Sunday, December 6, 2009

How low can you go?

This is another of the pictures from Cazenovia, New York that has now been finished and returned to Joe Sosnowski my dealer over there, who will be opening a new gallery next month.

Well, I guess I am going to write some more on pricing your art. It seems that there are a lot of people with the same question and in the same place in the market. Their business model is to sell VERY low priced art to the middle class and do high volume or at least cover enough of their materials to make painting modestly profitable and hope to find their way ultimately to a higher rung on the ladder .

I believe the post I wrote for Fine Arts Views read it here which assumes a dealer in the business plan can still be serviceable for those of you who are not using a dealer,or at least not yet. If you are showing with a dealer I stand by that formula. If you figure out how to set your prices using that formula but don't double it to cover a dealer, it cuts those numbers in half.

For instance, if you were happy to make 10 dollars an hour, ( and you were able to feed your children snowballs this winter) and you could make a painting in an eight hour day, that comes to 80 dollars, if you add to that 50 dollars for a frame and since we are assuming the painting is small 10 dollars for materials you are at 140 dollars to that you need to add at about 50 dollars for the cost of promoting it yourself and your phone bill, and possible shipping.

So there you are at 190 dollars. You still need to be paid something for the art that doesn't work out say 20% of the whole so add that and you are at 228 dollars.If you are participating in an outdoor show or venue for which there is a fee I would go to 300. In fact I would round the number up too 300 just because, frankly, a payday smaller than that leaves no room for any unexpected expenses. You will have those, count on it. So there is what I think the absolute bottom number should be, 300 dollars.

That price is for a small picture in an inexpensive frame that you sell yourself with no commission to a dealer. The old rule of thumb on what an artist can spend on a frame is 5 to 10 % so you are going to have to spent around 30 dollars for the frame.That can be done, but just barely, and only by buying wholesale, mail order. I don't see that coming out of a frame shop.

I have said before I don't recommend playing at the bottom of the market, so in my view this is the starting point. You want to get up from this level and not see it as a viable business model, because I don't think it is. But it is a place you can start. There are going to be people below this price range and you shrug that off. There are people below them too. The Internet is full of unsold hundred dollar paintings. Its not just about price.You should have larger pieces at higher prices as well.

The middle class is an unreliable patron in my opinion but there are a lot of them. The 300 dollar price is about the same as a family trip to the grocery store. It is not a weeks wages for a working man. I have no problem thinking about receiving a month or several months of my clients wages for a painting, you should be open to asking a weeks wages from a middle class wage earner for your paintings. Yes that may mean you will have to make the paintings EXTRA NICE, but that's the idea, I think you need to work towards getting a weeks wages for a painting.

I don't think this is where you want to build a career, this is a starting point and a very shaky way to view the art market. Its not easier there, and its not safer there. You are going to have to learn to make very high quality art to survive in any price structure.

I CAN'T IMAGINE WHY ANYONE WOULD WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH A PIECE OF ART THAT WASN'T VALUABLE.

13 comments:

Gregory Becker said...

This is something I have always wondered about. I'm glad you did a post about it.
It does kind of tie into the whole idea of being a "proven" artist.
Some people wont take prices seriously without that distinction.
I'm sure that title is a title you hold.
Question is it harder to sell without that distiction? And should prices reflect your standing in the art world?

mariandioguardi.com said...

Pricing is very personal. Some artist are professionally living off of their painting/teaching income.They need a strategy. I am holding my prices. Some artists out there are thinking of transitioning to art but have other avenues or mulitple income streams. They can price as low as they want to.

I painting to support my career as an artists but I do have a husband who feeds me and keeps the home roof over my head. That's where it ends. Up until this year, I have been supporting myself. This year is bad. The collectors may be out there but they are not buying either. The MFA Museum school Sale just ended and it was down substantially over last year when it was down substantially over the year before. Except for a piece here and there, nothing is selling and no one is buying. Galleries are closing. I walk in and I don't see any red dots. If anyone knows something different, let's here that story.

Deborah Paris said...

Marian touched on another aspect of pricing and selling- that's geography. To make a living, I have to have as many outlets as possible to sell my work (galleries, museum shows, and other events)because sales will fluctuate from area to area, and venue to venue. Lots of lines in the water. My sales this year are down but not drastically. I've sold more large paintings this year- go figure!

tom martino said...

Stape, I really admired the painting you showed up front -- an example of a high quality piece of art! And that is the crux of the matter, isn't it? We should really concentrate on pushing the quality of our work; then we wouldn't feel "guilty" of charging the high price it deserves. Thanks for the valuable advice!

alotter said...

I have been mulling over your advice all day; it's not the first time I have heard that advice or something similar. It's beginning to sink in finally. What does it mean for me? I'm been exhibiting a lot and selling not much. So I'm thinking what the hell, I should just put those prices up to where I (as a former collector myself) believe they should be. And perhaps be more selective about where I exhibit. And finally, stop fretting. After all, I'm painting for the love of it. I'd be foolish to let random market forces affect my enjoyment.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Gregory:
I think it is harder to sell without that distinction yes, but sales are not solely a function of price. It is mostly about creating an excitement about your painting in the viewer. And yes prices are somewhat commensurate with reputation.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Marian :
Your right this is a tough year for all of us. I do support you in holding your prices.It really isn't about price.
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deborah:
I am glad to hear that.I t is good to be in a bunch of galleries. YOU can be geographically spread out without even leaving your state.
......................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Tom:
Thankyou,
YES that's exactly the point I intended to make.What kind of art sells best? Good art!
....................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

A:
Things are weird out there right now and you can't really go by the current art market. You should stand your ground and wait for the market to recover if you can rather than dropping prices. Work on making the best paintings you can.
..................Stape

willek said...

I have been keeping your previous advice in mind when pricing and I ahve been keeping like sized pactures in the same range. But my quality and validity of concept vary quite a bit as I am still experimenting a lot. I met a well known Western artist who said he sold his pictures for $17 per square inch. I felt like asking him for 2 or 3 inches worth.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Willek:
I too am uneven, but I am perfectly happy to only get paid for the best ones. I will make more and some of those will be good too,
.......Stape

Jennifer said...

I have only been selling art for about 9 years, but this year has been fine for my art sales as well. And in my case also, lots of big pieces. I have been happily surprised.

I sometimes wonder if artists are a kind of favorite charity to support in troubled times. In any case, quite a few people (and not just wealthy gallery-going collectors either) still do want to buy art.