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Robert Genn on pricing

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Jackie Beckman
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Postby Jackie Beckman » Thu Feb 19, 2004 5:32 pm

Recently someone bought a painting for a few hundred dollars because they believed it was worth that price. An appraisal determined the painting had been done by Rembrandt. Now everyone believes that painting is worth tens of millions of dollars. What changed?


Well, it sounds to me like someone herded up the cats and educated the buyer that he had a Rembrandt on his hands! Had that painting been shown to an educated art appraiser first, there would have been no doubt of it's value, perceived or otherwise, Dennis.

I'm just glad nobody convinced Picasso there was really no market for his sort of work so he should move on to landscapes and still-lifes, and if he could take just a second to add some "bling" maybe people would think he spent more time on it than he did. Then he could really whip out the paintings and increase his profit margin.

](*,)

Jackie Beckman
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Postby Jackie Beckman » Thu Feb 19, 2004 5:36 pm

If you want to alter your prices, you'll first have to alter the buyer's perceptions.


Hmm . . .think, think, think. How could we somehow alter their perceptions? Let me see . . . :idea: :idea: :idea: By gosh! I think I've got it! We could try to educate them? Oh no - never mind - they are untrainable. I know this - I read it on the board.

Suzan
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Postby Suzan » Thu Feb 19, 2004 5:38 pm

Educating the consumer is of primary importance. When I had my first show last November, many people came into my booth and gasped at my work, said it was beautiful, then walked away. People largely don't understand what kiln-formed glass is. One of the other exhibitors at the show said that the first time he showed his wooden puzzles, he sold 2. Next show (same venue), he sold over 20, and he's been doing well ever since. The wooden puzzles were totally unfamiliar to people, but by the next show, they were familiar with it, and that made a difference in this person's sales.

A gallery owner who shows my work said that pottery always sells. People understand pottery because there's been a pottery studio movement in North America since about the 1950's. Kiln-formed glass is relatively new as a consumer product. As many of us know from experience, some people think the glass is plastic or resin. Others assume that intricately cut glass design elements are cold painted. Unfamiliarity with a decorative or artistic product significantly affects the perceived value of it. Time and familiarity with kiln-formed glass will make people collectors of it, and happy campers of us :wink:

Cheers,
Suzan

Bert Weiss
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Postby Bert Weiss » Thu Feb 19, 2004 6:28 pm

I'm still finding this discussion humorous.

Picasso did pretty well in the marketplace and in critical acclaim. He made up the rules and others wrote them down.

Chihuly is actually the most successful glass educator. As I see it, he got a special aired on PBS that was watched by millions. People always come in to my booth and want to tell me about how they saw it. He didn't teach them much though. They are now aware that cool looking work is being made with colored glass. He also educated many museum curators and some Hotel decorators. They are impressed enough to throw big big bucks at his productions. All basically helpful to us.

Kincaide is the least talented most successful artist I ever saw. People in large numbers clamor to pay elevated prices for computer prints of lousy paintings done in huge editions. Beats me how or why, but he can retire any time he wants to. Those people perceive a value and sign over their buckos.

Education is a pretty big deal for us. Even the "glass art" community knows little about our movement in glass art. It is up to us to make them take notice.

I am disappointed because I wanted to mount a warm glass exhibition in New Orleans during the GAS conference this coming June. I had some helpers and a venue lined up, but the helpers backed out and I can't afford the time or money to make it happen by myself. It is still conceivable to make this happen but it will take lots of volunteer help.
Bert

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Dennis Brady
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Postby Dennis Brady » Thu Feb 19, 2004 8:24 pm

We're putting on Victorian Glass Art Festival this coming Sept as a beginning towards a similar goal. This year will be purely educational, but next year will devote an equal effort to exhibiting glass art of all forms.

http://victorianglassartfestival.com/

Wanna come teach a kiln building class? I know Carol was thrilled. She's doing a slumping/fusing class with us.
DeBrady Glass Ltd http://www.debrady.com
Victorian Art Glass http://www.vicartglass.com
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Postby sadiesjewels » Thu Feb 19, 2004 11:50 pm

Hello all,

this is a great discussion ... and I'm enjoying the turn it's taking ...

