Posts Tagged ‘artist’

How to price your art

May 2, 2014

Here is a great article by Melissa Dinwiddie on how she prices her art. If you are selling your work, then this is a must read.


A few months ago I started sharing snapshots of works in progress on social media. Not long afterwards, someone I know on Facebook asked if my work was for sale, because she wanted to buy a particular piece I was working on.

It gets better: turns out she was interested not just in purchasing the canvas-in-process; she also wanted me to create a second, “sister canvas” to go with it.

Just from posting my process pics on Facebook, I had a buyer for not one, but two paintings! Great!

The only problem? Now I was going to have to come up with a price…


I am convinced that pricing is always the hardest thing I do as an artist. How the heck do we decide what to charge? Pricing just feels like a big, black void, and one with a lot of pressure: charge too much, and they’ll run away; charge too little, and you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

Ultimately, this spontaneous Facebook commission made me determined to set an entire pricing structure for my work, rather than just grabbing a number out of the air every time I create a new piece. Here are some of the “ground rules” I followed, and some tips that I hope will help you confidently set pricing for your own art.

Pricing Ground Rules for Painters

1) Remember: your pricing gets to change.

If, like my story above, you’ve got a client waiting to hear back about a price, know that as you become more established, you’ll be able to command higher prices. You may even raise your prices on your very next sale.

In other words, whatever you charge this one client is not set in stone, so don’t stress too much about it. Keep in mind, though, that it’s always a better business move to raise your prices than to lower them, so leave yourself some room for growth.

2) Never undercharge.

That said, leaving no room for growth is not actually most artists’ problem — most of us have the opposite issue: charging too little. Once I brought art to be juried into a show, and was horrified that one of my fellow artists was charging less for her work than it had cost her to frame it!

Needless to say, this is a big no-no. Always make sure your pricing covers your actual costs (canvas, paint, framing, shipping if applicable — unless you’re going to charge a separate, additional amount for shipping/packaging).

You also want to take into consideration how much time you put into creating your work. Emerging artists may not be able to command high enough prices to pay themselves fantastically for their actual time spent, but that’s definitely the goal for the long term!

If you’re lucky enough to work fast and loose, you can get away with charging less, because each piece just doesn’t take long to produce. However, if your style is very detail-oriented and meticulous, what another artist could sell happily for $500 might mean you’d be earning pennies per hour, which is not sustainable. Your choice, then, is to grit your teeth and charge a lot more, and/or to figure out how to offer less-expensive work (smaller and/or looser originals, prints, etc.)

Not sure if you’re undercharging? As I wrote in this post on 5 Pricing Lessons Learned the Hard Way, I have a practically foolproof gauge: resentment. If I notice myself feeling resentment about a sale, it’s a good bet I need to raise my price!

On the other hand, if my prices don’t make me feel at least a little uncomfortable that I’m charging too much, I’m probably undercharging!

Your mileage may vary with this: start to pay attention to whether you tend to undervalue or overvalue your work, and adjust accordingly.

Seasons of Yes by Melissa Dinwiddie

3) Be clear and consistent.

Of course your goal is to be paid well for your time, but the truth is, some of your pieces probably take a lot longer to create than others.

You know how much work went into each piece, but customers don’t know (and don’t usually care) how long a piece took you to create. Charging by the hour is likely to result in a lot of confusion as potential customers look at two pieces of the same size and wonder why piece A is so much more expensive than piece B.

Customers who are confused do not buy, which is why I’m a believer in clarity and consistency.

Size-Based Pricing

If you’re a painter, one way to ensure you’re clear and consistent is by using size-based pricing — either by the square inch (h x w) or by the linear inch (h + w). This makes your pricing easy for potential clients to understand, and it prevents you from charging more for pieces you’re particularly fond of, which makes your pricing seem random and confusing (and remember, customers who are confused do not buy).

With size-based pricing, you simply need to determine your current multiplier (the number you multiply by the canvas size) in order to immediately know the price for any given piece (okay, possibly with the help of a calculator…) .

If you create in a lot of different sizes, you may find linear inch pricing more sensible than square inch pricing. Why? When you charge by the square inch, the price difference between a small painting and a larger one can become astronomical.

