When I first graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design in 2009, I thought in order to make it in this field was just a matter of some hard work mixed in with a little patience. My naive nature overlapped my own judgment and common sense as I began to realize it was an up hill battle of dodging unexpected obstacles. I thought the biggest obstacle that I would have to master was the craft of executing a good painting, but I discovered this was just a small percentage of the whole process. I noticed a new trend sweeping the market, for the epidemic of slowly depreciating the value of the artist was upon us.
“Calling all Artist! Publishing company needs a book cover done for FREE,” with the infamous phrase (s): “Great for notoriety!” “Excellent reference for your resume!” “First-rate experience!” and my favorite, “Think of all the great exposure you’ll get!” Their strategy is to target naive prey : the desperation of an hungry artist. I will be the first to admit, even I fell victim for this ploy. The problem was this way of thinking became a norm in the artist market, conditioning companies to think that they can treat all artist with such insult. For the most part, I can’t blame them, they are getting art for free. If I were to walk into the grocery store and I received free apples each time I visited, I would expect to get free apples from every grocery store. At this point I realized that the obstacle of becoming an artist was far worse than I initially thought. I was in warfare with my own kind.
I became extremely frustrated and angry because it began to follow me everywhere. Hitting me from every angle, I felt depreciated and hopeless. I began to think, “People don’t treat other professions with such disrespect.” When I receive my yearly check up at my local physician, I don’t tell the receptionist, “Hey, it seems like Dr. John Doe really enjoys his job, so instead of paying him with money, I will pay him with word of mouth recognition, it will be great exposure for his business!” No one would dare to attempt to pay a Doctor with gift cards, a pat on the back, or good notoriety. They would probably laugh at you and expect you to pay him with actual monetary value, as you should. The issue we face isn’t the markets fault, it is the individual artist. It is like politics, if the people don’t like how the government is working, who is really at fault? The politician or the voter.
This actually isn’t a new phenomena. The old masters would trade artwork for food and clothing, very similar to today’s notoriety gimmick. The solution remains with the artist. STOP GIVING AWAY FREE ARTWORK. Unite, stand against this trend. Once you realize that you have the power of your own financial future, the epidemic will slowly dissipate. Wake up! They need us more they we need them. Art is needed everywhere. Without art and creativity it would be a vast dull landscape of concrete structures. Believe it or not, imagination and creativity made the advanced culture we live in today.
If anyone asks, why we need art and creativity give them this perfect example: Steve Jobs. Steve could not write a single line of code. He was trying to sell just another computer but it was his creative marketing mind that soared Apple to the lengths that it has become today. Even Albert Einstein admits that, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”.
So I am, “Calling all ARTISTS!” Stop giving artwork away for FREE. An artist can’t feed his family on free. The electric company doesn’t accept notoriety as feasible monetary exchange, so why should you as an artist. We are starving because the market isn’t feeding us. That’s because the market has been conditioned to think it doesn’t have to. Remind it that it does and it will. So, to my fellow colleagues in the Art field, lift your head up, find the confidence you deserve, and show the market that you belong just as much as everyone else. Let’s disrupt the conditioned mind-set. If you don’t heed my warning, you are not only hurting yourself , you are hurting all artists and our profession by forcing them down to the level of the expected free work.