Get Ready, Set Your Prices, Go Sell!
By Holly Picano, Visual Communicator
November 20, 2016
One thing most artists aren’t very good at is setting their own price. Trying to figure out what you should charge for your artwork can be a major struggle for many artists, especially new and emerging artists who don’t have a track record. You have to decide what you are willing to work for as an hourly wage. Keep track of your how long it takes you to create a piece of art, and multiply your hourly rate by the number of hours it takes you to create the piece. Make sure to include the time it takes to prepare the canvas or other structure which you will paint upon and not just the actual painting time. You should include preparation time, paint time and the time it takes the piece to dry and is ready to sell.
I had started painting in art school, back in 1990, but never sold a painting until the year 2000. I had painted for my studies, but never tried to sell anything until I began my first series of paintings in 2000, called Faces. This series was made up of faces of women, painted in bright unnatural colors. I painted each piece on canvas, first sketching each image onto the canvas with a pencil, masking the area to paint, then choosing at least two primary colors that compliment one another. Each painting took me approximately four hours to complete.
I began showing at little coffee shops and small art galleries downtown Orlando. My first collection of 12 paintings was complete and I was ready to set my price. Just starting out, I thought $50 an hour sounded like a fair price, so I multiplied $50 an hour by the four hours it took me to complete a painting and sold my first painting for $200 a piece. I quickly realized that larger for-profit art galleries treat their walls like valuable real estate and no art gallery wants to make $100 off of a piece of art, it’s just not worth their time. I spent the next few years painting in my spare time and making connections with whoever might be able to display my work and get it seen by more people than I could possibly do alone. First there was the little gallery downtown, then I began to show at the Delta Crown Room, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Universal Studios and the Hard Rock Hotel. When I began feeling like an assembly line and could not paint fast enough to keep up with sales, I raised my price and eventually, I was up to $800 per hour. Now, I was worthy of a gallery wall.
One of my most valuable lessons in pricing has to do with one of my first pieces titled Cosmopolitan. This was a fun colorful piece of a red head holding a blue martini. I first priced it at $250 at a little café downtown Orlando. I got a call from the café that they had placed a red dot beside it, and in the art world that’s good news… that means I just made a sale! The next day, I went to the café and found out the piece was used in an MTV video by the potential buyers and instead of buying the piece, they hung it back up on the wall of the café and departed for south America. This was also at a time when I was beginning to understand the worth of my work and began to recalculate my prices. Cosmopolitan quickly jumped from $250 to $3,200 and sold almost immediately after I relocated it to the Delta Crown Room at the Orlando International Airport.
For me, this was a valuable lesson in pricing, knowing your demographic and the psychology of the sale.
Write to Holly Picano at HollyPicano@me.com