I have spent the last many months working on the process of creation in order to allow me to produce more at a more desirable price point for patrons. The result of this considerable effort has been that all of my current works have been re-priced. These are now reflected in the products offered at the Lumenique Studio Store.
Exploration Behind the Curtain
While many artists are rarely concerned about process costs, the ones who manage to survive or make a living at it do. Their is a delicate balance between finding a price that suits customers and managing to cover costs and extract a little to live on – to continue to make new work.
Works of art are generally one-off, a product of passion made with a high degrees of craft involving significant time to create, and involves inefficiencies in the effort to get things just- so – are beyond what any business involved in production would tolerate. Art is not about business models and throughput. Art is something someone does because that is what they do.
Yet, customers of art often view an artists product in the context of other items available that strike their eye. These comparisons are not always fair, nor are they objective. You don’t pick an artistic work based on a data sheet, or to do a task like wash dishes or make coffee, you pick art because it elicits an emotional response, it speaks to you, or you just think it will go great with the furniture in a specific space. Further, what you might be willing to pay for such work is equally subjective, and completely unrelated to what it might take to produce it.
Until an artist reaches the heights of Warhol, Picasso, or the masters, the work produced is not going to generally be selected because of the name scribbled on the corner of a canvas. Yet, the end product value remains very much the same. In other words, a high quality, exceptionally crafted painting that evokes an emotional response from an unknown or emerging artist serves the same purpose as any painting by a vaunted master artist with a sought after name, yet the price paid for the two functionally identical works can be galaxies apart. There also many cases where an inferior work in craft and quality, from a sought after artist is procured at an extreme price – while work from unknown artist of superior craft and quality with modest pricing, remains unsold. That’s the art universe.
In the effort to derive my survival from creation of art, I have taken time to experiment, test, and trial various creative processes, as well as paths to customers. Along the way, I have also solicited input in an effort to make a connection between the result of my work and patrons. While I would love to just make things every day with the belief that someday it will all sell, that is not practical. The expense of making things, even as simple as a painting, adds up over time, and depletes resources. Without sales, there are no future works – just inventories of unsold effort filling available space.
On the plus side, I have received great feedback on the quality of my work, and the craft represented in it. I have had very positive response in the presentation and design of the works as well. This is satisfying, as I put everything I have into creating products with a high degree of craft. While I am not yet satisfied with some of the more expressive elements of the designs, this is something I am working on constantly.
Some of the feedback did indicate that the inclusion of lighted elements or features is not as desirable as i thought it might be. Interestingly, it appears that including lighting puts the works in context of lighting fixtures, where many attractive and interesting designs are available from producers at a fraction of the cost and price of finished artwork. Further, as it turns out, lighting and architectural folk are not big art buyers, so the connection between the two produces no advantage.
This is a little disappointing, and a relief at the same time. While I have a long history in lighting, which compelled me to include it in my initial work, I am excited to be free of the encumbrance of wires, drivers, light sources, and all that. To this end, current new works in process are being created without light sources integrated.
The negative feedback almost exclusively addressed pricing. I took this to heart, and have invested some time addressing what is driving pricing beyond what patrons consider reasonable.
To put all this all to good use, I have also invested some time in reviewing how I make things, in an effort to create more, and spend less on each work, giving me more room to continue financially and physically. This has resulted in some discoveries and innovation that allows me to get pricing more closely aligned with what customers are willing to invest. The end product is unchanged, the process in which they are created has.
If you visit my Lumenique Studio Store , you will see that everything has been substantially re-priced to reflect the impact of this development.
I fully recognize that there are art purists that will look at all this and come to the conclusion that I am not a pure artist – since real artists don’t think this way. I had this concern as well, until I did some investigation into other artists’ approaches. What I found was that the imagery of artists as purely emotional beings with no business sense, is an unfounded fantasy. One example is Andy Warhol, who continually considered commercial viability of his work – as his background was similar to my own – commercial art. Peter Max, Neiman, and Calder were other examples of modern artists who were commercially driven. Literally all of the masters, from Lautrec (a graphic artist first), through Picasso to Michelangelo were artists that did for pay work on commission, which is the ultimate in customer-centric commercially sensitive effort. One standout exception was Van Gogh as an artist without commercial sense. But, he was quite mad, and a victim of exploitation by his brother.
While Warhol was shunned by the highest order of art snobs in his day, his success was still quite notable during his own living career, and he never fell into the starving artist trap. There are numerous examples of successful artists who were shunned by art snobs, indicating they are unreliable in judging what makes a true artis. So, while I may not be a stereotypical starving artist following passion without concern for living, the concept of being commercially sensitive does not make me less of an artist. In other words, I may have retired from lighting, I cannot just shut off the process of thinking about how I reach and address customers. If that means I am not an artist to some… oh well.