I had my first ”solo” art exhibition together with my friend Sini Tikkala. The experience was mostly terrific, and a little bit nice, too. Terrific, in this case obviously in the sense it was meant to be used:
1660s, “frightening,” from L. terrificus “causing terror or fear,” from terrere “fill with fear”
Oh yes. There’s something to be said for therapeutic nature of creative efforts – one can pour her soul onto a canvas and use it as a communication channel with her demons and gods and dreams (which are often the same thing). The action, in some sense, purifies the very soul and often gives form and focus to her thoughts. Finishing a piece is like setting a kite on the air and watching it float away with the wind.
Putting it in an exhibition is like the kite catching a gust of wind, crashing to a tree while mangling a squirrel and causing a little old lady to have a heart attack, and having the entire park full of people turn and point their fingers at you. This is where your actual therapist comes in. And bless you for putting your feeble efforts on sale! A cute little price tag on a piece of your heart, blood still dripping from – whoa whoa mate!! Look at those numbers!
Yes. That thing. The price. The… *shudder* …money thing.
Most – no, no – all beginning artists agonise over the price to settle on for their works. If it’s too low, you feel you’re not getting what your effort is worth (and frankly, no one but your aunts will buy art that’s too cheap). If it’s too high, no one will buy your art either. I decided on the formula for the prices on my paintings some time ago, and at the same time I made the decision to stick to that; sale or none. It’s very simply based on size and materials; my own preference over the ”goodness” of the painting has nothing to do with the numbers on the tag.
Let me tell you a little more about the pricing.
Let me tell you a little about how it feels when you’ve agonised and pulled hair over, and finally settled on a price you feel is both reasonable toward the effort and the cost put toward the piece while bearing in mind that you are still a nameless artist in the beginning of her career, and then someone asks you to justify that number.
People joke about it: our paintings or projects are our ‘babies’. There’s a saying in Finnish – ei niin pientä pilaa, ettei totta toinen puoli – which essentially means that no matter how small a joke, there’s always half a truth in it. A lot of people, and the people closest to you are often the worst, seem to think that being good with a paintbrush means that it’s ‘easy’. I’ve tried very hard to house train my beloveds to avoid ”oh, you’ll do it in five minutes” or ”you always come up with something” at any cost*. Because it’s not easy. It’s not fun.
So, OK, sometimes painting is fun, too. My personal experiences with fun+painting mostly have to do with friends+alcohol. Fun, but not very prolific. And making web comics can be fun, too. But is it art?
Oh yes, painting is enjoyable. When all goes well and you’re in the flow, and when you’ve finished a painting and you’re looking at it in the warm postnatal endorphin glow before the reality sets in and you seriously start counting fingers and toes and comparing noses. Something that is not enjoyable is when the form and colour does not come out right**, when you accidentally pour black ink on an almost finished work***, when the ”let’s see what happens when I do this” makes something irreversibly horrible happen, when you’re due a serious painting and all you can think of is homophobic morticians in pink tutus. When every thing you do or think or say or are is just wrong. And you still have to pay your rent. Yea, verily let me tell you about the extortionate rates galleries charge for a little exhibition. Let me tell you about the cost of oil paint, canvas, studio space, brushes, thinner, oil, varnish, the rate at which brushes need to be replaced, coffee****, stupid things people eat at 3AM when all the shops are closed.
Why do I think the price I’ve set for my paintings is right, and why can I raise it as I gain experience?
Because it’s what I do. I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone can do what I can. Sure, not a lot of people may want to put my paintings on their walls, and most of those who might want to probably don’t want to pay several hundred euros for it. But, in my case, if I have to battle the right price and no sale to selling myself short, the right price wins.***** There’s very few things in life with the longevity an oil painting can boast – the oldest oil paintings are from sometime between 5th and 9th centuries, and even with the most elementary varnishing one is likely to last hundreds of years.
And, of course, there’s always that small chance the value of your purchase will be thousandfold in ten or twenty years.
Anyway… That’s just what I was thinking. What? No, I didn’t sell very well.
* Namely, at a cost of a limb or life.
** Accountants: The numbers don’t add up. Lawyers: Your 100% innocent client is ‘proven guilty’. Doctors: The giant tumour that is wasn’t there yesterday. You get the point. If not, tell me your profession, and I’ll try to metaphorise it for you.
*** Had to try.
**** For when you need to stay up all night to finish, and another batch for when you need to stay awake through your day job.
***** People can usually fuck me over sideways in all other areas in my life, but my art is the only thing that’s only me and only mine.