Icebergs, Trees, and Art

via the Concept Co-Op Twitter feed, I ran across this article on pay expectations for artists. Specifically, the author (an artist who goes by Daarken) takes on what’s apparently a quite common offer for one-off corporate illustrations: $100.00. It seems like a nice little sum, until Daarken does a bit more breaking down:

Minimum wage in California is $8/hour. Let’s say it takes you two days to finish one painting, which is usually how long it takes me. Of course some more complex paintings can take anywhere from 5-10 days, but we will say it takes 2 days.

That means for two days of work you get paid a nice crispy $100 bill, although it isn’t in your hands just yet. Someone working minimum wage makes $128 in two days. Are you already seeing the problem here? That means someone working minimum wage is making more money than you are.

The above quote points to one of the most difficult elements of finances as pertains to the arts. There’s an inherent attitude, I think, that being able to produce art in any of its varied forms is something that kind of happens, via the magics of talent and an absence of view. Which, as most people who produce any kind of art will tell you, is a patent falsehood.

Yes, that speed-sketch over there might have been done in an hour. Of course, that sketcher has spent several times over that amount of time practicing just that kind of effort. That the end result is a picture in a relative heartbeat doesn’t eliminate the several thousand other heartbeats he spent honing, learning, preparing. All of that time should count in a real and appreciable way when you consider “how long it took” to make that sketch.

Ditto just about any improv performances you see. The only reason the musicians or actors involved can create a show out of nothing is because, surprise, it’s not really out of nothing. It’s out of hours of preparation and study and, again, practice.

That theatre you heard mounted a show in a week? No. That theatre you heard about had a week of official rehearsals. Which was preceded by much more time choosing the show, holding auditions and callbacks, meeting with production staff, allowing production staff to create the costumes and the sets, and more than a few things I’m quite sure I’m leaving out. Probably, also, it involved performers who were either already familiar with the material (either from having done the show before or from independent research) or who received rehearsal materials in advance of rehearsal proper and spent non-rehearsal time working it.

Music by request? Seriously, we aren’t even spending time unpacking that one. When’s the last time you learned a song after looking it over once?

And, yes, I’ll be selfish and shoehorn in writing. Sometimes composition is a quick thing. More often it’s not. But even that quickly shot off bit of snark? Like the speed sketch above, that’s there because the writer’s been doing this for quite some time.

I think I have more to say on this, but it tends to veer off in a few different directions. For now, then, I’ll just ponit out that, with art like many other things, you don’t get to be fast … well, fast. And if time is money, such time should be at a premium.

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One thought on “Icebergs, Trees, and Art

  1. Pingback: If I Don’t Know How to Do It, How Hard Can It Be? | Process Wonk

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