Monday, March 02, 2009

MAM Poll (March): How do you price your art?

Angora Goat
coloured pencil on Somerset Velvet

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

In the Making A Mark Poll for March I'd like to to look at how you price your art.

It's a perennial question asked by new artists and a question which should always be kept under review by more established artists. It's also a question which I know is concerning a lot of artists as they try to work out an appropriate response to the impact of the recession.

My intention is that I will:
  • provide a commentary on the poll results at or just after the end of the month
  • write some blog posts about
    • the role pricing plays in marketing
    • different approaches to pricing
    • pricing in a recession
  • produce a resources for artists information site about pricing art
For the time being I've tried to find the best "shortcut" way of describing various and different approaches in terms of poll options. These are explained below.

Whatever the market will bear

A market led approach to pricing which tries to find the price which ensures a piece will sell. This usually involves testing out different price points to find the one which maximise sales. The results will depend on the channels used to test prices.

Based on comparable art where I live

the artist studies prices displayed in local galleries and other places where art is sold and finds a comparable artist in terms of media and/or subject matter and relates prices to these. Success with this strategy depends on whether or not the baseline artist is selling work and how much a reputation earned over years has been factored into the price they charge.

Based on comparable art on the internet

the artist looks at what else is available on the internet and picks an artist or group of artists, notes the prices asked (or achieved at auction) and then adjusts accordingly. More astute artists search for information about the price asked which actually achieves a sale.

Cost plus (wage rate+materials cost+markup)

The artist determines an hourly rate for their work, adds in the cost of materials (and matting and framing if applicable) and then adds a flat rate or a percentage as a mark-up which covers marketing and other business expenses and/or a profit element.

Price per square inch/cm

The artist determines a standard price per square inch or centimetre and applies this to all artwork. A different standard price may be worked out for very small or very large pieces. This can lead to odd prices.

Specific prices for specific sizes

This is a variation of the price per square inch which adjusts (rounds) the price to a value which sounds more like a reasonable price. It avoids odd sounding prices.

No. of hours spent on the artwork

The price is determined by a calculated hourly rate based on the notion that materials costs are incidental and the crucial cost driver is the number of hours required to complete the work. It bears no relation whatsoever to whether or not the market will pay the price.

Percentage increase each year

This approach is often used by an emerging artist who wants to grow sales income over time. The emphasis is always on relating to prices charged in previous years rather than what the market will bear or is currently paying for comparable work or input costs.

Plucked from the air

this is the "it feels like a $500 painting to me" approach. There is no obvious rationale other than a gut feel and/or a wish to avoid doing research to check out the current state of the marketplace

The poll is now posted in the right hand column and closes on the 31st March 2009. You can see the results of previous polls in The Making A Mark Poll - Resources for Artists

If you would like to make a comment on pricing please do so.
  • Tell me which approach you prefer to use and why.
  • If you have a variation, please explain what this is and why you use it
  • If you're using a completely different approach please let me know what that is


Kim Denise said...

I'll be interested in the poll results--I let my gallery take care of pricing, which is done roughly by the square inch, with an annual percentage increase. I voted for square inch, but could have voted for either.

I really wanted to say that I love the Angora Goat piece--such softness in line and color, with such an intelligent face!

Charlene Brown said...

I have checked off ‘specific prices for specific sizes’ which works as long as it appears to correspond to the amount of time spent – but breaks down in the case of postcards (if you ink in way too many details, as I do – I mean, who is going to pay $100 for a postcard?) And what if you’re asked how much it will cost while you’re working on it? I often paint postcards on location and find that almost everyone who comes along will want to watch, and talk about it. Some will simply want to tell you about the very beautiful paintings done by their aunt ‘who is even older than you,’ but most will have questions, the first one being: "How much do you get for these?" Trust me; the only safe answer to this one is "I can’t sell them. I promised to mail them to my family.”

Judith C said...

As my largest pictures in oil or acrylic often take a fraction of the time that it takes to do a small, detailed coloured pencil drawing, size is often quite irrelevant - though per hour I would probably charge more for the fast acrylic! The amount of time taken is a major factor in considering the price.
I hope one day I will find someone to buy the oil painting that took over 200 hours!.... though I think they are more likely to buy the acrylic that took about 15 - 20 hours!

Billie Crain said...

I price my art according to what other artists in the same gallery are charging for similar work, taking into consideration the medium used, size, framed or unframed as my basis. I offer mostly prints and if a certain print is selling well I will raise the price within a year.

