The Price Of Art


Artists put a lot of time and effort into their artwork. In countries where science is valued more highly than art, there are seldom enough creative grants to go around and enable deserving artists to develop or create without suffering financially.

Furthermore, some places only offer support for a certain kind of medium or demographic. In some developing countries, artists from previously overlooked groups are often the beneficiaries of the limited grants available. This can be deemed understandable.

A bigger issue is when artists are exploited or underpaid by large corporations or the government because of the disparity in power. The artist can often face significant obstacles to get a powerful client to pay them what is owed.

Because art is subjective, a bad client or boss will sometimes use this as an excuse to default or delay payment. They may claim to dislike the final product despite approving its design at every stage and utilizing the final product as intended. The best way to avoid this is to send clients the artwork at various crucial stages in its development and to get written feedback and approval on each stage. This, coupled with a binding contract, is necessary to protect the artist.

The local art scene is rife with exploitation, abuse and salary issues. Certain art studios have been known to exploit their staff and the grant system by taking grants and then using it to fund personal projects instead of what was promised to the government. They deal with the inevitable fallout by blaming their staff despite the fact that they were just following instructions.

Thankfully Patreon now gives artists a way of making income from their own art and creations. Essentially, it makes them the head of their own art studio and responsible for their own success or failure. An unreliable artist is unlikely to thrive in this system. But, unfortunately, honest artists still run the risk of being exploited by it.

The reason for this is simple. People still undervalue art. The internet, awash with visual stimulation, has brought about a new sense of entitlement. I’ve read appalling complaints where people attack artists for creating a “pay wall” and deride this as the lowest form of capitalism.

Well, the reality is that we live in a capitalist society. Artists need to buy food and pay bills and medical expenses the same as everyone else. Most of us do not live in a system where our basic needs are meet for free. Professional artists use their artistic skill as a means to generate the income to live.

Here’s the good news — nobody is compelled to support or commission a certain artist if they don’t wish to. But you don’t get to complain when you don’t get access to exclusive content created for paying Patrons. It’s not owed to you.

We don’t expect lawyers or doctors or teachers to work without earning an income. Why then should we expect this of artists?

LJ Phillips
About LJ Phillips (82 Articles)
LJ Phillips is an ex-bodyguard and professional artist who has had three solo exhibitions. He has also published numerous articles and pieces of short fiction. His interests include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, over-analyzing pop culture and staring into the abyss. Currently he lives in SA and spends his free time working on his various creator-owned comics.

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