Thursday, 12 April 2012

The price is right (or is it?)...

pointillism portrait of a horses eye reflection windows to the soul
In you I trust. (Acrylic on wood hardboard 15 x 21.5 inches)

So, in honour of having finished my horse's eye painting which I've called 'In you I trust', I was going to tell you about the time a few weeks ago when a horse ate our caravan.  A true story.  But I've got something else on my mind and, as we're still trying to convince the owner of the horse that humans are responsible for the animals in their care, I'll leave off on telling you about that till another day.

What I really want to talk about today is how to price your art work.  In the last week I've had two requests for possible commissioned pieces, one from a girl I follow on Twitter and one from an old work colleague via Facebook.  Both seemed really keen when they initially found out I was an artist and had seen samples of my work and queried how much it would cost for what they wanted. I emailed them back with the details and haven't heard from either of them since! Awkward!

Close ups - the devil's in the detail.

I've never really known how to price my commissioned work.  Years ago when I was asked to do caricatures of couples for wedding presents, I based it on an hourly rate as each one takes a different length of time to complete depending on size, medium and the amount of detail in the piece.  I've stuck with that way of pricing ever since.  So, in fact, my hourly rate (£10 in case you wondered) hasn't increased since 2003!!

As the pointy portraits I do can take between 15-20 hours to complete, a finished piece is going to be between £150 - £200 (which includes both materials and time).  I suppose I don't have enough faith in myself because I'm not a 'professional' artist and end up wondering if it's too much. Then I think about how my hourly art rate is less than I earn per hour for typing and filing in my day job, it's significantly less than any tradesman or lawyer would charge per hour and at the end of the day, as S says, my art is a skill, like any other that people are willing to pay for, and one that I shouldn't sell myself short on. Of course,  it's all well and good sticking to my guns but if it means that people don't want to commission me because they think it's too expensive, I'm not going to get very far as an artist, professional or otherwise!

Finished apart from the coat of glaze.
So,  I'm throwing it out there to my fellow artists - how do you price your art? Is there a secret to how to work it out and have you found a way that works for you?

I'm linking as always to the only Paint Party to be seen at on a Friday and thanks as always to Kristin and Eva for continuing to be the hostesses with the mostesses!


  1. Beautiful painting! Pricing is a tricky subject, I have sold my work for about 10 years and the way I decided on price was by researching what other artists were asking and what I felt I would feel comfortable paying.
    I ran into trouble when my work was being sold in agallery, they priced it so high because all the the others were high, I sold one painting in a year.On Etsy the prices were so low compared to what they ask for my work at the galleries, even the prints are priced low
    .There again I went by what other artists with painting similar to mine charged then decided what I thought was fair.If you go with your gut you should be fine, I have sold more work in the last couple of years than ever and I try to keep my prices reasonable.

  2. The painting came together so beautifully... I love it... as to pricing... it is tough... I price my prints pretty reasonably, but originals are a bit harder... my Botanical works are quite expensive because of the time I spend on them, but people are used to spending that on traditional botanicals, but my other works can be harder to price... I work on an hourly rate, plus an extra hour or two for materials according to the size ,and I think $10 an hour for your time is way too cheap... time for a pay rise.. I always think if someone doesn't want to pay what you are worth and want something for nothing then they are probably going to be problem clients, so forget about them... don't take it personally, you are worth heaps more in my book...xx

  3. Loving your completed picture, its beautiful. Have no experience of selling artwork, but do realise that people who are not artists are sometimes astounded at the cost of a painting and usually end up buying a print of it. Happy PPF and enjoy the weekend, Annette x

  4. It turned out beautifully, it really is an amazing piece of work! I have no experience in pricing at all, it's something I yet have to figure out. I was thinking about pricing according to size, but then, my painting style doens't take quite as long as yours. With your work, I think that pricing it per hour is a good idea, but £10 does not sound like very much to me. I think that if people are not prepared to spend what it's worth on your art work, then they simply don't appreciate and deserve it enough. And I think that there are many people who simply don't realise what it takes to create a picture, let alone what art supplies cost. Comparing what others charge seems like a good idea (although it can be rather confusing), but at the end I think it's also important that you are happy with what you charge. There is no point in underselling your work, but also no point in charging a price you don't feel comfortable with. Happy PPF!

