Monday, September 7, 2009

Painting Prices and a Studio Tour

Pricing work is something that we all have trouble with. Where do you start, as an artist? I started by taking my work to a gallery, which was a good gallery representing regional and national artists, and asking the owner what she thought she could sell them for. That set the base, nearly 10 years ago now. I also incorporated the idea of having a price based on dollars per square inch; it's a sliding scale so that the dollars per square inch gets lower as the painting gets bigger. I got this idea from my mentor, Ann Templeton. Again, that was some time ago.

Since those days, I've wondered: Is this too rigid a scale? Lately, some readers have noticed that my pricing is inconsistent.

My rationale is simple, really. Work that I consider "finished" and would put in one of my galleries, I price at my current gallery prices. These are consistent from gallery to gallery. On the other hand, work that is more of a sketch, such as a workshop demonstration, I price lower. So, you may see a "finished" 9x12 marked as $750 and a 9x12 sketch as $150. (I'll admit, though, that I have been playing with the sketch pricing a bit to see what the market will bear.)

Look at it this way. Car makers have a similar approach. You can get the low-end sedan which doesn't have the most comfortable seats and lacks an MP3 jack, or you can get the high-end one which has all that plus a built-in GPS. I feel that folks who can't afford a $250 "sketch" might be able to buy a $100 one, even if the seats are a little underpadded, and enjoy it just as much.

Several artists I know have a less objective, more subjective, scale for their work. Paintings that they feel are of higher quality, they price higher. It is hard to be the judge of one's work, though. The only time I do this is when a piece has a pedigree. For example, if it's been in a national show, in which a jury has agreed that it's worthy of exhibit, I raise the price.

When you buy a painting, you are paying for years of study and practice. It's just like when you go to the ballet. You are not paying for a few hours' entertainment. You are paying for the dancer's years at ballet school and thousands of afternoons spent working on plies. When you buy a painting, you're not paying for my three hours standing out in a field and throwing paint on a canvas; you are, in a sense, paying for the miles of canvas I've already painted.

Here's one more observation. The advantage the art buyer has over the ballet-goer is this. The ballet-goer always runs the risk that the dancer may not be at the top of her form on performance night - she may have indigestion - and thus not get his money's worth. The art buyer, however, does not run this risk — he pays after the performance.

On a different matter, I shot a short video of my studio that you might enjoy. Many people are curious - I know I am - about how an artist's workspace looks.


1 comment:

Michael Warth said...

Thank-you for sharing the video of your studio Michael. I really enjoyed this post; the pricing segment raises questions I am sure we all have.