A Life in Paint
One of the questions I get asked most frequently is how I come up with the prices I ask for my work. Of course there are many variations on the question, including, "why is art so expensive?" and "do you charge more for your favourite pieces?". I've been asked this same question over and over throughout the years, I figured now was as good a time as any to answer it. I mean, I'm not doing much else this sunny morning, aside from sipping my coffee anyway.
The truth is, there are probably almost as many ways to price art as there are artists out there trying to sell art. That being said, I'm only going to highlight a couple of the more logical ones, including my own.
Often, when an artist first begins to offer their work for sale, not having had any exhibition experience or a collector base to speak of, they'll price their work by the amount of money they want per hour for creating a piece, plus something to cover materials. So, assuming a young, undiscovered artist, just dipping his or her toe into the water decides they want $20 an hour for their time and effort to create a piece and it takes them 20 hours to complete it, that would be $400, plus a little something for materials, we'll say $30 just to make it easy, so the price would be $430, based on that model of pricing. It's simple, quick and tidy.
However, the hourly rate X number of hours a piece takes becomes somewhat impractical and more difficult to use once an artist becomes more known. Or, at least in my opinion, it does. That's why I, and many artists in a more intermediate to established stage of their careers, opt for a price per square inch model. In this model, an artist assigns a price to the work based on a square inch formula. Taking the same painting we discussed above, let's assume the piece is a big one, say 40x40". The artist then takes the area of the painting (length X width) to determine the total square inches, 40 X 40 = 1600.....then multiplies that result by the price per square inch they've determined to be appropriate for the work.... to keep things simple, let's just say Artist X has decided on $1 even per square inch, that's 1600 X 1 = $1600 for the piece.
So what goes into this price per square inch model, you ask? Good question, and no, artists don't just pick a figure out of the clear blue sky, at least I don't. Here's the thing, when you're collecting the work of a more "seasoned" artist, you're of course buying a wonderfully unique treasure that speaks to you and that you will enjoy for years and years to come, but you're also receiving more than that, more items of, shall we say, an intangible nature, you're also getting the years of experience behind the artist, the countless exhibitions they've shown at, their reputation, the recognisability of their name ... all those things that cause anything on the market, including art, to increase in value. For example, a lawyer with 30 years experience, who has a larger than life reputation as being among the top in their field, someone like the late Johnnie Cochrane, for example, is going to cost you way more than a fresh faced newly minted lawyer whose degree is still warm from being printed. Or, to bring it down even further, a pair of red tab Levi's jeans may cost $100, because they've been at it for over 100 years and they have established a brand and a reputation, you know they quality is there, just by hearing the name. Sure, you can buy a store brand pair of jeans for $30, and they'll do a similar job, i.e., covering your bum, but, it's not the same, the experience and reputation just aren't there. You don't need to be told why you're looking at say, a van Gogh or a Rembrandt (or a pair of red tab Levi's), you automatically recognize it, based on reputation alone.... and that reputation takes a lifetime to achieve and is worth something.
Speaking for myself, I've been at this painting thing for over 20 years and have shown extensively throughout Canada, including the Maritimes, Calgary and Toronto, as well as internationally in Florence and Paris. You can find my paintings hanging in homes and businesses throughout Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand. Based on that experience and level of reputation, my price is set at $0.70 per square inch. It's a nice, neat and fair way to price my work so that there are no surprises for the collector and I just might get to eat when one gets snapped up. Of course, never be shy to ask an artist if they'll cut you a small deal; sometimes, especially with larger pieces, they just might, and hey, if you don't ask, you don't get. ;)