Years ago in high school my friend and I did portraits of each other for our final senior projects. We were both in talented art and weren’t too enthused about drawing ourselves, but still wanted to push our skills. Her piece was pen and ink, a very textured style. I went for a larger charcoal piece, my specialty. Though intimidated, I shocked myself to create this beautiful work of art (pictured below). I was so shocked that I grew attached to what I made. I was even rethinking switching pieces as me and my friend previously discussed gifting our portraits to each other. She understood my mind change, but her father decided he wanted to purchase instead. That of course changes things.
I toiled over what to price this as. $50? $100? I was a novice that had never done work for pay. I found it hard to bounce ideas off my teacher who was a professional. Her prices made sense to me, but only for her.
I settled with $150 as my asking price. For the size, quality (spitting image I must say), and time it took, even that was a deal. As an 17 y/o amateur, I didn’t fully realize that yet. My friend’s father countered with an offer of $75. He was a businessman, a very successful entrepreneur. I don’t fault him for wanting a bargain, especially for a piece I’m assuming he knew I had only done casually for school.
…However I also couldn’t help but not feel SOLD on selling. Granted my family wasn’t rich and $75 sounded amazing at the time, and especially $150. The thought of giving up my precious piece for pennies did not sit well, though. This piece won 1st place AND Best of Show in my school district. It meant so much to me.
For years after high school I hardly picked up a pen, pencil, or paintbrush for reasons unrelated. By year 6, I mustered up the courage to enter the 4th Annual Juneteenth Art Expo at Living Water Ministries International, even though I hadn’t done any serious work, let alone of people.
My final step for entering the show was to drop off my piece and registration form with a price, in case I didn’t win and someone wanted to buy. Again I tried to lowball myself. Old habits die hard. Although I was encouraged to raise my price, it didn’t matter. Two days later, after 6 years of inactivity, I had placed. This time in second, validating that my piece and talent was worth it (and for five times its predecessor’s asking price, I was VERY comfortable selling this time).
As I reflect on the faint memory from high school, I’m not mad at anyone wanting a deal. We’re human, and it’s our nature to seek the best for ourselves. I don’t fault my friend’s Dad, the responsibility is on me to push back, to challenge, and to ultimately #knowmyworth. Although my first piece sits at my mother’s home currently collecting dust, I have peace knowing it is more valuable to me being priceless. The risk of never seeing my piece again for a mere reward of $75, was too high for my liking. Sometimes standing tall, means standing your ground. I never knew that what was a mere hesitancy back then, would return and be a life lesson now.