For the past year or so I’ve been facing some morality issues on selling my art and fanart. Normally I wouldn’t talk about something like this on the internet, but since most of my friends are artists and many of them also do anime conventions, I’m kind of low on unbiased people to talk to. And…
As for the morality of fanart, well, I’ll let others debate on this. I have my own opinions, but what I feel stronger about is how artists value their work.
This is something I struggled with too. I think it’s really hard, mainly because an artist will rarely ever see their own value. I did this same thing when I started conventions. “$15? Gosh, that’s too much.” But I think what we, as artists, have to remember is that when you sell your art, you are not charging $15 (or replace with another anecdotal value) for the paper. You’re not charging $15 for the ink. Yes, you are a little bit, and it IS good to have pride about the quality of your prints - I spent entire days with my local printer choosing quality, heavy paper stocks, selecting the right printing profiles that best suited my work, color adjusting PSDs, etc. Like any artist, I think we want to have pride and confidence when we hand off our work to a buyer.
But to say that a print’s physical value is $15 is a lie. A print’s value is in the intellectual property, the time, and the individuality.
By intellectual property, I mean that it is your brain child. It is a product of your mind on paper. The composition, the color palette, the subject matter - they’re yours. If it is fanart (and I mean real fanart, not attempted bootleg), the interpretation is yours, and the expression and passion of that subject is in that print.
By time, I mean the actual unpaid man-hours you spent working on this print. I can spend anywhere from 8-24 hours on a piece, and I know many artists who easily spend much more. Then there’s the hours at the printer. Hours spent adjusting colors. Hours spent hand-trimming each print. Hours spent packing, traveling, booking hotels and flights so that you can sell this print.
By individuality - this one is pretty easy to see - I mean it’s originality. There’s no other piece of artwork like this one. Imitators may try, or other artists might have similar subject matter. But technically and honestly, it is unique. It has been kissed with your style, a fingerprint that is undeniable above all valuable. And if someone picks it off of your table, gives you $15 and leaves happy, they thought so too. Yes, it is a print. Yes, you could make infinite amounts. But that’s why this is $15, and not $50, or $100 even.
To me these are the three things that more than justify the price tag.
But if you wanted to, you could bring up the argument that you wouldn’t spend $15 on an official poster. And that may be true, I may not either - but there are reasons that that argument doesn’t hold water either. Firstly, it’s printed by a corporation that can order offset printing in bulk, drastically reducing the cost per print. Which leads to the other point; they are printing thousands if not hundreds of thousands. The value of the print goes down by definition because it is less unique. Tons of people can own this particular print.
When I walk away from an artist with a print that was only 15$, I know that I’m not only paying for the ink and paper. I know I am paying for their time, their passion. I’m paying them so they can continue to earn a (let’s be honest) humble living off of their artwork. The $15 value is irrelevant, because I know it’s really worth much more than that. If someone felt like it wasn’t worth that $15 to them, then they can simply not purchase it, and it’s as simple as that.
So yes, it’s a little bit about valuing your own artwork. You probably aren’t trying to devalue yourself, but again, I think it’s really impossible for ourselves to see the value in our own work. We see the flaws, it’s not particularly special to us. It lived in our brain, and we tried to put it on paper, but it isn’t perfect,so what’s the big deal?
So I guess the TL:DR is - Artists, you have something special, and someone else can and wants to walk away with a tiny bit of it. Don’t undervalue that special something. Much of what you do is done in love. You would do it (and DO do it) constantly for free - because it makes you happy - but that doesn’t mean what you create has no value.