  5. This is a very difficult topic! I try with *Make me an offer*, and have sometimes got more than i expected. But I am not comfortable with selling work, it's like selling a part of me! Valerie

  6. Im self taught and recently had a few of my "quirky" mixed media items on Etsy, only one sold, everyone I spoke to and everyone who commented always said how fantastic my art was, in fact I was encouraged to sell. So I can only assume that 1. People have no spare money 2. My art was so cheap that people thought it must be rubbish 3. People tend to stick with artists (sellers on Etsy etc) who are prolific. 4. people tend to say "fantastic" when they dont mean it. In my opinion you could be a licensed artist, you are that good (and no im not telling porkies!). I have seen 100's of art items that frankly would look better in the bin, but they sell!! I looked at some yesterday on Folksy and was shocked at how simple (not "cute simple") they were and how much they were selling for. I dont understand it. Have you had a good look at Etsy lately? You may find some clues there on pricing. Its like everything you try to sell, you need to get your "name" out there. I have no answers really, which is why I tend to just paint for myself!! xxxxx

  7. Well, that really sucks not getting a reply. But it's still better at this stage than after you've already finished with the commission and then they decide the price is too high. I priced my work in comparison to similar artwork others sell on Etsy. But I'm known for putting my price very low and this year I decided I'm gonna up my prices because when the paintings were dirt cheep and I'm talking 15-20 € nobody was buying them either. So I decided to higher my prices and this way if I don't sell I at least know the price might be to high for most and if I do sell at least it feels like I've made some money and not just a few extra euros to spend while I go out to see a movie.:)
    BTW I love your horse's eye. :)

  8. Pricing is really difficult. I don't think your prices are too high. All art is expensive, if you wanted to buy a piece you loved you would want to pay a fair price and I think your prices are fair.

    If you just want to have a regular income from your work you could put them on Ebay or have an exhibition.
    I hope you do manage to sell at a price you are happy with...wishing you lots of luck:)

  9. Firstly, the horse is AMAZING! That clever reflection of the person reaching out is so effective - It tells a story :0)
    Pricing is a difficult one. I suppose it's easy to think of pricing to be an hourly rate plus size and costs of materials. What buyers forget is that the Artist is producing a one off original piece of art that nobody else will ever be able to buy and that the Artist has put their heart and soul in to. They don't understand the sleepless nights that sometimes goes with a piece of art. 'S' is right - Don't sell your self short. Decide on a price that you are happy to accept and stick with it :0)

  10. You do such beautiful work! I struggle with pricing my portraits, I try to base it on hours worked, I charge About $15-20 an hour. I figure cost of materials and keep most of my work of similar size and medium the same cost. This simplifies it so I don't over-think it. I think if you are consistent people will see your rates are in fact very reasonable, as artists we should never sell ourselves short. Best of luck!

  11. Your painting is just amazing. I knew it would be good, but really it's fantastic.
    Your hourly rate is a great way to price your style of painting, since it's so time intensive, but I think it puts you in that category that is too cheap for real buyers, and too expensive for bargain shoppers. If I were pricing a portrait like yours I'd start by saying that each one takes a minimum of 20 hours to produce, and then bump your hourly rate up a bit, at least 15 or 20 dollars.
    There are always going to be people who think your work is overpriced if it's more than the cost of a greeting card. If you try and satisfy them, you will be exhausted and broke. I'd try asking around at vet clinics or grooming salons and see if you could hang a sample piece and a contact card in their office.

    1. you're a genius! That's a really good idea and I don't know why I hadn't thought of it! I did keep leaving a business card in my local pet supply store on their card board but every time I go in, its been taken down! I'll try the vets though!

  12. Your painting is done very well ~ it is awesome ~ wow! ~ thanks, namaste, ^_^

    Pricing ~ 1st off ~ those 2 people you mention may have contacted you to get a sense of pricing for themselves ~ and not really interested in buying ~ 2ndly ~ would price the original and then make prints which you sell much cheaper ~ You are worth your weight in gold as an artist ~ need to see what the market will accept, though ~ just my thoughts ~ ^_^

  13. I have not sold art but I have owned several businesses over the years. One of the businesses was a jewelry wholesaler. The price should be what the market will bear- so if you need to make rent that is one factor. If you create for you and sell as a bonus source of income that is another. If you are selling as an extra income you get to price it at what you think it is worth- what do you want to sell one at? What price do you think reflects your skill-talent?

