Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Placing Value

Red in Back, 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20

I was thinking that I'd continue yesterday's topic of pricing my art by saying how hard it is to place value on my work. But I realized that's not really the case with me. I am insecure and self-conscious about many things but interestingly the art I create, that is an expression of myself, is not one of them. I think it's because I know how subjective it all is. I am really not offended at all when a person doesn't like my work. I'd prefer that they not say "your paintings suck" right in front of me, but really, how can I expect everyone to like it and want to buy it? I am terribly picky about what art I like and what art I will buy and hope, and expect that others will also be as discerning. I want the person who does buy my art to value it and enjoy it, not just have it as decoration.

Having said that, I now feel comfortable in saying that, of course I think my prices should be much higher than they are. But I am realistic. I am just starting out really, despite having an art education and being, ahem, a bit older that the average emerging artist. I show my work in mostly smaller markets, and in tourist areas where the amount of money that is spent on original art is generally lower. I have yet to break into a "blue chip" gallery where my work would command higher prices. So I am reasonably satisfied with where things are right now, because, despite raising my prices substantially twice in a year's time, my sales have increased and I feel pretty confident that my art's value is increasing. It must, because I literally cannot produce more paintings than I already do, so in order to earn a decent (I will settle for half-decent) income I need to sell my work at higher prices, eventually anyway.

I also treat the business side of all of this as, well, a business. At first I didn't. I was concerned about covering the costs of framing, materials and my time. So my prices were too high and I didn't sell enough to cover any of those things. When I looked at the situation again, I decided to approach it as a small business, something I have had some experience with. For the first few years, my time didn't count. It was a given that I would devote as much of it as I could, because that is what you have to do with a start-up business in order to get it off the ground. The same thing for supplies. I needed many things those first few years; paint, brushes, panels, printing, slides, office supplies, studio equipment. I viewed those purchases as seed money, an investment, one that would take years to see a return on. While I have yet to actually make a profit, in 2005 I did have enough income to cover my expenses, which was pretty dang good for my second full year of painting.

The part of setting prices for me that is stressful and difficult is not that I am placing a value on myself. It is that I am concerned about moving forward, without too many missteps, and not wanting to alienate potential buyers as my prices climb. And even though I am confident about my work and its value, the last thing I want to do is to keep justifying my prices to everybody and their brother. THAT is stressful.


Jordan said...


believe it or not, I have been selling art work for a few years and one thing I have noticed is that you can price yourself out of market by charging too little also. As you art work gets more known you may find that the higher price tag is alluring to some buyer's. it gives them more a sense of value. If you get to this place you can always privately give discounts to people who can't afford your higher prices.

The Epiphany Artist said...

All I can say is AUUUUGHH! :)

Ed Maskevich said...

My dad used to say, "I may not know art but I know what I like!" as a young art student I thought it was pretty dumb but now I say the same thing. That is why I think artists that feel they are competing against others artist are hurting themselves. If I talk with someone who is looking for a particular style and I know an artist who does that kind of work I will make a recommendation. I didn't loose a sale because the customer wasn't interested in my style. Even if someone does like my style they may be looking for a particular subject, landscape vs still life, nudes vs cityscapes, etc. That is why I never take a painting that I myself like better and put a higher price on it. The pieces that I don't like as much might be well received by someone else and vice versa. It's all relative.

Tracy said...

Hi Jordan, I am definitely aware of the problem of having prices that are too low and it is something that I am keeping an eye on with my work. It's all a balancing act, I think, not raising them too fast or too much, but doing just that in order to gain respect with serious collectors.

TL, Can you be more specific?:-)

Ed, I agree with you. I am always really pleased when I hear of another artist's success and am happy when a person buys any kind of art, whether it's mine or not. I mentioned a similar point yesterday in comments about pricing favorite works. I never say which of my pieces I don't like as much, though occasionally I will discuss a favorite piece, but the prices are always the same regardless. Often the ones I don't care for so much are the first to sell, so there you go.

KJ said...

I think you have the situation well in hand. That won't keep you from questioning both sides of the price picture, but that's just human nature. On setting up a new relationship with a gallery I always ask how they feel about my prices and I've yet to get much feedback, so I assume I'm good to go. The only time I run into problems is with very small or very large works... the small ones need to be in line with other works of similar quality in the gallery or they will be passed right over.

amber said...

hi Tracy
i've been having these same discussions with my agent i want to lower my prices because I don't want a lot of art hanging around,but i understand that art in demand has value

Tracy said...

Thanks, I feel good about where I am, but I keep an eye on things and get as much feedback as I can from gallery directors as well as other, more established artists (those who will discuss it, that is)

Hi Amber, Nice work and I look forward to seeing more. Thanks for commenting. If your work is selling, stick with the higher prices!