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A Simple Formula for Pricing Artwork

18 Dec 2009

Pricing artwork is one of the most complex tasks that emerging artists face, especially when they first begin to work with galleries. It's easy to see by reading art business articles and books on art marketing that the opinions of the experts vary.

Otter Point, Acadia by Lori Woodward, acrylic on paper, 7 x 13.5.
Otter Point, Acadia by Lori Woodward, acrylic on paper, 7 x 13.5.

To make it even more complicated, we artists sometimes price with our emotions. Some artists overprice their work in order to impress viewers, hoping to make the artwork look more valuable. Sometimes this works, but usually only when the collector is naive or when the artwork is spectacular and gets the attention of serious collectors.

When I price with my emotion, I tend to lower my prices because I feel sorry that the collector has to spend so much. Now, don't get on me for this ... it's the truth. I'm an empathetic type, but I need to be careful to not price my work based on how I feel about it or collectors. In other words, I need to look at pricing and how to sell artwork objectively.

Putting emotions aside, let me share a simple formula that many of my professional artist friends have used when first starting to sell their work. I still use this formula. Remember that pricing reflects your position and reputation in the art-selling world more than what your art looks like. If you're relatively unknown to collectors and don't have many credentials—such as having placed in competitions, shown with a well-known gallery, or had your work published—you really can't get the same prices as artists who do have those credentials.

When you're first starting out, it's a good idea to make your work as affordable as you can while being able to cover your costs and make a small profit. Don't charge so little that you don't break even. Remember that galleries often take a 50 percent commission from sales, so you'll have to take that into consideration.

Here's the formula that I recommend:

First, multiply the painting's width by its length to arrive at the total size, in square inches. Then multiply that number by a set dollar amount that's appropriate for your reputation. I currently use $6 per square inch for oil paintings. Then calculate your cost of canvas and framing, and then double that number. For example: A 16”-x-20” oil-on-linen landscape painting: 16” x 20” = 320 square inches

I price my oil paintings at $6 per square inch. 320 x 6 = $1,920.00, and I round this down to $1,900. My frame, canvas and materials cost me $150.00 (I buy framing wholesale). I double this cost so that I'll get it all back when the painting sells at the gallery. Otherwise, I'm subsidizing the collector by giving him or her the frame for free. $150 x 2 = $300

Then I put it all together: $1,900 + $300 = $2,200 (the retail price). When the painting sells from a gallery, my cut after the 50 percent commission is paid comes to $950 for the painting and $150 for the framing, for a total of $1,100.

For much larger pieces, I'll bring the price per square inch down a notch ... maybe a dollar or two lower so that I don't price my work beyond what my reputation can sustain. Alternately, for smaller works, I'll increase the dollar per square inch because small works take almost as much effort as larger works, and I need to be compensated for my expertise, even when the work is miniature.

This is not the only way to price artwork, but it's one that keeps my selling art prices consistent. Keep in mind that my prices were much lower 10 years ago when my artwork was relatively unknown to collectors. It's important to note here that when I have a great selling year, I raise my prices by 10 percent. When the economy is poor or my sales are slow, I don't raise prices at all.

I hopes this give you a place to start. If you're just selling at local outdoor shows and are entering the art market, I would suggest that you keep your dollar amount much lower than mine. I've been selling my work for 14 years. There are ways that I could increase the worth and therefore the price of my art, but I'll talk about that in a later blog post.

--Lori


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Robin11 wrote
on 18 Dec 2009 7:25 AM

Hi, Lori, thanks for the post.  I've seen similar formulas, but  this is what I would like to know about it that I can't seem to get answered...What's the reasoning behind $6 a square inch?  Why not $3, $4, $5, $7, $8 or $9?  My understanding is that the $6 is what you have judged your market value to be.  How did you pick that number?  Based on what?  How did you decide it wasn't too small and wasn't too high?

THAT is the part of this formula that I never see answered.  HOW do you determine that variable?

on 18 Dec 2009 7:37 AM

Robin, I have arrived at that number over time. Ten years ago, I was at the $2/$3 level - that's where I started out with outdoor shows. Once I began working with galleries, I had to raise the dollar amount a bit so I'd make a profit after the commission was taken.

I don't think I can go over $6 - I've tried it, but sales fell off to nothing. Your customers will let you know if you're pricing is right. If you sell everything really fast, you're a bit too low - if sales drop off or you sell only under a certain dollar amount - ie not your more expensive works, then your prices are too high.

It's complex because price also depends on where  you're selling your work. If it's a local gallery, prices need to reflect the other works in the gallery - if it's a gallery in Scottsdale, then your prices also need to be in line with that gallery.

On the other hand, if you're selling on your own, start out as low as you can to make a profit and go up slowly from there. Again, if you're selling 75% of your total body of work, then raise prices by 10% and see what happens. Artists should plan to sell at least $ 75% of everything they paint.

Does that help? I've got an appointment with a collector (yay) so I've got to run. I offer her a discount since she's purchased several of my paintings... I really like her, so I give her 25% off, and I can do that because I'm not selling with galleries right now.

Daz wrote
on 18 Dec 2009 7:41 AM

I haven't sold a painting yet, but my first will be for a million dollars which makes me a million dollar artist.

Robin11 wrote
on 18 Dec 2009 8:06 AM

Thanks, Lori.

So, what I'm getting is that you advise a trial and error thing, start cheap and you will sell, stop selling and lower your prices?

Mmmmm...not sure I agree...I've seen people not sell, double their prices, and sell.  I think underpricing is as bad as overpricing, personally.  

Thanks for your thoughts!  At any rate, the by the inches, then double the expenses formula does make it consistent.  The prob still is figuring out what our market value...that dollar amount ...should be.

I'm especially interested because I've been getting a lot of artist feedback lately that I'm underpriced and would sell more commissions if I raise my prices.  Lots to mull...

on 18 Dec 2009 8:12 AM

This post was mentioned on Twitter by risearts: Interesting! RT @janblencowe_art @Loriwords my blog today on @American_Artist Artist Daily on pricing artwork http://bit.ly/5Tg3iR

Kisu wrote
on 18 Dec 2009 8:20 AM

Several years ago my brother told me he prices his work this way.  I does make a lot of sense, but I also agree that the peculiarities of one's local market is the fly in the ointment.  I happen to be in a local art market that is ultimately subject to the pulls and hegemony of a nearby major U.S. art market that throws all common sense out the window.  I still haven't figured out how to resolve it.  Do I price according to what my local market will bear, or with an eye toward the larger market?  

on 18 Dec 2009 8:40 AM

I've known a couple of people who doubled their prices and started selling, but in those instances their artwork was incredible and because of that, their low prices seemed to make collectors think they must be missing something. But I don't know a lot of artists that that's happened to. It certainly never worked that way for me.

Another artist friend was selling her oil paintings locally at $700 (top price). She used wholesale frames and was making a good profit. She sold practically everything she painted. She took those same types of paintings and raised her prices to $1100. She showed them at the usual shows and sold absolutely nothing. So she then raised her top price to $800 and sold everything again. Her collectors were ready to pay an extra hundred, but the $1100 was too big of a jump for them.

If an artist, goes from self sales and then gets into a high profile gallery, that artist is going to double their prices in order to have a good standing there. Gallery managers are really good at knowing what their clientele is willing to pay for certain types of work. With new artists, they generally price in the $1500 - $5000 range and go up from there.

