Pricing your artwork
How do you price an original painting or drawing?
Youíve just completed a new work and Ė lucky you! Ė thereís someone interested in buying it. But how do you price your work in a way thatís fair to both you and your collector?
There are very few hard-and-fast rules in the art world, except when it comes to pricing, and you can get yourself into trouble if you donít follow them. In this article Iíll be discussing these rules and how they relate to pricing original, two-dimensional works of art. If you are looking to price editioned prints, sculpture, video, or other works, this advice isnít exactly for you, but hopefully it can give you a basis to start understanding how the process works.
Rule #1: Prices are based, in part, on medium.
Assume for a moment that you are a painter. You probably make a variety of paintings in different sizes on canvas, along with some drawings and studies on paper; occasionally you may make some prints. The very first rule for you to keep in mind is that generally speaking, a painting is going to be more expensive than a drawing, which will be more expensive than a print. Remember that this is a general rule, because the next thing to keep in mind isÖ
Rule #2: Prices are also based, in part, on size.
A big drawing is worth more than a little drawing, simple than that. But remember that Rule #1 and Rule #2 have to work hand-in-hand. This means that if you have a drawing that is 30 ◊ 40 and a painting that is 30 ◊ 40, the painting will be priced higher. It also means that if you have two paintings, one 30 ◊ 40 and the other 60 ◊ 80, the latter will sell for more.
Confused yet? It gets trickier.
Rule #3: All prices must be relative to one another.
If you have a painting that is 30 ◊ 40 and priced at $3,000, and you have another at 40 ◊ 50 for $10,000, and another at 50 ◊ 60 for $100,000, thatís a problem. Your prices have to go up gradually and incrementally, without any large jumps in between sizes. As a barometer, check the price of one of your smaller works against a work nearly twice its size; is the price for the larger one nearly twice what it is for the smaller? It should be, or it should at least be close.
Rule #4: Your prices must be consistent.
If you price your work at $5,000 each and only sell one or two pieces, you canít suddenly slash your prices and start charging $200 each for the same work. Thatís simply rude and disrespectful of the people who believed in your work enough to plunk down $5,000. You can always raise your prices, but lowering them has to be done very, very carefully if at all. So start out with a modest estimate for the value of your work and if you find you are selling briskly at that price point, you can raise your prices overall. (Also, bear in mind Rules #1 and #2: If you find that 30 ◊ 40 paintings are not selling at $5,000, you can also try and make some 10 ◊ 20 drawings that you can sell for considerably less, say, $800.)
Now that you know all the rules, youíre ready to get started figuring out some prices. Sit down in your studio and take out a medium-sized piece of work (this is medium-sized for you Ė which is to say itís not your largest painting nor is it your smallest). You will want to charge what you think is reasonable and fair and bear in mind the following:
ē How much materials cost you (a work made out of pure gold is going to cost more than a pencil drawing Ė you have to at least make your money back that you put into the work).
ē How much time was spent creating your average work (if you create 500 paintings a year, they will be cheaper than if you create 3).
ē What the relative market in your area is (talk to other professional artists to find out what they are successfully charging for their work, and use these numbers as a ballpark. If you donít know any other artists in your area, go online to look at local galleries and see what their prices are).
With all this information gathered, you should be able to figure out the price of your medium-sized work. And now that you know that your 30 ◊ 40 painting is going to sell for $2,000, you should be able to figure out how much to sell that 10 ◊ 12 painting or that 30 ◊ 40 drawing, by referring to the rules I laid out at the beginning.
Pricing your work is difficult and is nearly an art itself! Itís never a pleasant process for an artist to sit down and put a price tag on their work. Hopefully by remembering this information, the process can be just a little less painful.
Good luck selling your work!