"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!"