Should an Artist Discount ?

"Yosemite Humpback"
an older watercolor painting
22x30 inches

Recently, I watched a bona fide buyer offer an artist $1000 for a $1500 painting.   That would be 33% off or 2/3 of the asking price.

Should the artist have accepted the offer?

Let’s have a look at the thoughts of the artist  before we decide.  . . . . . . . .

This painting, an original painting without any reproductions of any sort, is the ONLY PAINTING LIKE IT IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.  This painting exists completely ALONE in the entire world!!  That is to say that this painting did not come off a production line where everything before it and after it were exact clones of each other.   In the case of manufactured multiples, where there are myriads of copies of any product, the inherent value decreases.  

Moreover, what is not considered by the buyer is all of the years of developing the skills and all of the spoiled paintings that led up to this one painting.   For all that the buyer knew, there could have been 50 failures in the attempt to make this one painting (in many cases there are far more than 50!!).   When one really thinks about all of the experience, study, trials, errors, frustration and years of non success, which must accumulate before such a painting can come to life, it is almost overwhelming.   In fact, when it is all put in front of us, we would actually wonder why anyone would attempt to become a painter?

We painters refer to this process of accumulating experience, in a humorous vein, as brush miles.    Thousands of brush miles must accumulate before an artist can actually become “good” at what he or she does.

And did I mention the artist’s frustration and emotional angst  (that we live with daily) to make this one painting come out as it was intended?  

Some art viewers, and, sadly, buyers, believe that artists are born “talented”  . . . or skilled.   That making paintings is some magical gift and that the artist has done this, effortlessly, since birth.  They somehow have the impression that painters make paintings without sweat or effort.   Obviously, considering all that has been said to this point, that is not the case!   Talent is only the desire or the compulsion to make art.   The skills must endure the crucible of hard won experience and lots of failure before becoming refined.

So, do you think the artist should be insulted by the obvious underlying meaning that the buyer doesn’t acknowledge the value in the painting?

This artist declined the offer and the painting remained for sale at the asking price.   Aside from the need for money, was she right in doing so?

And all of this discussion really brings into focus the question:  “How Much is a painting really worth?”

Your comments are not only welcome, but solicited!