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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

For The Love Of Art

After discussing Starving Artists earlier this week I wrote about how long it takes to write, edit, and publish a book yesterday. Short story: writing a book takes a lot of time. A novel can take years to write and often the monetary compensation isn't all that high.

How many people would work for three years if they knew the pay would be under $15,000? That's the same as working a full-time job fifty weeks a year (unpaid vacation y'know?) for three years at $2.50 an hour. Minimum wage is low, but it's still higher than that!

And so society buys into the fallacy that artists must do this out of love. Writing a book is an act of love and insanity. I agree! Unless you love the written word, story-telling, and books in general you will never be a good author. You have to love what you do enough to set aside the time to write. You have to love the story through the rough days, the rejection letters, the bad reviews. You have to create art out of love, and not the love of money.


But that doesn't mean your art should be free. 

"It's your hobby," someone once told me. "Why should I pay you to do something you love? Why should I fund your fun?"

Does that mean I don't have to pay my doctor because medicine is her passion? She loves making people better, so it's her hobby. It's something she enjoys doing. So she should work for free, yes? I'd love to use that argument on a politician! "You like being in office, Madame Senator, so we've decided not to pay you any more."

I don't believe people should be miserable when they're working. Careers shouldn't be punishments. You should be passionately engaged in whatever you do, whether it's painting the next Sistine Chapel or working as an accountant for a tiny firm in southern Nebraska. Work can and should be fun.

But the idea that work is WORK - rough, hard, back-breaking, miserable - and fun is FUN - fill in your own definition here - is so ingrained in our collective psyche that the idea of the Starving Artist makes sense. An artist is bucking the trends, going against the collective mind, rebelling against everything that makes our culture great and having fun with their work! Those cursed artists, out there expressing emotion and finding beauty in everything from dewdrops to abandoned buildings. How dare they!!!

But they must dare, mustn't they? 

There is no innovation without artists. There is no growth without dreamers. THERE IS NO CULTURE WITHOUT ART.

Look at history, how are most historical eras defined? It's not by the rulers, the accountants, or the mundane people who cling to anonymity. First and foremost we define cultures by their art, by their architecture, by their inventions... the products of dreamers every one. 

When we cease promoting artists and innovators society stagnates and decays. 

We can not let our artists starve. We can not, in good conscience, allow the Starving Artist become part of the next generation. 

If you are an artist, respect yourself and your work. If you do give it away freely, don't let it be at the expense of your health or your well-being.

If you are a consumer of the arts, do not steal art, don't pirate books, music, or other art found online. Don't deface or dismiss art. Pay when the artists asks. Encourage young or new artists. Praise and share the art of the artists you love. 

1 comment:

  1. Being a crafter, it's easier to prevent our work from being stolen but hand-made crafts are also undervalued. Although patterns can be copied and given away free as well.People who don't craft don't realize how much time goes into making an object and especially when it's a new pattern being designed. I can take a pattern from someone else and make, say a scarf is a few days. But if I'm designing my own pattern, it can take over a week figuring out how the pattern looks and wrinkling out any flaws, like curling edges. The scarf I made my husband for Christmas took 4 skeins of yarn ($5 per skein, got on sale) and about 40 hours of work. He wanted a long scarf so he could wrap it around his face a couple of times as well as tuck it under his coat. In a store, a scarf like that would have cost me about $30, maybe slightly more. Because I made it, as a hand-made item I could probably sell it for $50-60. Not much of a return on my work.

    A scarf is a relatively short term item, easily fit into a few hours every day and done in less than a week. A sweater or afghan can take months. Yet I'll have people ask me if I can make one for them for the cost of materials and maybe a bit extra for my time. If I charged for just my time, those items would cost hundreds of dollars. But I'm a nice person and when I do agree to do something for someone I don't charge minimum wage for my time. I just set what I think is a fair price over the cost of the materials so I usually end up working for pennies an hour.

    But it's my hobby, not my livelihood. At least right now it isn't. I've been thinking of doing crafts as a home-based business. Just now sure how good a market there will be since most of my sales will probably be over the Internet.