• Tag Archives selling art
  • Pricing Art

    Pricing Art, No Easy Task

    How other things are priced.

    When it comes to pricing art, it is different than pricing other products.  When most people decide what to charge for a product or service, the process breaks down to a simple formula that makes sense and is hard to argue with:

    (Time)(rate of labor) + cost of materials + other costs = price

    How this would look if you were building a deck on someone’s house is this (I’ll say the owner of this company is also its only employee to keep it simple, otherwise we need to add another category, which is desired profit):

    Job takes 15 hours, you decide that you need to earn $30 per hour because that’s the going rate for this kind of work in your area, the materials cost $250, other costs such as gas to run machinery, wear and tear on tools and such is figured at $50 for this job.  In reality the other costs would probably much higher because you’d need insurance and things like that, but this is just for illustration.  So here is the formula.

    (15 hours x $30) + $250 + $50 = $750

    Now if this person was a business owner with employees it would look a little different, because we would say (Time)(rate of labor) + cost of materials + other costs + desired profit = price.


    Art is different.

    In a perfect world, art would be priced the same way as building a deck.  The artist would decide on the hour wage they required to support themselves, lets just say $20 per hour for this example, they would multiply that wage by the hours spent making a piece, add the cost of the materials, add in other expenses such as commissions paid to galleries, and maybe a percentage of the studio rent they pay, and that would arrive at the price to charge.  That formula is fair, it makes sense, it is logical.

    And it DOESN’T WORK, at least not perfectly

    Here is why:

    Lets say we are going to price painting on a 36 inch by 36 inch gallery wrapped cotton canvas.  The artist buys this pack of 5 canvases, which means that before tax and shipping the canvas costs them $20.15 each, for sake of this example we’ll say the artist lives next door to the art supply store and doesn’t spend anything on gas, and they have a resell certificate so they can purchase the materials without paying sales tax (this is tricky for artists to get, but more on that later).  So the materials so far run $20.15.  Now for paint, the only way for the artist to know how much paint he uses up in one painting would be to weigh the tubes before and after the painting, and not to use those tubes for anything else in the meantime.  Now, professional quality acrylic artist paint varies in price depending on the brand and color, but an average price is about $3.45 per oz, if the artist buys the larger jars to save money.  If the artist buys the typical 2 oz tubes, then it comes to around $5 per oz.

    So lets say that to cover this 3 foot by 3 foot canvas, the artist used 4 oz of paint (sometimes paintings have texture from thick paint, sometimes the paint is applied thinly, with no texture, so the amount of paint used varies accordingly).  So 4 oz of paint, multiplied by $3.45 per oz, and that is $13.80.  Now the artist also seals the painting with what is known as an isolation coat, and then a layer of varnish.  Lets just estimate the cost of both of those together to be $5, then add $2.00 for the hardware to wire the back of the painting for hanging.  So now for our materials cost we come to $40.95, lets round that to $41 for the sake of simplicity.

    Next we have our labor cost.  We had said this artist decided they needed to make $20 per hour, but they are only considering the hours they actually work on this painting, not the time they may spend manning a booth at a show or putting in unpaid time at a co-op gallery to try sell it.  So lets say they aren’t considering that because they won’t do those things, they show their work in a traditional gallery that will collect a commission at the time of sale.  Galleries typically charge 40-60% of the sale price as commission. So for our purposes we’ll say the gallery will take 40%, and the artist will keep 60% of the sale price.

    The time spent on a painting varies widely depending on the style.  Detailed portrait work of this size could easily 40 hours, a splatter-style abstract on the other hand might only take 2 hours, including the time to seal and varnish and wire it for hanging.  Lets say this piece though is an impressionistic landscape, and will take about 9 hours to complete the painting, plus another hour for the finishing work of sealing, varnishing, and wiring, so 10 hours of labor all together.

    ($20 per hour) x (10 hours) + $41 material cost = $241

    So $241 is what the artist needs to make on this painting after commission.  But remember, the artist only gets to keep 60% of the sale price, in order to figure out what the artist needs to charge we need to do another calculation.  If we divide the artists cost, by their percentage, we’ll find out what the actual price needs to be.  First though we convert that percent to a decimal, so instead 60% we will have 0.60.  So here is our formula $241÷0.60=$401.67.

