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Why Artists Should (Not) Be Paid for Their Artwork

Garcon a la Pipe by Picasso - Sold for $137.5 Million

Oh after you mop the floor and clean the barn, can you finish the Sistine chapel in your spare time?”  Contributed by my Facebook Friend Ross Fletcher

I woke up feeling quite feisty this morning.  Nothing makes me spit nails more than the idea that some people under-value the work of artists.

Last night I was at a Blog World Expo party in Las Vegas.  I met a pretty boy from a social media company who asked about my blog.  I told him that I help artists make a living doing what they love with art.

Pretty boy replied, “Artists shouldn’t be paid for their art.  Getting paid prevents them from creating really good stuff.”

Drew and Maria June 17, 2000

I thought back to the artsy photographers I hired for my wedding day.  They were more expensive than your average wedding photographer, but they gave me something wonderful:  stunning photos of the most important day of my life!

I can’t even entertain the thought that being paid makes your work less good.  That’s the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard.

I asked him, “If they don’t get paid, who feeds their families and pays for their supplies?”

“They should work another job,” he said, rather smugly.

I want to make three points about Art, Contribution and Money with this article:

  1. Your art is a CONTRIBUTION to society. It brings joy, it solves problems, and it makes this world a better place.
  2. Being paid ALLOWS you to make that contribution to society.
  3. Your contribution expands in relation to the amount of time you put into it. More hours = expanded contribution to this world with your God-given talent.

We live in a money-based society. That won’t change anytime soon – so those of you who say “money isn’t important” get over it!

I almost punched pretty boy in the face when he said to me, “Artists are better off working a job they hate and then painting in their spare time.”

This is the problem I have with that:

a.)     No one should work a job they hate.  You were put on this earth with talents and you are meant to do that which you are good at and what you love!

b.)    The world is missing out on your contribution. The less an artist creates, the less they grow.  It requires hours upon hours to hone your craft.

If you are at a “real job” for 40-50 hours a week, doing what you hate, and then you have to come home and be a parent, and mow the lawn, and feed your kids, when will you create art?

I have friends who regret living most of their lives working in an office job and only creating a few paintings a year because that’s all there was time for.  Think of how much their talent would have improved, how much they could have shared, had they created all day instead!

Soooooo”, I asked the pretty boy, my blood getting hot with frustration, “do you get paid for YOUR work?”

Of course, the answer was yes.  “Does getting paid make your work less good?”  I asked.  “Well, no” he said.  “That’s different.”

Yeah, I thought so.

This topic drives me insane.  Why should one small segment of the population have their work devalued so much that they are forced to struggle?  Should interior designers also not be paid, and should musicians play for free and should the guy who artistically installs my decorative bathroom tile do it for nothing?

And an even better question is this:  why should my plumber be paid more than an artist?!

FlyingFish Surfboard by Drew Brophy for Surfrider Foundation 2005Drew Brophy has been a working artist since he was a teenager.  He’s always “Lived by the Paintbrush.”

When he was in his twenties, he painted surfboards for a living.  A lot of them.  So many that he’s become known in the surf industry as the artist who changed the way that surfboards were painted.

He says that painting 10-15 surfboards a day helped him to get really good and to develop a very strong style of his own.  His style is now well recognized and many people try to emulate it and attribute their artwork to being inspired by Drew.

If Drew had been working in another field and only painting in his spare time, he would have been wasting his talent.

Drew paints what he wants, and he loves doing it.  When someone commissions a painting, it’s because they love his style.  It’s a beautiful way to put art into the world and be able to live a good life.

Charging for his artwork allows him to make people happy with his art. Without payment, he wouldn’t have the time, because he’d have to pay the bills by working on something else.  And there’s only so much time in the day.

Though he hardly paints surfboards anymore, occasionally he will.  These paintings BRING GREAT JOY TO PEOPLE.  When they see their very own Drew Brophy surfboard painting for the first time, their eyes light up!

Drew-Brophy-Surfboard-Painting-Art

One happy surfer boy!

(The picture to the left is from a thank you card that ten year old Spencer wrote, thanking Drew for his painted surfboard – he is proud to be seen with it!)

Charging for your artwork enables you to make a contribution to the world with your art. It allows you to develop your style and to get better and better at what you do.

Most of my friends are creative people.  The rare few that don’t care about being paid are either supported by a family member or have another career that they really enjoy.

We live in a money based society.  That isn’t going to change right now.  It costs money to eat, put your kid in sports, to have a home.  We most likely won’t see that change in our lifetime.

As long as we are stuck in a money based system, I find it an outright insult to all hardworking artists to say they shouldn’t be paid for what they do.

It’s just a crazy notion that this one, single profession should work for free!  (While everyone else gets paid…)

What do you think?

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