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The Exploitation of Art(ists)

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Jan. 29, 2022

Many things in this world are overrated, and even more are underrated. The problem is that often the things that are underrated are the ones that are vital for survival or quality of living while the ones that are overrated are superficial or even problematic for the same things (i.e. survival or quality of living).

For example, people employed in sanitation enjoy very low prestige with regards to their profession. If, however, they were to stop doing what they do, we would be dealing with a lot more plague than we currently are. There goes survival. And until then, we would suffocate from our pungent environment. There goes quality of life.

I won't go into what is overrated even though it makes our lives a living hell and our survival questionable. You can fill in from your own experience.

What I will go into is another vastly underrated profession: art. Excluding the outliers of very highly paid artists (which is arguable whether it is due to talent and not a different function) and the old masters, the staggering majority of artists are unable to make a living off their art, even if they are extremely skilled and talented.

Art is consistently undervalued or wholesale dismissed, despite the fact that without art daily life would be nearly unbearable: advertising would be impossible, seclusion (like during quarantine) wouldn't be mitigated by books, music, and movies. Art therapy would be impossible. Fashion, variety in different things that we use from cups and plates to our t-shirts would be sorely limited. Road trips would suffer without the radio. Decoration would not be a thing. And so on. Art is everywhere. And yet it's invisible, perhaps because it's so pervasive and constant.

It is a travesty that artists can't live off their art. That most writers, webcomic artists, comic artists, painters, poets, and the like have day jobs (unless they have trust funds). And it's something that we sort of accept about ourselves. I'm not blaming anyone. But what I am doing is to suggest that perhaps a change of culture within the art community in valuing our work and giving ourselves at least the minimum wage per hour spent creating art is a viable beginning to change peoples' attitudes towards artists and art as a whole.

Just a thought.

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PaulEberhardt at 11:33AM, Jan. 31, 2022

So either you work for a corporation and turn your hobby into a 9 to 5 job where you have no say, or you'll find a 2nd source of income that pays your bills but leaves you with no time to get any art done. There seem to be thousands of people who CAN live of art, so you might think "how hard can it be", until you realise they're the top 0.0whatever01% out of tens of millions (no idea, what the actual figures are - I hate maths). On the other hand, nobody will pay € 50,- for a paperback. So if you just do it for fun, do it for free, it doesn't make a difference. Practically, you should put a token price tag on a selection of your stuff, just to make people appreciate it. (Old German proverb: If it costs nothing, it's worth nothing.) People used to ask me to draw all the time, never realising the amount of work it'd have involved, until I got my peace back that way. When I start drawing again I'll get a patreon or something for no other reason than that, no matter how little it makes.

PaulEberhardt at 10:57AM, Jan. 31, 2022

It's unfortunately a case of supply and demand. As you said, Tantz, art is everywhere in our daily lives. Now, I wouldn't want to miss any of it, of course, but it's so commonplace that I feel a lot of people can't even tell the good from the bad stuff (or won't bother to). At the same time, as a single artist it is very hard to stand out as well as produce nearly as much as you'd need. Even more so in recent times: once it's on the web everyone expects it to be free or nearly free, and if it isn't no one will notice. Once upon a time, when I had the same naive dreams of earning money with art or writing as everyone, I timed how long it takes me to finish a simple comic page (simpler than the ones I post here) and calculated how many 25-page comics I'd have to sell each month at an average price just to get minimum wage for my hours and (including figures for production and distribution costs I googled) arrived at a six-digit number I forgot. Now you know why I don't like maths!

usedbooks at 2:48PM, Jan. 29, 2022

At one point in my teen years, I thought I wanted to be a novelist. I disillusioned myself very quickly and pursued a useless biology degree instead of a useless literary degree.

paneltastic at 6:04AM, Jan. 29, 2022

It's just as much the fault of artists for allowing themselves to be exploited as it is readers / companies for taking advantage of them. People need to be smarter and stop being so desperate for fame that they'll do anything for any price for a "chance" at it. When you do that, you undercut the entire profession and make it harder for the rest of us to make a living. Hence, why we're all forced to hold full time careers and spending evenings, weekends and holidays hammering out content.

davidxolukoga at 1:34AM, Jan. 29, 2022

Truth. I can barely afford the running cost for my webcomic, heck I can't even afford ads. I hate my day job, but that's my only source of income. But the joy I get whenever I update my comic is immeasurable

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