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:
- 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.
- Overhead Costs: Other expenses that go into being a working artist such as studio rent, workshops, photography, etc.
- Creative Labor: Time spent actually creating your artwork in the studio. Keep a log.
- 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
paintedjay.com (print and ebook with link to Amazon page)