Value and Cost

A comment from someone on twitter has raised an interesting point that I think is worth exploring a little. It concerns a recent cartoon, a Venn diagram.

The person tweeted that while they like the joke and they support my right to earn money, it's “surely one of the easiest to reproduce” and by inference, therefore, too expensive. (NB They have subsequently informed me it was a joke - it's often impossible to tell on twitter - I took it seriously as it appeared to be serious and was tweeted to the persons followers, not to me directly. They have been apologetic and good-natured about it. However, the point still stands as they are not the only person to raise this issue).

The issue for me is where do you think the value lies in a piece of 'art' (a slightly grand term, possibly, for a cartoon)?

I think most people would agree it's not in the raw materials – the paper, the quantity of ink consumed, etc. although these are all factors in the cost, as is the mount, the post and packing, as well as the time it takes to draw it, pack it and send it out. But really, none of us assesses the value of a piece of art on that basis.

I would say the value lies in the idea and the execution of the idea and cartoons in particular rely on an economy of means. I often think jokes are a kind of funny puzzle, cartoons a visual version whereby satisfaction comes when you 'solve' it. This also explains why I think writing 'Tristram Shandy' in the middle (as some people have suggested I should) would diminish the impact of the joke. The observer fills in the gap and gets the double enjoyment of realisation and deduction.

I would say in this case that the simplicity of the execution makes this joke work and not the quantity of ink on the paper or the time it took me to draw it. They are factors in the cost, but not in the value.

It's worth pointing out that the assumption this is easy to reproduce is also wrong. Drawing two fairly convincing intersecting circles free-hand is much harder than it looks (for me, at any rate). Try it. I often end up discarding cartoons that go wrong and actually the simpler they are the easier it is to get them wrong. We don't charge you more if I mess up and have to start again.

So, we have a policy that all our cartoons are the same price unless they take me a particularly long time to draw. It's a starting point. Below that price it simply isn't worth my while sitting down to draw them. We think it's pretty good value for a hand-drawn, unique piece of… well, let's call it art.

You can see loads of my cartoons here, or if you've seen one (by me, obviously) somewhere else that's not here and you'd like me to draw, get in touch.

May 04, 2020

I don’t believe artists should charge for time and materials like a lawyer or an accountant would. The value of the work produced is in the joy it brings the artist to create and the collector to behold. I came here to buy a copy of Tristam Shandy to hang in my library/downstairs loo which seems a perfect spot for amusing literary cartoons. It made me laugh out loud when I first saw it and I plan to also buy a copy for a friend’s birthday later this year. I hope I can still get my hands on one.. or two?! Thanks! Holly Williams

Holly Williams

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