Thursday, January 27, 2011

Distinguishing Value/Original vs. Reproductions

NOTE: I'm posting this piece again because it doesn't appear in my stats.  Anyone reading it?

Following up on a comment left on my last post by Liana, let's continue the conversation about price and value of an art work.  Liana injects the subject of original work versus reproduction, so let's start with a couple of artists, Griselda, who sells only original (one-of-a-kind) work, and her sister, Prunella, who sells reproductions of her originals.  For argument's sake, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they are regarded equally in the art world, both sought after and collected.  Let's also paint them as on equal financial footing in regards to their work.

So, what is the difference in actual value of the work, in perceived value, and in the mystical "Vision" value, which I suggested in the last post.

Is the "actual value" the price set or the price paid?  Does "perceived value" affect "actual value" (of either type)?  How does the "vision value" affect actual and/or perceived value?  Hmmmm.  I sense a snake pit.

I see Griselda coming from her studio now.  Gris, I know  you've considered these questions over the years.  Could you give us some insight based on your personal experience?

Sure, Whitney.  I've been painting for a couple of decades.  Painting is both my job and my love.  It excites me to think and work in new and fresh ways, and, for me, painting versions of the same piece is not satisfying, and ultimately is not stimulating for my clients.  So, I sell only my original work.

Yes, I can understand that feeling of excitement about new work, but, Gris, you do a lot of work.  Do you mean to say that each and every painting is a new idea?  How can you keep up your output if every piece has to be an absolutely new idea?  And what about the stress of selling those expensive pieces, when reproductions can be sold for much less and with little effort on your part?

Perhaps we need to talk about what "original" means.  If I paint a particularly exciting piece - a piece that, in the process of painting, generates several more ideas, I go with it, and it becomes a series, perhaps following a theme or a color palette or form, but each one furthering the original thought.  This series may be, for example, about movement.  To the viewer, it may appear to be the "same" painting done over and over with very small changes.  To the artist, it may be movement itself.  You paint, Whitney.  How many paintings could you do about "red"?  Would the viewer say, good grief, does she ever paint anything else?

OK, I get it.  But, what about the issue of money and the increased income you would, or could, have if you sold reproductions of your work?

Mmmm.  Another bird altogether.  First, I am fortunate that I don't have to make any more money than I already do.  My financial needs aren't great.  If they were, perhaps I would consider selling prints.  Until then, I believe that reproducing my work lessens the value of all original work, not just my own.  Philosophically, I believe it is better to buy bad original work than to buy a reproduction of the best painting ever done.  Art, in its purest form, is a communication between artist and viewer.  A reproduction, no matter how skillfully marketed, is nothing more than a facsimile, an impersonation of that.  In effect, it is a counterfeit, an ersatz conversation with the artist.  The subtleties of experience, which Liana mentioned, cannot exist other than in the original piece.  Here comes Prunella.  She thinks quite differently than I.  Pru!  Come give us your insights as an artist.

Prunella, what's your view on selling reproductions of your work?

I sell a lot of reproductions.  Some are good.  Some less good.  But I have a huge audience because of the affordability of prints.  I believe my work is good.  It has been validated in the appropriate circles.  I have collectors who buy my originals.  And, because I sell reproductions well, I can actually have time to do something other than paint.  I like to swim and hike, play a little golf.  Unlike Gris, I think it's important to get good art out to as big an audience as possible.  That way, there is good contemporary work available to look at, right beside the ubiquitous Monets and Picassos.  And, if  the artist is in the very early stages of a career, reproductions can gain an audience much quicker then if he sells only his originals.

It seems, then, that we are facing a wide philosophical gap.  How is the audience of potential buyers to make an informed decision?  Obviously, there are as many answers as snakes in that pit, and some of them are just as slimy.  

Many have experienced the fallacious marketing of print editions of 10-20 years ago.  People were duped into buying prints from "limited" editions of 5000, and sometimes that meant 5000 in each size offered of the same print!  Then the naive buyer would try to sell his "limited edition" print only to find it had no value at all.  Very sad.  Very bad!  For the buyer, and for all artists doing reproductions, be they honorable or not.  Next came the early giclees, many of which had terrible integrity of material, fading almost immediately.  After that, prints were touted with the "artist enhanced" moniker.

