Well. I can at least answer the first one.
Because no one thinks we’re worth it. I’m serious. I know some of you are already rolling your eyes at the computer screen, or shouting about how you pay for art at conventions all the time or a number of other things.
But let’s be serious here. No one thinks we’re worth it, even other artists. That’s why we’re poor.
Let me break this down for you.
Most artists have gone to school to master their craft. It’s a specialty. It’s NOT something that EVERYONE can do. Because if it REALLY was, you wouldn’t have jobs where that’s all a person does. It would just be lumped in to another job title. Oh, you’re a barista? So, not only do you work a register, clean up the coffee shop, make the coffee, deal with customer service, answer phones, etc. etc. You are now responsible to creating the packing design for the coffee, the logo for the store, designing the business cards, or coffee cups, ads, the mobile app, the look of the webpage.
I could go on.
We do a lot. Look around you; artists play a part in everything you do. It was a concept artist that designed that car sitting outside. A graphic designer that created the logo for Starbucks and how that logo would appear on their product. A packing designer who designed how I your new iPhone would sit in its packaging; insuring that it got to you undamaged from their factory and into your hands- but also looked really neat too so you couldn’t complain about that bit on your YouTube video when you reviewed the product later. By the way, it was also an artist that designed every bumper sticker you see, every license plate on a car, every road sign, and so on and so forth. It was a web designer who designed the website you are using right now. It was an artist who came up with the alphabet.
We play a part in everything. But still we get no respect.
When you complain to an artist that their prices are too high for a piece of artwork you want commissioned from them I want you to consider this:
Let’s break this down into numbers.
Minimum wage (for the most part) is $7.50/hourly. This is a ridiculously low amount of money for any profession, and is especially ridiculous when we’re talking about a job that required a college degree. You wouldn’t expect a teacher to work for that, a reporter, a journalist, a police officer, a medical coder, a programmer…
But moving on…
Let’s say that this artist agreed to do this drawing for you, and this drawing is going to take them 3 hours to do. At minimum wage that drawing is going to cost $22.50. Except it shouldn’t it should cost something closer to $132.
Surprised? I bet you are.
Most artists get a job with a starting pay of anywhere between $15-$22 an hour. That brings that original price from $22.50 to anywhere between $45-$66… so where did I get $132 from? By doubling it. Why? Because you’re not a company hiring this person, you are a person hiring an artist for a “work for hire” piece. An employer is responsible for supplying their artist with an office, a computer, software for that computer, health insurance, paper, pencils- whatever it takes for that artist to complete the job, that employer is supplying.
You’re not supplying any of that. They have to supply all of that them self and that shit is expensive.
But are you going to pay that artist $90-$132 for a sketch? No. You’re not. And that’s the problem. Because you’re reaction to that is, “I’m not going to pay that much money for THAT.” Because you don’t think it’s worth it. Because right then and there you’re going to say that someone else will do it for less and if you happen to also be an artist, you’ll do it yourself.
See, we’re all guilty here.
Someone else IS going to do it for less because we’re all desperate for work. And every time we agree to work on something for less than we should, we make it harder and harder to fight for a pay increase. This means we have to work constantly. This means we have to work faster and harder because this means we have to turn our several completed pieces in so many hours so we can pay for our rent, our food, our student loans, etc. etc.
And by doing that we’ve also created this idea that a “sketch” is a fully inked and colored illustration that includes 5 characters and a fully realized background. And that’s a bunch of bullshit too.
There’s a stigma to being an artist too. People either think that you’re just being a selfish prick for not showing them where that magical button is on the computer so the computer can just do it all, or that we’re a bunch of children sitting around a craft table putting in little to no effort into our creations- because art is easy, right?
And if it’s so easy, it can’t be worth much.
But you know what’s worse? The fact that artists are shooting themselves in the feet. Anytime we go to a convention and sell prints that include characters NOT our own, we are stealing money and work from the owner of that character. We’re stealing money from ourselves. Don’t sit there and tell me that Marvel makes enough money and that it’s not fair that other people shouldn’t make money off their characters because Marvel isn’t the one “loosing” money. Their artists are. The people who COULD go to conventions and make money on selling these prints are competing against other artists who have no right to. Who are doing it illegally and on the cheap. And if you think every Marvel artist is a multi-fucking-billionaire you need to think again. (And for any artists reading this, 1. The same laws that protect them, protect you, and 2. I’m not talking about one of a kind pieces done by hand.)
And that, my friends, is “why are artists poor.”