Thursday, June 23, 2011

The secret and painful art, pricing your painting

My hole in the wall studio
Joining McGuffey Art Center has brought me into an unknown art market.  If I can make it, my first chance to test that market is on Sunday, the drop off day for the Summer Members Exhibition.  In order to try and get the prices right, we are going to a few galleries in Richmond to see what comparable paintings are selling for. 
Setting a price is never easy.  The most straight forward way would be to tally up the costs plus the time, and come up with a figure.  An example would be the current beach painting I am working on. The cost of materials would be a follows.
-           Materials, canvas $40 , paint etc. $20, equipment i.e. depreciation on brushes furniture computer etc.  $20, studio space for 55 hours $30 , simple aluminum gallery frame  $40.  Total $205.
-          Time, Hours painting 55, R&D how does one put a figure on 43 years of experience.  Let us say 20 hours that is mainly taking and processing photos, working of concepts, and marketing.  A bit conservative but lets go with it.  How much per hour?  I could go with minimum wage,  @$7 = $525, or I could consider my education @$14 = $1050.  If I am well known and in demand, and have a large rented studio space the hourly rate can clime.
-          Gallery commission, This can be anywhere from 30% to 60%.  Lets take an average of 40%  and the total price comes to $1255 + 40% =1757 plus tax of $87.85 shipping $40 = $1884.85  But then you have the problem of selling on line or personal puck up etc. you subtract what is needed. The price can obviously be much less. 
This price is seldom what is actually charges for the painting, but is a good base figure to make judgments by.  Variables can be:
-          what comparable work is selling for in that market.  That can increase or decrease the price by up to a factor of 4. 
-          The frame is very important.  A small work valued this way presented in a plush gallery, and an expensive looking frame can have the price jump from $150 to up to $799.
-          Productivity also come into play.  When you are working full time every day, each decision of each stroke is shortened, and you develop short cuts.  A work that used to take 50 hours may now only take 20, but you do not decrease the price, rather you take a pay raise due to increase in productivity.
-          What will this make me look like.  A price that is too low for the market will make the buyer think that the painting is not good, and that an overpriced one is a pretentious want to be.
So today we are off to Richmond to see what a more sophisticated market is doing.  Don’t tell anyone what I have just told you.  It’s a secret, mainly explaining why we have a term, “starving artist”.  I have included a picture of my, hole in the wall studio.


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