  14. I love the horse's eye painting. It's creative and beautifully done. I know zilch about pricing art. I sold a painting once years ago for $40 (24"x36" framed oil painting) and another of the same size for $50. That was years ago. Now, I don't sell anything. They just keep on piling up in my art room or else I give them away. No one has ever asked that I do a commissioned painting.

  15. Love your horse painting, good job. My instructor once told us we should price our same size paintings all the same price no matter what venue. as you say, on your blog or Etsy it might be $50.00 a painting for a small size, but if it is in a gallery that same painting might be 150. or 200.00 because of commissions to the gallery etc. I have been told by many professional artists that you never price by time and materials, you decide on a price per size of each painting and you keep that price the same everywhere you show your work. The only time you raise your price is if you are adding a frame or have consistently sold all your work for the last year. Then try going up 10.00 for the group of sizes that have been selling.

  16. You must charge more than £10 an hour - you are selling talent! How about you offer a guarantee with your commissions - that if they don't like it, they don't have to pay? Maybe you need to remind them exactly what they are getting - a totally unique work of art! It is hard, I know and incredibly frustrating, but I think you have to stick to your guns and not sell yourself short. If people really can't afford a commission, then point them in the direction of your prints as a more affordable alternative. Hope this helps.

    Amazing eye painting - remember what a talent you have!

  17. The eye really came out good. I love it. If and when my work sells, it's mostly prints through FAA. I'm wondering though what is going to happen to the originals when I'm gone?? Nice work.

  18. thank you all so much for your suggestions on pricing. it is a difficult one to gauge and I do believe that most folk don't appreciate just how much work goes into an artist's work but I guess until I get a PR man like Damian Hirst's behind me where I can sell any old c*ap for millions then I'll need to rethink what I'm doing right now!

  19. Your painting is beautiful and I think the same like a lot of people here: maybe your prices are too cheap. On the other hand, my way of selling art is let it be available for everyone. Some people are poor, other people -do- have the money. If, let's say, there is someone who can't afford a painting of 100$, well.. then why not make a deal? You can lower the price and let the person do something in return. Or what about swaps? Personally, I just LOVE swaps, but what I try to say is: people who have the money, will pay for it. People who don't, will ask about other possibilities. And people who just ignore your emails without explaining themselves: you never know what's going on in their mind but just let it go. Allow yourself some peace... just enjoy what you create and don't worry! You WILL find buyers because your work is amazing.

  20. I don't have good advice as i rarely sell originals, people just don't want to pay that much. But instead i paint what I want instead of commissions and then sell the prints since they're affordable.

  21. Beautiful, beautiful painting!
    I think your price is very reasonable. :) It's a high quality piece that took much time.
    Happy PPF!!
    Mixed-Media Map Art

  22. I'm not going to lecture or patronise you Nicola... but... I'm going to assume you know nothing. There's more than one type of market, no need to confine yourself to just one though, but you must first do the market research.

    To make a living at it, which is what pricing is all about, you might have to sacrifice what YOU like to paint - forget what you think your worth, forget how skilful you are. As you know from my blog, I would rather sell 1000 prints @ £5 profit each than one original at £1000 ... the idea is to produce what the market wants, and give the buyer such good value they can't believe it, and come back with friends.

    Here's a Live Case for you. I noted that in the village of Monschau, in the Eifel Mountains of Germany, there were two types of tourists: the wealthy and the not so wealthy. The former crossed over the stone bridge into the posh restaurant; the others crossed the metal bridge to a picnic area. I drew the Stone Bridge/restaurant scene and also the metal bridge.
    scene. I didn't bother to price my time, but worked out the unit cost of a framed print and to this I added a £5 profit. I sold 1000s. One feedback was that the glass could easily get broken in transit and so I had them produced as metal wall plaques (I'll put one up on my blog for you next week) I sold them at the same price. One spin off was that I accidently made people spend more than they intended. It worked this way: I would place the stone bridge and the metal bridge picture adjacent. In would come the customer looking to spend no more than £30, they were delighted to see they could buy one of the pictures for £20 ..."At that price I'll take them both" and so spend £40. They were delighted!
    Everyone in the world told me I was underpricing! And abusing my talents! But it didn't stop us winning, "The Best New Business in Wiltshire" I then applied the same technique to Royal Bath and other such places. Designing the tea towels was yet another market that you commented on in my blog.
    Hope that helps a little - email me if you want more info.