This is such a complex issue that no matter what I advise, there will be exceptions. Mostly because the venues are often connected to a certain price code... in other words, it depends on what level of collector your artwork appeals to and what they can afford.

Richard Schmid said that he depends on only a handful of collectors to buy art in his price range. He said we can sell many more paintings to a lot more collectors because only the rich can afford his work. When he first started out, he sold them cheap on the sidewalks of NY... along with Albert Handell. His paintings sell for 3 times the amount they did 20 years ago.

But you can disagree Robin. I've got to go now... I'm late!

Sincerely,

Lori

Robin11 wrote
on 18 Dec 2009 9:12 AM

So, Lori (when you get back, I'm hoping you're long gone to your appt!)  what I'm understanding is that there is really no way to know where to start that "$x"!  Once you have that starting "x", adding to it slowly will keep current collectors.

Some of the artists I know who doubled then sold, started out really low.  I think there was an element of potential collectors feeling there was something amateurish about the underpricing.  And that's what I'm hearing about my pricing personally, from both artists who sell non-commissioned art and several portrait artists, which is why I am currently so interested in this subject!!  

The other artists who doubled sold their work out at their first shows and like you say, that shows prices too low, too.

And of course all of this is tied to exposure...getting eyeballs on those pieces.  Doesn't matter much what price we put on if nobody has the opportunity to see them...

Thanks for this blog post, Lori, it's a great subject and I hope others chime in, too!

Congrats on the sale today!!

on 18 Dec 2009 12:17 PM

I've resorted to reading Calvin J. Goodman's Art Marketing Handbook. Gee Tee Bee publishing. artmarketinghandbook.com

I've worked with Calvin extensively and he has been consulting with both artists and gallery dealers for over 40 years. He has a much better vocabulary than I do :-), but he starts his chapter on pricing by saying that artwork must have intrinsic value to sell. Later in the chapter he says that where the painting is sold plays into the equation.

Recently, Eric Rhoads wrote in his blog that if someone offered you a new Mercades for $3000, you'd get suspicious and wonder what's wrong with it. You're absolutely right Robin - people who are avid collectors expect to pay what a painting is worth. Price has more to do with who collects your work sometimes.

Maybe your prices are too low... if you're selling well, then that could be the case.

If an artist wants to put high prices on their work, the location of the sale and reputation of the artist has to support it. This is what Calvin essentially says but I don't want to put words in his mouth. We should all be working towards raising the value of our work by making it dynamite, and in the meantime be looking for ways to find venues where we can get better prices... if that's what we want.

Some artists are content to sell at middle range prices - say $900 to $4000 and just paint a lot of painting while others want to sell works for over $5000 and up to $10,000. However, I know 2 artists who are in that range and their sales just fell off to nothing last year when the economy tanked. The artists who sell in the $500 to $3000 range whom I know continued to sell, not as well, but still sold paintings.

I can see that this is an issue that is important. I'll do some more research and see what other mid-career artists are actually doing and what has worked for them.

on 18 Dec 2009 12:32 PM

Kisu, are you happy with  your current market? Is it working for you? Right now, it's hard to move up the scale because of the economy. It seems that local markets are doing better right now than some of the major ones.

Last year, Scottsdale saw many gallery closings. The manager at Legacy Gallery says he gets over 100 artist submissions a month. He looks at them all, but he has about 60 artists on his watch list. These days, your work has to be remarkable to get into the highest markets, and getting awards in national competitions helps high visibility venues to take a second look.

For most of us, we can make a really good living outside of the "spotlight". have plenty of friends who do. If our prices are lower, then we need to be more prolific. Right now, it's hard to sell works above a couple of thousand dollars if you don't already have a strong following. As an artist creates a following - either locally, regionally or nationally, they can raise their prices.

So now the question becomes, how to get the attention of your potential collectors. Lots of ways to do this but it does usually take some time - it has for me. The exceptions that I know of... well those artists can paint circles around me. I just sold a painting today though, so I'm in the game and happy with where I am.

How do you define success for yourself? Once you define that, you can devise a plan to get your work to meet that criteria. No magic to selling art - really just a question of exposure, supply and demand.

Robin11 wrote
on 18 Dec 2009 12:57 PM

Lori, this is an excellent discussion, with many blanks to fill in!  Thanks for starting it off!

I think it's us beginning-selling, emerging artists who struggle the most with what dollar sign to put in that "x", not the mid career folks who have the experience of years of sales to help them decide their own "x", as you do.  

I've been hearing that more and more artists are voluntarily abandoning galleries, except for their most lucrative ones, and selling more often direct to the buyers, like you just did (congrats!).  So not sure gallery closings are not related to this, as well.

I've also been hearing more and more of selling in invitation only salon type shows.  AND I've been hearing lately around here that sales are again perking up after a dip last year and early this year.  That's great news for all of us!

on 18 Dec 2009 1:30 PM

Robin, you are already established as a pet portraitist.  You could easily work out the price per square inch from your past sales.  That would be the ideal starting figure I would think.

This is such a tricky subject.  I have found that my smaller paintings, 5x7 inches are selling very well at around $4.50 per sq inch.  Normally I would price them higher, but with the economy as it is right now I'm going to hold that figure for now.

Again the market you are in has an effect on pricing.  Here in Bermuda the cost of living is higher, therefore one would expect to pay more than you would in the US.  But when I am in Canada I have to reduce my per sq inch figure.

I'm about to place a number of paintings in a high end gallery and have to decide on pricing, bearing in mind the gallery commission.

The other factor is as mentioned previously.  Collectors are cautious if the price is low, and offended if they are too high.  Finding that balance is like a crap shoot.  I have never known a business as "iffy" and unpredictable as this one.  Sometimes paintings I am reluctant to show and am sure will not sell will go right away, others I am extremely happy with just sit there.  This happens with my artist friends here too, so it's not just me.

Oh well, time to roll the dice and decide on a price for the paintings for the gallery.

on 18 Dec 2009 1:38 PM

Christopher, thanks so very much for sharing your pricing experience here. Hearing from artists helps us all to get the big picture. It's interesting that your work can handle different prices depending on where it's sold.

New England, outside of the cities and fanciest resorts is a tough market... even in galleries. New Hampshire is probably the worst state in New England for art sales. The seacoast and upscale VT is the best.

Interestingly an artist in Canada recently asked me to talk about how to sell there, but I know very little about that market. If you care to share at any point Chris, please do.

Kisu wrote
on 18 Dec 2009 4:04 PM

Lori, I'd have to say there ups and downs to my current market.  I've had 3 sales in the past month, however, so things do seem to be picking up locally.  Even so, the problem really is, as you mention, the long-term exposure and marketing over the regional market. I started studying all the available publications a few months ago.  I'm going to be organizing a meeting of local artists in my town after the holidays so we can put our heads together and try to do something to plug into what is already a pretty organized regional system everywhere *but* in our neck of the woods.  In other words, you can open a collector's guide, travel brochure or collector's magazine for this region and it is as if our area doesn't exist, even though we are in very close proximity to a major art center!  The smaller issue for me is that the local economy is and has been chronically depressed, growth overall is negligible, so there is a limit to how high prices can go for the number of artists working and marketing locally.  If one prices lower here then you price yourself too low to be taken seriously in the adjacent major market.  If you price high enough for that major market, you won't be making too many sales locally.  And the competition for gallery representation in this large art center is fierce.  I have a friend who worked in one of the major galleries there and she said that if you are male, good looking, in your forties, and do very large, garishly colored pieces you're a hit at the galleries and can sell anything, doesn't really matter if it's really any good!

