Ancy writes; I saw this statement on a local art gallery’s facebook page, and would like to know if you agree:

“When artists are younger or inexperienced, they don’t really know where they’re going, where they’ll end up, what the future holds, or how their art will be received; producing and creating art is a genuine adventure. As they progress in their careers, they become more deliberate and predictable in their processes and styles of making art. They tend to gravitate toward creating art with a certain look, and they come to understand exactly what and how much they have to produce in order to make comfortable livings and satisfy their collector bases. With the passage of time, the uncertainty and excitement of producing new work is often taken out of the mix, replaced by predictability. At worst, making art can become more of a formulaic or assembly line process than a creative one.”

I think largely this is going to depend on other factors besides “it was an earlier work so it’s worth more”. I can tell you no one wants my earlier work besides my mom. The style plays a HUGE role in this. For me, I wanted my work to look more realistic, but I was pretty terrible at it. I didn’t spend much time on each individual piece, I rushed things, I didn’t understand much as far as what would or would not look good and technique was out of the equation all together…unless you call stumbling around in the dark a “technique”. Collectors of wildlife art are not generally going to be interested in my misshaped leopard faces just because they were early works.

This statement actually came from a much larger article and I feel like it really is aimed at more abstract/modern art than realism. With abstract and more gestural art yes, the early work can still quite be attractive to look at for someone who is drawn to that style. For realism/photorealism, our early works are usually pretty bad because they require a different skill set and level of accuracy that takes years to develop.

When I started painting I was only interested in marine life. I did hit a point where I felt I was just doing the same thing again and again and I was bored with painting, that started to reflect in my work.  I had completed so many whale and dolphin paintings that it felt too repetitive and I wanted to do something different. Years later I’m interested in marine work again and feel I can bring new techniques to what I used to do. That interests me. My marine work now sells for FAR more than my early work could ever hope to, so this concept of earlier works being worth more doesn’t really apply to me.

One thing that this statement is missing from the original article is the fact that many early works were never available for sale by the artist so they are much harder to get a hold of. Most artist’s early work is held by family and friends or in the artist’s personal collection. Their rarity added to the fact that they were worth more, so you can’t say it’s as simple as “old work is worth more than new work”.

Another important quote from that article is “A notable exception to the “early is better” rule is when artists don’t develop the mature styles that they’re known for until later in their careers. Once those mature styles emerge, however, the rule applies once again. The earliest examples of those styles become the pieces most sought after by collectors.”

In that case, I would say yes, then this concept of early works being worth more would likely apply to us as well, but hopefully we continue pushing our own boundaries and improve on our technique and concepts. Once we hit a point where we feel we’re just doing the same exact thing each time with no hope for improvement or change, I think it’s time to try something new.