Saturday, May 29, 2010

Brief thoughts on giving away art

I used to be much more generous in giving away art as gifts for special occasions as well as for no particular reason... just to be nice. There is nothing wrong with doing that, but now that I have been painting for a while I find that I will often sell works that are 4+ years old. Out of the blue someone will want to buy a painting that previously no one else had shown interest in. So I am reluctant to give away work even for special occasions that could otherwise be sold and help put food on the table.

One makes a investment to be an artist - time, and certainly money. Materials cost money. At some point an artist has to try to recoup his investment or his career will be very short-lived (unless, of course, he has an alternate stream of income). I would advise my fellow struggling artists and those just starting out to be very cautious in giving away works of art. I am not saying it cannot or should not be done (sometimes it can lead to sales), but don't sell yourself short, and keep in mind that you have to recoup production costs at some point!


Anonymous said...

I understand (and agree in many ways with) what you are saying in terms of business, but what about your vocation as a priest? Your post here sounds like it came from the 'artist' side of you, what does the 'priest side' say on the subject? Just wondering because I too am an artist priest and I do feel contestation sometimes. The vocation of the artist and the vocation of the priest certainly have areas that overlap (many actually) but I'm interested in discerning the areas where they 'compete'... does that make any sense? Always enjoy your blog... pax. Fr. Shane

J. Gordon Anderson said...

Dear Father,

Gosh, they compete in so many ways... that is worthy of its own post!

I would say just briefly that some of the conflict is obviously in the area of scheduling - art and ministry are 24/7 vocations, so one must manage time very carefully... and if he has a family it is even more critical that he manage time well.

Some of the conflict is due to the inherent conservatism in the church and the perception in the church of artists as being "Andy Warhol" types (gay, liberal, whatever). It can be difficult for an artist to be pigeonholed like that, even in the "accepting" community of a church.

With me, one of the major areas of conflict is my love of traditional architecture, music, liturgy, and art, but also my love for that which is new and abstract. For example, I love the chapel at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, but it is very modern. As an artist I appreciate it in its own setting. Yet in a number of "church artist" circles modern art, architecture, etc. is routinely criticized and ridiculed, as are great artists like Picasso. I find that tiresome.

But like I said, this topic requires its own post!