K. Henderson wrote
on 18 Dec 2009 6:42 PM

Robin, When I first stated out I kept a journel (actually, I still keep this journel) so I know how much time I spend on each painting. Eventually, I knew that it took "x" amount of time to do the average painting. I knew how much I had to earn to pay my rent, my phone etc. I also knew how many paintings I could porduce per year. In other wordsI had to make a certain amount of money to support myself. Taking that info, I knew how much per square inch I had to charge.

And I agree with Lori, I charge more per square inch for my smaller pieces

Finnell wrote
on 18 Dec 2009 7:50 PM

I have been told by some people that I should have the same price structure in every market I'm in. Others have told me that I need to adjust my prices for each market. Which do you agree with? It doesn't make sense to me to sell a painting for one price in market "a" when a same size painting sells for less  in market "b".

K. Henderson wrote
on 18 Dec 2009 8:40 PM

Finell, Imagine if you bought something at store A for $100 and found out that store B had a similar item for $50. You would feel cheated. You need to keep your prices the same everywhere you sell. Your collectors will not be happy if they feel they find you are undercutting your prices. They want to know that your paintings have a certain Value

on 18 Dec 2009 8:45 PM

If you sell with galleries, your price needs to be the same across the board... whether you sell at outdoor shows or from your studio. Like K. says - you have one retail price.

The way I see it.. If I'm working with galleries and sell a painting from my studio, I get the 50% sales commission. When the gallery sells my work, they get the 50%.

on 19 Dec 2009 2:36 AM

I agree with Lori, without question your prices should be the same whether in a gallery or selling direct to clients.

However, when selling in different countries, with widely different costs of living then you would be wise to price according to the particular market.  An example is in Bermuda, where virtually any item costing $5 in the US would be $12 -14 in Bermuda.  Bread, milk, cheese, cars and art are all far more expensive, a small price to pay for wintering in the sun I might add.

If I priced an 8x10 in Bermuda at the same price as I would in Canada, then it would be underpriced and consequently underrated, my reputation would be affected and chances are the serious collectors would shun me.  If I used my Bermuda prices in Canada then I probably would be grossly overpriced and wouldn't sell.

As I said before, one of the flakiest businesses I ever could have choosed to be in.  Luckily I love to paint so will put up with all these quircks. :)

on 19 Dec 2009 5:34 AM

Thank you all for this discussion.  I found it extremely helpful.

sfox2 wrote
on 19 Dec 2009 9:50 AM

I learned about pricing by the square inch at a workshop and decided that that was the way to go. It really simplified things. But I faced the same issue as some of the other commenters- what dollar amount?. Here's what I did:

I collected as many prices as I could from other artists I knew, very well-known artists and some I would consider moderately successful. I combed through some gallery mailers that listed prices, catalogs from shows like the Oil Painters of America national exhibition, websites, anywhere I could find prices.

Then I calculated what those artists were getting per square inch. I eliminated those whose prices were way out of line with either the quality of their work or for how well known they were. I also dropped those whose prices were so low that they might as well just give their work away.

I then organized the numbers in descending order from highest to lowest and looked at what I had. In essence, the "big name" artists were in the $15-$20 per square inch range. The local unknowns were as low as $3.

I then got out the calculator and figured all the standard sizes from 6x8" up to 24x36" at $.50 increments from $3 to around $7, since I thought that my prices would probably fall into that range.

I couldn't go with what paintings sell for where I live since prices are extremely depressed compared to the national market. And I wanted to take into consideration the possibility of getting a gallery. My price would be my price no matter where the work went and I wasn't going to do what so many artists around here do, which is knock off 40% when selling direct (how stupid is that?).

I hadn't thought about the calculation for the frame which Lori mentions, but I like that and will take that into account when I do a future price adjustment.

Where I came out at about seven years ago was $4 and that's where I started. I'm now up to $7. I do add some if I think a piece is one of my best or if it has been accepted into a national juried show.

Robin11 wrote
on 19 Dec 2009 11:05 AM

Great hearing so many thoughts!  Thanks again Lori, for starting this great discussion.

Chris, I feel that I'm starting over again. My art was on the backburner for 3 years and the economy changed while I was pretty much out.

This area doesn't seem to be as hard hit as others.   Since I've only sold online, if I start doing shows, that should be a whole other market for me.  

on 19 Dec 2009 12:01 PM

SFox,

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and how you came to price your works over time. Your story is an excellent example of how someone does research and arrives at a pricing scale based on facts.

I love this way of sharing online. I'm learning new stuff from your all. Thanks!

sfox2 wrote
on 19 Dec 2009 5:23 PM

Another artist friend observed that people have different price thresholds when looking at buying art. Someone who will pay $2000 probably won't pay $5000. Someone who will pay $500, won't go $1000. Around here the threshold is generally under $100, under $500 or under $1000, so small pieces are mostly what sells.

I too have been hearing that small/affordable and big/expensive are selling, but the mid-range is flat.

Also, FWIW, I've been having good luck on eBay selling 6x8"s and 8x10"s for around $50 and $70, respectively, many to local repeat buyers. It's not a lot and I had to take a deep breath to do it, but I don't currently have a gallery and I'm averaging $150 a month. I started the little ones at $37.95. They now start at $47.95. Of course, what I'm hoping is that TWO people will want it and run the price up. That's happened a couple of times so far. Shipping is extra, $4.80 for a USPS flat rate envelope.

Most of the paintings have been older quick study pieces that had never been done with the idea of selling them anyway. I've done re-paints as necessary to bring them up to snuff and out the door they go. Twenty-three out of forty since March. And a couple after the auction ended and people got in touch to see if I still had the painting.

I've taken care to position these small works so that I don't undermine my "A List" paintings that are bigger, more finished, framed, etc.

on 20 Dec 2009 11:33 AM

Lori

I like the square inch method to a point. I do graphite drawings that require anywhere from 30 to 150 hours of work to complete. So I think there are times another equation must be used "time spent". I've seen painters finish a painting in 2 hours or less and still charge a certain dollar amount, he makes 100 dollars an hour to my 2 to 15 an hour. So what are we willing to value our selfs at?? It's a tough question for a labor of love, but nice to be worth something. Lennie

Robin11 wrote
on 20 Dec 2009 12:50 PM

I have gotten much faster as I've gotten more experience, so if I used time as one of the factors, my price per piece would go down!  

I also have seen this basic formula to include a percentage of overhead.

Ren6 wrote
on 20 Dec 2009 2:23 PM

If overhead is considered how far back, I year?

Ren6 wrote
on 20 Dec 2009 3:06 PM

When doing portrait with more than one subject do you use the same formula alone or do you add extra for the extra subject(s)?

danlwilson wrote
on 20 Dec 2009 7:27 PM

The price per area method sounds great to me, but it will vary in each market. A painting in NYC, Chicago, or San Francisco will sell for much more than the same painting would in Cleveland. Its just a fact of life.

