Have you ever wondered why artwork is so expensive? It turns out that there are several valid reasons for this…To learn more, read on. I get asked variations on this question or overhear it in others’ conversations about purchasing artwork. While I sometimes inwardly bristle inwardly when hearing such remarks, because I am an artist who knows the inside story about how hard and expensive it is to make original artwork, I also want to give others the benefit of the doubt. I realize that others who do not have an art background may not be aware of the reasons why artwork has become so expensive, and in that spirit I am writing this blog post, to help them become more educated about the creative process.
What is the definition of art in our Modern times?
In our modern society of today where speed of execution seems to be often valued above quality, I think fine art is no longer viewed as a viable occupation, as it once was during the renaissance era when artists had a clear path to be trained by master artists and to be paid by wealthy patrons for their commissioned works. Instead, fine art has largely been replaced by applied art forms, such as graphic design, cinematography, animation, photography, fashion design, interior design, etc. However, I think that most artists have to support themselves by taking professions in the applied arts or pursuing some other occupation altogether to support their creative pursuits. Even in public schools, art is often seen as an “extra” subject, not quite as worthy of learning as other science, math, or technology-based courses, such as science, mathematics, engineering, etc. I also think that this attitude of art as “extra” may influence others’ perception of the value of art, not just in monetary terms, but also in terms of its capacity to enrich society and the next generation.
The Rareness of Art as a Profession
On the other hand, the somewhat recent learning model of the STEAM curriculum in the educational system is a promising development, in which educators and hopefully students, are learning about the interconnectedness of art amongst other disciplines, and therefore, its usefulness to society. There are however a minority of artists who are able to pursue their passion as entrepreneurs by selling their art or making a living through online teaching. But to return to the original point, why is the artwork a costly commodity, I am turning my attention to an article I read recently online entitled, Why is Artwork So Expensive? (The Top Ten Reasons),https://www.thecoldwire.com/why-are-paintings-so-expensive/, author unknown.
Why does artwork cost so much?
So, on to a few reasons why that artwork that you looked at in the art gallery or online via an art website was so darned expensive! According to the author of, Why is artwork so expensive? They state that because the artwork is one of a kind, it cannot be reproduced, even by the artist themselves because each brush stroke is unique.
Art is Original and Making it, is Expensive
Another reason to note the cost of the artwork is the cost of art supplies. As a working artist and teacher, I know that quality art supplies can be really expensive, whether I buy them at Michaels or an online art supplier. For example, my favorite medium of choice, which is working with oil paints, is the most expensive one of all, with lots of equipment, such as canvases, brushes, paints, palettes, paint mediums, easels, etc. Working from experience, I have learned that trying to save money by using cheap paint or other art supplies is often not worthwhile. Instead, it just makes my work that much harder. When I am doing custom art or making art for sale, I get the best possible art supplies that I can afford, and so I have to charge clients and customers more to make a return on my investment. I am committed to making my clients a quality product that will last.
However, if I am just experimenting in my sketchbook with ideas, I will sometimes use cheaper products. But again, using better quality supplies is usually a more enjoyable art experience for me. Often, I work with cheaper brushes the hairs fall out and need to be replaced much sooner. And I have spent a lot of time picking out stray brush hairs from canvases or trying to work with cheap soft pastels that will not “stick” to the pastel paper. In this instance, paying additional money for quality soft pastels, such as Rembrandts, is worth it over saving a few dollars with cheaper brands, such as off-label art products like Artist’s Loft. Or, I used the wrong kind of paper for watercolor or ink, and it ended up buckling or pilling my watercolor or ink drawing. All this to say, sometimes saving money is not worth it, and that is just one of the reasons why art is so expensive. As artists, we have to charge more to get a return for our investment, just like any other professional craftsperson, such as a contractor, interior designer, fashion designer, etc. That’s it for today, but next week I will review a few other reasons for the high cost of the artwork. On the subject of artwork, I am featuring some highlights from my Inktober challenge for 2022 that I worked on last fall. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!
Are you in a creative slump or want to try out other forms of art media? Then, my course, Drawing, and Painting: A Mixed Media survey is the perfect fit for you! To learn more about this wonderful course, visit https://www.frederick.edu/. Go to the schedules link and select, ILR Fall Schedule 2022 to view a detailed description about this course.
