(Balance is necessary)
*** NOTE *** This advice is based on my knowledge of art pricing in the UK and the values are therefore in GBP but you may have to adjust for other countries.
On the one hand you do not want to undervalue your work. Even though you may consider yourself an amateur, and have never sold before, nevertheless your work took time and care, and is (hopefully) beautifully framed. Don’t under-price yourself. If you undervalue your work you put people off, and lower the value of the work of people who are exhibiting with you.
On the other hand I have seen unknown artists put work up for £500 in a local church exhibition which is the kind of optimism that tends to amuse me.
Don't get hung up on whether you are a 'professional' or an amateur, the person who is thinking of buying your artwork will consider lots of things, and that won't be something that even crosses their mind; they will be too busy wondering if it matches the sofa or if their sister will like it.
I spent years trying to find a formula for pricing my work… by size, by the number of hours I spent on it… but nothing worked, because often when I used a particular method for pricing I would find that it didn’t reflect the finished work and was either more or less than I felt people should pay.
But as the years went on I started to understand the rough market value for my work. Gallery owners will tell you that one thing only affects their pricing: the level the artist is at. What I mean by this is selling/exhibiting history/reputation.
So I would advise you start at a low but not stupidly low level. If you have never sold before I would build in about £30 or more for framing (regardless of how much it actually cost) then add a minimum of £40 for your time/hard work/super artistic ability. If the painting is large, or particularly good you can add more, up to a maximum of say £200. Don’t forget that you are building in commission (if applicable), materials, time, framing, petrol/time taken to deliver it to the venue…
Underselling - the one thing you must never do...
Underselling is when you undercut a gallery or shop by selling cheaper elsewhere. If a gallery charges you 40% commission but you only pay 5% when selling through an online shop it makes sense to charge less online, right? Wrong, if the gallery catch you doing it they will drop you like a big stone, and a customer won't be happy either to find your prices differ from site to site and day to day. Build in what you need for your most expensive outlet, selling anywhere else is a bonus.
Other things that affect pricing:
Who made these rules I cannot say, but drawings and monochrome work are worth less than watercolours, which are themselves are generally worth less than oils. Of course this is a rough guide, if your first name is Damien and your last name Hirst, I seriously doubt this applies.
When you can increase your prices:
You can go higher than these guidelines, and raise your prices if any of the following apply:
* You exhibit in galleries (the more prestigious the gallery the more you can put your prices up: and the more commission they will take!)
*You teach or demonstrate.
*You have a history of sales or commissions.
*You win an award or art prize.
When people can't afford your work:
There will always be people who can't afford your price (whatever it is) and there will always be people who can. If you constantly discount or drop your prices just to get a sale you just shoot yourself in the foot because no one values your work. If someone tells you they cannot afford your work just smile politely and thank them for their interest. Of course you might choose to take the gallery commission off when selling privately to a friend but there is a big difference between that and being constantly taken advantage of. Most people don't ask their plumber for a discount but they think nothing of negotiating over artwork. Remember it is better to sell one painting for £200 than 20 paintings for £10, reputation is everything when selling artwork and no one will take you seriously if you are selling too cheaply.
Remember there is no amount that your painting is worth, it is subjective, it is worth what someone will pay for it.
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