View Full Version : Sell cheaply vs. holding on for a good price???

04-16-2011, 07:15 PM
I have just come home from a local annual Fine Art Show and Sale. Many, many artists showing their stuff. Most have been “in the business” for many years.

I sold two small paintings (framed 8 x 10"), the person on my right (watercolour landscape) sold nothing, the person next to him (a variety of subjects in acrylic) sold nothing, the person to my left (a variety of subjects in oil) sold nothing and many others I asked, sold NOTHING.

Now, in the corner of the room was a lady artist, she showed mostly watercolours and some collage, over painted in acrylic, lots of florals and some landscapes and people were flocking to her like bees to flowers and buying, buying, buying. It seemed to me that she was well known to customers at that annual show.

I mentioned this to my non-selling neighbours and their answer was “have you seen her prices”?

No, I hadn’t so I went to investigate and her prices were low, low, LOW!! Beautifully painted and framed 1/4 sheets for $50 - $75, lovely little 5" by 7" Iris paintings (they are not easy and a lot of work) for $ 15.

I went back to my group with my findings and that started a discussion:

My non-selling neighbours argued that this artist is devaluing hers and everyone else’s work and that there was no way they would devalue their work this way, they had their good name and standard to uphold.

My thought was that our paintings were being devalued sitting in the basement or under the bed.

So, I thought that would make a good discussion here in Palette Talk. If we paint because we truly enjoy it, is it better to sell them cheaply so we can be motivated to paint more, or is it better to hang on to a high price and have them sitting under the bed - unsold????


04-17-2011, 02:14 AM
Uschi , You don't say what you sold yours for ?
I price by what I think their worth is to me . What others do is not relevant Most of mine are full sheets, so they never sold easily .With agents ,they never argued with my prices ,but I learned what sold and what didn't .
June:) :wave:

04-17-2011, 03:12 AM
A big conundrum Uschii. :heart: I've never got to the bottom of this.

I don't even try to sell mine ... too many friends and relations who are not yet supersaturated. :rolleyes: I am an amateur and plan to stay an amateur ... that way I retain a hobby.... and an endless supply of birthday, Christmas etc gifts :lol:

Having said that, if I did try to sell (aka become "professional" ... you know .. make a living, or starving, at it) there is no way I could justify selling below the cost of materials (frames?) and then the time factor would have be considered which if she frames her own work would be even more considerable.

Upside is that she gets her paintings out there... maybe at a loss but out there. A bit of an investment to cultivate a clientele.

Downside is what happens if she paints her holy grail masterpiece(s) and tries to charge a higher price for them? Her trained clientele may come and say " ... but ... I only paid $75 for the last from you and it was the same size? " How do you explain to the past customer that THIS one is a better painting?

The lady is not de-valuing any of your or the other artists work ... she is possibly devaluing her own if she is selling under cost. That may be a strategy though.

I don't think paintings are de-valued under the bed, or in my case on top of the standup freezer in the laundry/studio. It depends on their value to yourself. I can (and periodically do) look at all mine and remember what I was thinking about when I painted them... sometimes thinking "what was I thinking there!" ... it's better than a photo album in that respect. On the other hand there's a lot of good watercolour paper there waiting for layers of gouache :lol:

Probably haven't helped the discussion a lot. Art shall remain my hobby and if I ever do sell I will charge like a wounded bull ... and keep the day job. :lol:

04-17-2011, 03:41 AM
I'm just a beginner.LOL,I haven't produced a decent piece yet even.
But here is my humble opinion.As long as you don't lose money(framing is expensive if you don't do it yourself,materials,paints,time)I see nothing bad in selling at low price.
With time and experience and demand(if the lady isn't pro already)you can start raising the bar slowly until you have(in the perfect world)your paintings sold at the price that you consider fair and profitable.Just my 2 cents.


04-17-2011, 04:58 AM
Price 'em to shift 'em I say - they are no good lying in a drawer!

Last Christmas I let a friend look at my pile of "failures" and I sold half a dozen (framed in cheap standard frames at a total cost of say £8 each) for £20 each, they went like hot cakes.

When I have exhibited and priced reasonable paintings at what I think was a fair price £50 for decent paintings in 16 x12 frames I have sold nothing.


04-17-2011, 08:00 AM
ok this, for what its worth, is what I'm learning.

1. It depends what you paint... I am not talking about the serious art buyer here but the general public. They seem to be a lot more willing to pay more for a painting of someone they know, that special family heirloom or something they request an artist to paint just for them than a more general painting. I was talking to people yesterday at a local watercolour show. Many thought up to $500 an ok price for a painting there(and they were selling at that price) but would be willing to pay up to $1000 for a family/pet portrait that would become a family heirloom if it was done well by an artist they admired. It also seems to depend on what you paint on. I got told by a local gallery I could charge $100+ more for exactly the same painting and it would sell quickly if i painted with a canvas look rather than paper under glass:rolleyes:.

2. It depends where you sell it. A local watercolour show.... an international watercolour exhibition... a craft fayre.... on the internet... to friends.... Each will have a set range of prices that will sell ...if you market in this range then you are likely to sell if a person comes along who wants what you are offering. You cannot have a set price for your painting that you use everywhere if you are serious about selling your art. In some environments selling cheap is just as bad a selling expensive. There was a painting yesterday that someone was inetrested in. They inquired as to whether the price was correct (its was $90 for a canvas about 16 by 20 ish in size of an abstract... the general price range for the exhibition was $200 to $700. They decided not to buy it and chose instead a more expensive one $250 because, in their words ' they were worried about the quality of materials on that painting if the artist was selling it that cheaply compared to everything else' :rolleyes: but this was at a watermedia exhibition... these people wouldnt have considered even walking through thr door let alone buying if they werent serious about art. At a craft fayre My bet is that painting would have sold for that $90 price.

