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three 'trauma sketchbooks' opened showing drawings.
Art by Olivia Jo featured at the Art in Mind exhibition at the Brick Lane Gallery, London


Sunday, the sun is shining, and the temperature is close to zero. Going to an art gallery is a perfect excuse to trick me into going out of the house despite the cold. The Brick Lane gallery is at a comfortable walking distance for me and my hip pain issue (I'm improving on that front). It has two separate spaces, which makes it feel like visiting two independent galleries (more fun!). What surprised me the most on this visit was the pricing. I immediately thought "low and underselling" for most featured artists. For instance, I saw many oil paintings priced like acrylics. But oil paintings should be more expensive than other mediums because the paint and materials are expensive. Storage of such expensive materials may also be costly. It is also a medium that requires more time because of the layering process and drying time in between. And from the size of the painting, I have a rough idea of how long it might have taken them time-wise, and I can assure you that they undersell themselves. Assuming that artists in that show are paying themselves a salary based on time spent on the piece, then it is clear that some artists wouldn't cover their basics.



Pen drawing of a bird with gold ropes tight around its body. The wings are detached from the body and opened on both side and a pencil triangular geomteric shape is above the bird's head.
Art by Isabel Russel

The paintings by Isabel Russel are priced at £375 each, and I believe that price is lower than their value. I mean, LOOK AT THEM: they are beautifully executed, have an original composition, and have an interesting artistic point of view. However, while the pricing is a bargain for buyers and investors - if I were you, I'd grab them now- the downside is that it harms the artist and the entire community too. Like Isabel, I also undersell myself, so I know how difficult it is to not continue to do that, and I definitely feel the guilt of it.


Let's break down the pricing in this example. Excluding materials (paints, MDF board, studio space charges), £375 is roughly like paying oneself double minimum wage for 20 hours of work or minimum wage for 40 hours of work. I would estimate this kind of painting to take about 15 hours on the low end of just painting labour (the artist confirmed that in a private discussion). The time she may have spent prior to the painting process could range from a few hours to indefinite. These may include; the conception of the piece (thinking about it, creating it internally as well as sketching it), finding or creating references for the painting and testing out the composition and/or colour combinations on smaller pieces as paint sketches. Usually, the work done before the painting process is about the same as the painting time and quickly takes twice or thrice as long as the painting stage.


The reason why many artists stops their career in art is usually because of selling matters (which lies in the field of economy, sales and capitalism) and less often because of artistic reasons.

The artist is 20 years old, so by age alone, we can assume she takes longer to create, and her fictitious minimum wage is, therefore, lower. We could estimate 15 hours for painting and the same or more for conception and pre-painting work. Hence, I estimate around 40 hours of work per piece. According to the UK government website, the minimum wage for those between 18 and 20 years old is £6.83. This would mean £273.20 for her pocket. However, she is an artist studying at Goldsmiths and living in London. I believe she would deserve the London living wage, which is about £2 extra the minimum wage. Those above 23 years old have a living wage set at £9.50 by the government. It rises to £11.95 for Londoners. So for the sake of logic, let's add £2 for a living wage destined for a 20-year-old Londoner, and we now reach £353.20 for her labour. Well, you will tell me, does it not sound right considering she is selling at £375? Those £20 something definitely goes towards covering the costs of the materials. It does not cover her labour of social media marketing, the transport (including wrapping materials) of the artwork to and from the gallery, or the time required to find a place to be exhibited. Thankfully for her, she does not have to think of commission in her price since the brick lane gallery takes 0% commission which is fantastic. Still, it also means they will likely do no to little sales work and that the artist is probably paying a fee to be exhibited, which I can assure you will be well above £20.


So all and all, I estimate the artist barely covers her costs and labour time. My heart breaks because while it can be considered fair that artists are paid the same as everyone else, the reality is that we are NOT paid the same as everyone else. We do not get near fair compensation for all our time working because making art is more than just painting or drawing. I believe this artist deserves to double this painting's price. Actually, I think she could add a 1 in front of that price tag (£1,375) because her piece of work is also the best of the show, and she has a promising career in front of her. I hope that these prices will not slow down her professional progress to the point of halting her career altogether. Because unfortunately, the reason why many artists stop their career in art is usually because of selling matters (which lies in the field of economy, sales and capitalism) and less often because of artistic reasons.


