Pricing Your Artwork with Confidence (in a nutshell)

Once upon a time, in 1998, I had two small paintings in an exhibition. I was asked to price the pieces low, so that they would sell, and sell they did. But when I received my percentage, it seemed as though I didn’t earn anything at all from this double sale. And so, after 17 years of being an exhibiting artist, I finally did some math to find out what it really cost me to produce any one painting. The unhappy ending? Not only did I not make any profit, but it cost me $500 out of pocket to sell those two paintings.

We have been told to count the hours spent creating the artwork, and to add up the cost of our materials, at most. This issue has flummoxed artists, coast to coast, for as long as I can remember. It should be taught in art school, among other business things.

Math is your friend and knowledge is power.

Start with four basic pieces of information:

  1. Material Costs: Add up all the materials that go into your artwork. Average them out over the year, per piece of artwork created that same year.
  2. Overhead Costs: Other expenses that go into being a working artist such as studio rent, workshops, photography, etc.
  3. Creative Labor: Time spent actually creating your artwork in the studio. Keep a log.
  4. Miscellaneous Labor: Time you spend doing support work such as attending meetings, gallery visits, shopping for supplies. Keep a log. Average it out over the year, per piece of artwork created that year.

One more thing to calculate:

Figure out your minimum hourly living wage, based on your real life expenses, so that you can live to continue to create work. That is only reasonable. Neither luxurious, nor impoverished, but reasonable.

As an example:

It takes you 15 hours to paint “Goldfish Dreams”,  plus 20 hours average support time per painting. This equals 35 hours of your time to create this painting.

If your minimum hourly living wage is $25 per hour, then that is $875 for labor costs alone. If your material and overhead expenses average $200 per painting, then “Goldfish Dreams” cost you $1075. to create. You also need to consider any exhibition commissions, plus taxes on your labor and any profits.

Knowing what it really costs to create your work can be distressing at first, however, knowledge is power.

Everything above can be calculated mathematically.  Then there are the more intangible items to consider:

  • Price ranges in the art market
  • The economy in general
  • Your cumulative experience as an artist
  • Your career level
  • And other things…

Remember to value your skill, vision, and years of experience… And then balance that with the reality of the marketplace. Have work available at different price points, from quick sketches and experimental pieces to your highest-quality exhibiting work. Balance what is important to you personally, and to your longer-term career.

To purchase   Pricing Your Artwork with Confidence (print and ebook with link to Amazon page)


Monster Drawing Rally on Friday The 13th

This Friday, July 13th from 6-9pm you can see many artists drawing, painting and mixed media–ing to help benefit the Portland Art Museum. The Monster Drawing Rally will be held between the buildings of the Portland Art Museum. Several Portland Open Studios artist will be drawing at the event including Jesse Reno, Melissa Monroe and David Friedman. Past PDXOS artists will also be drawing. All finished works will sell for $35.

Proceeds support free school and youth programs at the Museum.

Bring the Family!
Stop by the L’il Drawing Rally an area where kids and families are encouraged to sit down and draw. This year’s L’il Drawing Rally features a fun experimental figure drawing activity led by artist Kristin Musser.

A Word from the President

You might think of Portland Open Studios as an October happening. And yes, while it’s true our flagship event – the citywide open art studio tour – takes place over the second and third weekends of October, our 100 artists are around and visible  all year round. And we want to do more!

You’ll see us demoing and sharing our process at the art stores Blick, Artist & Craftsman and Collage all summer and into the fall. We are showing art in venues all over the city. We are working with high school interns (our application program is still open, go  here  to register.  And this year, our interns will be showing WITH us during the October tour.

Many of us offer classes in our studios all year long. We believe with a passion that everyone should love art, do art, and appreciate art. We think your life will be better for it, and we want to connect with you! This year, when we launch our new October tour guide phone app (in late summer), we will include a calendar function – that means all our artists can report on classes, shows, public exhibitions and other events all year round. It also means you can find them, in one place. (Thank hard-working board members David Friedman, Maude May and Duck Holland, and volunteer/data administrator Charlotte Cunningham for all the ground work they are doing now to launch this project).

