I've done a lot of thinking lately about my pricing. I used to sell a lot of original watercolours fifteen to twenty years ago. I took part in a lot of the big gift trade shows with my Florescence card line and people would often ask if they could buy originals. My prices used to start at $75 and go up to about $300. I worked predominantly in miniature format in those days. Although tiny, there were hours and days invested in each painting.
I now paint in bigger sizes (often 5" x 7" or 8" x 10"; I worked on a 22 x 15 inch painting this past week!). Because of the careful way I layer my colours and the detailed way I paint, all of my paintings take me hours and most often days. Yet when I started listing my originals on Etsy, I was pricing them lower than my small paintings twenty years ago. Why? I think I was influenced by the pricing I was seeing by some artists on Etsy. I wanted to make my paintings competitive with them. But instead of choosing more expensive pricing on Etsy as my model (it's there), I looked at the less expensive works. I also think that because of the gap years when I hadn't painted and was a full-time mom, I had lost confidence. I would have been better off choosing my own former pricing scale as my model. In the end, I wasn't honouring myself or my art.
I recently had a business contact ask me what my current hourly rate is. It was a sobering process to think about it as I realized the way I was pricing some of my paintings, I wasn't even making minimum wage. I did a lot of reading about the pricing of artwork. There is one interesting article outlining different methods here. Some people calculate by size, others by time, some by the current market, others by the subject and medium.
Rather than hoarding my art in a painting drawer in my studio, I am trying to put more up for sale. I increased the prices on some paintings that were already listed in my shop. (There are still a few under $75.) For the most recent paintings I listed, I tried to choose prices that are more in keeping with the beautiful materials I use and the time I invest in my paintings--the heart and soul that I pour into each of them. In the end, my method is a bit of a mix. One 5 x 7 painting might take me longer than another because the composition is more complex or there are more details. Sometimes a painting is bigger or the paper I use is more expensive. Sometimes, a painting is just more important to me.
I hope to list more original paintings in the next few weeks. I will continue to try and choose prices that are respectful to me and also accessible to those who love my work. Yes, sometimes the painting process can be challenging but I think pricing is the most complicated part of being an artist.
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