In this course, I will provide you with detailed art demonstrations, with different art media provided each week. We will draw and paint our way through different art styles such as Impressionism, and even abstraction. The wide variety of art media and styles will stimulate your creativity, and provide a space for you to create in a judgment-free learning environment. Beginners and seasoned artists are welcome, no experience is necessary, although some experience with drawing or painting can be helpful. This is an in-person, noncredit course at Frederick Community College.
This summer I am teaching two great art courses at the Delaplaine Art Center in Frederick, MD! The first course begins on June 22nd, and it’s called, Drawing into Calm: A mixed media survey course. In this course, you will learn how to work in a variety of media from watercolor and pen to acrylic and pastel. We will explore which media are compatible, such as watercolor and ink pen, and gain inspiration from a variety of famous artists, such as Monet, Paul Klee, and Odilon Redon, among others! It’s a course that is perfect for beginner artists and will explore both drawing demonstrations and painting demonstrations, as well as collages. If you want to try new media or love art history, this might be the perfect course for you! Visit the Delaplaine website at: https://delaplaine.org/, to register or learn more.
The other course I am teaching is called, Continuing Landscapes in Pastel, and it’s perfect for experienced pastel artists who would like to learn more about color and value in the context of the four seasons. This course is geared toward more experienced artists who have some drawing experience. The four seasons, summer, autumn, winter, and spring will provide a context for exploring the elements of art, value, and color, such as using cool colors like blue or violet to depict snow, and warmer color palettes to illustrate fall foliage. Both courses are designed for adults. To learn more, visit https://delaplaine.org/instruction/classes-workshops/.
Do you have an interest in telling your family history through mixed media collage art? I have just the course for you! It’s called, Your Family Story through Collage art and will begin on May 4th from 6-8pm at the Adams County Arts Council in Gettysbn. Take your artwork to the next level and create content-based work that tells a story, using a variety of media such as photography from your family collection, old drawings, card stock, acrylic paint, charcoal, and more! We will upcycle old sketches from your sketchbook to create new and unique artwork! Click here to learn more: https://www.adamsarts.org/portfolio-item/your-family-story-through-collage-art/.
The good news is that my art courses at the Delaplaine are filling up! And, the good news for you is that there are a few more spots left! The three courses I will be teaching are Classic Drawing, a beginner drawing course, Drawing into Calm: A Mixed Media survey course, and Landscapes in Pastel: The Four Seasons.
The drawing course is great for those who have always wanted to draw but did not know where to begin, and I will teach you four different drawing modalities such as contour drawing, and using shapes to construct forms. With so many options, you are bound to find a method that brings you excellent results!
The next two courses, Drawing into Calm and Continuing Landscapes are a bit more advanced. In the former, we will study a variety of different art media such s watercolor, pastel, collage, and much more! It’s a veritable buffet of art media to try each week with lessons on collage and painting with subject matter that includes, animals and landscape. You will learn what media works best together in combinations that you wouldn’t have imagined, such as wax resist and collage!
And in the course of the landscape, we will explore a variety of light and color effects such as filtered light to imitate the qualities of the four seasons, such as spring, summer, fall, and winter! Soft pastel is perfect for those who love to paint, but don’t want to wait for it to dry! The elements of art, such as color, shape, form, and value will inform each lesson, and you’ll learn valuable skills such as how to mix colors to get the exact color you want! To learn more, visit https://delaplaine.org/instruction/classes-workshops/. Thanks for stopping by!
My beginner drawing course is now officially full! I am so excited, but there are still some open spots in my mixed media survey course, Drawing into Calm, and Continuing Landscapes, The Four Seasons. To learn more, visit http://www.delaplaine.org. Here are some photos of the artwork I plan to demonstrate for these courses, to give you a sneak preview!
If you are a creative type or if you like to make things, you have probably encountered the moment when the finished product you imagined, does not live up to your expectations. Creative types such as musicians, composers, producers, dancers, writers, artists, photographers, cooks, and makers of all types, can probably tell you what it feels like to hit a wall with a project, how it felt, and what they did to navigate that feeling of utter frustration. As an artist, I have experienced this frustration more times than I can count. Some paintings and drawings are simply learning projects and are difficult to salvage, while others can be fixed.
