Painting Versus Music--The Financial Dilemma

Let's Give the Artist a Break!!!

The Trinity.  Oil on Canvas.
The Trinity. Oil on Canvas.
Tree branches
Tree branches
City of Gold
City of Gold
Pink sky at dawn
Pink sky at dawn
Trapped
Trapped
Tree branches in winter
Tree branches in winter

The Artist's Quandary


Why do musicians achieve fame and fortune in their lifetime, while visual artists struggle for notoriety and the financial independence to support their creative endeavors? What makes the Rolling Stones more accessible than Kandinsky? I’ve struggled with this question for years as I’ve sought ways to support myself financially as a visual artist, but conclusions still don’t jump out at me. I don’t know the answer to my question, but I’m going to make a few guesses. There are several elements that make music inherently more accessible than a painting or print. As I put forth my theories and opinions, it may sound as if I believe musicians have it “easier” than visual artists. This is not the case! I am fully aware of the struggles musicians face to lead the life they wish to live. I simply state that music and how it is appreciated is different in ways that offer the musician more opportunities to benefit financially.

I would theorize that music has a therapeutic quality visual art doesn’t share, which enhances its audience appeal. The American Cancer Society states that music therapy can help reduce pain and symptoms induced by chemotherapy. It has also been revealed that music has the ability to synchronize brain waves and aid in the neural patterns that involve behavior such as walking or running, according to Music and the Brain: Processing and Responding by Feyza Sancar. It is said this type of brain stimulation is responsible for the rehabilitating aspect of music, helping patients with immobility or difficulty in moving to move with greater ease.

The effect of visual arts on the human mind and body is less well-defined. It is known that colors evoke specific and spontaneous psychological effects, but this phenomenon is not universally accepted as therapeutic. Colors can excite as well as calm us. Art therapy is now established as a sound psychological tool, but is typically practiced through the creation of art—not as much through its appreciation. My point is the assertion that music has qualities we positively respond to that visual art does not share.

My next argument is the belief that music is more frequently created to evoke a positive response. I am guessing, but it seems plausible that musicians want their music to be accepted more than visual artists do. It is important not to over-generalize here—artists certainly want their drawings and paintings to be liked—but perhaps not to the extent musicians do. While some music is certainly created to shock, anger, or outrage the listener, this seems less prevalent in music than visual art. Public acceptance of music has a tendency toward pleasing sounds and words that comfort us. Drawing and painting has historically served as a tool to outrage the general public. I am guessing again here (and I have never created music) so don’t kill me if I’m wrong, but visual artists (seem to) create for themselves more than musicians do. If a musician writes a song, he or she will share it in public or private venues. Perhaps a spouse or child is the sole audience, but someone else usually gets to hear the song. Not so the visual artist. So many drawings and sketches are never seen by another human being. They are a product of the moment only. Music…endures.

My final theory involves the convenience of music appreciation. Everyone knows where they can go to buy music, but it isn’t as easy to find artwork for sale. I can’t go to Wal-Mart and buy a painting by Wendy Jane Bantam or Lynn Talbot, but I can get the latest Eagles CD. It is also more convenient to own music than a drawing or painting. Thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple, Ipods and MP3 players can store thousands of songs on a stick the size of an artist’s eraser. Most homes don’t have the capacity to store and care for a Wendy Bantam original painting.

Therein lays a key component in my argument for the accessibility of music relative to painting. A musician never sells the master tapes of his or her latest song. The originals are locked in a vault for safekeeping, and the music is mass-produced for public consumption. This is an important distinction. A song that took ten hours to produce can be sold several million times, but an original painting that took ten hours to create can only be sold once. In music, ownership is not compromised by possessing one of several million identical copies of a song or album. If an original painting was reproduced several million times to facilitate its sale to the public, its value would be diminished through the very act of its duplication. No one goes to Wal-Mart in search of art, and anything found for sale in such a venue is looked upon with skepticism. There is status conferred on owning art that is “original” or “one-of-a-kind”, and this aspect of collecting art hurts the visual artist.

Successful musicians can build on their success through the promotion of their music. They can give away copies if they choose, and more importantly, they can perform their music live. A musician can sing their new song in a living room, café, music hall or amphitheatre. A visual artist can show a painting in a gallery, but cannot go on tour. We cannot re-paint the painting in front of an admiring audience. The painting itself can go on tour by being seen and promoted through galleries, but it isn’t displayed for one evening before traveling to its next venue. There are no 30-city summer tours for the visual arts.

