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Idea..Vision..Creation..Market..Simple?..Not So Much...

The topic of pricing our art has cropped up repeatedly over the years and I have posted many articles about it..
The following post is really helpful in helping us to analyze the process of creating a work from the initial idea, right up to placing it on the market, in order to achieve a method of pricing that really works.
I have broken the text up with some very tiny works from my hidden Gallery to make it easier to read

The post is by Whitney Peckman and was excerpted from the fine Art Views Newsletter….the contents of these articles, do not necessarily reflect my own opinions, but have been posted here for your information and discussion….

It has always felt like an oxymoron to fuse money and creativity into one word – price..

As in, “What is the price of your painting?” What is the price of an artist’s work? How is it determined, what factors does it include, is it fair, and above all, what does it mean? What does it mean to the audience? What does it mean to the artist?

Let’s try to sort this out.

Selling art isn’t any different from selling widgets. Or is it?

Art is not a manufactured good – not plastic bowls or wood screws or tubes of toothpaste. Art is, for discussion purposes here, something envisioned, made and brought to market by one person. Often the source materials are made or harvested by that same person. The advertising and shipping is done by that person. How is that time tracked and costed out so as to make sense for the artist doing all this work? How does one person, who is also the administrative assistant, schedule and account for such a varied work load?

And how does one price materials used in the work which might be irreplaceable, necessitating a new design approach for the next work?
What about accounting for materials which, in and of themselves, take additional time to ready for use, such as the painter who mixes his/her own pigments or the jeweler who also cuts his/her own stones

These are some of the factors that most art buyers aren’t even aware of when they come to the studio or look at a painting or sculpture, pot or bracelet, custom made jacket or assemblage of hand made papers. The art is what they come to see and it is usually all they see.
Art bears its own ambiance. No artist wishing to sell his/her work would bore a client with the nuts and bolts of their business

And what of the time it takes to think through the vision of the work before it ever comes to production? Time sketching could be assigned a specific value.
What about time thinking? Artists hear, over and over, “That’s amazing! How do you even come up with these ideas?” The answer is, that’s how artists think

Speaking personally, for myself, I see things very clearly in my mind’s eye, but that doesn’t happen in a flash.
I think about something until it makes itself into a clear visual in my mind.
Only then am I ready to manifest it in clay or paint. What is the assigned value of that thinking?
Only the artist can assign that value and assign it he/she must, even in just the very broadest sense, because the thinking is the first of the three major components of pricing artwork.
Thinking. Making. Marketing. I intentionally do not use the word “creating” because I believe too many people have creating conflated with making

The making of a work of art is the easiest part to keep track of.
Many artists work a consistent number of hours a day. But when a client asks “How long did it take you to make that?”, the question must be understood to mean more than just the time the potter spends at the wheel and the glazing pot. It must include the thinking and the marketing as well.
And the artist’s responsibility is to explain to the uninitiated client the three factors included in bringing this gorgeous, unique pot to this pedestal in this studio at this moment in time

Assigning value to marketing is the most difficult of all. It is also inclusive of the widest range of variables – documenting photographs, show application fees, show display fees, travel and accommodation to shows, vehicle/trailer expenses, advertising (print ads, business cards & stationary, videos, brochures), business fees & licenses, exhibition booths (tents, walls, pedestals, lighting, flooring), and the time spent getting to, being at, and returning from shows (because this is time that is not spent in the studio producing).

Ask any business man and my bet is that he will tell you all of this plus more that I’ve either failed to recognize or note!
But how many people looking at that lyrical painting or simple, perfect stone sculpture will think of these things when they look at the price

These days we’ve all become accustomed to discounted prices before the goods have barely hit the shelves. Can the buyer be blamed for asking, “Is that your best price?” Perhaps not. But if it offends the artist, then they bear the responsibility of saying, “Yes, it is” or be prepared to bargain.
Being prepared to bargain means that the artist must know what the price on the work means to him, and be confident in that meaning

So, what then, beyond the Thinking, Making, and Marketing, affects the price of an artwork?
What is the single thing that makes this worth more than that

To me, as an artist, it is the Vision and how close the work comes to that Vision.
And that equals meaning for me.
When I create a piece which meets the expectations I have when I begin to make my Vision manifest, I have succeeded by all measure of the word. That success carries value and that value is not negotiable

Do you have a method by which you determine what your works are worth?
How do you price your work and do you use the same method to determine your markup here?
What does price mean to you as a buyer? As an artist


  • Cindy Schnackel
    Cindy Schnackelover 1 year ago

    Beautiful artwork, my faves are the 2nd one and the next to last one. There is such confidence and spontaneity in your work, and I love the bold colors and unique effects.

    Yes, I have a method; it’s price by size. Since I work from very small, to pretty large, the same formula seems to need tweaking at the extreme ends but it’s pretty close to being just a mathematical formula. Bigger costs more…buyers get that. They don’t necessarily get it that a piece took longer or that the artist loves it more. Also, I don’t keep track of time spent on a given painting because it’d make me crazy. I have several pieces in progress sometimes. Would feel like I was punching a time clock again.

  • Thanks so much Cindy…yes I guess that formula would be the least harrowing to use…pricing by size I mean…I tend to price by complexity but size does play into it as well…I pretty well know how long a work takes, as I work at specific times of the day which makes it much easier..