The best way to establish your value is to set the price high and not low. Lower the price on a painting with time until it sells. Everything sells. You will come to know what your value is. The next time you sell a painting you will know about where to begin. That works for me.

on 22 Dec 2009 5:51 AM

Time spent rarely is what drives the price of artwork. I have friends who have grown their list of collectors and number of galleries who paint a whole lot faster than I do (because their work is loose) but they get way more than I do.

Demand for ones work is what really drives the price up. Collectors really only care if they love the work and if the price is high, they want to know that the reputation of the artist can support or validate those prices.

If you're work is dynamite and beautiful, but you're relatively unknown, you'll need some help with a high visibility gallery in order to get collectors to trust the value of your work, or else you'll need to build credentials. Collectors look for consistent style, media, sometimes subject matter, and resume/bio. They want to see that someone else has validated your work - which means to them that their investment is safe. This theory even works to a degree locally.

Guess I'd better write a post on how to increase the perceived value of your work.

Getting into high visibility galleries is a catch 22, Selling on your own is much easier and a great place to start, but your prices are defined by the group of collectors you sell to and your achievements.

Wish it were not that way, but that's how it works for the most part. - there are always exceptions of course, but I'm talking about the way things work for most artists who sell their work.

on 22 Dec 2009 6:13 AM

Ren, portraits are priced somewhat differently than non-commissioned works. Typically, a portrait artist gives a discount for multiple "people"... some give a 25% discount on the second and third "people" in a portrait commission.

However, I've never liked this way of doing portraits, because putting more than one person in my portraits is more difficult for me.. it's much easier for me to do each portrait separately. Besides, in the case where there are multiple children in the portrait, I wonder who the portrait will be passed on to as a family heirloom if there are 3 siblings painted.

Rese wrote
on 22 Dec 2009 10:41 AM

Great article and discussion! Here's my two cents worth . . .

I'm pretty new to the art world. I've been selling my paintings online for a couple of years and have found pricing to be the most difficult part. At first, I chose a price per square inch that was mostly based on what I perceived it's market value to be - but found that approach stressful. I wanted my pricing based on solid numbers. I came across a "free spreadsheet for pricing your work" a jewelry designer had offered on his blog. (If you'd like to see it, google the phrase that's in quotes above.) I put all my numbers in and could even add a profit margin. I had to tweak things a bit, but felt I had a better grasp on what I needed/wanted to earn.

I took those numbers and figured the pricing on a painting in each size I offered. Once I had prices using that formula, I then broke those figures down to the square inch price and compared them to what I had been charging per square inch. I found that some prices were right on and others were not.

I feel much more confident about my pricing now. I still charge by the square inch and only revisit the spreadsheet when I'm ready to raise prices. It can be as easy as increasing the profit margin or adding overhead - but I know exactly what I have done and how.

on 22 Dec 2009 7:12 PM

Great discussion Lori and everybody.  I too have been selling on Ebay for about  a year.  small pieces in the $50-$60 range to establish myself.  I often use used canvases that could be three years old, from my first year painting.   If I can dash it out in under an hour and sell it for $50, I'll bite my lip and take it.  I've sold at art faires from anywhere from $100-$300.  You might think Los Angeles has a lot of wealth, but most people visiting an art faire are really hurting in this economy.  

The way I see it, you can be pretty much brand new in this business, and price unrealistically high and never sell anything.  Or you can start out modestly as i have done and sell 60 paintings a year between $50-$400.  all the while getting exposure.  Eveything takes time.  I think the square inch idea is a winner.  An easy formula to follow.  I'll be using it!

on 23 Dec 2009 7:11 AM

Ron, thanks for sharing your experience. I think your approach works very well for most artists. My experience is similar to yours - but I haven't done Ebay. I did do outdoor art fairs for 5 years... until a few galleries picked me up.

Robin11 wrote
on 23 Dec 2009 11:44 AM

"Besides, in the case where there are multiple children in the portrait, I wonder who the portrait will be passed on to as a family heirloom if there are 3 siblings painted."

Lori, this comment is very interesting and something I never thought about until recently.  A great selling point for multiple portraits.  By making the 2nd, 3rd face not that much cheaper than the first, I think it's motivating to do everyone separately.

When I was first starting out, I got a commission to do every member of a family at the age of 4.  Why? Because the dad's parents had had his portrait drawn at that age.  It makes an awesome and fascinating display, mom, dad, and each kid all at the same age in the same media.   Then, when kids grow up they can take theirs.

on 23 Dec 2009 11:53 AM

Robin, the portraits all at the same age is an interesting way to do them.

This has been a great discussion, and I want people to feel free to add their comments here as they think of related issues. However, I will be without Internet connection for a week, so if I don't get back to you either here or through email, please don't take it personally. I've really enjoyed this conversation and I'm learning from you all as well.

Lori

easel1 wrote
on 27 Dec 2009 2:17 PM

I am surprised (and at times even shocked) at how many artworks are sold at prices which are (to say the least) exhorbitant. Your information? Extremely good - down to earth - advice. Not only do you lay out a basic management concept which enhances a visual artist's possibility of properly administering their financial portfolio, you also offer solid advice as to   when and how prices should be raised - or not. Beginners - and that includes many who have been painting for years - should realize that starting low and raising prices at an extremely slow pace is not an insult - it simply isa wise way to stay in the game for a much longer period and to actually sell.

Margo5 wrote
on 28 Dec 2009 9:46 PM

Great discussion here. Lori, thanks for posting this for us.

YSokolov wrote
on 14 Jan 2010 8:51 AM

Hi,

my question is... how do you correctly price a watercolor painting, would same criteria apply? Right now I price it by size of the paper that I use, then I add the price of matting and frame, usually doubling it, and then I come up with  the final price. Should I stick to that or change some things. Have to understand that I live in Midsouth (Missouri), in a smaller town, and sell my work in larger city near by.

Thanks!

YVS

on 14 Jan 2010 11:35 AM

Unfortunately, watercolors often sell for less than oils. There are some master/famous artists out there who do a great prices for their watercolors, but for most of us, I've found that galleries expect us to charge lower prices for watercolors, and collectors expect to pay less for them.

Wonder what would happen if I made my watercolor prices exactly the same as my oils? It would be a good experiment.

on 22 Jan 2010 4:34 PM

This post was mentioned on Twitter by sheiladderr: A simple formula for pricing artwork: http://twurl.nl/kb8god

eubie wrote
on 27 Mar 2010 8:06 AM

Hi, I'm blogging today,had coffee and was reading American artist and came acorss this blog..This is my biggist problem, I think I got bad advice and confusing tips..i wish I would have read this 2 years ago,I sell small things and cards..and get lots of compliments,,but I believe my prices were too high..especially in the types of venues I show..which dont have to pay a commission of not more than 10%  I believe If I had my prices half of what I asked I would have sold..and I  am absorbing alot from my classes, and know that I have alot to learn ..in other words a little more humble in where I come from in terms of my art, although, I am told I have talent.. I believe you commented on one of my paintings..and it was a good tip..

JessisKnoll wrote
on 16 Jun 2010 6:54 PM

I mostly agree with what has been said here but, what about how long it takes to do a painting? I do fantasy/surreal acrylic paintings and they very sooo much. For example, one of my 20x24" paintings took 24+ hrs to paint (because of the lvl of detail) while another 20x24" painting took 9 hrs to paint. The cost of materials for both was about the same, but based off of how long it took to paint the first one I would feel like I'm cheating myself by having it the priced about as the shorter one. One took much more effort and time and ended up with much more detail. How would you suggest I deal with that?

