Been a little while since I whipped out the Essayblade hat. :3
Two parts here, part aimed at customers-who-aren't-actually-your-customers and part aimed at artists. IF WURDZES SCARE YOU, or if you're an artist and would rather hear shit you need to hear from someone less angry and ranty than me, please at least check out the articles I linked at the end and give that site (and many resources similar to it, all readily available to you in the interwebs) a serious look.
WARNING: WURDZ AND BEING MEAN TO STUPID PEOPLE (and hopefully less mean to nice but 'I-hadn't-thought-of-it-like-that' people) AHEAD! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
People moaning about personalized artwork custom-tailored to your specific desires being "too expensive" because it's not at a price you can afford with your readily-available disposable income the same way you can impulse-buy a video game or dvd off a shelf:
If someone is doing art for money, then they are conducting business. However friendly, business-like, casual, professional, serious, lol/whatever, cheap or expensive they may be, it is a business transaction - even if they themselves don't want to consider it as such. Someone can do something you can't and you want them to do it for you, and they're offering that option if you make it worth their time to do so. You get something you want, they get compensation making the act of giving you that something worth their while to do it. Everyone wins. Sometimes all they want is to know they've made you happy (this really and truly is sometimes totally sufficient and satisfactory compensation - it's fucking awesome). Usually though, they have their own bills to pay and food to buy and yes, frivolous luxury expense entertainment to pay for, just like you do, and something that can help them meet their own wants and needs is required in addition to your smiles and/or ample quantities of semen they aided you in producing. :P
If that magical happy exchange of things of value isn't happening, then there's nothing for you to discuss with them on the subject of their business. If what they need to make it worth their time to do what you want is more than what you feel it is worth, that's fine, but THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. When you act as if SOMETHING IS WRONG HERE just because a person is selling something that you want but isn't being given to you on your terms - that's fucking entitlement and you can eat a dick. You think you shouldn't have to buy the third release of the same movie just to see the new extra documentary and 38 seconds of footage they added when you already bought the previous two releases? Guess what? Nobody's shoving it down your throat and ripping the money from your wallet. You want what someone's selling; you pay for it, or you do without and Deal With It (or you steal it). Acting like a wrong is being committed by a person because they're selling something on THEIR terms and not your own (or acting like you're justified and blameless for stealing it from them in that case) makes you an enormous entitled prick. Calling someone who is managing their own business and trying to achieve the awesome dream of gainful self-employment bad or greedy or whatever-other-kind-of-evil you imagine them to be is Horse Shit. So unless they're expressing that they want more business then they are getting,keep your personal financial limitations to yourself and GO THE FUCK AWAY.
If an artist is not bemoaning their lack of business, then GUESS WHAT? They are getting at least enough business to keep them from complaining about a lack of business, so any person spitting out any variation of 'you're too expensive/it's not worth that' is no different than someone walking into a store, seeing everyone in line buying shit, and opening their mouth to spew 'wow, nobody would pay for any of this shit.' You're making a patently false statement when you say "you/your art/art in general is not worth what you're charging" when people ARE paying what they are charging, and you look like both an asshole and a moron for saying something that directly contradicts the reality sitting right in front of your face. I'm sure those of you who regularly express your negative opinions of artists charging what their market will support rather than charging whatever happens to be your personal view of the value for their artwork are used to people jumping on your shit and acting like you're retarded or something when 'all you did was express your opinion.' Right? That's because when you do this, you ARE making yourself look retarded to those people who jump on you. I'm not saying this JUST to be a dick to you (that's only part of it) I am, truly and genuinely, saying this in the actual honest-to-sanity hope that some of you might actually understand the following point and stop making yourself look like an idiot and an asshole.
Picture this, seriously please, imagine yourself in the following situation: Someone walks up to you and says "the sky is green, and the oceans are pink, and they've always been this way." You have a brain, you have eyes, even if you couldn't look up right that instant and see that the sky is still blue, you know for a fact that it is, so you also know just as surely that this guy is stupid or crazy or both. And you'd make that instant (and reasonable) conclusion and judgment about this guy. That guy? He's you. When you open your text-mouth and say something as immediately observably patently false as "this isn't worth this" to people who know for a fact that it is - the artist who is getting paid by people and the people paying him - you're the stupid/crazy guy trying to say the sky is green. And people will respond accordingly.
