On potentially underpricing artwork

This past week I was in the process of helping organize a large show of my work (25 paintings) at a gallery in downtown Durham. The gallery director and I ended up having a very interesting conversation about assigning prices to artwork. She said that she had read my statement about why I price my work the way I do and understood what I was doing, but nevertheless was concerned that I had priced the work too inexpensively. She said she feared that if you price work too low, people might not have respect for it. I countered that if there were people who thought that way, I didn’t really want them buying my pictures anyway because clearly their motives are not in alignment with mine.

But it did make me think, and I’m still thinking about it now. Does she have a point? This echoes something I heard recently on the art world documentary The Price of Everything on HBO. One of the gallerists or auctioneers on the show said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “art has to be valued as highly as possible so that it gets taken care of. If art didn’t have a high monetary value, it wouldn’t have survived all these 100s of years.” I found this statement very interesting, and there’s definitely logic to it. Let’s say you’re moving and you only have room for one more thing but there are two things you really want to take—one with high monetary value and the other with high sentimental value—which one would you choose?

Of course, there’s always the chance that my work will increase in value over time and the people who purchased something of mine because they loved it and connected with it will eventually be rewarded financially (most likely after I’m long gone). But the immediate question is, will the work be taken care of in the meantime in order to outlive me? That’s ultimately the question that this gallery director was asking, and I don’t know the answer.

The low fare movement

I decided I wanted to start an art event and bring together artists whose work I admire and who sell it for prices that are affordable to most people who are regularly employed. I came up with the name “Low Fare Art Fair” because it was catchy and also conveyed the message of reasonably priced original art.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was trying to start a movement. I’m seeking and attempting to assemble artists who might possibly think about art similarly to the way I do: as a lifelong endeavor, created because it has to be, not because it’s a potential source of income; meant to be sold cheaply to people who actually want it and connect with it.

I actually have no idea how the artists I’m recruiting for the art fair think about art. It just so happens that for this first attempt at organizing the event, I approached artists who I knew had work they could sell for under $50. My hope for the future is that artists will actually rethink how they price their work, and more and more will join the Low Fare movement because they believe in what it stands for, not just because they coincidentally happen to have work they can sell for under $50. I’m talking about a voluntary lowering of the assigned monetary value of the work (but certainly not the artistic or emotional or intellectual value) in order to make it available to a much broader sector of the population.

I realize it’s a lot to ask for in this capitalism-obsessed society we have created for ourselves. But I believe it’s possible.

On hanging my work in your space

For me, when you purchase my work and hang it on your wall, it feels like being invited into your home. It’s a very rewarding feeling, and is a large part of my motivation for making art in the first place.

But what happens if you purchase one of my pictures as a gift for someone else? I guess it’s like being pimped out to your friend, or being set up on a blind date. I don’t have any problem with that.

The cost of purchasing my pictures

I had an epiphany recently after having a discussion with my wife about selling artwork. I realized that I was not practicing what I preach and was being a complete hypocrite. I had been seduced and negatively influenced by the "gallery scene," and was overcharging for my pictures. 

I have always believed that original artwork should be available to most people, not just the wealthy. I feel a vague sense of sadness anytime I enter someone's home and see a cheap reproduction of a "masterpiece" from the Renaissance, or Van Gogh, or Picasso, or Kandinsky (etc.) on the wall. But I understand why people do that: because most original artwork is priced beyond their means. Even art made by local artists who are not famous, do not have much of a following (if any), and are certainly not part of the elitist international art scene. 

I don't believe this should be the case, so I have vowed to price all of my pictures as affordably as possible (generally around $100 for the larger ones, and considerably less for the smaller ones). I never set out to be rich or famous by making art; I do it because I have to, because I don't know how to live without doing it. It's a disease, an obsession, and absolutely not a profession.  It's a lifelong endeavor, not a career. I make art because I get deep emotional satisfaction out of it, and it's one of the few things I find worthwhile spending my time on.

Therefore, if you have ever been interested in a picture I have made but were afraid to ask the price, don't be! I guarantee I will do whatever I can to get that picture into your hands.

Art as an SOS

I used to think of my art as a diplomatic envoy that I sent out into the world to represent myself. Lately, I've come to think of it more as an SOS flare shot up into the sky, seeking response and rescue from kindred spirits.