JessisKnoll wrote
on 16 Jun 2010 9:25 PM

they *Vary* so much ^_~

JessisKnoll wrote
on 16 Jun 2010 9:26 PM

>_> I found even more typos >_< oops

on 28 Jun 2010 7:42 AM

Jessis,

Unfortunately, artists rarely are able to sell their work priced on the basis of how many hours it takes. Worth is basically determined by the artist's reputation.

My paintings take much longer than yours do :-)  But I can't really charge very much because collectors have not seen my work and name in major art collecting magazine articles or in major competitions.

I think it's true that working with a gallery that has developed a great group of collectors can help to raise an artist's prices a bit faster than he or she can do on her own. Just like the housing market's chant goes "Location, Location, Location" An art work's value is often based on "Reputation, Reputation, Reputation"... how well is your work known among collectors.

Artists earn high prices over time. Sure the artwork needs to be of high quality, but then marketing efforts must kick in to get the work known. Without credentials, it's difficult for an artist to ask for the amounts that more well known artists do. Those artists also started out with low prices at one point, and worked up from there over the years.

Hope that helps and doesn't get me into trouble ;-)

JessisKnoll wrote
on 29 Jun 2010 11:40 AM

I understand the reputation thing and all but I still find the formula a bit odd(not so odd that it shouldnt be used though, dont get me wrong). Thats just me though. I know its quite common as well, as I know some painters who use it. I appreciate you responding to my questions and no your not in trouble haha ^_~

I have figured out a formula for myself that is very reasonable and meets my hourly expectations. Im just starting to use it so I will see how people respond and if it goes badly then I will use the formula you have posted =)

Thanks!

on 29 Jun 2010 1:29 PM

OK Jessis, let us know (if you feel like doing so) how your setup works out. Thanks for getting back to us.

Ivejustbegun wrote
on 21 Jan 2011 1:41 PM

I've just begun.  I've given away some things but never sold them.  I truly want to make this second love of my life work for me.  Pastel supplies do not pay for themselves.  So I need to get comfortable with the pricing.  I've been asked for a price for the first "real" pastel I've completed.  It happened so fast I didn't have time to think about it.  I've read the comments and I am beginning to get a feel for what artists go through to price thier work.  But I am a green novice.  My instructor says 150-180 is fair.  That would be a dollar for the square inch.  I don't know if that included the framing or not.  What advice do you have for a budding artist as far as getting into the pricing cunumdrum.

on 21 Jan 2011 1:58 PM

Hi "Ivejustbegun". without seeing what medium you use and the quality of your work, it's difficult to come up with a price range.

Artists who sell at galleries usually create a cohesive body of work before entering the gallery - the same goes for doing outdoor shows or any other selling venue. When you've got about 10 dynamite paintings that all look like they were painted by "you", then it is easy to develop a price range and begin selling.

I painted about 2 years, took classes and then began selling my work at art association shows and outdoor shows. My colleagues mentored me in how to prepare a body of work for sale. It required patience on my part, but after 2 years of outdoor shows, gallery owners invited me to show at their galleries. Then I had to raise my prices a bit because the galleries took 50% commission.

Do you have  website and/or have a place to show your work publicly? If you show at group venues, what do other artists sell their work for - who work in the same medium and also are at the same level skill wise sell for.

on 21 Jan 2011 1:58 PM

Hi "Ivejustbegun". without seeing what medium you use and the quality of your work, it's difficult to come up with a price range.

Artists who sell at galleries usually create a cohesive body of work before entering the gallery - the same goes for doing outdoor shows or any other selling venue. When you've got about 10 dynamite paintings that all look like they were painted by "you", then it is easy to develop a price range and begin selling.

I painted about 2 years, took classes and then began selling my work at art association shows and outdoor shows. My colleagues mentored me in how to prepare a body of work for sale. It required patience on my part, but after 2 years of outdoor shows, gallery owners invited me to show at their galleries. Then I had to raise my prices a bit because the galleries took 50% commission.

Do you have  website and/or have a place to show your work publicly? If you show at group venues, what do other artists sell their work for - who work in the same medium and also are at the same level skill wise sell for.

Ivejustbegun wrote
on 21 Jan 2011 9:40 PM

Lori, I work in soft pastels.  Mostly landscapes.  Believe it or not I've never worked with them before.  I did some work in acrylics many years ago.  No formal art training.  Love to draw, seems to come naturally.  So I had a bit of an edge when I started less than 6 months ago.  I just can't get over it.  I see all or at least most of the things that could be better in every one of my canvas's.  The last one just came together.  Still not right but finally better. I do not consider myself an artist yet.  But I'm working on it.  I have my own mini show on Facebook if you can call it that.  It keeps me grounded and shows my progress from the beginning to current to my friends. And I have all of my work on Picasa, which I can send to whomever I wish. Also showing my progress.   A little more formal. But I have many friends that I use to hone my skills from thier feedback.  One of them ask me to put a price on one of them.  That is where I am now.  Not knowing where to begin.  Where to begin.  Who to go to.  Where to go to.  

Ivejustbegun wrote
on 28 Jan 2011 3:15 PM

Sorry.  I have not been able to get online for a while.  I've been working on a pet portrait for a friend.  The young lady that I have been training under had advised me to price my piece by the sq inch.  However since this is the very first sale, and I have no name in the art world, that between 150 and 200 plus framing cost would be fair to both me and the purchaser. (taking a 1$ per sq inch would have been $180)  I took her advice and to my surprise, the buyer didn't bat an eye.  I sold it for 150$ and she will have it framed. I was literally knocked to my knees.  The first in a long line of sales.  There is so much that we need to know that has little to do with the canvas.  Record keeping, pricing, contacts and so much more that your head may swim.  I was caught off guard this time.  I will not be caught off guard the next time.  My suggestion to anyone that is trying to get thier work noticed, and sold, talk to any and everyone that is selling out in the world.  No question is too private.  If the are willing to talk to you.  Soak up all of the knowledge you can get.  It's not all getting the pastel on the canvas, or what ever media you choose to use.

on 8 Aug 2011 5:53 AM

Interesting discussion! I guess I'll have to bring a good looking guy along with me and stand him beside the paintings .... I guess in this century it is the painter boy instead of the pool boy.