But we are also open to ideas from you, the community. Please tell us if you have ideas about how we can interact with YOU! We love visiting schools, public offices, corporations, nursing homes. We are open to programming ideas of all kinds. We are an army of 100 artists, and we would like to serve our community. So please do tell us how: Write to me with any ideas, at

We are listening.

Much Respect,

Leah Kohlenberg
President, Portland Open Studios

Volunteer Opportunities for Artists

Hello artists!  Here are some Volunteer/demo/exhibit opportunities this summer for you all:

We need a handful of artists to display one small piece of artwork for our PDXOS sampling at the Artist and Craftsman North store Parking Lot party July 22, noon – 5:00. Contact before the end of May if you would like to put one small piece on the display grids. You would need to deliver your art to Sam’s house before the 22nd, and pick up there after the event, either at 5:00 or at Sam’s at a later date.

We need a couple of volunteers to promote PDXOS at the above event at Artist and Craftsman North store for one or two hour shifts. Greet people while Cindy Lommasson live paints and educate the public about PDXOS. Contact before the end of May if you can help.

I’m in the process of sending out group emails for the volunteer/demo jobs that artists signed for at the first artist meeting. Please shoot me back a quick reply when you receive it, so I know it has been received and you have seen it. Thank you!

One of the best ways you can help is by promoting our organization and the tour:

  • Use #portlandopenstudios #pdxos #artistsatwork #theportlandway
  • Put links to PDXOS newsletters and blogs in your newsletters and social media
  • Like our FB page and tag us when you have events to share
  • Follow us and comment on IG and Follow other PDXOS artists.

Thanks for all your help! We couldn’t do it without you!

Announcing Portland Open Studios 2018 Participating Artists

Portland Open Studios is pleased to announce the 2018 participating artists, in alphabetical order.  Welcome to the 20th year!!!

Nancy Abens
Dennis Anderson
Rachel Austin
Sherri Aytche
Don Bailey
Marcy Baker
Davey Barnwell
Paul Bartnik
Serena Barton
Dave Benz
Tanmaya Bingham
Don Bishop
Brenda Boylan
Charissa Brock
Rudi Broschofsky
Rio Butler
Erin Cadena
Kit Carlton
Betsy Chang
Shawn Demarest
Kamala Dolphin-Kingsley
Tess Donohoe
Craig Dorety
Poppy Dully
Shelly Durica-Laiche
Kowkie Durst
Austin Eddy
Linda Ethier
Jenn Feeney
Heather Fields
Tamae Frame
David Friedman
Beverly Gimlin
Jonathan Glowacki
Daniel Good
Jon Gottshall
Carol Greiwe
Dotty Hawthorne
William Hernandez
Sam Hingston
Wayne Jiang
Leah Kohlenberg
Joanie Krug
Susan Kuznitsky
Jeni Lee
Gretha Lindwood
Cindy Lommasson
Janie Lowe
Brianna Luce
Kelli MacConnell
Stacey Mairs
Ruby Maly
Chas Martin
Michele Maule
Maude Anne May
Dennis Meiners
Melissa Monroe
Lulu Moonwood Murakami
Thérèse Murdza
Tara Murino-Brault
Susan Murphy
Alison O’Donoghue
Larry Olson
Lisa Onstad
Gail Owen
William Park
Hilary Pfeifer
Kevin Poest
Robert Pond
Amy Ponteri
Joanne Radmilovich Kollman
Jesse Reno
Linda Robertson
Diane Russell
Paul Rutz
Linda Sawaya
Mike Schultz
PM Shore
Isabelle Soule
Michael Southern
Karen Spencer
Sally Squire
Amy Stoner
Sara Swink
Randall David Tipton
Jill Torberson
Amanda Triplett
Julian Voss-Andreae
Elise Wagner
Elisabeth Walden
Sarah Waldron
Nanette Wallace
Kitty Wallis
Rick Wheeler
Angela White-Wenger
Karen Wippich
Brian Wischer
Lisa M Wiser
Samyak Yamauchi
Russell Young

A Word from the President – When I got rejected by Portland Open Studios

By Leah Kohlenberg, President, Portland Open Studios

As we announce our latest round of Portland Open Studio artists, I am struck by how the blind jury process raises the quality of our group. Each year, three respected art professionals volunteer to review applicants as part of a jury and score them. This process ensures that we have one of the best art studio tours in the region.

