Art of the Con

The price someone pays for art sometimes makes me feel a little guilty. I paint because I enjoy it. I don’t need to paint to eat. I am grateful for that because starving would not be a happy place. The value I place on my painting is based on the amount of time I spend so I think they are all worth a fortune. Sadly most people don’t agree.

OK so I don’t lose sleep over what someone pays for my paintings. For that I thank my mercenary bent.

I just watched a documentary about copying paintings in China. The western world calls it forgery. I’m sure Vincent van Gogh worked quickly but not as quickly as these painters copy his work. Often they specialise in one particular painting and paint it over and over again. Sometimes they are mass producing them by working on many copies at the same time. I’m sure some of them do original work and I would love to see it.

Creating a new work takes time. At least it takes me a great deal of time, but I am slow. The creative process is odd in that it’s not very linear. I work in fits and starts, but I paint a little every day; sometimes very little. It’s interesting that occasionally I have to force myself to pick up my brush yet other times areas of the painting are crying out to be worked on. Sometimes there is not time enough in a day to get the work done. There are times when I am impatient and annoyed that areas need so much attention. This is usually when paintings are close to being finished and I’m thinking about the next one.

It occurs to me that the title of this post might make some think that art is dishonest in some way. It can be but to the artist usually not. An artist creates because he/she must or just can. To the artist the work is satisfying and fun. To others who don’t create it can also be satisfying and that’s where money enters the picture. Art has no intrinsic value like a machine that someone designs, builds and saves time. Arts value rests on what someone will pay to possess it.

I would like to say that the artist is incapable of the con but that is very clearly not the case. There are some very talented artists that have survived by using their skills to make forgeries. I don’t believe I’d be a very good forger but luckily I’ve never had to find out.

So my advice to artists is ignore any guilt you might feel. Work on your art and don’t think about the value as long as you are eating.