If you read my post from on 21 September, you know that the idea of where and how I can best spend my time as an entrepreneur. Social media platforms that are taking up too much of my finite time and creative energies are going to be dropped. Those social media platforms that I feel are worth the time and effort I expend to maintain will continue to be used. With the hopes that my small business will continue to grow.
That all being said, there are adjoining concepts regarding time, energies, costs and value that are never far from the forefront of my mind. Some of these concepts and ideas bleed off into other sociocultural areas that I feel ill-prepared to navigate. In many cases, my personal beliefs are at odds with the current zeitgeist.
There have been many times in the past in which I’ve stated that being raised in the US has impressed upon me certain beliefs regarding how I personally interpret buying, selling, marketing, consuming products, etc. “Eat quickly, drive faster, and make more money now!” (1) is a lyric that comes to mind when I ponder how being a US citizen consumer has shaped my personal and professional perceptions.
To that end, it’s been imprinted upon me that a thing is valued if it’s popular. If everyone has one, and you’re the only one without it, that’s bad. You need to fall in line and buy those things that will make you part of the larger group. Being a teenager during the 1980’s really hammered some of this home to me.
There’s an initial psychological buy-in that happens. Mostly without a person being completely aware of it. You see a an object (clothing, car, house, toy, food, etc.) everywhere. Advertising via print media, through the radio, internet, television. Even the movies, television and music deliver advertising. Soon, buying these things seem like your idea. And not something that has been put into your mind.
What is the Value of an Object?
The value of an object is determined by a lot of different factors. In fact, it seems like something that is ever-changing, especially when it’s related to the products of visual and performing artists. Trends can make something popular one minute, and out of style the next. Fashion is a good example of that.
The availability of an object also determines its value. This can easily be seen at an auction of fine art at an auction house like Sotherby’s. Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet was sold for $82.5 at Sotherby’s in 1990. Society has decided that van Gogh’s work is extremely valuable. Van Gogh is dead so there are a finite amount of pieces of his work. Scarcity can make for high prices.
What does this mean for me as an artist?
First of all, I’m no freakin’ Vincent van Gogh. I’m not even within the same art-making universe as him. What it does bring to mind is that I’m constantly creating artwork. Constantly. Regardless of whether it sells or not. Does this mean I’ve flooded the market? Too many original Katie Kinsman artistic creations out there in the world perhaps?
No. I don’t think that’s it. I do sometimes wonder if there are people who want to purchase my work, but are just waiting for me to have a big honkin’ sale. Or, my work may be selling because people just don’t like it. There are also (gestures with hands at relatively everything going on in the world right now) economic reasons why people are not buying things like artwork right now. Many other things are taking precedence over purchasing artwork. Food, clothing and shelter come immediately to mind.
The cost gets me coming and going as an artist. There is the up-front costs that I pay to create the artwork that I do. I don’t mean just the cost of the supplies. My time is a large hunk of that up-front cost, as well as my creative energies.
Material and supply costs are easy to figure. It’s all numbers. I keep track of what I spend on my materials and supplies, as well as shipping and handling for any pieces I do sell. Time is another that’s easier to calculate. But as I’ve written about previously, trying to make sure that I get even a US minimum wage from the time I put into my artwork isn’t possible. No for a non-entity like me on the art stage.
When it comes to creative energies, which I will agree is also related a to the expenditure of my time, that’s something that less quantifiable in strict numbers-sense. It’s where the ideas come from, intertwined with my knowledge and experience. Those creative energies are very much part of who I am as an individual. It’s difficult to attach a number to that.
Yeah, but what do I get out of it?
But the important thing is, I will continue to to create artwork even if I never show it on social media platforms. Or if I never sell another piece of artwork. I make the artwork that I do because the value to me, in the form of therapy, keeps me mentally and emotionally spackled-together. THAT is the value of my artwork to ME.
If there are other people who like my artwork and wish to give me money for it. Terrific! If not. Then. Okay. Go on then and do you then. Just not in relation to my artwork.
Then gate keepers determine value:
Gate keepers (2) are everywhere. In every type of work. They make sure that there are qualifications and credentials for professionals that must be attained before being a teacher, nurse, lawyer, architects, accountants, engineers, bankers, etc. In the art world, the gate keepers are gallery owners, shop owners, and museum curators to name a few (I’m leaving out the performing arts for now.). If an artists work doesn’t get past these people, then the art work will not be shown or promoted to the art viewing/ purchasing public.
The internet and the boom of social media platforms that have resulted have given artists a larger platform in general to share and promote their artwork. My artwork has been seen by more people in the past five years on Instagram than in the my previous thirty years of creating my art.
What I’ve come to realize in the past few months is that Instagram is just as much of a gate keeper as any art gallery owner. They just exert their gate keeping through algorithms instead of declining to show my artwork in their gallery. Instagram will show my artwork, but just enough. Then they would like me to pay to get greater exposure.
They want me to pay to advertise.
Back to costs and value:
Okay. I’ll admit it. From the beginning, I was näive as all get-out regarding Facebook and Instagram. As an creative art entrepreneur, I took full advantage of the free-ness of each of these platforms. Over the past three weeks, Instagram has become rather aggressive in it’s attempts to get me to buy ads on the platform. So far, I’ve resisted.
I’ve resisted because I have no money to spend on advertising. Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.(3) Not 20¢. Not 2€. Instagram has been putting a lot, and I mean A LOT of Finnish artists into my Instagram feed that are buying ads. I’ve noticed it. I know what they’re doing. And it’s gonna take a lot more to convince me to purchase ads on the platform.
Do I value the ads? I suppose so. I know that they are worth something. That something being, “more eyes on my artwork”. But more eyes on my artwork can easily translate into more likes of my artwork. The thing is though, likin’ ain’t buyin’. If I cannot be guaranteed a boost in my sales figures, then I’m not biting.
I will admit. I still have a lot of research to do on the subject of purchasing Instagram ads. I will rule nothing out at this juncture.
So now what?
This has been a long and rambling post. Value and cost, related to my artwork and the sale of it, are at times monolithic concepts that tread on an unsound mental and emotional path for me. Separating my personal value as a human being from the value of the artwork I create gets extremely complicated for me.
When a person tries to get me to come down in price on my artwork, it’s as though they are making me as a human being feel as if I’m of less value. In the past, I’v heard a potential customer say, “I could buy four dolls at Walmart for what you’re asking for one doll!” They value quantity over quality I suppose. But yeah, you go be you. Walmart’s waiting.
And on that less than upbeat note, thanks for reading. I’ll see you again next Monday.
Links and References:
(1) William Shatner with Henry Rollins, I Can’t Get Behind That, Has Been (2004)
(2) This is really a not great webpage to read, but it gives a pretty good idea of what an art gate keeper does and how they might be thinking. Mihaly Csiikszenmihaly is a good read if you’re interested in creativity.
(3) “Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.” is a line from a drag queen called Jiggly Calliente song called ‘I Don’t Give a Fnck‘. It is NSFW. NOT. SAFE. FOR. WORK. Or children, small animals or little granny ladies.
LA Money Train, Rollins Band, Get Some Go Again (2000) This song is a cutting review of American culture. Henry does not mince words in this song. I love Rollins. He’s an American treasure.