3. It depends who are are trying to sell it too... the market is now flooded with mass produced stuff ...prints i mean, that you can buy so cheaply in places like IKEA, Walmart etc. Many of the general public do not appreciate the time and effort it takes to produce an original. They see the prices for these prints and dont buy anything over what they consider to be this price of art. Its sad i know but the reality of the world we live in these days.

4. It depends on whether you value yourself as an artist and the amount of time you put into a painting as well as the cost of materials. It depends what you want to be viewed as... yes that artist did sell her work... probably at a loss at that price... maybe that was her strategy... this time i want to get my work out there to become a 'Known artist' but known for what... someone who sells cheap stuff???... will this make it more likely that she can sell for more next time???? People are fickle... I doubt it....

5. It depends who you are....making a name for yourself seems to be the key to success. If people want to buy your art because of who you are this helps and within reason you can charge what you want and it will still sell. people who are serious about art like to know your 'history' your experience, qualifications, exhibitions, awards and will pay more if you have the 'right paperwork' ... sad it is... but oh so true.

6. It depends if you are rich and paint for fun and dont worry about covering costs, let alone making a profit or whether you are selling your art to make a living. If it the first you can sell cheaply, if not you HAVE to do your homework and sell at a price that covers your costs plus make enough to make it worthwhile but still sell. You have to think in advance what you paint too. Are you painting for the pure pleasure of it... you dont mind working for 50 hours plus on a painting of a subject that wont appeal to many or are you painting to sell.... quicker paintings that will appeal to many.

7. It depends on whether you want to sell that day... or whether you are using this as exposure.... expensive art is not something you purchase as a general rule of thumb as a spur of the moment thing (there are always exceptions of course) Sometimes a person sees something they like very very much and they make a note of the artist... take their contact details and walk away and you think ' oh well, not this time'. but its not until days/ weeks have passed that they decide yes they really do want to buy that piece of art and they get in touch with the artist and purchase it then.

8. It depends on your personality... It should'nt but it does. How many of you have walked away when someone is too pushy when they want to sell. Equally you will walk away if someone appears disinterested in your questions as a buyer. Striking that balance is the key just as much as the price you are asking.

and finally ....I'm still very much on a learning curve here but I do know that my own original art wont appeal to the general crafy fayre public which is why I dont try to sell there so...

9. You have to know your market and find places where the type of people who will like your art enough to buy it will be. If you dont you wont sell at the price you want.

Ok I've waffled on long enough:o but thought i would add thoughts from someone who is now trying to make a living from art. I have different goals I know from you Uschi and many who are hobbiests but some of what I say maybe valid to all of us


04-17-2011, 08:35 AM
Hi Uschi... you certainly raise an excellent question and it's often considered a "Catch 22" D*amned if you do and d*amned if you don't....

As a hobbyist, I pretty much just paint what I want... When/if friends and family want something I've done, I'm always happy to give it to them... because I tend to paint a lot, though, I have this overflow and I do try to sell it.

However, my value as an artist has absolutely nothing to do with the price tag I affix to my paintings. Self worth cannot be equated with financial gain.

Doug... I like your quote... "Price 'em to shift 'em"... :)

Our lumbering economy is certainly a factor in what people are willing to spend their hard earned money on...

The perceptions of our buying public are always a factor... For instance the ongoing tug of war between oils, acrylics and watercolour is a factor in what sells.

The lady who was selling her work at your art show went home with $$$ in her pocket while your neighbours all nursed their bruised egos... I guess that pretty much says it all...

04-17-2011, 10:13 AM
The lady who was selling her work at your art show went home with $$$ in her pocket while your neighbours all nursed their bruised egos... I guess that pretty much says it all...

YUP, that's what I thought too:D and she'll have lots of fun painting more for next year:)

I personally painted for years and years, loved my hobby, loved my paintings, so much so, that I wouldn't even let my children have any:D Several years back came the point where I had just too many and decided to sell some. At that time eBay was still a good place to sell art, the US dollar was 20% above ours and I sold lots on there, unframed with a pretty decent profit.

Now I am in a bit of a quandary, my paintings are hanging in two galleries and even if I want to keep my prices low I have to keep them up for the other artist's sake and yet, are THEY selling lots of paintings - NO!!:lol:

Ona, very good points. You are trying to make this your career so a completely different approach has to be taken. I agree that the one yesterday had a craft fare like feel to it with dozens of vendors and I am pretty sure that each and every one of them had a main career (at one point) and it was not Art.

June, to ME my paintings are worth a LOT:lol: :lol: But under the bed:confused: The two I sold were 5 x 7", framed with metal 8 x 10" frame which I bought years ago for $ 8, one a Calla lily, the other pears and I sold them for $ 45 each. Yes, giveaway price, but it payed for my $ 40 space and they really only cost me $ 16 for the frames.

Doug, good for you!!!!! You get the pleasure of knowing that someone is actually enjoying your art!!

Annie, your day will come!!!:lol: You are a wonderful artist and you are a prolific artist.

Upside is that she gets her paintings out there... maybe at a loss but out there. A bit of an investment to cultivate a clientele.

Oh, SHE didn't have a loss, guaranteed:lol:

Bob, the lady is pretty "pro", has been painting for years and does lovely work. She, like most of the artists there is older and the chances of her becoming "famous", at this point, are pretty slim:)

:wave: Uschi

04-17-2011, 11:19 AM
Hi Uschi

You pose an interesting question.

