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Thoughts on How to Price Art

by Clint Watson on 7/29/2009 8:35:40 AM

A few days ago, I came across a discussion about an art gallery who had changed the price on an artist's painting.  The gallery felt that one of the larger paintings was priced too high, although they felt the artist's smaller works were priced correctly.  So they simply lowered the price on the larger painting.

There are probably a million ways to price art.

In this case, I think the gallery was wrong to change the price without the artist's input, but they were right to question it. The final decision on how to price the art should have been up to the artist, reached by mutual respectful discussion with the gallery.

The problem was that the artist choose to price art according to a simple per-square-inch formula.

While I certainly can't tell you exactly how to price art, I discovered in my gallery director days that pricing art by square inch only generally doesn't work. It either makes the small ones too cheap or the big ones too expensive. A better strategy is to have a "base" price that applies to all sizes. The theory being that every painting requires a "base" amount of setup time, composition, and a base amount of work no matter how small it is.  So, say your small pieces (ie 6 x 8) start at $300 and that represents a "base" amount of work. Then you ADD square inch pricing as the sizes get bigger. So an 18x24 would be $300 PLUS some square inch multiplier.

It was extremely rare that I ever saw a selling artist whose prices were equal on a square inch basis when comparing large and small pieces. Larger paintings are almost always less per square inch than small ones.

Think about this when deciding how to price your art.

I'm curious what other methods you guys utilize when deciding how to price art?  Please share in the comments.


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Related Posts:

Realistic Pricing Practices

Pricing Your Art

Price is a Shortcut

A Pricing Question

Does Expensive Art Just Look Better?


Topics: Art Business | Art Commentary | Best | Pricing 

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 113 Comments

Jenni
via clintwatson.net
Thank you for your thoughts, Clint.
Pricing artwork has to be one of the hardest jobs I've ever had to do. We have always struggled with this. My husband (the artist) takes really long to do one work because he pays attention to detail(he loves detail!), sometime a smaller work will have more detail than a larger piece and the prices don't make sense. Then because he does take hours to finish a work, the price doesn't justify the commission that the gallery need to add on.
I would love to hand the work over to someone else to price, it's something I dread doing when dh's work is ready to go up on exhibition. I guess it doesn't help being emotionally involved either.

Jenni

Josh Elliott
via clintwatson.net
Hi Clint,
You are right about the price per square inch. I use that method, but the price per square inch adjusts as the size increases. For example I might charge $8.35 per square inch on paintings sized 9x12-12x16 and $8 per square inch on 14x18-18x18 and reducing it to $7 per square inch on a larger one like a 30x40. I adjust the price per square inch if I add it up for one size and it doesn't feel right, I will then use that price per square inch as the painting sizes increase until, again, it doesn't feel right. I sat down one day to figure it out and made a list of every size I havedone or might do. Now I just look at the list to let the galleries or shows know what to charge. I agree it is hard to price your work. If it's too high no one will buy it, if it's too low people think there is something wrong with it. If you are just starting out, I would shoot low and raise them when you are selling well (supply and demand). I would raise them when it feels right rather than a scheduled increase. I know some artists raise their prices a certain percentage per year, but what justifies that? Again raise them when you can't keep up with demand, or you win an award, get a magazine article, get a new more prestigious gallery. When you do raise them I would raise the 10-20, not so much that people notice but enough to make a difference to you.


Josh Elliott
via clintwatson.net
The little percent symbol was left off my post. The last sentence should read: When you do raise them, I would raise them 10-20 percent...

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Thanks Josh, I agree a gradually LOWERING square-inch price works too, I just thought a "base" plus flat square inch price would be conceptually easier to explain. Mathematically they accomplish the same goal. We're investigating the percent bug, thanks.

Jeremy Browne
via clintwatson.net
Hi Clint,
Thank goodness for Excel! I have a spreadsheet that I have designed in Excel that allows me to input the painting size, and then it calculates the overall SQ IN in a separate column. Like Josh I have a list that shows all sizes I work in and what the cost per SQ IN is. So even if I paint a brand new size to me, I just input the size of the new painting and add it into the spreadsheet. I can then see which "old" size is closet and use a per SQ IN price in line with that one. I think as an artist you need to continue to keep an eye on your pricing. For me I think I have to great of a variance in my SQ IN pricing as I get larger, and have slowly worked to correct this.
I think both methods mention so far would work very well. One thing I would caution against is pricing the same sized pieces based on how much time you put in. I can't begin to explain how confusing it can be when you see two 16" x 20" paintings that are price say $1,000.00 apart. You are just allowing for a world of confusion.

C. Russell Anderson
via fineartviews.com
Dear Clint,
All you have to look at is the recent Prix de West Show on who bumped their prices up too much. The collectors took notice and sales were affected. Or you can take a look at an artist like Mian Situ whose prices really didn't take off until Terpning told one of his collectors about him. Look at the record of Greenhouse gallery sales and what a renown collector can influence pricing. For us who toil or are not the emerging artist, sell for what is fair, if it is not moving, then you have three issues: quality, poor subject or a poor pricing practice.
In today's marketplace recently Dan Gerhartz had a show and only one sold...So don't get discouraged. Weather the downturn, improve your art and build one collector at a time as Clint did at Greenhouse.

David W. Mayer
via fineartviews.com
Hi Clint,

It seems to me that a better way to price one's paintings is to:

A. Have a square inch formula for small medium and large paintings, were the larger they are the slightly smaller the prices per square inch, i.e, a sliding scale, and

B. Perhaps best, do some honest competitive analysis to see what artists at the same quality level (both art quality and gallery quality) are pricing.

I have had better galleries in Jackson, Cody, Sun Valley and Santa Fe tell me not to price my work too low, or it is not worth their time and effort and display space to show and sell the work.

Best,

Dave

PS. Love your emails!

bonnie teitelbaium
via fineartviews.com
I would like to comment on the last two articles:
Artists need to stay grounded. It has been my experience that artists catch waves. I have seen this in galleries (I have worked in them and also show my work in them). An artist will sell like hot cakes and then a time comes when they can't give it away. If they are in a gallery they sometimes blame the gallery for the slow down in sales. I have seen this sooooo many times. I live in Santa Fe and know many artists both gallery and emerging. Be patient a wave will come around for you again. Keep doing the work and maintain a tough butt. You are an artist and this is a tough business. Never ever let others define who you are, what do they know about you anyway.

As for Pricing art. I do the square inch thing but I have two price ranges. A bit higher for works under 24" x 24" and a lower for work over that. I was once called on by a customer in the gallery: "why is this work so much more than this other work that is about the same size?" I went to the square inch method after that. I have not had problem since.

Bonnie MacKenzie
via fineartviews.com
About pricing art...I'm surprised no one has mentioned this method. I've known several artists who use this. Decide how much your time and talent is worth...per hour, and multiply that by how many hours you work on a painting. Of course, then the big question becomes, how much do you think you are worth? While there some inherent flaws with this method (like you may spend more time on a smaller painting than a larger one), eventually you know how long it generally takes you to do a particular type of work. With experience, this can be used for quoting commissions as well. It has worked for me and is far less complicated than some other methods mentioned. And it places value on your effort, not size. And in my opinion, some small paintings ARE worth more than larger ones.

