Monday, July 1, 2013


Here is something I've been thinking about.  
An artist friend had a painting I adored.  I saw it in person and still adored it.  However, it was a full sheet watercolor - and it was priced at over $3,000 (matted and framed).  I couldn't justify spending $3,000+ on a painting, even though I loved it.  

I got a postcard from an artist I know who has a show in New York next month.  His works are all full sheet watercolors.  And he has $3,000 on each of them.  

My painting that got into the Viewpoint juried show was taken to the framers Friday.  Ken (my framer), Sweetie (he's got a good eye), and I all worked to choose matting and framing to make it look good and also "impressive" because it's a small painting:  an 11" x 15" (fourth sheet) watercolor that needs to hold its own in a room full of large oils, pastels, acrylics, etc.  Taking into account the price of the matting and framing, and the 40% commission that will be taken by the gallery, should the painting sell, I will make less than $10 for the painting.  (Didn't think that one through, did I? ha ha)

Obviously, I don't do this for the money.  
Obviously, 'm undervaluing my paintings.  
Well, not because I don't feel I'm worth it.  
But I guess, deep down, I think I would like to be in a range where someone might buy my work who can't make themselves spend $3,000 for a painting.

So - for those of you who have been getting into shows and selling work, what are your criteria for pricing your work?  Do you just price according to size of the painting?  Or do you have another way to come up with pricing?

I guess I'm thinking if I don't raise my prices, people may see my work as that of an amateur and not give it the credit (whether they buy, or not), it's due.  (It's almost embarrassing to get into a major show and find out your work is priced hundreds of dollars under comparable watercolor works in the show.) 

So I guess it's time to do something about it. 

If you had a full sheet painting (22"x 30") that was a good painting and you were very pleased with it - and it cost quite a bit to mat and frame it - would you be okay with putting a $3,000 price on it?  More?  Less?

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.  
Have you ever purchased a piece you thought was very underpriced?  Is that what made you buy it?
Have you ever wanted a piece but couldn't justify the price on it?
What makes a good piece hang on the wall while a not-as-good piece sells?  
Too many questions? ha ha


Katherine Thomas said...

Ah, the age old question... pricing something that is priceless!
I once had another artist tell me that if I priced too low, it was rude to other artists. I've also heard stories about artists who weren't selling until hiked up the prices skyhigh, and then sold paintings like crazy. I don't know the answer. I'd just as soon give my work away as sell it. Congratulations on the show!

Diana said...

wow.. tons of good questions. I'm looking forward to reading all everyone's ideas. For me. I've been painting watercolors for 37 years. I've taught for say 25 at least. I just price mine according to the size. My 8x10 originals framed with one white mat is $99. My 16x20 original,framed with white mat is $300.or a little more. Although I recently asked to come down on the 300 to 295.. which felt wrong but I let her do it at 297..for sales.. but they have yet to sell. most of my sales are the little ones. In this economy.. I'm glad to sell period. Hope this helps. love,Diana

Mick Carney said...

The eternal dilemma for an artist selling their work. I don't have all the answers as I don't devote a deal of energy to marketing my works. However, my forays into the market have taught me a lesson or two. My original pricings were out of step with local market conditions and undervalued so I spent some time checking out the range and made a judgement as to where my work fitted. It wasn't too difficult to find an appropriate price point. After that my range of prices is dependent on size, medium and framing cost. Having set these prices I am firm about them, I believe too many artists undervalue their work. If selling through a third party I make it clear what I expect as my fee and leave them to set the overall cost. Indeed at a recent exhibition I attended it was clear that many of the exhibitors must have been making a loss. That can't make any sense. However, I am not dependent on my art to make a living so am in a different position to many others. I'm sure there are may out there with more experience and better advice but I think it important that artists should be properly recompensed for their work and having set sensible market levels the market will sort out the higher prices for the most talented.

debwardart said...

When you figure this one out, let me know! Right now I go by size and see what others in that size range sell for. When (IF) my work sells more or I feel it has improved, I would definitely up my price, again staying within the range of similarly proficient artists. (Hopefully I'll have that opportunity some day!)

CrimsonLeaves said...

I am like Katherine. I will tell you that no matter how much I like a piece of art, I would never pay $3000 for it. Never. Unless it was a super famous and long dead famous artist and even those I could never buy if I didn't like it and it was priced greater than $10,000. Not that I'm cheap but I consider it realistic. Who has that kind of money? Certainly not me. I've paid as much as $350 for some of my paintings and while I do think it was more than worth it, I also cannot and will not do that often. And when it has happened, it is because I've expressed interest in the piece and said I wanted it before I knew the price. I must confess I won't make that mistake again. LOL

See? I'm not a good person to ask. I pick and choose carefully where and how to spend money. Generally. said...

You are worth it!

But then it also comes down to, how to price it so it sells, but also how to price it so it doesn't look like a. you're giving it away or b. it's not worth as much as other pieces.

Since I work full time I am not active at trying to sell my work, but when someone asks me about a piece I hem and haw about the price. I really need to be more professional in that respect.

Based on some of the workshops I've taken, I've noticed many people go by size for pricing. I usually go by how long it took me to paint.

One thing you can do is check out people's websites and see what they are selling paintings for and that may give you a good idea as to what you should price your paintings at.

Good luck. I think your work is priceless.

RH Carpenter said...

I know this is never a concrete idea - how painters price their work differs all the time, according to time, place, education, time involved, price of the materials, etc. But everyone has given me some good feedback and I'll do a bit more research and then come to some decision - and stick with it :)
Thanks so much, Katherine, Diana, Mick, Deb, Sherry, and Carol, for your comments on this one!

Michelle Himes said...

I'm sure that my prices would be considered too low too by other artists. But....
1. I don't make much of an effort to market my work, so I do consider myself a serious hobbyist or serious amateur instead of a professional.
2. I couldn't possibly affort to pay $3000, or even half of that for a painting, so I wouldn't want to price my paintings so that people like me couldn't afford them.
3. I do my own matting and framing, which keeps my costs down quite a bit.
4. I live in an area which seems to have a lot of artists, but not many galleries and not many opportunities for professionally run art shows. You can't ask for big prices when you are exhibiting in your local library.

When I do have an opportunity to sell, I ask $200 for a quarter sheet, and $400 for a half. I've only sold two or three half sheets, but I've sold quite a few quarters. I occasionally put a full sheet into a juried show, but I've never sold one of those.

If my prices are "rude" to other artists, so be it. I'm not trying to put anyone out of business, just trying to make myself and my occasional buyer happy. I'm too old to worry about creating a following or starting a career. I just paint and "sell" for my own pleasure.

RH Carpenter said...

Michelle, your prices sound reasonable to your area. We have so many artists and galleries in our area that it's a bit overwhelming. I think the main thing is being consistent with pricing, too - not pricing low for a member show and much higher for a juried show, etc.