Art appraisal and pricing your art.

Pricing your art, doing your own art appraisal, is something most artists struggle with in the beginning.  Price your work too high, your won't get sales.  Price too low, you may feel cheated, and you may not get sales.  So how do you decide?

Let's take two approaches and maybe blend them to fit your needs.  Lets think about and understand the <u>full</u> cost of producing your art. (Pragmatic art pricing) Then we'll examine market value or market comparison for similar work.

Pragmatic art appraisal is easily done when you keep good records. (Part of good work habits)  Take down, or keep a journal of how long it takes to produce your work.  Do this for several paintings, and come up with a good average.  

Look closely at all the overhead.  This includes but is not limited to studio rental, utilities, transportation, postage, materials (canvas, paint, brushes, solvents) and any other fees it takes to operate your business. 

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OK, here's an example.  You've done all the above and counted your time at say, minimum wage, and your costs out of pocket are $5000 a year.

You have produced 12 paintings.  

This gives you a cost of $416 per painting (5000/12).  In most business's, you must get 100% profit to survive, so you double the price to $840 rounding up.  Now you have to consider the galleries commission on the sale which is usually %50, so you double this again to $1680.  Wow! It's a wonder artists struggle.

OK, so now you know how to pragmatically price your work.  Lets examine the market comparison method.

Understanding market value (or market comparison)is as simple as visiting a number of galleries in your area.  Find work similar to yours in style, medium and subject matter, and see what the varying sizes are bringing.  Again, this is a guideline.  Take note of artists working in similar work, as you need to know how long they have been producing their work too. The longer the artist has been doing this, the higher the price range for their work is going to be.

Now keep your notes on what you've found, and we'll get back to your art appraisal formula.

Points to remember in art appraisal, pricing your own work.

Word of caution:  The art world is small.  Don't price your work in one range in the small local gallery, and if you're fortunate to show in a new trendy, large upscale big city gallery, price it higher thinking you can get away with this.  KEEP YOUR PRICING UNIFORM.  As soon as someone locates your work at a substantial discount in another gallery, you're gonna make your customers mad. That's just greedy and dumb.  Why alienate people who have honored you in the purchase of your art? 

When submitting or cataloging your work, keep a retail price list.  Always include the word "retail" within the price list when communicating with your galleries.  This prevents any misunderstandings between you and the gallery or dealer on where to set the pricing.  You want complete control over this.  Don't get stuck with submitting a consignment agreement where you set the wholesale price at $200, and the unscrupulous dealer sells your work for $2000 and pockets $1800!  Then you'll get mad.

Discounts:  It's ok to split the cost of a discount (say 5% you 5% gallery for a total of 10% discount) on a multiple painting sale, or a return customer.  In return customer, I mean a customer that has bought one of your paintings before.  This is usually part, or should part of your consignment contract. 

Galleries can help suggest pricing too.  But bear in mind the gallery has it's own agenda to think about, and it's there to sell the work for it's benefit (and yours, but the priority is with paying the rent, paying it's employees, and making a little profit).  Do allow an art appraisal by the gallery, but don't allow total control.  It's your art.


  Not how fast you can run, but how fast you can paint.  Lets look at the example earlier at 12 paintings per year.  I hate to say it, but you're gonna starve!  Most artists can complete about five originals per month (average, and this is really a very loose average as there are a great deal of factors).  Not that they sell them all either, but as their career expands, they also build up a bit of a stock pile.  This is not necessarily a bad thing as it gives your clients a little more variety to choose from when viewing your work.

If it truly takes you an entire month to produce one work, don't despair.  The print market may help you survive, so don't abandon painting if you are a slow producer!  There are other avenues to earn an income with your art that we will be discussing, but just keep this (speed) in your mind.  Speed can mean the difference in scrapping by and making a comfortable living in the art world.

(I'm not saying to take terrible shortcuts that hurt the longevity of the work, or the quality, but always be thinking smarter and in things that will improve your output)

an example: I usually prep 15-20 canvas's all at once.  It looks pretty funny, you'd think I was the cake boss at the local bakery with all the white gesso dust on my hands and clothes, but in the end, I get my little production line going and knock 'em all out in 1/2 day!

At an exhibit:  Always price at least one work (usually your favorite piece) at least double the normal pricing scheme.  There is a reason you like a piece so much, and most likely, a patron will see this in the work too, and not resist the higher price. 

Always price larger works higher than smaller works.  It doesn't matter that in my still life work, the meticulous details that I render usually take much longer than my larger floral works, (and they usually average out in time to produce) people expect more for paying more.   

The formula to success in art appraisal:

I started simply with a combination.  I saw what pricing was going for in the gallery for similar works, I looked at how much it was costing me to produce the work, and I settled on a price I could live with that was just under some of the higher priced pieces in the gallery. 

Luckily, I produced fast enough to make a decent profit, and put me into canvas, paint and brushes for the next go round. 

Don't sell yourself short, but understand too, if you're just starting out, you may have to settle for a bit less than you expect.  Don't be discouraged though.  Heck, you could do what I read about. 

A real estate agent knew exactly what she wanted for her art.  After arranging her own show at a local bank, a great mailing list of clients, and some thoughtful advertising, her show sold out, and she banked the entire $18,000!  Wow!

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