Follow these simple tips to price your art

THE EXPENSE OF CREATING ART

If there are two things I struggle with as an artist, one would be giving my latest artwork a title, and secondly, pricing. If I thought a piece would sell I would take a million in commission for each print. But I know that the market should dictate what I charge if I want to continue making sales.

Valuing art is a bit of a subjective activity. If you value art for a living then you will need to have more than a good idea and understanding of the artist and their career to date. You also need to understand the whole business of supply and demand, and how art markets work within the global economy. Ready to give up yet?

The biggest factor is if an artist is in demand. I went through a phase of wanting to own a Banksy, but at the same time so did everyone else. The prices went through the roof, and I am now resigned to the fact that I will probably only ever own a print.

Artist Supllies
Artist Supplies are a real expense

 

But along with demand, the final sale price also accounts for such things as historical importance, are lots of people participating in the market, or is this an exciting young artist who is about to make a breakthrough.

To get to the final sale price you will also need to look at similar works, by similar artists, and in some instances from similar geographic locations. The big names always command the highest prices, and the bigger the art, the higher the price. That's not to say that big paintings are better, usually artists work on a price per inch. Believe me, there are some beautiful small works that will actually fit inside a regular home, bigger is not necessarily better. When the size of a piece of art reaches the point where it cannot be displayed appropriately, this too can have a bearing on the final price. No point buying a huge work if your house is small apartment, although some works of art only work when they are so big that they draw you into the environment.

For artists whose works have been sold before, comparisons are often made to other works of a similar size by the same artist. Databases such as Artnet and ArtPrice exist for this very reason. There are also sub-markets for art, particular styles from the same artist are often categorised into genres. Different colours too can have an impact. For those who regularly read my blog, each year we see different colour trends. Something you might want to consider when creating your own art.

The region in which art is sold also plays a big part in its value. Minimalist work is currently in demand in certain regions, especially in the US, but move your market to the eastern reaches of Europe and Asia and the market is different. You really need to know where your potential buyers are located.

When collecting art there are pointers to remember. With older work, mint condition pieces will really stretch your pocket. Art that has been restored, especially when the original artist cannot oversee the work is a business that can dampen prices significantly. Restoration needs a professional touch, it also needs to be in line with what the market expects, and in line with what makes that particular piece worthy of collecting in the first place. A piece that has endured many wars is what makes that piece more collectible in the first place. If it looks like it was recently printed, it loses value. The market likes art in its original form, untouched, and complete with its life scars.

If a piece is damaged during its lifetime such as when Dennis Hopper put two bullet holes in to an Andy Warhol print of Mao Zedong, the price increased to ten times its original estimate at auction. If the work has been exhibited in a high profile event or has been collected by a celebrity, the price will increase. For an artist starting out, one can only dream of a celebrity making a purchase of your work. It happens, but it's relatively rare.

So when you come to pricing your own work, you need to consider the market. What makes your work better than someone else's? Getting the description right is critical. Simply saying "this is a picture of a blue sky" might explain what it is, but what inspired you to create it? What does the picture say in terms of emotion? Why do I pick this painting over that one?

Canvas
Why buy this over that?

 

Just as a picture tells a story, so should you. When it comes to artist bio's found on many artist websites, they often lack the sense of connectivity you need with those who buy your art. Make your bio, human.

We still haven't found the magic formula of pricing yet, but bear with me. You need to get the basics right before we start on price.

Art buyers are not a group that can always be easily identified. I have met many buyers from all walks of life, some of my collectors are not ranked anywhere in the wealth stakes, and buyers don't always wear Armani suits. Potential buyers are your friends, or co-workers or relatives. There is of course a discernible difference between art buyers and big time art collectors.

Once you have a niche, have figured out the demographics, and worked out what people are likely to buy, you can then take a look at your pricing. Pricing is really difficult when it's your own work. It also depends on how you sell it. If you are selling on a Print on Demand site that gives you a flat fee, then you cannot do much about it. If you are selling on a print on demand site that lets you set the pricing, that's entirely different and no matter what you read here or elsewhere online, unless you hire an agent or gallery, you are on your own. However you do need to consider pricing, so here are my top ten tips.

1. Research similar work from others who are selling in the same space. Consider if the artist has some provenance that you don't have, and ask yourself if you would hang their art on your wall over your own art.

Never research only a few artists before coming up with your pricing strategy. Research many, and use different websites. If an artist on Zazzle is selling work that's similar for a cheaper price, think of the reasons why. Zazzle pay a percentage of the total sale. So an artist may set around 14% as a commission. On Fine Art America there are no percentages. You sell for what you want to sell for over Fine Art America's base price. Compare similar works from many print on demand sites.

2. If you are selling an original work over a print, then consider pricing per square inch. You should factor in the materials needed, time spent on creating the piece, and you will want to pay for more materials for your next piece. Suddenly it all adds up and you are now realising that you could be losing money on each original sold.