Jean Sullivan
via fineartviews.com
Thanks, Clint, for this very useful advice. You hit the exact issue I've pondered - the base amount of work I put into a piece, regardless of the size. I'm pretty new at this, having sold only one painting, but I've had requests for pricing on other pieces and had a hard time knowing what to ask. I'd heard the square inch formula without your twist and found exactly what you said, the price on the larger pieces was just too high.

Even the piece I sold was poorly priced: after the cost of framing and the gallery's cut, I made only a few dollars. I had put a price on it when I submitted it to be juried for a show and had no idea how to figure out what to charge. Still, it was wonderful to actually sell something and hopefully it was the beginning of a trend:-)

Jeff Allen
via fineartviews.com
When pricing paintings I have a friend over who has a good eye for art

AnnaMaria Windisch-Hunt
via fineartviews.com
. One does not base creativity on the square inch. It is absurd to limit a gifted artist to such barriers. No one I have ever known to use this. It has been discussed by my gallery artists just as a guide to the range but then you have framing. The quality of the show, etc.

Michelle
via fineartviews.com
Clint,
I was glad to see your comment about the mutual agreement needed between the gallery and artist about adjusting pricing. Recently, several pieces of my work were taken out of rotation in the gallery and other pieces were reduced in price without my prior consent, despite assurances from the gallery that this would not take place. As a result, I pulled all of my work from that gallery, and at this point, have decided that galleries are not for me. In terms of pricing, I sell my own work through shows, and have established what I feel to be an accessible, fair pricing structure, taking into account my costs, time, and other factors. I use customer feedback to assess whether and when to adjust prices. This system has worked for me thus far, even in the current economic climate.

Sue
via fineartviews.com
I have been doing my prices by sq. in. It seems to take the emotion, time, energy and angst out of the pricing equation. BUT it is true that my small pieces are inexpensive and the larger ones too expensive. So I fudge on the bigger ones until it "feels" better. Weird but true! Thank you for the comments above because maybe I can figure it all again in another way. Thanks! I am not a member of Twitter but I saw Clint's Twitter words about the word should. It seems the words "should" and "should'nt" connote right/wrong" and "good/bad" They are both judging terms which are every present in the bigger world outside our studios...to use or not to use?

Sue
via fineartviews.com
My head is missing?

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Sue, you can load a different image in the "Photo of Artist" section of your focal point settings - choose a more square image for that.

Ann Maree Beaman
via fineartviews.com
Hi Clint,

I started out pricing by square inch but quickly discovered as you mentioned that my larger pieces were overpriced. I've gotten so I judge the worth of the painting by several criteria including size, subject matter, difficulty of execution, length of time for execution, how "involved" the painting is (for example, is it a painting of a pear, or is it a complicated landscape etc.), and just plain how good I think it is!

Sam
via fineartviews.com
Now you tell me. Perhaps surprisingly,I have never heard of this approach to pricing. Even though I have known that my art was priced too high to sell very much of it;I have been reluctant to reduce prices because of all the advice against doing so. The problem is that most of my better pieces are bigger than the smaller ones that seem to sell best for most artists.

I'm not sure what to do now.

Sue
via clintwatson.net
Headless Sue reporting....Thanks, Clint. I do have a photo (sq. format) photo of me in "Images other than artwork" section of my website. I do not see a "Focal Pt." section. You'll need some patient to help me with this, please.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Sam, it's not a hard and fast rule, just a general rule, if what you're doing works for you don't change it.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Sue - got to "categories" "About the Artist" at the top "Edit Focal Point data" - in that section there is a "PHoto of Artist" field.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Although "headless sue reporting" has a catchy ring to it.....

Dian Rentschler
via fineartviews.com
I tend to price my work by how well I feel I feel the painting turned out. Some paintings I am not anxious to sell, and therefore put a larger price on them, regardless of size.

Sydney Brown
via fineartviews.com
I go by square inch, making the smaller ones more expensive and the larger ones less expensive than the actual square inch price would warrent.

Currently I am painting smaller to suit the economy. My issue is that some of my small ones are simple - one piece of fruit, for example, and others are a lot more complex and take a lot longer. I am just not willing to sell the complex ones at the price of the simple ones..........do I raise the price of both? Or is it fairly clear to someone looking at them together that one was more time consuming to paint and the higher price is justified?

Sue
via clintwatson.net
LOL...I like it too.

Jea70n Sullivan
via clintwatson.net
In response to Dian - in the 70s I made and sold candles for a living. One night I made what I thought was a particularly fetching candle which I didn't want to sell, but which I wanted others to see. So, the next morning I put it out with a $50 price-tag - high for a candle even now, but really exorbitant for the 70s. To my utter surprise the candle was snatched up within an a few minutes of setting up for business the next morning. I still remember what that candle looked like:-)

Judy
via fineartviews.com
Thanks so much for bringing up the subject of square inch pricing. I have been using this formula for years on the advice of a teacher/mentor. I love your suggestion of base price square inch formula. I am sitting down tonight and working this formula out to fit my current prices as closely as I can. This makes sense.
Thanks again, Judy

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Jea70n Sullivan - that's exactly the phenomenon we discussed in the following article:

http://clintwatson.net/blog/2700/Does-Expensive-Art-Just-Look-Better

Scott
via fineartviews.com
This is not a "per square inch" kind of profession (though the "base plus per square inch price" idea makes sense). I have a rough idea for what each size painting should run, then I add my "how long do I want to keep it" number. If I feel it is one of my better pieces, and want it hanging around in my living room, or making the rounds to different galleries or outlets, I will raise the price accordingly. I have two pieces that I would sell, but would also be perfectly happy keeping them until I die. Those two pieces are priced about SEVEN TIMES HIGHER than some other works the same size. Not very Scientific? Yes, that's why I am an artist. I pretty much explain it that way if a customer asks why the great variance, and the few that have purchased paintings at these higher prices accepted that, apparently they agree that those particular paintings were worth more.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Scott, I agree with you that the "formula" should be extremely flexible. Some artists like have a square inch formula.

However, if two paintings are the same time and one of them was a lot more work, or, as you say, you feel one is "better" for some reason, I personally have no problem with two paintings of the same size having different prices. You might have to be prepared to explain why to collectors, but that's OK.

Jean Sullivan
via clintwatson.net
Uh, that's Jean Sullivan. DK where the Jea70n came from. lol.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Jean - I thought that was some clever internet thing like hackers do, like calling someone a "n00b" or something. . . .

Joe LaCorte
via clintwatson.net
I've been using the sq in for awhile now, it just feels good to me. True I lower the price of the larger ones to be a reasonably priced, as long as they are consistent. I've found my own "formula" and it works, at least it gives me a starting point to pricing.

As far as using a lower price because this one isn't as good as that is not a good idea, it brings negativity to the sale. You shouldn't have to explain why one is worth more than another, you should be spending that time with the client explaining which one to buy.

Pricing is difficult, it takes faith in your work to find the value of your work. Ultimately the judgment of worth will fall on the buyer.

