How Much is My Art Worth? Pricing Strategies

How Much is My Art Worth? Pricing Strategies

How much money is my art worthSupporting Art As a Hobby

Now your walls are getting full, your family has enough and you want to paint some more.  You are bursting with ideas for art, and -well,  paint and canvas and frames can get costly.

I reached this point, and wanted to sell a few pieces so that I could buy more.  I like nice frames, and even though I buy them wholesale, they can cost $50.00 for a 11 x 14 canvas!

TIme to think of some sales…How much is my art worth?

 Time to Think of a Sale?

The first place the idea of selling a painting even crossed my mind was when a friend offered to buy one of my acrylic paintings.  I stumbled and bumbled…she said she would frame it and hang it in her home.  I was flattered.

Then she offered to pay me $25 for my 9 x 12 painting that I had poured my heart into.  Hmmmm…I would rather not sell.  There are other ways to support my creative lifestyle.

Now I was not so flattered! 

I told her that her offer was very sweet and flattering, but that the painting was going to my daughter for her library, so not for sale.  No harm done.

Then I thought about it for a few weeks.  I bought some frames of my own, shocked at the cost, even when I bought them online at wholesale prices!

My son's birthday was coming up and I wanted something special to give to him, something of me, along with his other gifts.  You know what, my paintings looked pretty good in frames!

Now at this point, I had laid out about $300 hundred dollars, for canvases, paints, brushes and frames.  And that was just for the acrylics.  I also had my pastel paints, easels, pastel surfaces and their much less costly frames.

And I am not done yet!  In fact, I feel that I am just getting started.  More costs are coming.

Checking Out the Market

I am fortunate to be able to spend some time each year in a very artsy island community where I go to art shows and talk with artists about their work.  I have learned how they price their work as well as some of their techniques.

I don't intend to spend my summer months sitting in a tent to sell my work – it's not a job for me as it is for many of them. It's a hobby and a creative lifelong learning pursuit for me.

But I am willing to do some work to make a few sales, and I do.  I am a member of a few artist societies in my home area, and have grown familiar with the work and the pricing of my fellow artists.  And I have gained familiarity with what sells in our local market.

value determined by quality and location and reputationFor many years I was in the real estate business, where I bought older homes in need of repair, designed new kitchens and baths, repaired and painted, and resold the homes in beautiful condition.  This business is called redevelopment of real estate, or fix and flip.

When you sell real estate, it is important to know what it is worth – in its location, condition and marketplace.  A 3 bedroom, 2 bath home in rural New Hampshire is going to have a different value than the same home in downtown New York City or on my island getaway.

That is true in the art world, too.

At least for a local artist like me.  Another factor that could impact the value of a piece of real estate is its history.  If it is a historic home, or was designed by Andrew Lloyd Weber or, alternatively, had some bad history like a death in the house, the value perceived in the marketplace can get impacted.

The same is true with the artworld.  I have not won awards, have not had a lot of sales, so I am an unknown.  My work needs to be priced less than that of others who win the blue ribbons in juried shows, have private exhibits or have been painting and selling for 20 years!

Setting a Price

Yikes!  Putting a value on something that has come from my heart, that is almost a part of me.  How ignoble!  How material!  And how real.  Putting a value to your piece of art is not valuing you as a person or as an artist.  That is an inside job.  The value of the art is what it means to, and does for, you as a person, and how it fulfills your life.

marketing your art hobby for saleBut the buyer is really not interested in that part of the value.  The buyer is interested in buying a piece of art that he or she really likes, that goes well with the furniture and decor and that he or she will enjoy having in their home – and that he or she feels is a good value for what they paid for it!

Yes, they will comparison-shop, to be sure they are paying a price that makes sense.  Yes, there is an emotional element, but it is not the same as the emotional element for the artist.

So the price has to make sense to the buyer.  When it works for both buyer and seller, a sale is made.

Price Strategies

There are a couple of price strategies that I have learned about.  I will outline them and then tell you what one I am using.

First, the pricing by time and materials.  With this, you decide what your hourly rate is and then add in the cost of your materials.  You may spend 8 hours on a painting, and have $15 in the cost of the canvas.  If framed, that could be $50 more.

You decide that you should be paid $20 an hour for your time and talent.  That makes the price of your painting 8 hours x $20, or $160, plus $15 plus $50.  Or a total of $225.  Take a look and see how that stacks up against your fellow artists working in similar media.

Keep in mind that, fair or not, the buyer values are generally highest for oils, then acrylics, then pastels, then of your art to support your hobby

Another  price strategy is to take the total area of the painting, multiply by a dollar value and add twice the cost of materials.  That means that a 11 x 14 acrylic painting is 154 square inches, and you decide to charge $1.00 per square inch for a total of $154 (round to $150).

When you add in twice your frame and canvas, the total is $280 other and I round to $275.  That is in line with other comparable artists in my area. .

The one I am using is quite similar, and kind of a test.  I take the measurements of the painting, in this case 11 x 14 and add them for a total of 25.

Then for an acrylic, I use $6 per linear inch, for a total of $150.  Adding in the twice the cost of frame and canvas, brings the total to the same $275.

