Posted on Leave a comment

How to price your art to fit the market

Pricing consistency and structure

It’s important that there is some logic to how your work is priced. Having some kind of formula in determining value serves to make things less confusing for everybody, including yourself. It’s just weird to have price differences between works of the same size and material. If you have two paintings for sale of identical size but priced differently, why is that and how would you explain it to someone? Making art may not be a rational process but your pricing formula should be.

Compare your work to that of your peers

It’s certainly a valid point that you should compare your work to that of other artists who are trying to sell their work in the same market. It can be tough to do because you likely think of your work as being unique. An art buyer may not think the same way.  He or she might not see two 3 ft. x 4 ft. acrylic paintings by two separate artists as being so different. Try to look at other artists with comparable experience and accomplishments as yourself. Consider their exhibition records and educational achievements.

Think like a buyer not a maker

It is good to try and put yourself in the shoes of the potential buyer. That is to say, think of how someone ready to purchase might view the options available them. Do some research and see who and what is out there. Of course, you can do a lot of snooping completely on line. Also, gaining a better sense of the competition can’t hurt you. You may even gain some valuable insights and ideas on how better to promote yourself and what you do. Either way a bit of research should give you a general price range for your work. You can take those ballpark figures and work back from there. The goal is to come up with a pricing structure that works for you and the potential buyers out there. It’s important to be realistic.

The width x height x $ formula

Some artists determine prices by multiplying width and height in order to literally figure out the area of a painting. A cost per square inch (or centimeter) is then applied to determine the overall price. Using this rationale, a 12 in. x 24 in. painting has a total area of 288 in. That number is then multiplied by a dollar figure like $2.50. In this scenario the painting of this size is priced at $720. Using this method, the cost of a 24 in. x 24 in. painting is exactly twice as much – $1,440. Similarly, a painting that is 24 in. x 48 in. is four times the price of the smaller painting (12 x 24 x $2.50 = $2,880) because it is four times the area.

For me, this method is awkward because there is such a big difference between the value of a small painting versus a larger work. The time and energy involved is not directly proportional to size. I have never found that a 12 in. x 24 in. painting takes me a quarter of the effort of a 24 in. x 48 in. painting. It is often the opposite. Some pictures resolve themselves much more easily than do others and it might have nothing to do with size. But remember, pricing does need to be somewhat arbitrary and art buyers tend to see value related to size.

The width + height x $ formula

I prefer to use this formula. It still takes size into account but with much less dramatic variances based on size. Using $20 as my dollar multiple, I put the following table together to explain how it works.  

Framed versus unframed

Obviously, the frame or lack thereof should be taken into consideration. I do my own framing because I like to maintain that control. I generally show and sell my work framed so I assume that as part of the overall cost. However, when someone wants to know a price on an as yet unframed piece I charge less. I estimate the cost of framing at $10 a lineal foot. Using this calculation, a frame on a 2 ft. x 4 ft. frame represents approximately 12 lineal feet so I would deduct $120 from the usual price.

Formulas based on time and materials

Some artists like to use a formula based on their hard costs and time spent. While I agree that both time and materials need to be considered when pricing artwork I don’t find that this method suits me but it is still worthy of discussion.

Let’s say you figure $100 in materials and you have spent 25 hours and have decided that the value of each hour spent is $25. That would work out to be $725 (25 x 25 + 100 = 725) for the work of art. Framing costs would be included in the materials and possibly even in time.

As artists, we are all familiar with the standard questions we get from people asking about how many hours it takes to make our work. Heck, I occasionally get those questions from other artists. I don’t deny that time and materials should be considerations. After all, some artists complete a canvas in a few hours while others spend days, weeks, or even months on a single work. Material costs can also vary greatly from artist to artist.

I don’t keep close tabs on time spent so I only have vague notions about how much time may have gone into a particular piece. As I previously mentioned, some pieces resolve themselves more quickly than others. I personally prefer to have time and material considerations figured into the formula by having it reflected in the dollar multiplier that I use in my formula (width x height x $ amount). Once demand grows for you work you can adjust your formula higher to reflect that. Either way, you need a method to determine costs that is going to work for you. It should be easy to figure out and yield results that make you and your adoring fans comfortable.

