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How Do I Price My Art?

When people ask me how do I price my art…

This is what I tell them. There are essentially 5 basic ways to price art. Of course this is not a requirement in the art world, but I’ll walk you through each one and explain why this plays a significant role in pricing my art.

To begin, according to an article published in the Huffington Post, they claim there are essentially four different criteria which factor into the price of an artwork: 1) the media of the artwork, 2) the size of the artwork, and 3) the artist’s position in the art world and 4) the venue where the artwork is being exhibited.

If  I were to sell my art the way the article suggests, I am still selling my art at a really low price. The Huffington Post article says, “the majority of emerging artists will usually sell an oil painting within the $100-$1,000 range”. Being that I am no longer an emerging artist as I have done quite a few exhibitions and pieces from Miami Art Basel, American Cancer Society, to the Film, Recording, and Entertainment Council of Miami, this takes me out of the emerging artist scene. But…if you still considered me being an emerging artist, I am still selling my art cheap.

Putting this aside, I believe the most important part for any artist interested in pricing their art, is to take in consideration the cost of materials and factor in the amount of time it took to work on a painting.

For example, I use this pricing system to sell art at a fair price for me and my buyer. I factor in the cost of the canvas, which can range based on size as the store sells their canvases by size (keep this in mind for the next section I get into). Generally, a canvas about the size of 16×20 can cost $19.99 (and this is for a cheap canvas). Then you have to factor in the cost of the paints. The paint I use generally costs $12.99 for a 2 ounce tube – that’s not a lot of paint. And if I am creating a painting that uses a lot of colors, the costs can go higher because I now have to buy more tubes of paints to incorporate those colors into my palette. So let’s just say I make a painting that uses 7 colors in it (7 x 12 = $90.93). Now, I need paintbrushes. The paintbrushes I use are not too expensive and run about $8 a brush. I usually buy a few of these every 3 months as they wear out with use. So in order to get one 16×20 painting done, the costs for basic materials alone ends up costing me $134.92. Right out of the gate I am out $134.92.

Now depending on how detailed the painting is, it can take me anywhere from a few days (72 hours) to a couple of weeks, sometimes a month depending on its size. If a 16×20 painting were to take 72 hours to complete and I sold it for $500, deducting the $134.92 for materials from my profit, that leaves me with $365.08. Now if I were to estimate how much I was being paid per hour for the 72 hours of work it took me to make that painting, I only made $5.07 an hour ($365.08 / 72 = $5.07). That’s way less than minimum wage! This makes it very difficult for an artist to continue their career because we all know living off of $5.07 an hour will not cut it in the United States. So in no way is a 16×20 painting priced at $500 expensive. No way, no how. Furthermore, the most important thing to know as an art buyer is you cannot rush art.

As a buyer, you have to think of buying art in this way too. If you’re making at least $500 a week, the painting you buy will have only cost you one week’s paycheck for your entire life. And the news gets better. You will have that painting forever! And so will your children or whomever inherits it from you. This makes the painting invaluable already. And as the artist becomes famous, guess what? You make a return on your investment! So now your money is making money.

It’s always interesting as an artist to see people easily drop hundreds of dollars on seeing a singer in concert, going out to a restaurant, buying clothes that last a few years, or even spending countless dollars at a bar without second guessing the small amount of time they have to enjoy their purchase. I know people who drop over $700 every year to buy a smartphone without blinking an eye. I’ve even seen people go to HomeGoods and spend $300 on a print. Yes, not an original painting, a print. So why do people balk at paying anything for original art?

There’s a funny story about a woman who approached Pablo Picasso and asked him for a drawing. When she approached Picasso in a restaurant exclaiming:

“Oh! Picasso! You must draw me something. Could you do something simple on this napkin?”

Picasso obliged.

“Oh! Wonderful! I just love your work! Can I take this home?”

Picasso replied, “certainly, that’ll be $20,000”

“What!? But it only took you thirty seconds!” she retorted.

“No madam.” Picasso said, “It took a lifetime.”

The moral of the story? Mastery is the result of intense focus, dedication and practice over many years. So as an artist becomes more famous/popular over their lifetime, expect to pay more!

Now that we’ve learned that different artists use different ways of pricing their art, one of the standard ways an artist uses is pricing by square inch. This is similar to the way you purchase a house based on square feet.

4×4 inches = 16 square inches x 2.5 = $40

8×8 inches = 64 square inches x 2.5 = $160

16×16 inches = 256 square inches x 2.5 = $640

24×24 inches = 576 square inches x 2.5 = $1,440

32×32 inches = 1,024 square inches x 2.5 = $2,560

Even when using this standardized model artists use, my prices are way underpriced and extremely reasonable. I hope this helps you understand my pricing model. Of course nothing is set in stone and prices are subject to change depending on a lot of factors, I just wanted to show that the price of my art is a bargain. Meanwhile, art should never be a bargain. I price mine this way because I enjoy giving back to the average person a little happiness in these troubling times at a price I believe they can afford. And that makes all the difference to me.