View Full Version : pricing paintings

02-02-2015, 07:05 PM
I was shocked to see the price being asked for this painting, even if it is a "mini" painting:


This is a talented and prolific artist, and perhaps these little pics are meant to whet people's appetites for bigger, more expensive pieces...........BUT oh dear, it really does upset me to see artists selling their originals for what I believe should be "print" prices.

To sell a print for a few dollars is OK, because there is the possibility of selling multiples....but to sell an original, no matter how tiny, for so little, says to a buyer "here is a little pic which didn't take me long to paint, it is pretty unimportant to me, so I will sell it for a song". So - Why should the buyer feel it has any value? Why send such a message?

It takes YEARS for an artist to achieve a sufficient level of excellence to be able to sell their works. (and to be accepted as a member of an esteemed art society) Selling original works for so little, in my opinion devalues all the years of hard work and dedication. Every good image is the product of blood, sweat and tears and this effort - together with the artist's imagination and creativity - should not be devalued in any way.

I have paid more for a cake in a supermarket. Even if this image is the size of a miniature, surely it is worth more than a cake????

02-02-2015, 08:31 PM
I agree Jackie.

Unfortunately so many inexperienced artists struggle with pricing not understanding that asking too little for a painting is perhaps even worse than asking too much.

And indeed I am sure this artist would tell you that it only took her "a few minutes" to create this work - to which you and I would both answer "no, it took you decades."

Education is the only solution. Whenever I see someone has priced a work too low I try to explain to them that they are undervaluing their work, their story and their art. Its tricky because you dont want to come off as preachy but 99% of the time you can get through to your new friend and help them along the journey (the way someone - the great Robert Genn - did to me many years ago)

02-02-2015, 08:43 PM
Odd that you posted this today because I was thinking this morning of doing some small 4" x 6" paintings that could be framed passe partout in plein air frames for about $15 each and putting them in a local antique/swapmeet emporium that is located at a freeway off ramp, hoping to sell them for about $25 each. Another artist who sells there says the smaller, less expensive works sell best. Now, I'm certainly not a recognized artist like Karen, and probably won't sell much (maybe should ask only the price of the frame!), but I understand the desire to simply move some art. What good is it piling up in boxes?

Yes, original art by recognized artists is certainly worth much more, but, to paraphrase a quote by a novelist whose name I forget, who was talking about the dismal sale of his books, "...that money could be spent for a beer." Honestly, I think, in these hard times, the money is more likely to be spent on food and nappies (or diapers, to use the CORRECT word:)).

I am not taking issue with you, Jackie, just lamenting along with you, really. Even if one can afford original art, the art world seems so separated from most folks' lives. I think the majority think of Art (with a capital A) as being in some rarified zone they don't inhabit. For example, we have an art opening the first Friday of every month at our new, fancy municipal exercise gym (which is complete with all the expensive work-out equipment you could imagine and an indoor swimming pool). Memberships there are pricey, but the place is full of, I imagine, middle- to upper-class people who are buying and furnishing homes. Yet those very people who see our art on the walls for a month as they walk through the halls do not attend the art openings, and there are very few sales at the openings--which are mainly attended by artists. We have many very accomplished artists in this area who present professional work, but very few buyers.

So what's an artist to do? I can only console myself with the thought that, just because I choose (and now have the luxury, in retirement) to spend my time putting colorful marks on paper, that doesn't obligate anyone to spend their hard-earned money on it!:) My poor daughter will have to have one huge bonfire of my work when I go!

02-02-2015, 08:59 PM
How an artist prices their work is a very personal choice. Some do it as a side source of income, or to pay for more supplies and practice, and others try and make a career out of it. As long as she's happy with the price she's getting, that's all that really matters. But, that's just my perspective, everyone obviously has a different, equally as valuable opinion on the topic.

02-03-2015, 12:53 PM
It's actually quite common to price small pieces at this price point. It's a way of getting your name out there. The buyer is a getting an original piece at an affordable price. They also remeber who they got it from when they are redy to step up to a bigger piece. A lot of Gallery's ask Artists to do small for this reason.