Basically I am a hobby painter, I sell my paintings to "feed my habit" painting is a bit of an adiction to me, therefore I need cash to support it.

I have some paintings which I am emotionaly bonded to and would not sell, other paintings I am glad to get rid of! once I have painted a piece, I tend lose interest in it, and eagerly start another work.

I don't sell to make a profit, but do so to reach a target, ie, if I need £400/500 for a short holiday, or another load of canvases or paints, I price my paintings accordingaly, hoping I will reach that target, it may take 3,4,5 or six paintings to be sold in an auction or at a fair to reach it, but as long as I do I'm happy.

At an art fair/sale, the prices that other painters charge for their work is of no interest to me, it is up to them how they conduct their business, I expect them to make no comment on the price that I charge!

With regard to the recession, I do find that sales have dipped by around 80% especially my stuff in galleries (half of which are unfortunatly going out of business) direct sales to the public is the way to go, cutting out the middle mans commission

Uschi, your no sale at the last venue was a blip, your paintings are too good not to do well in the future


04-17-2011, 12:42 PM
My vote on the poll is:
shift the art out, sell for what the market will pay. Cheap well maybe. Why can't everyone have original art on their walls?

Holding on for a good price:
Like real estate, goods have a market value and the price reflects that according to what sells and in what kind of market. As well, imo, Art has an consumer expiry in some cases.

(A throw away society) In my case of consumer expiry:
I'm leaving a legacy of paintings for my friends and relatives. Bring all my unframed paintings to my funeral / memorial. Let 'em have a piece of my creative spirit.

The method, put numbers on each painting, and numbers in a draw box, draw a number and match to the painting. Fate has it. If they want to swap each other afterward, go for it; let 'em mess with fate. LOL.

Story of my friend:
who paints acrylic, started with pets, animals using cheap folk art paint on $1-$2 canvas boards (yes tole paint cheap stuff). She went to fairs/ markets, sold for under $30. 12"x10", the smaller stuff $15 with a wooden frame. Clientele would come back to buy more. She was happy.

Clients wanted to commission her for pet portraits. It was too pressure and not much fun. She wanted to paint what she wanted to paint.

She raised her prices over $45 for the small stuff including landscapes, etc., stopped going to local markets/bazaars, has created a studio in her home, enters fee driven art shows trying to make a name - made a business with print cards, etc. As far as the cheap paint? dunno.

Getting your art out there, let's the Art speak for itself.

Winning accolades - says a judge values your work; that's important to some people, who need to hang more than a painting on their walls for neighbors (the Jones') to notice. Art is Art to me.

Time wise:
examples are Zubkvic and Lowrey paint in only couple of hours, therein is their secret of time=money. Can this be the gauge? It may be relative, but the public doesn't see it that way.

Original Art story:
My neighbor and I went to an "Art on the Fence" Show. She wanted to buy an original piece of art. oOh, fun to learn what my neighbor liked in art. She bought a large print of a local artist. I was shocked and couldn't figure the shift. This neighbor frames and hangs all the greet cards she receives from me (a mini original art collection by now, LOL) Good thing about that is I know where I can find my gallery of art if I ever need it.

Either a "commercial artist" or a "fine artist" - unless you have a contract with "Walmart-art-Ala-ganza", who are these artist's? or an illustrator's education and contract, a question is what does commercializing a painting (prints, cards, posters, etc) do for the value of that original's saleability? Oops that's another forum.

An interesting thread, thanks Uschi for the relational subject and the valued conversation.

04-17-2011, 01:37 PM
I painted 10 versions of the same drawing, full sheet. They were comparable in style and overall quality. Some I framed, others I matted and put in plastic wrap. I sold them all over a period of about a year. I sold one for $60 to a mom with kids in tow at a mall around Christmas. She liked it so much that I said,"pay me what you can." I sold the rest for prices all the way up to a $1000 for a nicely framed version that went to an auto exec. I took what I thought was fair according to demand and ability to pay.

Now my prices are down, nobody really cares much about buying watercolours or art in general and mine in particular. So make me an offer, doesn't change my ability to paint or my place in the world. I used to make a good part of my income from art and now I don't. I'm worse than broke from my art adventures...show me the money, any money.

Those that stand on principal and worry about the value of their work are more successful or don't have to worry about eating.

04-17-2011, 02:26 PM
I'm with Doug, Paintings are like shoes, they have to sell.....;-)

But there are different stokes for different folks. Some artists are rigid in their pricing and others like to move it around to suit. I find myself in the latter category and on occasion will reduce my price if the buyer is still a little hesitant.
For instance, a customer who can pay by cheque will often get a 6% reduction because the alternative would be a credit card that charges 6%.
On those fairs that charge no commission, I sometimes reduce the price by 10% and I let the customer know why I do so.
Last fall, a collector offered me $1000 for two paintings that were priced at $600 each (full sheet)......I shook his hand......and so there were 2 less paintings that I kept from sitting around all winter.
But what do you do with a collector that buys a painting for $600 that was a tagging error by me and the price should have been $345. On discovering the error, I wrote the buyer and sent a cheque for the difference along with my apologies. The cheque was never cashed.....

I also frame my own and reap the rewards that brings.....a $600 painting (26" x 34") costs me $65 to matt and frame.

However, there are those in the art fairs that say I sell too low.....so what?

To Quote Flattwo,
"At an art fair/sale, the prices that other painters charge for their work is of no interest to me, it is up to them how they conduct their business, I expect them to make no comment on the price that I charge!"

