When I first decided that my artwork was at a point where I was comfortable selling it, I felt completely lost in the pricing process. I just wanted to sell my artwork! Why was deciding on a price so confusing?
A quick Google search yielded thousands of results with artists writing articles similar to this one, but with just as many different approaches to selling artwork. One of my favorite lines that I read while researching was “if your pricing doesn’t make you slightly uncomfortable, you’re not charging enough.” So while this information doesn’t apply to everyone (and heck, it may only apply to me), I am here to elucidate the art of pricing art…pun intended.
The long-and-short of it is this: I charge per linear inch for custom artwork. Linear inch refers to the sum of the height and width of the artwork. If I’m working on a 16×20, that’s 36 linear inches. This linear system works for me, because no matter how large or small a painting is, my price per linear inch (which does change as my style evolves) is a reflection of everything that goes into creating a piece of work.
Now, to figure out how much I should charge per linear inch? That’s a bit more difficult. There are several factors that come into play when pricing artwork. The most important, of course, is demand. If nobody knows you, and your art has never been sold before, nobody has any reason to want your artwork; thus, putting a steep price on your original work is going to yield zero sales. The way you build your market is to sell your work. This is why artwork increases in cost and value as an artist becomes more well-known. Do you think Picasso was selling work for millions of dollars at the beginning of his career? No. There was a point when he actually burnt many of his paintings to stay warm. Therefore; when you’re pricing your early work (if you’re new to the sale game), you should take these next factors into consideration and…gulp…swallow your pride.
Cost. There are as many different art supplies on the market as there are artists who are using them. When I first started painting, I’d use the cheap Apple Barrel acrylics. Then I moved to Liquitex. Now that I’m a “grown up” who can afford higher quality materials, I use Golden Acrylics. The same painting painted with Apple Barrel acrylics vs Golden Acrylics is going to be significantly more expensive. Here’s why:
The reason Golden Acrylics are the best paints on the market is a tale for another article completely, but suffice it to say they’re the best. I quite dislike using other paints.
In addition to paint, the substrate an artist paints on also costs money. I buy pre-stretched canvases or canvas panels. I sometimes work on heavy weight mixed-media paper. The larger the substrate, the more expensive it is. This is where the consumer needs to decide how they want the artwork displayed. Yes, paper work is cheaper, but it needs to be framed which is an expensive process. Thus, if you spend a bit more upfront for a stretched canvas with deeper sides (yep, the deeper the sides, the more expensive the canvas), you don’t necessarily have to frame the work.
When you’re purchasing original artwork, you’re buying the brainchild of the artist. Even though it’s work you’ve paid for, it’s their intellectual property. Making art is a way this person makes their living, puts food on the table, pays rent/mortgage, buys gas. This is an original creation of a person who cultivated the idea, worked out fine details and brought this one-of-a-kind piece to fruition using only their own creativity. When pricing artwork, I always take into consideration that I will never see this piece again if I sell it. Painting is a deeply emotional process, and I treat each piece with care.
While as an artist, I certainly want to sell my work, the process of creating each piece is time-consuming. Time is something that must be accounted for in the pricing process. You can’t just sell your work for the cost of materials. If you did this, you’d be spending your days literally working for free. One of my roosters (11″x14″) takes about 8 hours to complete. That’s a full day of work. On top of my two actual day jobs. What?!
So there you have it. Time, materials, demand, intellectual property. These are the factors that go into pricing artwork.
Yes, from time to time I run fun sales for my stock work, and my pricing for my stock work is never really concrete. If I need to buy new paint, I have a sale, and price my work in a way that I know the pieces will move. I never sell artwork for a price that makes me feel like I should have gotten more money. I love painting, and being an artist is part of my identity. Each painting is an extension of myself, and I’m never so eager to part with a piece that I would just give it away.
So, interested in custom work? The going rate for my custom pieces is $10 per linear inch. Figure out what you want, shoot me an e-mail, and we can collaborate ’til the cows come home. And since you read this whole article, I’ll even ship it to you for free.