I have been struggling with this question for some time. How much should art cost? Can you put a price on beauty? If we all have our own “gifts”, who are we to charge for them? Now, deep in the recesses of my mind, I think about all the student debt I have to pay back. Debt I incurred while learning to paint and draw. Of course that last statement is always up for conjecture, i.e. did I really learn anything from my purported teachers?

As I prepare mentally and physically to embark on this journey, this trek, this pilgrimage, should I charge money for art? Can I? I mean, would anyone be willing to buy what I do? Yes, I have shown with galleries in the past. Yes, I sell an occasional piece now and then. But, I have never been the amazing success story I secretly hoped to be years ago. Last year I had the ability to be in one of the most prestigious galleries in the country, if not the world, for the type of art I do. Yet when faced with the prospect, I chose not to respond in the way that would help me. Why? I don’t think that I am self-destructive or given to self sabotage. However, I do know this about myself, that when I am in a situation where I really want something else…I secretly undermine my own efforts to make that which I really want to happen…happen, leaving me free to not have to make the big hard choice.

We all do this to a certain extent. Take for example a person who doesn’t like their job. They show up late, they leave early, they call in sick a lot, and when they are there, they are a miserable person to be around. Eventually, the boss fires them. They got what they wanted. They didn’t want that job, so they created a situation where someone else was forced to make that decision for them.

So, I wonder if in some ways I didn’t want to get into the galleries because of what I found there. I have yet to find a gallery that I would want to work for. That is just it, when you are part of a gallery, you work for the gallery director. If you don’t like your boss, then you won’t work for them. He or she works for the clients. I don’t want to work for either, I want to work for me. I want to do the art that makes me happy, and if others like it as well, great…they can have it.

But, they can have it for what? Money? A trade? My dad used to trade cars, boats, and other valuable things for his paintings. I just heard about a study that revealed that people would rather work for praise more than any other motivator, not wealth, a better job, the opposite sex, anything. Praise was our greatest motivator. What do I want for my art work? Nothing. I just want to notice beauty and give that beauty away. It is a gift that I give to them. I don’t own it, so how could I sell it? It is similar to the Native Americans’ difficulty in understanding the colonists who tried to purchase land from them. They felt that everyone owns that land, who were they to sell it?

A painting or a drawing is an act of service. I paint or draw as a way to say thank you for all the beauty and magnificence I see around me. I give the work to others as an act of service, because people need more beauty in their lives. But, how then does one survive? If I give it away now, what does that say to those who have purchased from me in the past? What if someday in the future I want to sell? What then? How do I pay my debt for school down, phone bills, rent, etc? If I were to give away all the work I create, how would I purchase new art supplies? Must one put it out there on faith?

What if I give a piece away, but someone wants to buy it, or give me money for it? Do I take the money? Do I instruct them to just buy me new supplies? Running shoes? Food? Do I trade a drawing of an apple for an apple? Which is worth more?

So I return to my original question, “How much should art cost?” I haven’t come to my own answers yet, but I would appreciate any of your comments.