But few on this site talks about the prices they themselves charge.

04-17-2011, 02:47 PM
Interesting this one..........suggest 'we' are all right......

I'm a little like Henry insomuch as I am serious about what I paint and these days rarely paint 'just for pleasure'...other than when I am on holiday. I exhibit to sell and use the money for materials for more work. Yes I have been to an exhibition where I sold one of eight paintings but the person in the next section sold all eight allowed, their price roughly 30% of mine and not so nicely framed etc......One of the ladies in her Art Group had said "that is the price you must ask"....so she did and she was happy...so what is wrong there?

Until the last two weeks personally I have had a famine of sales for the last year, but in this period I have sold one at exhibition which included 30% commission to gallery, another on internet at 'gallery prices' and a small print to a WC'r at a fair rate (i.e. we were both happy)........

I was at an Arts & Craft Fair some years ago and talking to a dealer who was selling some of the excellent Jack Vettriano prints.....he said he was a mainline dealer in a large town,however,he had a stock of paintings by local artists and depending on where he was showing the price went up or down.
Example, a painting for sale in a smart town like Harrogate ( near JudyL) he would alter the price from say GBP120 to GBP220!......but if he was selling in,say Hull, less smart, he would reduce the asking price!!


04-18-2011, 04:13 AM
Ah Geoff ... so it comes down the basic business edict (told to me by a very (and still) successful businessman friend of my husbands) ... charge what the market will bear.

That then raises the question of which "market" ?

04-18-2011, 04:21 AM
What the general public will buy is a thorny question:( . I once did a course with an artist who discussed why people buy paintings. Will it fit in that small space? Will it match my decor? Oh we went there on a holiday? And so on...

Me I sell cheaply, or rather I price moderately and still don't sell them. Actually I've sold about thirty, several to fellow artists, but the last year a desert. The pile gets larger and larger:eek: !


04-18-2011, 09:58 AM
Although I come to Wetcanvas daily as a painter, I am posting this to throw in my 2 cents as a buyer. Last year I went to a gallery to see a watercolor exhibit. I was immediately taken by two watercolors of tulips; they were both beautiful and a bit bizarre at the same time. $600 each. I chose one of them, and emailed the gallery owner that I really like both paintings, and was sorry I couldn't afford to buy them as a pair. (I wasn't fishing for a discount, just being honest!) The owner emailed back after a day, offering the pair for $900. I immediately went for it, very happily. Now those paintings are the first things I see when I get up each morning and it's wonderful to have them both. I don't feel the artist devalued her work by giving me a break on the second painting; it really couldn't be more highly 'valued' than it is in my home!

Ellen in Ont
04-18-2011, 10:33 AM
Pricing a painting is harder than painting it. :eek: Way up here people are just not interested in buying original art. My reproductions sell even if I have originals on display at a just slightly higher price. Most of my profit from my art is from selling these. Speaking of profits, I am happy if my sales for the year meet my costs of buying more supplies. I am not expecting to earn a living at this.

I go by age a lot of the time. New paintings start higher (a quarter sheet framed is from $250-$350 - still very low compared to what art is priced at in a big center). As the years go by without being sold, the price slowly comes down as they are displayed at different events. When the price gets low enough they sell. At that point I am just happy to get them off my own walls. For instance I finally sold a 10 x 14" framed for about $100 that was about 6 years old and had been seen many times in local shows. However, they weren't buying for themselves. It was for a presentation gift.

There are some paintings that I am either more attached to or took me a huge amount of time to paint that I won't drop the price on. These are mostly the full sheet ones professionally framed. They are filling my walls but I won't compromise on those. If someone offers me the price I want I'll sell but otherwise they will stay here.

I usually paint according to what I need for entering certain shows (mostly by our local art club). We have annual themed shows. Other shows only allow certain mediums or subjects so I will paint specifically for them. The rest of the time I am painting for myself and it either isn't for sale or might not appeal to the public (eg. my painting of a beaver skull or one of crumpled tissue paper). I have one painting that our local museum refused to let me hang in my own solo show there because they said people would find it too sad! :eek: If I was able to produce my paintings faster I might paint according to what would interest the public rather than painting what I like for myself. Between work and other demands I am only able to paint maybe 6 a year so I can't afford to sell them at bargain prices. It would take forever to restock.

My thoughts on pricing are all over the place (as reflected in my prices). It won't help others set their own prices but those are my few cents worth.

04-18-2011, 11:09 AM
I've enjoyed this discussion and wish I could add something of value but alas I cannot.

I've been thinking of getting a booth in an art fair and just seeing what would sell. I just may do that soon. I've only sold ONE painting and it was a 1/4 sheet white rose matted and framed and it was auctioned off at a silent auction for a benefit for my friend's son (who was in an accident and had a head injury). It still hangs in the lady's guest bedroom and she LOVES it. I've just not tried too hard to sell my work but hope to in the future.

My thoughts are that I'd like someone to enjoy my work so I'd not price too high...enough to cover the cost and a generous amount depending on the paintings value to me.

Keep the discussion going; it's been an interesting read.:thumbsup:

Shawn Qui-Qui
04-18-2011, 03:06 PM
I have never sold a piece I have always given them away to friends and family but soon I wish to start showing in galleries. I have been wondoring on pricing so this thread has been very helpful and interesting to me. I do mainly 18 x 24 pastel works on paper with ridicoulsly vibrant colors. People sometime say that my works would look good in a child book, because they are brightly colored and unrealistic. They never understand that is what I go for, it is an expresion of my views, I love color I love the contrast between pure black and brilliant color. I was thinking I would start at about 100$ for a 18X24 pastel maybe framed maybe not, what do you all think about that?