Claudia L Brookes
via fineartviews.com
I am very interested in how your constituent artists price work under glass--usually watercolors or pastels. The two main choices based on size would be the frame size or the image size. Since works under glass almost always involve matting, and mat sizes can vary widely for optimum presentation, the size of the frame is perhaps not a reasonable way to go, unless perhaps the artist always uses a standard mat width and can take that into account. Obviously, larger frames, mats, and glass can add substantial cost. I would really be interested in any formulas anyone has developed for pricing their works under glass.

Lori Woodward Simons
via clintwatson.net
Claudia, I am a watercolorist, and I price my paintings by the square inch of just the painting itself.

If I'm working with a gallery that takes a 50 percent commission, I take the cost of my matting and framing and double that cost. Then I add that amount onto the price of the painting. That way when the painting sells and the gallery takes their 50 percent, I get all the money back that I paid for the frame.


Claudia L Brookes
via clintwatson.net
Lori--Thanks for the response. I have a question--does this mean that you would have a different price (even for the same painting) if it is selling through a gallery or other venue that takes the 50 percent commission than if you were selling it directly? I try to avoid this, and wonder if I misunderstood you. Thanks--Claudia

Lori Woodward Simons
via clintwatson.net
Claudia,

The retail price is exactly the same whether I sell a work from the gallery or from my studio. I double the price of the frame in either case.

The way I figure it, when I sell on my own, I get the sales commission ;-)


Paula
via fineartviews.com
Pricing is hard and thanks for visiting this subject again.
I just went through a breakout exercise to see if my prices were near where I want them to be - not just the same as all the other local artists.
I began with my standard 11 x 15 size at current retail price, then deducted gallery commission and framing expense, including my estimated labor to assemble. The balance of money (my net) was divided by the number of average painting hours it takes to create. My actual hourly rate was 30 less than I wanted.
I'm working on pricing the smaller and larger pieces, but unsure what percentage they should go from the base price. I'll be very interested to read other artist comments.

Jane E Porter
via fineartviews.com
I'm very interested by your formulas. I don't really use one I'm afraid. I tend to look at the current trends in galleries and look at size, skill level and artist's CV in relation to their price. I then price myself in accordance with where i think I fit into that, otherwise the gallery won't take me on.

The UK art world is very snooty and here your CV has a bearing on how much you can price your work.

My work is more expensive if I'm using a gallery. The commission in the UK is around 40 - 50 and then they add tax. I am therefore happy to sell privately at a discounted price. Clients know about commission and tax so they appreciate being given a discount if buying directly.

Unfortunately it's difficult to sell work in Scotland without people having physically seen it. I mean, online selling. I'm not sure how successful that is here.

best
Jane E





Katherine S. Harris
via fineartviews.com
I tend to price my art according to how long I have spent painting it, and how successful it has turned out. Size seldome enters. Katherine S. Harris

Katherine S. Harris
via fineartviews.com
I am not a "professional" and try to give my clients a good , fair price.

Heather P. McConnell
via fineartviews.com
Hi fellow painters... how's the art coming?

I would love to have more conversations via e-mail with other members.

I pleinaire paint a landscape (usually of the pacific ocean, the rivers and bays 8x10, 11x14 and 12x16 on canvas board) to begin with. Once I have the colours and composition I can go do a pencil in a duplicate to scale (some what) and then paint it on canvas... (prepared with a couple of coats of gesso with a brush for the finish in general).

I use the pricing according to size... $400 for small out door scetches that look good enough to sell, $600 for 16x20 and $800 for 18x24... though I do do larger and smaller paintings... I think it depends on whether their worthy of putting some where in someone's home.

Any advice is welcome. I live in Northern CA.

http://www.oceanpainterchick.com

Thank you,
Heather



Claudia L Brookes
via fineartviews.com
Nice dialogue on "Thoughts on How to Price Art"--obviously a LOT of interest in this subject; we should probably keep it going. Is anyonw good at summarizing?

Here is a related topic that I am also interested in, and maybe others are, as well: "Pricing

Heather P. McConnell
via clintwatson.net
Hi... thanks for responding.

I really have no idea how to price my work... I just gave it a go.

One of the responses stated price according to how you really like how it turned out.

I have an appt. with my "dream" gallery today and I could sure use some help.

What do think about my pricing? I have very good frames done locally that are not cheap but make the piece look wonderful.

Thank you again,
Heather

Josh Elliott
via clintwatson.net
Hi Heather,
When you go to gallery and they invite you to sell with them, I would ask them to help you with pricing. You can tell them what you have been charging and go from there.
As far as pricing them based on how they turned out, I wouldn't use this method. You are then telling potential buyers that one is better than the other and they will only want what you consider your best work. Instead of putting your best work in a positive light, it will put you lowered price work in a negative light. Some paintings turn out better than others, but art is subjective. The paintings that I think are my best work, sometimes won't sell (I guess I was the only one to like it!). On the other hand, some paintings that I finish may not be as good as I had hoped and everyone else who sees it likes it. Go figure. My wife's grandfather said," There is no accounting for taste." I would just figure out a price for each size that you do. Same size = same price.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Same size = same price....sometimes. I have seen artists who, for example, do two or three different types of work. Say landscapes and detailed portraits. It's not uncommon to charge more for a portrait than a landscape, even if they're the same size. In that scenario, I think most buyers would understand why they are priced differently. I knew one artist who charged a LOT more for his pencil drawings than his oil paintings....because his drawings were a LOT more work.

These are all just guidelines, each artist does have to tailor the pricing to his/her own situation, of course.

Lori Woodward Simons
via clintwatson.net
Clint, my portraits were always commissions, and I charge more for commissions, no matter what the subject because I am providing a service and meeting the specific needs of the commissioner.

Where you talking about commissions or just portraits? Did the pencil works being more expensive get sold for more?


Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Lori, I was NOT talking commissions. The artist charged more for figurative works than landscapes. The pencil works sold for SUBSTANTIALLY more than his paintings and he sold ALL of his pencil works (I'm talking like $16,000 apiece for the pencil works and $2,000 - $5,000 for oil paintings)

Heather P. McConnell
via clintwatson.net
Hi Clint... I can't thank you enough for what you contribute to art. I met you long ago... well a few years back at Green house for an OPA opening (I was the one in the leather pants drinking way too much champane). I bought an Elizabeth Locke portait... that still haunts me, it's so full of spirit.

Sincerely,
Heather

Joe LaCorte
via clintwatson.net
Clint, I think that is an exception but not the rule. You can charge whatever you wish or feel but ultimately it comes down to how you sell yourself. People buy the artist as much as the painting.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Heather - I remember the opening (although I don't think it was an OPA show) - and I still remember Elizabeth Locke's work - I haven't talked to her in a few years, but I still think she does some of the finest paintings out there, I'd love to get one myself. I drink too much wine myself often these days, although I haven't been brave enough to wear leather pants.....

Joe - Agree, ultimately each artist has to figure out what works for them.

Lori Woodward Simons
via clintwatson.net
Lori, I was NOT talking commissions. The artist charged more for figurative works than landscapes. The pencil works sold for SUBSTANTIALLY more than his paintings and he sold ALL of his pencil works (I'm talking like $16,000 apiece for the pencil works and $2,000 - $5,000 for oil paintings)

Wow, Clint - that is impressive. I guess when you're good at something, no matter the subject or the medium - it creates value.