Pen drawing of a bat foetus with wings covering the face, frontal view, in a circle filled with gold paint
Art by Isabel Russel

As artists, we are often in a hard place decision-wise. Do we accept to be exploited for our free labour, or do we choose to give our labour freely? Essentially we are choosing to volunteer (i.e., make art for free or so underpriced we don't feed ourselves from it) in the hopes of securing a better opportunity later on, but we are faced with two different routes to do so.

One way is to conform to the current game. Similarly to accepting an unpaid internship and hoping for a paid long-term contract at the end, we hope that by agreeing to be exploited, things will turn around and finally pay off. We all know the low certainty of that method, and most of us recognise its unfairness and how it favours some more than others. But we can easily believe it works because of those outliers for whom it did.

The other route is to not conform to the current game. We hope that by arguing the rules, they will be corrected and adjusted for greater fairness. This choice requires an unshakeable faith that by modelling the art scene we deserve, we will create the art scene we want. Yet, many of us may not believe that and start with some helplessness already hardwired. In this case, the first solution seems to be an emotionally logical choice. The sad part is that, in both cases, we have to choose between volunteering to make art or making no art by finding another job that takes all physical and emotional resources away from art.


I can hear the people at the back saying that many artists in that gallery are "emerging", and there is a post-pandemic economic crisis, so we should expect low prices. I don't see it this way. First, I believe we still deserve the same pay as everyone else in the country and the same opportunities to make a living from our professional skills. Because we also need to eat and have a roof over our heads to survive and thrive. Second, why would we expect the most vulnerable members of society to be the ones to struggle further during a crisis? I argue that it would be more logical, fair and righteous if established artists reduced their price points during economic crises. In contrast, emerging artists increase theirs to level up the field. I am not saying established artists should absolutely do that; I am only making a point. The point is that we find it absolutely acceptable to consider the vulnerable artists in the community as unworthy of financial support.


The point is that we find it absolutely acceptable to consider the vulnerable artists in the community as unworthy of financial support.

Here is an excellent example of how artists are often considered outsiders, not part of society. The myth that 'art is not a real job" persists. That stereotype is so pernicious that it has sipped through and can even be found among us artists. This underlying false belief rears its head when we underprice ourselves. As artists, we can regularly review our choices and treat each situation differently to assess which version is best: conformity or rebellion. The market involves more than just artists, so different responsibilities lie within different roles we have in it. Even if they offer no selling service, galleries could advise better on pricing and ensure that group exhibition features coherent pricing among artists to uplift the values of every artwork. The public could pay attention to their reason for buying art: do they like the piece or consider it an investment? They would help by buying art, not just for themselves, but also to build a relationship with the artist: support in exchange for an original piece. And suppose the public cannot buy art. In that case, there are other ways to support an artist, like being more conscious of how to consume art or being emotionally supportive (as opposed to financially).



On this food for thought, I hope you will look at Isabel Russel's art and show her some support. Follow her Instagram and write some comments under her posts to show that real humans are engaging with her, not just robots. Share her images (and credit her, of course), especially with those you think may like it or to places where you wish to see her art on their walls. If you can afford it and like her artwork, get your hands on some of her work. Build a relationship with her and see her progress and how she evolves in her art journey and career, knowing you were there from the start.


🤍 with love, x

Linka.

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three 'trauma sketchbooks' opened showing drawings.
My trauma sketchbooks


In the last week or so, my mood has plummeted down into the realm of depression. I have many reasons to be as there is much to grief. I have had quite a lot of past sexual abuse flashbacks in the last two weeks, and I am in the process of grieving the person I could have been. On top of that, the news of Leo Grasset - a French YouTuber who does scientific vulgarisation - abusing women has upset me and reminded me of my former abusive ex (more flashbacks). A day later, the news of the Roe Vs Wade - people with uteruses losing human rights in the United States - came through and with it, the victim-blaming commentaries online. More triggers for me as I remember the lack of justice I received after reporting sexual abuse to the police and the victim-blame I have often endured (yet even more flashbacks). Do not worry. I will be okay again. This too shall pass, but it is fair to say I have much grieving to do and good reasons to be depressed.

