Working For Free - But It's Great Exposure For You

I am sure we have all heard at one point or another in our artistic careers: “it will be great exposure for you!” So I ask, as an artist, how many times have you had people ask you to do a job for free or to give someone art for free?

Personally, I think there is a time and a place for this type of thing. Perhaps a charity is looking for artwork for an auction or a non-profit may be looking for an artist to donate their time. These are the opportunities where this line of thinking works in my mind and it is a great idea, it’s good for the community and everybody wins.

To me, there is no bigger insult than someone expecting to get your trade for free. My response to that is: “Do you get paid for your job?” or “Does your boss get paid for their job?” Of course they do, and most times these are the people I hear complain they don’t get paid enough for what they do. So how do these people have the audacity to expect an artist (or anyone for that matter) to work for free?

I have experienced this a few times in the last little while and it always boggles my mind each and every time it happens. As a matter of fact I just experienced it last week. I have had my art on display (for free!) in a particular establishment for over a year now and for sale at a much lower price than I would normally sell my work. I figured I would give it a try, get some EXPOSURE and they get free art on their walls, an amicable agreement.

Recently, I decided to remove my art from said establishment as it is needed elsewhere. Through communication I was asked if I had any other art of a particular style and genre that could be put on the walls of this same place. I kindly responded that I do and here is a list of sizes and pricing for these pieces. Communication continued about unrelated items without any mention with regard to the additional pieces and pricing I had previously mentioned. So, I am going to assume here they were looking for the same deal as the previous one we had in place. Unfortunately, NO can do this time my friend, once is enough. I have learned my lesson. Not one single sale came out of that exposure. No promotion was done on my behalf. This arrangement doesn’t seem mutually beneficial to me and isn’t that what this was about? Isn’t that why I was supposed to accept this kindness of “exposure”?

I don’t currently work as a full time artist, and granted I still have a regular source of income in the form of my full time job, however it still irritates the hell out of me when people expect my services of my products for free. There are artists who do rely on selling their art or skill as their only source of income and clearly this is not a viable option or possibility for them. Nor should it be!

So, if you happen to be one of those people that expects shit like this for free, think long and hard about this before you ask this of an artist. Honestly just simply ask yourself: “would I work at MY full time job for free if my boss asked me to?” I am will to bet you are going to answer that question with a resounding NO! Food for thought people. Have some respect for what artists do. They work for years at their craft to perfect and get to the point where they can make a living at this. Stop asking us for FREE SHIT!

Image courtesy of the-beard.com

Shows, Contests and Magazines - Is It About The Money or The Art?

I am sure that many artists alike can relate to this post as this has probably happened to quite a few of you, at one time or another.

What I am referring to is being contacted through e-mail or by phone by art show organizers, magazines or people running art contests. Now I realize that all of these people mentioned are trying to run a business just as we all are. They need to make money to sustain said business and this is where we the artists come in.

It can be mutually beneficial for the artist as well as the people pursuing the artists. The contests and magazines which are out there are on a similar plane in terms of whether or not the cost to enter these contests or have your images grace the pages of magazines are worth the possible exposure you gain from it. For the artists, if the show they are being asked to participate in is a well known event in the art world, this presents ample opportunity to showcase work, make connections and network. The flipside to it is these shows can be costly to participate in, therefore the trade off of cost vs. exposure had better be worth it for the artist. A lot of this exposure comes at a cost, which isn’t cheap.

The first thought that enters my head EVERY time I receive one of these e-mails is “are these people just looking for money to fill their booth space, or page layouts?” I then have to take a step back, do some investigating in terms of researching the company or magazine or person contacting me. I need to gather all the information possible, perhaps even reach out to other artists to find out if they have heard of or participated in the contest, show or magazine. Then and only then can I make an informed decision on how to proceed. Of course let’s not forget about the bank account which will also dictate whether the opportunity is feasible.

I only have a limited amount of experience with this type of thing but I do know this though, it pays off to do your research so you don’t end up in a situation where you have shelled out money for this type of venture and you end up with a bad taste in your mouth because it didn’t work out the way you had thought or planned.

As I stated in the beginning of my post, these shows, contests and magazines can be incredibly lucrative for an artist in terms of financial gain and more importantly, exposure. I cannot stress to you all enough, the importance of being diligent in doing your research before you hand over your hard earned money or sign anything!

Image courtesy of litreactor.com

Gallery Representation - Is It Right For You?

In my short tenure as a “semi-professional” photographer I have managed to find myself gallery representation by two different galleries. Now I use this term to describe myself solely because I haven’t jumped into the “Professional” world with both feet because I still have a full time job.

These places are very different from each other in many ways. One of the two deals artwork in very specific sizes, only three to be exact. They also have the work on display by all the artists at all times. This one is introducing a brand new gallery concept to Canada. The other place has no specific size requirements for work, they also don’t display every artists work at all times and there are shows that each artist participates in throughout the year. The work for those are chose by the staff deciding which shows are fitting for the artists. It is of note that both of these galleries sought me out as a result of viewing my work on a website promoting a show I was participating in.

For almost a year I have been with one gallery and it really hasn’t been beneficial to myself or the gallery in terms of profit or exposure so I have decided it’s time to move on from there. I feel a year is a good timeline to judge and re-evaluate the situation and decide whether to continue and stay with the gallery or not. It was a great experience for me and I have learned from it. Not a total loss since I can walk away from it saying I have learned from the experience. The other gallery still has my work on display there for the last six or seven months. At least with this one, I can say my work is on display at all times.

The bottom line when all is said and done, in my opinion, gallery representation can be a great and very beneficial thing for an artist.

Right now, for me this early on in my career it’s more about the exposure, getting my name out there. I am set to partake in a big show that is geared only at photography which takes over the city for the month of May, this will be great exposure. Of course the money that comes with the sale of my work doesn’t hurt either. I would highly recommend to any artist starting out, if the opportunity presents itself and you are bold enough to go out and chase an opportunity such as this by all means, take it, you never know who could see and like your work!

Image courtesy of artpromotivate.com