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Pricing Your Artwork: Finding Value in Creativity

Pricing Your Artwork: Finding Value in Creativity

Pricing Your Artwork is Not Easy 

Some artists have a clear idea of what price they want for their work. Some are realistic, some are exceptionally greedy, and the rest end up under-pricing their artwork so severely that they are never able to rise above it. As their buyers refuse to pay more when the artists try to increase their prices.

And uunless 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, take a look at the art on www.trademe.co.nz and see the criminally low prices artists are selling their work for on there. I'm 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 there has a garage sale mentality. And only want a bargain hence the bargain basement prices on things.

They don’t usually value art, and they won’t pay reasonable prices. You also see many entrepreneurial types who sell their newfound 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's a Few Tips and Ideas to 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 workspace. 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 working on this as it also is a factor.

There are also accounting and legal fees, insurance for your artwork and premises, photographing your work, marketing costs, advertising, internet and phone costs, 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?

What about Gallery Prices?

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. Galleries will eventually hear if you are undercutting them, giving you a bad reputation for other galleries and the ones you are in, and suddenly refusing to sell your work for you anymore.

Time Matters

Consider how much time you are investing in each painting. Factor in an hourly wage you should receive, e.g. 10 hours at $25 (minimum) an hour = $250 in time alone.

Don’t forget that you must also consider 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 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 have a similar reputation and skill level? Please go take a look at galleries and get a better idea of their prices.

What about the market? Some say that art is valued more in bigger cities than in smaller ones. Although in New Zealand, it’s too small a place to consider that. Imagine how annoyed a gallery will 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 recessions or pandemics like we have just been through? That can change things a lot concerning pricing your work. Few people were 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’ mass-produced art flooding our market can also affect pricing. Not everyone cares about quality or investment, and they will be quite happy to have mass-produced oil paintings from places like China on their wall for a couple of dollars. So it may be necessary to adjust your prices from time to time and be realistic. 

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

Does Size Matter?

Small paintings have just as much, if not more, overhead than large paintings. You get better value for money by purchasing larger frames or canvases for your work.

Everything you do for more significant artworks, like setting up time, the time required to photograph them, updating your website, 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 also remain the same. Therefore a small painting costs you more to produce than a large one. Consider pricing with this in mind.

To Wrap Things Up

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. 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 many 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.

Want to learn more about Art Matters? Take a look at other articles on my Art Blog including

Why you should sign your artwork - Signing your Artwork

Also ta matters so have a read of - Tax Tips for Artists

Posted: Friday 22 January 2010


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