Time passed. Giclee printing improved.  Texturing became possible.  The quality of reproductions has gone sky high.  Marketing them is an art in itself.  But, in the end, the buyer must remember that it is still only a reproduction of the original painting.  The value to the buyer must be that he is able to own something done by his favorite artist that he would otherwise not have been able to afford.  The current reproductions are not hand pulled lithographs, or monographs, or true limited editions (usually not more than 25).  They are facsimiles - likenesses of the original.

I have absolutely no objection, either philosophically or commercially, to selling reproductions.  I do categorically object to implying to a potential buyer that this reproduction is, in any way, an original.  Hedging words is misleading, and in a world of false and misleading advertising, we owe it to our clients, whether they spend $100 or $100,000, to be crystal clear about what they are buying.  A client may indeed be thrilled with the fact that you have reproduced his $20,000 painting so that he can say, "I have the original!"  But would that client be so thrilled to hear that his secretary bought "an original hand embellished limited edition" version of the same painting for $100?  Perhaps not.

In the end, it is an issue of personal ethics and communication.  These are large concepts coloring every part of our lives as artists, parents, teachers, employers and employees, mates and partners, medical professionals and politicians.  We have only limited opportunities to consciously  confront them in an academic way - a way in which we might better understand what ethics are and how to communicate.  It is up to us, individually, to continually ask ourselves the important questions - to not simply fall in line with the current market fashions of white lies and partial truths.  It is up to us, individually, to embark on civil discourse about matters which affect us all.  Through the discourse, we achieve clarity - even if we only become clear about that which is unclear!

And, by the way, thanks to my fictitious friends, Griselda and Prunella, for joining us.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pricing Artwork/Thinking, Making, Marketing+Vision

It has always felt like an oxymoron to fuse money and creativity into one word - price.  As in, "What is the price of your painting?"  What is the price of an artist's work, how is it determined, what factors does it include, is it fair, and above all, what does it mean?  What does it mean to the audience?  What does it mean to the artist?

Let's try to sort this out.

Selling art isn't any different than selling widgets.  Or is it?  Art is not a manufactured good - not plastic bowls or wood screws or tubes of toothpaste.  Art is, for discussion purposes here, one something envisioned, made and brought to market by one person.  Often the source materials are made or harvested by that same person.  The advertising and shipping done by that person.  How is that time tracked and costed out so as to make sense for the artist doing all this work?  How does one person, who is also the administrative assistant, schedule and account for such a varied work load? And how does one price materials used in the work which might be irreplaceable, necessitating a new design approach for the next work?  What about accounting for materials which, in and of themselves, take additional time to ready for use, such as the painter who mixes his/her own pigments or the jeweler who also cuts his/her own stones?  These are some of the factors that most art buyers aren't even aware of when they come to the studio or look at a painting or sculpture, pot or bracelet, custom made jacket or assemblage of hand made papers.  The art is what they come to see, and it is usually all they see.  Art bears its own ambiance. No artist wishing to sell his/her work would bore a client with the nuts and bolts of their business.

And what of the time it takes to think through the vision of the work before it ever comes to production? Time sketching could be assigned a specific value.  What about time thinking?  Artists hear, over and over, "That's amazing!  How do you even come up with these ideas?"  The answer is, that's how artist's think.  Speaking personally, for myself, I see things very clearly in my mind's eye, but that doesn't happen in a flash.  I think about something until it makes itself into a clear visual in my mind.  Only then am I ready to manifest it in clay or paint.  What is the assigned value of that thinking?  Only the artist can assign that value and assign it he/she must, even in just the very broadest sense, because the thinking is the first of the three major components of pricing artwork. Thinking. Making. Marketing.  I intentionally do not use the word "creating" because I believe too many people have creating conflated with making.