Josh Elliott
via clintwatson.net
Hi Clint,
I absolutely agree with you about charging more for differnt subject matters. I was thinking about how I do it, and because my subject matter is consitent, so are my prices.

Amy Evans
via clintwatson.net
I also price my work according to size as well as other factors. I began with the sq inch method and then I adjusted allowing for frame, gallery commissions. I then did price comparisons as to what other artists whose work was similar in genre, size, and reputation were charging. That seems to work for me. I do not change my prices according to geographics of galleries, etc.

Joe LaCorte
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That sounds like a great approach Amy.

Mary Lawler
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I have read articles and blogs, written articles and blogs, consulted with consultants and argued with artists over this very issue. There is no formula, and no system that works. There are however a few things to guide you. Research what other artists in your media, that you feel are your peers, are charging. You can usually get a good high low spectrum from that. Take into consideration your socio-economic region if you are selling in art show or gallery venues. Consider your presentation. Is your work framed with a linen liner and gold leaf frame or is it matted with glass and a metal frame. Is it well done or thrown together. The price should be the same if you are selling it yourself or through a gallery. Never price a piece according to how well you think it turned out. That sends a really bad message. Your prices are a reflection of your reputation as well. I have never heard of pricing by subject matter but I can see how that might figure, in some areas. Commissions are a completely different subject as the parameters can vary widely from job to job. A gallery "should" never change a price without the artists input and agreement.
Here is a link to a good blog on the subject by a Corporate Art Consultant.http://artid.com/members/corporate_art_advice/blog/post/190-pricing-your-art

Michelle Basic Hendry
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I have been trying to post here, but I can't seem to do it from Firefox!

This is an excellent topic...
I am an 'emerging' artist from a small seasonal, rural town in Canada. My Gallery is local and my prices are in line with an 'unknown', meaning I am priced lower than many people in my genre to hopefully encourage collectors to take a chance.

In the last year, I have had some serious resume building and press which will hopefully allow me to raise those prices. If I do - I agree that the change needs to be across the board.

The question of 'value' is one I have wrestled with because my prices are low. I sometimes wonder if I am selling myself short when showing outside the area. I wonder if some people are judging the work as much on price as on quality.

It's a tough call... In the end, we are at the mercy of the market we are exposed to!

Marian Fortunati
via clintwatson.net
Fascinating and instructional discussion. Glad you raised the age-old topic as the discussion itself has been interesting to follow.

I was also intrigued by Lori's suggestion to double the cost of the framing then add it to whatever your pricing structure is. I've never done that and it does make a lot of sense!! (I've sort of just swallowed the framing costs as an "oh well" that the gallery gets.... hmmmmmm.)

Linda Wilder
via fineartviews.com
I price my work according to size ( I made a list of all my sizes and priced my lowest and highest based on what I though they were worth and comparing myself to other artists in terms of quaility and experience)My prices are consistant to gallery's, shows and private sales.
Question though....recently at the 'Calgary Stampede Western Art Show' I won 'best new artist'in the art auction and my painting went on to sell for double my asking price...can I now raise my prices? and if so how much? double seems way to high

Tom Blazier
via fineartviews.com
One pricing consideration I have not seen discussed thus far is something I will call the "dead zone," an area of pricing that is too expensive for average working people to afford and too low for collectors and wealthy buyers. This is something that was brought to my attention by a gallery owner in Sedona, when I was showing there some years ago. Factoring in this phenomenon, it would seem counter-intuitive to the suggestion of lowering the price on larger paintings. In considering price levels, perhaps this should be part of the equation. Personally, I like the idea of having my art being accessible to people of lesser means. The painting a day approach of selling small paintings at LOW prices has several advantages, even though it would, again, seem counterintuitive to the pricing convention suggested earlier of putting higher prices on small paintings. The current economic situation may require rethinking how we determine our prices.

C. Russell Anderson
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Mr. Blazier's comment hits a cord. Since the mid 80's when I was with SW Art Magazine and up to now when I have been able to start my fine art career there is in this discussion a few items missing. First, think about how many people think that the art business is easy. Second, how much art is mediocre? (including mine), then add up to the marketing from major print publishers that sell to frame galleries with excellent packaging. Now divide up the amount of artists in this country, the percentile that even understand the benefit of buying originals. Tough market, you bet. Then take the number of galleries that ship in art from overseas or with foreign artists strap them with a higher commission rate. Then, take in the number of schools in the 80's,90's and now who have no art programs. The 49 and over produce the most serious collectors. The new home buyers are stopping using credit cards and have been overmortgaged. Folks this is a economic reality. They don't eat art. Price fairly and thank a buyer and treat them royally. All this talk about sq. inches should be relegated to the difficulty of the piece like: multiple figures, research, quality of the portrait or landscape. Check your peers and above quality and reputations of good artists. We are all in dog fight for buyers. If your work is not selling, either it is poor quality or poor pricing or your marketing to your collectors is skewed. On the class of 49 and over, MySpace, Twitter and all of the other communication modes takes away from producing now. If you don't pick the gallery scene or choose to go to vanity galleries, that is your choice. What counts is that you are doing your best at what you do. If you want to be a hired wrist that's okay too. Add up all the artists on the blogs, websites and even on this one and you will see that each step you take is crucial. Sorry for the dialogue, but history will tell you what art has survived the long haul.

Heather P. McConnell
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Thanks Tom. I have decided to do a series of smaller works... just for that reason... to sell them! I'm useing ready made frames as well to keep my costs down.

Truly,
Heather

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Marian, yes you should definitely double your frames. Even doing that the gallery still gets the PROFIT on YOUR frame. If the gallery takes 50 percent and you double the frame, then you are getting your cost back out of the frame but they're getting the profit. The framing thing could be a whole different discussion though....

Sydney Brown
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I went to a lecture on "The Business of Art" given at the Oil Painters of America national show a couple of years ago by Bill Bush, CPA, owner of Fredericksburg Art School and husband of artist Nancy Bush. He said that the frame should be about 10 percent of the cost of the piece of art. Really makes you look around for professional looking frames at wholesale prices. I like Franken Frames in Tennessee. They are online.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Sydney - I agree that the frame should make your art look professional. Framing is very important. However, I know of no reason why someone would suggest an arbitrary 10 percent limit. When I owned a gallery, we routinely used whatever frame worked best on the painting. Sometimes those frames were prices well over 10 percent of the price of the painting. If the client has the option to purchase it framed or unframed it really doesn't matter . . . . in my opinion.

Keith Bond
via fineartviews.com
Thanks Clint,

I used a similar approach to Josh Elliot (gradually lowering the square inch price as sizes increase). A few years ago I was curious and did some math and found what my base price would be. To my surprise, I found that my gradual reduction in square inch price aligned perfectly with having a base price plus a constant square inch price.

Simply put, a smaller painting costs more to produce per square inch than a large one. This approach takes that into account.

An added comment. Sometimes the amounts will end up being odd. I will usually round these to the nearest comfortable number. So there is not a perfect correlation, but it is very close.