    The problem is that only a few people are actually willing to pay $400 for a painting, no matter how skillfully it is painted.  So while the artist may start of this price, a year or two later they start cutting the price, $350, $300, $275, $250 Finally lets say it sells at $225, the artist keeps 60% which is $135, the materials cost the artist $41, so the artist actually made $94 for 10 hours of work, or $9.40 an hour.  That is actually good in the artists eyes though, because often they end up making much less.

    Most artist don’t use that formula at all

    Most artist don’t even go through all those steps though, most will charge by square inch, or will ask the gallery owner what he or she thinks the piece can sell for, and then the artist just takes their cut of that without regard to the hours they put in, often this results in the artist getting $75 for a piece that cost them $41 to make, so the artist actually made $3.40 an hour.

    My recommendation to artists.

    My recommendation to artists, and what I will start with future pieces, is to at least use, as a starting point, the formula:

    (Time)(rate of labor) + cost of materials = your price before commissions

    They may have to cut the price down some to make it sell, but at least they will be aware of how much they’d like to receive, and how much they absolutely MUST receive in order to not lose money, at least if you use that formula as your starting point, you will know when you start cutting down the price how much less per hour you are making, and you will know what you can’t drop below if you are going to make anything at all.


    My recommendation to art collectors.

    Consider buying directly from artists on their websites, at art fairs, or in their studios.  If the artist doesn’t have to pay 40-60% of the price to the gallery, they are probably going to be a lot more flexible with you, the customer.

    That being said, if you see the work in the gallery, don’t try to contact the artist privately and arrange for a private sale.  This is unfair to the gallery owner who is paying rent to keep a gallery open so you can see the art in the first place.  It is also putting the artist in a position where they are being asked to violate their deal with the gallery, because 98% of the time, they have signed a contract that disallows them from pulling a piece and selling it to you if you saw it in the gallery.

    You could though, contact the artist and see if they have other pieces that are not being shown in the gallery, often this is allowed.

  • A What? Art Blog.. Part One*

    “You started a what?”  He asked, looking confused, then turned his attention back to his cup of coffee.

    “Another blog.” I said, wondering why it seemed like I was always repeating myself.

    “Since when do you have a blog, and why do need another one, and what exactly is a blog anyway?”

    “Well, a blog is kind of like a journal, except it’s on the internet, and usually anyone can read it.  It comes from the words “web” and “log”, you know web, as in the world-wide web, and log… as in…”

    “Captains log, Stardate  41855.2…”  he interrupted in his best Captain Picard voice,  “I know what a log is!”

    At this point in the conversation, I felt like this:
    picard facepalm

    But I didn’t remark on that.  Instead I continued.

    “Okay, so a blog is a log on the internet, and I’ve had one for a couple of years, where have you been?  Anyway, I need another one because my first one is a personal blog, in it I tell about homeschooling, trying to lose weight, what I’m making for dinner, or where we went on a date.  The new blog I started is an Art Blog.”

    “Don’t you post your art on your personal blog?”

    “Well yes, but this blog will just be for art, and art related stuff.”

    “Oh, Okay.  Why?”

    At this point in the conversation, my husband and I looked a little like this:


    So I decided it was best to continue the conversation another time.

    *The preceding conversation is  fictional, but is being used to convey true facts, I had to say that or my husband would object!


    Thank you for reading! If you liked what you see, please consider following this blog by entering your email address at the bottom of the page,  or follow me on Google+ by clicking HERE.  I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you!

    Fine Art America is the place to go for unsigned Prints of all my Paintings.


    My Etsy shop is the place to go to buy my originals that I haven’t added to this site yet, I sell a few select prints there also, and there you can choose if you’d like me to  sign them before shipping!  Eventually I’ll move all of my fine art products to this page, and leave only crafts on Etsy, but for now my art is in both places.

  • Stretching Myself

    One of my Index cards from the ICAD challenge.

    Before I first started painting in June of 2012, on those index cards that seemed so innocuous but proved to be carriers of the deadly “art attack” virus, I had no idea how much I had missed art in my life.  You see, way back when, years ago, in Junior High School and some in High School, I took great joy in creating.  Drawing, using oil pastels, markers, colored pencils.  I didn’t paint much back then, though I’m sure at some point I must have used paint a little, I really don’t remember, but it certainly wasn’t a medium that I used regularly… at any rate, at that time I really loved art.  For some reason, shortly after high school, I stopped. Perhaps it was because the responsibilities of adult life left little time for it, and little money for supplies.  Perhaps it was because of other issues I was dealing with that caused me to feel unworthy of something that would bring me joy.  Perhaps I just didn’t get around to it.  For whatever reason though, art was no longer a part of my life.  Occasionally I would do crafts, make Christmas ornaments, crochet baby clothes, something like that, but drawing, or “painting” with colored pencils or pastels, was completely forgotten.