But seriously pricing is difficult especially when selling in different areas. I have the dilemma that I would like art to grow my reputation but be affordable for the masses. I have even tried putting my art on tee-shirts to get young people interested my art work. I sold a shirt for $40. This worked at art fairs but most artists and galleries poo-poo'd this idea. I thought this weird because you see other more famous artists (dead ones though) on tee shirts and posters. As a watercolor artist I have been told that galleries and collectors don't think my medium has the same staying power as oil or acrylic. I dispute that based on inks/pigments that were used B.C. up to the 18th century and the books, sketches and paintings are still being read or viewed. The important part is to use permanent pigments and with all paintings, keep them out of the light. I am so tempted to create some literature around this to give out at the art shows to try and change the cultural thinking about pricing watercolor art.

on 26 Sep 2011 7:00 PM

This is not where I should ask this but I can't figure out where to go...sorry

I have been painting on Yupo paper fo years and love it.  I have been trying to attach I to a board after it is finished but it always buckles.  How can I do I withou buckling.  Thanks

mforest wrote
on 8 Jun 2012 9:39 AM

Thanks So much Lori for this post!  I also live in New Hampshire and I'm in the very early stages of trying to network and get my work "seen."  It sometimes takes me up to 70+ hours to complete a drawing so I was under the illusion that time spent figured into the equation.  Glad I stumbled onto this post!  The info here is invaluable

Thanks again!

zepplin153 wrote
on 22 Jun 2012 4:15 PM

I have a different approach you may find my formulas helpful. Also, I made an excel spreadsheet you can download and edit. I go into more detail on my blog but below in short:

www.damicogallery.com/how-to-figure-a-price-for-your-art-work

My formulas are:

The price you want to make  = Time+ marked up expenses

Retail Pricing for a Gallery = (100 multiplied by your price) divided by (100 minus gallery commission)

Cynzk wrote
on 5 Feb 2013 2:47 PM

Hello Lori,

Thanks for posting this article. It along with all of the comments was very helpful for me. I realize that you posted this a long while ago but I still have a question I was hoping you could help answer. How do you go about estimating materials cost per painting? I mean obviously you can't say I needed exactly 1/4 tube of yellow and so on for this specific painting but how do you estimate this then? I really don't know how to figure paint and brush costs into the price of my painting. Thanks so much in advance for your answer.

on 4 May 2013 7:18 AM

Do you sell watercolor paintings and if so make comments about pricing?

on 4 May 2013 9:03 AM

Although this was indeed written a while ago, it is quite the sort of info I needed NOW! LOL Thank you all so much. I will be studying these posts further.

on 4 May 2013 12:56 PM

good afternoon,, the sale of one or two paintings per month in the central florida area,is concidered to be great,, one of the best ways to determing the sales potental in a area is the realestate sales ,, if its up people will be buying paintings,,,,mad dog......

I Like Paint wrote
on 4 May 2013 1:21 PM

I'm very late to this great discussion, but could you comment on different pricing for studies versus studio paintings?  Although I've been painting for several years, I'm only now getting ready to try to sell and am planning to do art fairs.  The small studies I'm planning on framing and pricing between $75-$150.  But I also paint studies on large canvases and wonder if trying to sell them would only take down the value of my studio paintings.  The price per square inch approach would have to change for studies versus studio paintings, wouldn't it?  

Maybe I should just store my large studies away and if I ever get to a point where I could have successful open studio sales, take them out then and price them at a lower rate.  Does anyone have any thoughts or advice?

on 4 May 2013 8:06 PM

I've been getting a lot of new comments the last day here, not sure why.

Anyway, "I like paint", to a dress your question... Usually studies are small paintings while the paintings done from the studies are usually larger and more expensive. If the studies are large, it's hard to present them as studies because of the size. Trying to make larger paintings less expensive may confuse collectors.

If you're at an outdoor show, you could sell these studies unframed spand in a browse box or separate area, while your finished paintings are framed.

Watercolors fetch lower prices than works on canvas in general, but I charge the same price for my watercolors and oils because my prices are not very high for either, and both mediums take just as much effort and expertise.

By the way, since I first wrote this post, prices for works by well known living artists have fallen. Since my prixpces are under $2000, mine haven't changed at all, but I have been selling most smaller works on my own between $300 and $800. I've stopped working with galleries with the exception of an occasional event or show, so I don't pay a commission on sales.

anjyil wrote
on 4 May 2013 8:06 PM

This is a great article...just found it (kind of late....)  I am curious...how does this formula work for digital paintings?  The same?  

Grinner wrote
on 5 May 2013 12:17 AM

Lori, the 5/4/13 Artist Daily Week in Review e-newsletter included this post in a message titled "Our Top 10 Blockbuster Articles from Artist Daily." That would explain the recent comments! Congratulations.

41Ned wrote
on 5 May 2013 4:36 AM

So an PainterArtist selling for the first 35 cents or pence per Sq inch painting a 24X20= 480 X 0.35 = $168 plus $40 frame + Mounting and paint etc say $40 =$160 selling through Gallery minus 50%  I'd get $84 + $160 for Frame etc take home$244 .

Could a beginner ask more than the 35 cent/pence per Sq inch  Regards Ned Baker

on 5 May 2013 8:52 AM

Oh, it all makes sense now... I guess I ought to write a followup because things have changed a bit from 2009. I did some update talks at Oil Painters of America and An art marketing workshop at Scottsdale last year, and even since then ways to sell art have changed a bit.

It's an exciting new world for artists.. I believe more artists are selling art now than in any time in history. I've been selling my work on my own mostly at lower prices, but I don't pay gallery commission, and I'm actually selling a lot more work. I don't have to worry about getting a check either since I handle my own sales.

on 5 May 2013 9:23 AM

.35 cents per square inch is too low for a gallery artwork. If you want to stay low but make a scent profit. Start at $3 per square inch for gallery sales.

I've rarely seen framed originals for under $150. That's the lowest I've ever gone for a framed original in the past, and that was selling it on my own.

When working with galleries, keep in mind that each gallery sells in a price range... i.e galleries in well know arts districts sell higher priced artwork. If a gallery takes you n, they'll want to see that your price structure is similar to other artists they carry whose experience and career level are simulate to yours.

Good rule of thumb... If you can't get $3 per square inch for your framed works, increase the value of the work with increased skill and presentation (framing).

As your collector base grows, whether you sell on your own or not, you can raise your prices by 10% at the end of a good sales year. When the economy tanks and sales slow down, keep prices the same and offer incentives to your loyal customers.

Sorry about the typos. I'll be back at a real keyboard after the weekend.

on 5 May 2013 10:12 AM

Here's a way that you can consider when estimating the cost of supplies.

For paint and substrates.. Which are "used up". Look at your receipts from the previous year. Add up the costs. Then estimate or add up how many paintings you completed last year. Do the  math(I'm terrible at math) and see how much you spend on supplies cor the number of paintings. For example, if I spend $500 on paint, and canvas/paper etc, and I complete 50 paintings a year, then I can divide the amount I spent on the number of paintings and come up with an approximation for how much I spend on a painting.

It's too cumbersome to worry about the size of each one. I don't want to do that much math! An approximation is all I need in order to make sure I'm making a profit after expenses. I haven't included the cost of my brushes, easels or those things yet because they last me more than a year, but I do deduct them on my income tax. Please don't ask me about taxes... I pay someone to handle those for me.

Th important thing for artists: mAke sure you're making a profit on sales, no matter where you sell. Don't price too low out of  insecurity. An artist friend of mine who has never sold through galleries as selling original framed oils between $75 and $200. Of course she was selling them all! She's a pretty darned good artist! One gallery owner was buying these at $75 and then reselling them in her gallery for 3 times as much!

I convinced my friend to raise her prices, which she did... Now $200 to $700,

depending on size, and she's still selling practically every painting.  She sells them from a blog, and at her husband's high end jewelry consignment store. She has also sold many at her booth in Antique Shops. She was previously in the antiques business. Anyway, at the lower prices, I doubt she was making a profit.

Now that's a good example of selling too low, doubling prices, and yet selling in a reasonable price range. Original artwork should not be cheap! It's one of a kind, and can last for generations.

