What You Pay for When You Buy Art

People often question the price of original pieces of art. Even for young artist’s such as myself, who barely charge more than the cost of materials, I often here “would you take $x instead”. I think many people do not understand what they are paying for when buying an original piece of art, so I am going to break it down for those who may not know.

Materials, have you ever gone into an art store to buy supplies to build a painting? My easel cost $300, some of my paint brushed are $30 and my canvas can cost up to $200. Now, with all my various oil, acrylic and watercolor paints, my whole set up has cost me around $3000. Ouch!

Time, now that is an important point. I have discussed in great length with various artists whether to keep track of my time and charge for that. The answer I have heard: No. When you have spent a decade painting, spent thousands of dollars in art school, travelled and experienced things in ways others haven’t, THAT is what people are paying for. It doesn’t matter if it took you twenty minutes to paint an image, the reality is that you have had to go through your life in a very special way and all those experiences have led up to that image. This is a very beautiful and spiritual way of thinking about art and the artist. So when people only charge for their time, they are undermining themselves. All the hours spent thinking about a theme, feeling, experience are not added up. I have spent three or four weeks on an idea, drawing sketches and thinking about color, just before I begin a painting. Or, I have a vision, a flash of inspiration and I start and finish the painting in one night, are the two comparable on price? I think so because the value is the same for any piece that elicits emotions. Moreover, that vision happened because of all those life experiences and it is possible that unconsciously you are working on that vision for a long time before it awakens. Or as the mystics believe, God has given you this gift and those visions are what she wants you to show the world.

Experience, of the time to get to a location or place. As a plein air artist I travel wide and far to get to remote locations to paint. Shimmying down a rock slide, getting soaking wet and cold and finally reaching the right spot to paint is an amazing experience and one that can be felt through my pieces. Could you imagine if artists charged for that? I do not know how many times I thought Ì might seriously hurt myself trying to get to various locations. When I do a plein air painting most of the time is spent hiking and enduring the elements, you pay for that experience when you buy a plein air. Furthermore, many contemporary artist’s paint from photographs, what experience would you rather pay for?

I do not think buying prints is a bad idea, but I believe if you are looking for art that tells a story or conveys something that cannot be said, then spending a little extra cash on an original is for you. As your clothes wear down, your house needs restoration, your painting will last thousands of years. And what you spend now, could be thousand times more valuable in the future.

Please let me know what you think, or if you have any other suggestions on why buying art from young artists is important.

Thanks for reading!




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