02-04-2015, 11:30 AM
This isn't an uncommon thought in the art world - and also not in the photography world (of which I'm much more familiar!) Pricing strategies are tough...seems you sacrifice either way you go (either not selling cause your price is too high or devaluing your work by being too low). As a full-time pro photographer, it took several years for me to develop my brand and then also market my services to the right type of client who *wanted* to pay more for experience and professionalism. Many new photographers price either way too low OR (because they've read so many threads online about how NOT to devalue!) they are WAY too high for an area. You have to find your niche. I always try to ask myself when pricing - "what would I pay for this?" I'm pretty frugal but I also like and value nice things. I am new to the business of art and have recently sold several small paintings. It was hard for me (and still is!) to price these as I don't feel I have enough experience to be high but also don't want to give away something I worked so hard on! At my first recent show, I priced according to how a new friend (And PSA Amy Winton) suggested. Paintings, art, photography...they are worth what someone will pay for them! So I marked my work higher than I normally would have and ended up selling several pieces! I love Karen's work and follow her blog daily....what seems to work for her is moving the paintings she's creating on a daily basis. Etsy is also an entirely different online experience. She has sold over 1500 paintings (and tutorials) on this site! That's a ton! Seems like that amount would buy a LOT of pastels. ;)

02-04-2015, 11:35 AM
Hi Jackie,

I have not been on wet canvas in quite but wanted to comment on your post. I agree $15 is extremely low especially for an established artist. I do understand the reason for selling less expensive work but $15 even for an unknown artist is way low.
I frequently paint that small because I enter miniature shows but I also do small paintings with not much time invested to sell at outdoor festivals. The purpose of the small works is to offer more affordable work to those who love art but do not usually have the means to purchase an original piece. They are not nearly as detailed as the ones that go into the mini shows. I will usually frame the ones that turn out exceptionally well but those that are still nice but don't really speak to me or have been around quite awhile get put in a mat(less then $2) and a clear bag. They go in a print rack and sell for about $30-$35. The customer is thrilled with the painting and I'm glad it found a happy home. Sometimes those little pieces help pay the expenses for the festival if sales are slow. I do not put all of them out for sale, the bad ones that I don't want my name associated with go in the trash.

02-04-2015, 06:24 PM
Interesting responses, thanks.

Perhaps she has it right. I just hate it when artists are undervalued. I am infuriated every time I receive a request from a publisher to send them work for free, to put into their books. And right now I am irritated by a gallery which has sold my work...and has told me that I have to wait three months to be paid, when the fact is that they get their stock on a sale or return basis ...ie for nothing...when every other retail "shop" has to buy their stock. I am aware they have running expenses...but they are no different to the running expenses every shopkeeper has. I just do feel that we artists are so often taken advantage of, and if we sell our work for a song, we are perpetuating the idea that we are able to "knock out" fast, cheap work.

I also find that a small image often takes me almost as long to produce as a big one! I just make bigger marks!

Maybe I am the one out of touch with the real world. Ah well...I am getting on a bit.....

02-04-2015, 09:23 PM
Is it possible that these 'mini's' are actually just pieces of larger works that were not successful? I have several I've done that I likes one section of, but the rest wasn't my best work. I've thought about cropping it off to a much smaller image.

It makes sense that selling sections of a larger work could supplement the income of a starting artist to pay for supplies, or help increase the popularity /of the medium in those who are just dabbling into collecting art. There have been several instances over my life where I had to walk away from an artist's work because I could not afford even their most inexpensive piece at that time.

I have watched Karen's videos several times, and it surprised me that her works were selling for that price on Etsy when I saw them weeks ago. However, as someone just returning to art, I could see that keeping the income flowing regularly would be very beneficial. I figured it was a new marketing tool that artists were using since I was last involved.