For the visual artist to flourish, a fundamental shift in the manner ownership of artwork is perceived needs to occur. Art needs to benefit from mass production the way music does. This is difficult because there is a physical aspect to art that cannot always be effectively conveyed in a copy, but progress must be made for the artist to survive financially. Artwork is now available online through digital downloads, but no one yet covets artwork that springs from their HP printer. This needs to change. The copy needs to become the original, so to speak. If a painting were a recorded song, the idea of selling master tapes would never be considered. With music, the copy becomes the art!!! This is a huge reason musicians are more apt to be financially successful when compared to visual artists. The desire to exclusively “own” the song isn’t even considered. I own the Rolling Stones song, “Wild Horses”, but I don’t OWN it. When I purchased my CD, I knowingly bought a copy of the song, and having the copy for my music collection was all that was intended. I bought the CD to enjoy the music, not to possess something no one else could own because I had it. Owning a copy of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” isn’t considered owning anything. Its value is limited to the cost of its production and little else. Therein lays the fundamental disadvantage visual artists face.

The Internet can help visual artists if we accept its tools and methods. Web sites can be created for the purpose of selling art through downloads, but they must be accepted by the collector. Art appreciation should be the product of abundance, not scarcity. Collectors need to stop worrying about the value and authenticity of art and instead embrace its esthetic. This has happened for music. Let it be the same for the unknown painter, up all night developing a body of work that will help toward establishing a marginal existence.

Let’s give the visual artists a break and let technology benefit them. Let’s enjoy a painting because it makes us feel good—not just because we own it exclusively. Let’s give it a try.

Okay?


My Quest: A 2012 Update


In the two years since I wrote this article, the topic has become increasingly important to me. Why is it so difficult to embrace the idea of copies-of-art-as-art? What will it take to make this fundamental shift happen? It is difficult for me to say, because I believe it should have occurred already.

The Internet makes it possible for all of us to add more beauty to our lives than ever before. We can reach more people than could possibly be imagined fifty years ago through the power of Google. We can now see the works of artists that previously relied on galleries or magazines to achieve their fame or, worse yet, never realized any acclaim or notoriety. We can fill our lives with beauty through the use of a computer and this remarkable technological innovation known as the Internet. This is an amazing breakthrough.

Why aren't we thrilled by this?

Is it because we are still looking at (or possibly downloading) copies? Does that make art mundane and not worthy of notice or interest? If so, this is madness. It is a madness that still oppresses visual artists around the world--just as it did two years ago, when I originally wrote this article. Just as it has for hundreds and even thousands of years. This is our chance to make art accessible to everyone, and for the artist to benefit from this notoriety in new and exciting ways. This is the opportunity to free artists from misconceptions about what makes art "good" or "great". Think of me as the voice crying out to end the madness that equates scarcity with quality. It's time to change our thinking in this regard.

It's time to make things right.


More by this Author


Comments 14 comments

jan 7 years ago

i find visual art EXTRMELY therapeutic! both in the making and in the viewing / experiencing. i think there is a great untapped power there for healing.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Jan, thank you for your insights. I agree there is tremendous potential for healing, and have considered looking into this as a career alternative. I greatly appreciate your comments.


Brian 7 years ago

Property and ownership is a funny thing isn't it? Recommended reading, "The Gift; Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property" by Lewis Hyde.

Also, there is the performance aspect of music which is very different than in art. Performance is very important in selling music. Remember when we went to see Genesis back in... '76, '77?


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Brian, thanks for the comment and I will check out the book. There is indeed a performance aspect of music which differs markedly from art. "Performance art" was quite the rage 25 years ago, but not much is said about it now, which indicates the audience's experience was not sufficiently engaging to rival that of watching musicians.

I do indeed remember seeing Genesis in (I think) '77, when Phil Collins had long hair and the band was performing music from "Trick of the Tail" and "Wind and Wuthering". It was a great show that I remember fondly.