But today, I don’t want to talk about the successes. I want to talk about the tremendous value of failure.

I’m continually brought back to a major teaching moment of my life, which was applying to Portland Open Studios — and getting rejected.

Back in 2014, two years after I’d moved here, I had met enough artists applying to the yearly event that I wanted in, too. I sent in what I considered my best paintings and was soundly told “No thanks.” As someone who had been painting for 12 years at that point, spending five years in Eastern Europe studying with classically trained artists there, and someone who was teaching art classes out of my studio-living room, that was a tough pill to swallow.

But it also spurred me. I reevaluated the imagery I was focusing on, which resulted in me simplifying and honing in on my subjects more tightly. It moved me away from what I now think of as a “gimmicky approach” (more on that later). I took two drawing classes at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. And I continued to paint and boost my skills. I befriended artists who had gotten into Portland Open Studios, saw the quality of their work and talked to them about what made a successful painting.

The next year, I got in. I was then invited to join the Portland Open Studios board. For the first time, I was allowed to sit in during the final selection process – and I learned even MORE about what works and what doesn’t in a juried show. And every year since then, I have juried in. (Yes, board members have to go through the jury selection process too).

Each jury panel brings its own set of values to an event, and that jury changes each year. Each year, we have a new and (particularly this year) a widening playing field. That means each year, to continue the sports analogy, is a brand new ball game. I also know that each year, it remains nerve wracking for me to apply – just because I’m president of this organization doesn’t mean I’m assured to jury in. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’ll submit. Do the images read consistently? Are they photographed well, and cropped correctly? Are they my best work?

But don’t just believe what I say – let me show you what I mean. I’ve chosen to share the three images with you that did NOT make the cut. Read the analysis of each painting in the caption beneath it. Let my errors be your teaching moment.

I want to emphasize here that while I am critiquing each painting, I also still love all the paintings. One sold, one I gave away as a gift, and one hangs in my studio today. I love them because each painting is a step towards something better. And there are elements of each that I think do work. I love them because they refer me to the next jumping off point. They are still my creations, and they’ve taught me so much.


Painting 1:  This oil painting suffers from what I think of as “trying too hard” syndrome, or “too gimmicky.”  As a newbie to Portland, I was caught up in all the goofy stuff you see here – and I tried to create a composition and stuff it all into one painting.  This creates a lot of inconsistencies – the detail of the architecture plays badly against the simplicity of the figures.  That strange thing (it was a cow head) with the jeans tossed over the side – what is it?  The plusses on this painting: composition isn’t bad, some elements are well rendered and it does appear I’m aiming at storytelling (even if the story isn’t clear).


Painting 2:  The first problem?  This entry is very inconsistent with painting one.  It’s a different medium (pastel on acrylic paint), and it doesn’t have the same narrative attempts as No. 1.  Also, this painting does not “pop” – meaning there isn’t enough strong lights and darks, so contrast isn’t good.  It’s hard to tell what we are looking at. This was a fancy lunch I had in Croatia, and the tiny orange wedges on the right are whole fried fish.   Again a vague attempt at telling a narrative, but here, the painting elements aren’t so strong.


Painting 3:  Although this painting has a certain drama, once again, it’s an example of “too gimmicky.” I went through a period where I painted reflections, and this is one of them – buildings and a tree reflected in a back car window in the neighborhood where I lived in Brooklyn, New York, just before I moved to Portland. I even have the car side windows and rear-view mirror included. At the time, I thought that I wanted the viewer to have to look closely to see what was going on. Now, it just seems extra confusing, and I can see why the jury didn’t like it. On a side note: I still like this painting – perhaps for the turning point it represents to me – and it’s hanging in my studio now.

And with that, let the twentieth year of Portland Open Studios officially BEGIN!