02-05-2015, 10:59 AM
While I agree absolutely that it's important that artists price don't undervalue their work, I wonder if these minis are a bit outside the "normal" pricing for Karen's art. (I don't know, I haven't looked) But they could be part of an overall strategy to get her work more widely known and to offer some original art to people who otherwise wouldn't or couldn't buy original art. They could be an effective form of advertising for her as well as helping to pay some bills. Perhaps by selling these tiny works at a low price she's tapping into a market that wouldn't otherwise be reached at all.

I have an 3-D artist friend who holds frequent open studios and always has some very small, inexpensive pieces for sale. A kind of sample of her work. They don't compete with her larger more complex work - people who are willing to buy a larger piece don't say, "'l'll just have this small sample instead." In fact people who buy larger works often end up buying a few of these small items as well for gifts I think she sees her "minis" both as a kind of advertising and as a way to help make the open studio, itself a form of advertising, profitable.

My background is in finance and I'm very interested as an observer how various artists, the vast majority who can't rely on gallery sales to make a reasonable living, cobble together all sorts of ways in order to work full time as an artist. I admire those who find ways to do that. Like Karen who has leveraged her obvious artistic and educational talents to sell her excellent demonstrations on Etsy. I have found these incredibly useful and love that I can benefit from her teaching even though I live far away. So I hope they're a win/win for us both.

02-10-2015, 10:18 AM
Interesting topic. I am a fan of Karen's work and visit her site several times a week. She also sells paintings on dailypaintworks.com. She typically prices her 11x14's around $150 and I always thought that was low given the quality of her work and compared to the prices off other works there. I wondered if it was because pastel brings in lower prices than oil paintings. But then again probably at least 80% of the pieces sold on that site are oil and she is unique in offering pastel.

There are some artists on dailypaintworks that sell for a lot less than Karen. Maybe they are new and just getting started. One can only guess at the reasoning.

J Miller
02-10-2015, 10:37 AM
Just click on her name at the top of the etsy page in the first post and you get this:


The prices are much higher than the 15 dollar 2.5 x 3.5 inchers listed on the first link. This 18 x 24, for example is going for $500.


02-10-2015, 10:55 AM
Pricing has to be the hardest thing to do for me as I am just starting. Finding the happy medium is so difficult so I appreciate everyone that took the time to answer this thread. There does not seem to be a general formula and I find prices are all over the place. Some people are just happy to move the artwork whether they make a profit or not. Personally for me if I don't make a profit, what is the point of selling my work. I definitely need to do some more research on the pricing.

02-10-2015, 12:47 PM
Yes this is an interesting topic.

I have sometimes been thinking of different working categories that get
rather good paid. Why should not artists get paid also?
In the beginning stage of course one maybee has low self asteem and begin
too low but after some time, why not get normal paid. By normal I mean when comparing with others in the same area, if its possible.

Jackie, I understand why you feel irritated because you have been dealing
with people that want it for free, and during the years you have probably
been dealing with different things. Regarding the gallery, is it not possible
to put the paying time, into the contract you write with the gallery before
hanging your art?

06-04-2015, 04:39 PM
I was really excited yesterday when my first painting was accepted for sale in a gallery, but that excitement turned to disappointment when the gallery owner wanted to price it so low that, after deducting the cost for framing and their commission, I would have gotten NOTHING!! He finally agreed to put MY asking price on it even though he tought it was too high, and I agreed to accept less if someone was interested in buying it. I know I don't have a lot experience but I put a lot of time into the paintings I do, and I think they are acceptable so I would like to get some compensation. Otherwise, I'll be happy to just hang them on my walls.

BTW, I looked at the prices of the some of the art in that gallery and it seemed a lot of them were underpriced. My husband thinks he underprices them to sell them quickly and get his commission. Maybe he's right.

I wonder if I should have prints made of the paintings I think turn out well and try to sell those instead of the originals. Any thoughts on that? Also, where would one go to have nice prints made?

I would appreciate any advice on this. Thanks.

06-04-2015, 05:15 PM

This is the painting I have in the gallery. I did the math - if I had let him sell it for what he wanted to I would have profitted 45 cents!!!! That is less than 2 cents per hour for my time.:(

06-05-2015, 05:39 AM
this is wonderful and you should be fairly compensated for your work.
it is so hard though. Especially with most galleries taking 50 percent! If I put my work in most gallery's, I lose money or the price is too high and I don't sell. I am hoping I will get better known and then be able to get decent prices for my work.
For now I will sell in local venues....

