Why Is the Work of a Mid Career Artist Worth More? --

CONSIDER! A career is like a structure. Its foundation is first, then the main structure, followed by the finishing touches. With time a career gains maturity, depth, insight, perspective and nuance. This applies to all creatives as well.


“Construction”, Ha Giang Province, Vietnam from “The Soul of Vietnam” by L. D’Attilio

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Mid-career and established artists usually have received some kind of recognition from the art world. Their resume will reflect that they have done exhibits, have gotten grants, and perhaps have published a commercially successful book of their work.
  • They have a unique way to express the artwork’s intentions, composition, and concepts that is distinctly original in its idea and execution, compared to the millions uploaded each day to social media.
  • Their artwork incorporates an unusual emotional idea, and there is consistency and clear intention in what they’re trying to communicate. Perhaps there is a whole project based on one idea that tests out in interesting ways.
  • Established artists will have explored more than one style of making art. Rather than producing only documentary work, for instance, they will also have tried landscapes, portraiture, abstract, and other styles to stretch their understanding of what art’s possibilities are.
  • An experienced artist is not on trend, they are blazing their own trail, trying to producing something that reflects who they are and what they’ve experienced in their lives. (As my teacher Ansel Adams used to say, “the trouble with being successful is that suddenly I am surrounded by little new Ansel Adams everywhere.”

First and foremost, the attraction of you to an artwork is tremendously important, and hopefully what you experience internally from witnessing that artwork plays a large role in your purchase decision.

Secondly, the background seen through the artist's history in their resume is another big factor. However, since the majority of online photo galleries are selling the artwork of artists with small or medium career longevity, you can assume the prices can (and probably should), be quite low. That's a great opportunity to build a collection, because there is always a chance that an artist will be a mature, well-regarded one someday or on thier way to achieving that level.

Conversely, you should not be surprised that artwork by accomplished professional artists with extensive resumes can be quite expensive. Fortunately, some artworks, especially photographs, are offered in smaller versions of our art in open editions at quite low prices. Those artists want to inspire new collectors and collections by giving people with a modest budget an opportunity to indulge in collecting.

The pressure to conflate the newbie artists who have great social media skills with experienced professionals has turned the art market into a confused mess for the collector. My goal here is to amplify further on how time and experience play a big role in an artist’s career. But understanding how artists develop a degree of mastery, where they consistently create solid exceptional work, will help you evaluate this important aspect of your “to buy or not to buy” decision.

 Let's start with the drawing of a two-year-old child. With crayons and paper, off they go with some wild scribbles or maybe something less wild. It's fun, and most children are creatively free because they haven’t yet learned to self-censor.

After a month, you suggest they “draw” that, and you point to a ball. Out comes some form of nonlinear shape. The efforts expand with time, and at three or four something either as a complex abstract or something sort of identifiable is proudly produced. The child has begun to accept the idea that art is illustration, with some choosing to illustrate their feelings, while others draw what they see and contemplate,

It all goes well for a while, but the child and the people around them eventually thirst for more. Depending on those experiences through elementary school, the young artist may suppress or respond to their imagination and expression. What is clear is that all along their mind and heart has been learning to interpret and possibly express every experience of seeing, hearing, smelling, thinking, and feeling. And as we say “practice makes perfect”.

The artist who will become an experienced professional did not learn by spending only a year at it. They did not grow without the constant practice, mistakes, corrections, learning and refining necessary for greatness.

As a quick comparison, imagine a symphony violinist in a professional orchestra, one of some thirty of them, all superb artists. Would you spend serious money to hear that orchestra if the violinists had only been playing a year, even if 50,000 of their Twitter followers claimed you should? And would you spend that money on a painter or photographer who had almost no significant experience but could claim legions of online followers?

And these considerations are part of what makes art collecting interesting and enjoyable. So have at  it!