Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pricing for Geeks

Oil on Panel

Tony Moffit had an interesting post last week about an artist who had priced their work per square inch, and had a gallery lower the price of their larger works. Tony correctly stated that the gallery had no right to force the artist to change the price of their work, but I disagreed with his statement that pricing by the square inch is correct. Since then, Clint Watson posted his own opinion on the Fine Art Views blog, and sparked a great discussion in the comments about pricing practices. If you haven't read either post, read both - they're great!

Pricing can be difficult for an artist, especially when starting out. It's easy to see the appeal of pricing work on a simply per square inch basis, but it results in very cheap small paintings and very expensive large paintings.

When I got accepted into my first gallery, they set my prices at something like $3/sq. in. I made next to nothing on my smaller pieces, but my larger work was at a good price point for an emerging artist at the time. My paintings started to sell faster than I could keep up (those were the days!), and the gallery and I quickly figured out that it was time for an adjustment. At the time, we increased my larger pieces by 10% and the smaller ones by up to 50% - in the end, my small paintings were priced much higher on a per square inch basis than my larger paintings, and they've stayed that way since. I keep track of this graphically because it helps me make sure that none of my prices are out of line. Here's what my pricing looks like for a wide range of sizes:

You can see that I range from about $9/sq. in. for a 6x8" painting, down to about $4/sq. in. for a 36x48" painting - not a small difference!

Nowadays, I set my own pricing, and adjust my prices when I feel a need based on demand. In the past, I've raised my prices 10-15% at the start of each year when I felt that I was having a hard time keeping up with my galleries, with an occasional bump in prices when I won awards or got magazine coverage. This year, I didn't raise my prices because I didn't feel that the current market warranted it, and I stand by that decision for now.

One thing I do to make sure my prices aren't unreasonable is to compare with a selection of other artists with similar resumes. I pick a handful of artists in this region who paint similar subject matter, show in the same tier of galleries, and have been in some of the same shows as I have, and I record their prices for a range of sizes. I put them all on a graph together just to make sure my prices are following the same trend, and aren't too far off in magnitude. Here's my graph for the last time I did this:

You can see that my prices tend to be on the low side compared with this group (I'm the bottom line), and I'm comfortable with that. A lot of my peers raised prices this year, so I'm left looking a bit cheaper than I used to be. My paintings are still selling well, so chances are I'll raise my prices a bit at the start of next year. In a market like we have now, I'm okay with being patient and just trying to do good work.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Favorite Things - Web Edition

"October on the Colorado"
Oil on Panel

A while back I posted about the materials I prefer to use in the studio, but didn't touch on any of the other things out there that are indispensable to me as an artist. I was just thinking the other day about how thankful I am for some of the online tools and stores that I use to make my job easier, and thought I would share some of my favorites. Oh, and for the record, I'm not getting paid to share any of this - I just love these companies so much I wanted to pass them on!

1) (or FASO) -

I don't even know where to start - FASO is the company I use for my website, and I can't even begin to describe how simple it has made the web component of my business. I signed up for my FASO website in 2006 and haven't looked back. The FASO software makes it easy for even non-computer geeks to put together a professional looking website that's easy to update.

As an artist, I think keeping one's website updated with new work and events is of the utmost importance, and FASO allows me to update my website in minutes. I can't even fathom what a pain it would be to deal with a web designer to make all the updates I make on a regular basis.

On top of that, the service includes email, blog capability, an email newsletter system, and statistics. I couldn't ask for more, and Clint and his customer support staff have always responded to every question of mine promptly. If you're frustrated with keeping your website updated, or just getting started, I can't recommend FASO enough.

2) Constant Contact -

I just signed up for this newsletter service recently, and I honestly wish I had done it months ago. Constant Contact makes it easy to send out a very professional email newsletters and announcements, and keep track of your mailing list. I finally got around to sending out my first email newsletter yesterday, and I'm astounded at the response I've gotten. People have been impressed at how professional the newsletter looked, and I've had people click through to my website that had probably forgotten my work existed.

