Are You Underpaid as an Artist?

Do your customers respect your worth as an artist?

How should you price your work as an artist?

Can you survive as a full time artist?

A plumber came to my house to fix a problem, it took him less than half an hour. His minimum charge was $60.00 or his five hour daily rate was US$200. Unskilled construction workers are paid US$10 to $15 an hour in a poor and struggling economy. Domestic workers are demanding US $8 TO $10 an hour. One domestic worker was asked to carry out a cleaning assignment at my home and was told she was not cleaning any more homes unless she is paid US$150 per day.

This prompted me to examine my pay structure for my art creations. I am a high school graduate and a trained primary school teacher. I have been a self-employed artist for the past 50 years, so experience should count for something.

My bread and butter creation and most popular item in the gallery is a small hand held, hand carved heart that takes one and a half hours to carve from start to finish, plus the cost of the wood and finishing materials. Yet that heart is sold for $25.00 in the gallery and $16.00 wholesale, in order to attract any wholesale business at all.

I am currently working on a 12-inch relief sculpture. Time spent so far was 10 hours and I am still carving, it might be completed in another 10 hours. What should be the sale price of a sculpture that took three and a half years of training and 50 years experience?

Don’t you think I deserve better than a domestic or construction worker?

The local school is complaining that the academic students are not interested in art, yet they are among the best artists in the schools, the modern day educators are still struggling with the misconception that non-academic students are better suited to be taught art, when the evidence to the opposite is staring them in the face. During a discussion with the principal of a high school, who was an artist herself, I asked her to go and select the students in the school who were the best art students and she will discover they are also the top academic students in the school.

A week later, she came back to me with the confirmation that I was correct. That is something I discovered as a kid in primary school. Why can’t educators today see the light? Society, educators, and parents are depriving societies of their best creative talent, not only in art but other important areas of intellectual and industrial development. All we have to do is to look who are the driving force of economic developments in history and you will find that many of them were school and university drop-outs. The system failed them.

We must learn to respect art education and artists and make sure they can earn a decent living, see art as the seed to critical thinking, social and economic development, and a better and more beautiful world.

What do you think should be the selling price of my finished 12 inch relief sculpture? Send me your answers.

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