Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Price and the Value of Artwork

It's always a difficult thing to put a price on your art. But if you want to sell it, you gotta put a price on it. So how do you go about getting "fair market value" for your work and what does that have to do with your art? I've found pricing to be a very difficult part of my job. As I've developed a sales history over the years, it's gotten easier. Still separating the business and the emotion of producing art has been essential for me.

What am I charging for:

1. The time I spend thinking up the idea, percolating it, ruminating on it, procrastinating around it
2  Going to the art supply store to buy the stuff
3. Experimenting with the stuff
4. Finally making the thing and this includes all the years experience in what came before this piece
5. Framing it
6. Marketing it, taking it to a gallery or festival or selling it online (a huge chunk of time)
7. Shipping it
8. Sending a thank you note. 

How do you come up with a formula to charge for these tasks? Well very simply, I've decided to charge a set rate per square inch. I have a price per square inch for oils, one for framed pastels and one for unframed pastels. By doing this I'm not tempted to charge more for a piece that I'm especially partial to. I think this is a bad idea, since you are in effect devaluing the other work by setting a higher price for particular pieces. It's helpful to have this standard pricing to refer to when a client or gallery asks. I deviate from the formula occasionally for special projects only such as the "100 Variations" which I've set at slightly lower pricing because there are just so dang many of them!

This standard pricing is set at a particular rate based on a past history of sales and demand for my work. If I'm selling like hotcakes at a particular pricing rate, then it's time to move it up a little. If not, then I consider making a move down if necessary.

Setting this rate is a tricky thing as I'm putting a number on my time. More than that, I'm putting a number on all the hours behind an easel or drawing board that I've ever spent. Is my time worth more or less than the plumber or the doctor?? What is the price of beauty and creativity? Hard questions that start to go to questions about what we value.  Probably better for another post!

So, I like to keep the pricing transparent for buyers, so they know I'm not just setting an arbitrary price for a piece. I let them know how I formulate the price and have it clearly marked. I also have an inventory book, that lists each work with pricing and other info. I had this book made at a copy center for $15. It was worth it!!

I keep my prices the same in galleries and at outdoor festivals or studio shows. By doing this, I'm not competing with myself. I make less money this way through my galleries, but if they are doing their job, and they trust me, it always works out in the end. When I have work at a gallery, they are doing all the selling and footwork, so I'm happy for them to have their percentage. When I'm doing all of the footwork at a festival, I think I'm entitled to make a bit more.

I think of the price and the value as being kind of separate ideas. The price is what I can reasonably sell the work for. The value of it may be something much, much different.


Casey Klahn said...

My compliments on your price/inventory book. How organized can you get?

I recently made a survey of an international pastel event, looking at the average prices per square inch, and eliminating the funny outliers. I was very happy to relate my own prices (I price the same way as you describe) to the "norm." It helps a lot for that time when you go to an exhibit, and see a confusing range of prices, to be more sure of yourself.

Julie Greig NZ Painter said...

Thanks for that Marla, my days are much the same - the best laid plans can so easily fall apart with a phone call or email from a client or gallery needing something from me.

That's such a great way to price work, it would take some time to figure that out, but in the end it would save time. I appreciate you taking the time to share that with us. I just love your work!

loriann said...

Great post Marla.It is so tempting to price "good one" to be more, but that does devalue the others.
I love your inventory book. Are those little photos of each painting,inserted on the computer or hand's hard to tell. It looks like there are edges. I need to have a better system and this looks great. Would you show a page up close?
Once again i love your blog.