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Amen brother. You are preaching to the choir here! I had the pleasure of seeing "Crows over a field" when in Amsterdam years ago, "Starry Night"'s morbid yet equally beautiful cousin, Vincent's work is close to my heart. Thanks for sharing your insight, and for educating the public. You and I have at least one advantage over artists who don't write, in that we can delve into another media with royalties. I once heard Michael Stipe whine in an interview, "Visual artists are lucky that they don't have to create the same art over and over again." He was complaining that audiences want to hear the same song again and again from REM. If it meant that I would be paid the millions of dollars that many musicians receive I would attempt to paint the same painting on tour over and over again in front of throngs of girls bouncing up and down, somehow, I think I could manage to bend my artistry around that notion, I could leap that creative hurdle!

Anyway, we keep trying right? I still haven't tried any of the reproduction websites, I heard deviantart.com pays some pretty good royalties, but haven't tried it yet. Let me know if you know of a better one, lots of leaps and bounds have been made in ink quality and UV resistance, maybe someday we'll make a buck or two off every print sold!

Very thoughtful and "well rendered" collection of verbs you've put together here Mike, thanks!

Ben


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ben, thanks for your insight. You are truly a kindred spirit in the art world, and we benefit from your voice speaking on our behalf. I think I could accept the "problems" Michael Stipe endures if the rewards were similar, and I hope someday he realizes how lucky he is to be paid well to "reproduce" his art through live performance.

You are correct, we keep trying--out of love for our craft and the urge to affect something; the world, ourselves, the people we love.

Thanks for your comments, Ben.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

You have elucidated some good points here regarding vocal verses visual artists. More power to anybody that can profit from his/her art! So many (especially in the case of visual artists) are appreciated most after their demise.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hi Peggy, thanks for your comments and support. We all benefit when someone earns a profit from their work--the idea of making art accessible becomes a tiny bit more real each time that happens. Hopefully we still have a chance to be appreciated in our lifetime!

Thanks again.


Ghost Whisper 77 profile image

Ghost Whisper 77 6 years ago from The U.S. Government protects Nazi War Criminals

Interesting Hub Mike. I work in a private place of employment-the art work is fabulous-collectors-originals-million dollar paintings! On every floor-every wall-it is amazing! And I get the pleasure of seeing it every day! (Of course the very expensive are hooked up to the police department-if you even move the painting a 'touch' it sets off alarms! I enjoy both music and paintings!

I specifically love the sketch 'trapped'. I can relate to this in a very profound way!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ghost, thanks for your comments. I would love to work in an environment that showcased artwork. I once worked for an employer who was an art collector, but the pieces he chose were odd--bronze cat with its butt in the air--things like that. (No alarms hooked up to the cat....)

Thanks for commenting on "Trapped." There were no hidden messages when I did that one.

Thanks again!


Ghost Whisper 77 profile image

Ghost Whisper 77 6 years ago from The U.S. Government protects Nazi War Criminals

You would love this place! Unbelievable paintings! The sketch I refer to has a hidden meaning for me-hehehe. You did that???? Wowzie!

There is a lady in a beautiful 18th Century (I think) dress and she is lighting a ciggy. I think the title is Smoking-I love it! One of my favs!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hi Ghost,

...I did the artwork shown in this hub. Trapped is the one with the webs.... I realize hidden meanings are meant to be hidden, but I am understandably curious.

It sounds as if it would be amazing to see the artwork at the place you work. I love seeing artwork in person to appreciate the textures and brush strokes.

Thanks for commenting, I always love to see you that you've visited my hubs.


juneaukid profile image

juneaukid 6 years ago from Denver, Colorado

You make some very valid arguments in this hub. Certainly a reproduction of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" is not as valuable to the owner as a CD of the Eagles and I guess the same is true of a writer's hub--valuable only as it is a good "read" and it is not like owning a first edition of Moby Dick.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

juneaukid, thanks for reading. You've got it exactly. A replica of "Starry Night" would not be considered worth the paint it was used to make it--a print even less so. Any copy of an Eagles CD is as good as another.

And, you make an interesting point about hubs, as well. We write here because we can, but no one is likely to compile our works because they want to own what we have to say--no matter how good it is. Hubs as a media isn't considered on a level with a published book. It is, as you say, a "good read," but no one is clamoring to own someone's hub--even if the writing is just as good as a literary masterpiece.

I'm not certain what it would take to even things out and make the work as valuable as the packaging, but it is a shame there aren't more ways to define "ownership" and reward creators using non-traditional venues.

Thanks for your comments and insights.

Mike

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