Jackie said:
"I'm just glad nobody convinced Picasso there was really no market for his sort of work so he should move on to landscapes and still-lifes, and if he could take just a second to add some "bling" maybe people would think he spent more time on it than he did. Then he could really whip out the paintings and increase his profit margin. "

Picasso was successful in part because he was hugely prolific ... he produced over 53,000 works of art and spanned media from jewelry to ceramics as well as painting ... including landscapes and still life (in fact "blue enamel saucepan" is one of my favorites - lol ... I won't get into whether it is a still life here). I tell my first grade students that to produce work at that rate he must have made about 3 pieces of art a day during his working life ... to me, who often takes a week to complete one piece of jewelry that is
whiping out the paintings and increasing profit margin
.... however I don't think that was Picasso's motivation. He just had to create ... it was who he was.

I find my work often cheapens once I pander to the marketplace. Like many others here, we create because that is who we are. I would like to sell more of course ... so I can offord to create more, but whenever I start to create just for a sale, I find it is no longer a piece of art, but production.

Sadie

Jackie Beckman
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Postby Jackie Beckman » Fri Feb 20, 2004 2:08 am

Picasso was successful in part because he was hugely prolific ... he produced over 53,000 works of art and spanned media from jewelry to ceramics as well as painting ... including landscapes and still life (in fact "blue enamel saucepan" is one of my favorites - lol ... I won't get into whether it is a still life here). I tell my first grade students that to produce work at that rate he must have made about 3 pieces of art a day during his working life ... to me, who often takes a week to complete one piece of jewelry that is
whiping out the paintings and increasing profit margin
.... however I don't think that was Picasso's motivation. He just had to create ... it was who he was.


In 1904 Picasso began painting The Actor. He finished it in 1905. The sculptural piece, The Jester, was started in 1905 and finished in 1906. Later that same year he asked Gertrude Stein (his friend and early supporter of his work) if he could paint her portrait. She sat for him 80 times for the one painting. His work, The Fall of Icarus, consists of 40 canvases. Are we counting that as one piece, or 40? And how many do you suppose he did in a day? When commissioned by Spain to paint the mural that eventually became Guernica, he spent months just pondering what to paint. Once he settled on his idea he produced hundreds of sketches and studies. Do each of those count as a seperate work in the 53,000?

Most major (famous) works he did went through many, many stages before the final outcome. Having been in that intoxicating creative trance myself, I can see where one could whip out sketch after sketch of an idea, passionately flipping them around the room as the ideas dance in your head. But then there are the lulls - the waiting for the ideas to dance into your mind's eye. In the fever of creativity, I can see where many more works than "three a day" could unfold. Are they really indivdual pieces though? I don't think so - they are the evolution of the end product.

And by no means was he increasing his profit margin - especially in the early 1900's. Back then he couldn't earn enough from a painting to buy the paint for his next piece, even though some of these works are now his most famous. It wasn't until the middle of the century, some 40 years later that collectors and musuems began to clammor for his work; I'm guessing there wasn't much thought behind 'increasing the profit margin by whipping out paintings' during those four decades.

I find my work often cheapens once I pander to the marketplace. Like many others here, we create because that is who we are. I would like to sell more of course ... so I can offord to create more, but whenever I start to create just for a sale, I find it is no longer a piece of art, but production.


Very true. When Picasso first unveiled the painting Les Demoiselles d' Avigon to a few select friends, they thought it horrendous - even his forward thinking contemporaries like Matisse. Perhaps these outside opinions had something to do with the fact that the piece wasn't formally shown until 1925 - nearly 18 years later.

Jackie

K Okahashi
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Postby K Okahashi » Fri Feb 20, 2004 3:02 am

What a great discussion. I too, get Robert Genn's letters and while I appreciate his ideas, it doesn't always mean I agree with them. Pricing is a weird animal in an of itself. There's the economic perspective of a formula, then there's the human element of perceived value, then there's the (in our case) the artistic element that is some sort of nebulous idea of what something is "worth" or what type of "artistic vision" it may have, or is it just pretty, or cool. And god knows how many other ways we can take this concept apart to understand it.