3. If you are selling prints, how many do you think you might sell? You still need to recover your costs, time, and a little extra to create new works. If you start a little higher you can lower prices if you need too, it is more difficult to raise prices later, unless you become famous.

4. If like me you produce digital art, never think it hasn't cost you anything. I spend many hundreds of pounds each year on new devices and equipment, and then there is the software, time, and hosting costs. Even if I only charged minimum wage for time, the costs add up quickly.

5. Never do work for free. Oh boy did I learn the hard way! Family are the biggest offenders. I once did a commission that took more than twenty-hours and cost me around £100 in new software add-on's such as different brushes. Although I got a pat on the back, that was twenty-hours out of my commercial endeavours. I also created a sample piece that was then used by a company for a promotional campaign, despite the campaign being successful, the company never paid me a dime, saying that it was exposure I wouldn't have gained. Except that I was never credited with the work in the campaign.

6. You also need to factor in time for self-promotion. Rarely do print on demand sites feature brand new artists that have only recently joined. Self promotion is also a skill set that not everyone feels comfortable with. Over promotion makes you look like a spammer. Under promotion and you'll sink to the bottom of the search results faster than a black hole will suck in a star.

7. Think beyond what you would pay and what you would buy. I have been creating digital art since the early 80's. I cannot tell you what my niche is even today. I just create what I like to create, and that's not always great for business. If I had to narrow it down, abstracts are my real passion, but finding a niche is a great idea if you want to sell lots of your work. Some of my works are experimental, and I am often surprised when a particular piece sells. Somewhere there is a buyer for the weirdest thing you can imagine, you have to know your demographic.

8. Don't expect art to make you a living from day one. Really, don't expect to make a living on day two either. It can take years to become established and build up a collector base. If you gain a collector base from day three, then that too will be a miracle.

Remember that a collector base is more important than a number of buyers. If you have 10-collectors who buy nearly every piece you create over a lifetime, it is better than 100-buyers buying a one off piece.

9. There are some other things that can help you find the ideal pricing strategy too. Attending art fairs is important. Not just to look at the work of others, but too also make contact with galleries, exhibitors, artists, and potential customers. People watching buyers will help you predict who is buying what and for how much.

An art appraiser can also help. For this you generally need to pay. You also need a really thick skin because they're a vocal bunch. If they don't like your art, or they feel there is no market for it, then you will just feel disappointed and out of pocket. Your dreams will have been shattered before they begun. The reality is that I believe there is a market for most things, but an art appraiser will be looking for something more immediately sellable or collectible.

10. Joining online forums is a good idea if you want critique. They're also good for gaining an insight in to how your art makes people feel. Art needs to make people feel something, ideally the felling of good to great. Look for words that describe your art as it makes you feel. You will know when you see people describing your own feelings about the piece that you are on to a winner.

But is there a magic number that you should use? If there is, I haven't found it. Generally if an art buyer wants to own a piece of art they will buy it. If someone usually picks up a print from IKEA, then they are less likely to be looking at your work online, even though it could be just as cheap. If you are selling prints, consider these other markets too.

When you look at competing markets you need to consider where you would buy your art if you had a limited budget. Some people will buy a cheap,print from a discount store and it will give them as much joy as someone who can afford an original Matisse. Some people will go to one of the big auction houses and buy the original, art is if nothing else, subjective.

Artist Paints
Know your pallet

 

If you are serious about making a living from selling your art, here are five things that you will experience in the first 24-hours when selling through Print on Demand.

You upload your first artwork and keep logging in every five minutes to see how many pieces have sold.

You log in again when you go to bed and you expect to see the numbers that indicate you are a newly discovered Rembrandt. They're not there. Something must be wrong with the software. You will check again in the morning.

You wake up and log in while sat on the toilet. No sales, but you got ten views from New York. Oh, this could be really big. The NY art market in less than 24-hours. Finally someone noticed me.

No they didn't. Those were bots indexing your page.

You upload your second piece, go back to step one. At this point you can take some time out to weep.

The only way out of this cycle is to tell people you are there. You need a good portfolio before there are any buyers. When I started on Print on Demand it took around one month to make my first sale. My commission was $5.84 as the site was running a promotion that reduced my commission by 50% and at the time I truly thought that setting a 10% commission would pay the bills, it won't.

Apparently I was lucky. Some POD artists have been online for years before making a sale. It was a niche artwork that showed up on its own in the search results, but it made me feel really good. Ever since I have been creating a portfolio, self promoting but not over promoting, and talking to anyone I meet about the art around us. Generally I manage to find out if the person likes art, and I hand them a card. You really wouldn't want to get stuck in a lift with me.

WHY IS ART EXPENSIVE?

A question I get asked frequently why is art so expensive. It’s a question that is interesting, I know compared to other artists my artwork is competitive, and I one day want to create a piece that becomes the most expensive print on demand piece, purely as an experiment to see if some bored billionaire actually buys it. If nothing else, it should draw some attention to my lower priced works.

