The Price of Art

I draw cartoons because I want to. I write books because I want to. I make music because I want to.

I help people with their issues with a software company’s product because if I don’t, I will eventually get fired by that software company. Then I won’t get a paycheck from that software company. Then I won’t be able to pay my rent. Then I’ll have to leave this house. Since I don’t want to leave this house, in an ass-backwards way I *want* to help people with their issues with the software company’s product.

Money is one of the weirdest forms of magic. It transforms objects and activities into symbols of potential. Most of us transform discomfort (the job) into comfort (housing, food, etc.) and (less and less for more and more of us these days) pleasure. It’s like we’re all at a county fair, still buying tickets even though all the rides are broken.

The optimal situation would be to turn pleasure into comfort, perhaps with a little pleasure thrown in.

The fact is, however, that at least at this moment I don’t see a way to make the kind of money I’m making now while still doing what I love and loving what I’m doing.

I am passable as a customer service agent. I make mistakes once and a while, but I’m better than a lot of folks. I only hate it on some days, which is better than a lot of my friends. The thing is though, that I can leave the bad feelings at the office.

Right now, my books, my cartoons, and my music are fun. I realized recently that if they *were* my job, I’d be able to spend more time on each of them, and get more things done. However, at the moment, everything I’ve read by people about how to start making a profit from my work has left a bad taste in my mouth.

There are some folks, a few who I respect and a few I don’t, who have recently gone on record saying that anyone who is unwilling to attach a sizable price tag to what they’re doing aren’t really artists. I think the implication here is that I don’t believe my work has merit if I don’t think people should pay a lot of money for it.

There’s a fallacy at work here, though. It’s a very simple thing, but something I hope other artists might appreciate.

I want to be able to afford my own art.

It’s really a very simple concept. If I weren’t me, would I be able to afford the product I created? If not, then how can I expect *people like me* to buy it?

I wrestling with all of this because I’m about to put out a 212 page collection of “Giraffes and Elephants are Friends” and the price tag is $35.00, well beyond what I could afford. This is the price I *have* to sell it for to break even if I sell it on consignment. There are many factors, but the main thing is that it’s 212 pages in full color and that isn’t cheap if you’re self-publishing.

I’m still working with a publisher trying to get an honest-to-goodness non-self-published project off the ground. This will benefit you with a lower price point, even if it takes longer for the project to get completed.

Until then, I’ll continue to make stuff on my own. I was recently told that when people see bargain-basement prices they think bargain-basement quality. I hope that, in the current climate, folks will instead think, “Oh, awesome! I can afford that.”

Thanks for your time.

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About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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2 Responses to The Price of Art

  1. paulgude says:

    You know, after writing this post I was reminded of a time when a person for whom I had designed a mural with a skilled artistic painter had suggested we get paid $10 an hour, because that’s how much it would cost him to hire painters from the Millionair club. (I don’t know if that amount is accurate, but that’s what I was told at the time.)

    In that instance, the value of art vs. competent labor was clear to me.

    (It all turned out okay in the end. He was 1/2 of the unit that had hired us, and the other half explained why the two weren’t the same thing.)

    So I guess I *do* have a sense of self-worth. I just have a lower price threshold sometimes. So there, curmudgeons!

  2. Pingback: A Very Large Book of Giraffes and Elephants « Some Guy Named Paul’s Blog

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