If an artist IS complaining that not enough people are commissioning them THAT is when it would be reasonable and accurate and not-fucking-retarded-of-you to tell them they should consider lowering their prices (or in some cases, understanding that even at the lowest prices, there may just not be sufficient demand or appreciation for what they're offering - many writers and colorists know this pain).
For those of you who are sure to add the bit about "this is too expensive for me" or "I would personally never consider this worth that much," thank you for being not-retarded. But instead of saying the sky is green, you're instead just letting us know it's still blue. Meaning you're not really communicating anything worthwhile or constructive. With due respect to anyone and everyone who has the respect to know better than to tell an artist what they're worth WITHOUT specifying that you're speaking only for your own idea of the value of art: This just means you're not a potential customer, and/or you won't ever be. Again, if they're getting enough work to keep them busy and satisfied with their workload, then it really isn't going to matter to them if you as an individual aren't going to be a customer (unless they really super like you personally and just REALLY want to draw for you in which case they'll cut you special deals and discounts if they want to draw for you that badly and if that's what it takes for you both to work something out - I have done this myself, rarely, so that line wasn't entirely sarcasm, though it mostly is). You're essentially walking into a store and being much more polite than the previous guy, but still just getting an employee's attention to let them know you won't be shopping there. Which they'll awkwardly respond to in some manner, and then go back to helping the customers who >are< shopping there. I'm much less quick to be snarky to you guys, because you're not being rude and retarded douches by doing this, but (unless you're one of the aforementioned people-they-just-really-like-that-super-much) it's still very much a "well, uhm, I guess that kinda sucks, but... what am I supposed to do with this information?" sort of scenario.
Then there's those of you saying how much you totally think they're worth it, but you just can't afford them, though you would pay it if you could afford it. Again, I am hesitant to say anything that might be seen as rude to you guys, because you ARE still making a compliment and a positive comment on your appreciation for the artist's work, BUT, it's still essentially information that serves no purpose. "I'm gonna commission you when I can" is one thing, and that's fine, but "oh, I wish I could afford you!" when leaving it sortof sounding like you don't really expect to ever be able to afford them can often seem like you're trying for guilt or pity into being cut a break. For real, it is VERY hard sometimes for me to not just take someone's commission at a lower rate just because I know they really do just like my stuff that much and really can't afford me. I did a freebie stream a while back, and I hope to do another one before too long. I >do< want to give people my art when I know they just love it that much. It's just not something I can cave in and do most of the time. So even knowing full well that the majority of people making those comments AREN'T trying to get guilt or pity discounts - I am just saying that is how it often appears, or at least how it makes artists feel.
The entirety of all the "not worth it" comments boils down to you saying one of the following, regardless of whether you see it this way or even realize or understand this, these ARE what those comments amount to:
1: You mean it literally, which is simply making an observably false statement in all circumstances EXCEPT one in which the artist is wanting more business than they are getting - in which case it is still up to the artist to decide whether to be satisfied with the number of people who do feel they're worth it, or to lower their prices and thus meet more peoples' estimation of appropriate value for their work.
2: You're acting like the artist is doing something wrong and deserving of negative judgment; that they're cheating people, that they're too full of themselves, that they're this or that or whatever. When it comes down to it: that sense of wrongness some of you seem to feel so strongly when you see artists making anything even close to decent income for their work? It's jealousy. Either jealous of the people who clearly CAN afford those prices and DO feel the artist is worth it, or jealous at someone being successful doing something they enjoy and finding a way to dodge being forced to do a crap job they hate. It's not that you have a moral insight into some kind of wrongness in people making art AND living well off it at the same time. It's just a sense of wrongness in the state of affairs that you want something out of your reach. And that's entitlement. Do your best to shake that crap out of your head; you and everyone around you will be better off for it.
3: You're just expressing in a less-desirable manner the same basic sentiment of "I wish I could afford this" that others are saying more appropriately. If you're meaning to say that you do like and appreciate the artist's work, you just can't or wouldn't pay that much, okay fine, but if you don't want to come off as an asshole telling someone what their worth and value is, you DO need to be clear that you are speaking only for yourself. If you DON'T particularly care for the artist or their work, and wouldn't commission them even at rock-bottom prices then guess how much your opinion fucking matters to them? Fuck off.
