Don't Paint for Peanuts: How to Price Your Art Part 1

Abundance - watercolor by Angela Fehr - SOLD

I got a call this morning from the local art gallery, where I have five paintings hanging. A customer was interested in my Secrets of the Muskeg series, but wanted the pieces unframed. The gallery rep wanted to know, would I be willing to sell them unframed? And for how much?

There is no decision I hate making more than what to price my paintings, and to do it on the spot is a sure recipe for disaster! In my eagerness to make a sale, I invariably price my work too low, or forget how much framing really cost, or forget to allow for the gallery's commission. This time I feel good about the price adjustment I quoted, though I haven't yet heard if the sale went through.

Pricing is a challenge for most artists. I've heard all kinds of formulas for pricing artwork, and I've experimented with most of them. I'll list the ones I've encountered, pros and cons of using them, and give you the details on my preferred method at the last.

  1. Price by Size - pricing your work by a set amount per square inch. I suppose this would work well for artists who work very consistently. If you know that an 11" x 14" painting always takes about 4 hours to complete, pricing by the square inch makes some sense.
  2. Price by Time - you keep track of hours spent on each piece of art and decide what your time is worth, regardless of size. This can look irrational though if smaller pieces end up priced higher than larger ones.
  3. Price by Cost - while cost of materials, framing and gallery commission should be a factor in making pricing decisions, it should never be your only consideration.
  4. Price by Comparison - what is the price of work by your competition? While this sounds logical, it's extremely subjective and varies dramatically, especially in online art marketing venues like ArtFlock or Boundless Gallery. Both online and offline, factors like name recognition, skill level, medium used, location and subject matter influence pricing by competing artists.

I have three more examples to share with you, and number five is the big bad wolf of pricing. Click here to read Part Two of Don't Paint for Peanuts: How to Price Your Art.