DazzlinDave wrote
on 5 May 2013 5:42 PM

There is a discussion about this on LinkedIn with some interesting views.

www.linkedin.com/.../Pricing-37657.S.236154338

I Like Paint wrote
on 7 May 2013 9:42 AM

Thank you, Lori!

on 21 Jun 2013 3:46 AM

I think we do have the most fair and open pricing you can think of, because the art work itself determines the financial value, instead of the artist, the gallery or the ups and downs of the art market!

How and why we do it: www.kmentemt.com/money-art-history-of-creation,pid,111,bid,1268737387,lid,en,sslredirectback,yes.html

Warm regards

Christopher Kmentemt

on 20 Jul 2013 12:37 PM

I was lucky when I made a major shift from abstract oils to realistic watercolors.  I immediately signed with one of the best galleries in Los Angeles, Lisa Dubins, and she educated me to the commercial side of the business.  Though my first paintings sold very cheaply, she made incremental increases as my reputation grew.  I've not increased my prices in a long time and the following are the prices and sizes I most often paint.  

5 1/2" x 7 1/2"      $1,300

15" x 22"               $2,900

22" x 30"               $3,600

30" x 42"               $4,500

As you can see, these prices are not based on a "per square inch" basis.  Lisa once said that she used the "French method" of price determination, but I never knew what that was.  If anyone out there knows the formula for calculation, I'd sure appreciate a few disturbed pixels sent my way with an explanation.  

Bill McAllister

www.mcallisterpaintings.com

cmlstudio wrote
on 20 Jul 2013 2:22 PM

To offer an answer to I LIKE PAINT's query about selling and pricing studies verses studio pieces I too wondered about this years ago. I approached a well seasoned professional mentor of mine on this exact topic. He addressed it as such, he has set prices for each size. He said it is less confusing to the public. The public is confused when you have one painting priced at $795, and another that is the exact same size priced at only $350. The first thing a collector will do is ask you what is wrong with the lower priced painting. As you start to go into your explanation about one being a study and another being a studio piece, one having only 4 hours of your time invested in it, and the other having 40 hours invested in it. You will bore your collector, if he/she has even managed to stay in your presence long enough to hear the entire explanation.

Figure it this way. Both paintings would not be possible without your X amount of years of experience. My mentor basically said, the public is naive and to them, all they see when they view your work is beauty. To them, both pieces are good, and one is not better than the other. All the viewer knows is that they would not be capable of painting either one of them.

How many times have you only been half way through a painting and a guest in your home sees it and thinks it beautiful? You laugh and explain that it is not near finished. They reply that it looks finished to them! There you have it. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and the public really is naive. All you do by pricing your art by hours invested, or by this one used more paint, more time, or just plain more effort, or it was a hard painting, is setting yourself up for the question from the collector asking why this painting cost more than that painting. What is wrong with this painting?  Don't set yourself up like that. A 4 hour plein air and a 40 hour studio piece of the same size should have the same price tag. All the collector knows is that they are both beautiful and they would not be capable of painting either one of them.

Susan840 wrote
on 20 Jul 2013 2:39 PM

Lori, What advice do you offer for pricing giclees?

Susan840 wrote
on 20 Jul 2013 2:39 PM

Lori, What advice do you offer for pricing giclees?

on 20 Jul 2013 7:07 PM

Hi artist friends! I had no idea that artist network was going to resend this post. I'm away from the house for the weekend, but I've seen the new comments... Which I'll answer and acknowledge next week. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

Susan, Barney Davey has a great book on pricing giclees. It only makes sense to have those done if the sales of your originals is strong and priced beyond what most folks can pay. I'm getting ready to have some giclees made, and I plan to triple my cost... Or at least double my costs for unframed giclees.... Keeping prices reasonable while still making a profit.

Susan840 wrote
on 20 Jul 2013 7:52 PM

Thanks, Lori. I had heard triple the cost, but wasn't sure. Thank you for answering my question.

dbridgescat wrote
on 21 Jul 2013 8:10 PM

Would this same formula work for photography?

on 22 Jul 2013 3:27 PM

I've never dealt with photography, so I can't say what price it should be. Sorry bout that.

on 15 Sep 2013 12:56 AM

I really cannot think of the square inch formula as working for my own works, which are calligraphy and penmanship as well as house portraits and other images.  I work 8.5 x 11" and will take what the market will bear. I've noticed trends in other businesses, i.e., housing, which will take "market rates" of rent.  I work in a flea market so am used to some negotiation.  My motives for creating is to proliferate my work so that the common person can afford it and have some happiness and beauty in his/her life.  I feel my mission is to create beauty. I control what i can and leave the rest to God.

on 15 Sep 2013 6:49 AM

Happypenwoman, this is certainly not the only way to price artwork, so if you've found something else that works for you, go with it.

on 4 Nov 2013 9:22 AM

Lori,Thanks for posting this very informative article on pricing paintings. I have used the same system that you use since I began painting in oils in 2002. Our local economy is not favorable to selling artwork at this time, but hopefully it will improve in the near future. I have passed your information on to another artist, my daughter, Michelle Rideout. You are doing a great service for all artists by sharing your marketing experiences. Tommy Thompson, Landscape Artist

on 22 Dec 2013 4:43 AM

Hello Lori,

I am New in this field, i sold some of the paintings few years, then took a gap of several years and again in this field of art. When I calculate the Price of my art with the formula you had given it seems to be very high. For ex. for one of my Tulips painting of 20x27, i am hardly charging $300 on Etsy (without frame) due to several reasons. For ex.

1. A feel of guilt if I am overpricing it

2. Prices of other artists

3. To speed up my first sale

4. Feeling of What people think about me

I may be wrong here, but can you please have a look at my art and guide me about the prices..

Here is the link for your revérence:

www.etsy.com/.../VibgyorFineArts

I am planning for exhibition in January 2014 and thinking how to Price it there as it's not a online shop then and have to think about actual art lovers.

Thanks in advance,

Shilpa

on 22 Dec 2013 8:16 AM

Etsy is different than working with galleries. One has to find the price point where stuff sells. Right now I don't have gallery representation and find that there is a low price ceiling that folks are willing to pay if I have no commercial representation. People also expect to pay less on the internet, not only for fine art, but for antiques, collectables and just about everything else.

Things are changing fast. Price as low as you can to make a definite profit and raise your prices when you have trouble keeping up with the demand, but don't raise them by much... Maybe 10% a year and see if that slows your sales down or if they stay the same or increase.

on 22 Dec 2013 8:16 AM

Etsy is different than working with galleries. One has to find the price point where stuff sells. Right now I don't have gallery representation and find that there is a low price ceiling that folks are willing to pay if I have no commercial representation. People also expect to pay less on the internet, not only for fine art, but for antiques, collectables and just about everything else.

Things are changing fast. Price as low as you can to make a definite profit and raise your prices when you have trouble keeping up with the demand, but don't raise them by much... Maybe 10% a year and see if that slows your sales down or if they stay the same or increase.

dreamofsammy wrote
on 6 Mar 2014 12:50 AM

Hi Lori, I've found this pricing advice very helpful but I had a question that I'm not sure if you touched upon or not in the comments. Do you ever adjust your prices for galleries based on how much of a commission they take? Say one takes 30% and another 50%, should that be taken into account when pricing? I know there's no one way to do this but I'm pretty new at it and was just curious about your take on that. Thanks!