Art on the internet

The internet, in many ways, is a terrible place for art. When art is viewed online, it loses all of its visceral qualities. The viewer cannot see the texture, the material, the intangible qualities that a physical work of art possesses; the viewer cannot feel its "aura." It is much more difficult, if not impossible, to form an emotional bond with an artwork viewed on a screen. In fact, the work is actually reduced from "art" to simply "an image" when viewed on a screen. 

Instagram and similar smartphone apps are even worse for art. Not only are works of all shapes and sizes reduced to a 2" square on a handheld device, but they are swiped past after only a second or two. It's horrifying! Most artwork reveals itself over time. The longer one can look at it, the more rewarding it is. To think that a picture I have spent countless hours pouring labor and emotion into is swiped past in one second and given a "like" or not is a bit crushing. 

Of course, I recognize that in terms of art, the positive side of the internet and Instagram is potential worldwide exposure for little or no cost. I participate. I post my pictures on my website and social media. But as time progresses, there seem to be fewer and fewer places to show and look at artwork in person. What happens to all of this artwork that is posted online? What should I do with my pictures once I post an image of them on Instagram? Should I throw them away? Should I recycle the materials into the next picture in an endless cycle of social media content creation? Does it matter if a picture still exists in the physical world once an image of it has been posted on the internet? 

Why I dislike artist statements

I really dislike artist statements for a number of reasons, but mostly I resent being expected to write them. I'm not a writer! If I was, I would probably express myself by writing essays or a novel instead of making pictures. In my mind, it's the equivalent of a writer crafting an excellent novel and submitting it to a publisher, only to have the publisher come back and say, "We really like your novel, but we'll only consider publishing it if you draw us some some succinct-yet-illuminating cover art!" 

Idea vs. execution

I gain most of the creative satisfaction that I seek (the releasing of good chemicals in my brain) when I have a great idea for a new project, and all the tangents that are borne from that. So much so that sometimes actually making the work becomes tedious! This is one reason that I almost always work on multiple projects at the same time; when I hit a wall with one, I can move on to the next with fresh inspiration. 

On introversion

I am an extreme introvert, which basically means I find interactions with other human beings to be exhausting. After any kind of social event I need a long period of solitude to recharge. But I can interact with people's art endlessly, and draw great inspiration and energy from it, almost to a manic level sometimes. 


I need to be completely obsessed with something in order to dedicate the full capacity of my ability to doing it. I'm not at all obsessed with my job; in fact, I find it to be a nuisance most of the time. But I am obsessed with making art. That involves thinking about my own work, thinking about the work of others, planning new work, executing new work, and trying to show it to people. I'm doing one or more of these things constantly, and often lamenting that I don't have nearly enough time to do everything I want to do. 


I'm obsessed with the word WORK. I plan to do a whole series of pictures based on this hard-working word. While not quite as versatile as the word fuck, it nevertheless has a ridiculous amount of applications. 

I'm late for work.

My work involves feeding hungry baby goats.

Let's meet after work; does that work for you? 

Your  artwork doesn't work for me, it needs some work.

How should we work this out?  


The myth of the starving artist

There is a romantic notion that a person pursuing artistic endeavors must be starving (and often drunk or high) in order to be legit. I believed it myself in my 20s and much of my 30s. But now I find this to be completely antithetic to how I create work. I find it incredibly difficult to do any meaningful thinking when I'm preoccupied with being hungry or worrying about a bill that needs to be paid. 

"Good" and "bad" art

I find the concept of there being "good" art and "bad" art very misleading. The way I like to think of it is interesting art and boring art. It goes back to the idea of emotional connection rather than virtuosity; interesting art is connecting, whereas boring art is not. 

On virtuosity

Virtuosity is not a requirement of "art." It may be a requirement of certain types of art, but not for art as a whole. Art is not about showing off one's skills but about making an emotional connection.

Art in terms of music

It's often easier for me to think about visual art in terms of music. There are symphonies with classically-trained musicians, and there are lo-fi home recorders, and there are chart-busting pop stars, and all have their audiences whom they appeal to and therefore connect with on an emotional level. And there will occasionally be crossover, which is fine, but certainly not necessary to their survival.