Want to make an artist cringe? Ask her how much her painting costs?
Pricing my art is the single hardest thing about about being an artist. It’s painful. An artist friend of mine remarked on Facebook about the the difficulties of pricing one’s art. We are often asked “How long did it take you to paint?” It’s a hard question to answer. Sure there is a literal amount of time it took to actually apply paint to the canvas, start to finish. But it doesn’t account for the hours, months, and even years sometimes that I have ruminated and planned and redesigned in my head and in sketchbooks and canvases certain paintings. Two years ago I finally finished a painting I housed in my soul for years..literally years I dreamed of this painting. During this time, my skill as a painter grew; I learned new things; I matured as an artist. It was a painting that needed time to develop, I needed time to develop. When I finally was able to come to the easel and paint it..it took a few hours, that was it. And if it doesn’t sound too cocky ..the piece was beautiful; everything I had hoped it would be. Then I couldn’t sell her. It was a long awaited child I had finally birthed and I wasn’t going to put part with her so quickly; putting a price on her was crazy-talk. In the end, I didn’t sell her. I traded her for the work of another craftsperson, someone’s who own work skill, experience, and time I valued.
It’s easy to price out the cost of canvases, paint (you might be surprised at the cost of good quality oil paint), brushes, cleaning supplies, studio rent, business promotion expenses, travel costs. Even an hourly rate, if I were to charge $25 an hour..or $50, or $100, whatever. But does the hourly rate include the time an idea is developing in my head and in practice sketches? I don’t know..I really don’t. And all the failed attempts, what’s to come of them? So many unsuccessful paintings have died on the studio floor so that “art” could be made. A lot of good paint was used and scraped off of canvases trying to achieve the end goal. Did I mention paint is expensive?
Friends have suggested I develop a formula..cost of supplies plus hourly rate sort of thing. It makes sense; I should probably do that. But it’s hard. I tend to price my pieces in relation to how much I love them personally. When I buy art I am willing to pay in reflection to my love for that piece and the joy or sense of peace or emotion that the piece brings me. There’s no real formula for that. I wish there was…it might be easier.
I can’t speak for all artists. I just know that the business end of art is hard for me. And I wish it weren’t so.