I know it’s been said that you learn more from your mistakes than your successes, but when I get to a point in a painting or drawing and I realize that the painting or drawing doesn’t look right, it can be really frustrating. I start doubting myself, feel like giving up, or doing something that I am not good at, like cooking or cleaning because I know that I am not good at these things, so my expectations of success in these domains are much lower than for painting or drawing since I have no training in cookery or housekeeping. Since I know I am not a good cook, if it doesn’t turn out so well, it’s a waste of ingredients but I don’t feel as emotionally attached to the outcome as I would to a painting or drawing.
I recently read a forum question on the website, Wet Canvas.com, and the question of the day was,” When should I stop working on a painting? I was intrigued by the question, and wondered how other artists dealt with paintings that can “look like a dog’s breakfast.” I read about a variety of solutions suggested by artists who had hit the wall creatively. Some were familiar to me, like my tendency to put the painting away and stop looking at it for a few days, weeks, months, or even longer. Others were not as familiar such as putting the painting somewhere where you can see it, such as on an easel in a living room, and then taking time to look at it from time to time to diagnose the problem. Another favorite technique is to write a list of things I want to change in the painting, be it the drawing, colors, value, edges, etc. In my case, some of the artwork I have abandoned was started about two years ago, and I am just now starting to look at the sketches and Photoshop files.
This week I took some time to work some more on my acrylic painting, Waiting: Creative Block. I realized that there were several things bothering me about it. The colors and values, and composition were some of the biggest glaring errors. I am realizing there are many reasons why this painting series of poetry illustration works have been abandoned. One of which was being too busy with other things to give the series the proper amount of time it requires to get things right, such as the composition and the drawing. Since I dropped out of the Social Work program at Frederick Community College, I do have more time to work on paintings.
And since I have deliberately looked at my schedule e and started marking studio days on the calendar, I have more “intentional “time. But I am also realizing just how hard this series is, as I am making some paintings almost entirely from scratch by combining different photo references in Photoshop and then drawing and painting them, with this technique, I do not have the luxury of working from reference photos already taken. I have to look for source material and then combine it to make it my own. This project is highlighting areas of weakness in me as an artist, and one of them is composition. I have a tendency to put everything in the middle and don’t often use more unconventional compositional styles. I want to change that and start looking to master artworks to try and broaden my skills in this area.
Another great way to improve your painting skills is to draw, yes draw. Regularly and in a sketchbook if you can, as much as you can so that you can practice things like composition, color, proportions, etc. It can also help you see patterns in your work, such as a favorite subject you return to, or a color palette. A sketchbook is also a great place to try out a variety of art media since it doesn’t feel as precious as a large painting can sometimes feel. This week I am featuring photos from my old sketchbook to show just how diverse you can be in art media. I include mixed-media collages and colored pencil drawings. The sky really is the limit with sketchbooks!
This is an archived blog post that I edited today, but the artwork that accompanies it is fresh. It’s a mixed media art collage that tells a story about my family history, growing up in a rural area of Howard County, MD.
It all started with a bad day
It was a tough day in the art studio today. I woke up this morning with very little energy; however, I was determined to make time for art regardless of my lethargic state. After several cups of coffee and a long walk around my neighborhood, I set out to start a cat portrait I have wanted to work on for a while. I set my timer for 25 minutes and started drawing from an art demonstration book. Suffice it to say, the drawing did not go well, at all, despite several attempts to get the proportions of the cat’s body correct. Each attempt just brought on more feelings of frustration. After the third attempt, I finally gave up and put my supplies away, and went to do something else. After working on the cat portrait, I realized that I am really out of practice when it comes to doing animal portraits, as I have been focusing a lot more on floral subjects, which are made up of simpler shapes and less precise in their proportions than animals and people.
