Pricing your art (and soul).


As both a curator and an artist, it's come to my attention that pricing artwork is a bit of a soul crushing exercise. There's no real formula or method I've come across that is a 'one-size-fits-all' approach. On one hand, if I underprice my artwork and it sells, I don't make as much sweet sweet cashola. But if I price it too high, it might not sell at all. And what if other people think my work isn't good enough to justify the price? Or what if I price it too low and people think I'm an amateur?


These are some of the thoughts that plague myself and many artists that I've worked with in the past. As an emerging artist, one of the biggest hurdles can be self doubt and lack of confidence. Two years ago I had no idea what I was doing with my art, and never even dared to imagine myself exhibiting in galleries - let alone actually selling artwork. 20 months and 5 exhibitions later (with 3 more to come in 2016) I've well and truly broken through my self doubt as an artist. Sure, I still constantly wonder if I'm good enough and figure that it's all been a fluke up until now. But I've realised something very important - failure is a stepping stone on the way to success. Corny as hell, but when you really wrap your head around it, nothing is so scary after all.

Anyway, once I gained some self confidence, pricing my artwork became a hell of a lot easier. Because really, who cares if you price it 'wrong?' There is no wrong! If it doesn't sell, you'll learn something. If it does sell, you'll learn something. And eventually you'll figure out a pricing system that works for you. When pricing my artwork, I take a few things into consideration: Comparison First thing I do when pricing my artwork is check the other prices at the place I'm exhibiting. See what paintings of your size and style have sold for there in the past. This is a good starting point. Also take into account what your paintings have sold for in the past (if you've sold any) because consistency is important in the long run. Time & Materials

Next, I look at how much my materials cost. The canvas cost me $10, new brush for $4 and paints for $16. So I know my painting needs to be priced at at least $30 to cover my materials. And how long did I spend on it? About 5 hours. Now, I wouldn't recommend focusing on the time component too much - as an artist you're never going to make an hourly rate. But it can be a good indication. This painting took me 5 hours, so maybe at $20 a hour plus materials... about $150 might be a good price! Size

Sometimes big paintings can take no time at all, and small paintings can take a million years. So again, you can't price based solely off the size. But take it into consideration. I've sold a 30x30cm painting for $500, and a 100x70cm painting for $200. But the quality and time spent on each one differed greatly. Keep in mind that two paintings of similar size and quality should be priced about the same.

Commission

Most of the time, it's going to cost you to exhibit somewhere. Whether you're at a market stall, a local cafe or a gallery - usually they'll either charge you up front or take a commission on sales. This is almost unavoidable. Trying to include this cost in the sale of the artwork doesn't really work for me - usually bumps up the prices too high. Having a day job is pretty much the only way I'm able to fund my art, and certainly takes a lot of pressure off covering costs such as these. Especially when you're starting out!

Hope my ramblings were mildly helpful! Ultimately, you're probably going to feel uncomfortable pricing your art to begin with. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. When in doubt, I would always under-price my work rather than overpricing. Because I'd rather sell it to someone who loves it than put it in the monstrous art pile in the corner of my room. Does anyone have any more tips about pricing art they'd like to share? Any advice would be awesome!


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