Today's Post is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She is also a contributing editor for American Artist's Watercolor and Workshop magazines and she writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Find out how you can be a guest author.
Learning From My Professional Friends
Years ago, when I first started selling my work at outdoor shows, I looked to my friend, Monique Sakellarios
for advice on pricing my artwork. After all, Monique had been selling her work successfully for several years at both outdoor shows and galleries; she was, and is, making the kind of income many of us only dream of. At the time, Monique priced her work by size. When she had a good selling year, she boosted her retail prices by 10%. If the economy was slow, she opted to maintain the same price scale she had used the previous year.
I asked Monique if she priced some of her best works slightly higher, and she said absolutely not -- because she had observed that her clients would sometimes fall in love with a work she didn't like very much, and if she priced some lower than others of the same size, collectors wondered if something was wrong with the less expensive painting -- it would sit there unsold.
Knowing that Monique is an astute business woman, I followed her pricing procedure when it came to my own work. Of course, I did not price my works as high as hers - she was a well known artist in the New England region; I was not known at all.
More Than One Way That Works
If there were only one standard way to price artwork - there would be very little confusion around the issue of setting prices. Galleries generally have the artist set the prices, but whether you're working with a gallery or selling on your own, pricing by the square inch is sometimes the easiest way to get started while showing consistency. When you're first starting out, it's a good idea to make your work as affordable as you can while being able to cover your costs and make a small profit. Don't charge so little that you don't break even.
OK, without further ado, here is how many artists price their work using a square inch method. Generally, they increase the dollar amount for smaller paintings and decrease it for very large paintings. So, let's begin with pricing a medium sized painting - we'll use a 16x20 work as an example.
First, multiply the painting's width by its length to arrive at the total size, in square inches. Then multiply that number by a set dollar amount. I currently use $6 per square inch for oil on linen paintings. A 16”-x-20” painting: = 320 square inches.
I price my oil paintings at $6 per square inch. 320 x 6 = $1,920.00 and I round this down to $1,900. My frame, canvas and materials cost me $150.00 (I buy framing wholesale). I double this cost so that I'll get it all back when the painting sells at the gallery. Otherwise, I'm subsidizing the collector by giving him or her the frame for free. $150 x 2 = $300
Then I put it all together: $1,900 + $300 = $2,200 (the retail price). When the painting sells from a gallery, my cut after the 50 percent commission is paid comes to $950 for the painting and $150 for the framing and materials, for a total of $1,100.
For much larger pieces, I'll bring the price per square inch down a notch ... maybe a dollar or two lower so that I don't price my work beyond what my reputation can sustain. Alternately, for smaller works, I'll increase the dollar per square inch because small works take almost as much effort as larger works, and I need to be compensated for my expertise, even when the work is miniature.
This is not the only way to price artwork, but it's one that keeps my prices consistent and keeps me sane.
By the way, my prices were much lower 10 years ago when my artwork was relatively unknown to collectors. When I began working with galleries, I had to increase by 20% or so in order for my prices to be in line with the other works in the gallery. When I have a great selling year, I raise my prices by 10 percent. When the economy is poor or my sales are slow, I don't raise prices at all.
Do the Math (Part 1)
Price is a Shortcut
Pricing Your Art
Realistic Pricing Practices
Ask Stape: Increasing Your Prices?