    After starting the ICAD challenge though, I quickly realized I was hooked, not just on art, but in particular on painting.  It wasn’t long before I wanted to move beyond the index cards and onto a canvas.  Since then, I’ve painted and painted and painted.  Having had no formal training, I have learned most of what I know by trial and error, often with many errors repeated again and again (when will I finally automatically paint background objects BEFORE foreground objects???).  I’ve watched a few how-to videos, and read a few books, but mostly I’m self taught… I’ve been learning to paint by PAINTING.  Eventually I might like to go for my BFA, but in the meantime I just continue to paint.

    Recently, the gallery owner where my work is sometimes displayed suggested that I take part in a local juried show.  He felt that it would give me more exposure, and also give me a chance to see how my work compares with other local artists and to get feedback from more people.  I looked over the work I had, and felt that there were many things I had learned recently that didn’t show in those pieces, so I decided to create three pieces specifically for the show, being mindful to apply everything I’ve learned up until now.  In other words, I wanted to really stretch myself to the limits of my current skills and abilities, so that I would be submitting the very best work I am currently capable of producing.

    Here is the first piece as it took shape:

    This first photo shows the work after my first painting session, I have no idea how much time I spent up until this point on it, but it was all one painting session.  I used three reference photos I had taken, but didn’t copy directly from any of them, just used them to spark ideas and give a general outline of what was happening.

    I decided to block in some general darks and lights in the background, so that when I added background trees gaps in them wouldn’t show stark blue sky, because I’ve noticed in some of earlier paintings that sky showing through like that often makes the landscape look flat, or fake.

    Then, here is the second in progress photo, a little more has changed at this point, one back ground tree has been added, and one more foreground tree.

    Then I added the other background trees.  Notice that I made them lighter and less distinct than the ones in the foreground, I’ve been trying to learn to implement atmospheric perspective.
    On to progress picture number 4, here I have lightened the trees in the background more, plus added some more foreground elements. I know that the picture looks very different in color here, but it hasn’t changed.  All but the final two photos were taken with my phone, and it is very sensitive to changes in lighting.  The slightest difference in available light causes a whole different color cast over everything.
    Next I simply added more detail in the foreground, such as some flowers on the bush in the lower right hand corner, and some more reflected light on the pond.

    Then I thought I was done, so I took a good picture with my good camera, but afterward, I noticed that the sky above the background trees looked “dirty” because of all the times I’d painted over to obscure the trees a little more in trying to achieve the atmospheric perspective:

    So I fixed the sky, and then took another picture with my good camera.  I printed several samples to compare the color to the original, and edited until it matched.  And here is the final result:

    So there is the painting that will be my first entry into the juried show.  Because I am keeping it for the show, I can’t offer it for sale yet, however prints of it are available on my Fine Art America page, and if the original doesn’t sell during the show, it will be offered for sale afterward either in my local gallery, or in my Etsy shop.

    Art Prints

    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints

  • I’m back, and I have a Lot of New Work!

    I haven’t been posting as regularly as I should, and there are many reasons for this.  One of them is that I’ve been very busy actually creating art, and therefore taking less time to blog about it.

    I’ve made a lot of new pieces, and I’ve been showing them every chance I can, here I is my stuff at a local Art Walk in August (that’s my hubby sitting on the chair feeding his face!):

    I know this blog needs to made a little more interesting, so soon I will be doing some video postings about art.  

    Here are some of my new pieces:
    Photography Prints Photography PrintsPhotography PrintsPhotography PrintsSell Art OnlineArt PrintsSell Art OnlineSell Art Online 

    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints

  • Every Day in May #3

    So its Day number 3 of the Every Day in May challenge, and today’s topic is “Something that Represents Joy”

    This was easy to think of.  I am trying to limit these EDiM sketches to 15 or 20 minutes most days, so that I still have time for my other art, after all, I know that the Gallery owner who shows my work wants me to come up with a painting that has something to do with wine… plus he said he’d like to see more small scale landscapes that he could sell for $100 or less.  (Basically that means 8×10 or smaller).

    I also have an order for a pet portrait to get done… so I can’t spend hours on these sketches.