I think many are taught to think of things in the "material/capitalistic"way- how much is it, do I have "x" amount of money to buy it, what are my choices if I don't buy it? Does so and so sell it cheaper? etc etc...

In my experience, I have found that art is very subjective. I have been to shows where someone came up and thought my work was too overpriced, yet a half hour later, someone else came up to buy that same piece saying what a great deal it was and how "perfect" it would work in their new room. There are over 6,000,000,000 folks on this planet now. I think there is room for oh, say a couple of million folks to not like my work :) . Of those 6 billion plus folks out there, I think it's safe to say that there's gonna be a handful who will want that "great" deal, another group that won't spend less than a $10,000 for a piece of art, and then there's folks like me, who just like beautiful things in their life (and forgive me for not mentioning the other groups).

As for Picasso and other artists who are just as talented... all I know is it's gonna do me a whole lot of good if my stuff sells for a bundle when I've been dead for 20 years. Do I leave my mark out of ego or do I just want to share my creations?

just some rambling thoughts from a rambling girl tonight

Peg
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Postby Peg » Fri Feb 20, 2004 8:25 am

I've found that what people are prepared to pay depends strongly on the context in which the items are being sold.

Selling in an upmarket gallery (no doubt to upmarket people) automatically lends some weight to the value of an item. The same people would expect to pay less for the same item at, say, a stall at a fair.
They're not just paying for the item - they're buying into a certain 'exclusivity' that comes with owning an expensive object.

Cynthia

Postby Cynthia » Fri Feb 20, 2004 2:21 pm

Bert wrote:Picasso did pretty well in the marketplace and in critical acclaim. He made up the rules and others wrote them down.


Well, not exactly. Read Jackie's post. His acceptance as a contibutor to the arts and legitimization and acclaim came very late for him and others working with the same concerns. But your point is well taken and I think that there is an overlap between production values and artistic...there is also a disconnect that makes it hard to talk about these approaches as if they were the same.

Picasso's focus was the integrity of the work and not what the market would support, which is why I believe we will still talk about his work in 200 years and the value of that work will continue to increase, and Kincaid will be forgotten.

We are approaching this topic with differing ideas of what success means as well. There is the success of artistic achievement and there is business success in making sales=making money. They aren't necessarily mutually exclusive concerns. You can have one without the other and in the perfect world we could have both. We seem to be forgetting though that there is a difference between the approaches to, and intentions for different work.

Many of us want and need to make a living at this, so understanding the market is imperative. How we go about doing this work and what our markets and the intentions of our work are will change the approach to marketing we take for differing work. The market for mass produced items is a different audience than the market for individually conceived and created works.

Dennis wrote:...Whether it's a trashy imported trinket, or a unique and exceptional piece of art, the selling price is determined by the buyer's perception of value. If you want to alter your prices, you'll first have to alter the buyer's perceptions.


This statement is advocating education. To alter the buyers perceptions, you give them an education about the work. A work containing a high degree of accomplishment in both artstry and skill sometimes will require that the audience understand the work in terms of it's content as well as process in order to appreciate it's value. When I say that the client doesn't care about how long it takes to create a piece I mean that they are interested in learning about and accquiring a piece based on it's integrity and content more so that that it takes more hours to cold work this piece than that one...


Dennis wrote:...How long it takes for an artisan to make something varies substantially from one to another. Some are slow - some are quick. The biggest difference between an amateur and a pro isn't quality - it's speed. Pros work much faster than amateurs . An amateur might take 40 hours to do something a pro can easily complete in 10...


I think this is where the biggest disconect is. You are talking production here, and you can't apply the standards of the creation or marketing of production work to artwork. Quality refers not only to the craftsmanship but the level of artistic achievement as well...So I feel it's important to understand that this definition of a Pro and an Amateur is Dennis' concept as applied to production. I would appreciate the work (all work) be attended to in terms of quality craftsmanship over speed of execution...and this rapidly produced work with little attention to the level of quality is exactly the kind of work that causes some buyers to turn some of us away before seeing any work with comments such as..."Fused Glass? Seen that, not impressed." It worries me that this is how Dennis would attend to the work he wholesales...that speed is professional and quality is amateurish. Is that truly what was meant?