The making of a work of art is the easiest part to keep track of.  Many artists work a consistent number of hours a day.  But when a client asks "How long did it take you to make that?", the question must be understood to mean more than just the time the potter spends at the wheel and the glazing pot.  It must include the thinking and the marketing as well.  And the artist's responsibility is to explain to the uninitiated client the three factors included in bringing this gorgeous, unique pot to this pedestal in this studio at this moment in time.

Assigning value to marketing is the most difficult of all.  It is also inclusive of the widest range of variables - documenting photographs, show application fees, show display fees, travel and accommodation to shows, vehicle/trailer expenses, advertising (print ads, business cards & stationary, videos, brochures), business fees & licenses, exhibition booths (tents, walls, pedestals, lighting, flooring),
and the time spent getting to, being at, and returning from shows (because this is time that is not spent in the studio producing).

Ask any business man and my bet is that he will tell you all of this plus more that I've either failed to recognize or note!  But how many people looking at that lyrical painting or simple, perfect stone sculpture will think of these things when they look at the price?

These days we've all become accustomed to discounted prices before the goods have barely hit the shelves.  Can the buyer be blamed for asking, "Is that your best price?"  Perhaps not.  But if it offends the artist, then they bear the responsibility of saying, "Yes, it is" or be prepared to bargain.  Being prepared to bargain means that the artist must know what the price on the work means to him, and be confident in that meaning.

So, what then, beyond the Thinking, Making, and Marketing, affects the price of an artwork?  What is the single thing that makes this worth more than that?

To me, as an artist, it is the Vision and how close the work comes to that Vision.  And that equals meaning for me.  When I create a piece which meets the expectations I have when I begin to make my Vision manifest, I have succeeded by all measure of the word.  That success carries value and that value is not negotiable.

What does price mean to you as a buyer?  As an artist?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Art and Sales at the Celebration of Fine Art

Congratulations to Donna Bernstein on the sale of her large diptych!


And now, let me introduce a fellow artist, Mark Carroll, sculptor of metals, stone, wood, and whatever else he has in his hands!  Mark began the Celebration of Fine Art while living in Buffalo, NY, so is it any surprise that he now lives full time in AZ?  His powerful stone and metal combinations would enhance both traditional as well as contemporary surroundings.  Head to the NW corner of the tent and you will pass through Mark's studio.  His work is both inside the tent and out in the courtyard.

Succulents & Sunflower

Saying goodbye to an art work that I worked hard on and which rose to the top of my expectations of the piece, is a wonderful feeling.  It's really a successful communication - a conversation between the artist and the viewer (and in this case, the buyer) in the form of the art - and that process is a sort of art in and of itself, if that makes sense.  It all feels like a completed full circle when the art finds its "person".  And so, here are three views of Succulents & Sunflower which met, and went home with, its person today.

And tomorrow I'll say hello to the beginnings of a new piece - Poppies in the Grass.....

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Diamonds & Reticulated Silver & Gold!

Come along with me as I continue featuring Celebration of Fine Art artists, art and happenings in the Big White Tent at the Loop 101 and Scottsdale Rd, here in Scottsdale, AZ where the sun is shining and the temps headed towards a delicious 74 degrees.

Donna Armstrong, in the NW Salon of the Celebration, is a jeweler and a gemologist.  You'll know this as soon as you ask her about the difference between diamonds!  The first shot is of a London Blue Topaz necklace and earrings set in reticulated silver and 14k gold.  The London Blue is the darkest and richest in color of all the topazes. I knew the reticulated look, but what I didn't know is that it is accomplished by texturing the metal with a torch.

The second pic is a custom wedding set that Donna updated for the client, using the client's original wedding stones, but adding the center Ascher cut diamond for a beautiful contemporary design with a nod to the traditional band.  Characteristic of the Ascher cut is the square stone with the corners cut off.

Donna, one of our Idaho artists, has been a jeweler for fifteen years and here in the NW Salon for three.  She works primarily with custom pieces, so...Valentine's Day is coming up........