Direct sales versus retail

It’s important to note that there should be consistency in the final price of your work regardless of whether you are selling it out of your studio or through a personal website versus a bricks and mortar or online gallery. Galleries, both brick and mortar as well as online take commissions which really cut into the proceeds. Brick and mortar galleries in particular don’t like it when you are selling work out of your studio or through your personal website for less than they are selling your work. Galleries take hefty commissions (50%) and that stings. It’s tempting to offer direct sales at a discount but that can really spoil your relationship with a bricks and mortar gallery.

-L/C

Posted on 1 Comment

Recording how sausage gets made

Smart phones are great for documenting the progress of a painting. It’s fun to be able to record how the sausage gets made. I find myself doing it more and more. It’s also good to be able to show people the process in stages.

I’m currently working on a commission that is based on a famous photo of the Beastie Boys. Yes, I have previously ranted about how much I dislike taking commissions but even I make the odd exception. I have always respected the fact that they didn’t spell Boys with a Z and for that reason alone am happy to pay homage. Also, money.

I’m also starting a painting of a hippo emerging from the water. I love the shape of hippos. To my mind, they are the reigning body-positive champions of the wild kingdom. They look so funny and harmless but are apparently surprisingly effective killing machines. Also, the ears are too funny.

Also doing a painting of a camel cigarette package. I guess it bridges the gap between animals (which I most often paint) and my recent foray/return to pop culture images. I recently did and painting based on a famous photo of Marilyn Monroe at the beach. Maybe the camel cigarette painting is my attempt to reconcile the two apparently opposite directions.

That’s all for now, Nicole. – L/C

Posted on Leave a comment

Listen to yourself

I wonder what advice that I would give my younger self if such a thing was possible. I also wonder if I would take that same advice now. Is it too late to take my own advice? Has the opportunity to take lessons from the things that I have learned in my life passed me by? Will I trust myself enough to take it?

Here is some of what I might say:
• Develop your own opportunities and don’t depend on others to do it for you.
• Learn other languages as soon as you can. It gets way harder as years pass.
• Invest in technology.
• Focus on your art.
• Enjoy your kids.
• Embarrass your kids for fun but not too often (that way there’s an element of surprise)
• Believe in yourself.
• Be a morning person.
• Maintain a healthy life.
• Connect with other people who do what you do.
• Work hard. Play nice.
• Don’t self-sabotage
• Don’t bother with twitter. Please follow me at @hummygoo (please, I’m begging you)

– LooseCanine

Posted on Leave a comment

Business is business, but art is not business.

Making and selling art is a tough slog. Beyond the time and effort involved, the costs are much higher than people realize. 

I doubt that most artists have a clear sense of how much they are actually spending to pursue their vocation. I tend to avoid doing so because I just don’t want to know. 


Between art supplies, transport, framing, it adds up very quickly. You also spend money on things like websites, business cards, invitations and other promotional items. Every time I go into an art store I am amazed by how much everything costs. Renting studio space, as many artists do, is a whole other world of financial pain.

Artists typically spend a lot of time making each piece of work. Most of us spent the requisite time and cash for formal studies, so there’s that. We’ve also spent years learning, developing, and practising our trade. All of that time and experimentation is critical to our overall development as artists. Lots of time, money and trips to the art store.

The majority of an artist’s production over the course of their career will likely never be sold. Also, brick and mortar galleries typically take a 50% commission. The 50% that’s left over for the artist gets eaten up pretty quickly by the expenses already mentioned. Even online galleries take 35%. 

Making art actually costs us money so we do other stuff to subsidize it. Geez, did I say this was a business? – L/C

Posted on Leave a comment

Overcoming Social Media Affected Disorder

As an artist, social media creates a whole new set of pressures and anxieties.

I’m not really sure what to do in order to post effectively. Am I supposed to hashtag a bunch of keywords as part of the post? Am I supposed to follow a whole bunch of people and then unfollow them as soon as they follow me? That seems to happen a lot in the often insidious world of followers, and likes. People can be so awful and disingenuous on social media. It makes me crazy.

The pressure comes from an expectation that you have to promote yourself and specifically your art on social channels like Twitter and Instagram and that you have to constantly grow your audience. Your following has to be big and constantly getting bigger. Size matters.

The anxiety comes when I post something and then compulsively feel the need to constantly check to see how many likes and or retweets the post has gotten. So far my social media savvy has proven to be underwhelming. But like I said, as an artist, I am made to feel that this is a necessary avenue of pursuit and something that needs to be mastered. Ahhhhh!!!!!! – L/C

IG: @loosecanine

T: @hummygoo