Keith

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Since framing came up, I forgot to mention - I just posted a new article about a framing company I'm very impressed with, they have great prices too:

http://clintwatson.net/blog/12201



Sydney Brown
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I found it useful at the time. I understood that if I was selling my painting for $300, I should not be putting a $100 frame on it. If I sell a painting for $300 and get half, minus $30 for a frame, I get $120. If I sell a $300 painting and get half and have put a $100 frame on it, I get $50. So it really made me look for a professional frame at a good price. I still get compliments on the frames, from my galleries and collectors.

I am trying to understand what is being said about doubling the cost of the frame. It seems like in the example above, I would take my $300 price, and if the frame was $100, I would add $200 onto the price, making it $500 instead of $300. Is that correct? So I would get $250 instead of $150 - IF it happened to sell at that much higher price. And if I had a painting the same size, and put a $50 frame on it, only raising it to $400, then I would have one painting at $400 and the same size painting at $500. Most of this discussion has been about having same size paintings be the same price.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Sydney,

You are correct. If you have a $100 frame. You add $200 to the price of the painting. Make sure the gallery (or whoever is selling) makes the client aware that they can purchase the piece framed for $500 or unframed for $300....especially if the $500 price tags makes it seem like the sale is going to be lost. If it sells without the frame, now you have a frame you can use on another piece.

Of course the better strategy is to get the gallery to agree to handle all the framing, but good luck with that one. . . .

Lori Woodward Simons
via clintwatson.net
Yes, Sydney - as Clint said in an earlier comment, if you don't double the cost of your frame, you don't get that money back when the gallery sells the painting.

If you're not making a decent profit on the sales of your painting, then your work is under-priced. At the very least, I like to have the same amount in hand after the sale that the gallery gets. I like it even better when the gallery only takes 40 percent commission... then I get more than the gallery.

Here's a good point that I feel needs to be said. Artists are in business and need to make a decent profit from the sale of their work. If you're not doing that, then your prices are too low.

As for different frames... that's why it makes sense to use similar frames (similar in cost and look) for all your work. That way it keeps your prices consistent. Try to buy your frames at a discount.

Maybe we should start a new thread here - on framing... ???


Sydney Brown
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Thanks, Lori. All very good points.

You just don't want to price yourself out of the current market. I make a better "profit" if my 6"x6" paintings sell quickly for $300 than if they sit there looking pretty for ages at $500.

theresa troise heidel
via clintwatson.net
What's particularly difficult is the regional differences of prices. Not everybody from different parts of the country will pay the same prices. Ideally artists are supposed to keep their prices the same everywhere.

Also what to do if your prices go very high and then there is a recession. Wait it out? Lower them? Does that devalue the work? How does one price the work at that point?

Claudia L Brookes
via clintwatson.net
Here's still another pricing topic I would like to throw into the discussion: besides setting the cost of the artwork and setting the cost of the framing, how do you set the price of shipping the work on a "do-it-yourself" basis? I am wondering if the reason I have never sold anything directly from the website since inception is that it is a 2-step process (contact me and I will calculate a shipping price). Even though I sell around 40 paintings a year independently and through plein air competitions. Customers can't use the PayPal buttons because of this--and I paint W/C and oil. Shipping a little oil is so cheap, I could give that away, but a big W/C under glass is really pricey. Any thoughts?

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Claudia, when I purchase art, I don't mind having to contact the artist, in fact, most collectors like contacting the artist. You are correct though that waiting for a shipping price is kind of a drag. When I owned my gallery, I just made myself a chart of sizes of paintings and what I would charge to ship each size, that way, when someone called, I could give them the bottom line price right then and there.

Claudia L Brookes
via clintwatson.net
It is so easy to unframe or reframe an oil--it's a 10-minute process, or 2 minutes, if you are under the gun in a competition--but a large piece under glass is a committed frame; there is no switching out and no frame allowance. For the pastellists or watercolorists out there, we are actually making a decorating decision for our potential customer, whom we may never have met. It's best to stick with some standard frames, and maybe double white mats, a la gallery framing, but we do not have the option of saying--take it without the frame.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Claudia, good point about pieces under glass - not nearly as easy to switch frames.

Claudia L Brookes
via clintwatson.net
Thanks for the comment and suggestion, Clint--I think I will prepare the shipping prices for various sizes and have this ready for potential long-distance sales. If I could really simplify it, do you think it is too much to put onto the "How to Order" page of my website?

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
I think it would be fine to put that on a "How to order" Page.

Logan Maxwell Hagege
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Hey Clint, I have never used a per square inch method of pricing my artwork. When I started showing in my first gallery, the owner helped me set up a basic price structure for my work. Basically we figured out what the small paintings would be priced at and then went up from there according to size. Maybe figuring out a square inch system would help me out now, but my pricing structure seems to make sense. I do notice a jump in price around 18x24 and up, but then again, those paintings take a lot longer to produce and are more major ideas, etc. LIke Josh Elliott mentioned before I wouldn't recommend increasing your price more than 20 percent in a year. I agree with the idea of starting low if you are new to the business. One of my teachers, Joseph Mendez, told me that I would take a beating during my first few years showing in galleries. My prices were low but the paintings sold, which was the important thing when I was starting out. So from there my prices have been slowly increasing in price usually 10-15 percent each year. I also agree with the idea of supply and demand. If the work is selling off the wall then a price increase is a good idea.
I had a gallery that I showed my paintings in, in Southern California who wanted to raise my prices by about 100 percent at one point. Luckily I didn't allow them to do this. Some galleries, like the one that I am mentioning here don't think long term, and have no concern for your career. A good dealer will always think long term and will make choices that are good for both the artist and the gallery. If a gallery says "we should triple your prices" and then none of the work sells who gets hurt here? For the most part the artist gets hurt. The gallery has 100 other artists that are willing to take the place of that non-selling artist, who's prices jumped up and who isn't selling any work. But for that artist, they now have high prices that they can't come down from. Lowering your prices will upset the collectors that bought your work for investment. So don't rush to raise your prices, stay slow and steady and think long term. If all of your work sells and moderate or low prices, take it slow and be happy that the work is selling. Your collectors will grow with your slow price increases. Your core collectors aren't going to appreciate your prices increasing by 100 percent in a year's time.

William Scott Jennings
via clintwatson.net
Well, if we are talking about how to price one of an artist's paintings compared to another of the artist's paintings, but a different size, then maybe a price per inch on a curve is a good starting place. Then, like has been said, maybe 15 percent more for figurative works, or 15 percent more for painting subjects that you can't keep in the gallery. Also, /- 15 percent based on how I feel about the painting personally and another adjustment for varying framing costs.

But what I hear in this thread, too, is new artists wanting to know how to establish their prices early in their careers; and that is all about how your work/pricing fits into any particular gallery. What is the price range of the gallery that you will be or want to be showing in? How do you compare to the prices of other artists that you feel are your competition? These comparisons are fluid based on the quality of any particular gallery, it's stable of artists and the art market it is located in. This holds true for the entire country of artists and galleries and where you fit in based on artistic style, quality and the reputation that you have garnered.