What I observed from the day
I tried not to beat myself up about it, or obsess about what my failure to meet my expectations might mean, but I think that this drawing might end up in the growing pile of unfinished artworks, which brings me to today’s topic, which is, what to do with your unfinished artwork. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have several unfinished or unsatisfactory art projects residing in my art studios, such as pastels, drawings, watercolors, and some oil paintings that did not turn out as I had envisioned. This makes me wonder, what should I do with this collection of art misfits? Earlier last week, I serendipitously found the article, “50 Ways to Use Your Unfinished Art,” by Carrie, on https://www.artiststrong.com/50-ways-to-use-your-unfinnished-art/.
What I have done in the past with unsatisfactory art
In the past, I have usually tried to resolve issues with unfinished artwork, sometimes starting over from scratch; i.e. Creating a brand new drawing on a new substrate and re-surfacing the canvas by sanding it with heavy grit sandpaper, so it can be re-gessoed. Other days, when I am more desperate or frustrated, I throw it in the trash, never to be seen again. Unless of course, my husband gets to it before I take out the trash. In which case, he fishes it out and says, ‘Why did you throw this away?” Or, some variation on that theme usually ensues when he finds my rejected art. At this point, the amount of unsatisfactory art and even uncompleted art is starting to grow and I am wondering what should I do with all of this stuff? Give it away to friends/family, donate it to Goodwill, toss or recycle it, or if I am liking this idea more, try to finish the unfinished art and post about it to keep myself accountable. And finally, what about those unsatisfactory pieces that I would otherwise throw away? Can they find a new life in my sketchbook, or in a mixed media piece? In one of my latest collages, I did just that, up-cycled old sketches into a totally new piece! It was so much fun and really got my creative juices flowing! This brings me to another point, I wanted to share that plans are in the works to teach a course that teaches you how to upcycle your old sketches and ephemera and tell your family story through narrative art. I will let you know when the details get finalized!
Artists: What kind of Artist Are You-Amateur, Hobbyist, or Professional?
Pictured is a work in progress, which I plan to use to advertise my upcoming mixed media narrative course at the Adams County Arts Council in Gettysburg, PA.
This is an example of a final project for my Classic Drawing course, which focuses on teaching beginners the fundamentals of drawing, such as line, shape, and form as well as shading techniques to simulate a variety of textures in still life. I will be offering this course in April at the Delaplaine Art Center April! Visit: https://delaplaine.org/class/?id=22-4-DR02 to learn more!
Here is a photo of a mixed media piece from my course, Drawing Calm: A mixed Media survey, which will be offered again at the Delaplaine Art Center in April of this year. Click on the link to learn more: https://delaplaine.org/class/?id=22-4-DR03
This is a sample of the demonstrations which I plan to teach in my Continuing Landscapes course at the Delaplaine Art Center in Frederick, MD this April! Click here to learn more: https://delaplaine.org/class/?id=22-4-DR04.
Why I decided to Write about Artist Types
It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog, and I have debated off and on within myself, whether to continue blogging about the series I started in May called and famous failures. However, at the end of the day, I decided that I would switch gears and write about a more arts-based topic. Instead, I decided to examine the topic of different artist types and the pros and cons of each type. It’s my belief that there is no superior type of artist, and that it is all about what type works best for you. However, I do think that it takes a very unique person to be able to combine the roles of both artist and entrepreneur.
In my opinion, such individuals must be extremely dedicated to making art their life’s work, no matter what it takes, or how much time they have to invest in learning their craft and other business skills to make a profit. On the contrary, not every artist has that sort of drive or wants their art to be consumed by the public as a commodity. Perhaps for some, art is an outlet for their feelings and experiences and they would rather keep that private, which is perfectly fine. Meanwhile, there are other artists who find themselves somewhere in the middle between hobbyists and amateur artists. These artists, sometimes called, “double jobbers,” want to take their art to a more professional level, but also work a day job, such as the British artist described in the article, “The Double Jobbers, Making a Living into eh Arts, by Kathy B. Sweeney, posted on The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2012/jul/29/living-working-in-the-arts. Consequently, they are not pressured to make a living from their art.
On the other hand, there are artists who cannot imagine doing anything else with their lives and spend almost all of their time marketing and making their artwork, such as Elizabeth St. Hillaire, Kelly Wynne, and many others. The three types of artists which I will discuss in this blog post are hobbyist, amateur, and professional artists, along with the pros and cons of each type.
Why is it important to know what type of artist you are?