Moqui Steps
06-05-2015, 01:47 PM
A 2.5-3.5" piece is basically a business card. Some artists give away originals as a card, so is getting $15 for one better than giving it away? After all it isn't framed or matted.

Karen is charging $1.88 / sq inch for her UNFRAMED 8x10 and $1.71 / sq inch for that 2.5-3.5, also unframed. If you added a frame that cost $40 (I know you can frame it for less) to either one, the cost per sq inch goes up substantially - $2.44 / sq in for the 8x10 and $6.28 / sq in for the tiny one.

I like her work quite a bit, and plan to buy some! Do I think she is selling everything she sells too cheaply? Yup. Would I buy one of her $150 8x10 paintings if it was selling for $450? Nope ( I can't afford it.) Do I think her 8x10's are WORTH $450? Yup.

06-07-2015, 09:55 PM
Thanks Laurie. I guess if I ever decide to try to sell anything again I'll have prints made and sell those or figure out how to frame less expensively if I want to sell an original. I still have a lot of learning to do.

06-10-2015, 12:23 AM
Donald, I'm with you on the pricing of Karen's paintings. What they're really worth and what she's asking has a huge gap. I've also watched her blog for years and watched her improve. I was able to buy one of those minis but I would have done so at $30 or $40 or $50, just waited longer. The one I have is priceless.

It's not just a piece of a failed painting cropped to a good composition. It's a true miniature, exquisite tiny marks that make it a perfect example of how she handles trees and water reflections and skies. It is in my opinion one of her best waterscapes and just happened to be ACEO size. Karen handles every size with equal skill and fluency.

Jackie, I have a serious question.

How do you know when to raise your prices if your skill is improving? Growth s gradual and for someone like Karen who's been making good money with her strategy for years, it may sometimes be hard to realize you're undercharging.

This has some personal relevance to me too as I prepare to go back to selling in a year and a half once Social Security lets me supplement it. If I don't have to live on it, I could do pretty well bringing in side money, but what should I look for in an outside opinion?

Also should there be a price break per process between say, sketches on non sanded paper where I'm covering lightly and working fast using the paper color as a significant part of the painting, or more heavily layered and worked Colourist paintings that took several stages each of which would have been the time of a "Sketch" type painting.

How should I estimate what to charge once I start selling again?

06-27-2015, 07:41 PM
The ones I saw on this site were $150. For an 8x10. I would be very happy to sell a painting that size for that much!

Lisa Fiore
06-28-2015, 11:35 AM
People have often told me that I should charge more for my work, but my feeling is this--if I can't afford to buy my own pieces, why should I expect others to? I'd rather charge less and have the pieces sell than charge more and have them pile up in my house. (disclaimer--I really just do art "part time" and for my own enjoyment--if I needed to make a full-time living off of it I imagine I'd feel differently.)

Mike L
07-06-2015, 08:27 AM
Here are some numbers for figuring out how much your MFA increased your earning potential. All figures based on cost of my daughter's Masters degree from state universities and most numbers are rounded to the nearest ten to keep things easy.

MFA takes about six years to complete, 4 years for the Bachelor's degree and another two for the Masters. Cost for that for my daughter was just a bit over $100,000.00.

40 hours of school per week for 40 weeks per year (summer break) and do this for 6 years works out to a bit over $10.00 per hour of schooling which isn't really a bad deal. Would you want to work for $10.00 per hour?

Working for 2080 hours per year over a 45 year span means you'll spend 93600 hours painting and doing the other stuff professional artists do to sell their work. That's a lot of hours, but when you amortize the cost of the education over that period, it is a mere $1.68 per hour. Double the cost of the education, which is easy to do at private schools, and you're return on your investment is a whopping $3.36 per hour.

