“Twenty dollars worth of art, please.” By Jane Ayres

photo credit Jane Ayres
photo credit Jane Ayres

Growing up in the 60s and 70s it was a treat after school to stop by the corner shop and buy a penny’s worth of sweets.  Lemon bonbons were my favourite.  They were scooped out of the huge jar and carefully weighed out, measured to the value of a penny and then placed in a paper bag.

Fast forward around 40 years.  I’m a big fan of the US TV series Parks and Recreation, a wonderfully observed, funny, warm character comedy  which centres around the employees of the parks and recreation department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana.   Season 2, currently on BBC 4, featured an episode in which office staff were invited to produce a design for a mural contest. Declaring he has no interest or talent in art, the seemingly shallow character called Tom decides to cheat and approaches a professional designer to do the work for him. Believing art to be simply another commodity, he requests “20 dollars worth of art”. I laughed out loud at this. (The irony is that he later falls in love with the abstract work produced, forming a deep emotional connection with his piece of art).

It got me thinking about how we measure the creative process in monetary terms.  How do we /can we value art?  And our time as creative producers?  I wonder how many artists have had clients asking how much art they can get for £10? £100? £1000?  Interestingly, commission guidelines for composers are often based on cost per minute of music, and writers can be paid per word for articles and features.

My e-books are priced between £1.95 – £3.98. Many e-books cost just 99p.  They could have taken 6 months or several years of work to produce.  What else can you get for £1.95?  Not even a cappuccino.  Is my latest book worth less than that?

Pricing and charging is a tricky arena.  Especially since creatives often do a lot of work gratis (and are often expected to do stuff for free).  I’ve done plenty for free – sometimes willingly and happily if I know that funding was a problem, other times not so much.  What is my time worth?  If no-one pays me is my time worthless? Would you ever assume that a plumber or mechanic or solicitor will work for free?

The arts make money. A recent report in the Guardian highlighted the fact that, “Analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows that the arts budget accounts for less than 0.1% of public spending, yet it makes up 0.4% of the nation’s GDP.

The report is published amid fears that the arts will take another big hit when George Osborne announces his spending review in June.”  (Click link below to read the article).

We are all consumers.  But, as a creative, how do you value your time?  And that of other creative producers?

Links: http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2012/nov/22/parks-and-recreation-bbc4

http://www.impulse-music.co.uk/commission_fees.htm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2013/may/07/arts-worth-millions-uk-economy?goback=%2Egde_4148866_member_238627525

Related posts:

http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/is-book-simply-commodity-should-you-be.html

Win an Illustration by Ben Cameron – Closing Date 7th May

Ben Cameron has a competition running to win his illustration “Bugsy Alone” drawn in black ink on 230gm acrylic paper.

We think it is a lovely piece of art and anyone would be lucky to own him.

All you have to do is Tweet about the competition and make sure you include a couple of things.

1. Ben’s Twitter name @ben_cameron needs to be in the tweet, not right at the beginning though.
2. A link to website strangepaul.com

He will accept RT’s as entries too. They’re sometimes a bit tricky to monitor but he said he will do his best!

If you are not on Twitter then email your details to bencameron@me.com

He will pick a winner at random from a hat/bowl/human skull on Bank Holiday Monday, the 7th May.

The prize will be posted (or hand delivering if you’re local to Medway) in a nice tube, 1st class the day after the comp ends.

If enough people enter he will try to sort something out for a runner-up(s) too.

Any questions or feedback, please get in touch.

If you’re not in UK but still want to enter, please feel free to do so if you’re happy to pay for the postage.

Find out more about Ben Cameron at http://strangepaul.com/