Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why creating art should not be for free.

Everybody agrees art should exist. It is one of the things that makes us human. No other life form creates art. It's an important part of our identity as human beings. Yet, a lot of people think art simply should be there. In museums and galleries, out in the street, in and on buildings. Art forms such as music, film and literature are so integrated into our daily lives we don't even think of them as art any more. But they are. Now you can debate whether or not Boy George is art but you can go on about details like that for ever. That is one of the interesting parts of art: it causes discussion. That's not the discussion I want to have today though.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a fellow artist. At some point we ended up talking about finances and time management. Doesn't sound very artsy, does it? It's not. But it is an important part of being an artist. How do you make sure you can not just pay your rent, but also finance your artwork, while still having time to make said artwork. It's a tightrope that all artists face, no matter what type of art they are making. Of course, we all have the hope that one day we will make enough money with our art not to have to do the 'day job' any more. I'm guessing that in 99% of the cases this never happens. Some might manage for a while but in times as uncertain as these you can't count on anything. So even if your art is doing well you're still taking a big risk quitting that day job. This is probably the biggest challenge artists face today. Currently I'm recycling old canvases, basically destroying old paintings, because I can't afford to buy new ones. And since no one is buying those old paintings anyway, I might as well.

I know times are tough and everyone is having a hard time financially. I totally understand people choose to buy a new washing machine instead of art. I do the same thing. But most people don't even think about buying art as an option. They don't see art as something they should pay for. It should simply be there. Fine art is something to look at in museums or galleries. Music and movies are there to download and the same is happening to books more and more. Artists should just make art because they want to and not because they get paid. Why? Well, because.... And then there is a long pause, and then come the excuses.

The first one is usually: Art is a luxury. It's not something you need. It's not a primal need like food and shelter. We can do fine without art. If you make art it's completely your own choice and the rest of the world should have to pay for your choices. If you wanted to make money you should get a real job.

Then there is another school of thought: Financing art is the duty of the government. They should take care of it. Other people shouldn't be bothered with it. But the government doesn't. The funding for art projects has been cut back dramatically. Why? Because the government believes in argument number one just as much as those other people: art is a luxury that people are willing to sacrifice and if people really want to make art, they can do that on their own.

My friend mentioned another one that I have heard around before and perhaps puzzles me the most: You enjoy making art and therefore you don't need to get paid, or not much anyway. So, if you are a brain surgeon and you really enjoy your job, does that mean you should live on minimum wages as well? Or, if you work as a cleaning lady and really hate your job, should you get paid more? I fail to see the logic. When ever someone tells me that at least I enjoy my work, I'm tempted to ask them if they don't. I'm sure they'll tell me that's not what they meant. I'm sure they would enjoy their job a lot less if they were getting minimum wages. Besides, being an artist isn't all fun. There are plenty of times when you get frustrated and angry and feel like everything you do is useless. I've thought about quitting painting so many times because sometimes, honestly, it drives me nuts. But I can't stop. It's something I simply have to do. Being an artist is not a choice. It's part of who you are. And that's a good excuse for people to let you live on tomato soup for a month? What if I would quit art and get a 'real job'? What if all of us quit? Imagine what the world would look like without art. Pretty bleak, don't you think? It's not a luxury. It's not something that should be taken for granted. Like I said: it's part of what makes us human and someone has to do it. Don't turn it into a dirty job while it should be the highlight of civilisation. Show a little humanity.

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