Leah Kohlenberg

Community and Volunteerism

By Samyak Yamauchi
Volunteer Coordinator

Many aspects of the 2018 Portland Open Studios Tour will be different this year. Besides the new presentation of the tour guide, we will be looking at ‘Community’ in a different way. We would like to build more community and commitment within our artist communities and our group as a whole.

To that end:

  • The artists will be delineated into groups, but there will be no group leaders, so we’ll be asking artists to come up with ways to make connections with the other artists in their PDXOS neighborhood.
  • We’ll be asking artists to promote PDXOS by volunteering to do demos and spreading the word to their own networks via social media promotion.
  • We’ll be asking for help with tasks that need doing.
  • We’ll also be holding PDXOS artist community building/networking gatherings to share ideas, ask questions, and support each other.

We are looking forward to working with this year’s artist group to make Portland Open Studios 2018 a great event!

We have our jury!!

We’re so excited about the three individuals who agreed to judge the applicants for our 20th year Tour. As usual, our jury is comprised of a working artist, an art educator and a gallerist.

Our art educator this year is Victor Maldonado, also a working interdisciplinary artist who creates conceptually driven multidisciplinary works. He is an Assistant Professor and Inclusions Specialist at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, a freelance writer and an independent curator of Northwest art. He received his BFA in Painting and Drawing from the California College of Art and his MFA in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Victor draws his inspiration from his upbringing in California and Mexico in a family of migrant field workers. Deploying both traditional mediums including painting, printmaking and drawing alongside contemporary strategies such as performances, installations and interventions, Victor expresses the challenge and power of identity to author experience and perception. His work has been acquired by the Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX. He is represented exclusively by Froelick Gallery, Portland.

Arvie Smith, our ‘working artist’ jurist, also qualifies as an art educator, as he is a Professor Emeritus of Painting at Pacific Northwest College of Art where he taught since the mid 80’s. He spent his childhood in rural Texas and South Central and Watts Los Angles, California. He received his BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art and his MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art, Hoffberger School of Painting under Grace Hartigan. During a sojourn in Italy in 1983, Arvie studied at Il Bisonte and SACI in Florence. From 1998 to the present he has traveled extensively through Ghana, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso, West Africa.

Arvie Smith transforms the history of oppressed and stereotyped segments of the American experience into lyrical two-dimensional master works. His paintings are commonly of psychological images revealing deep sympathy for the dispossessed and marginalized members of society in an unrelenting search for beauty, meaning, and equality. His work reflects powerful injustices and the will to resist and survive. His memories of growing up in the South add to his awareness of the legacy that the slavery of the African American has left with all Americans today. His intention is to solidify the memory of atrocities and oppression so they will never be forgotten or duplicated. Arvie says he creates this work “because he must”.

Our gallerist this year is Donna Guardino of The Guardino Gallery.  For most of her life, art has been Donna Guardino’s livelihood.  In the 1970’s she applied to the Mill Valley Festival and was turned down. The next year, she was asked by the same organization to be a juror for their show.  This experience gave her a life-long lesson: There are so many variables in the jury process, you can’t take it personally. You just have to try again. This is the advice she is still giving artists today as she looks at work from hundreds of artists as the curate for Guardino Gallery.

With her history as a painter, printer, etcher and sculptor she was exposed to many art forms. Helping set up two non-profit art organizations, running several galleries and ultimately her own gallery, seeing art makes her curious about each artist’s process. She saw that for her, there wasn’t a strict boundary between fine art and craft.  Now, as a curator, she looks for art that has a visual impact on her.


Are you an artist? Thinking about applying to Portland Open Studios, but have questions? Want to meet others in the art community?

We are participating with two uber-cool galleries, Ori Gallery and Una Gallery, in the Feb. 26 Art Spark organized by the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC). The event is from 6-8 pm at the Lagunitas Community Room, and like all Art Sparks you’ll get to meet and mingle with many other folks in our multi-faceted art community with music, beer and food.

There will also be a brief talk about the barriers and best practices for responding to open art calls, and talk about what we are all doing to address equity, inclusion and diversity. Plus there will be a raffle with swag, and we are giving out slots to ten artists to get your art professionally photographed FOR FREE if you’d like to apply to our open studios event this year. More details here: