Don't Paint for Peanuts: How to Price Your Art Part 2

Yesterday I posted Don't Paint for Peanuts: How to Price Your Art Part 1.
Here's part two of Don't Paint for Peanuts:

Nap at Kinuseo - watercolor by Angela Fehr

5. Pricing by Circumstance - If you value your reputation, you must guard against playing fast and loose with pricing. If you have work in two galleries, and one charges 50% commission and the other 40%, do not price your work 10 percent lower at the second gallery - not if you want to maintain a good relationship with gallery #1! While online venues like Imagekind may not include a face-to-face relationship with a gallery representative, you will look less than professional if you post artwork on multiple sites at varying price points. It may reap short-term results but as an artist planning on painting and marketing art for the next 40 or 50 years, I am building a brand, not just selling a product.
Circumstantial pricing can result in overpriced work as well. I've met artists who blithely explain a painting's price (drastically higher than their similar works) as "I'm really attached to that piece - but I would get over it if it sold for that price!" It's generally agreed upon by professional artists that you can raise your prices, but you should never lower them, so I don't know what these "impulse pricers" do when they become less attached to the piece, and are ready to really try to sell it. So while some of the above methods I'm not completely opposed to, circumstantial pricing is a definite no-no! Can you see me shaking my finger at you?

6. Pricing by Experience
- Too many artists forget the years of practice, thought, study and self-discipline that brought them to the point of being a real live selling artist. This can't be your only consideration when pricing your work (because your work varies in size, style & time consumed in creation) but it is the YOU that you put into your art that makes your art what it is. This also means that you should consider regularly increasing your prices as time passes and as you grow as an artist.

7. Pricing by Instinct
- This is what I do, and it is basically a combination of the above six methods (well, not so much of #5). Not sure if "instinct" is the best word for it, but it's like the other aspects of creating art - with experience it becomes intuitive. In watercolor, I have mixed colors so many times that I know instinctively how much water to add to achieve the desired shade, and how wet my paper or brush should be to produce the effect I'm aiming for. My internal dialogue - reciting the how-to of technique - has been eliminated as time and experience make painting second nature. When I finish a painting, I usually have a number in my head - and often it is higher than I would have expected!

If you haven't reached that point in pricing theory, you'll need to ask yourself some questions when determining a price - questions based on the six points I've already covered. Ask yourself questions like "what would I charge without the frame?" "how much do I take home with a 40% commission?" or if it's a series of paintings, "how much for the whole set? will I sell pieces individually and for how much?" Compare pricing methods and average out the results to see how they compare to each other and to the number you started with. Go with the highest price you've considered - you may not have a 50% commission gallery representing you now, but what if the opportunity presents itself?

The best part of the instinctive approach to pricing? Getting it done. I want to paint, not obsess about prices and so by fixing a price I feel good about, I can get back to pursuing my passion - if the money comes, it comes and if not, I haven't sold my soul at a cut rate!

I've struggled a bit with explaining this last point, and I have the feeling that I may be testing some controversial waters. So - what do you do? Agree or disagree? Please comment and let me know what you think.

Alyson Stanfield recently posted on pricing on her Art Biz Blog here.