One Question on Determining the Value of Creativity
Posted on April 2, 2013
Each series will pose a single question and a selection of creatives around the world will be invited to answer.
How do you value your work?
Cartoonist and Faculty Member at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
This is a difficult question. I feel like my work is invaluable to me. But at the same time, I sell my work to the public so it has to have a value. By investing in my work, it becomes invaluable to me. That value will become apparent to another person and they give me value to keep making work. It’s really a big circle of appreciation, enjoyment and persistence. One of the things that I think is unique about art is that the value fluctuates from viewer to viewer. I can hope that the value my audience feels when they read my work is purely based on the work itself, but sometimes it’s from a recommendation of a friend or a conversation with the artist. Part of what I think about when making my work is how to tell a story that is both universal and individual. By widening my audience, more people have the opportunity to feel a connection with what they are reading and with whom created it. When making my work, I ask for criticism and feedback from my peers to better my practice. The persistence of maintaining an art-making practice is a large part of how I value my work. I spend time with it, nurture it, help it grow and develop, but most importantly I care about it.
I am a contemporary artist and have exhibited many solo shows in Tokyo and Shanghai since 2006. I started watercolor on paper in 1993, then I tried to using pastel on paper, oil on paper/ canvas/ acrylic board/ wood, acrylic on canvas, permanent ink on canvas, and mixed media. Nowadays, I create using oil or permanent ink on canvas.
My paintings and drawings are not like other artists’ artwork, as I did not study art from anyone. I was self-taught and have been surviving through working very hard and finding a way to create original art pieces. Realizing my gift of combining colours, I would try to incorporate as many colours in my work that portray a sense of beauty and elegance. Also, I enjoy using various materials as that can lead to creating new techniques of working.
I am currently intensively producing new artworks in Nagoya, Japan, and am always open to finding the best material for each of my artworks. Art is one of the means that show the existence of myself in the world to me. In my case, I am expressing my feelings with my artworks that I cannot explain in language. Language is not necessary to art, thus my artworks become a common language in the world.
I am happy when my artwork sells well. Customers that find value in them as I do pay for its worth. That means I can sustain my practice and continue to draw/paint new pieces. I am a full time artist, because my family understands exactly what I want to do and have allowed me to be free with it. My wife is my marketing manager, and my parents have always been supportive. Unfortunately, my father died in 2009, so in a way, I am kind of a little more of a free person than the other people who work in offices. There are times when I think too much about my artwork, so I take a trip just to leave the house and think in different places.
One more important thing I have to say is that if you want to be a full time artist in the future, don’t forget, you should make money to keep for yourself. Who is to pay for your costs if you aren’t able to make enough money? If you don’t do that, you wouldn’t be able to keep being a full-time artist.
Printer at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute
I must say, I enjoy and cherish the process of the art-making very much. Working at Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) does give me the honour and privilege to be able to collaborate with many inspiring artists in the world. The collaboration involves not only the artist and myself, but a team of motivated teammates as well. Unfortunately, I have not been producing much of my own work. But I do share the same value of being sincere to the artist’s works and my own creation.
Getting the buyers to understand the techniques, the importance of teamwork, and the inspiration of the artists gives them a much better understanding and appreciation of the artwork. These can also build up a reliable relationship with the buyers.
I learned a lot from artists, my co-workers, and young interns. So being truthful in whatever you do is my advice to myself and others.
Partner, Opposable Thumbs/CraftMNL
As a creative who can’t beat the itch to make things (be they illustrations or craft objects), I value my work by truly putting myself into the things that I do, making sure that everything I make reflects my passion, skill, and creativity. In that sense, I highly value my work, and hope that people will see that.
In a similar way, entrepreneurs are faced with seemingly different choices of pursuing what they love, and pursuing what is financially rewarding. And so the question of giving value to yourself and your dreams by doing what you’re passionate about, versus doing what will fulfill your financial needs comes to the forefront. Entrepreneurs would often hear the term “value yourself” while working, and that would often equate to paying yourself adequately. Valuing yourself is usually equated with financial value. And though these two understandings of value are not always separate from each other, the financial concept of value is generally more accepted than the concept of intrinsic value. Some takeaways from social entrepreneurship would be learning to value the two concepts together, if not giving more importance to intrinsic value.
Doing what you love is valuing yourself, and doing what you love and really pouring yourself into it is giving value to what you do.
Owner, Ritual and Islands Cacao
We work at the intersection of plants, food, aesthetics, development, bio-cultural diversity, and retail. Because it is a retail operation, value is built into the products we sell. The portion of work that I do is in the inception and development stage of products, as well as scouting for new products. The value I generate needs to be inputed as part of sales and product pricing. Therefore, no matter how obtuse my interests are, or how complicated my creative process is, or how many international magazines we are in, it still comes down to the sale – which keeps me grounded. I share the proceeds of each product with the communities we work with, with logistics, materials, and more. I always work to deserve my portion. We try to educate our customers as much as possible about the “story” of our products, but it really comes down to — does it taste good? Or, does it work well? Otherwise it would just be a do-good purchase, and that gives me no satisfaction.
For my first consultancy, I crafted a compensation package based on a very reasonable flat fee, and a bonus if I solved the company’s problem through designing a new product. This might be something to consider for those starting out. You value yourself as a starter, while either rewarding yourself for success, or making room for possible failure. You can begin to put more value on your work once you have had demonstrated successes.
Those working in development or the creative industry have this notion that if people are not willing to pay what they command, then the market is “not ready” or “not progressive enough” for their style, product, or service. I find this to be a dangerous approach. I would say 10% of the people who believe this actually are correct and represent the bleeding edge. The rest need to think harder about the customer. Are you solving their problems? Are you addressing their needs and wants? Maybe you aren’t. Try to test, evaluate and adapt. I am not saying to take the easy way out and churn out tested-and-proven, shoddy work. Make sure your work is original, yet purposeful enough that you are providing real value, and you will gain a market that will stand by you through economic ups and downs.
The value of your work is really the value that you would give yourself. Sure, there is the guilt of charging works that you feel should just be given away and everyone would be happy. Sure, you may be a young, a new graduate who may not have a lot of experience yet so you want it to be really cheap and affordable. But honestly, the value is not just about financially sustaining yourself and your creative output. It also serves as motivation to keep you going. It is the reflection of worth that you give your work.
And most importantly, you’re teaching everyone to VALUE creativity. For too long, others treat creativity as a default trait. There is a lack of consideration for time, effort, conversations and ideas. People often rank the value of creativity low in comparison with the works of a dentist, or an insurance agent, or a lawyer, or a teacher.
It needs to be known and said that this is what we all need to generate new ideas, thinking, systems, policies. That creativity is not a short-term, one time act. It is a long-term, influential journey that pushes us forward in the world of technology, science, humanities, mathematics, design, art. It is an expression and a documentation of the world and society that we live in now so we learn from what we have and what we used to have and what we can create better in future.
It is how we redefine what value really means to us. That money can pay for sustenance but it cannot pay for the wealth of knowledge, progression and creation that come out from what we produce.∗