This is probably one of the things that is most confusing for up-and-coming Artists, and even on occasions for those that have been in the industry for a while.
You have to be realistic in your approach to pricing work and take into account a number of factors that affect the end price of what you create.
You must also be able to assess your Art world qualifications, the time you have been in the business, and yes I do say business, as what Artists don't understand is that the majority of people that invest or purchase your work are generally going to be left-brained people, the ones that went out and made business as part of the creed for life.
Do you think you are as good as Picasso or Dali and if so, do you think you are going to get prices in the millions? Not a chance, so be realistic with your pricing.
One of the things that prevent an Artist from looking at their work objectively is their ego. Some people in the Art world have got some ginormous egos.
I'm sure you have come across the precious ones at some stage in your wanderings through the Art world. I have met many of them and fortunately it enabled me to look at myself over time, and helped me realize that as much as people pat you on the back on occasions due to your ability, in the end, I am only as good as the next picture I paint. The publicity that comes from my life and my work all has to be put into perspective in the end.
These false expectations some Artists have can be extremely detrimental to their work in the end and regardless of any style of Art, none of us can stand and judge another's work. This can alienate an Artist from the potential to learn and exchange ideas and also send those that would be interested in collecting your work rapidly in the opposite direction.
I think a great place to start is to look at the pricing of work in as many galleries as you can, ask the gallery owners why this particular Artist gets the prices they do, and for heaven's sake, don't tell them you are an Artist. You simply won't get the time of day from them then, as they are acutely aware that the majority of Artists can't afford most things on their walls. A little sneaky I know, but will serve you well in the end.
Many Artists make the mistake of equating dollar values with emotional and physiological factors, how you have poured your soul into a piece and how this painting will change the way the world sees itself.
Placing personal values on the price of a piece will by no means ever guarantee you will sell the piece and galleries and buyers will look at your pricing very critically in the end with the understanding that you do not have a realistic approach to your work in the commercial arena.
There will be some pieces that an Artist will feel particularly close to and if these pieces are priced too high in an exhibition it will make it difficult to sell other work around it. Leave them at home unless you are willing to judge the price of them the same as you would your other work.
Consistency in pricing is a cornerstone of successful selling.
There are a number of things that need to be factored in when coming to a realistic price of one's work, not all are essential, but most will need to be considered when pricing your work.
Do you have a degree of some sort? This is always a tricky and sticky subject, not just to buyers but also for Artists, as many Artists do not have degrees behind their names. In saying that, you absolutely do not need a degree to become a successful Artist by any means. In fact most of the really talented and successful Artists in the world do not have any degrees what so ever. I know a number of them across the Planet. In saying this, education of any type is a wonderful gift you can bestow on yourself, so any chance you do get to learn make sure you soak it up as much as possible.
Old man time:
I have been painting for thirty years and I reckon I still have another few decades before my apprenticeship is over. I remember an Artist from the states that had been drawing like a 7-year-old child his whole career, 60 years. His work really does look like a kid did it, but the fact that he had been doing it for so long placed enormous value on his work. So whether you like it or not this is one of those careers that only a very few get noticed at a young age.
Awards and Prizes:
Always nice to know that after entering your work in a competition, that a complete stranger would come along and award you a first or second place. The Art world looks very kindly on people winning awards and I must admit, particularly in this country. It can enable you to fast track your career very quickly and put you in the public light to enable your prices to climb.
Not always essential, but something that will help your public persona.
A great source for information on Art exhibitions and prizes is the web site
A bit like a roller coaster, it just depends on which decade you are in sometimes, as it does seem to change in ten year or so cycles. You are obviously not going to sell a wildlife painting in a mostly contemporary Abstract gallery, so the availability of galleries that can display your work can be limited sometimes, this can also affect pricing as well.
Are you painting in watercolours, oils, acrylics, pastels, pencil, Graphite? All of these mediums are going to have varying prices associated with them.
Of course the oils, probably the highest, due to the longevity and lustre that Oils can have compared to the others. Also what is the piece painted or drawn on as well, you need to factor all of your costs into the final price and expensive materials will obviously demand a higher price for the work as well.
Not something that all Artists do, but when you do, make sure you do it properly. I have seen really good pieces that have had really bad frames around them and have still had unrealistic prices on them.
The presentation of your work is paramount if you expect to sell anything at all. If something looks like it is shoddy and cheap, then that's exactly what the buyer is going to see as well.
This of course is a formula that I have developed over the years that I feel is a realistic way of looking at my pricing. If you use this you will come to a price that your feelings might not like but your bank account will in the end.
I sold a large piece "The Truth" about two years ago, it was 2m x 5.5 m in size; a big painting for any wall. It sold to a private collector for $65,000.00; a lot of money in any mans terms but one that I justified with some facts.
I have been doing this for thirty years. I think they get now that I'm really serious about this whole Art thing.
How long did it take me to create this piece? All up it was about four months from start to finish. I worked about 8 hours a day on it, about six days a week. Regardless of the emotional message in it, I cannot charge for that, the client mostly doesn't care too much about that, but just justifying the price.
That came out to 768 hours from building and stretching the canvas to the final signature on the bottom. I have worked out a formula based on my age in the business, prizes won and costs of materials, paint, canvas, frames etc.
Realistically you have to look at this like any other business; you get paid for your work produced not because you are an Artist and consider yourself special. Of course we all know that you are, but to make a living out of this we will leave that out for the moment.
I feel that at my age now and the experience I have had with my career that my hourly value for my work is about $85 an hour.
Remembering that even this price may not be realistic when it comes to the gallery commission on top and for this piece I factored the cost of material into the final price
I think for the first 5 years of your career you should look at $30 an hour
5-10 years $45
10-15 years $55
15-20 years $65 to $70
20 years and up $85 to $100
So if you are in your first 5 years of your career and you have spent 10 hours on a piece of work $30 x 10 hours will give you $300 for time spent, Plus materials say $60 for canvas and paints and a $120 for frame gives you a total of $480.00
Now depending on the commission a gallery takes, let's say 40%.
$480 divided by 6(60%) equals $80 x 4 for your 40% = $320.00
$480 + $320 = A Gallery price = $800
If your reputation of course begins to increase and you are winning major prizes in your career, say two or more in that 5-year span, and the same for each five years, then I would recommend a 10% increase on top of costs you may come up with. Adding 10% for each five years, 10-15, 20% etc.
Some people say that a 10 to 25% increase each year is something that you would look at, but realistically if you were to do this by the time you got to my age now and after thirty years, your prices would be astronomical.
10% per annum I think is a realistic percentage to aim at.
If you add all of those together over time you will come to some prices that should enable you to price your work correctly.
Remember you can always put them up slightly, but it is very difficult to justify dropping your prices to clients that have bought your work in the past when times get tough, slow and steady will keep you in the race and keep you happily painting as well.
I have been painting for 30 years. I have had many exhibitions world wide. My work is seen and sold in over 70 countries in one form or another. I work with 4 licensing agents and also do a TV show in the United States that sells my work to approx 70 million people, four times a year. I have a number of books out on my work and lecture to other Artists on how to be successful in this difficult industry.|
I now currently produce my own TV show on Artists in Australia, Put Some Colour In Your Life, that is potentially seen by 22 million viewers a week.
My web sites are
If anyone is interested in purchasing prints of my work not listed here, please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org