I’m so curious about the value of art.
What compels someone to collect a piece of art or buy a magazine for the illustration on its cover?
I believe, that for an artist to sell their work, they really need to understand why it’s valuable to their buyer. This helps them to have the right conversation and build the right relationship on behalf of their work (it can’t speak for itself).
The cliched response is that the value of art is beauty; that its purpose is to make the world more beautiful. This is like saying the value of food is it’s taste while ignoring all of the nutrition it gives us.
Aesthetic is just one component of thoughtfully crafted artwork.
Perhaps a more interesting question to explore is, “Why is this art meaningful to you?”
In my house, I have two limited edition prints by Dr. Seuss.
They are beautiful, sure, but that is not why I bought them. Beauty wouldn’t even feature in the top five reasons why. If beauty was the goal, I could have achieved it with many different pieces for a lot less money.
So why is this work meaningful to me? Why was I willing to pay thousands of dollars for each piece?
I started a fascination with Dr. Seuss when I was about 12 years old. I had two Dr. Seuss books at home, Fox in Socks and Oh! The Thinks You Can Think. I liked these books because they were funny and imaginative. But, I read them every night because Mum told me that Dad bought them for me and used to read them to me when I was little.
My parents were separated and I missed my Dad deeply during my childhood. While I had no memory of Dad reading these books to me as a child, I felt connected to him because I knew he had done so. When I read those Dr. Seuss books, it strengthened the connection I had with Dad and I remembered that I was loved by him.
When I was 16, Mum noticed that a gallery on the Gold Coast was holding a temporary exhibition about Dr. Seuss. She and I drove to the Coast and visited the exhibition.
I love this memory I share with Mum. I felt loved and seen because she had noticed my interest in Dr. Seuss and she made an effort to make the day special.
The gallery had hardly any pictures of typical Dr. Seuss books, a few early sketches here and there. Instead, it was filled with his early propaganda and editorial work, a self-portrait and a funny poem he wrote while shaving one day (which I memorised) and a vast array of what’s known as his ‘Secret Art Collection’: paintings he had made just for his own amusement.
I felt utterly enchanted.
They were brightly coloured, whimsical creations in the vein of Dr. Seuss but the names of the pieces really stuck with me. Titles like Every Girl Should Have a Unicorn, The Joyous Leaping of Uncanned Salmon and Detective Cat in the Wrong Part Of Town. The last of which sits in my dining room now.
While the aesthetic of the pieces are beautiful, the style is nostalgic for me: reminding me of the connection to my Dad through reading those books, of being loved and loveable. The titles reflected my identity and how I want to be seen: imaginative, creative, whimsical and a bit weird.
When I was 24, I was in the process of rebuilding myself after leaving a toxic and painful relationship. I had been utterly broken. Reconnect with my identity was a process. I had to think about what I wanted from my life and get back to healthy, sustainable financial decisions. That’s when I decided to buy a Dr. Seuss print.
I paid back debt and saved up so that I could afford the piece from a practical perspective. Meanwhile, I rekindled my confidence, creativity and imaginative, playful sense of humour that used to be so effortless.
When I was 25, I bought Detective Cat in the Wrong Part of Town. This moment was so massive for me; I felt so proud. It symbolised my self-worth, that I am loveable, that I can achieve my goals still. It took me another 6 months before I could afford to get it framed.
Those feelings still linger. Whenever I see that print, I feel proud, confident and loveable. I recognise my ability to save for nice things.
When others see it, they get a glimpse of me: playful sense of humour, childlike sensibility, a girl who likes nice things and really likes Dr. Seuss.
It starts a conversation. I tell them the title. I ask them, “Who do you think he’s spying on through that window?” It’s surprising what comes up.
So, beyond beauty, what is the value of art?
Art moves people in some way by causing nostalgia, emotion, or transporting them to a place of possibility and imagination. It reflects your identity and values; a symbol of who you want to be seen as. Art is engaging: it causes conversations, shifts your perspective, opens your mind.
I believe people want to be moved and this experience is valuable.
Your art is valuable. Your journey to master your craft takes time, effort and supplies. Financial support from your work allows you to continue your growth. When your studio is full of paintings that no one is buying, you’re nervous about running out of colours and unsure about where your next commission is coming from, it’s time to invest in your communication and sales process.
My free Freelancing Fundamentals Masterclass Series is a great place to start. You’ll learn the mindset behind clarifying the value of your work, how to attract clients, a variety of ways to monetise your art, how to manage your productivity in alignment with your creative process to finally see value and more…
Click here to learn more.
Be Brave and Curious,