Tips of the Trade: How to Price Your Artwork

Pricing artwork is complicated and one of the most challenging tasks that emerging artists face. Expert opinions vary. There is no one correct path; if there was, well, then the process wouldn’t be as complex as it. In this article we proffer a few suggestions. We recommend taking away what resonates with your own practice.


Remove emotion.

Lori Woodward, a painter, writer and teacher, cautions artists in an article on Artist Daily stating, “When I price with my emotion, I tend to lower my prices because I feel sorry that the collector has to spend so much…I need to look at pricing and how to sell artwork objectively.”

Don’t under-evaluate yourself and your work.On the other hand, avoid overpricing your works to impress viewers. Pricing is a delicate balance, but luckily…


There’s a formula to help.

Lori Woodward, like other artists, uses a Square Inch x Dollar Amount formula to price her works.

  • Multiply the paintings length by width (in inches)
  • Take the square inch total and multiply it by a set dollar amount that’s appropriate for your reputation.* Lori uses $6 per square inch.
  • Optional: Round the total down or up, i.e. $1920 becomes $1900.
  • Calculate your cost of canvas and framing, and then double that number.

Let’s walk through an example with the following data points:

  • 16” x 20” painting
  • $6 is the set dollar amount per square inch
  • $150 is the cost of materials

320 x $6 = $1,920.00

$150 x 2 = $300.

$1,900 + $300 = $2,200 (the retail price).

If the painting sells from a gallery, Lori gets a 50% commission.

So, her total takeaway would be…$950 for the painting + $150 for the framing = $1,100.

*Lori asserts that she has been painting for 14 years so her cost per inch will be higher than an emerging artist’s. An artist starting out should make his/her work as affordable as possible, but still be able to cover costs and make a small profit.

Here are two other formulas for pricing your artwork. One includes treating your work like an hourly wage.


Charge the same in your studio as in a gallery.

Galleries invest time and money in the marketing and selling of your works. They do not appreciate being undercut, even if it is your own studio. Maintain strong amicable relationships with your galleries and keep your prices the same.


Beware of pricing yourself too low.

You can always lower prices. It is much harder to increase your prices.


Research the prices of comparable artists.

Research your market. Look at other artists’ work that is comparable in medium, size, style, etc. Don’t forget to take into consideration these artists’ experience, accolades and geographic location. Visit galleries, art fairs, exhibitions, etc. Note what is being sold…and what isn’t.


Price your work consistently.

Buyers want to understand how your art is priced. Consistency establishes credibility and a strong reputation among buyers, collectors, galleries, etc.


Stand by your prices with confidence.

Once you define your pricing strategy, be confident!

Social Media for Artists: Tips for Facebook, Instagram & Twitter

Social media.

The term has become synonymous with marketing. It is supposed to unlock marketing opportunity and sales for artists. But, how? We’re sharing a few tips for leveraging your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Before we dive into each platform, here are a few general social media best practices:

  • The 80/20 rule: People do not want to be barraged with sales messaging. Instead, dedicated 80% of your posts to entertaining your viewers and 20% promoting to them.
    • Content quality over quantity: Make sure your content is valuable to your readers and you’re not posting for posting’s sake. Connect with your customers in an authentic way.
  • Brand consistency across platforms: Make it easy for consumers to recognize your business and brand by maintaining consistency in: your logo and tagline, imagery and your bio/artist statement and tone and voice of your content. Follow successful artists and pay attention to how they brand themselves.
    • Dashboards save time: Download and use a social media dashboard like Tweetdeck or HootSuite to manage your social accounts.
  • Track engagement: Stay tuned to what posts perform well so you can get an idea of best performing content and timing for your audience.
  • Be consistent: Don’t come out of the gates sprinting. Only commit to a feasible amount of posting. You don’t want to set up unrealistic expectations with your followers.

Facebook

  • Engagement: Encourage engagement by asking a question in your post. And make sure to follow up with all comments! Engagement keeps readers coming back for more.
  • Cadence: It’s recommended to post once a day.
  • Timing: Studies show that the best time to post on Facebook is between 1pm – 4pm. But remember, since that’s a popular time, there will be a lot of competition; consider testing posts at other times.

Inspiration: Here are 10 Artist Facebook pages for inspiration. You can also learn from other types of businesses here. And, Facebook provides artist profile advice.


Twitter

  • Post length: At the end of September Twitter changed the game. It doubled the character length allowed in posts, from 140 to 280 characters.
    • Save characters by using a URL shortener like Bit.ly or TinyURL.
  • Timing + Cadence: According to the research of an established entrepreneur, Tim Ferriss, the best time to Tweet is  between 4:30 – 6:00pm ET. And he recommends posting about 6 times in that 1.5 hour window. The second most effective time is between 10:00am – 2:00pm ET.
  • Re-tweet (RT): Re-tweet posts to get the attention of collectors, artists, organizations and others you’d like to follow you.
  • Photos: Share a photo using Twitpic to share your complete or works in progress. It’s a great way to get your work out there and get feedback along the way.

