“If you’re just starting out and have not sold very much, pricing your work based on time, labor, and cost of materials is often the best way to go.”
One of the most popular conversations I have with artists looking to show at the Gallery is the pricing of art. I get heavy sighs, rolling eyes, distant gazes out the window when the topic comes up. Since we are a gallery that works with new (sometimes brand, spanking new) artists, pricing work is not something they’ve had to do. It feels heavy and foreign. To some, it is a betrayal of the creative process, entering their work in the marketplace. To others, the steps of going about it are so unknown that they don’t know where to start.
For such questions, I think it is best to start by taking off the artist hat, and putting on a business one. The mental shift will take away the ambiguity of the subject, and give you the drive and objectivity to begin researching effectively. I suggest starting with the articles below; they can cover far more that I could. Remember, they are only a starting point. Balance their opinions with your own, and then seek out other artists to see how they’ve done it. Don’t price a piece until you are absolutely comfortable with letting it go for the amount you’ve chosen.
The pricing of art is not relegated to the artist, though. Potential buyers are just as confused by the process. With each one who questions the value marked on a piece, I try to explain the high (and rising!) cost of materials, the time it takes to create, the desire to support a local artist, the years they’ve spent developing their talent, etc.
When approaching a piece of work you’d like to purchase, feel free to ask the artist about these things. Get a feel for the creative process behind the piece. Then consider what one artist shared with me when someone approached him about giving a discount: “When you go to work tomorrow,” he said, “Work for 8 hours, but then be ok with only getting paid for 4.” It is certainly ok to walk away thinking the art is priced too high, but at least you’ve done some research.
And last, but not least, consider the intrinsic value of original art. Art has a way of touching places within us that we often cannot pinpoint. It stirs emotions long buried, brings hope into depravity and light into dark places. This is why we seek out art, and why we must continue to support its existence. One way to support that is to purchase art that provides such an experience for you. We do, indeed, vote with our dollars and buying local art ensures that artists can not only support themselves, but continue to create.