Said bout of depression made me realise how, for me, being depressed quickly becomes a trigger in itself. Let me explain. Depression means I'm sad, numb, or angry, as one would. In other words, I'm hurting, I'm in pain. That state raises the wants and needs I have. I need to be soothed, taken care of and hugged while I go through the emotions. I want the pain to go away, a fairer world, and people to be kinder. So far, all seems alright. But experiencing needs and wants triggers past emotional and neglectful abuse, which then makes me depressed and keeps me trapped in a cycle of wants and needs triggering depression ad infinitum. A sort of "traumaception" where trauma brings you one level deeper and deeper until you struggle to recognise what is fantasy from reality.


Growing up, my needs were used as ammunition against me (the reasons behind it are not the topic here). Each desire and need is akin to a bullet to be loaded into a weapon for abuse. There were three ways for my needs to be addressed: denied until I met their needs, dismissed as inappropriate or attended with conditions attached. Conditions were to forfeit independence and freedom and attend to their excessive needs later. Experiencing any form of need is like renouncing myself to abuse. My logical child's mind thought that if I made my needs disappear, there would be no more bullets for them to load the weapons with. One has to admire my past child self's inventiveness and innocence. No one told her they could still hit her with an empty gun. I've grown up, and all I know is to make my wants and needs disappear and attend to those of others. Well.. in recent years, I've been working hard to undo that.


Pen drawing of a bird with gold ropes tight around its body. The wings are detached from the body and opened on both side and a pencil triangular geomteric shape is above the bird's head.
Pen drawing of feeling trapped

Relationships-wise, it's a problem. I still don't know how to trust people. I sometimes attempt to share my needs and wants. I share perhaps between 1 and 10% of my actual need because I don't want to overwhelm people. Unfortunately, in many instances (not always, of course), I find that their efforts are limited and don't even cover a tenth of my need. I likely communicated poorly and clumsily, and maybe people misunderstood its importance. The results are the same, I lose trust and proceed to close the door a little more. And the cycle repeats, I feel down, isolate myself and so on.


How does this have anything to do with art?


Well, you may not know, but I procrastinate making art all the time. I think it's partly because I deny my wants and needs. Every day I think about making art, and my lists of creative projects inside my head keep getting longer and longer. I think about it most when I go to bed, and I tell myself, "If I do it now, I'll mess up my sleep schedule and my health, so I'll do it tomorrow". Tomorrow comes, and I make no art, and the cycle repeats. Mostly, I believe I am attempting to preserve my art, which is usually an extension of me, from being weaponised against me. I want to keep it safe, in my head, where no one can get to it. No one can abuse it.

I want to reach out to the child past me, hug her and tell her she's been so clever in keeping herself safe even though that wasn't her job. I want her to know she can let go now. She's too scared still, so bear with me while I work through this...


Pen drawing of a bat foetus with wings covering the face, frontal view, in a circle filled with gold paint
Pen drawing of a bat foetus

🤍 with love, x

Linka.

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On the 11th and 12th of September, 2021, I participated in London's Whitecross Street Party (WXSP). Let me tell you straight away; it was a challenging experience for me. Nonetheless, I gained some valuable insights which I would love to share with you, so you don't have to make the same mistakes as me.



My stall on Sunday morning.

What I did right:


I need to celebrate myself for (1) creating an opportunity for myself and then (2) grabbing onto it despite all the voices of impostor syndrome plaguing me.

I created an opportunity by simply contacting the organisers and asking about how it works to participate. Then, when they shared that stalls were available, I decided to grab one and give it a try.

It is important to celebrate small wins, especially for someone like me, who struggles with anxiety and broken self-confidence and self-esteem since my last job burnout.


I am also pleased to say that I managed to make some sales and therefore donate 5% (as promised) to the London Wildlife Trust, even if the amount was modest (£5,75).


What I got wrong:


However, I didn't pick the right opportunity for me among the choices offered. The WXSP offered two possibilities for the stalls: A booth for a fee for those selling goods or a booth free of charge for those offering workshops or similar. In retrospect, the best choice for me would have been the latter.

I had based my decision on my prior knowledge, but I failed to check if my assumption still matched current times. Indeed, in 2013, I worked for the Curious Duke Gallery (I adored my job!) situated on Whitecross Street. We, therefore, did participate in the event. Back then, the emphasis was more on food, with some local artists and street artists painting murals or wood boards. Many of those artists were represented by the Curious Duke Gallery, and not all of them were street artists.

Back then, as a gallery, we had sold originals and prints alike in a wide different pricing range.

