Pricing Your Art Work

I think I get attached to my work and sometimes don't want to let certain pieces go. But the rest of the time, if someone seems like they really like a piece, I have a hard time not just giving it to them. That's not a good way to make a living as an artist, though, is it?

I've had some issues with pricing recently. I won't bore you with the details, but the difficulties have helped me see the wisdom of what you always hear about pricing: be consistent.

Deciding on a price
Pricing your work is tough, especially when you're just starting out. Maybe you're having a show in a student gallery, exhibiting a piece in a local art group's show, or entering regional or national juried shows. If your work is available for sale, you will be asked to include pricing information.

My best advice is to ask around - how are artist's with similar work pricing their work? Then you have to take into account your own "status." Are you just starting out? Have you been painting (or whatever it is that you're doing) for 20 years? If you've been doing watercolor for a year and another artist has been doing it for 25 years, then they will most likely be able to command a higher price for their work.

Then you also have to consider your materials. If you use something rare or expensive, then take that into account when pricing. Framing is another issue - if you've spent a lot on the frame, be sure to include that in the price.

Time is another factor. Some people say not to consider time, but if your work is very time-consuming, you could consider it.


I think most artists start out by figuring pricing by size. Obviously larger pieces usually require more time and more materials, so it's understandable to charge more for them. If it works for you, you could determine a formula to simplify pricing. For example, you could determine a price - say $1 per square inch. You just figure an initial price and then do the math for each subsequent piece...

If you're going to show work in a gallery for the first time (and you haven't already established pricing for your work), I would suggest working with the gallery director to determine the best pricing. He or she will know what collectors will pay for your type of work in their market.

Then, when you've established that pricing, stick with it. This is where the "be consistent" thing comes into play. Your prices should be the same in all galleries and shows and even your studio. What if someone from your town purchased a $1000 painting of yours and then travels to another city and happens to see a similar painting in a gallery for $600? This would annoy, confuse, and possibly anger them.

You need to price work that you sell out of your studio consistently, too. It's common for people to expect an artist to sell her work for less through her studio. The advantage to the artist is that she doesn't have to give the gallery their percentage. This is true, but it will also ruin her reputation with gallery owners. And whatever you say about the inequities in the gallery system and the unfairness of the art world, that's the system that's in place right now, so if you want to work within it, then you have to follow the rules.

Then, as you sell more work and become more known, you can gradually increase your prices.

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