Personalized artwork custom-tailored to your specifications is not an Impulse Buy. It's not that candy bar in the wal-mart checkout line, or that game you'd heard about but weren't sure you wanted but fuckit, it's right there so why not. Whatever it might be; you see it, you want it, you grab it, you pay for it, and you don't really have to rearrange your budget because of the purchase. That's an impulse buy. Art is not that. Custom personalized artwork is not an off-the-shelf grab-on-a-whim item. Maybe you want something you can't just grab on a whim on your current budget. That's stuff you think about, and if you really want it, you save up for it. Or you pass on it and you simply Don't Buy It without going and telling wal-mart that everything that you might suddenly want to pick up should be within your personal impulse-buy price range.
TL;DR VERSION: The ONLY person besides the artist him/herself who can say what their monetary worth is: The person giving them money. If you're not giving them money, your estimation of their monetary worth holds zero value unless they are ASKING you for your opinion. Custom artwork is not a necessity, nor is it an impulse buy, so if you can't afford it/don't feel it's worth the price, the people who disagree with you don't need to hear it.
To the creative types whoring out your talents for the price of a value meal and maybe a nifty new tshirt now and then, and taking the above kind of crap without firmly walloping (or at least delete/block/ignoring) the people NOT paying you but still trying to tell you what you're worth:
Quit it. Don't be a floormat, don't let people tell you that you're not worth more than burger-flipping wages. If it's true, then that's determined by the absence of people saying they will pay you money, not the presence of people saying they won't pay you money. Where the number of people willing and able to pay your asking price comes closest to intersecting with the amount of work you want to be doing: THAT is what your work is worth (in monies). Not more, not less. The point will fluctuate sometimes, you may need to raise or lower prices. But that's what determines your monetary worth. Not the people saying they wouldn't pay anyone for anything more expensive than what they can afford to grab off a shelf on a whim.
If you are an artist doing work on commission, or thinking about starting to take commissions, here are some GREAT essays I found recently. The writer is (obviously) in a very different league than most of us furry artists are going to be in, but use your noodles, don't get hung up on 'but she's talking about something else,' the principles still apply and so much of this information is so important to understand when you're offering yourself as a freelance commission artist. These are a couple good ones, but there's tons more to check out on this site and other resources she links to. She's VERY business-oriented, and I know how much there is a horrible stigma in furry about allowing artists to ever take their craft seriously and not always be beaten down by the "it's just furry porn" crap, but she's also very aware of how artists cannot be successful without the people who appreciate their art. One of my favorite lines from her:
"Art collectors are the angels that provide support for the arts and that make it possible for artists to put more beauty into the world. For that, I’m grateful!"
Personally, I'm putting more dicks and jizz into the world than beauty, but that makes people happy too, so it's still something! XP The people you need to appreciate and listen to are the people who allow you to do what you want to do and what you CAN do. Not just the ones who can pay, but the ones who appreciate you and your work - not the people telling you that you don't deserve more for your talent than you'd get flipping burgers.
http://mariabrophy.com/business-of-art/how-to-never-ge... - Though in furry art stuffs, since the costs are so ridiculously low (compared to any other avenue people sell art through), you will still occasionally have someone decide half your usual price for the sketches they got is enough for them, and they'll vanish when it's time to pay the balance. So a: don't send full-res sketches and b: never ever ever send or post the finished pic before being paid for it. Or, just always require payment in full up front.
http://mariabrophy.com/business-of-art/the-price-of-op... - "Sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of an opportunity that we don’t stop to think about what it’s costing us." "It will make the difference between being able to do what you love for living, or having to do that which you don’t love just to survive." TIME is a cost/expense too, artists AND buyers need to understand this. And nobody should be told that simply reaching beyond "just making ends meet" makes them in ANY way wrong or a bad guy.
Short version: If you're making money off of your personal gifts, that's awesome, and despite how common it is here in furry fandom, it is still really rare that people can make that work in the world at large. If you are actually able to make a living off your work, holy crap, you are self-employed, and people trying to act like being your own boss and actually doing well for yourself "doesn't count" as much as being a wage-slave for some corporation need to be launched into the sun. Or at least added to your ignore list. :P