Establishing the retail value of artwork is one of the most confusing tasks a beginning artist can undertake. There are many possible approaches to this problem and I plan to discuss a couple of the most basic within the text of this article. The methods outlined below have their foundation in substantive factors and leave emotional attachment out. Pricing artwork based upon how “good” an artist thinks it is leads to a very sloppy and inconsistent approach that can leave collectors confused.
Whether one is a seasoned professional or a rank amateur, it is often pertinent to survey the current marketplace to discover what similar artists are using as a pricing model. If your peers are selling their work for much less than what you are expecting to receive, you might think about adjusting your prices appropriately. If, however, you seem to price your artwork lower than pieces of equal quality, your prices may need a slight increase. Bear in mind, however, that the price of art can often be affected by an artist’s reputation in the marketplace. Just because you create work that is perceived to be as good or better than a given medium’s master, doesn’t mean your paintings will sell for millions of dollars.
For those who prefer a more scientific approach than the speculative comparison method, there are some typical business formula that can really help. It is not uncommon for artists to simply add the cost of all their materials, double that number, set up an hourly wage for their time, and add the hours it took to complete the work multiplied by the established wage. Often, a percentage of some overhead costs gets added to the equation if the artist pays studio rent or expects to pay a gallery commission after the sale. In other words:
It is not unusual to become confused about what number to choose for an hourly wage. The simple answer is “What do you think your time is worth?” However, if you would like to know what other artists are making in my country, take a look at the chart below from the United States Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics from May of 2012:
The pricing determination method above assumes that larger artwork takes longer to create than smaller pieces. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and adjustments will be required if one desires proper compensation for one’s time and expertise. Because of this artwork dimensional quandary, there is another pricing method that is fairly popular.
In order to price artwork while accounting for the dimensions of the piece, artists created another equation:
The “Predetermined Value Per Inch” variable of the above formula is often also referred to as an artist’s “value in the marketplace.” I have seen artists use anywhere from $1 USD to $6 USD for this mathematical factor. As an artist’s reputation increases and their work is in greater demand, this value should theoretically increase. While this method works for some people, I don’t prefer it for pricing my work. This equation appears to be more commonly used by oil and acrylic artists than by watercolorists.
As a watercolorist, the pricing method I have chosen to use is to simply price my work based upon size. I usually mark large paintings at one price, 10″ x 14″ (25.4cm 35.6cm) pieces at another price, and 5″ x 7″ (12.7cm x 17.8cm) pieces at yet another price, etc… This allows me to maintain a consistent value for my work and collectors know exactly what to expect. I roughly arrived at my pricing figures by utilizing the hourly wage calculation method above combined with a marketplace comparison. Several artists have suggested that my prices are too low but I am happy with my current rate of sales and would rather have my work getting into collectors’ homes than to have it gathering dust in my studio. Perhaps, however, the future will see me raising my prices as demand for my work broadens.
Ultimately, pricing artwork is a very personal and complex procedure and as an artist gains reputation within the marketplace, their work may continue to escalate in price. This element, however, is a difficult one to assess and really is based upon rate of sales, current economic conditions, etc…
If you are an artist and you have a unique pricing method or a more effective variation of any of those mentioned above, feel free to leave a comment in the section below. I would love to hear your opinion.Tagged with: art, business, ecommerce, marketing, painting, sell