Undaunted recently asked me a great question concerning my Best Selling Image post. “Why did I continue to raise my price on the Natural Grace painting, when people showed an interest, but did not actually commit to buying it.”
In truth, I responded to a gut reaction that said, that is what I should do. Many of my business (and personal) decisions are made with a combination of logic and overall gut feeling. I have had many years of artwork selling experience which have developed my instincts.
Water soluble pencil 18 x 24
Copyright by Mona Majorowicz
However, since gut reaction is notoriously hard to quantify, I will try to elaborate a bit more on pricing on the whole for todays post. Followed by a more thorough answer to Undaunted’s question in the next post. And as is my way, this has turned into a 3 parter. The last post will be an overview of post 1 & 2, plus a few little extra bits thrown in.
Starting From Scratch.
I don’t know of any one effective way to price artwork that will work for everyone. Some people do it by square inches, others do it by hours used to create the work. There are loads of elaborate plans out there for pricing artwork. (Like: take the square inches of the painting times how many hours you worked add Your hourly wage subtract your meals then times it by infinity) Frankly this seems all wrong to me. You are not being paid a wage for hours worked, you are being paid for your vision. Your paintings may or may not exceed what you think your time is worth per hour.
Personally I suggest if you are starting out and unsure of where to begin with your pricing, you should go to galleries and artfairs, in the area you will be selling your work. Look for similar work that is in your style and skill level. See what they are charging and then price your work a little lower. Presumably, they have earned whatever pricing structure that they currently fall into. If the work you are creating is flying out the doors at that price, then raise it slowly. You can always increase your prices, but reducing them after you have begun selling can kill a career.
My rule of thumb tends to be, if work is selling faster than I create it, I need to raise the prices. If you have a basement (or closet, spare room, garage, tool shed, doghouse etc.) full of artwork and nothing is moving, you need to reconsider your pricing strategy.
The Hard Cruel Truth
Art is often priced based on perceived value. Meaning it is set using various arbitrary factors like skill, what the market is paying, notoriety of the artist, medium it was created in.
So when you are out price comparison shopping, you also need to consider the medium you are creating in. The hard cruel truth is, work of equal skill has different perceived value based on the medium in which it is created.
The structure is like this:
Color work trumps (is worth more) than B&W.
Watercolor trumps pencil work.
Work on canvas trumps work on paper
Oil trumps acrylic.
This is a generalization of course. A pencil sketch by Bev Doolittle is worth far more than an oil painting done by your neighbor. This rule only applies, when all other things are equal.
So if you’re flexible in your media, and you want to earn more per image, paint in oil. Sad but true.
Both my water soluble pencil pieces and my oil pastel pieces tend to sell for about the same amount, within my price structure. However one of the things I really like about the oil pastels is, because of the way that I work them (and frame them,) they look very much like an oil painting. This dramatically helps in their perceived value. People are really drawn to the look of an oil painting. I do clearly label what media they are, and often discuss it with the patrons. But I believe, it is the look that really helps to pull them in.
A Final Thought on Pricing
When you are running the numbers be sure to factor in whether you will be selling through a third party, like a gallery. They will want anywhere from 30-60%. I would advise that you keep your pricing the same whether it be through a gallery, an art fair or out of your home. You should do this for two reasons.
1. Keep your gallery happy. Be good to your gallery, they are taking a chance on you by carrying your work. They deserve to not be undercut in pricing by selling it cheaper elsewhere.
2. Keep your collectors happy. If someone paid X amount over here, but then later discovers had they bought it from you over there, it would have been less. They will feel cheated. That is soooo not good for building a collector base.