Tips on how to price your artwork

Tips on how to price your artwork

Some artists have a clear idea of what price they want for their work, some are realistic, some are insanely greedy and the rest end up under price their artwork so badly they are never able to rise above it as their buyers refuse to pay more when the artists tries to increase their prices; unless they can transcend to other fields where their art is taken more seriously they will always remain at the bottom of the art market selling their work for rock bottom prices, just take a look at the art on and see the criminal prices artists are selling their work for on there. Im not knocking trademe they don’t set the prices but more that artists who sell their work there are forced to sell cheaply because the buyers on there have a garage sale mentality and only want a bargain hence the bargain basement prices on things. They don’t usually value art so they’re not going to pay big prices for it. You also see many entrepreneurial housewives who sell their new found hobby remnants for less than the value of the material used to create it; they are often just happy to be able to say they sold a painting, not realising the damage they are doing to the art market for more serious artists by doing this.

Here are a few tips and ideas that may help you price your work.

    What are the costs for your art? (As in how much are your supplies such as paint, canvas, brushes, mediums, etc.), do you use framing, and what about studio costs because even if you paint at home, you can factor in the square footage used as your work space? You will need to factor in such costs as packaging and courier costs, your office space as part of being an artist is also about doing your bookwork and keeping things like websites up to date etc and don’t forget the time spent of working on this as it also is a factor.There is also accounting and legal fees, insurance for your artwork and premises, photographing your work, marketing costs, advertising, internet, phone-line and/or mobile phone, membership fees to art groups, subscriptions to magazines and exhibition entry fees and things like travel to shows or works etc to consider. Have I lost you yet?

    Galleries will take 40% commission on average; it can sometimes be even more.  Price your work accordingly even if you are selling it yourself directly to the public.  You may eventually start exhibiting in a gallery or other venue like a café or furniture that takes a commission and you don't want your prices to suddenly almost double. 

    An important tip, don’t ever undercut your galleries.  Your prices should be the same whether purchased through you or a gallery. It’s a small art world out there especially in New Zealand and galleries will eventually hear if you are undercutting them, giving you a bad reputation for other galleries and the ones you are in suddenly refusing to sell your work for you anymore.

    You need to think about how much time you are investing in each painting? Factor in an hourly wage you think you should be receiving, e.g. 10 hours at $25 (minimum) a hour = $250 in time alone.

    Don’t forget that you need to also take into account the paintings that don’t work out and you either paint over or throw away. There are also the ones you give away as gifts or ones that you may have donated to charities. 

    What about your reputation? Are you just starting out or are you getting known in the art world, locally, nationally or internationally?

    Then there is your level of skill and your originality.

    What is everyone else in your genre doing, how do they price their work if they are at a similar level of reputation and skill? Go look at galleries and get a better idea of their prices.

    What about the market, some say that art is valued higher in the bigger cities than the smaller ones. Although in New Zealand it’s too small a place to consider that. Imagine how annoyed a gallery is going to be in Auckland that has your work for sale for $2500 when the buyer finds out they can buy your work in Hamilton for half that? And what about things like the recession we have just been through, that can change things a lot in regards to pricing your work. There were less people buying art; it is seen as a want not a need item and money is spent on necessities rather than luxuries at times like that. The influx of ‘cheap as chips’ Asian art flooding our market can have an effect on pricing also. Not everyone cares about quality or investment and will be quite happy to have mass produced oil paintings from China on their wall for a couple dollars (See my post on Hong Kong Horrors). So it may be necessary to adjusting your prices from time to time and be realistic. 

    When times are good you can look at increasing your prices and besides and it justifies your clients' previous purchases.  They want to be sure that they have brought wisely by buying your art.

    Small paintings have just as much if not more overhead than large paintings.  You get better value for money purchasing larger frames or canvases for your work.  Everything you do for a larger work like setting up time, the time required to photograph them, updating your web site, packaging them for shipping etc is often the same regardless of the size of the painting.  Your costs for such things as rent, utilities, and any other overhead expenses still remain the same as well.  Therefore a small painting costs you more to produce than a large one.  Consider pricing with this in mind.

    If you determine that you can't sell enough artwork to justify doing it, don't give up. Most artists will tell you it’s not about the money anyway. As much as we all like and need to have money, it’s about the act of creating itself. Painting or sculpting to an artist is like breathing, you need to do it. So if you are just in it for a quick buck then this may not be the career for you and it will reflect in your work also as it often lacks that extra heart and soul that an artist who paints for the love of it will exhibit. As someone who gets to see a lot of artists work I can now tell what work has been done for money or love.  Work on improving your art, finding new venues, increasing your reputation etc and over time, you will find the right market for your work.

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    Posted: Friday 22 January 2010


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