When I began over 30 years ago, I wanted to offer a respectable deal to clients, so I began by pricing my paintings lower than that of the other artists in the gallery with similar genre. I was then taught by my first gallery owner to go up on my prices slowly and consistently through the years. I have basically gone up 10 percent-15 percent every year. When times were good, I sometimes went up 10 percent twice in the year, usually before the beginning of a season. When times weren't as good, I still went up 10 percent per year. This accomplishes several things: Clients will begin to feel that your work is a good, steady investment. People ultimately buy what speaks to them, but it doesn't hurt for them to feel comfortable in their purchase. Clients that are 'on the fence' about buying will know that your prices are going to increase by next season. I also leave paintings that were already in the gallery at their original price when I set an increase on the new paintings. This price difference will tend to help clean out older inventory.

An artist should be honest with themselves when it comes to what their work is worth. Again, it is supply and demand. By going up on prices steadily, an artist can 'feel' the resistence to a price point for their work before it becomes a true problem.

I don't really agree with the idea of a 'dead zone' within the art market other than for your particular work and in your particular gallery. You will find that galleries will have their own 'comfort zone' for what they can sell. If you work is the most expensive in the gallery, you will feel the lack of sales. But, the same work in a gallery with a higher average sales price that puts you in the middle of their comfort zone, is likely to have less problem selling your work.

Finally, remember that every time you increase your prices, you change the artists with which you are ultimately in competition. It is very hard to retreat from prices once you set them, so being consistent in your work and pricing will keep you out of difficulties later.

Esther J. Williams
via clintwatson.net
Very interesting read for me. I have been up and I have been down in my prices over the past 3-4 years. Then the economy tanked and I still needed to make money. I think many artists have felt the pinch of the lowered economy right along with the foreclosures and have lowered prices. I am not ashamed to admit my works were overpriced 3-4 years ago. I was in an uppercrust gallery and she could ask more for the art. The thing is, I put too much work into them before and wanted to charge by the hour. I sold a few but it was when everyone had lots of money. In time as I progressed in painting better and even much faster, I started to think I should charge a basic price by the square inch. I wanted to sell and make money so I went as low as I could go even if it was to break even. Yes, I thought about those earlier higher paying customers, but I had to make a critical decision to survive in this crazy market. I was no longer in that gallery but did art shows. I went to $1.00 per sq inch, that's when my paintings started to sell. It was, at times, a consistent stream of sales and I feel content that I did it. I am still priced low although I have slowly increased my per square inch price. Sales have been slow but I have not been marketing myself lately either. I have learned from this blog that pricing my larger works at a reduced price per sq inch is a good idea. In these times with the thousands of art choices out there, I feel it is best to stay put until I win higher awards and sell more than I can produce. When I take a look at what's stored in bubblepack in my garage, I can safely say it isn't flying out the door. One thing I know from reading many biographies of the famous dead artists, you should hold onto a collection of your earlier good works. So, I don't mind if they are not sold, I have destroyed the embarassing ones, well, I may have missed a few. On a cool day I will go back into the garage and search and destroy those bugars. Meanwhile, I will keep painting with joy and continued drive to create the highest quality work with each painting. In trying to compare yourself with other artists whose style looks as good as yours but they are much higher priced, it is not going to make you feel good. Maybe you feel that your works are better and deserve to be priced as high. Only you have to look at that artist's bio and awards list, art collectors do follow the winners. Not always, but it does matter in fetching higher prices. The good thing is that there are people who simply like a piece of art because it spoke to them emotionally. So try to 'feel' your comfort zone in pricing, if it is selling, no matter how low it is, someone likes your art enough to pay you their hard earned money. Keep in touch with that feeling you had when you created those early works. It is the joy of creating, there is no money promised to you, but there is a great reward of being able to live as an artist.

Helen Horn Musser
via fineartviews.com
Hi Clint, This was a valuable article that I will keep evaluating and thus keep evaluating my prices. I do price my work by the square inch; small and large. When someone is asking for a commissioned painting I must be square with them and give them a fair price. Each customer then knows up front what I will be charging. To be consistent in my pricing toward my collectors I must have the same pricing mechanism for all pieces. This brings me to charging by the square inch; small and large, there is not a setup fee. A large painting will require more time than a small one so I see that as a fair exchange of pricing.
Tell me this; when can you see raising your prices and charging a setup fee for all works? I just think that's part of the work of the artist to begin the work. Help me understand.

Peace and Joy,
Helen Horn Musser

Keith Bond
via clintwatson.net
Helen,

Perhaps I can offer a few things to consider. Your question seems to hang on the base price issue. You mention set up fee, but in reality an artist has overhead expenses that must be taken into account when determining price. Regardless of the size of painting, you still have the same expenses for utilities, rent, telephone, internet, office supplies, etc. Even if you paint at home, you should pro-rate the space allotted to your business and pro-rate the utilities as well.

Also, look at your cost for frames. Usually, smaller frames cost much more per lineal foot than larger frames because each corner has the same amount of waste regardless of how long the lengths are. On a 2" wide molding, 8" of waste occurs by virtue of cutting and joining the corners. This is a larger percentage of the total lineage on a small frame as compared to a larger frame. So a smalll frame is more expensive lineally than a large frame.

When all of these things are accounted for, if you really did the math you would learn that a small painting costs you much more to produce than a large painting.

If you can determine what that overhead cost is per painting, that should be your base price. You can do this by averaging how many paintings you do in a month or year and calculate it based upon your average overhead for the same time period.

From there, add your per square inch price. This price needs to take into account what you spend on supplies (supplies are not considered overhead, because they correlate with the actual artwork). This price also needs to take into account all of the other factors including reputation, quality of work, market in which you exibit, etc, etc, etc.

Hope this makes sense.

Best of luck
Keith


Helen Horn Musser
via clintwatson.net
Dear Keith, Thank you for sharing the details of your pricing. This seems to be a fair way of presentation to your collectors. I'm sure they would understand your need of paying everyday bills. Their patronage gives you the freedom to paint.

My needs are different from you because my husband is my benefactor and helps me to have the time to paint. As I have thought about the pricing habit, I will continue to charge by the square inch and raise the price by square inch as the market will bear. Your guidance in figureing the base set up will be included in the square inch price as the market can bear. I have a great framer who gives me discounts, as he can, on all my frames. A frame for a 30X40 painting will cost considerably more than say, an 8X10.

You've been very helpful toward guidance in my pricing.

Thank you!

Peace and Joy,
Helen

Keith Bond
via fineartviews.com
Helen, I glad that you find this guidance useful.

