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Old 03-28-2002, 08:54 AM   #1
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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exclamation Don't give away your work!




If you ever expect to be a pro and sell your work, DON'T GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE!

I am always surprised when I hear that artists do this and I think that it is a really dumb marketing ploy...

Think about it from your potential client's viewpoint...why should he/she be silly enough to pay big (probably hard-earned) bucks for a painting by you when other people get them for nothing?

If you don't value your own work, can you really expect someone else to see value in it?

I have seen artists who ask someone to model for them and then in "gratitude," actually give them the painting. Maybe it would be cheaper in the long run to pay the sitter, take 'em to lunch, and/or send them a note with a photo of the work enclosed?

Giving your work away for free not only harms your reputation as a serious artist, but sets a low standard for those artists who are trying to make a living by selling their work!
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Old 03-28-2002, 02:47 PM   #2
Margaret Elvin Margaret Elvin is offline
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Karin,

What you say makes so much sense and is related to that favorite subject of not pricing high enough. Even my young daughter tells me to have more confidence and raise my prices. I listen to her, believe it or not and have been doing just that.

So far I haven't given anything away, except as special occasion gifts to immediate family. Relatives and in-laws sometimes hint they'd like a free portrait. They don't seem to realize how much time is involved. I let them know in a nice way but it's frustrating because they make it clear they'd love to have this kind of original artwork...if it's free.

Thanks for the excellent advice.
Margaret
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Old 03-28-2002, 03:52 PM   #3
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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...but it's frustrating because they make it clear they'd love to have this...free.
I doubt that other self-employed professionals willingly and cheerfully donate that many hours of their "extra" family time, energy (not to mention the costly materials) to all the shirt-tail relatives and friends who unthinklingly ask this of them...even though they could probably afford to pay the standard fee.

With a BIG family and/or lots of friends, you could easily go broke.
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Old 03-28-2002, 08:05 PM   #4
Joseph Brzycki Joseph Brzycki is offline
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Ha Ha

Today, I actually gave away two drawings to my model. In return, I receved two portrait commissions. I never give any of my stuff away, but since I didn't care for the drawings, I wasn't too worried about it. Besides they took very little time. I would NEVER give a painting away.
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Old 03-28-2002, 08:45 PM   #5
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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If I produce a piece of artwork that I personally don't like, I'd NEVER EVER let anyone have it...my fear is that they might "show it around" as an example of my skill!

A couple of years back, I let a friend twist my arm and I donated a small "not-so-great" watercolor to an auction (for a very good cause). And to my embarassment it sold for $200...weeks later that darn thing was keeping me awake at night.

I ended up contacting the buyer and paying DOUBLE to get it back so I could hide it in the "circular file."
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Old 03-28-2002, 09:09 PM   #6
Jesse C. Draper Jesse C. Draper is offline
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Quality Control

I think this is a very important subject. We all go through years where we are learning our craft. I used to save everything, even paintings that were failures. I recently destroyed all the failures. I think this opened a new door for me. I learned something from each of the failures, but I don't want them coming back to bite me in 20 years. I went to the Chihuly exhibit during the Olympics where I learned a really good lesson. There was a documentary of Chihuly at work at the exibit. In the documentary it showed him destroying much of his work, he threw beautiful pieces of blown glass against a giant cement wall. It almost hurt to watch him do this. He called this quality control. After visiting the gift shop, I came to realize why he destroyed all those pieces. Have you ever seen how much a Chihuly piece costs?
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Old 03-28-2002, 10:52 PM   #7
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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One of my major regrets was that I destroyed a couple of (unsigned) REALLY AWFUL EMBARRASSING paintings I slaved over when I was just starting out in oils...

I often run into people who mistakenly assume that I was "lucky enough to be born with talent"...and that I didn't really start out at the bottom. HA!

I'd like to show 'em just how bad my work once was...it might inspire them to not ever give up as anything is possible. Really and truly!
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Old 03-28-2002, 11:37 PM   #8
Michael Fournier Michael Fournier is offline
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Giving away free vs donating??

Well I most agree that one must value one's art if they expect others too.

But...
We should draw a distinction between giving away Art for free as if it had little value vs. a donation or a gift to a cherished friend or relative.

Also a donation of a painting to a charity or organization fund raiser is also a worthy cause and can give exposure to yourself as well as a cause you may believe in.

I do not know about you but I find great pleasure in donating at least one painting a year to a cause or as a gift.

(This is also tax deductible as long as you are selling similar work at the declared value)
Those receiving these works are well aware of the value of these works.

Also many times my donation of a painting for a charity auction has raised far more then I could have donated in cash. Often much more then I could have sold the piece for on commission. (It seems people are very generous when the money is going to a charity)

So although I agree that as a rule you should not work for free I also feel that life brings more to those with their arms open in giving then to those with clenched fists trying to hold on to what they have.

When you open your hand to give it will be open to receive as well.
I see nothing wrong with a gift to a family member. It is a gift that means far more then anything they could have received from a store bought gift.

I do not make a habit of giving away paintings just because they ask but I have no problem giving a gift of a oil sketch to a family member as a christmas gift.

How many gifts have you given that have brought tears joy to those you bestowed it to.
I can say I have and the joy I received in the giving was worth far more to me then the money those paintings were worth. (And yes they know and respect my fees and never ask me to work for free the understand that these were special gifts)

I do not make it a habit of earning my living off income from relatives.
and I would hope that I am never reduced to selling art to family to survive.
In the end it is little loss to me monetarily but I huge gain to me in the love and joy I recieved by giving.
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Old 03-29-2002, 09:20 AM   #9
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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Since I make a living painting portraits, my circumstances might be a little different...

My little town of Peterborough, New Hampshire has an annual art auction for charity. The average bid generated from this auction is less than $200.

My average price for a portrait is $8000 and producing it takes months of my time, attention and energy...not to mention the high cost of materials. (Imagine how I'd feel if someone got $8000 worth of my work for a mere $200?)

My annual income does not support my making an outright $8000 gift to one charity. Therefore, I think that it would be foolish for me to donate a portrait to this (or any other) charity or auction.

For me, a 10% gift of the cash income from my work to charity makes a lot more sense. If there are those who think this is stingy of me...so be it.

In addition to this...I confess that I love to shop! I'd much rather poke around in little stores and find "just the right" gift for friends and relatives...alas, not everyone finds my work "precious."

Anyhow, this is just another viewpoint ....to each his own...
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Old 03-29-2002, 09:30 AM   #10
Stanka Kordic Stanka Kordic is offline
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This is also tax deductible as long as you are selling similar work at the declared value). Those receiving these works are well aware of the value of these works.
Michael,

Just to clarify according to tax law put into effect in 1988 (I am researching the actual code so I may lobby to change this, it really stinks..). We can only deduct the materials we used to produce the piece. The fair-market value is NOT tax-deductible. A real bummer..
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