04-18-2011, 05:53 PM
Galleries charge commissions on what they sell (it's how they make their money), and it can be as low as 35% of the framed work or as high as 55%... That, of course, means that artists must charge more in order to realize some amount of profit from their paintings.

So, if I price a 1/4 sheet at $250 privately, at my Gallery I must price it around $380 to absorb the commission. Not only that, but I must also pay a yearly Member's Fee to the Gallery to be able to display my work.

Therefore, selling my work at art fairs or private shows, I can reduce the prices of my paintings and still make about the same amount of money...

What I sell most, though, are little 5x7 originals that I've matted and placed into styrene bags. They sell for $20 and people eat them up... they make great gifts, I think...

04-18-2011, 07:26 PM
Char, you have proved that size does matter! small reasonably priced originals, matted, ready to frame are the way to go :)

I think it is a bit of a rip off for your galleries to charge a yearly members fee, does not happen here.


04-18-2011, 07:57 PM
Great posts by everyone and very informative.

I thought of another interesting perception about "worth". So lets say one of the artists has a painting hanging in the gallery for $ 300 but it's not selling there, nor is it selling at the Art Shows. Quite often they will take the frame off and place the painting into a plastic clear bag and put it in "the bin" at the gallery for anything between $ 50 and $ 100.

If you do the framing yourself, and many artists do, it costs somewhere around maximum $ 50 for a 1/4 sheet, yet they reduce the painting by $ 200 because now it doesn't have a frame anymore. So seems that in our mind the frame, not the painting, is worth way more money than it actually is:)

Char, another interesting thought, I told you before that at the gallery we have several bins with lots of bagged, unframed paintings in it, small and large.

There would be absolutely no problem if I had to put a small, 5" x 7" matted and bagged into the bin for $ 20, but if I added an eight dollar frame and sold the very same painting for $ 28 everyone there would protest because I am undervaluing everyone's painting:)


04-18-2011, 09:39 PM
Hi Uschi

Galleries put a premium on framed paintings because they take up valuable and usually limited prime wall space

The bins can hold scores of unframed paintings, therefore reducing the overhead costs


04-19-2011, 04:40 PM
My neighbor was interested in a commission of his mother's lake house and asked me how much a 10"x 14" would cost him. He quickly said WITHOUT the frame. His mother would buy the frame to suit her decor and taste. I was happy about that. I quoted $100. He is willing to go ahead with it. However, with this guy I'd want 1/2 the money down first.

This came about after I by chance showed him the painting that won Artist of the Year Award from the humble little local fair in my county. I found it interesting. Now I'm freaking out about doing a commission (time wise . . . arrg).

rue d'oak
04-23-2011, 06:28 PM
Great thread full of such a wonderful range of thinking....only underscoring how difficult pricing is.

When I entered a piece (fiber art/mixed media, not watercolor) in a juried show, I had a complete identity crisis about the price. As my motive wasn't to sell, and given the HUGE range of opinion I got, out of amusement I priced the piece at $1697. That is the street number of our house. :lol:

A pro photographer friend who has his own gallery prices his prints in a set, with the price increasing with each new set printed. For example, the first 10 prints are sold at $XX, the next set of ten at $XXX, the third set at $XXX. He figures that fewer sales at double or triple the price is a free market method of maintaining the value of his prints. An early buyer at $3000 will not face the value being diminished by 100 identical prints being resold 5 years later. Interesting approach. Not usually for one of a kind paintings, but a thought for prints.

As for Uschi's initial question and example, as others have pointed out, our motivations and needs are so mixed. If you want sales and need cash, price to sell. If you want to build a body of work, of interest to collectors and high end galleries, keep the price high and live without many sales.

I think the small pieces, such as Char's examples, sell for very practical reasons, from simply being small enough that the buyer can feel confident about finding a place at home to hang it to being an affordable, quality souvenir. Many regular folks want the joy of beauty, the trigger of a good memory and would be intimidated to be a "collector" or invest a chunk of the family budget.

As makers and sellers of art, we get to decide who we want to attract and why! And me, I am continually stumped when someone asks for a quote!:lol:


04-24-2011, 11:46 AM
Very interesting reading - I have only sold a few pieces - from £10 to around £50 but mostly I give my paintings away as I am chuffed that anyone actually likes them......LOL.

I think if I was to start selling mine I would go more for canvas than paper as these seem to be the ones people go for more - or maybe I am wrong on that.

Actually if someone wanted to buy one of mine I would just say make me an offer as I would have no idea how to price it.


04-24-2011, 12:38 PM
Price 'em to shift 'em I say - they are no good lying in a drawer!

Last Christmas I let a friend look at my pile of "failures" and I sold half a dozen (framed in cheap standard frames at a total cost of say £8 each) for £20 each, they went like hot cakes.

When I have exhibited and priced reasonable paintings at what I think was a fair price £50 for decent paintings in 16 x12 frames I have sold nothing.


Doug, I'm with you on that. Thank you for validating my old habit of selling my mistakes. If someone liked a botch, I'd sell it to them. I might see a technical flaw and feel embarrassed by it, but they see a unique painting they love for very personal reasons. They may even like it for exactly what made me think it was a botch - before I started loosening up, I might have sold some better watercolors as "Botches" than the tight ones I did as serious paintings.

Pricing to the average of the market also makes sense, so that price isn't a factor in the client's choice to buy. That would be looking at other artists comparable to my skill doing that subject in my medium in that venue.

