For some artists, the hardest thing in painting isn’t drawing or color-mixing but how to price their work.
|The Dooryard, 11x14, oil on birch panel, is available through Parrsboro Creative's PIPAF in Isolation, here. Don't panic; the prices are in Canadian dollars.|
A student has someone interested in one of his paintings. “How do I know how much to charge?” he asked. That’s a difficult question in normal times and an impossible one right now.
A British study says that the arts are being hit twice as hard as the overall economy. Meanwhile, other sectors of the economy are booming. The stock market rebounded quickly. Housing remains a seller’s market, with demand outstripping supply.
Nobody knows how this will affect painting sales, least of all me.
A proper price is the meeting point between how much you can produce of the product and how much demand there is for it. If you can’t keep your paintings stocked, you’re charging too little. If your studio is full of unsold work, you’re either charging too much or not putting enough effort into marketing.
|Summer Home, 11x14, oil on birch panel, is available through Parrsboro Creative's PIPAF in Isolation, here.|
Art sales are regional. If you live in a community with an aging population and a prestigious art school, you’re going to have low demand and high supply. If you live in a booming new city, you will have more demand and prices will be higher.
A painting’s value depends on the artist’s prominence. Most artists are terrible judges of their own work, seesawing between believing they’re geniuses and thinking they’re hopeless. Such subjective judgments hinder their ability to price their work.
You can simplify the problem by setting aside your emotions and basing your selling price on your selling history. How do you do that if you’ve never sold anything before? Survey other artists with the same level of experience and set your first prices in line with theirs. Visit galleries, plein air events and art fairs. If you see a person whose work seems similar to yours, find his resume online and check his experience. Know enough to be able to rank events. Painting in Plein Air Easton is not the same as painting your local Paint the Town.
Charitable auctions are a good way to leverage your talent to help others. They provide a sales history to new artists. (But they aren’t tax deductible contributions.)
|Six Bucks a Pound, 12x16, oil on panel, is available through Parrsboro Creative's PIPAF in Isolation, here.|
Let’s say you gave an 8x10 watercolor to your local historical society, which turned around and sold it for $100. Great! You have a sales history (albeit a limited and imperfect one) from which to calculate prices. Just figure out the value per square inch and calculate from there.
Square inch is the height times the width. That means your 8x10 painting is 80 square inches. Dividing the $100 selling price by 80 gives you a value of $1.25/square inch.
To use this to calculate other sizes, you would end up with:
6x8 is 48 square inches.
48 x $1.25 = $60
In practice, my price/sq. inch gets lower the larger I go. This reflects my working and marketing costs, some of which are fixed. If you started with my example, above, a 3x4” painting would more reasonably sell for $3 a square inch or $36, and a 48x48” painting for $.75 a square inch, or $1700.
|Fogged in, 8x10, oil on birch panel, is available through Parrsboro Creative's PIPAF in Isolation, but it's not on the website. Contact them directly if you're interested.|
Charity sales are known for seriously underpricing work, but it’s better to start low and work your way higher. Periodically review your prices, and make sure you have a copy with you at all times.
Once you have a price guide, it should be absolute. Adjust it fractionally for family members (or just give them the painting), but use the same prices everywhere you sell.
|Once you've created a price list, keep it handy and updated.|
Continuously update your prices based on your average sale prices for the prior year or two. The goal of every artist ought to be to sell at steadily rising prices. When you find yourself “painting on a treadmill” to have enough work for your next show, it’s definitely time to charge more.
And don't explain your prices. Does anyone ever tell Christian Louboutin that $1695 is a ridiculous price for a pair of mesh ankle boots? No; they either understand Louboutin’s market or they don’t buy designer shoes.
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