I produce art digitally, but that doesn’t mean my overheads are that much lower than a traditional artist. If I were to charge by the hour, then my work would already be amongst the highest priced pieces available on a print on demand site. In fact I might carry out a social experiment by creating a piece that I will sell for the highest price ever, if nothing else it will be interesting to see what coverage it gets! I will of course make it a very special piece.

I don’t have to worry too much about buying high quality canvases, I only chose distributors who have a precedent for quality, but I do get through lots of software, lots of printer ink, (we’re not talking the usual ink jet ink here), and a whole heap of sketch books. I like to create some concept art to work from. Add on new software, add-on brushes, effects brushes, it can all add up. Oh, and there's some more things that are less obvious.

Not all art is expensive. Some artists charge very little in order to get sales moving, but if you want to avoid being labelled as a cheap artist, it is sometimes counter productive. In fact it costs some artists more money than they make. These are what we should think of as artists who invest simply to create art. What you need to do to get out of that particular loop is to start valuing what you do, and may more attention to costs.

Art can equally be priceless, and if you are creating a masterpiece in the early days, you will be one of the few. Art is generally more expensive when it's rare. So that's why we see high auction prices for Matisse and Rembrandt's, they are long gone, there is a rarity, their art lives on but it's a finite supply.

Art can also command higher prices when the quality of work is high. It is hard to make quality art from the off. It takes often decades to achieve a proficiency were everything you create can be called a masterpiece. So the key to this is time, professional training, or even self-taught.

So here's a start towards the Holy Grail of pricing your art. First let's take a look at what's involved.

Number of years practice, or formal/informal training.

Materials. In my case it is software, quality drawing pads, but ink for testing colours off screen is expensive. In a more traditional sense, brushes, canvas, paints, note pads, here's a tip, work out exactly what you spend as you work on the piece, itemise everything, just as a plumber would do on a quote.

Frames, costs in terms of time for promoting, rent, hosting images, shipping costs. You may even have an agent.

Time taken to create the artwork in its entirety.

Gallery fees, Bank fees, and any tax you may have to pay.

Now the next step is to work out over the last year, just how much you have actually spent, and for simplicity go on $15 U.S or £10 UK, or whatever you think your hourly rate is. Then add every sale together, and see if you are in deficit, or you are in the black. If the latter, I suggest just adding a percentage every so often to cover increases in material prices and time. If you are well and truly in the red, and lots of artists are, you need to consider that artistic passion isn't putting food in your mouth. What it is great though, is that now you know and the only way is up as long as your passion is there you stand a good chance of success.

So it's clear that art isn't cheap to produce. There are fewer costs when selling through print on demand, there is however a need to produce some kind of original. Scanning originals to sell as prints can be expensive if you don't have a large professional scanner. There are services who will do this, but be wary, I've seen people send off a piece of work to un-reputable services, only to discover down the line that someone else was selling their work, and they had no knowledge of it. I will cover some reputable places in a forthcoming post.

Whatever you do, remember that as an artist you are providing pieces that are essential to the well-being of the human race. Art is not something for the elite, no matter who the buyer is, or where they are from, someone will see beauty in something. You are providing the world with a unique experience.

Also remember that on POD sites such as Fine Art America, you set what you want too receive if the piece sells. You have no duplication on to a larger canvas to worry about. Other sites try to limit your royalty by allowing you to set a percentage rather than a fee. Those sites will also only pay out the percentage even if they decide to offer your work for 50% less than the usual cost. Try to keep every piece on every site aligned. Otherwise you are taking away your own money. Remember too, that it takes time. So many actors and actresses have gone to Hollywood to start a career, many are still waiting on in coffee shops, but they're determined to one day make it. You will too.

JOIN A GROUP

Join groups for artists. My Facebook group The Artist Exchange is a great little community of artists supporting artists. Sharing each other’s work exposes the original artists work to more timelines, more potential customers, and besides all that, the group is made up of many great members from all over the world. That means that your reach extends in to new territories.

You can join The Artists Exchange here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/940723089340284

SEEKING INSPIRATION

If you're seeking inspiration why not head over to my artist website. All of my framed art available on Fine Art America or from http://10-mark-taylor.artistwebsites.com/ can now be despatched from a European fulfilment centre. That means that you will no longer need to pay import tax on European orders, and the postage is much cheaper. Works can be dispatched in all regions of the world, Canada, Europe, Australia and other regions now have fulfilment centres too, so head over to http://10-mark-taylor.artistwebsites.com/ and you will be able to avoid those add on taxes that many POD sites don't always let you know about.

If you are interested in any of my work over 40-inches, please get in touch and I will send you a discount code for 25% off my artist commission through my Artist Website. Offer ends Friday 15th January 2016.

So that's all for this week and for now it concludes my recent series around the "Art of business". I am currently writing an e-book with all of my tips in. If you want to be first to receive a copy, make sure to bookmark this site. As soon as it is written you will be the first to know. You can even sign up for non-spam emails!

 

Comments

Popular posts