    Today’s sketch took around 15 minutes, coloring included… and it shows, I mean its not straight, the form and perspective are a bit off, its too skinny proportionally… but anyway, here it is:

    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints

  • Gallery Acceptance, and What’s on My Easel

    Yesterday was a great day for me art-wise. I went to the post office to ship off a painting that sold, and while I was there I noticed a gallery in town that I’d never noticed before. This is probably because I rarely go to the shopping center near the post office, there is another down the street where I usually shop.

    Anyway, I went into the gallery and started up a conversation with the woman there, who seemed very interested in seeing my work. Then the owner of the gallery came in, and he was also interested. So I gave them my website to view my portfolio, and also went home and gathered up some of my paintings to show them in person. I am very pleased to say that they will be displaying 5 of my paintings!

     I’ve also been making progress on my Peacock paintings that I started at the art walk. Here is what is on my easel right now:

    I was thrilled about the gallery, and I still am, although the person in my life who should have been most encouraging was absolutely not encouraging at all, and in fact seemed very irritated that I had taken time out of my day to bring paintings down to the gallery.  Oh well, I guess some non-artistic people just don’t get it, to me, getting my work in a gallery was far more important than the day’s chores, or doing a load of laundry, or anything like that.

     Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you!

    Photography Prints


  • Art Walk

    Well today was the first public showing of my art.  I thought it went pretty good.  We had very uncooperative weather, and I’m sure it would have gone even better if it weren’t for that.  As it was I sold 2 original paintings and 2 prints.  Plus handed out a lot of business cards.

    I also got a considerable amount of work done on a new painting, because, in an effort to attract people into the building, I stood outside and painted, I was under a covered awning so the rain and hail didn’t bother me, and it did attract a few people into the building.

    Here are some photos from the event.

    Remember the display boards I wrote about? The one’s my good friend helped me build?  Well here is the medium sized one, the way it is build is like an A-frame, so I could use the other side as well, but with the setup in this particular building, it worked better to just use one side.

    The same was true for the large display, showed here:
    The small display we where able to use both sides on, but somehow I forgot to photograph that one.
    My daughter displayed some of her paintings too, and she sold one:
    I also displayed some of art in various other places around the room:

    Here is the painting I worked on today, its far from finished, but still I made a lot of progress on it in one day.
    My daughter and her best friend had fun playing and dancing for me, and I took lots of photos, but I cropped my daughter’s friend out of the photos because I forgot to ask if it was okay to post them online:

    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints

  • The Chrome Monster gets a New Name.

    Once upon a time there was, living in the mind of an artist, an idea to paint a picture of one of the coolest cars in the history of American cars.  So this artist, although she had never attempted to paint anything shiny or reflective before, decided to paint a Chevy Bel Air from the mid 1950’s, she ended up deciding on a 1956 since she had reference photos of that year available to her.

    So this artist started off, and kept telling herself that she could figure out a way to paint all of that shiny red metal, and silvery, reflective chrome.  She had no idea how she was going to do it, but just started painting what she saw, carefully matching values and colors, though she changed a few things like the photographer’s reflection in the bumper of the reference photo.

    It was a difficult painting, and while working on it the artist bestowed on it the name of “Chrome Monster” as she realized just how much of that challenging, shiny surface the 1956 Chevy had.  In her head, as she painted, she kept reminding herself, “don’t worry, paint what you see, the printer didn’t have any metalic ink, and it managed to produce a picture of chrome, so can you.”.

    Finally, after many days, she stepped back and looked at the painting and realized that it was done.  She was so happy with the result that she no longer saw it as monster, and instead decided to name it the “Chrome King”.

    And here it is:
    Photography Prints

    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints

  • Looking for a Gallery

    I am really wanting to find a local gallery to represent my art, but so far have not had much luck.  I actually had one gallery owner look over my pieces, and actually say that he would put them in his gallery if I produced more animal art, which he said was one of the strongest selling.  So I went home and produced four of my best animal paintings, he looked at them and apologized, saying that he had filled the spot in the meantime while I was making those, and to check back in a few months. At first I was very irritated that I spent so much time preparing paintings specifically for him (see the paintings below) and he didn’t end up putting them in his gallery  but then I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed doing them, and had learned that I had a knack for painting animals, which I didn’t realize I had before that, so I really wasn’t too upset.

    Now though, the issue remains that I still don’t have gallery representation.  I can keep trying to sell online, but honestly, a gallery is an artist’s best bet for getting sales.  So, after the artwalk on April 13, I am going to start really pursuing that gallery representation.

    Art Prints Photography Prints Art Prints Art Prints
    Thank you for reading! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you! Photography Prints