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!

6 Resources to Help You Sell Your Artwork without Headache and Hassle

You don’t need a Masters in Business to sell your artwork. And you don’t have to feel like you are “selling out” when selling. We have 6 helpful resources to give you the tools and knowledge to make genuine and fruitful sales online and offline.

How to Sell your Artwork Online By Cory Huff 

Resource Type: Book

Online sales are increasing. The lionshare of the market has been held by galleries, separating artists and collectors, but now the internet has changed the game. There’s a new generation of artists connecting directly with buyers online.

How to Sell Your Art Online outlines how to set up an effective website and provides advice on email marketing, blogging, social media marketing and paid advertising.

Huff provides exercises that artists can use to clarify the intellectual and emotional process behind their art, and teaches them how to turn that knowledge into unique stories they can tell online and in person.

ArtistsNetwork.com

Resource Type: Website

ArtistsNetwork.com is a subdivision of F+W Media, Inc. Art Community, which offers books and articles for artists, art videos, online art classes, and art contests. Check out the Art Career Tips and Articles section of the site to boost your sales. Here are two helpful articles:

Art Commissions: General Rules for Selling Art. From the article, “If you underprice your work, the purchaser will value it accordingly. If they pay $25 dollars for something, they will not treasure it nearly as much as they would had they paid $250. You tell the customer what your art is worth by the price that you charge. Sell it cheap, and it may end up being discarded, or sold in a garage sale.”

Selling Artwork Online reminds you of the importance of paperwork legal counsel – “Wherever you sell art online–whether through your own eCommerce store or an online art selling hub–make sure you are protected and you consult a legal professional and or CPA beforehand.”

Artsy Shark’s 250+ Places to Sell your Artwork Online

Resource Type: Online Directory

Artsy Shark gives artists a directory of places that they can market and sell their artwork. General categories include marketplaces, website providers, commission sites and print on demand services. Here are a few examples:

  • Portraity: This site aims to connect artists and clients who want commissioned portraits. Upload your portfolio onto the site and a “contact” button puts potential clients in touch with you.
  • Society6: This provider takes your uploaded art images and uses them to make prints, canvases, iPhone cases, hoodies and more. Set your price, and you receive payment for everything over the base price of their products.
  • Square: This is the same group that created the Square card reader. This popular marketplace offers free online stores, with a very clean contemporary look. Use it as your website or link to them as your store.

The Wealthy Artist: 6 Myths and 6 Tips on Marketing your Art

Resource type: YouTube Video

This YouTube video is help for up-and-coming artists. CanvasPop co-founder, Adrain Salamunovic, debunks 6 myths on marketing artwork and offers advice on how to market artwork while maintaining your artistic integrity. how up-and-coming artists can market their works and still maintain their artistic integrity. Here are two myths he addresses:

  • “Creating prints of my will reduce its value.”
  • “If I increase my art prices, I will make more money.”

How to Sell Your Art: Discover How to Stop Being a Starving Artist and Start Being a Successful Entrepreneur  By Alex Korman

Resource Type: Book

Most artists want to make art, not sell it, but in order to turn your passion into a career, you have to think like a business(wo)man and be entrepreneurial. This book gives you those tools without sacrificing your creativity. Here is what you’ll learn:

  • Understanding your market
  • Composing your artist statement
  • Refining your sales pitch
  • Knowing how to price your pieces
  • Discovering where you art belongs
  • Identifying the buyers
  • Defining your target market
  • How to sell art online

 

Etsy Artist: How to successfully launch, market and sell your art on Etsy By Clare Hudson

Resource Type: Book

From the author: “When I started my Etsy shop, I tried looking for a book that specifically focused on selling art and art prints on Etsy, but couldn’t find one. This ebook includes everything I wish I’d been told right from the start and outlines the strategies that worked well for me in the first eight months of having my Etsy shop. There’s also a chapter on tips from other Etsy shop owners who sell artwork.”

It covers everything from creating a successful brand to writing engaging descriptions and effective tags that will help lead customers to your work.

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!