Rolf Reichert of North Vancouver, B.C. wrote, “I am a hobby artist and would like to exhibit my art work at sometime or another, but don’t know what I should price it at. I don’t expect a fortune for my work, but maybe just my material cost and a little profit for my time would be fair. Is there a formula that I could follow to take the guesswork out of my head? Or should I look at other artists’ paintings and gauge mine from there? If you could give me a rough idea how I could go about pricing my paintings, I would be grateful.”
Thanks, Rolf. Artists of any age and stage who are yet to establish a reputation or sales history need to start out with bargain prices. This allows would-be speculators to easily share the joy in your debut. It also allows them to get in on the ground floor of your future skyrocketing success. While there’s no magic formula for setting initial prices, here are a few guidelines:
Price by pictorial size only, not by effort, affection, prize-winning or detail.
If you’re able, consult with a local gallery or dealer friend for an informal but professional opinion.
The prices of other artists can serve as a guide, but don’t have much to do with you.
If you’re going to sell your art, use the best quality, archival materials possible. Your work must last.
Factor in the cost of materials if you must, but only for your own information.
Providing a range of sizes can broaden your reach. Consider that some artists use a slight bell curve towards the high end. This makes smaller works continually affordable for entry-level collectors and reserves loftier prices for big spenders at the top.
After establishing consistent sales and other professional markers, follow the ten percent rule: prices go up ten percent, once a year. Be steady. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, your prices can always go up, but should never come down. Your art’s value is earned over time, and collectors are won with fairness and by warm invitation to participate in the magic.
PS: “The joy of your art process is one thing. The commoditization of your art is another. My advice is to start low and yet keep an eye on the big picture. There are rewards for those who do.” (Robert Genn)
Esoterica: After my first year of art school, I came home to live as a hermit in a wooden shed at the bottom of my parent’s property, where I painted for two months unencumbered by pedagogy or professional aspirations. By chance, a local artist who was about to open a small gallery poked her head in to see what I was up to. After flipping through a few hundred small canvases, she tucked a handful under her arm and said, “These are suitcase sales.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “We’ll price your paintings so irresistibly that most anyone will see fit to pop one into their suitcase.” I was 19, with no reputation and in the embryonic phase of finding my style and subject passions. After a year of steady sales, I started to hear from other galleries. A few years later, I noticed that my work had made its way into some admirable collections, and I was grateful for the friends who’d stuck their neck out for me at the beginning and for the dealer who made it easy for them to do so.
Did you know you can sign up to be a Premium Artist for $200 a year? Many artists have found this beneficial. Sign up here.
“There’s something to be said for making up your mind on a pricing plan that will last a lifetime, setting it in motion, and forgetting about it. With compounding, you’ll get there anyway — much to the satisfaction of your early collectors. When work is half decent, there’s justice. The main thing is to catch the breeze and sail on.” (Robert Genn)