Why is your painting so expensive? 11 artists tell us things they are tired of hearing
Most of us would have computer engineers, lawyers, doctors, business people, corporate folks, marketers and others in our immediate circle, but not a full-time artist. Because compared to other fields like the medical and engineering professions, the number of artists are much less in general.
Add to this the fact that most of us don’t understand art, and in turn, the artists too. Though thanks to the advent of digital art and the internet, opportunities for artists and the exposure their creations get has increased, some preconceived notions remain. Not necessarily the one of an artist as one carrying a jhola containing brushes and a canvas, but others. Like the art not being ‘beautiful’ or comprehensive enough. Or people asking them, “Is this expensive? Can you paint it for me?” - Like it was a plate of bhelpuri they were going to make in a matter of minutes.
We spoke to a few artists, who told us things they are tired of hearing. And from the looks of it, it seems we’ve all been part of the system they describe.
We might disagree with some of the points raised here by the artists, arguing that they are just honest, straightforward queries which shall always be asked of them, but this is their side of the story, so here goes:
Manvee Singh, 38, Delhi
Once a blogger contacted me on Instagram. It started with a compliment and she said, “I have to have one of your paintings.” Then she said, “I have a rule that I don’t spend money on art or any such thing so I am happy to be your muse but I won’t pay.”
When she realised that it’s not going to happen, she asked if I could teach her, not in a workshop, but if she could just sit and watch while I paint.
Deepika Gumaste, 30, Mumbai
One of the things that tires me is when people look at the work I have created and tell me- “This isn’t beautiful!” or “This isn’t art!” An acquaintance once told me, “Your work needs to be beautiful to be accepted by people.”
It was quite scary because for me art is not about acceptance but rather about self-expression and managing one’s inner emotions.
Abhigna Kedia, 30, Bangalore
“Wow. That’s an absolute masterpiece. When are you gifting me a painting?”
“You’re so lucky! You don’t have to work. You just have to sit and paint all day!”
“Artists only get famous after they die.”
“My daughter is in 4th Standard. She’s also a good artist just like you. Can you give her some guidance?”
“Is that painting expensive? Can you paint something like this for me?”
Swati Pasari, 31, Kolkata
“Do you climb on a chair to work on your sculptures? How do you manage to create such huge artworks? Aren’t they too big for you?”
Yes, I am not even 5 feet, but that doesn’t limit my artistic abilities right? But, the very first thing, I get to hear, when people see me and my art is ‘Tum itni chhoti si ho, kaise manage karte ho ye sab bana na?’ (You are so tiny, how do you manage to create such huge sculptures)
Amrai Dua, 25, Delhi
“Oh! So you are an artist? You have such a bright personality and just don’t have the jhola- chappal vibe! And no tattoos to flaunt? But you definitely do some ‘stuff’ because your Instagram stories are amazing at midnight so tell us your poison woman!”
While these are still the better ones, there is another breed of educated ‘friends’ who have often asked me: “Since artists only become famous when they die, will you fake it once before you actually even..? Oh, sorry. I was only pulling your leg.”
This list can go on and on. But the one thing I am tired of hearing is, “When will you settle down?”
I wonder why the same well-wishers who applaud (and show off my work to their friends) don’t think twice before saying this to me. I find it amusing because I feel that stability is the death of an artist. The very fact that I can always be on the path of self-exploration, create my own visual language for those generations to come is something only an artist has the freedom and the ability to do. I strongly believe that I was born with a purpose and creating thought-provoking artworks is my way of giving back to society. My work is open to various interpretations and such stereotypes can be the death of my breed. But a little open-mindedness and acceptance can go a long way.
Akshita Gandhi, 31, Mumbai
“Please don’t become an artist, we have too many anyways!”
“Artist? Why don’t you invest in my gallery instead and we can promote artists together.”
“You art is too crazy. Why don’t you go to art school? If you’ve just graduated from art school maybe you should go to another one and learn to conform.”
Pracheta Banerjee, 24, Kolkata
“You should draw me!”
Artists are requested to draw for free when they decline, people react differently, some understand their choice, while others have no idea how to respond or become disrespectful.
Artists are literally tired of having to explain themselves and why they don’t draw for free, some common assumptions people make are that artists are “born talented” and how it’s easy for them to draw. But who they are now is just the tip of the iceberg, what lies beneath is the years of practice, being passionate, loving the craft, being dedicated - as Michaelangelo once said, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”
An artist cannot live off exposure- they have bills to pay, art supplies to buy. Going to an art school isn’t cheap, they also need to showcase their work in galleries. Seeking gallery representation or exhibiting their work isn’t easy or affordable, therefore, how can it be free?
Saurabh Singhvi, art gallery owner, 37, Delhi
Artists are extremity sensitive people who always crave appreciation and admiration. They get extremely hurt when their work is spoken about in purely commercial terms.
I have always believed that artworks are nothing but the manifestation of an artist’s thoughts, ideas, experiences and emotions. So for an artist, his/her artwork is extremely personal. Whenever galleries or art lovers or collectors try and evaluate an artwork in commercial terms such as ‘not sellable’ or ‘not vibrant enough’ or ‘not a happy work’ it is but natural for an artist to be disheartened.
Similarly, the artist also does not like to hear about how artworks are to be composed of what colours are to be used or what forms are desirable. These aspects are inherent to an artist’s style and palette and should not be manipulated as per the desires of others as the work loses its essence and purity. In short an artist is tired of being dictated to. He/she should be given the utmost freedom to express.
Avinash Karn, 28, Varanasi
I am a Madhubani contemporary artist. I spend a lot of time on all my paintings and do a lot of research on them. Whoever works with such intensity for a long time will definitely hope for a good price in return. But at times I am tired of hearing from some buyers that these artworks do not much value in the market. They say that I should reduce my price keeping the market situation in mind. In return, I am told they shall support me in future events by including my works in a show, so I should sell them my paintings for half the price.
Saurbh Kumar, 30, Delhi
In 2018 when I had a show at a visual art gallery, one visitor asked me why the cost of the painting is so high.
This is what I told him, “I left my government job because I was passionate about art. I studied art to convert my passion into my profession. I left my family to pursue this and did wall painting on the streets in the initial days of career. So, my life struggles, academic education, art technique and work quality decide the value of my painting.”
Charbak Dipta, 30, Delhi
These days very often clients demand multiple styles from a single artist, preventing them to grow and develop their own style. Great masters like Mario Miranda or R K Laxman could develop their unique styles and sign their creations because they didn’t have to face this demand.
The author tweets at @shadowwarior and can be reached at email@example.com