Jesse

AuntieWarhol wrote
on 16 May 2014 9:11 AM

What about time? If I spent 2 hours to paint a canvas vs 20 hours? I have artist friends who started painting detailed small pieces, very labor intensive. And I know those who loosely painted extra large canvases within a couple of hours.

on 19 May 2014 7:47 AM

I am curious to get your thoughts on pricing my work. My medium is unusual; I make my own paint by crushing colorful minerals and mixing them with a clear acrylic. I am starting to sell a few, but pricing is tricky for me. As you can imagine, a lot of time goes into preparing my materials, as well as 14 years of developing my techniques.I know I cannot yet charge what I know they are worth, but I also want the price to reflect the amount of work I have put in. What is a good middle ground?

on 19 May 2014 7:48 AM

I am curious to get your thoughts on pricing my work. My medium is unusual; I make my own paint by crushing colorful minerals and mixing them with a clear acrylic. I am starting to sell a few, but pricing is tricky for me. As you can imagine, a lot of time goes into preparing my materials, as well as 14 years of developing my techniques.I know I cannot yet charge what I know they are worth, but I also want the price to reflect the amount of work I have put in. What is a good middle ground?

on 11 Jul 2014 12:50 PM

My daughter painted nature in a canvas size 20x24 with acrylic paint and spent 5 hrs. and she does not know how much to charge the lady who ordered it. What's the reasonable price with the frame?

on 11 Jul 2014 1:54 PM

Can I get an idea of how much should my daughter price her nature painting in a canvas 20x24 with acrylic paint with no frame? Your idea is appreciated. Thanks.

on 11 Jul 2014 3:16 PM

To answer your question about the 20x24 acrylic painting, unframed...

There's no right answer because pricing is generally determined by how well known and collected the artist is. A painting is worth only what someone is willing to pay. That's why values for original art is all over the place.

That said, I am no expert at art appraisal. I've been selling my work for 25 years, and my prices are still generally under $1000.

For artists that are just starting to sell work, keep the price as low as possible while still making a profit.

If she has never worked with a gallery or established a price range for her works, I'd recommend between 50 cents a square inch to $1 a square inch.  If at a $1, the price is $480.

When an artist begins to sell work, it's best to have a body of work ready, say 10   paintings that all look like they've been done by that artist. Then the artist should establish a price range for different sizes. I sold my work at outdoor shows for several years before working with galleries. My highest price was around $500. When I entered the gallery system I raised, my prices to handle the gallery commission.

So I'm sorry that it's impossible to recommend a price. She'll have to decide herself.

Perhaps she'd do well to go online and see what other artists who paint I a similar style and are in a similar career phase price at.

Hope that helps a little bit.

zgr8rtst wrote
on 21 Jul 2014 3:09 PM

Although most of my work is in graphite and other medium, and I am really a novice when it comes to actually selling my work, I think the formula you have presented here is just what I needed.  I think I would have grossly undervalued my work.  

I have avoided the traditional routes, (I think in true artist fashion!) being the nut that I am, not seeking any gallery or art dealer-type of involvement, and trying to just do it all on my own.  So I've decided it's time to stop wasting time and my talent and share my gift.

I guess I am stubborn and I've been rather selfish.  I want to have it on my terms.  I want my work to be out there, but I don’t want to feel like I am under some kind of pressure to continue to produce basically when I'm not feeling it, you ever feel like that?  I donno -- maybe it's just my stupid eccentricity -- or how I often joke about my, "schizophrenia!"

At-any-rate, I am glad I found your posting and grateful to you that you have continued this -- I noticed you posted just days ago.  I started a blog back in 2010 -- basically just for sharing my work since my favorite website, Kodak Gallery, went under, but haven't done anything w/  it since.  It's still here:

zgr8arteestsawesomework.blogspot.com/.../some-of-my-favorite-pieces-work-i-am.html

If you have a chance,  take a look -- in fact, if anyone wants to take a look, I welcome anyone.

I really am interested in learning what my pieces should be valued.  I am in the process of adding to my collection.

on 21 Jul 2014 3:57 PM

Zgr8artst, yes, I do feel like that.

With the internet, no one needs to sell through galleries. In fact, they are much harder to get into than they were before 2008. I worked with galleries from the late 90s til about 2004. Now I sell through my website and local shows.

That said, not having gallery representation means a lower price ceiling, but because commercial galleries often take a 50% commission, I am able to keep a little more after the sale is made.

Once one is working with a gallery, the gallery price and studio price needs to stay the same... Otherwise the artist undercuts the gallery, and the gallery will drop the artist.

I like not working with galleries because I'm in control of my own business, pricing, and I paint what I want to. I've been selling for 25 years, so my prices have risen over time.

zgr8rtst wrote
on 21 Jul 2014 4:51 PM

Hi again I appreciate that you got back to me so fast!  Um, so first I just want to straighten out my name -- I know it's very confusing -- I started out w/ my email being, "zgr8rtst", then when I started my blog I changed it to, "zgr8rteest" to kinda accent on the Artiste part, but there is no,  "A" in it at all!  Anyway,  just thot I should get that out there!

So, you are saying that since I have no history, like w/ a gallery, and really no reputation, in order to get started I really should start out lower,  right?  I understand that other mediums, as watercolor, etc. do fetch less, but do you have any idea, I mean, more specifically, do you know any one in particular who might be able to give me a better idea of what mine should be priced at?  I know I have quality pieces and I know I would regret not pricing right -- too high or too low.

Thank you again!

on 21 Jul 2014 5:47 PM

Jason Horesj, a gallery owner in Scottsdale suggests going online and doing research to see what other artists, in a similar situation to you are pricing and selling their works for. Pricing is so subjective.

Do you do commissioned portraits? You might offer a variety of prices for head and shoulders, 3/4, and full figure portrait. Usually extra people is an extra half of the price for one.

Don't forget to add up the cost of all your supplies and framing, and add that to the price of the work.  I didn't do that when I first started selling my work, and later. realized I wasn't making much of a profit when all was said and done.

My license plate was oilp8r so I get it.

Anyway, I'd stay as low as you can to to start and make a profit. Artists are never paid by the hour. That's for those who work for a company. I bought a 16x20 oil portrait of my dog for $300, but it was unframed. I started selling watercolor on paper people portraits locally (unframed) for $150. They didn't take me long, and I got quite a few commissions. Three years later, I sold oil head and shoulder portraits for $900. I had gotten much better at them too, and I had a local following.

I built my audience by doing outdoor art shows and giving gift certificates towards a painting to local fundraisers. The certificate covered roughly half of what it would cost me to do a portrait, so I still made some money.

Pencil, charcoal, and pastel works are often more expensive to frame, and often sell for less than acrylics or oils. I varnish my watercolors, or sell the work for a reasonable price unframed and let the buyer frame it themselves.

Hope that helps. I can't suggest a price for you because you'll have to do research and experiment to see what works. I still have to do this for my own body of work.. Price also depends on the venue. I can't show in a coffee shop and expect to get the price I would if I were showing with a gallery.

For example, I sold 9x12 oil landscapes (framed) at the gallery in the early 2000s for around $900. Today, selling on my own, I'm really lucky to get $400 framed. Why am I no longer working with galleries? Several had closed or the owners retired, and I did so much writing that I wasn't able to get the average 70 paintings a year done to supply my galleries.

Hope that helps. Evening here... Signing off.

Lori