The market for production, the retailers that purchase it and the folks who are buying it, are different animals in a different slot in the food chain than those who are purchasing, collecting and representing works of art.

I think Genn's guidelines are valid and useful guidelines to marketing. You do have to put yourself out there and find your groove according to the type of work you are doing if selling is one of your concerns. If it's dichro jewelry you create you will be marketing to a different crowd than if your work is architectural installations. You will price and market according to the the work you are doing just like you would approach keeping a tiger alive and healthy in a completely different manner than you would a giraffe. They are both animals, wild, beautiful and exotic...but they require different environments in order to thrive.

Jackie Beckman
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Postby Jackie Beckman » Fri Feb 20, 2004 3:11 pm

Oh Cynthia - your entire post is exactly spot on - just what I was trying so hard to say but couldn't find the right words. (Just found 2000 others instead) But this cracked me up. Too funny:

You will price and market according to the the work you are doing just like you would approach keeping a tiger alive and healthy in a completely different manner than you would a giraffe. They are both animals, wild, beautiful and exotic...but they require different environments in order to thrive.

Thank you!

Jackie

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Postby whitejoyce » Fri Feb 20, 2004 4:23 pm

I too agree, art is subjective & beauty is definitely in the eyes of the beholder. I personally have found this to be true.

Someone's said your over priced, not even an hour later someone thinks its a great deal.

Great info guys, give me a whole new prospective to the different crowds.I have read somewhere that everything is negotiable. I am not clear if this one of these times.

But if your priced accordingly you will be ok. kinda like real estate the asking and then the price, but notice how high the asking price, so they already know what they are going to sell for. To me this is knowing your market.

just wanted to put my two cents in .
J. White

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Postby Gale aka artistefem » Fri Feb 20, 2004 4:30 pm

Dennis, you've caught several tigers by the tail with your bait - LOL!

........40 minutes versus 10 minutes to create??

Personally, I relish and cherish those 40 min's or the month it takes or the entire year of thought and R&D it takes to make a piece of art that is worth making.

The minute I schlepp it out there just to meet the public's acceptance and demand is the moment it is over for me as an artist!

There's more to this creative life than just a bottom life of $$. Money is necessary, money is fine, it enables me to continue creating - but sell my soul for it? Never............

I'd rather starve!

But I won't. Why? Because there are enough willing and listening buyers who are interested in being educated about what I make and how I make it. It is, in part this education process that develops "perceived value". No way am I going to throw a 10 minute quick-ie on them and try to sell it at a 40 minute price. Just goes against my ethical grain and has the effect of undermining the "real " valuation of what we all do.

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Postby AVLucky » Fri Feb 20, 2004 6:46 pm

I think there's a misunderstanding here in relation to the 10 minutes vs. 40 issue. It seems to me that a pro, having mastered his or her technique, could go through the steps neccessary to complete a piece much faster than an amateur. It's not about the artistic integrity of the individual piece. Once the idea and design are already firmly in mind, it would seem obvious that someone with more experience could execute it faster, whether it was a low-end production piece, or a big expensive one-of-a-kind project. Having technical skills doesn't make you less of an artist.
I want to add a quote here from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which has been an incredibly influential book to both my artistic and business outlooks. Pressfield writes, "The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come. The professional is sly. He knows that by toiling beside the front door of technique, he leaves room for genius to enter by the back."

And going back to the price-by-size and perceived value question, I think there are a lot of variables that have mostly been discussed here already.
I price by size and complexity. Most of the time, the complexity is obvious and people don't balk at a price difference when they can see that. Educating the customer is helpful, of course. I think most people, given a basic description, can understand, say the difference in price between dichroic and float glass. But even if you explain to them that cranberry pink costs more than twice as much as other colors because it contains gold, it won't matter if they prefer a pale amber instead. Like Dennis wrote,
If an artist prefers to work with opalescent glass but the buyer prefers the crystalline look of cathedral, then cathedral glass is worth more than opalescent.

