All About Pricing

Within a year after I left my nine-to-five job and I was starting to amass a number of paintings in our basement, I asked my artist friend Ursula Medley to take a look at my work and tell me if I was ready for our town’s art gallery.

A couple of decades ago local artists banded together, created a for-profit collective and rented space. Artique Artists’ Cooperative has moved location twice, and is still promoting only local art. Ursula was a member of the cooperative, and many years ago, when I first arrived in Powell River, it was Ursula who taught me how to use oils and acrylics.

With a few tips from Ursula on how to impress the jury, and her encouragement, I filled out my Artique application and submitted three paintings to be judged. Artique allows all sorts of 2D and 3D art, however, it must be of commercial quality. And, each piece needed to be priced.

Where do you start when setting a price? “Googleopedia” always comes up with sage advice. I recall watching a video when the presenter chastised artists for setting the price bar too low. “Nobody should be below $2.50 per square inch,” he said. I found other sites that corroborated this. But, when I went into Artique and looked at the paintings currently displayed, almost none were priced so high.

I think it was another of our Powell River local artists, Rick Cepella, who suggested that buyers don’t necessarily care if a painting took more or less time to create than another of the same size. All they care about is the size of the canvas and whether the price seems appropriate. Although that might not be true for every buyer, I could see his point.

Flugelhorn Fun 24″ x 18″ framed $450

I decided to stay in keeping with my new colleagues, take Rick’s advice, and price things according to size at $1 per square inch, plus frame. And everything was great…

I have been reading up on the business of art, as there is a familiar fallacy that artists are starving, or that artists do not have a head for business. I don’t want to be one of those artists. There is a lot of information available about running a successful art business, and lots of that information will be shared here in this Artists’ Journey blog. However, this post is about pricing so I should stick with that for the moment!

It is only recently I have begun to increase my prices to reflect five years of experience, changing quality of work, how I feel when I sell a newer piece that perhaps took longer to create, and because it is the number one suggestion from business experts.

I increased my prices to $1.50 per square inch in the spring. I wrote to all of the purchasers of my paintings so far – termed “collectors” in the business world – and let them know. It’s not a huge jump, but when you think about it, it does increase the value of the paintings previously bought.

Islands of Magic, 28″ x 22″ $925

But boy, I just finished this 28″ x 22″ painting that according to my new calculation should be offered for $925! That’s about $300 more than I have charged before.

I don’t know whether I have done my pricing correctly and whether there is a “one shoe fits all” equation. And so I ask: How have you managed to price your work? Is pricing an issue for you? Do you use a calculation like I have set out here, or estimate an hourly compensation? Do you even price your work? I would love to hear back from you, because it could help others who are just setting out and looking for some clarity.

So, deep breath in, here I am world! Let’s see what happens along this quest to be business savvy in this land of creative souls.