Instagram

  • Consistency: Treat your account and the grid of images as a collection. Every photo should be cohesive. The easiest way to achieve this consistency is to choose a color scheme and stick with it. Some artists use only pastels or earth tones.

*Hashtag: Back up..what is a hashtag? A hashtag is a tag; anyone who clicks on a hashtag is taken to a stream of all posts with that same tag. According to ArtistsNetwork: “The right combination of hashtags helps expose you and your work to a larger but also targeted audience by making what you’re specifically offering easier to find.”

CallForEntry Update to Save You Time!

Great news! The CallForEntry™ (CaFE™) software has been updated to save you more time!

You can now upload images as small as 1200 pixels on one side. This change will allow you to upload images to your portfolio without taking the time to reformat them to the previously required format of 1920 pixels on one side.

As a result of this change, CaFE users may:

  • Upload JPEGs that are 1200 pixels or greater on the longest side (either H or W).
  • Spend less time upsizing JPEG files and use your upload-ready image files more easily.

Current images in your CaFE portfolio will not be affected by this change and you may continue to use these images when applying to calls. The reduced pixel size only affects new JPEG uploads.

NEW image specifications for uploading to CaFE:

  • File format: JPEG or JPG only
  • File dimensions: 1200 pixels or greater on the longest dimension
  • File size: under 5 MB

Questions? Contact us at cafe(at)westaf(dot)org.

10 Art Business Books to Ignite Your Art Career

There are over 73,000 results for “Business of Art” books on Amazon. That’s overwhelming! We’ve curated the list down to our 10 favorites.

These art business books will help grow your career whether you need advice on art marketing, legal issues, selling or grant writing.


The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

Author: Jackie Battenfield

Jackie Battenfield, a successful artist and professional development coach, wrote this comprehensive guide to teach emerging and mid-career artists how to build and maintain a professional art career. Battenfield provides strategies for all aspects of the job – marketing, online promotion, grant writing and portfolio development. It’s all easy to comprehend through her real-life examples, illustrations and step-by-step exercises. Keep this book by the nightstand!


I’d Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion

Author: Alyson Stanfield

“Enjoy sharing your art as much as your enjoy making it.” – Alyson Stanfield

Self-promotion is a big part of succeeding in the art world  and unfortunately for most artists, it doesn’t come easy.  Luckily, Alyson Stanfield, an art marketing expert, consultant, and author of the popular The Art Biz Blog, helps artists market themselves authentically and genuinely. This book focuses on Internet marketing – building a social media presence, blogging and newsletter secrets, and getting your name into search engines.


Legal Guide for the Visual Artist

Author: Tad Crawford

Whether you like it or not, the legal system is a part of our professional lives. Art law expert, Tad Crawford, crafted an informative guide of the legal implications artists face. He walks through contracts, taxes, copyright, litigation, commissions, licensing, and artist-gallery relationships with practical examples. He also shares sample legal forms and contracts, and offers tips for connecting with affordable attorneys.


Arts & Numbers: A Financial Guide for Artists, Writers, Performers, and Other Members of the Creative Class

Author: Elaine Grogan Luttrull

Budgeting, taxes and cash flow, Oh My! Books about finances are usually dull and boring, but not this book by CPA and artist, Elaine Grogan Luttrull. It’s filled with engaging stories and examples to help you succeed in your business endeavors. Luttrell will boost your confidence and expertise in taxes, budgets, money management, business etiquette, and much more.


The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing

Author: Gigi Rosenberg

Are grants your white whale? This guide gives you all the fishing supplies you need like writing tips and marketing strategies from grant officers, grant writers and fundraising specialists. Tap into the fundraising resources at your disposal and finance your artistic endeavors with this accessible read.


The Artist’s Guide to Selling Work

Author: Annabelle Ruston

How do you sell your work in today’s competitive market? This guide covers selecting the right gallery, approaching galleries, pricing, terms and conditions, artist agents, working with publishers, and public art commissions. Ruston also gives advice on social networking and e-marketing so that you can seize digital opportunities.


Show Your Work!: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Getting Discovered

Author: Austin Kleon

“[The] subtitle could just as easily be, ‘How to Self-promote Without Being a Jerkface.’ It’s an incredibly useful and compulsively readable short book.” — The Fast Company

Austin Kleon helped readers unlock their creativity in the New York Times bestseller, Steal Like an Artist. Now, he helps artists get known in his 10-step journey of self-promotion in which he encourages creatives to share their work and voice. The book is small and short, but it packs a punch.

