Thoughts on the “value” of artwork.

Having grown up in a household where there was always just enough but never any extra & also having to put myself through college and THEN still start over from scratch a few years back I am keenly aware of where my money goes. Debt scares the heck out of me & I constantly scrap to live within my means and still make sure all the bills are paid & my girls are provided for.

With that said – I also understand that sometimes, so long as needs don’t suffer, you still need to find a way to spend a little on your soul. I understand that the “cost” of an item and the “value” of an item are different things. And, even more critically, that this cost/value relationship varies from person to person.

So with this background in my head I found myself immersed in much discussion about this the Mid-OH Con. I know that one thing that Jeff appreciated about me on this trip was my utter randomness. It didn’t take much to make me happy – I just found contentment in whatever we were doing.

But it’s that same randomness that drove him crazy when it came to my buying habits that weekend. I left the hotel that day thinking I must have a skewed view of what is valuable. Thankfully, a little time, a little perspective & finally laying my hands on a piece of artwork I loved convinced me otherwise.

Here’s how it happened:

I had small goals for our trip: 1. Meet John Byrne & have him sign my She-Hulk #1 (a wonderful series with clever, funny writing. Read it if you like genre deconstruction humor like I do). 2. Meet Jeff Smith & have him sign, Oh, something for the kids– I brought a couple things, I hadn’t made up my mind yet, and – 3. Have fun!

I quickly learned I was in little league with goals like that. I saw some people around me getting a dozen or more things signed – and not like a fan would as a memento, but clearly with designs on how valuable it would make the items. I heard over & over discussions of which sketches to buy that would probably be worth the most later.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no saint – I sure I have as many mercenary, materialistic thoughts as anyone else. But when it comes to art & other creative work, it kind of spoils the fun for me. Undeterred though, I was having too much fun so I just let it all roll off of me – it didn’t affect me, I didn’t care.

Ah, but then I fell in love.

On Sunday, at the very back of Stuart Sayger’s book I found THE coolest picture of my man Wolverine. I’d been toying with the idea of a Wolverine pic all weekend, but everything – though done in each artist’s unique style – was so much the same. This was truly different – the black & white, the texture, all the little details. This wasn’t just an image – it captured an idea. I could not stop thinking about it as we continued walking around.

Finally, though low on cash, I decided to see if I could cover the balance with a check – this picture needed to come home with me. My mistake was announcing this in a group. OMIGOSH! The lecturing did not stop. I should think of what else I could get with that $100. If I was going to spend that much I should really think about something, maybe by a name artist that might be worth something someday. And the big – I was making an emotional rather than a logical decision. As tired as I was by then I was easy to wear down & I went home empty handed.

I didn’t stop thinking about it though. I looked around my house. I already had a habit of surrounding myself with things I love: The 50’s deco kitchen table I couldn’t leave at the Bloomington antique mall (even though I had NO CONCEIVABLE WAY to get it to my house). The Pollack-looking painting my girls did together on beautiful spring day visiting my dear friend Laura (they didn’t believe me when I said I was going to frame it). My Batman that I agonized over spending money on at a time when there was none (until my daughter who was staring at it with me, literally took my hand & told me it was okay – I should get it). All those stupid little Tiffany-style candle lamps I’ve managed to collect. And all the other goofy stuff. It’s an eclectic riot, but it’s MY eclectic riot.

One of the things said in our discussion in Ohio was – “Sure you love it, but do you REALLY love it $100 worth?” It was a no-brainer. The answer was a resounding YES! It never WAS too much to spend. The value of being able to have that wonderful picture made $100 seem like nothing. I knew it was something I would cherish. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying art with your heart rather than your head.

I contacted Stuart & arranged to pick it up. When I saw it again it was even better than I remembered. The BEST part was when he gave me a “tour” of the drawing. Telling me about how he created it & pointing out all the details that I already loved. I was a happy, happy girl when I left that hotel.

So no, I didn’t get an Adam Hughes sketch or a John Byrne sketch or any other solid investment sketches from well known established artists to bring home with me, but that’s okay. I got to meet them & I get to keep the memory of the experience.

I don’t mean to pontificate. I’m a geek-girl – I KNOW there’s excitement in having a sketch from one of your heroes. I would have been thrilled to get a sketch from Mr. Byrne – but (to be truthful) I think I might have loved it because it was from him; not necessarily because it was as a beautiful picture.

So whether it excites you because it’s gorgeous or it excites you because of who signed it – I think we’re all out there because we admire all these amazing artists who take the time to share their talent with us.

I’m still a newbie at the whole Con thing. There’s nothing special about me – I could become more calculating as my experience grows. But who knows – maybe I’m the smart one. Later when Stuart is fabulously famous (and as talented & hard-working as he is, he deserves it) everyone will lament ‘Oh if only we’d listened to Christine! *laughing* Nah, that doesn’t matter a bit – I’ve already loved that picture more than the $100 spent within the first moment of owning it. That, my friends, is “value”.

As for me, I hope to remain blissfully random….


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