Selling art must be one of the most interesting things to do. I’ve sold many things before in my life: newspapers, software, professional services, groceries, furniture, and even homes. Even though you can negotiate about the price on all of those things, there is more or less of a market value for each of them. If your price is either too high, or too low, it raises a bunch of questions. Red flags. You don’t buy that convertible sportscar at a price of half the market value because where the seller got it from might be suspicious. There’s many books written on buying (and selling) any of those things, and common pitfalls to avoid. Making a career out of selling art is something different though. Many artists struggle with the idea that something so close to their heart is worth money. Most true artists create their work simply because they have to – they cannot not make pictures, paintings, sculptures, or whatever it is they do. I’m no different. I love to travel, and take photographs as I go along. It started as just a way to show my friends and family what I had been up to on a recent adventure, but it turned into a way to show the world the world through my lens. It’s an amazing experience to have someone pay real money for something I absolutely love to do. Buy my pictures also carry an important invitation – to go see all the beauty this world has to offer for yourself. That’s what prompted me to write a book about the zen approach to travel.
But back to art. I’ve sold a few pieces of my work, at various places. Selling art in a grocery store (or “farmers market”) doesn’t seem to work very well, surprisingly enough. People aren’t there to buy art. They’re there to buy their food for the day, or week, depending on how far ahead they plan. Buying art – not so much. Even though most people enjoy watching some artwork in a farmers market very few will entertain the thought of picking up a unique work of art in addition to their grocery list. Understandably so.
I participated in some outdoor art markets in downtown Calgary as well. People from all walks of life came to have a look at my booth – and their valuation of my work was very interesting. Some homeless people stared at my pictures for several minutes, from different angles, to then comment “that must be worth at least ten thousand dollars”. Admitted, the prints I do on glass and metal are very high definition and simply stunning, but they can be taken home for less than that estimate. The blue collar office workers that stopped by, after several minutes of pondering about the price, offered me twenty five dollars. Just the material (aluminum) itself costs me more, aside from the print on it. In the end I’m not selling the material – it’s about the image and the emotion it invokes. That’s what you’re really taking home, and what the value of art should be based on. Whether it’s a painting, photograph, or maybe even anything you buy – you have to ask yourself the question of what it’s worth to you. And that value varies, apparently, depending on whether you’re talking to a blue collar office worker, a homeless person or somewhere in between. Neither of them took any of my work home. The value of art is personal, after all.