Casey Klahn said...

This is a good poll, and I think it will inform many artists who rack their brains over a difficult question.

I had the good fortune to be successful in early exhibits and build a track record of sales. Remember to compute both your "most sales" price-point, as well as your average price per painting sold. That means what priced painting did you sell the most of, and then what was your average of sales.

Then, with this data, you now have a clue of what the market is bearing. Then, what I do is figure out, by back computing, what the price per square inch was for that "most sold" price. The average of all of my sales tells me whether this is a high or low goal price.

Now I have arrived at a way to please the market and to be consistent across the board.

As you've noted, Katherine, the price will change as the size goes up. The reason for this is that my larger works, if computed strictly by square inch, would be much higher than my top-price-sold, or my personal threshold for sales. Again, back to observing the market.

This long explanation goes to show how I've combined two methods.

Tina Mammoser said...

I have set prices based on set sizes - not quite sq inch because as you know I work in pretty predictable sizes. :)

But that method did originate out of pricing by materials + time + profit, which eventually evolved into a price per square cm, which was tweaked to compare my work to others of a similar career point, which eventually evolved into the price by size with an increase each year. Every step of the way I also considered what the market would bear.

It's all about evolution. :) And whatever method we use it should be grounded somewhere in logic (not emotional attachment to the work) present or past.

christine said...

Katherine, your angora goat drawing is adorable!!!

As for pricing, I am very new to the selling side of art and I am quite interested in what others have to say about this topic. I recently sold my first pieces (prints of my sketches) and I based my price on comparable art on the internet.

Patrice said...

I'm surprised that anyone could use only one method for pricing. I chose "comparable art where I live" but I also take into consideration the size and time spent - and one very important factor: how much I, myself, like the piece. If it's something I'm happy to keep for myself, I price it, say, 30 - 40% higher. I guess this is where the "feels right" or "plucked from the air" thinking comes in - but I never just stick a price on something without thinking it through.

"JeanneG" said...

Wonderful wooly goat. There are two at our local animal sanctuary/museum and I love getting to pet them (the children's petting area). One thing I was surprised about the ones here, their pupils run horizontal.

Hard to price here as most in the gallery where I participate, I am one of the few who do graphite and colored pencil. So It is hard to know what to do. Photography and of course oils seem to be the winners in the competitions with watercolor coming a close third.

Stephen Scott said...

We've noticed a trend here in South Africa - if it's well priced it's seen at as cheap, if it's cheap, then it's not good and if it's not good then it's not worth having.

So there are artists literally drawing stick figures and earning top dollar for it!

It seems that the best way to make a painting better is to bump up the price.

I voted for the option of per hour + costs, but I'm also inclined towards sucking a price out of thin air.

Pat Aube Gray said...

I find it difficult to price high a work that took a short time to do. I checked off time to complete in your survey, but I also usually include the degree of difficulty in arriving at the final price. If I feel I met a difficult challenge, the price goes up a notch.

As my second passion after art is yarn, I absolutely LOVE the angora goat! Snip, snip!

Ed Terpening said...

Good idea, Katherine. I look forward to the results. I price based on a combination of factors, generally based on size, but also quality. That is, sometimes a really great piece will be priced higher, because I'm saving it for a gallery show (as opposed to selling online). I try to mix online sales with gallery shows this way.

Anonymous said...

This is such a fabulous blog. Thank you for continually asking the questions on all our minds. As for me, I have not yet sold any of my art, and given that I am not an artist by trade or formal training, I don't know that I ever will. I have frequently gifted art to friends and family, and I'm curious to know if other artists by trade and training ever do this, or is that faux-pas?

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Lots of very succesful artists have no formal training - so you never know!

The answer to your question is that yes they do - all the time! I always find it very interesting when researching famous artists to find what they gifted to their own families in their lifetime.

stschantz said...

My pricing is a mix of what the area I live in and sizing. Also, my own reputation.
One thing I am not doing is lowering my price because of the downturn in the economy.

I work very hard on my art. I use the best material I can get and only display my best work.

I display most of my work at an artist co-op, so the pricing is influenced by the other artists in the group, but in the end, I have my own system.

I don't let how many hours I put in change the pricing. My works are priced by size/cost etc. All my 4x6 framed miniatures are one price, the larger oil paintings another. My prints are very much by size and medium.

You can get more for an oil painting than for one done in Watercolor. Not fair, but there you have it.

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