In summary, pricing by size alone? No. Pricing by perceived value alone?
Maybe. It's an inexact science. I think we all just have to work around it, while doing what we can to keep our audience educated, and to keep ourselves productive and sane.

Gale aka artistefem
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Postby Gale aka artistefem » Fri Feb 20, 2004 8:11 pm

Mr. Pressfield hits the mark adequetely! There's an enormity to learn and the more knowledge I possess, the more certain I am a novice.

It makes no difference what you produce or what you price it at. The price a buyer is willing to pay will be governed by the buyers "perceived" or "believed" value.


Ah..... Dennis, have you never had an wonderful conversation with a buyer who wants to fall in love, but needs foreplay and a bit of seduction before they become engaged enough to consider purchasing?

I'm not talking sex here.........I'm describing the exchange with an interested person, that we're lucky enough to have because they have sought us and our work out.

Why do you think the buyer seeks us out? Why do they show up at the art shows, why do they walk into the galleries? What do they want from us? If you believe they all want a pretty object with a low $$ bottom line, then you've missed one of the more interesting parts of what we have the opportunity to offer as artists. How many times do you hear these statements from buyers? "I don't have a creative bone in my body. I can't even draw a stick figure."

A large amount of buyers want a slice of our life, a story about their acquisition to take home and share with their friends and the conversation with us that helps them to learn more about what we do. If you're good at foreplay and seduction (i.e. giving them what they came to you for........), then the "percieved value" has every opportunity to "rise" (wink & wicked grin here).

.......and having stated this, understand that I do not regard this to be a game. It is not about being insincere. It's about being good at what you do, sharing your passion and love of it and having the ability to speak to use of your techniques.

These conversations are multi-layered. They satisfy the buyers need to understand what we do, which, in turn can and usually does increase percieved value and educates in the same breath. Again, helping continue to raise percieved values.

I rant about the ill-informed and arts ignorant. We've all ranted about this, at some point. But overwhelmingly, my experiences lead me to believe that many people are very turned on by what we do. They believe they can't make art themselves, and want to experience it - even if vicariously and they are willing to pay well for the opportunity. We need to be willing to do the interface to further their knowledge and give them the vicarious thrill.

There's enough challenges in our line of work as it is - please don't sell us short! It isn't just about what the public is willing to pay. Work it, brother! :wink: :wink:

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Postby Dennis Brady » Sat Feb 21, 2004 1:24 pm

The first thing anyone learns when being taught elementary salesmanship is to let the buyer sell themselves. Don't try convince them to buy, but convince them to satisfy their desire to buy.

I don't believe the general public is uninformed or uneducated (about art or anything else). I believe the opposite - that the public has learned to reject (and even dispute) the bleatings of the self-appointed professional critics. There are lots of exceptions (the fools that buy diamonds being at the top), but generally people will buy what they like - and reject being told what they're supposed to like. I think the best demonstration of the silliness of accepting direction from art experts was made when Andy Warhol framed a blank canvas and exhibited it titled "White on White". The art critics praised his work with comments like "elegant minimalism". I'm certain Warhol appreciated Oscar Wilde's definition of a critic as "Someone that owns a road map but can't drive the car".

I make a critical distinction between "informing" the public as to how kiln formed work is produced, and "educating" them to accept it. Some people like it, while others hate it. If we want to educate, we should start will all the kiln-formers that think coasters and sushi dishes are "glass art". Maybe more buyers would appreciate kiln-formed work if there wasn't so much crap level work on display.

I'd also like to say I think it's naive and ignorant to assume that because a commercial shop does production work, it therefore doesn't produce high end one-of-a-kind work. I've built quite a collection of award winning pieces (even sold a few to museums) but built my business on production work - the same way Tiffany and Blenko did. Each part of the business supported the other. The "art" experiments taught new techniques. The production work improved technical skills. The combination resulted in improved income.

Business IS art .
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Postby Jackie Beckman » Sat Feb 21, 2004 2:46 pm

I'd also like to say I think it's naive and ignorant to assume that because a commercial shop does production work, it therefore doesn't produce high end one-of-a-kind work. I've built quite a collection of award winning pieces (even sold a few to museums)


Well, here's what you had to say a short time ago about one of a kinds, so we're not really naively or ignorantly assuming anything you haven't flat out told us, Dennis.

