail to see how an artist, who cannot afford to feed himself or herself, could afford to buy the materials to make art in the first place. True, the artist might be existing in a darker place than the full bellied one, but the best inspiration doesn't simply come from a dark place. Who's to say they weren't in a dark place before being starved anyway? The links made between high quality and hunger just don't make sense to me. It's as crazy as saying a plumber should starve in order to better their work.
I don't want to say too much about this part, because I know museum, gallery and other business owners need to make an income too. However the music industry is covered, in a way, with a licence system. In the UK, if a business wishes to play recorded music to staff or customers, they have to pay for a licence. In the words of the PPL "A PPL licence ensures that performers and record companies are fairly paid for the use of their music." Visual artists would benefit from something similiar, especially where a fee is taken at the door from visitors.
People who seem to have a sense of entitlement are an issue too. The "I should own that but not have to pay for it" kind of people. The kind of people who see something, think it's easy to create and then wonder why it costs anything at all. They fail to notice all the years of hard work, learning and spending (the artist's own) money on tools or materials that are an essential part of creating the item. Thankfully my own customers are not like that, but I have had a number of people getting in touch asking me to work for nothing or for a shout out on their personal facebook page or even on their band's CD. Will that pay my bills? No, no it won't. I'll simply say "If it's so easy, why ask me to do it for you at all?"
I wonder if the very same people go into the local Co-Op store and ask that their weekly shopping be provided to them for free or for a shout out. My guess is that they don't do that to the Co-Op. If they did, undoubtedly, the Co-Op would not entertain such a request. I choose not to work for free unless I have arranged to do so with a charity or good cause first. Art is a business not just a part of culture. How about you reader? Would you like to be told your hard work is not worth paying for (whatever your job may be)?
Assuming that, if you're still reading this, you agree that visual artists should be paid for their work, like any other business person. Then how much should they be paid? For me, that's a bit of a dilemma. Charge too much and the customer won't buy, charge too little and I won't eat. At the moment I charge something that is way below the UK National Minimum Wage, simply becuase that's what my paying customers have been comfortable with paying so far. However, if I am to continue as an artist I must charge an appropriate amount for my work. I don't know how much that is yet so I ask you. How much would you like to get paid per hour of work, before material costs? Then how much would you expect to pay for a bespoke and unique piece of work?
To give you an idea, the UK National Minumum Wage is £7.20 per hour. I currently get between £2.50 and £3.30 per hour (before material costs are deducted) for each acrylic painting I create. Would you dangle the fishing line that meets what you expect to be paid and then just wait to see if you get any bites?
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