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acebamboo77's avatar

How should I price my paintings?

Asked by acebamboo77 (717 points ) January 26th, 2009

I have 4 paintings, all of different size, shapes, subjects and mediums.
What factors should I consider when pricing my paintings? Are there any guidelines?
I have done consignment jobs, for friends and sold them for just above cost, but that isn’t what I want to do with these others.

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18 Answers

Blondesjon's avatar

Be different. Break the mold and only accept something in trade for your paintings.

This may seem flippant, but, if you’re not strapped for cash, think of the buzz that would create. Think of the directions you could go with it.

i strongly advise against any magic beans

dynamicduo's avatar

You can start developing a price by finding out how much time each piece takes you, then multiplying that by a decent wage. Start with, say, $20 an hour, which is pretty nice considering it’s close to 100% profit (no tax or insurance deductions, etc). Say a piece takes you 10 hours to do, imagine its price was $200. Does that sound fair to you, considering the amount of work you put into it, and considering the costs of the material? If it doesn’t, increase your base wage until it does seem like a fair deal to you, both in terms of yourself not getting ripped off (selling just above cost, as you note) as well as if you imagine yourself being the purchaser.

If you start out with massive material costs, you may want to incorporate these into the price directly, then apply your wage on top. This can be a handy formula for doing commission works, as you never want to be put in a position where you pour hours into the job and you just barely cover your supply cost, especially if it’s a commission piece.

When it comes to art, and being your own boss in general, the guidelines are yours to make. There are some external groups which have a general recommended price structure, such as a graphic design guild. But you are under no obligation to abide by their rules unless you choose to do so.

Evaluate your pricing guidelines after a few pieces sell and adjust your rate as needed.

Blondesjon mentions a point I can elaborate on. My parents participated in a lot of craft shows, they made and sold stained glass lamps and glass pieces. They were the champions of bartering. They bartered a lamp for a set of beautiful unique paintings, for various spice and herb dip mixes that lasted years in our cupboard, for gifts to give to others, etc. They did have an advantage in that stained glass is a pretty high valued craft, then again it also costs a lot of money for the supplies and tons of hours of work per item. But in general, they made fair trades which satisfied both parties, and that’s really the best approach to take when trading or selling pieces in my mind.

cwilbur's avatar

Look at what the art market is like in your local area for paintings like yours. The goal is to price them so high that you are making as much as you can from them, but low enough that the people who buy them feel that they are getting a good deal for art of that caliber and style.

I’m not a fan of materials plus time for artworks, because personal technique and personal style matter so much. Recently there was an exhibit of Zen brush paintings at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts: there was a pair of paintings by Nantenbō, ink on rice paper, that probably took him less than two minutes to execute. But how do you put a price on the 80+ years of his life that he spent developing that technique? How do you put a price on knowing precisely what to do?

(Though I am entirely in support of bartering art with other artists—it just seems that that’s an entirely different class of transaction.)

Blondesjon's avatar

@dynamicduo…lurve for the extrapolation :)

basp's avatar

Husband has been an artist for tears and what I have learned is that you can only sell it for as much as someone is willing to pay for it. His method was that for work he was attched to he would charge more.. Enough to make him give up the piece of work.

acebamboo77's avatar

Thanks Basp, that reassures me. Part of the reason I am having such a hard time i because come of the peices are so close to my heart.
thanks alot dynamicduo, your advise helps.

susanc's avatar

I second cwilbur. Art isn’t quite a product of time and materials, but to the extent that it is, you need to factor in the time you spent becoming a person who can make art at all. Hard to evaluate; therefore, better to price according to same-level-of-quality art in your area.

Basp’s husband is doing the fair thing by offering work he still wants for a higher price.
I often price two similar pieces differently. A buyer asks, Why would I buy the expensive one? I say, Because it’s better. It has more soul. It held up over time before I put it on the market.
Guess which one they want then?

Jeruba's avatar

Aren’t buyers also interested in buying something by an artist who has a body of work so that there’s a reputation or potential for one? That is, it’s not just about buying a painting you like. You’re also buying the artist’s name, are you not?

I’d say join your local artists’ guild and attend guild shows and arts and crafts fairs and see what the prices look like for work comparable to yours.

susanc's avatar

Most artists’ guilds are for people who aren’t very ambitious. That’s why they’re showing at crafts fairs instead of in galleries. Are you doing tourist paintings (“Sunset Over the Marina”)? Clay ashtrays? Whirligigs made out of mylar? No? Then beseige the local galleries until they let you in, and enter competitions you can find announced in the backs of arts magazines.
Have a body of work first; galleries won’t look at random experiments; and have them on a cd; do not haul in a paper portfolio full of scabby drawings. You should have 20 or 30 finished works in the same family, plus some examples of “earlier work”. The latter should be unavailable – you “already sold them”. Heh heh heh. To your grandma.

basp's avatar

Lacerbabe
I’m not sure if my husband’s experience will be of value to you, but I’ll tell you anyway.
He had a series of paintings, three panels that are about six feet by six feet that he did when he was in his twenties. He loved those peices but for many reasons, ended up selling them to three different people. That was over thirty years ago. Since then, two of the people died and two of his paintings were returned to him.

If it comes from your soul, it will always be with you.

kruger_d's avatar

@ basp
I was amused by your typo. “My husband has been an artist for tears…” An entirely different form of compensation.

basp's avatar

LOL, kruger!
Perhaps a Freudian slip LOL

Glow's avatar

What I usually like to do is see what other artists are pricing their work and how they are compared to me. If a more experienced artist sells their work for $50 for a painting, I would mark my down just a bit, maybe $40. This is just an example though, and it doesnt necessarily need to be followed.

Judi's avatar

Wow, $50? You should see the water color i just paid $4800 for!

Glow's avatar

Wow Judi…. over 4 grand :0 Where can I find buyers like you?!

But it was a simple example. Most beginners need to start small and usually the professionals, especially those with BFA or MFA degrees under their belts sell for that much.

Judi's avatar

@Glow ; Its beautiful. he spent 3 months on it. I commissioned it. At first glance you wouldn’t believe it’s a water color. So much detail and so much bold color. It’s amazing. similar to this It is her page.

acebamboo77's avatar

Just as an update, I have committed to creating a 3-peice mini set for a charity event’s silent auction. It is next week. I am interested in seeing how much the paintings will fetch.

ratboy's avatar

By the pound.

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