    – © Janis Zroback

  • P.S. the paintings are quite small and were indeed spontaneously done…

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Philip DeLoach
    Philip DeLoachover 1 year ago

    I have always remembered some telling me a long time ago that if you can’t afford to say no, you can’t afford to negotiate. I have found myself many times so desperate for money that I have sold things for practically nothing and many times given things away for nothing. My wife broke me of giving away art. But many things are factored into how I price my work. Where I live and what kind of market is there. How popular is art to the people here? Most people I know are the kind of people who go to Kmart and buy a pretty picture already framed. They could care less that it is mass produced and the could care less who did it. If they like it and what the price is is all they are concerned with. My brother in law couldn’t believe that I spent $80.00 having three prints framed. Prints that friends of mine gave me. It just amazed me. There have been many times that I’ve given art to people and then never see it hanging anywhere in their house. Probably because it wasn’t framed. And people who get art for free think “well, it must not be worth much”. When I started pricing my work higher, stopped giving it away, framing it or whatever it needed, I started selling more instead of less work. People believed it must be valuable if I put that much time and expense into making it. I have sold more work from my home than from all the Galleries I have ever belonged to combined.
    I have know some artists that charged by the square inch. More inches, more money. I could never do that. I have painted pictures that were 26 feet wide and 24 feet high. By the square inch that would have been a lot but the painting was a mural for a museum and the curator could only agree to $450.00 or else it would have to be voted on by the whole city council. I needed the money so I took the $450.00. Then on the other hand I spent 15 or 20 minutes scribbling a drawing on a paper napkin with a Bic pen in the snack bar in college. A Psychologist gave me $60.00 for the paper napkin. He had it framed under glass in his office.
    I feel like Cindy too that not only size but time and how satisfied you are with the work need to be figured in. I have done several pieces that I would buy back if I could.
    I did a woodcut print that took over 16 hours just to make the plate. Two sides to print three colors. I made one print and sold it for $60.00. I was in college and starving.

    So there are many factors that are part of how to price a piece.
    I never got it right.

  • Philip I love your comments…they are like little slices of life..short snippets with great endings..
    I don’t think many artists get it right until years have past and they learn from experience…I am glad to know that you are selling well now and of course there is the psychological effect that a higher price means a higher value…it’s funny how that works…thanks so much for joining the conversation..I really appreciate it..

    – © Janis Zroback

  • And I agree about not giving it away…they mostly end up at the back of a dusty cupboard…

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Cindy Schnackel
    Cindy Schnackelover 1 year ago

    Yes, framing…that can drive up the cost! The price per square inch/foot only applies to the art. I am taking a few 8 × 10 paintings to a gallery this week, and one is an elaborate painting that I’d have charged a bit more for anyway. It also called for an elaborate frame. I had been toting a vintage frame around with me for years, and that was IT. I have not seen anything like it in stock frames. A custom one similar to it would be very expensive. I refinished the vintage frame to fit the art work better and it makes the piece much ‘larger’ in outer dimension, and overall impact. So it costs more than the others which are in simple frames (and look right in simpler styles). Even though i have this ‘rule’ for my pricing, I do allow myself to bend it when necessary!

  • Framing where I live is really costly …there are many framers in my neighborhood and luckily they keep stocks of beautiful frames which suit most artworks..what I find drives up the cost is the price of the glass for watercolours, the archival mats etc. which is something you don’t get when you by the frames from places like Ikea for example… a result some artists here are doing their own framing, something I will never attempt…
    However you do it though, it can double the price of the painting, then you find out that buyers prefer something that matches their home…in the end I get simple gold wood frames for my watercolours and I leave the acrylics unframed..the buyer can then leave them like that or frame them to match their decor..
    Of course selling online avoids all that, so it’s not too much of a worry for me these days..

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Philip DeLoach
    Philip DeLoachover 1 year ago

    Cindy, all rules have exceptions. I think you showed how creativity and inventiveness can enhance the whole art experience without costing an arm and a leg.

  • In my decorative painting days I used to scour the shops that sold film props…they always had tons of elaborate frames that just needed a bit of touching up to surround mirrors or large paintings…a bit of imagination helps when things are so costly..

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Jim Phillips
    Jim Phillipsover 1 year ago

    I too price by size and by reputation. My commission work is slightly higher that the other. I’m always reminded of the story of Picasso. It is said that a lady in Chicago restaurant approached him and asked that he quickly sketch something onto a napkin for her. He nodded and quickly sketched out a drawing signed it and held it out towards the lady and said, “This will be for $1000 dollars.” Surprised the lady replied, “but it only took you a minute to do it.” Picasso responded with, “I’m sorry madam, I must correct you…. it took me a lifetime!” Whether this is an urban legend or not it still carries with it a powerful lesson.

  • Whether it’s a myth or not it makes perfect did take him a lifetime to get to the stage where he could paint something so quickly…it takes a whole lot of years to develop that kind of skill..Jim thanks so much for your input to the discussion…

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Lisa Gibson
    Lisa Gibsonover 1 year ago

    Interesting discussion and I’m thankful to be able to read all of your perspectives. I am new to art and just now getting proficient enough to start thinking about selling. I have given everything away so far and my hubby says I’d better stop ;) So much to think about!

  • Lots to think about and I agree with your husband that you should stop giving them away…thanks for joining the discussion..

    – © Janis Zroback