I knew a lot of fine artists who earned much more from selling matted and/or framed prints than from their originals and didn't lower prices on their originals. Even back before giclee it was a good career choice and improved income.

I look at my current skills and know I should charge a lot more for originals than I have done in the past. I'm better at it. Much, much better, especially when I let my skilled pen play with the watercolors too and take the time for that style. I haven't sold any of those recently.

At the same time I look at how I expect to make a living - how many painting days I can count on my health for example - and know I need to live on trickle incomes and royalties from books, not on selling original art. I can't live on the cheap the way I did in New Orleans, there's nowhere I could live as cheap as I did then and I neglected my health. Ultimately that put an end to it in the only real failure I've ever had in my life.

Being disabled is like having an extra dependent that gives nothing to your life, not even affection, but demands that much time and expense as if supporting a whole extra person. It won't ever grow up and move out either. I need to earn more than I would need to be happy if it was just me and I had my health. I don't. I'm stumbling around right now without at least one medication that they're dithering over covering that I can't afford out of pocket till they come around and living on disability is not enough to cover that. So I need to earn more than minimal to become self supporting.

That means thinking in both the long term and the short term.

One thing always happened - art markets will have booms and busts. They go through these phases. They're great for a while and that high can feel stable and then bang, ouch, the people who want it the most haven't got the budget to buy as much as they want. Sometimes they start selling part of their collection to cover their own financial gaps. At that point it's gonna pinch and there have to be some second string answers, some other income sources, some different way to approach it.

They go boom again eventually too, usually in some slightly different direction.

But actual quality matters in this deep sense, beyond what's the popular subject and medium and color choices and style. The level at which people will pay hard cash for something you drew or painted is way below the level of skill where it's going to keep you going no matter what the market's doing.

Prints, both limited edition and unlimited editions and things like art cards are ways to get around the average pocket of the average art fair goer when the market dips. It's something to keep in mind because lowering prices is a way of telling the clients your work isn't as good. I've always got to keep that in mind because I think there were some times I shot myself in the foot doing that instead of biting the bullet and sticking to a higher price. It might be better to create a lower priced item as such and separate that from your best works and hold the line on your best paintings.

Smaller works, simpler works, sketches vs. finished paintings, hand colored prints for those into the Pen And Watercolor style where you do just one absolutely Claudia Nice splendid pen layer and then really have fun playing with each one when it's printed up on watercolor paper.

Those also allow for experiments and they sell even better if each one's a little different in the painting side, like a series. Several of the more prosperous New Orleans street artists were doing those to great effect and much less time and work than when they created an original and sold the pen-and-watercolor original at a very high price. They sometimes displayed a couple of originals with a high price on them and sold dozens or hundreds of the hand painted prints.

09-11-2012, 09:21 PM
Interesting discussion . i for one have dozens of finished pantings sitting around unframed sitting in a pile under a shelf in the room I paint in my studio for a better word . they are there because I have displayed them , tried to sell them and they have not moved . I enter shows about twice a year and maybe sell one or two if I'm lucky . Most of them I sell are unframed the reason being most people were not prepared to buy at the higher price with a frame . Therefore I reduced the price by the price of a frame and sell now and again 10 x 14 sell about $100. Mostly any work i sell these days are matted with a back wrapped in cellophane sleeve. for the past couple of years I've been painting on the garden tour which has increased exposure of my paintings to the public with pieces being sold this way . I find that when i donate a painting to a charitable organization they get good prices for my work even unframed . I donated one last week and it brought $250 unframed . I do not frame any more because of damage to frames between shows and transporting . Paintings which I like I take photos and get them reduced in size to postcards buying the least amount of cards each time over the years have accumulated a variety to choose and sell . Cards sell very well . expensive paintings do not . I keep unsold work for a time , offer them to family then some of what they do not want I tear up . Its the matter of choice . I find here in Canada or in my area people buy watercolours mostly . People in the States by oils or acrylics I found . I haven't noticed any of my artists friends selling large size reproductions of their paintings . Thats all I have to say friends

virgil carter
09-11-2012, 10:21 PM
Good comments, all!

Seems to me there are two categories of buyers of art: 1) those looking to acquire some original art for themselves, but who have moderate, limited means; 2) serioius art collectors for whom price is not the object, but name, reputation and quality are the objects.

The challenge selling to the first category is: 1) a long-term rotten economy that saps one's confidence and lowers discretionary spending; 2) the rise of inexpensive giclee prints which appear to be of original quality and durability, and sell for much, much less than original art. For this category of purchasers, inexpensive prints or reduced prices for original art may be the only option.

The challenge of selling to the second category is: 1) are you a "name" artist with an established, critical reputation. If so, price is not an issue. If not, forget these purchasers!

I had a gallery owner tell me that sales of art costing four figures and more had not slowed much, if at all. Art sales for work less than four figures has stagnated! Blame the economy and good quality giclee prints. Not that there's anything wrong with giclees--perhaps more of us should build up that part of our inventory!

Where does that leave us? I've reduced my normal prices 20% and seem to sell at shows, where I had not sold before. But I often sell smaller, unframed paintings, not larger, framed ones!

A futher thought about prints of one's art: as an option to expense to build an inventory of giclee prints, I think there is a current market for smaller ink-jet reproductions of one's larger original paintings. With a reasonable quality ink-jet printer, the cost of these is low and the quality and visual appeal is high, so what's not to like for a buyer of modest means? Once one of these prints is matted and glazing, one cannot tell the difference from an original! And good ink jet materials are said to be light fast for up to 100 years, so the quality for a consumer who like the art is acceptable.