Better an artist determine what total costs are, determine what margin of profit is needed to reach whatever goal is set, then charge accordingly and sell the number of pieces necessary to achieve the goal, than decide the education makes the work worth more than it is.

The point of the exercise is to realize what the education is really worth. An MFA, or even 40 years of painterly experience, never sold a painting.

The most important thing about selling art is that beauty is in the eye of the beer holder. Unless your name is Rembrandt or da Vinci, you paintings won't sell if the buyers don't like it. Paintings sell because people want to look at it again and again.


07-06-2015, 10:38 AM
Mike that is interesting! And considering how many fabulous artists have piles of unsold work, pretty accurate! I just saw a jaw dropping set of Roche pastels, NEARLY 1,000 pastels with a wooden chest for $16,0000! I have been trying to figure out how much even the very best or most famous artists would have to charge for a painting to make it profitable to use those! Only the very rich could actually buy them, then would you want to use them and mess up,the set?

Mike L
07-07-2015, 03:49 PM
Mike that is interesting! And considering how many fabulous artists have piles of unsold work, pretty accurate! I just saw a jaw dropping set of Roche pastels, NEARLY 1,000 pastels with a wooden chest for $16,0000! I have been trying to figure out how much even the very best or most famous artists would have to charge for a painting to make it profitable to use those! Only the very rich could actually buy them, then would you want to use them and mess up,the set?

That would be chump change for artists who are established and making the big bucks. :envy:

I just ordered my first extended(?) set of pastels - 64 half sticks of Mungyo Gallery as a set for $8.95 + shipping from New Jersey. Bought off Ebay. We'll see.

However, I doubt - seriously doubt - use of something that expensive could ever make a real difference in the outcome of a work. I just cannot grasp the concept that one pastel is that much better than others. It works out to $16/stick. I guess, like vanity plates, there are vanity mediums which help push up the price of a work.

I think the people who are concerned with selling their works should spend more time learning marketing than learning about art and how to "do" it. (Do we really DO art?) :lol:


08-11-2015, 03:02 PM
Is there a standard formula that artists use to price their paintings per square inch, at least that might give me a starting point as I have never sold a painting and have no experience in selling.

Moqui Steps
08-11-2015, 03:42 PM
Is there a standard formula that artists use to price their paintings per square inch, at least that might give me a starting point as I have never sold a painting and have no experience in selling.

There isn't......

What I ended up doing is the following - my price per square inch when all was said and done ran $5 for small stuff to as low as $2.75 for larger pieces. Some local artists are less than half those number, some are more than 5 times higher.

Go to galleries and shows and note the size and price and type of work on display. Pay the most attention to the ones with red dots on them ( aka SOLD )
Try to compare your works to the ones that sell, be tough on yourself rather than lenient - price your work a bit below the work that is similar in quality as yours. Quite a bit below if they are well known.
Ask a few gallery owners if they will take some time to help you price your work for the local market. Some will do that for free, some want a consulting fee. Ask them to give you artists that they represent that they think your work is comparable to so you can make some logical decisions. Be blunt, ask them what they think it would take to have your work sell within a specific time frame like 6 months or whatever you come up with.
Ask gallery owners as to who's work sells the best for them and look at their work and pricing structure.
Price it lower than higher as it is generally easier to get away with raising prices rather than lowering. If your work sells instantly you probably priced it too low, ease it up a bit. If it sits on the wall for six months to a year with no action you definitely priced it too high for your area.
Prices around here can vary as much as 500% for the same piece in a different gallery. You need to decide which galleries you want to be in that will also want your work or what other venues you want to try like art shows, Etsy, Ebay.

If your goal is to sell your work and to make money, you need to price it to sell. If you just paint for fun, then pricing has no real meaning as far as the art market goes, price it where you want to or enough to cover your costs plus some extra as an incentive to want to keep painting. Price it like an original Bierstadt if you wish but realize it probably will never sell other than to a rich relative who loves you and/or has pity on you.

08-11-2015, 03:49 PM
Thank you Moqui Steps. Your comments are very helpful.


Moqui Steps
08-12-2015, 02:37 AM

You are most welcome.