Turning Art Into Moolah

By June Ramli

Ahmad Fuad Osman is no stranger in the artistic world. As even a simple Google search on the man will tell and show you his body of impressive work.

A down to earth artist who is known to produce a lot of statement pieces, Ahmad conceded that being a full-time artist was no walk in the park.

But nonetheless, he said a career in the art scene can be rewarding if one was willing to put in the work.

Ahmad remembers having an affinity for art since childhood.

His motivation came from family and friends who had a knack for drawing.

But being a kampung boy from Baling, Kedah there was limited to no exposure for him to see his talent through until things took a different turn when his parents wanted him to further his studies.

“After my form five examination, I actually didn’t want to further my studies but my grades were good and as such my parents got excited and the opposite happened, ” he said in an interview with dailystraits.com, recently.

“I have always loved to draw and so I decided to major in fine arts at Mara Technology Institute (UiTM) in 1987 without knowing anything about the kind of career prospects I would have in the future,” he said.    

Four years went by and even after graduation, Ahmad was still clueless about what he was going to do with his life.

But that feeling of uncertainty soon changed after holding his first exhibition along with some friends at Maybank in 1993. 

That exhibition made Ahmad more certain about pursuing a career as a full-time artist.

“I did moonlight between working in films and TV production for money.

“That was my life for years until I could make it solely as a full-time artist,” he said. 

He even remembers his first sale, it was bought by a gallery owner and a collector – Rahimi Harun.

But as years progressed, Ahmad’s work flourished in a way he did not imagine. 

He was producing and selling pieces not only to local galleries but to overseas collectors as well. 

A successful artist, according to Ahmad can command a salary that ranges within ‘six to even seven figures’ in a year.

“There are ways to make money but I am not good at that, I prefer to focus on the concept and context first, unfortunately.

“I like to produce something that interests me rather than something easily commercialised,” he said. 

He also said that pricing an artwork was normally based on the artist’s decision and sometimes through discussions with the gallerist.

“It is up to the artist to dictate the price of the artwork. It depends on a lot of factors including ideas, time investments, dimensions and the materials used, ” he said. 

“You can produce something, put a price on it but (be ready to) give some wriggle room for collectors as they tend to haggle the price down.

“This is a common practice almost everywhere you go,” he explained.

He said an artist should always work together with a good gallery as they were the ones who would go all out “to promote your work and find you, buyers.”

“They act as your agents, and everything is divided.

“It is leceh (cumbersome) to produce and then sell your own work. You can explain the metrics behind your work to the buyers but stop short of (hard) selling your work to them,” he advised.

He said the younger generation of artists had a different view and preferred to market themselves on social media but he felt that having a gallery backing was still necessary.

He also said that being an artist was a pandemic-proof career.

“We are used to working alone in our studios for long periods and having dry spells (in income) so this whole ordeal was bearable and quite common for us,” Ahmad said.

On retirement planning, he said since artists were paid in bulk, most of them tend not to sock away money for it.

“It’s paramount for artists to not sell all of their artworks and to keep some for their twilight years, which could (then) be sold for good money,” he said.

He said these works will gain more value in time especially as the artist gets renowned.

“That is our pension plan, but having said that most of us don’t really retire. We will keep producing until our brain stops,” he said.

To contact this reporter, email: editor@dailystraits.com

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