See you tomorrow.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Efflorescence and Inspiration from Poetry

"Efflorescence" Series is the name of this innovative new work from Syed.  Multi-layered glass panels inset in etched copper-clad boxes are pregnant with small shards, creating volume and depth of color which delicately shimmers, shifting color as you move across the piece.

Efflorescence - "a period of bloom", "a result of growth and development"- describes both the work and the artist's presence in his studio this year.
 The new "Autumn Sunset" Series is an extension (and may be seen at the Celebration of Fine Art along with the pieces shown here) of the original "Autumn" Series which he has reprised this year with some alterations in the etched copper portions.

Autumn for 2011

This year I had more time in my studio than I usually do.  This is always a gift from the Universe since I would greatly prefer to be there working than anywhere else on the planet (with children, being the only exception).  Coincidentally, I knew I would have a larger studio space at the Celebration.  I'm not sure I can quite describe the feeling of being lost in time and space that I get when lost in my work.  It is something of grace, I think.  The result is the major work this year - two large figurative pieces - and if you visit the show, I would be happy to tell you about them, as they have their own "stories", their "birth" and their "history".  

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings/Madonna of the Sparrows

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings/Letters from Burma

I had intended to introduce you today to Donna Armstrong's jewelry but I was not able to get her pictures yesterday....but check in tomorrow for simple elegance!

All text and images on this post copywrited 2011 Whitney Peckman

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Best Laid Plans

My good intentions of posting every day ran right up against the world's worst cold!  I'm upright, finally, so here is yesterday's (and Opening Day's) post - a bit late but with pics.

Here is an overview of the NW Salon's area of the Celebration of Fine Art - starting with Donna Bernstein from Idaho and in her 2nd year at CoFA and in the NW Salon.  We love Donna's zen approach to equine art - very clean and powerful, capturing the spirit of movement and grace.

And this is her husband, Lex, who built her exquisite studio look.  Lex is always ready to lend any of us a hand - maintaining his good humor throughout (not an easy task surrounded by a bunch of perfectionist and opinionated artists) - and, if you want to talk soccer - Lex is your guy.

Directly next to Donna, and always well behaved, is Emma (that would be Emma the Dog).  Deb, who is our tech woman extraordinaire and wife of Ken Newman, a most remarkable sculptor who works primarily in wood and bronze, creating important pieces of commentary on nature and man.

Our newest artist to join the NW Salon, Steve Taylor, is in his 2nd year at CoFA and we are so glad to have him in our "neighborhood" - not only does Steve paint sensitive portraiture, he and his wife, Janelle, also make the best chicken soup on the planet - I know this personally because they came to my rescue with their remedy for the cold that laid me low for a couple of days (thanks!!).

Michael Jones, our steel sculptor and encylopedia of Native American symbology, has made both the inside and outside of the tent into a studio replete with gates, totems, and wall pieces.  He and his wife and "red apron lady" (our intrepid sales force at CoFA) Karen, live in Montana in an historic cabin in the mountains.   

So, there you have a taste of 2011 Celebration of Fine Art, and tomorrow I'll post elegant jewelry with very special cut stones, by Donna Armstrong, as well as Syed's and my studio space and some of our newest work.  Hope you'll continue along this journey and forward our link, too!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Just the Beginning...

Good Morning Everyone, and a gorgeous morning it is here in Scottsdale, AZ!  The Celebration of Fine Art opened its doors last night for the opening night party and, though all the artists were breathing hard from the four days of fourteen hours constructing their studios and getting their work hung, the guests seemed only to marvel at the result (and enjoy the delectable offerings of Cafe Laredo).  Seeing old friends/clients who are always interested to see each artist's new work is food for the artists, and the appreciation feels like a real pat on the back for the efforts we make.

I hope to do something a bit different this year with my blog, posting each day about what's happening at the show, but particularly to acquaint you with our artists.  This is my fourteenth year at the show and I have seen so much remarkable work that I wish I had told more people about - now I have this great vehicle to do so.

For now, I'm off to our first official day and to shoot some pics for an overview to share with you tonight!