With regard to frame prices, I may have not explained myself very clearly. Yes, an 8 x 10 will cost much less than a 30 x 40. However, the percentage of the overall cost will be more on an 8 x 10. The following example will illustrate this:

Suppose the same molding is chosen for both an 8 x 10 frame and a 30 x 40. If the molding is 2" wide the total length in lineal feet (including the amount used up in the corners will be as follows:
8 x 10 : 4.333 feet (probably rounded up to 4.5)
30 x 40: 13 feet
(in case you are wondering how this is calculated, you add all the lenghts 8 8 10 10, but then need to compensate for the corners. there are 4 inches used up in each corner in order to cut and join. This is and extra 16 inches. The total inches is then divided by 12 to get the lineal feet).

if the cost per foot is $10 then the price per frame will be as follows:
8 x 10 : $45
30 x 40: $130

The small frame costs much less than the larger one. But suppose the price you charge per square inch for your painting is $5.00

The price charged for the paintings would be as follows:
8 x 10 (80 square inches) * $5 = $400
30 x 40 (1200 square inches) * $5 = $6000

If you look just at your frame costs in relation to the selling price you will find:

8 x 10 : $45 (frame) / $400 (retail) = .1125 (11.25 percent)
The cost of the 8 x 10 frame is 11 percent of retail

30 x 40 : $130 (frame) / $6000 (retail) = .02 (0.2 percent)
The cost of the 30 x 40 frame is less that 1/4th of a percent of the retail price.

So to compare 11 percent vs. .2 percent - that's a huge difference.

From this you see that the smaller frame is much more expesive in relation to the price of the painting. This same principle applies to your other expenses. Smaller paintings cost you more to produce than a larger painting.

Ultimately you must decide what price you are comfortable charging, but this should be something to be aware of.

Best of luck,
Keith




Claudia L Brookes
via clintwatson.net
The way you have spelled this out is is quite useful, Keith--thanks. After some helpful comments recently from some of the "big guns" I am fortunate to paint alongside at plein air competitions (essence (kindly put): "your prices are all over the place" and "let the buyer, not you, decide the merits of the painting"), I have been revising my prices closer to a scaled sq inch price for oils--works under glass remain difficult to price this way for me. The scaling probably accomplishes building the frame cost for the smaller paintings in without having to specifically add it. Your example shows me that you can give away the frame, basically, in a large painting without hurting yourself. I am still interested in Lori's idea of doubling the frame cost to protect it from commission espense. The other concept I am wrestling with is perhaps deciding what the potential prize winners are--maybe it's 10 percent of my output?--and just making those NFS and holding them for now,instead of putting them out there at prices that put the scaled square inch pricing off.

Dickson Brown
via clintwatson.net
Hi Clint,

I have a unorthodox take on pricing visual art. I think that a key area that tends to be ignored by visual artists is Intellectual Property - and for me, this is one of the most important aspects of pricing my work.

I blogged about this last summer on my website, but don't want to post a link here in case that's perceived as spamming. Please feel free to take a look on my website blog [August 2009].

Keith Bond
via clintwatson.net
Dickson,

I agree with you and do also take that into account. I like you article and I am taking the liberty to link to it for you. The problem is determining what your IP is worth. It isn't an easy task. Thanks for reminding us of this.

http://dicksonbrown.com/2009/08/25/pricing-contemporary-visual-arts/

Keith

Helen Horn Musser
via clintwatson.net
Dickson, Please, elaborate on the meaning of intellectual property in regards to visual art. This is a very interesting point of view and really makes me re-evaluate my prices.

Dickson Brown
via clintwatson.net
@Keith Bond: Yes it's difficult to determine what an artist's IP is worth ...and in my opinion the tendency of most artists is to undervalue what can be the most important element of a piece.

@Helen Horn Musser: Intellectual Property is a term used to encapsulate non-tangible assets such as ideas and â?brand values'. For example in one of my paintings Sasha Obama is holding a honkywog [a white golliwog]. Putting whether you like the painting or not to one side, as an idea [Intellectual Property] it's an original, one-off piece of art. Obviously paintings which depict landscapes or still lifes are inherently less likely to contain Intellectual Property.

The â?brand value' side of IP relates more to the look and feel. Coca-Cola can sell their fizzy drinks at a premium price because of the Coca-Cola brand. Likewise, most of us would recognize a Picasso without having to look at the signature. It's my opinion that over time it's possible to build-up â?brand value' IP in relation to an artist's practice.


Dickson Brown
via clintwatson.net
Thought I'd try posting that again, hopefully without the formatting glitches [finger's crossed]:

@Keith Bond: Yes it's difficult to determine what an artist's IP is worth ...and in my opinion the tendency of most artists is to undervalue what can be the most important element of a piece.

@Helen Horn Musser: Intellectual Property is a term used to encapsulate non-tangible assets such as ideas and â?brand values'. For example in one of my paintings Sasha Obama is holding a honkywog [a white golliwog]. Putting whether you like the painting or not to one side, as an idea [Intellectual Property] it's an original, one-off piece of art. Obviously paintings which depict landscapes or still lifes are inherently less likely to contain Intellectual Property.

The â?brand value' side of IP relates more to the look and feel. Coca-Cola can sell their fizzy drinks at a premium price because of the Coca-Cola brand. Likewise, most of us would recognize a Picasso without having to look at the signature. It's my opinion that over time it's possible to build-up â?brand value' IP in relation to an artist's practice.


Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Just to interject here:

The ideas being discussed are correct, however, I have to point out copyright law is *not* designed to protect "ideas."

If you have the "idea" to paint lake Tahoe at sunset, I am still free to also paint lake Tahoe at sunset without violating your copyright.

Copyright law only protects the *specific* expression of a particular idea. IE - your particular painting cannot be copied brushstroke for brushstroke.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Oops guess I should have read the comment more carefully, however, the point is still valid. I can still paint Sasha Obama is holding a honkywog without violating a copyright, as long as I don't copy exactly *your* interpretation.


Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
That is, of course, if I could *actually* paint :-)

Helen Horn Musser
via clintwatson.net
Dickson, Wouldn't setting up a still life out of your mind and determine lighting; colors of paint be an important intellual part of the work. Landscape is also an interpretation of light and colors. Would you consider these as IP.

Dickson Brown
via clintwatson.net
Hi Clint,

Sorry if I failed to explain myself properly. My position on Intellectual Property is not related to copyright law. It's about recognising and putting a value on the ideas contained within a piece of art ...inline with your original post.

Yes of course you could paint Sasha Obama holding a honkywog, but your artwork would not contain the original IP. That's only ever going to exist as original IP in my painting.

On an aside, I've had several experiences where I've had to revert to copyright law ...and quite frankly in the UK protection under copyright is a farce.

All the best : )

Dickson Brown
via clintwatson.net
@Helen Horn Musser: Just to say that I'm not an IP expert. My personal opinion is that typically there's less IP in something like a landscape or still life, because these subjects tend to be more about observing ambient objects.

My view would be that Intellectual Property would typically involve more of a value-add.

Helen Horn Musser
via clintwatson.net
Thank you for your incites and opening up this dialogue; it is gratifying to realize other aspects of our work.

Esther J. Williams
via clintwatson.net
Hey Clint, if I designed a new doll on paper, then decided to sell that piece of paper without trademarking the doll, you are saying anyone out there can copy my drawing and get away with it? I thought there was a basic copyright law protecting my image? When Barbie was designed, it was from an initial drawing of a Bild Lili cartoon girl image from Germany. The Mattel's changed her a little, produced her into a sculpted a doll and trademarked her and copyrighted her. They have full rights on her image, you will be sued if you reproduce that image and try to make prints.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
Esther - If someone copied your drawing, that would be a violation of your copyright. However, you *cannot* copyright the "idea" of making a paper doll. Someone else can make their own paper doll. They can even make one similar to yours. But not an exact copy.

