The Art of Pricing

Whether you’re purchasing it or producing it, art can be expensive. When you set out to buy a new piece, you have to consider your budget, your wall space, and, most importantly, whether or not a piece speaks to you. When making art, you need supplies, display and marketing materials, and, of course, an idea. But once a project is finished, how does the artist or gallery decide how much it should cost?

I’ve heard it said, though I can’t remember by whom, that “art is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” This is definitely true. (Maybe you’ve heard about the banana?) However, there is a lot more that goes into the final price of a piece than many people realize. 

Acknowledging that some types of art or work by certain artists is out of the average person’s price range for various reasons, I’m going to be talking about average art by average artists for the average buyer. (The word ‘average’ can be used to suggest something of lower quality, but here it simply means average, most common.)

When an office worker goes to work and works for 8 hours a day completing the work assigned, by the end of the work week, that worker has worked for 40 hours and completed the work that the company hired the worker to do for a set amount of dollars per hour to compensate the worker for working to finish work that benefits the company for which the worker works. (Still with me?) Let’s say that set amount of dollars per hour is $20 (we’re being generous for a small town in the Midwest), bringing the total amount of compensation to $800 per week, minus taxes and such.

When an artist picks up art supplies and begins making art, working on an art piece that ends up taking 10 hours to complete, that artist takes that piece of art to an art market or art gallery or displays it online with a price of $250 (covering materials, time, taxes, etc.), but then gets asked, “Would you take $50 for it?” If the artist says ‘yes’ (and let’s say they put in a full 40-hour work week and complete an average of four similar pieces), that means that the artist receives (if all four pieces sell) $200 for a week’s worth of work, minus materials, self-employment taxes, commission fees, and more.

Because of the gap between what consumers are willing to pay and what artists put into a piece, many artists end up working small or giving up altogether. Some would argue that art isn’t a necessity, so it, therefore, shouldn’t cost as much as a necessary function of the same input. Take the writer and actor strike going on right now. I read a comment from someone suggesting this very thing, but I wonder, how many hours a week does that person watch tv shows or movies?

Art may not be a necessity to survival. In the same regard, joy, happiness, hope, faith, love, and other intangible things are not technically vital to living. They are, however, among the things that make life worth living. And I’d argue the same for art and other creative ventures. 

So next time you’re enjoying a piece of art or considering purchasing one of your own, take a moment to consider what went into that project before deciding how much or little it is worth. Maybe that means you have to save up a bit more or cut back in other areas to afford a piece you’ve come to love. Maybe it means you are simply an observer of the piece. Maybe you can only afford a print of the art. Either way, I believe the arts are worth supporting.

Of course, as an artist myself, while it’s nice to be able to pay the bills, just seeing someone love something I’ve created brings me great joy.

Which reminds me of something…

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34, NIV) Imagine how much joy God experiences when we love one another, love His creations. Just a thought.

Other thoughts about pricing art:

  • Some artists price art based on the size of the piece, rather than the amount of time it took to create. Even so, small pieces (4”x4” up to 8”x10”) will still range from $50 to $200. 

  • Experience should also be taken into account when pricing a piece. For instance, a new artist typically will take longer than a practiced artist creating a similar piece, but the practiced artist is probably able to charge a little more based on skill and recognition, whereas the new artist may have to consider a lower price based on the same.

  • When buying from a gallery, the prices are set, but when buying directly from the artist, some are willing to negotiate, as long as they are still compensated for their time and materials. Galleries usually take a commission of around 20% of the sale price, leaving the artist to take home 80%. Direct sales are really helpful for artists, but galleries help get art in front of more buyers.

  • Art is subjective. One person might be willing to pay a lot more for a piece they love, while another might not see the value in it. And that’s okay. That’s art!

If you’d like to support Nickole and Dymes Creations, visit my Etsy shop from time to time to check out the newest digital (and eventually physical) products. If you’d like to be a patron of Nickole and Dymes, visit my Patreon account for details on how to get started! Liking and sharing posts from my Instagram (nickole_and_dymes) and Facebook (Nickole.and.Dymes) accounts makes a huge difference. And follow Nicky and Bea Books on Facebook and Instagram (@NickyandBeaBooks) to stay up-to-date with the Nicky & Bea book series, with author Rebecca (Becca) Amstutz and illustrator Nicole Dynes (that’s me!).


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