I picked this topic because I have been wrestling with the question about what category I fall into as an artist: Amateur, Hobbyist, or Professional? In my opinion, it’s important to know which category of artist you fall into because there are specific actions that you need to take if you want to go beyond making artwork for pleasure and start making it with a business mindset. According to the author, Alyson Stanfield, who wrote the art business book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio, it is not enough just to make art, you need to learn about how to market and sell your art, as well as to sharpen your artistic skills and creating a specific body of work that showcases your unique style as n artist. (Sources: Artwork Archive, “Alyson Stanfield Shares Her 10 Best Marketing Tips,” https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/alyson-stanfield-shares-her-10-best-art-marketing-tips, accessed on 06/14/18, and Alyson Stanfield, I’d Rather Be in the Studio!, preface, pg. 1, 2008, Pentas Press, Golden. Colorado, and Aletta de Wal, “Hobbyist, Amateur or Profefessional Artist: Which Are You?” http://emptyeasel.com/2011/02/01/hobbyist-amateur-or-professional-artist-which-are-you, accessed on June 6, 2018. )
My Journey as an Emerging Artist
After my father died in 2011, I realized that I wanted to make the most of the time I had left. I wanted to live without regrets about pursuing art to the highest extent possible. For as long as I can remember, it has been my dream to be an artist. In fact, my grandmother reported in her scrapbook that I began drawing at the age of 3. When I first started making art with the intention of selling it, back in 2011, my catalyst for making art was that I needed an avenue to express my grief.
Deciding what level of involvement in art that I want to have in my life has modified my choices and informed my decisions about my career, how I spend my time, and how I spend my money. I’ve gone from being a wide-eyed dreamer of a someday art career, as an art student, who lived amongst the bubble of the art community, to living life after college with all its startling reality. This world I now live in includes: bills, student loan debt, working as much as I can on my art while balancing a night job, experiencing frequent rejections for art shows, and feeling unrelenting and crushing self-doubt about my abilities as an artist. I feel I have been drifting without many purposes in my quest to be a professional artist, and it’s making me wonder whether this is the life I really want.
Making the Jump from Hobbyist Artist to Amateur Artist
In more recent years, I have really stepped up my activity to bring my art to a more professional level, such as: creating profit and loss sheets in Excel, designing an art catalog of inventory, launching an artist website, blogging about art, participating in more frequent art shows, hosting studio sale events at my home, producing custom art, and starting commerce shops on Etsy and Red Bubble, etc. However, all of this activity has been challenging and sometimes disappointing. It seems to me that no matter how hard I try, I am still struggling to sell my art consistently. I have also made efforts to connect with people on a personal level through writing blog posts, and producing artist newsletters.
However, I am still not making a profit, and instead, I find myself falling into debt to pay for framing, art supplies, and marketing expenses. Even more importantly, I feel I have lost the joy of making art in the midst of all this business-related activity. Consequently, I’ve had severe doubts about whether I want to be a professional artist, because of the amount of work, time, emotion, skill, and unflagging confidence a professional artist must have to survive. I wonder, are any other artists are struggling with this situation? And I’m also asking myself, do I really want to be a professional artist, or not? If not, then what type of artist do I want to be?
Since writing this post, I am now adding a new dimension to my identity as an artist, as a teaching artist, and I now teach art classes at Delaplaine Art Center, Frederick Community College, and the Adams County Arts Council. This new role, which I began in 2019, has informed my studio practice in a way that challenges me to keep learning new skills, and techniques so that I have fresh new content to offer my students and to inspire my own personal work, which is becoming more and more content-based, i.e. art that is meant to be a personal expression of my thoughts, memories, poems that inspire, etc. My favorite new place to continue my education as an artist and teacher is youtube, which is chock full of free art tutorials, such as The Virtual Instructor, Rapid Fire Art, and my favorite pastel artist, Karen Margulis, to name a few! To learn more about my current class offerings in pastel, mixed media, and drawing, please visit www.delaplaine.org. I am also working on a new art course about mixed media narratives at the Adams County Arts Council. I will update that information as soon as it becomes available.
What are some Specific Types of Artists?
