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Asking an Artist for a "Discount" or "Hookup" is an Insult

Updated on April 9, 2013

*** Disclaimer! This article is to advocate that artists SHOULD be able to make a living strictly from their art. Yes, art is our passion and we can't go without making it, but that doesn't mean we want to work 2 other jobs to survive. ***

Moving along. For all the friends that have asked me for a discount or "hookup" on my art - I still love you! No, really I do - because in the end, you guys are my biggest supporters.

But here is why you should think twice before asking any artist if you can pay less than the price set, and some advice on what you can do instead.

"Being broke" is not a good reason to ask an artist for a discount on their art.
"Being broke" is not a good reason to ask an artist for a discount on their art. | Source

This is what I hear when you ask for a discount...

When you ask me for a discount on something I created with my hands, you're basically telling me, "I like it, but it's not all that good. It's not worth me paying the full price because something is wrong with it."

It has absolutely nothing to do with the money you have in your bank account or wallet.

Here I am, putting my time, energy, heart and hands into a painting. Photo and art ©Corinna Nicole Brewer
Here I am, putting my time, energy, heart and hands into a painting. Photo and art ©Corinna Nicole Brewer

I'm not a factory.

But if I were to think of myself as a factory, let me clarify that the machines creating each piece of artwork are my hands, my intellect, my creativity, my originality, my vision and my heart.

I am NOT made of steel, housed in a huge building, operated by buttons that are pushed by a number of people, with the ability to produce a million copies of one thing.

Everything I create takes time, energy, care and attention to detail. Once I create something, I can never reproduce it to exactness with my hands. So when you buy original art from me, you are indeed purchasing something that does not exist anywhere else, and cannot be replicated by anyone, not even myself.

Art supplies aren't free! Photo by Corinna Nicole
Art supplies aren't free! Photo by Corinna Nicole

I empty my pockets in order to make art.

Believe it or not, canvases, paper, drawing utensils, paint, brushes, cleaning supplies, and my studio space, just to name a few, are not magically dropped in my lap with a note saying, "do something with this."

Nope. I actually have to spend my money on all of those things!

So let's put things in this perspective: I create art because I love it. It's an urge I have. So, I purchase these supplies and accommodations in order to create the things that I want and need to create. Then, all I can do is HOPE that someone will buy my art, so that I'll get money back and can spend that money on more art supplies (and of course food and other things that help me survive so I can continue to make art.) But let me tell you, I have a lot of art in my studio that has not been sold. So if you can imagine my art as a product of a loan I took out from myself, you can bet I've acquired quite some debt!

Art is worth more than your shoes.

I'm just using shoes as an example, but you can apply the idea to many things you purchase. It aggravates me when you can throw down $100 or more on one pair of shoes that will eventually get dirty, scuffed up, or go out of style, but you want a "hookup" on something that can last a lifetime (if you're careful with it). Art can be appreciated for decades upon decades and can be passed on from generation to generation. Sometimes, the value of artwork even increases!!! You can't really say that for the Jordans or Jimmy Choos, can you?

I get it - money is tight.

You may genuinely be broke, but still want to support your favorite artist. I understand. I'm usually broke too. So here are some alternative ways of thinking if you are really digging someone's art.

  • Consider trade. If you have something other than money to offer the artist, there's no harm in asking. Like I mentioned, I'm usually broke, so I may never have enough money to get my hair dyed, or buy nice furniture, or get that tattoo I really want. But if you have a skill or access to something that you think the artist might be interested in, ask them what would be a fair trade. Perhaps you build furniture and can build the artist a flat-file for them to store their drawings? Or maybe you're a tattoo artist and can offer them a tattoo of equal value. Are you a graphic designer? Well, artists need business cards - lots of them! Even if you're an artist yourself - I may be a huge fan of your work. Let's trade art! Just think outside of the box, but be fair. Don't offer them a copy of the book you just published that costs $15 to buy, but you want an original painting that costs $150.
  • Put it on your wishlist. Is your birthday coming up? Did your parents just ask what you want for Christmas? Well, if you've been eyeing a piece of art, there's no harm in asking your family or loved ones to get it for you as a gift! And I'm sure they'll feel a lot better about giving you some art you really want, versus a gift card.
  • Buy it in good faith. Chances are, if you support your friend/the artist by buying their art, they'll turn around and support you when you need it.
  • Buy a print (a generated copy), instead. If you don't have the money to buy the real thing and have nothing to offer for trade, consider buying a print (if it's 2-dimensional art). Ask the artist if prints are available, as they will be far cheaper than the original. Just remember, we (the artists) still have to pay for production costs to have the print made of our art. For an 8x10 inch print, it may cost the artist $15 to order plus shipping costs. In order for us to make profit, we have to bump that price up. So don't ask for a discount on a print either, because we are likely already losing half of our asking price.

You must respect the value of art.

If after reading this, you still feel entitled to ask for a discount or "hookup," it means you do not fully understand the value of art.

And if you do not understand and respect the value art, it likely means you won't care for the artwork properly anyway. So don't bother wasting your money or the artists time and just enjoy the art from afar.

There will be times when artists decide on their own to offer their art at a lower price, and that could be an ideal time for you to buy it. Take the opportunity, but still remember that just because you paid less, doesn't mean the art is of less value.

Be honest. Have you ever asked an artist for a "hookup" or discount on their art?