If they make one that is "too similiar" (but not an EXACT copy) then you get into a grey area where a court would have to decide (if the two parties didn't resolve it out of court).

BTW - if you ever have to enforce a copyright it must be registered with the federal government.

Trademark is a different issue. Mattel can't trademark the idea of a doll. THey are trademarking the name "Barbie" in the toy space applying to a doll. I couldn't make a "confusingly similar" doll and call it "Barbie." I could make a similar doll and call it something else that is not likely to be confused with Barbie. Or, let's say I wanted to name a website that sold shrimp "Barbie" - I could do that too because it's not in a competitive industry to Mattel.

Trademark and Copyright law is not as cut and dry as people think it is. A lot of times there are shades of grey if an issue goes to court.

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net
As a follow up to my previous question I should add - I am not an attorney and nothing I say should be construed as legal advice. Be sure to ask a real attorney if you need these questions answered definitively.

Helen Horn Musser
via clintwatson.net
Clint, I liked the last comment your made; in respect to the web information always cover your behind LOL

Esther J. Williams
via clintwatson.net
I am very familiar with the grey area having spoken with lawyers and art dealers before on this very matter. It`s a complicated mess and the best advice is not to re-create something similar to any image, celebrity or creature that is owned by a large firm or anyone else for that matter. If I or any artist paints an image, landscape, made-up figure or any subject that is totally unique, it is almost always subject to anyone using that to inspire a new take-off. I can think of Blue Dog and how much that was copied for one example. I wonder if the artist has each painting copyrighted. It`s hard to control people in this dog eat dog world, sorry for the pun! As soon as people see someone have success with a new creative image, it sparks followers and copiers who want to benefit on that success.

What do you think of the Fine Art Registry for protecting, adding provenance to your original works of art and does that service add to the value of one`s art? I haven`t joined it but know other artists who have.

Dickson Brown
via clintwatson.net
I broadly agree with most of what's been said on the copyright subject ...however, reader's should be in no doubt that copyright infringement is rife, and the reason that it's rife is that in reality it pays-off a lot of the time.

One of the biggest problems you face when your latent/basic copyright has been stolen is that it's you who has to take legal action, and when you start that process, you realise that the outcome depends on how the 'grey areas' are interpreted in court. If it goes wrong, you could end up not only paying for your legal expenses, but also your opponents ...and that's about the time that you start questioning whether you're prepared to lose your home over it.

It's an unfortunate fact of life, but if you create something original that's also good ...it's going to get copied.

Anyhoo, maybe the copyright tangent is a little bit off-topic, and perhaps could be the basis for a future post by Clint?

Smadar Barnea
via clintwatson.net
Hi! this is the first time I've come across this blog, and i'd like to return the thread to the original issue of Pricing, if I may.
I'm a fine art photographer, and a newbe as far as marketing my work goes.
I'm not too perplexed by differentiating prices for different pictures. In photography, the actual printing is an additional factor that must be added to the framing, so that size HAS to take part in pricing. I also tend to price according to the uniqueness of the image; that is, something that I might be able to capture again will be priced lower than what I feel is a truely once-in-a-lifetime photo.
Rather, my dilemma is this: I want my work to be priced low enough for people to feel they can afford it (and consequently - buy it, I hope), but I'm afraid underpricing will get them to think "well, this isn't serious, worthy art." Also, as pointed out earlier, galleries don't want to waste time with low-priced stuff they won't get much commission for. In other words and using your language: how do I decide the "base" price, avoiding the pit-falls on either side?
Could Clint or anyone comment on this, please? thanks and good luck to you all!

Carole Raschella
via fineartviews.com
Hi Clint,

As an artist who works exclusively in graphite, I was intrigued by your reference to an artist who charges more for his drawings than his paintings. Would you be willing to divulge his name? i would love to see his work.

Liza John
via faso.com
As an artist I always had a problem with ratings of painting. Reading the information in this article was helpful. Also after visiting at www.fineartmaya.com I came to know about ratings of different painting.

Paula Christen
via faso.com
Maybe as artists, we muddy the pricing issue. I've decided to view it through the buyers lens. They understand a base unit price and price per pound/discount for bulk purchase.

My framed 1/4 sheet watercolors sell regularly at $595 but I felt my full sheet paintings were under priced at $1,200.

Using the base unit price and slight discount for "bulk", the full sheets are now priced at $1,895. The buyer can easily calculate that this is fair for each of us.

joseph piodos
via faso.com
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Photo Girl
via faso.com
Interesting article, I've never really thought about this issue before. Personally from a beginner's point of view I would have thought that the amount of time, effect and resources put into the work would be the main factor in its pricing, then the customer is certainly getting what they paid for!

Thom Reaves
via faso.com
Hi Clint and everyone.
I have a pricing question about substrates. When I started painting about 14 years ago, I worked in acrylic on arches paper 22" X 30" -because my style is to make the original paintings appear like art posters. At the time these were sold framed for $500. Since then, I have moved to working in acrylic on canvas and I now sell an 18" X 24" framed work for $1000. I've heard that there's a hierarchy that oils are more valuable than acrylics and that canvas is more desirable than paper. I want to get back to my roots, however, and start another series of works of acrylics on paper again. I'm not sure how to price these new paper works though, for I intend to keep painting on canvas as well. I don't feel they should be priced the same because of the substrate difference and the value that is perceived of them. In this instance I think a per square inch model doesn't work right because of this materials difference. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I should approach pricing this? Although the customer will be getting the same quality of painting, should I just drop the dollar amount per square inch? And how do you decide by how much?

Keith Bond
via faso.com
Thom,
As you well realize, your question is not easy to answer. But first let me ask you a question - do you sell your own work or are you represented by galleries or a combination?

The reason I ask, is that if you sell your own work, you have the responsibility to inform and educate your collectors (you also have this responsibility even if you sell through galleries). As you educate them, you are able to explain how and why these are equally as valuable as paintings on canvas.

That said, it did take time to build up to your current pricing. If your new direction is different enough from what you currently do, then you are in a sense beginning again and will need to build up your reputation and price for your new direction of art. So if that is the case, you may very well need to reduce your price simply because the market isn't there yet.

If the market is there - if the work isn't drastically different, then as I mentioned earlier, the value may very well be the same. It is an uphill battle, though because of the marketing efforts of the past centries have made people assume oils on canvas are more valuable. I think many collectors now realize that this isn't necessarily the case.

If you sell through galleries, you cannot control how they educate their collectors, nor can you control their perception of the value. You can educate them and hope that they educate their collectors.

Sorry to not have a clear answer for you, but in the end, it is a matter of finding what collectors are willing to pay and what you are willing to part with them for.

Good luck.


Thom Reaves
via faso.com
Keith,
Thank you for your response. I sell my work through 2 galleries (one of which is closing its doors) as well as on my own. The work will be the same as the works on canvas, so i won't have to build a reputation with them.

Educating customers that their value is the same will take some doing. I don't know if I would even pay as much for a work on paper if that artist had the same kind of works on canvas. I feel they should logically be the same, but honestly, I don't think it will work. I guess it just comes down to what you said.










 

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