The ONLY justification for one ofs is snob appeal. Personally I fee the same way towards Limited Edition. There're not in any way higher quality, so there's no legitimate reason for them to be more valuable than large production run posters or castings - or anything else.


My personal opinion of the one of "artists" is that they usually lack the skill level to duplicate and rely more on happenchance than skill. To make 2 (or 20) identical copies requires SUBSTANTIALLY more skill than making one good one.


If it's good, it's worth repeating. The first one is done to see if it's worth repeating. It's if it's not worth repeating, don't - sell it as "one-of-a-kind".

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Postby Amy on Salt Spring » Sat Feb 21, 2004 4:15 pm

I've read this thread and bitten my tongue until now to allow Jackie and others to say what I would say for me, but Oh my god! I cannot believe anyone would say something(s) so stupid as those quotes?! Why would I want to say the same thing over and over again? Just because I don't doesn't mean I don't have the skill to do it (I sure as hell do), it means it would be pointless to do it. Everything I make is completely different from the last because I create what I am INSPIRED to make (which is a justification for one of a kind pieces in my book--in fact its the definition of art itself) not what I think people will buy, and guess what, turns out that is what the people who buy from me LIKE about my work. I would LOSE money if I made duplicates. People who want ART, do not want some cookie cutter piece that I've made forty of. Sure if its just decorative that's fine but you are then talking about a completely different ballgame. I'm sickened to think that there are people listening to this stuff and thinking they should incorporate it into the way they work and lessening their vision and where they could go with their art.
-Amy

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Postby Gale aka artistefem » Sun Feb 22, 2004 12:14 am

I don't believe the general public is uninformed or uneducated (about art or anything else).


Hmmmmmm - really??

Then why do representatives of the general public continue to ask us if it's plastic?
Spotty (or barely an) education IMHO.

The first thing anyone learns when being taught elementary salesmanship is to let the buyer sell themselves. Don't try convince them to buy, but convince them to satisfy their desire to buy.


Heh.....Why do you think I call this method (of salesmanship) - seduction?

We all can be seduced by that which we desire (whether we admit it to ourselves - or not)! Some people just need a little more permission to obtain their desires than others.

Cynthia

Postby Cynthia » Mon Feb 23, 2004 6:02 pm

I've stepped away from this thread for a few days feeling that I made my best attempt to make my point regarding what I disagree with of Dennis' views. But I want to clarify just one more thing in response to his last post. There's lots I could respond to, but I'll keep it to this.


Dennis Brady wrote:...I think it's naive and ignorant to assume that because a commercial shop does production work, it therefore doesn't produce high end one-of-a-kind work...



Who made that assumption? I never said, nor do I believe, that a commercial shop or someone who does production work can't or doesn't produce high end or one of a kind work. This seems to be where you want to parry and thrust with a dig here and a dig there...It appears you want to be sure we understand that 'artists' lack skill and are amateurs...self proclaimed critics and self appointed ones. That the true accomplishments lie only at the feet of those skilled at repidly making multiples. The value of achievement belongs in both craftsmanship and artistry and you cheapen the opportunities to work in this medium when you make these either/or statements intended to tear down those with an approach that is founded in the arts.

Dennis, you are the one who is taking pot shots making derogatory comparisons about art vs production with a value statement that art is somehow bogus hoohaw and production is what's legitimately an achievement (only if you make $$$)...that a professional is the one who can make multiples, and an amateur can't...that there is no legitimacy to original work... or that your 'personal opinion of the one-of "artists" is that they usually lack the skill level to duplicate and rely more on happenchance than skill', on and on. You make these kinds of comments and are surprised that offense has been taken or that we could disagree so vehemently?

Business IS art


Doing good business is an art, no arguments there, but making art is not about making money (which doesn't precluce making money from making art) and to confuse those two as being somehow hand in glove is one of the mistaken premises you have put forth that I have taken issue with....that, and the comments you have made that denegrate those who persue this work from an arts emphasis perspective in their work and process.

I guess that was more than just one more comment...oops :shock:

I'm done. :lol:


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