In my mind, I expected it to be similar and to attract similar crowds. The truth is, the event has changed since. Nowadays, it is more like a festival, meaning people come to the event to hang out, not discover emerging artists, buy art or buy from local businesses. At best, they may want a little something, but their initial intention is general curiosity and fun focus. Hence, my original artwork, with its pricepoint, was clashing with people's expectations.


What should I have done?


Very simple. I should have shared my current appreciation of the event and asked if it was still the case today, and request a little more information about the kind of crowds that comes along.

In other words, I should have done my research. Then, I would have known that I could have used the event to showcase my art and existence... for FREE.


What I gained.


First, let me backtrack a little.

The week before the event, anxieties kept growing. Hello, insomnia, my old friend 👋. So many times I wanted to quit. I spent a lot of energy reassuring myself that it was worth it. I reminded myself of my original intentions: get to know whether people like my art or not. I did my best to distract my fears with gratefulness instead.


Saturday morning. I have accumulated poor sleep throughout the week and slept poorly the night before. When I arrive at the WXSP, I'm already overwhelmed with anxiety and I wanted to cry. I was also overloaded with sensory input, and I didn't want to talk. An intense headache came on (very migraine-like) because of the loud noises, constant movements, colours, smells and so on. I wanted to hide, cry and keep quiet the whole day. I did my best to hide it and talk and engage with people. Throughout the day, I am met with people's reactions and understand that they confuse my art with greeting cards or prints because of the small sizing. Come Saturday night; I finally have a good needed cry. The migraine headache is still there.


Once the overflowing emotions are poured out, the fog lifts a little. At that moment, I reconnected with a truth about myself. I lack skills in sales and business (hence why I try to learn a lot on that), but I am good at my art. So, instead of focusing all this energy on something that I fundamentally find unenjoyable and challenging, I should focus on making my art which I love doing and letting it speak for me.


The next day, Sunday, I changed my strategy. I no longer cared about sales and covering the costs of the event, I just wanted to focus on meeting people. This decision took the pressure off of me, and finally, I could show my art and get to know people. Sunday was still overwhelming sensory wise (that headache lasted a day or two after that weekend), but my attitude differed, so my anxiety feathered out allowing excitement and curiosity to come in instead.



Using the lesson in the future.


Going forward, I want to stop making art that answers business questions such as "will the public want it/afford it/like it?". When I do that, I find that I stifle my process. From now on, I make art that I, Linka Lipski, want to make to satisfy my soul. Only once the art has been made am I allowed to think about the business side of things such as increasing visibility, connecting with the public, finding clients and collectors, etc.

In essence, the event has highlighted my need to separate my art-making from selling my art. When the artist hat is on, I have complete freedom. When the art agent hat is on, time for finding solutions to support my artistic practice.


What I cherish from the event.


My absolute favourite from my experience of WXSP is not the lessons I have learned for myself but the people I have met. Here are a few of the interactions that I cherish:


Two young boys, one dressed up as an anime character, oohed and wow-ed at every piece of art on my stall. They told me about making art and learning code at their school and seemed genuinely happy to talk to me about it.


Amelia, a young girl, approached me timidly and apologetically to ask questions about my art process. She wanted to know what inspired me and how I found my style. She was so thankful for my answers, as if she didn't believe she deserved to be granted an answer. Amelia later came back with her father, Antonio, who was getting interviews for the event. His father has been very kind to me and has given me advice without batting an eyelid.


Marcellus, a Brazilian photographer, shared his life journey in and out of photography before and after a traumatic personal event, and I am so grateful to have heard him.





Charles, a local man, asked me for paper and a pen so he could draw for me. He did that on Saturday and then Sunday and, on the second day, also gave me a ginger beer. When I asked him why he was so kind, he replied that it was because I was kind to him.


I also met with three Instagram contacts, fellow artists and had my friends come by to support me, both in spirits and through purchasing my art. I have the best of friends.


Will I do it again?


Perhaps not. It is unlikely I will redo the event as a seller. I felt a divide between the street artists who showed little interest in the stallholders and the only ones promoted on the event's social media and the stallholders who were so kind and supportive towards everyone.

I feel like the event is becoming more focused on street art rather than the local community and, therefore, may not be the place for me - unless I dab into street art again (yes, I tried once, but it wasn't good - fun, but not good-!).

Maybe, I would do it again to give the kids their names written in calligraphy as I did on Sunday.


Only time will tell.


With love 🤍

Linka







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