    Check out my for how I price pictures these days

  23. just beautiful! Lovely artwork. Kim

  24. Beautiful eye! I just love it...and it's so original and unique, the idea and the talent make it invaluable!

    And speaking of value...

    I started sketching friends' portraits on FB for FREE, but not mailing them, just experimenting off them, and now I'm strictly working on commission pieces...which I price at $20 a head for a small portrait, $40 for larger and even more for more detail with backgrounds and such. I may have to start charging hourly because it's not a lot of money. I do enjoy what I it's a hobby more than a business right now, and I'm happy with that...FOR NOW.

    Happy PPF and keep up the amazing work!! To me it's priceless. :)

  25. Your piece it's absolutely beautiful, you did an amazing job!!! About pricing... it's really hard to say. I'm not very good about that either, but I have been learning a lot from all the comments your friends gave you here. So THANK YOU to you and your friends!!! ;)

    Have a great day!

  26. Your horse painting is out of this world fantastic! As for pricing, I was told by a gallery owner that you price your work by the square inch. So if you decide all the work you put into a piece is $1.00 per square inch, then you take an 8 x 10 for example, it would cost $80.00. Everything is priced on that one formula so no matter what size you create that's the formula for originals. You decide what the price per square inch is. If someone likes your work they will find a way to own it. You can't please all the folks all of the time, only some of the folks some of the time.
    Hope that helps a bit. Happy PPF!

  27. I agree with John. I have owned a shop in my town for some years and created bijoux. Of course it was hard to price my own work, but I compared my prices to those of other items I had bought, I calculated materials and time and then made my price. The same for my Etsy Shop items. As for now I don't calculate the time I spend creating. I make researches about other artists' pricing and then decide what can be the right one for me. I think that if people like your work, they won't mind about the price. Of course it's not valid for everybody, but it must not affect your pricing.
    By the way, your painting ended up amazing! I hope you'll sell it soon!! :)

  28. You are a skilled artist, and the detail in your work is amazing.
    Your work is worth MUCH more than $10 an hour.
    GO FOR IT, girl. Believe in the value of your work and others will too. xoxo

  29. oh wow!!!! this is amazing!!! lovely painting with great depth and detail!!!

  30. Nice work... you're very talented! Thanks for sharing... Thanks also for visiting my blog and leaving such a nice comment... it means a lot!!!
    Happy creating...

  31. Firstly I LOVE than big mirrored horses eye, just beautiful & those gorgeous details I am transfixed by in the close up shots - Nicola you just keep inspiring me with your work & unique view of our 4 legged friends :)

    Secondly, lot's of advice on pricing I've read here (I've taken a few notes myself), money is my LEAST favourite part of art, I think, your work is outstanding whether you charge $10 or $50 an hour (& love that idea of you putting your cards at vets)... it's funny how a plumber or tradesman doesn't have to worry about pricing - we just PAY, but when someone wants a commissioned piece & although we try to price it fairly (& this has happened to me) it's never cheap enough, I gave a price of $150 (I thought it would take 12-14 hours to do the work & I added a bit for canvas etc), the person told me they went to another artist who said they'd do it for $50... I said OK no worries...
    He came back & said the other artists stuff was crap LOL... & now would I do it for say $100 because he'd already spent $50 of his budget... LOL! Guess what, I told him I was no longer available (I was) but all of a sudden he thought because I was 'booked up' I must be OK LOL, it's just that buyers 'perceived' value of my art changed, nothing else did (No I didn't do it either - he was a jerk)... you are MORE than fair with your pricing, & if you creep it up bit by bit you will be able to do it fulltime & make a good living out of doing something you LOVE :) maybe offer a commission to a animal refuge centre or something with each animal portrait? That way animal lovers can feel not only they are getting a wonderful artwork they are helping support a cause? A 'feel-good' effect? I'm not sure... just chucking it in 'cause almost everything else has been suggested LOL... OK take care & love your new profile pic with buddies :)

  32. The way it is finished is like a window to a soul. Beautiful!


Your comments always colour me happy! Thank you for popping by.


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