Kleon emphasizes audience building as a process, not a product. Chapters like “You Don’t Have to Be a Genius;” “Share Something Small Every Day;” and “Stick Around,” contribute to the manifesto of being open, generous, brave and productive in our digital age.


Art Inc. – The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist

Author: Lisa Congdon

“Art, Inc. is a revelation. At long last, there is a resource to help creative people articulate their aesthetic values, successfully brand their business, and manage their artist’s income.” – Debbie Millman, president, Sterling Brands

Professional artist, Lisa Congdon, helps artists do what they love and make a career out of it. Learn how to set actionable goals, diversify your income, manage your bookkeeping, copyright your work, promote with social media, build a standout website, exhibit with galleries, sell and price your work, license your art, acquire an agent, and much more.


Sell With Confidence

Author: Barry Watson

Sales does not have to be sleazy. Barry Watson shares actionable techniques to improve your confidence and skills as a salesperson. Understand the true nature of selling, discover the “secret sauce,” be yourself, positively redefine rejection, turn setbacks into comebacks, and create a sales-confidence game plan. You’ll also get a downloadable 7-Step Sales Cheat Sheet!


Art/Work- Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As you Pursue Your Art Career

Authors: Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber

No matter where you are in your professional career, you’ll get incredible value from this comprehensive guide. Heather Darcy Bhandari, a gallery director, and Jonathan Melber, an arts lawyer, give you the business and legal tools to stay in control of your career. The book covers business basics like inventory tracking and preparing invoices; legal precautions like registering a copyright and drafting consignment forms; promotional tools like websites and business cards; and how to approach career decisions like choosing the right venue for showing your work. Don’t learn these lessons the hard way!

 

 

How to Write an Artist Statement: Stop Stalling & Start Writing

Calvin & Hobbes. Cartoon by Bill Watterson, July 15, 1995

 

Do you consider artist statements a necessary evil? As artists we use visuals to convey our ideas, not words. But it is important for our viewers to understand the concepts behind our works.

Good news: you don’t have to be a writer to write an artist statement. After reading this post, you’ll write a clear and professional statement in no time!

First things first: why write an artist’s statement?

You will never be everywhere with your artwork. It’s important to craft a thoughtful narrative so that those accessing your work, whether that be a curator, gallery dealer, competition judge, or the general viewing public, can better understand it.

Once your artist statement is written, you’ll be able to repurpose it in multiple ways:

  • Applying for funding or to graduate schools
  • Writing a proposal for an exhibition
  • Competing in a competition
  • Getting your work in front of a buyer. Liz Iracki reminded us in Artist Resume that the buyer wants to know your story.
  • Putting yourself in the public eye, i.e. visiting lecture or press release.

And, what’s an artist’s statement again?

A general introduction to your work or body of work. Most are a full page, but some can be as short as a paragraph.

Where does your artist statement live?

Your artist’s statement should always accompany your work:

  • Online: on your website
  • In the gallery: displayed as wall text or in a binder at the front of the gallery
  • In submissions: including, but not limited to, art competitions, school applications, RFQs and grant proposals.

How do I write a statement?

Before you set pen to paper, answer these important questions:

  • Who is your audience? What knowledge do they have of your art, your medium, or even the art world?
  • How will your statement be used?
  • What do you want your statement to convey about you as an artist? What do you make? Why do you make it? How do you make it?

Then determine your tone. Do you want the statement to be emotional? Humorous? Professional? Keep your reader in mind but stay true to yourself: speak from your own experiences and perspective.

Sometimes it’s helpful to have a framework when brainstorming your statement. Feel free to use this general outline to get started:

  • First paragraph: Make a good first impression! Invite the reader in by providing a brief overview of your work and the concepts you explore (~3 sentences). What are you trying to say in your work, and why did you create it in the first place?
  • Second paragraph: Go into more detail about the issues presented in the work. What influences your work and motivates you to create? What tools, materials, and processes do you use? How does the current work relate to previous works?
  • Third paragraph: Summarize the statement briefly (aim for one sentence). Provide a takeaway you’d like your reader to have as a lasting impression.

Here’s some advice for what to avoid in your statement:

  • Repetition of phrases and words: be concise
  • Monotonous structure/tone: vary your sentence length and structure
  • Clichés and trite statements: be yourself
  • Long explanations: be clear
  • Too much technicality or jargon: speak to your reader
  • On the other hand, don’t use flowery, vague writing: be direct
  • Pomposity: stay humble.

Tip: Refer to yourself in the first person, “I”, and not as the artist so that your audience can relate to YOU.

How should you format the statement?

