I’m so happy that this picture is going to hang on the wall of a person who appreciates it enough to have saved his money over several months to buy it from me.
Sometimes in my career, I have had paintings demanded for free in the name of ‘friendship’- that word within which so many rewarding exchanges are experienced and yet so much is taken for granted so that all norms of basic decency, courtesy and good manners are flouted. I have happily given work away free more often than not, but when you ask/demand my work for free what is it that you are trying to tell me; that my work is good enough to hang on your wall but not good enough to pay for? I quote another illustrator on this point: These are the same people who will pay hundreds of dollars to hang a plasma TV screen on the wall which then spews complete rubbish at them day and night. I couldn’t agree more.
To give something as a gift (for free) is the prerogative of the giver. But asking a painting for free simply shows a lack of dignity as well as an arrogance towards the relationship with the artist. And yet, just before I begin to despair, I come across friends out there who want my work so much, they save to buy it. I cannot tell you how much this gesture of appreciation warms my heart.
When on this subject, I would also like to make a point to amateur painters who sell or give away their work to friends. Many are diffident to put a price tag on their work even if asked to do so.
One of the members at Penciljam worked really hard in improving his drawing and painting skills. He would spend 45 minutes every single morning to draw before going to work. Such dedication is commendable and unsurprisingly his drawings and paintings improved a great deal. One day he excitedly mailed some of us other jammers and told us that a friend of his from abroad, from Singapore, had offered to buy one of his works. He said he had sold his painting to her for one Singapore dollar.
Prosenjit Roy, an artist and Pencil jammer from Kolkata, wrote a reply to this which I reproduce here since I think it will be useful to both amateur and professional artists alike to read this when releasing their works in the name of friendship. It is a beautifully written letter with much food for thought:
" @ International artist - you deserve the honor richly! It is not just the surface output, the material that is, but a part of your wisdom and personality that the collectors are acquiring, when they buy/collect your works.
However, I have a slightly different opinion regarding selling. If you're selling, do not under-sell re: your example of 1 SD. Give it away as a gift if you're so inclined. You may also put a price on the painting and then do so, although that reads a tad hypocritical. You are special, and so is your art, and its beauty is the outcome of years of hard work. Therefore, the person (like your colleague in Singapore) receiving it ought to be truly deserving it - and I'm sure he did!
And if you're selling, do not compromise on the price. Fix it wisely, but do not lower it to accommodate the buyer (unless you want to give away for free). I was once asked to quote my price in sq. ft of canvas! I was so aghast I didn't know what to say :D. Then again, a friend of mine had once commissioned a large painting to me... I showed him a detailed preparatory sketch, which took me about a month to work out since there were many inter-woven elements in it. It took me another couple of months to paint it, but I had assumed that he'd anticipate the price of such a large and original piece. This was in the early part of the last decade, and I was just beginning to learn about 'the trade'. I had not quoted the price after showing him the preliminary sketch, which was my mistake. He didn't want to buy the finished painting at that price, and wanted it lowered. The deal fell through, I refused to sell, and the relationship lost its warmth. It was repaired only last month :), after so many years! The painting was eventually collected by someone else, at a price compensating for the delay, after staying with me for 5-6 years.
So I've learned to be upfront about my intentions, and my expectations from the collector.. if it is a gift, it is a gift, if it is a sale, the price is what I've quoted. Of course this is just in my humble opinion, and opinions are a dime a dozen. Thank you for sharing this."
Let me end on a positive note while on this subject - To those friends I’ve met through my blog who have done so much to appreciate my work by buying it at the price I’ve asked for, commissioning work from me and promoting my illustrations on their blogs and on Facebook, I raise my mug of tea. I am glad there are people like you around who encourage, appreciate and buy art. Cheers to you all! :)
Picture from Facebook where it is being passed around.