But I’m an Artist! or Understanding Art & Business 101
Question: I am: a) retired, b) bored, c) unemployed, and I’m looking to work from home! I’ve used Photoshop for years!
Does anyone have any ideas on what I can do to: a) start my own business, b) make extra money
Answer: Photo restoration!! It’s so easy, even an anencephalic monkey can do it! You have everything you need! Photoshop! Good luck! 🙂
Janine not only beats the proverbial dead horse, she makes sure the poor thing is ground & chucked, and served as a violator’s last meal. I was going to leave a comment, but then I thought, “What a perfect opportunity to blog.” So yeah for you my loyal readers.
If you haven’t discovered Janine yet, she does some truly outstanding work as a photo restoration artist, and she rocks `cause she’s her in Texas. Lately, there’s been a resounding theme over on her blog, “Photo Restoration IS art DAMMIT.” As a creative I can empathize with her message, and I believe her frustration is shared by others in various industries. But here’s the rub…
We’re not mad at the people trying to be “artists”, we’re pissed at the consumers who don’t appreciate, e.g., spend money on our art.
Whoa. Did you just see an elephant walk by?
OK, it’s not just about the money, let me explain. We have all experienced the person who wasn’t interested in the same things that interest us. If you’re not a sports fan, you really don’t care who’s playing in the Super Bowl, and therefore winning tickets might be “nice” but not a life altering experience. So it goes with us as artists, and how we perceive your reaction to our art. My wife, God love her, has supported me in so many ways, but she doesn’t drool all over herself when I show her my latest Photoshop piece. Her reaction is reminiscent of my mom, “That’s nice.” What? Don’t you understand I just spent the last 12 hours working on this piece, which when posted to the NAPP forums will change people’s lives and actually make @NAPP_News weep? OK, maybe a little overly dramatic, but you see my point. It can be devastating when our perceived value is not immediately recognized by those around us. Not that Michelle doesn’t appreciate my Photoshop skills, but I’d go crazy if I expected her to have the same level of enthusiasm I do when I finish a piece.
“Get back on point, what about customers?”
I have two clients. Bob is REALLY successful. Frank lives a modest lifestyle. Both write publications. Bob has more customers, and a decent product. Frank has a superior product, but not as many customers. Frank feels frustrated because potential customers can’t see how great a product he’s selling. Bob seemingly blinks, and people wait in line for his product. Frank spends all his energy trying to make his book look perfect. As an artist, he’s constantly tweaking the colors, layout, design, in fact he changes the book every year it’s published. With the exception of the cover, Bob hasn’t made a change to his book in over 10 years. I asked Bob once why he hadn’t changed his book to be more like Frank’s. He told me, “Because it’s just a book. That’s what my customers want, that’s what they get.” Frank is too personally attached to the art of his publication.
And this is where we learn that art is separate from business.
The truth is anyone can start a business in photography, graphic design, photo restoration, and charge next to nothing, because there are customers out there who will buy their product. Janine’s original post on this topic was on point in that the public needs to be educated, and I would add education is important for any industry. But I would say as an artist AND business person, you have to market yourself to the right customer. Really, it doesn’t matter to me that Joe bought a digital camera, and calls himself a wedding photographer. If Joe wants to do weddings for $300 a weekend, that’s fine because I’m not trying to win those clients. As a business person, I also realize that in some instances a client will be more than happy with minimal post processing on an image. As I wrote in a previous post, Know your business, know your customers. Which brings home the final point.
Technology is not art.
No matter how easy technology makes it for anyone to create a quality image, that same technology does not turn a person into an artist. Today’s digital cameras capture great images, and I know working professionals who shoot everything in the camera’s automatic mode. But the camera is just an extension of the photographer. The fact is Tiger Woods can beat you on the golf course with any set of clubs you give him. In class, I share techniques with students all the time. I was once asked, “Aren’t you afraid someone will use your technique, and steal business from you?” Well first off, they’re only stealing business from me if they’re doing something unethical, but if they want to compete I can’t stop them. As an artist, I’m am not just a list of techniques. A person can emulate my style, improve upon it even, but they can’t do what I do. As an artist, I welcome the challenge of my students and technology to push me to be better.
In summary, as creatives our work should give us internal satisfaction first before we look to external praise. To make money as a creative means you have to work even harder, be even better, and understand that technology is changing the landscape of our profession not erasing it.