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Artist Problems: Hidden Costs of Art

Artist Problems: Hidden Costs of Art

Jul 02, 2023

Many, if not most, people today do not know what really goes into art. This results in the devaluation of artists and the inability for many to not be able to charge what they’re worth or to not be able to get work when they do.

There are three categories of costs that go into art: time, skill, and supplies.

TIME

As the saying goes, time is money. People need to be compensated for their time no matter what the job is. It’s only fair and the last time I checked, expecting labor for free is slavery. Don’t treat artists like slaves. Don’t treat anyone like slaves.

The question is: how much should an artist be paid for their time? A good start is minimum wage. Never charge less than that. Beyond that, skill is the determining factor. The better an artist’s skills, the more they can charge. 

My commission prices are based on $10 an hour, primarily because I don’t currently have the audience to be able to charge more. I don’t have a recognizable name that people flock to so they can snag up a commission slot.

SKILL

Skill is a huge factor, which I already touched on. It determines how much more you can charge beyond the hourly wage. Skill is not something you’re just born with, it’s something you have to earn. It takes time and, as I said before, time is money. It takes years to become a decent artist, decades to become truly good.

Not only does skill take time, but it can take money too. I’m, of course, talking about art school. A quick search comes up with $30,000+ in tuition. To go where I wanted to go for Game Art, it would’ve been $60,000+. That’s an insane amount of money. Majoring in art at a regular college is around $10,000 or more, which is still a lot, especially for teenagers just out of high school.

Even if an artist didn’t go to school to learn, there are still costs to learning, one of which is time. Beyond that, there’s book costs if they buy how-to books, tutorial costs if they buy how-to’s from artists online, and internet cost to access most of this.

Some ways of learning are more affordable but, either way you slice it, it’s not cheap. You’re also paying for all of this when you commission an artist.

SUPPLIES

You can’t create art without supplies and every manufacturer, big or small, factors material cost into the final product’s price. Artists also use supplies in learning, so that’s even more cost.

This applies to both traditional and digital artists. If you’ve ever been to an arts and crafts store and looked at the art supplies, you’ll know just how expensive they can be. Good quality art supplies, not the cheap ones made for children. There’s a direct cost in every piece of art made and a portion of commission money goes toward buying new supplies.

As for digital artists, there’s the cost of the desktop and drawing tablet, or mobile drawing tablet, depending on their workflow. There’s also the electricity that powers that equipment, which may not be cheap depending on where you live. Then there’s the cost of whatever programs they use. It all adds up.


So consider all this the next time you decide to commission an artist or when you price your own commissions. Charging $5 for a piece that’s more than a quick doodle is actively harming artists who are trying to make a living. It devalues art and artists, meaning people won’t pay what it’s worth. 

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