I'm one of those thinking that it's better to sell one's art than to put it in the drawer. When times get better, prices and sales will get better. Remember sales before 2008?

But I'm retired and I don't have to sell my work to pay the rent and buy chowder. Now I need to research a good ink-jet printer! Just my milage.

Sling paint!

09-12-2012, 02:54 PM
Virgil, if you are really considering making prints, check out some local print shops as well. I live in a small, rural(ish) town but we have a small state university. Because of all the clubs/fraternities/etc. needing t-shirts and "stuff", we seem to have an abundance of print shops. I have just started having prints made and a small shop in town is only charging me $3 for an 11x14 print on heavy paper!!! I would have to sell ALOT of prints to make up the cost of a good home printer and ink! He will either do a scan of the painting (for a one-time $30 fee) or will accept my digital images for no extra charge.

I'm sure bigger chain stores and stores in other areas probably charge more. But there may be some good deals out there if you look around. I also ordered one of my own prints from an on-line print on demand site. The same quality print cost me $22.

I'm jut beginning to explore this option and haven't actually sold any yet! LOL but I have a few framed prints for sale in a local store so we'll see how it goes.

virgil carter
09-12-2012, 05:38 PM
Thanks, Amy! These are good tips. I've begun doing some Internet searching for printers who will print from digital files, since the set-up fee can be rather expensive when only a few prints are desired.

Sling paint!

09-13-2012, 03:56 AM
Its a nice dicussion
Yes painting is easyer than pricing

Good Quality has a good price
If you sell to cheap you ruin your own price - but you ruin the price for your painting frieds too :eek:
I dont have a problem to give some for free to charity or good friends - but I dont have special offers for some people

BTW Last June I took part in a street show - I didnt sell on the place - but later at home
IMHO If I am going to a steetshow I usualy dont have much more than € 100 with me

09-13-2012, 09:51 AM
This has been such a great discussion.

As Artists, we must also become knowledgeable in Marketing. We really have to understand our target markets, regions and affects of the economy... also, there's the perception of what constitutes fine art... i.e. the age old debate of oils or acrylics vs. watercolours...

What sells in one community may sit on the walls forever in another.

Virgil, the Curator at our larger Gallery in town has told me that the 4-figure paintings are indeed selling in the larger centres. The "Limited Edition" signed and numbered prints (James Lumbers, Robert Bateman, Ron Parker, Trish Romance) in this area are incredibly popular. Local artists, however, might as well save their paper and ink.

I also like to enter local juried exhibitions because my full sheets do sell at them. But, the prices for those full sheets certainly don't fetch untold riches.

I have been selling 8x10 varnished, gallery wrapped paintings like mad. I've priced them at a modest $35. Closer to the Christmas Holiday, I'll increase the pricing a little... These pieces are affordable original art that Clients can "tuck" into small spaces. They aren't making me rich, but they are fun to paint (which is still important, regardless) and I'm selling a LOT of them.

At the end of the day, we must each do what's best for ourselves.

09-13-2012, 01:26 PM
This has been such a great discussion.

As Artists, we must also become knowledgeable in Marketing. We really have to understand our target markets, regions and affects of the economy... also, there's the perception of what constitutes fine art... i.e. the age old debate of oils or acrylics vs. watercolours...

What sells in one community may sit on the walls forever in another.

Virgil, the Curator at our larger Gallery in town has told me that the 4-figure paintings are indeed selling in the larger centres.

At the end of the day, we must each do what's best for ourselves.
so true Char. We HAVE to do our homework :wink2: and we also need to be true to ourselves and our individual values.

I know my ' sellers' which sell at between $250 and $400 sell relatively quickly (usually gallery wraps or a miniature). I have painted 4 of these this year and three sold within days of painting/going on exhibition. The larger international exhibition paintings which are in the 4 figures take longer but I have sold at that price too and if they dont sell... hey, I get to put them in a second exhibition:D I know though that If i put those same paintings in a local exhibition I have to change my price if I want them to sell and go just under the magic four figure number.

Certain subjects also sell better than others in certain places. I know the feel good factor works well in our area. In the galleries of the GTA though they want work with a more edgy feel.

I am learning that there is a LOT in a name too...Just as much really as the art itself. If you are known for a style or subject matter then suddenly your paintings are in demand and you can charge, within reason, what you want. I'll keep dreaming that one day ... just maybe.... :crossfingers:


O Solis
09-13-2012, 02:34 PM
Excellent thread.

I think that there are two mindsets at play when it comes to selling artwork. Those that see their work as commodities to be turned into cash and those that see it as "art" that must be priced accordingly, whether the rest of the world agrees or not.

Personally speaking, putting on the "fine artist hat", I always wanted to be in the latter camp, but as I get older and, hopefully, pragmatic, I find that it's better to have cash in the wallet, especially in these times.

Let's face it, we all want our work to be considered art, but a lot of people see it as mere wall decorations, trip souvenirs, or something to put them in a mood, whatever. But that the customer sees it as art (or ever will) is the least of it. It may be harsh, but there it is. And also, collecting pretty pictures isn't limited to putting it on canvas, paper, or prints. People are now selling their art on coffee mugs, tee shirts, anywhere that an image can be placed.

I finally realized, after much soul searching, that the best place for my watercolor works is in animated films that I make myself (the first one to be up on October 15th). I'm not creating these things strictly for the purposes of art, which, anyhow, is decided by time, and who has time for wait? I certainly do not anymore. I need to make money from my ability to draw and paint.

BTW, I think Char has a great approach, plus she has the added advantage of painting nice works.

