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The Pricing Conundrum

Often I am asked to price an artwork for sale. I know, as the artist, we are expected to already know how much it would cost for us to part with a piece of ourselves, something that is uniquely ours, that can never be recreated in original format with all the brushstrokes or exact swirls or shimmers of colors.

How much would you charge someone for a moment of your life, a depiction that holds your feelings in a way that nobody else will ever understand?

The beautiful beachside painting that took 3 hours to finally perfect the exact crashing of a wave that you can hear the rush and feel the wind. The majestic peak of a mountain with the sun peaking around the cloud to set the snow to glowing that you can feel the warmth and the chill at once. The perfect combination of colors joining together to bring out the joy of a moment with the subtle hints of darkness reminding you that there's always a shadow even on the brightest day, but still we cherish the good moments.

How to you put a dollar amount on those expressions that will satisfy both the creator and the purchaser, who undoubtedly will be buying the piece for an entirely different set of feelings and emotions that the artwork brings out in them.

It's an impossible quandary, and ultimately the price will never feel right.


From the artist's perspective, an original work of art is exactly that, an original. The materials purchased, the value of lessons learned through the years, the emotions involved, all have to be factored in to the cost (even though people say to keep emotion out of it, but really, some of the best creations are based entirely on emotion). Plus, once it's gone, it's gone. In the world of art, once a sale is finalized, that's it. Someone may sell the piece in the future and make more on it than the original artist. So, for the artist, figuring a price has to be enough that we can watch it leave our studios and hearts, knowing that we will never again get to walk by and remember how that one shade of green was never right, but the more we look at it, the better it makes the painting because it's just the right amount of 'off'.

The other half of the challenge comes into play when we offer reproductions of artwork. These are great because we can digitally correct little things that we maybe didn't absolutely love about the original, we can make varying sizes of prints to fit in just about any space, we can print on a variety of surfaces from metal, to vellum, to canvas, and the list goes on. A whole new door is opened for artwork. But here's the kicker: all those magnificent new options cost money as well, and price, often times, goes hand in hand with quality. We sample many different companies and many different materials to ensure that the reproduction that the buyer is getting, is as true to the original as possible.

But those third party producers want their money too and believe that their product is worth the price they charge the artist, as they should, and, you see where this is going, this means that the price of a reproduction has to encompass that cost as well.

This means that cost of a reproduction ultimately sets the bar for pricing an original artwork.

We, as artists, cannot sell an original artwork for less than a reproduction, that just wouldn't make sense. The one of a kind, only one person at a time can ever possess, brushstrokes riddled, slight scent of paint possibly still clinging to the canvas original creation cannot be priced less than the click, print, and mail (there's actually a lot more to it than that), version of the image.

Yes, I do have a formula for each and every painting that is created. No, that formula does not always apply equally and is more of a guideline. For example, there is a painting in my house that I will not part with for less than $50k. Do I think anyone will ever seriously offer that amount to me for it? Absolutely not. But that's the whole point. The painting is my favorite that I don't want to sell, but let's be honest, if someone wants to pay my ridiculous asking price, I'm at least going to consider it.

So, I guess with the whole rambling aside, if you take anything away from this, just remember, as a buyer, you're purchasing more than just a pretty picture, you're getting a piece of that artist and that's going to cost. If it doesnt have an emotional trigger for you and you just want the pretty picture, ask for a reproduction, you'll pay less and both you and the artist will be content. If you're the artist, don't sell yourself short. Price your time, materials, energy, talent, your 'you' and stick to it.

If you have thoughts on pricing, from artist or buyer perspective, I'd love to hear them. If you've come across a wonderful reproduction company, I'd love to know of them as well.

I hope everyone finds the beauty in the world and can keep a piece for themselves; I just hope we can all continue to be thankful for the beauty we do find.

Thanks for stopping by!


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