Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Donating Artworks

 "Fishing 3" Oil on copper

Artists are the darlings of fundraisers.
When it's time to raise money for the school, animal shelter, wildlife preserve or cancer research, many fundraisers email a request to local artists.  What they want is the donation of an original work of art so that they can auction or, worse- raffle it for money for their cause.  I get a 8 or 10 such requests each year.
Somehow, while the cliche of the "starving artist" still persists, people in charge of fundraising have come to see us creative types as easy money.  And, as a rule, we are.  Without exception, every artist that I know (myself included) has donated a painting for a cause at some point in his or her career.  We've watched our works auctioned- often for less than we could sell them for in galleries or other exhibitions- and the money pocketed by others.  And often it's a lot of money.
It's rather bizarre:  we create a one-of-a-kind work that will last for generations, frame it at our expense, and fundraisers easily ask us to give it away in return for a tax receipt.
The writer, Harlan Ellison, addresses this penchant for asking artists to donate their work in a hilarious YouTube rant.
His point is: do the people who ask artists  to work for free do so themselves?  Does anyone even ask them to?
What is it about artists that makes people able to ask for the products of our creative labour for free? 
I think it's a basic low self esteem.  Many of us have a deep insecurity about the merit of our work (especially on the days when we can't bag a painting to save our lives) and the prices that we should command for it.  We often undervalue our time and skill, which gives permission to fundraisers to do the same.
But it needn't be this way.
Instead, on a good day, after a successful painting session, write yourself a note and post it somewhere for all time:  "I do good, creative, unique work.  I deserve to be paid accordingly."
Or, as Harlan Ellison says: "Cross my palm with silver!"


Nita Leger Casey said...

I love this post, it is so true , just in first two months I have donated three paintings , one for an auction for an art center, other for saving our local river , and now for our new covered bridge , this is my life and i am tired of it, i honestly work for nothing , I am going to use that saying " Cross my palm with silver " . It sounds like you had a nice trip to NY . If you ever come to Boston , call me !

Ingrid Christensen said...

I will definitely call you if I manage to get to Boston. We could gallery hop and put our noses very close to historical paintings. I did that in NY and learned so much about paint thickness and application. What an education!

糟糕啦 said...


Richard Piloco said...

It happens to me often. Not fun when they also have the attitude that they are doing you the favor. I had that unhappy experience once.
Nice vigorous work Yourself Ingrid!

Linda Wilder Expressions said...

I absolutely love this painting, Ingrid, and btw I agree with your post.

Ingrid Christensen said...

Clearly this is a universal peeve for artists!

Susan Roux said...

This painting is amazing! I love it. And you're so right about donating artwork. Some fundraisers are now giving artists 50% of the earnings. I think we as artists should demand this. More and more would donate, knowing they would receive something. In the end I think everyone would win and we could still feel like we contributed to a worthy cause.

Ingrid Christensen said...

I think the 50% idea is great. It would stop that used and abused feeling that artists often get when they donate. I hope it catches on.