Saturday, December 18, 2010

How to price art

"How should I price my art?" is a perennial question asked by very many artists especially those starting out.

I've developed a "resources for artists" website  - Price Your Art - Resources for Artists for artists wanting to explore different approaches to pricing their art when wanting to sell their art
  • Find out about different approaches to pricing art
  • Find out how other artists price their art

[Update 2015: This material can now be found in the section on How to Price your art on my new website Art Business Info for Artists]

Essentially the site comprises the following [updated links are given after each heading]
  • How to Price Art - Information about alternative pricing options.  This explains what these are and how they work.  Costs are unpicked and the factors that influence the pricing process are identified.
    • Options for pricing art - Check out different approaches to "how to price art" - including different formulas for pricing your art
    • Terminology and formulas for pricing art - Review what influences different ways of pricing art e.g. identify costs that need to be recovered and learn about how place and venue influences prices
  • How to Price Art - Views about different practices: I've pulled together links to the perspectives of various artists and gallery owners about how best to work out a price for your art.  Plus poll results for how artists actually price their art.
  • Opinion Polls:  I've listed the results of the polls I've previously run about pricing art and selling art.  You can also complete a poll to identify the most important factor in determining the price of art.  Just running through the list of what can affect a price will make you think twice! 

And finally - about pricing art......

Let's not forget that the price on display does NOT equate to a sale.
  • Artists can and do sometimes price their higher than the value of the art as perceived by others ie the potential buyers. 
  • So the fact that you see an artist pricing at a certain level doesn't make that price correct or one that should be used as a baseline for other artists pricing their art.
If you want a baseline to measure against, it's far better to look at the prices which have achieved sales for artists of equivalent merit.


  1. If you're an emerging artist, (I have less than a year as a professional artist), how do you know which artists have equivalent merit?

  2. Oh - good question!

    I was trying to see your art website Anita but couldn't find one.

    I think guaging the value of your art and being able to see where it fits into the overall art scene is very often one of the areas where emerging artists often get in a pickle.

    Having access to channels which allow you to sell your art and actually being able to sell it are two completely different things. Often people creating art start trying to sell way too early in their development as an artist.

    My advice is always get out and LOOK at as much art as you can by other people. If you are seeing art in GALLERIES and JURIED EXHIBITIONS that is much better than anything you can do then the obvious priority for your development would be to focus on developing the art rather than trying to achieve sales at this stage.

    For people who are completely new to art, I guess the analogy would run something along the lines of playing the piano. Only when you are good do you get to play in a concert where people pay you to hear you play (the equivalent of a juried exhibition or becoming a gallery artist). People who learn to play the piano don't expect to achieve a concert level performance quickly and the same is true for art.


    This year I have had one commision and the sketchbook project.

    The intention for next year is to complete a coherent body of work.
    I want to create ten pieces of textile art with the eye as a theme. And ten drawings looking at urban landscape and architecture.

    There's lots of galleries where I live (and I go at every oportunity) but finding ones showing work in the mediums I'm most interested in is hard.

  4. Thanks for the link

    Maybe I could ask how you define "professional artist" Anita?

    My definition of a professional artist is somebody who makes their living mainly or entirely through their art.

    Mind you - this is a whole other blog post! Thanks for putting the thought in my head. :)

  5. Yes that is the best definition. I think it's more accurate to say that that's what I want to become.

  6. That's what I wondered! :) You and a lot of other people.......

    It certainly helps by studying professional practices.

    You might find the rest of my art business sites to also be helpful. Take a look at them in:
    * Making A Mark - The Art Business
    * Making A Mark - Marketing and Communication for Artists
    * Making A Mark - Selling and Shipping Art

  7. hmm, this is very complex but I would actually define a 'professional artist' as someone who:

    1. has a certain level of proficiency in their art work obviously (because of education, talent or otherwise but having an education in art definitely helps) and
    2. is serious about making and developing their art.

    Sadly in comparison to other young professionals, it is very hard for recent art graduates and emerging artists and sometimes even for mid career artists to make a living entirely from their art but that doesn't mean they are not professional in what they do.

    To give an example, a professional artist who teaches drawing isn't necessarily making all his living from his/her own art but so long as he/she also makes art I'd say he/she is an artist... on the other hand an art teacher who does not make art but can draw, may teach drawing all his life and as such earn all his income from something art related, but I'd still not call him a professional artist.

  8. I'd call the first one a serious artist and the second one a professional teacher.

    Paola - Your definition of "professional" needs to be capable of translating across different professions. I think it suggests that everybody with a law degree is a lawyer whereas for the purposes of practising law there's usually a bit more to it than that.

    There are many amateur and semi-professional artists who maintain "professional practices"

    Here's the Chambers definition

    adj 1 earning a living in the performance, practice or teaching of something that is usually a pastime • a professional golfer.
    2 belonging to a trained profession.
    3 like, appropriate to or having the competence, expertise or conscientiousness of someone with professional training • did a very professional job.
    4 derog habitually taking part in, or displaying a tendency towards, something that is despised or frowned upon • a professional misogynist.

    1 someone who belongs to one of the skilled professions.
    2 someone who makes their living in an activity, etc that is also carried on at an amateur level. professionalism noun. professionally adverb.

    My version is the second definition of the noun

    That is
    someone who makes their living in an activity, etc that is also carried on at an amateur level.

  9. Katherine you said 'Often people creating art start trying to sell way too early in their development as an artist.'

    How do you know when you're ready to sell? Particularly if you're self taught. It's not something to be put off indefinitely either.

  10. Now that's a very good point Anita.

    I find artists start to think about it round about the time when people start asking whether they can buy your work (or at least that's what happens to those of us who work plein air).

    When I first started to think about it, I used to take myself off to galleries to look at the priced framed work - and then come home and look at mine - and then tried to decide whether mine was up to scratch.

    I also used to ask the professional artists who were teaching me what they thought about it. (Only the ones who were actually selling their own art through galleries though!)

    It's something to do with being able to produce work at a consistently high standard which gives you the confidence to start pricing it.

    You'd be surprised though at the numbers who price and try to sell their work without ever having looked at work for sale in a proper art gallery.

    Art Society exhibitions are a good place to start in terms of only needing to produce one good painting for sale.


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