If you’re an artist an the verge of becoming a ‘professional artist’ (ie selling paintings for $$$), you’ve probably asked yourself the following questions:
How much is my art worth? How much should I charge for my paintings? How much can I get for my art?
This article may help you understand how to charge for your paintings, what gives artworks their value, and what to do to increase the value of your paintings.
A long time ago I set a goal of earning $1000 per painting; this is not so much because my paintings were ‘worth’ $1000 – that number was just a figure strong enough to suggest that I’d ‘made it’ as an artist. A ‘real artist’ selling in a gallery may not make as much; paintings in galleries (by good but relatively unfamous artists) regularly sell for between $1000 ~ $3000. The artist’s cut therefore, usually around %50, could be more like $500.
(*However, if you plan eventually to get into galleries, you don’t want to sell your paintings at $500 because a gallery can’t afford to charge so little. Keep your prices high enough to later enter into good relations with galleries. That said, if you want to negotiate with a buyer and sell for less, do so without advertising it publically.)
Now, $1000 doesn’t seem like enough to me; that’s the price of very many mediocre, pretty, ordinary paintings. Million and millions of them. I don’t want to be in that category of decent enough to sell buy wholly unremarkable. Therefore, I mostly use price as an indicator of my position in the global art market. For my large pieces, I charge as much as $5,000. The reason is that I’m less interested in selling as I am displaying in high class galleries, who need higher prices to justify lending me the exhibition space. Eventually, I hope to charge a lot more.
But what about ME?!
Sorry, I forgot you were here. As I mentioned, starting around $1000 (but selling under the counter for $500) is a good strategy. That is, if you paint well and have some interesting pieces (not just one or two) and don’t just paint flowers or portraits or landscapes. Remember that people can buy a fantastic, beautiful, hand pointed oil painting from China for much less than you’re trying to charge, so get a humble and honest evaluation of your self-worth before trying to sell at all. If you’re a hobbyist, use your paintings as a Christmas present, a fundraiser, or give it to a local restaurant for promotion. (Promotion is so much more important than selling! Focus on promoting yourself and painting more, not selling, until people are constantly asking you – “Would you sell the original? How much does it cost?” Unless people are trying to buy your paintings, price doesn’t really matter.
Should I post my prices online?
I have… but I advise against it. For one, I have half a dozen sites I’ve made in the last 10 years online that have wildly different prices. For another, prices may change, due to gallery mark up or whatever. How embarrassing for a gallery to list a price for a painting that is more than the online price!
Does size and material matter?
Yes – oil paintings usually sell for more, regardless of quality (so learn to oil paint!). Larger pictures also sell for much higher prices. However, try to keep your paintings in the same ‘bracket’. I have an exhibition next week and lots of small paintings that I’m selling a little too cheap (it’s a small gallery, with no commission, so I’m charging around $500) however I feel uncomfortable charging more than $1500 for my very large, new paintings, just because the difference in prices would be too great and seem strange. I can either charge more for the little ones, or less for the big ones. Probably I’ll list the big ones ‘not for sale’, so I can find another gallery where I can put a much higher price on them.