Someone recently told me that I talk too much about money. Let me rephrase. They said I should be careful how I talk about money. The implication being that I should talk about it less because money shouldn't’ be the end goal of what it is that we are trying to accomplish. I think there was some “attraction of the universe” magical thinking idioms said after that (I can’t remember because, in all honesty, the second a conversation turns to magic I typically start to tune out). The point is this: I talk about money and I guess this is not something I should do. Peter has been told the same thing. Different people have said this to us. And - surprise surprise - it has only ever come up while living in and around Vancouver. Ahhh Vancouver. The most expensive city in Canada - in fact one of the most expensive cities to live in the world - and the blowback is that we shouldn’t talk about money. Hush Hush, my darlings. It makes people uncomfortable. But you know something? I noticed that the people who are most uncomfortable are those with actual money and the means to survive in this city. We have spent our fair share of time among real entrepreneurs and artist (those who actually work) and money is the reality. There is no shame or grief or discomfort. It is the reality. The rent and real estate is astronomical. Life here has only gotten more expensive. Day to day, there is question of survival. What to do with the overhead? How do we make a living as entrepreneurs and artists when the medium of our finances hasn’t changed but the cost of living has only gone up. And up. And fucking up.
What do we do? I guess don’t talk about it. Good lord. If I could only roll my eyes back further.
Honestly, the real issue we have encountered while living here, beside a lot of fucking magical thinking and fucking crystal (yeah, legit crystals) is that there is a great disconnect between business and art. If I could give any advice to any artist or entrepreneur at this time, especially those looking to come here in order to get their start, it is this: please don’t. There is an unforgiving streak of people with money in Vancouver, people who are well established, looking to make sure that you don’t rise too fast or cost them too much money. It is very Gatsby in a lot of way. Those with old money, those with new money, need to ensure that there is a separation between them and the working class. There is the sense that there isn’t a lot to go around and you shouldn’t ask for too much or get too ambitious. Peter’s mentor was the amazing and fantastic artist Ann Rey out of San Francisco. Prior to his injuries, he spent a lot of time in consultation with her, learning from her since she is an artist who strongly believes that ARTISTS SHOULD MAKE MONEY. Maria Brophy comes up a lot in our home. She wrote a fantastic book called Making Art Making Money which we would strongly recommend. Neither one of them shy away from the conversation of money. It is the entire point of the conversation. The secret is not the art that you make. The art you make doesn’t matter. Find your market and sell to that market. Ask to get paid. Ann Rey and Maria Brophy speak from place of true financial success and independence. You know what they never talk about? Positive Vibes. Good intentions. One of the greatest lessons they drill into anyone looking to make a living from art is that as an artist, under no circumstances, should you EVER produce any work for free. And that means also no free work just for the “exposure”. Or for sake of “putting it out there”. “Get your name out”. “Do it for the universe”. You know what you tell anyone who says that crap to you? You tell them to go fuck themselves. Yep. Something my brother and I have found most amusing is how many rich people have asked him to produce work for free. Or just for the “exposure” as they so eloquently put it. Full blown so called “entrepreneur speakers” (beware wolves in sheep’s clothing) go around talking about how it important it is to make art before you make money. Listen, people. You have right to make a living. We wouldn’t ask a plumber to come to our home and fix our toilet for the “exposure”. Why the fuck is this then asked of artists? Think of what you would get paid an hour an any job, paid for the supplies you use and paid for the efforts you put into that job, and now apply that to your art. You deserve to get paid. Get paid. We have to stop pretending that anything we do as entrepreneurs, artists, artisans is done for the sheer pleasure alone. It is not a pleasure to do work for free. You can be as “positive” as you want and put out tons of “good vibrations” but it won’t do jack shit for you unless you put a dollar sign in front of that. I have loved British Columbia in more ways that I count, loved especially the beauty of this land, but we are not hippies and we do not produce work for free. This is very much a land of parents with deep pockets supplementing the income of their children. It is a land of the rich telling those beneath them to make due with less. It is a land of inheritable wealth and inherited homes. They tell those of us struggling to find affordable housing that it is the journey that counts. Isn’t this great city? Also put crystal around home. And just, like, do it for the vibes. Seriously. This is what it has been like trying to make a living in this city. I don’t care about the journey and especially don’t care about crystals. I don’t care about magic. Life is expensive. Life is complicated. Virginia Woolf said it so much better than I ever could. In order for a writer to be able to produce any work of any worth- especially as a woman/minority - we need a room of one’s own and we need an income. If you want to make a living as artist, you need a space in which to produce art and you need to find a way to make money. Art for the sake of art is a dream for fools and rich people. Reject the notion that talking and thinking about money is a sin. It is everything. Listen. The secret of the very rich is that they love money. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money. If you want someone to show real support, tell them to pay you. Watch how many people shrink from that notion when you put it in front of them in so many black and white terms. Beware of the hippies. Cartman had it right the whole time. Hippie thinking is an infestation that you need to exterminate from your life and your home. Surround yourself by people who are looking for the same things you are. Surround yourself by people who speak honestly and plainly about money and don’t pussy foot around it like it is a bad word. Those who are uncomfortable around money usually have it. Those who think it is bad taste usually don’t like the taste of paying for art. I speak honestly and plainly about money and art because as a society we have to get over the stigma of this conversation. You know what artist REALLY want to know? You know what entrepreneurs are really interested in understanding and learning? They want to know how to make living. They want to make money. You know what they don’t need? They don’t need another compliment. Stop saying the work is good. Stop saying how talented someone is. When you come across work of art you love and you want have the means to pay for it, then pay for it. I can’t buy all the work of art that I come across but when I can, I do. I put my money where my mouth is because it is living. Someone on the other side of the artwork has bills to pay. They have rent. They have a mortgage. They need to eat. They don’t need to hear about how they should think more positively and when they do, good things will happen. Tell those people to keep on walking when they come at you with that bullshit because you don’t need to stand for it. I know you are working hard and you are staying “positive”. I know that for a lot of you out there it is a day to day struggle. It is so, so hard. I have made my fair rounds of entrepreneur spaces, tables, galleries, and shows. They don’t need to more positive vibes. They don’t need your compliments. I hear you and I will never stop to shouting the word money from the roof tops. Yes. I care about money. Art is money. Making art means making money. Want free work? Do it yourself. Just like that toilet you tried to fix yourself, it’s a bunch of shit. There is shit everywhere. It is in your shoes and it is in your hair. But don’t worry. Positive vibes will fix it.
Oh, and stop underselling your work. Stop. Just stop. I will come to your home, take that work that you sell for peanuts and put it in my cage for my parrots to poop on because that is all that undervalued artwork is worth. It is used to line my birdcages. My birds love pooping on it. They love screaming and they love pooping.