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    • zivkong profile image

      Ziv Kong 3 years ago from Malaysia

      Good writing. I'm a Multimedia Design and I got quite a lot of engagement with clients that needed graphics for their products. I admit that I might not draw as good as some great artist out there but I kinda hate when some of them saying 'Just draw something, it's an easy job for you... you might not even have to think about it. So do it free for me' .... I feel you...

    • Life of an Artist profile image
      Author

      Corinna Nicole 4 years ago from Huntsville, AL

      Thanks Boots Iacano! I think all different types of artist should write up a break down of costs, so people will better understand and stop asking for hookups!

    • Boots Iacono profile image

      Boots Iacono 4 years ago from Northern New Jersey

      The same can be said of friends thinking they can get tattoos for free if their 'boy' is a tattoo artist. When you consider the cost of ink for a 1oz bottle goes anywhere between $7 (low end soy ink) and $30 (super high-end blacklight reactive ink), the cost of a needle is anywhere from $.55 to $5.95 if you buy bulk, disposible tubes are about $.55 each, the cleaning products that disinfect work areas, paper towels, aftercare, bags, clipcord covers, autoclave operation, skin disinfectants, stencil sheets, ink caps, grommets, rubber bands, electricity, mold spore detection kits, health department pop in visits, rent, employee paychecks, and all the damned time it takes for them to get you to make it absolutely PERFECT (because, for some reason, even though you're giving it to them for free, they want it done better than the tattoo they paid 300 for down the shore during prom weekend) especially when your walk-ins are walking out because they are taking too long. Yeah, I get it. great Hub.

    • Life of an Artist profile image
      Author

      Corinna Nicole 4 years ago from Huntsville, AL

      @anndango

      Thank you SO much for reading and commenting! It feels good to be understood. All creatives should get paid fairly for their work, because while in most other careers you can clock in and out, we can not. We are only getting paid for our products - not the time we work to create them.

      Thank you for voting up! :) I wish you the best in your writing career as well!

    • profile image

      anndango 4 years ago

      Life of an Artist - thanks for this article. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Somehow people just don't get it - that you are making a living by being an artist. That is your profession. You have bills to pay and food to put on the table just like everyone else. Most people think of art as a hobby - that you are doing it because you love it and therefore shouldn't be making money. I'm sure many doctors and teachers love what they do to and we would never think of not paying them or think of haggling with them.

      I'm a freelance writer and fiction writer. My mother is an artist (painter and potter) and it is how she made her living. She didn't haggle. She treated it like a business because it was a business. She was in the business of being an artist. Just like I'm in the business of being a writer. I expect to get paid and I demand fair payment, and I do.

      People see the art side of things, but forget there is also the business side of it as well.

      All the best with your endeavors! Voted up.

    • Life of an Artist profile image
      Author

      Corinna Nicole 4 years ago from Huntsville, AL

      @W Dorsey

      I appreciate your comment and input. You are right, art is about expression which is an artist's main purpose. It has become more of a commodity than it used to.

      But I also have to argue that long ago, commissioning artists to do portraits, paint the walls and ceilings of buildings, etc, was very common. Artists were able to make a living from their talent - they were respected highly as incredibly valuable people.

      But we don't get commissioned anymore like artists used to.

      They say that if artists work on their art 50% of their time, they should put just as much time into promoting their art - the other 50% of the time. And on top of that, we all are expected to hold down part time and full time jobs just to be able to pay rent - so now we can't even fully commit to making art, without having to give up everything else we enjoy, like spending time with friends or getting some sleep.

      Artists should be able to make a living from their art. I don't feel that I am being arrogant - but I understand that our requests to get paid what we're owed may sound arrogant to everyone else.

      You're right - haggling and such is common in many places, but that doesn't mean I have to succumb to it. Many people do NOT know what goes into being an artist, musician, etc - this article is meant to open people's eyes to that, b/c many do not think about all that comes before the final product.

      I recently chose to have an art auction of my art - at which I set the starting price as low as $5 for something I normally asked $40. Many of my friends walked out with pieces for $7-12. I did this b/c I still want my art to be accessible. And I will continue to make art that is accessible.

      But when I set the prices I set, I set them for specific reasons - I need to make some kind of profit after all the money I've spent to make it.

    • profile image

      W Dorsey 4 years ago

      It's part of the culture, cutting out the middleman always invites negotiations. That's the beauty of it, you control what you charge for your work. People who get indignant or lowball you to death can go to hell though, that is an insult. The parts of Mexico I have visited near the border have a lot of stands and kiosk type street vendors who usually make their own products and negotiating/haggling is expected. Artists need to be open minded and flexible to the consumer, just because you worked hard on something doesn't automatically give it value and if you expect a certain amount for a piece then you might end up waiting for a while for someone willing to pay it. I disagree with this article and see it as arrogant to expect that what you value your work at is automatically what people should pay. Art is art, if you expect to support yourself on it just because you consider yourself an artist then you already got away from what art is all about.

      Many classic artists were not renowned for their work during their lifetime. Most artists have other jobs and seeking out commission work if they want to earn from their craft. I don't know why people expect it to be any different today just because a select few were fortunate enough or talented enough to gain popularity or fame during their lifetime SMH, what a world. Just like it says, artists are not machines, so why expect appreciation in machine form of dollars when art is about expression and not meant to be a job.