It should not be longer than a page. Make it single space and no smaller than 10-12 font.
And don’t forget to keep copies of all iterations. It makes it easier to write a new statement for a new body of work, and helps those that may curate a retrospective!

Ultimately, keep your statement clear, concise, direct, and HONEST. The reader should hear your voice coming through the prose.

And if we’re being honest, writing an artist statement is not an easy task, but you’ll discover more about yourself as an artist with this exercise.

Still stuck?

It’s OK; getting started is like pulling off a bandaid. Try these two helpful exercises to get the ideas and words flowing:

  • Mind map: Jot down a key idea that informs your work in the center of a page and write any words, phrases, feelings, etc. that come to mind when you think of this idea.
  • Free writing: Spend ~15 minutes writing. And don’t overthink it! Just write!

Once you’ve crafted your standout statement, save it and have it ready to include in your CaFÉ submissions!

10 Essentials to Keep in Your Camera Bag

Your camera bag needn’t be a 800-pound gorilla. It can be well-equipped, but still manageable to carry. Here are 10 lightweight camera bag essentials to ensure you’ll always be ready to snap the shot.


1. Plastic bags: garbage and zipper

 

Head to the grocery store and pick up garbage and zipper bags to protect your gear. If it pours, you can toss all of your gear inside a garbage bag and tie it up for extra waterproofing. You can also make a poncho to keep yourself dry. Zipper bags can serve as a lens waterproof cover; poke a lens-sized hole in the bag, place it over the lens, and secure it with an elastic band. Store your extra lenses and camera body in gallon bags to avoid dust settling on your gear.

 

 


 2. Microfiber cloth

 

It’s not the most alluring item, but it’s possibly the most useful accessory to have in your camera bag. It cleans dust and dirt off your equipment. It also serves as a protector of all things expensive – wrap it around your lenses and other accessories to avoid scratching.

 

 


 3. Mini tripod

 

If you don’t want to carry a tripod around everywhere you go, but don’t want to sacrifice the quality of your photos – purchase a small tripod like this Manfrotto mini tripod. Prop it on a surface to avoid camera shake and avoid blurry photos in low-light situations. Flexible tripods are great for mirrorless, point & shoot and/or smartphones; wrap them around a pole, tree branch, etc.

 

 


 4. Tape: Gaffer or Electrical

Gaffer tape is as versatile as it comes. It holds things together with a strong grip, but doesn’t leave residue when it peels off. You can MacGyver anything with this tape –  secure your tripod to a surface or fix a broken camera strap – problems be gone!

Want to save even more space in your bag? Get yourself some electrical tape – Gaffer’s smaller sibling of a lifesaver. You can find it for less than $2…and probably already have some in a drawer. You just have to be OK with the residue it will leave behind.

 



5. Circular Polarizer Filter

Polarizers are great if you’re photographing landscapes. They help eliminate reflections and glare, especially over water. They reduce haze in landscapes and provide greater color and tonal saturation. They aren’t cheap (~$60) but the price of rich blue skies, vibrant foliage, contrasty clouds and reflection-free water and glass are worth it!

 

 



 6. Mirror

 

Small, acrylic mirrors are lightweight, cheap and easy to find. They serve as handy reflectors and give you directional light for dramatic shadows or luminous fill.

 

 

 

 

 


7. Micro screwdriver set

 

Hopefully you won’t have need of a screwdriver set. But, if you need it, you NEED it –  loose tripod heads, broken sunglasses, or dare I say, broken camera. These sets are cheap and can be found on Amazon or at a dollar store.

 

 

 



8. Flashlight

 

If you’re venturing out for a night photography adventure, an inexpensive flashlight will keep you from fumbling with your camera controls and digging through your bag in the dark. Consider a LED headlamp if you don’t want to store your flashlight in your mouth. A pocket LED light is great for playing with light painting. Your smartphone’s flashlight app also works, consider the cost of a dropped flashlight vs. dropped smartphone…

 

 

 9. Paper serving ware – plates & cups

 

You can get a lot done with a paper cup and plate. Next time you’re at a picnic, grab a few extras. Cut the bottom off of a paper cup and ta-dah, you have a cheap snoot. Line the cup with electrical tape and you have a lens shade. A paper plate can be used as a ring light and a reflector. Cut a slit down the plate to create a funnel and direct the light more precisely.

 

 



10. Spare battery & memory cards

 

Nothing is more depressing than running out of space on your memory card or your camera battery dying. Don’t have that moment of disappointment and regret! Pack an extra memory card and battery in your bag so you can keep shooting!

 

 

 

 


With a well-equipped camera bag, you’ll set yourself for shooting success…without back pain.

Check out photography open calls on CaFE and submit those masterful shots today!