09-13-2012, 05:40 PM
Fun that this thread has been reactivated:)

I thought I'd add a few head scratching reasons why people buy paintings. When I worked (volunteered) at our small gallery, (about 30 artists), I observed:

A university student walked in, went straight for a painting hanging toward the front, asked the price and bought it:) He didn't look at anything else, didn't browse, he had never been in the store before, I asked.

A man, kind of shabbily dressed, we thought he was on welfare, browsed and browsed for about an hour, finally told us that his therapist suggested he surround himself with orange. As we were talking he saw a bright orange acrylic right behind my head ( I was sitting behind the counter), his eyes lit up and he bought it - $ 400. Couldn't care less what the subject matter was.

One of the artists had two landscape water colours hanging there for 1 1/2 years, she was just about to take them down, someone came in and bought two.

A lady customer was in an excited fluster, calling her husband on her cell phone, she FINALLY found what they had been looking for all over the place including the internet, it was of Raccoons. They wanted it as a going away present for someone working with Raccoons. That painting too had been hanging there for 2 years and we wondered who on earth would ever buy a painting of the pesky Raccoons:lol:

I can't remember ever selling anything over $ 400, and there were some beautiful paintings there, 99% acrylics and oils.

MY friend and neighbour is a professional artist, meaning she has her Master in fine art, has/had her art hanging in Galleries all over the world, four figure prices, spends a small fortune in shipping and gallery fees and in years has sold one painting for $ 500.

My best sellers were 7 x 7" water colours (mostly florals) that were framed in a 13 x 13" frame $95 and I think each and every one was bought as a present for someone and I sold a massive number of cards and I cannot tell you how many people bought them to frame them and hang them in their home:lol: :lol: So it is not that they don't like them, they just don't want to "pay" for them:lol: :lol:

As my friend says - It's a crap shoot:lol: :lol:

I personally just no longer have it in me to cart my paintings from one show to another or to promote them in the big city.

We have over 350 artists that are trying to sell in my small city alone.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I think why the paintings are bought for presents is that he older and middle aged generation have finished decorating their homes, they already have their art on the walls and there is no more space, the younger people who still have empty walls tend to go for the LARGE semi abstract IKEA kind of paintings, large, impressive and cheap. True for my DIL's and their friends anyway.


O Solis
09-13-2012, 06:40 PM
"MY friend and neighbour is a professional artist, meaning she has her Master in fine art, has/had her art hanging in Galleries all over the world, four figure prices, spends a small fortune in shipping and gallery fees and in years has sold one painting for $ 500."

I've always been suspicious of galleries that charge fees. It's almost sounds like those Vanity book publishing places.

Here's an interesting link on the subject if anyone is interested:


O Solis
09-13-2012, 08:00 PM
Uschi - "MY friend and neighbour is a professional artist, meaning she has her Master in fine art, has/had her art hanging in Galleries all over the world, four figure prices, spends a small fortune in shipping and gallery fees and in years has sold one painting for $ 500."

Just for clarification: Had she only sold one painting at $500.ºº but sold others for less or had she only in all that time sold just one painting?

virgil carter
09-13-2012, 09:48 PM
Time and technique used to create a painting have nothing to do with whether or not the painting is a strong and memorable work of art. Time and technique have even less to do with pricing art work by artists, IMO.

And it's really up to every painter to set their own value on their finished paintings, isn't it? Now, I'll be the first to admit that the 30%-50% commission typical for exhibition and galleries has a significant impact on how a painter must price their work, especially framed work, in order to cover expenses and make a reasonable return on one's work. For example, a 50% commission means that one must double one's direct framing expense just to break even on the framing costs! Add to that one's expense for travel, shipping, and time/materials. And then there's the issue of what the market will bear. So pricing is not a simple matter.

However, the only thing that really matters is the finished painting.

Few purchasers and art collectors care whether the painting took 2 or 20 hours to complete. Few care whether the artist used repetitive glazing techniques or painted alla prima. Few care whether the painting was executed en plein aire or in the studio.

For them the only issue is whether or not the painting is appealing, which by definition, is highly personal.

When someone askes me how long it took for me to make a painting, I truthfully answer that it generally takes me 3-6 hours to make a painting on a full sheet of watercolor paper, and that it took me over 20 years to get to this point! That said, I'm frankly put-off by any painter who boasts, "I knocked this full-sheeter out in 2 hours or X hours". Why does time matter? Would it have been an even better painting if it was completed in a half-hour less or a half-hour more? Is the painting worth more or less because of the time it took to execute the work?

As artists, we're the only ones involved in discussions about time, technique and source materials for making a painting. And how to price paintings.

Perhaps we should enjoy painting more and worry less. Just a thought!

Sling paint!

O Solis
09-13-2012, 10:56 PM
Virgil - "As artists, we're the only ones involved in discussions about time, technique and source materials for making a painting. And how to price paintings.

Perhaps we should enjoy painting more and worry less. Just a thought!"

I have to say that I like your point of view.

However, there are those who do find this information regarding pricing of great interest because it may provide a source of income and for some the only source. So I think it's important.

But all that about the time, source materials and especially materials Lord knows that it has been beaten to death.

Time to bow out.

09-14-2012, 12:15 PM
Well fortunately I paint for enjoyment mostly , I enter shows and garden displays etc to show what I do in my spare time because I hang around with other artists and this where they all meet occasionally . If my work sells fair enough if it doesn't it doesn't bother me because I do not depend on it for a living . That being said I have other friends who live on their art . This was opened up as a discussion never mind subject been beaten to death let people have their say let the discussion leader Ushi make that decision their is no further need for the discussion.