One might be forgiven for thinking that my academic degrees in law and criminology would be totally unrelated to making graffiti inspired art. In fact they come in jolly useful, and not just because I understand when it is possible to spray paint a brick wall without ending up in jail!
Today my Jerusalem Old City Designs (already on sale as archival glicée prints in Jerusalem via the Levantine Gallery) have come available on Spoonflower as print on demand fabric, gift paper and, should you really feel the need, wall paper. I would never have thought of doing this except that Jenny Bowker, who is a wonderful artist with an interest in the Middle East, said she wanted the design on fabric. However, because of unusual contractual restrictions relating to my current day job**, and a need to minimise administration tasks, to achieve that, I ended up drawing up a licensing contract and selling the license to a third party for a payment to charity. Then I had to consider over 100 pages of US-UK tax treaties to check whether that triggered a tax liability in the US or not. I have no idea how non-lawyer clients of Spoonflower deal with that – although be fair to them they do an excellent job of providing the relevant treaties and explanatory notes and tax forms right there on the website. Anyway, my brain has had a little exercise this morning!
Should you want to do a little shopping, you can find the designs in two scales on Spoonflower, here.
Of course all this raises many interesting philosophical questions about the interplay between money and art. If you are not making art to make living ( in part or in whole) for yourself, is there any point in showing or selling it at all? Or indeed in making it? And if you make it for the love of it ( which let’s face it is what all artists do really) what do you do with it if you are not going to sell it?
And if you are going to sell for charity how do you deal with the fact that it can actually cost a lot of money ( packing, posting, marketing, gallery fees, insurance etc ) to sell a work for charity. Would it be as well to just give the money to the charity rather than all those ancillary businesses and keep the art? Is there a form of remuneration other than money which makes sales worthwhile? How do you ensure that negative emotions such as feelings of unfairness or restriction don’t affect your joy and freedom in making art? How do you protect your own future business opportunities now?
It was a big debate I was forced to have which stalled me for a while and which formed the content of many a conversation with Lisa Call when she was my coach. It was hard at first to come to terms with the unexpected consequences of the terms and conditions I accepted as part of my day job before I even anticipated selling art as an option. I imagine there are other different but similar circumstances artists face such as restrictions because of time demands or illness or simply the market not supporting a required income to live on.
It will be obvious from this post that I eventually found a way forward for myself which includes (but is not limited to) that fact that when I get an email saying a gallery in Jerusalem has re-sold work to people in California and Russia and Pakistan I get an emotional reward which money can never buy. ( I am working on the theory that the happy dancing wears off the calories in the celebratory chocolate!) There is the joy of giving – albeit small sums – to charities world wide and the forward thinking planning of learning how to be a part of the art world now in order to set up potential earnings after retirement ( a long way off I hasten to say!).
Un-linking money and art actually also brings huge freedom to produce whatever the heck I like, weird or unorthodox as it might be. That in turn has brought unexpected acceptance in the art world and that impacts on my self-esteem and how I view my capacities and that then impacts on what non-art related activities I think I can achieve. (It’s hard to explain concisely to non-artists that taking photos of graffiti in Berlin made me believe I could learn to play golf which opened up a whole new delightful social life, but basically that’s what happened!)
Further, learning acceptance – of restrictions, of perceived injustice and illogicality, of having to wait, of entitlement denied to lack of control- is a good life lesson. The ability to recognise negative feelings and let them go rather than holding on to them and letting them fester and weigh you down only makes life better. It creates a mental and emotional freedom and a space in which art flourishes.
So, my designs are available on Spoonflower partly because they are doing no good sitting on my computer as a digital file. More so, I am sending them out into the world, because I hope that someone will like them, will buy them and will then go on to enjoy whatever they do with them, maybe surprising themselves with their own success in their endeavours and encouraging them to go to on to do greater things. Maybe that’s expecting too much from a yard of Spoonflower fabric showing some collaged iPhone photos of graffiti. But from my own experience, actually, I don’t think so.
I am interested. What are our views on the issues of linking art and monetary gain? Have you struggled with that ? Do you have solutions? Have you got an examples of how doing art has helped you achieve in other areas of your life?
** I am sorry to sound like I work for MI5 ( I don’t, but if I did I wouldn’t tell you!) but nor can I blog about my day job. If you know it please don’t mention it in any comments!