I test it out for other sizes (5×7, 16×20, 24×30), to make sure it makes sense.  I believe the buyer really does not care how long the painting took me, and is only interested in having a fair price for the work he or she would like to own.

For a pastel, I am using the third strategy, with a linear multiple of $3.  The frames are much less costly, so my pastels are priced at about $125 for a 9 x 12.

Am I selling?  A few…if I make some steady sales for six months or so, I may increase my linear-inch pricing slightly- maybe by 10%.  If I win a juried show, I may increase by 25%!  Yeah, right!

online sale for artYou can also offer your artwork online through sites such as Etsy, for a small listing fee (about $.20 for four months) and then a 3% commission upon sale.  You list your work with key tags to help people searching to find your work (landscape,blue, green, ocean landscape, etc.).

You put in the size and weight and your buyer will pay the shipping costs – unless you want to give them free shipping, which I offer.

I do not sell my acrylic paintings framed online, because the size and weight would add a great deal to the shipping costs, and the frame might or might not go with the person's home or office decor.

I do extend my painting around the edges of the canvas so it can be hung either framed or unframed.  With the pastels, I use inexpensive frames from the Dollar Store, just to stabilize and protect the painting during shipment.  I reveal that, in the listing.

Size Matters

With paintings, size does matter!  For a bigger painting, you will probably want to modify your formula a bit, to stay in line with the marketplace.  For tiny paintings, probably increase a bit.

What else impacts value are signing the work, front or back, dating, and title.  Also tell both the medium and the surface used in the painting.  You may consider putting a short story with your painting, of where you were, how you came to do the painting, techniques used.  Just a few sentences to personalize it and make it live for your buyer.

Empty Nest Syndromeempty nest syndrome

There is for me some empty nest syndrome when I sell a painting.  I have a love affair with it while I am painting it.  I have another as I admire and enjoy it on my wall, remembering the feelings of the creation.

Still, how much is my art worth?  A sale frees up wall space for more work to enjoy.  It frees up some funds to pursue my art.  And it means that someone has enjoyed, maybe even loved my art creation, enough to want to put it in their own home.  How fulfilling that is!

Are you thinking of selling some art?  What are your pricing strategies?  Tell me, I want to learn from you, too.

There are other ways to use your creative thinking and abilities to make money at home that you may enjoy.  Would you like to write a blog like this one?  Learn how here.




6 comments on “How Much is My Art Worth? Pricing Strategies”

  1. jeffrey16201 says:

    Very good topic for an article which will help many people experiencing problems selling their art, as a freelance photographer in the past I do understand how many people don’t see our worth in our art as we do.

    Great tips for artists starting out and not sure how to price their artwork, the supplies in the art field are extremely high causing an artist to have to charge more than some people might feel it is worth?

    1. Hi Jeffrey, thank you for your comments.  It is true that a buyer has to see the value of anything in order to reach a sale.  Otherwise, pricing is just theoretical.  Once an artist sells some work on a fairly steady basis, value is established and the artist can look at increasing the prices somewhat.  Those people who do not see the value will not be your buyers!  Thanks for visiting!

  2. Mat A. says:

    Hi Annie,
    I really like your post on how to price your artwork to sell. It can seem very subjective and I like what you call the empty nest syndrome. It is difficult getting rid of a piece unless you don’t really care for it in my opinion. Over the last several years I have created 10 different collage pieces. I have given one to my parents as a Christmas gift and thought about selling a few of the others but have struggled with what to sell them for.
    You give me some direction in this – thanks so much for the helpful insight! Cheers, Mat A.

    1. Hi Mat,

      I would take a look online, perhaps at Etsy, and see what others may be selling comparably-sized pieces with similar types of materials.  Also go to some local art displays and see what things sell for in your area.  

  3. Ivan says:

    I’m a Musician but I like painting too, I’ve been told I should sell my paintings, something that I’ve considering but honestly I paint for pleasure and to make people I love happy, for example If a friend’s birthday is coming I’d like to create something for this friend, I consider it a very personal way of saying “thanks for being my friend”. For those that are committed to paint to make a living, here we are an advice that worked for me in matter of saving money and for others to make more profit. As this article is mentioning just a frame could be really expensive, the chances of selling your art would be extremely low if you add more expenses on materials, not counting the time an effort, so in my case I decided to make MY OWN FRAMES, at the beginning the investment was high but at the end worth it. I remember I ran to Home Depot and Menards, now you can find anything online way cheaper, by then I got an electric saw for less than $50, some wood for $12, glue for $18, white base for wall painting $45 and I also got sheets from a thrift store for $2 each, took a bit of time and effort but the money I saved worth the effort. I saw others artists doing something similar at street festivals but they didn’t go to complicated, they just got pieces of wood and they just paint over it, selling each piece depends the size between $20-$45, not bad income for an hungry artist.

    1. What wonderful information, Ivan.  Good for you doing your own frames.  This is certain to help some folks who do want to sell some of their creations, to fund continuing to make more.  Thank you for visiting and for your make-your-own frame ideas and details.

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