The most useful feature for me is the reports - after 24 hours, I can look and see what % of my recipients have opened the newsletter, I can see how many have clicked through to the web links I included in the text of the letter, and I can see how many bounced back to me (one) or opted to be removed from my mailing list (none). That sort of input is valuable in figuring out what should be included in the newsletter month to month, and how people are responding.

I can also easily decide which people get which types of content - for instance, I may send acquaintances event announcements, but not notifications of new work - Constant Contact makes it easy to make sure the right people get the right info.

I procrastinated about paying for a service like this for a long time, but at this point I think it's definitely worth the small monthly fee.

3) Dick Blick Art Supplies -

I live in the sticks, so I can't just run out and buy art supplies at the store on the corner. I order pretty much everything I use online, and at this point I buy everything but my paint from Blick. Their website is easy to use and organized, their customer service is fantastic, and they pack things so well that I've never had an item show up damaged (this can be a big deal when you paint on hardboard panels like I do - a lot of places don't pack them well and they show up with cracked corners!). And the icing on the cake is that their prices consistently beat out most other online retailers for the items I buy.

4) Utrecht Art Supplies -

I have to give shout out to Utrecht simply because their oil paint rocks. It's high quality artist grade paint that comes in big tubes at prices that beat most of the other paint manufacturers. It's the perfect consistency for me (I find other brands either too oily or too stiff), and the pigment load is great. I haven't been disappointed yet by the quality of this stuff.

5) Bloglines -

I read a LOT of blogs. There's no way I can keep track of them all, so a feed reader is a must if I'm going save my sanity and a lot of my time. I know a lot of people use Google Reader - same thing, essentially. I assume most people who read this blog probably use a reader of some type - if you don't, you need to because it will make your life much easier!!

Anyhow, that's all I can thing of right now. Anyone out there have any can't live without sites?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion

I just wanted to pass on a link to a new article about my art that's just out in the current issue of a local magazine. One of my paintings is on the cover - you can read the article text here (or pick up a copy if you're in the Winter Park/Grand Lake area).

It's kind of weird to walk into the grocery store and restaurants everywhere in town and see my own painting staring back at me from the magazine stands!

Sunday, July 05, 2009


"Study, Afternoon Sparkle"
Oil on Panel

One of my big painting goals last year was quantity - I wanted to paint 100 paintings in 2008 to make sure I was putting in sufficient brush mileage to improve. This year I decided to go for quality, and I've been working on larger pieces and taking my time trying to get things right.

One thing I've noticed over the past few months is that I really don't like to work small. Pretty much anything smaller than 16x20" gives me fits, and paintings in the 24x30" to 30x40" range have been feeling the most comfortable for me. I think the reason is that the bigger panels allow me more room to play with brushwork and color within the main shapes of the painting. I've found myself really struggling to abbreviate things well enough in the smaller sizes.

At first I just figured I'd go with my gut and work on larger stuff. Then I found myself getting requests from galleries for smaller work, and ended up struggling through a bunch of smaller pieces anyhow, fighting the process all the way and telling myself I'd give up the small stuff when the economy improved. But this past week I realized I was giving up a bit, and decided to change my attitude.

I already limit my subject matter by painting landscapes, so why limit myself further by saying I prefer to work in a certain size range? I decided maybe I shouldn't be imposing more limitations on myself, and that maybe I should rise to the challenge and figure out what it is about working small that bugs me. I think it's a lack of control - in an 8x10" painting, each brushstroke and color has to be in the correct spot or things get sloppy, and I have a hard time controlling things well enough. Turns out my distaste for the small stuff is highlighting a big weakness.

So, I'm going to approach the small stuff with a better attitude, and see how I can improve my brush control and drawing by working on smaller studies. Hopefully I can get it right, and learn something along the way.

Do you impose limitations on your work to ultimately hide or ignore your weaknesses? I think it do it more often than I know!