To investigate and to define the different types of artists that anyone can be, I read an article entitled, “Hobbyist, Amateur, or Professional Artist-Which are you?” written by Aletta de Wall on the website, Empty Easel, at http://emptyeasel.com/2011/02/01hobbyist-amateur-or-professional-artist-which-are-you. The author, De Wall, states that there are three categories of artists and they are: Hobbyist, Amateur, and Professional and that each type is distinctly different. (Source: ibid)
The Hobby Artist
For example, hobby artists are not trying to make a living from their art, and they may only make art when the creative bug bites. (Source: ibid) In addition, hobby artists may study for many years and hone their craft by taking classes and workshops, but they may not ever receive the recognition that their work deserves because they are not taking actions that would promote their art effectively, such as having a business or marketing plan. (Source: ibid) On the other hand, an advantage of being a hobby artist is that there is no pressure on them to cater to a specific audience or make a profit, so they are free to experiment with a variety of media and subject matter and styles and techniques. They may also have more time to make art because there is no imperative to make a profit and engage in business-related activities such as marketing, bookkeeping, or sales.
The Amateur Artist
Another category of artist types is an amateur artist. This type of artist has started to play with the idea of making their art into a profession. (Source: ibid) Perhaps they have started to think that they need to start selling their art to help foot the bill for their art supplies and to start being able to deduct their art expenses from taxes. (Source: ibid) An important distinction between hobby artists and amateurs is that amateurs are willing to give up their personal time in order to learn how to sell their art and create new works. (Source: ibid) However, they may be uncertain about how to turn their passion into a viable business. (Source: ibid)
The Professional Artist
Finally, the last category of artists that this article discussed is professional artists. This type of artist is distinguished from the other two types of hobby artists and amateur artists because they consider art to be their profession. (Source: ibid, and Drew Kimble, “9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist,” https://skinnyartist.com/9-warning-signs-of-an-amateur-artist, accessed on June 7, 2018. )
These types of artists want to make a profit from their art, build a following, and continue to build their business skills at the same time. They have an intense level of dedication for their art and are willing to sacrifice time, money, sleep, and do whatever it takes to make a profit. (Source: ibid, and Drew Kimble) They might work another day job to help support their business or eventually quit their day job when they are able so that they can devote more time to making art and learning how to sell it.
Other activities that they engage in are: making studio time a daily habit, applying for grants, writing artist newsletters, submitting their artwork for review at galleries and art fairs, writing business plans, extending their knowledge of effective business practices by attending art business workshops, etc. (Source: ibid, and Hayley Roberts, “Twelve Things No One Ever Tells You About Being An Artist,” The Huffington Post, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/hayleyroberst/twleve-things-no-one-tell.html. accessed on June 7, 2018.) They also promote their artwork online and offline through social media, their artist website, and in real-life artist events, such as art gallery openings, art festivals, etc. (Source: ibid)Some may also make a living by teaching their craft to others. (Source: Aletta De Wal, “Hobbyist, Amateur, or Professional Artist-Which are you?”, and Hayley Roberts, “Twelve Things No One Ever Tells You About Being An Artist,” ) .
These artists may receive more recognition for their artwork, but they may also experience more criticism and rejection than the two other types because they are more aggressively pursuing art gallery representation, etc. In addition, they may have less time for making artwork because they have to balance making art with business-related duties. Furthermore, they may struggle to sell their art or make consistent income and they may face stiff competition from other artists because it is such a saturated field. It is a long road for these artists towards building a following and making a success from their art, but they are dedicated for the long haul. (Source: Drew Kimble, “9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist,” https://skinnyartist.com/9-warning-signs-of-an-amateur-artist, accessed on June 7, 2018. )
What about You? What Type of Artist are you?
So what about you, reader? What type of artist are you? I would love to hear about your dreams and hopes with regard to making art. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read this. Next week, I will be talking about this topic of artist types in more detail, with a slight twist. The twist will be a more in-depth look at what it really means to be a professional artist and why it has been traditionally so difficult to be successful in this field.
This spring I am teaching a new course called, Drawing Calm: A Survey of Mixed Media. Have you ever wondered if you can combine more than one art medium? You can, and this course might just be what you are looking for! Click here to learn more: https://delaplaine.org/class/?id=22-4-DR03.