June 14, 2014

Putting a price on art

I've written here before about how hard it is to let go of originals. There is an emotional tie that I feel with each painting. Despite this, I am starting to list more originals in my Etsy shop. Above are four of my most recent additions. I am proud of all of them. I am hoping that they find owners who will appreciate and enjoy them.

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.

❤   ❤   

I have added a 'button' at the right side of the blog that you can click to go directly to the original paintings currently listed in my shop. There is a backstory to the photo I created for it. I had the frame and palette set up on a board on the floor. I originally tried using a tripod but the tripod was casting shadows into the photo. So instead, I leaned over it to get the picture frame 'square' in the photo. I leaned over it for so long (I took several photos and it still isn't perfect) that I put my back out. Yes, a true back story. Ouch! So I am not gardening this weekend as planned. I am doing what I can while sitting down and resting. Perfect time for a new blog post.


  1. so very sorry to hear about your sore back
    I don't use tripods at all and understand the difficulties to get things right.
    Your art is so beautiful.

    1. My tripod is helpful for some photos but seems to get in the way of others. I'll have to figure out a way to compensate that doesn't involve my back next time! Thanks for the kind words about my art, Margie.

  2. Such a great post, Kathleen.
    Pricing is a major difficulty for all kind of makers, specially when you make one of a kind pieces. Between too low + devaluating & too high + pretentious, the borderline is hard to find. I know it myself.
    I'm so sorry you hurt your back, I hope the pain will ease soon, take care of yourself.
    I'm thinking about getting a tripod, I just don't know which one is the best for my camera & my use.

    1. You are so right, Sonia, that achieving the right balance in pricing is tricky and particularly so for those who are within the handmade sector. What we produce involves time, materials and also our hearts!

      I am still walking around like Quasimodo, especially in the morning, but it gets a little better every day.

  3. What a wonderful post, Kathleen, and one that I'm sure resonates with so many of us artists. Pricing is such a hard thing for so many reasons and something that I've recently been struggling with. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reminding me that it's important to all of us artists and the art world in general to value what we're doing. If we don't value it, who will?

    Hope your back feels better soon! Hate to be away from gardening for long at this time of year.

    1. It's always nice when one of my posts generates a discussion. It would be wonderful if there were a magic pricing formula. It's hard to figure it out but valuing ourselves and our work is key.

      I can tell you right now that the weeds are winning in the garden--having a bit of a party with me out of commission. I'll be back to get them though!

  4. It's so lovely to see another artist writing about the difficulties with pricing. I recently had my first exhibition and found this the hardest part! It's so easy for artists to undervalue their work and not take into account the amount of time, materials and skill that has gone into an original piece of artwork. I think very often people just don't realise how much time and effort goes into a piece and that you can't just churn them out- every single picture is different and takes a different amount of time. I found explaining the process of creating a painting really helped people to have more of an understanding of the value of an original piece of artwork.

    I hope you feel better soon! :)

    1. Congratulations on your exhibition! You're right that helping potential buyers understand the process and time that goes into each painting is very helpful. I'm sure people enjoyed having the chance to talk to you. In my shop listings, I describe how my original paintings take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to complete (more often the latter) but it's not the same as being able to talk to someone in person. Thanks for the get well wishes. :)


Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog and to leave me a comment. I love reading them. -- Kathleen

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