Here, for example, is square inch pricing, using a multiplier of 2.5 (ie, $2.50 per square inch):

4×4 inches = 16 square inches x 2.5 = $40

8×8 inches = 64 square inches x 2.5 = $160

16×16 inches = 256 square inches x 2.5 = $640

24×24 inches = 576 square inches x 2.5 = $1,440

32×32 inches = 1,024 square inches x 2.5 = $2,560

I don’t know about you, but $40 seems awfully small price for a painting by someone who commands $2,560 for a 32×32 canvas.

Here are the same canvas sizes using linear inch pricing, using a multiplier of 20 (ie, $20.00 per linear inch) — as you can see, the difference in price feels a lot less out-of whack:

4+4 inches = 8 linear inches x 20 = $160

8+8 inches = 16 linear inches x 20 = $320

16+16 inches = 32 linear inches x 20 = $640

24+24 inches = 48 linear inches x 20 = $960

32+32 inches = 64 linear inches x 20 = $1,280

Neither of these pricing methods is “right” or “wrong,” but once you determine your method and your multiplier, charging by size can be a very helpful way to eliminate the guesswork, and feel confident about your pricing.

Different Pricing for Different Media?

One possible modifier to your size-based pricing structure is the media you paint with. If you only paint watercolors, or only paint oils, there’s no problem, but if you paint both on canvas and on paper, as I do, it gets a little tricky.

For whatever reason, paintings on paper tend to sell for less than paintings on canvas — even though they require framing, which is an added expense. In my case, if I were to pay to have a piece framed, my costs become much higher for a work on paper than for a canvas painting! What’s an artist to do?

I don’t have a final answer to this question, except to refer you to the item below…

4) Do your research.

It can be useful to look around at what other artists are charging for their work: artists in your local area, and especially artists at a similar stage in their careers.

What are people charging for framed works on paper? For unframed works on paper? For stretched canvases?

The challenge here, though, is that what other people charge is likely to be all over the map. So when you do your research, be sure to take into consideration how you want to brand yourself: do you pride yourself on making “art for everyone,” at “everyman” prices? Or do you want to make your mark as a high-end, premium-pricing artist?

When artist Matt LeBlanc was deciding what to price, he looked at what kinds of art were available in his area and noticed the low-end and high-end of the market were rather saturated. The mid-range, though, didn’t have a lot of competition, so that’s the price range he decided to set on his paintings — at the time of this writing, Matt has work for sale from $50 to $900.

This kind of research worked well for Matt: he went from selling no art, to being featured on HGTV, and being one of the hottest selling artists in his area.

5) State your price, then shut up.

My most expensive moment as an artist was several years ago, when a couple flew out to California from Philadelphia to meet with me about commissioning a ketubah for their anniversary.

I’d already told them my price range, which at the time was something like “from $1,500 to $5,000″ (mistake #1: never put an upper limit on your pricing!), and when they told me what they were looking for, I realized it was going to be one of the most time-intensive pieces I’d ever made.

In other words, this was a top-of-the pricing scale commission.

However, I’d never yet commanded $5,000 for a piece, and I was afraid this number, which felt so big to me, would scare them off! So when it came time to give them an estimate, I hemmed and hawed, and said something like, “Well, what you’re looking for is at the top of my price range.”

Then, instead of keeping my mouth shut and seeing how they responded, I stupidly barreled ahead to say, “…but if $5,000 is too much for your budget, I can always scale back the design to make it less expensive.”


The husband said, “$3,000, $4,000, $5,000 — it’s all the same to me. But I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of guy, so let’s go with the middle price — $4,000.”

Yep — because I couldn’t just state my price and shut up, I lost a thousand dollars in a heartbeat. (And “scaling back the design” is a myth. It never happens!) Lesson learned.

This one is important, so I’ll say it again: state your price, then shut up. Period. Do not explain, do not apologize.

(I’ve done that too — gotten defensive about my pricing — and oh, the pain! Now I’ve learned to say, “If you like my work, this is the price. If you don’t want to pay that, you don’t have to buy it.”)

If you’re sending an email to a potential customer, “state your price and shut up” might look something like:

“For this painting, the price is $X [plus shipping/packaging, if you’re charging for shipping separately].”


“I charge $Y per linear inch, and this painting is 24×30, which is 54 linear inches, so the price is $(Yx54).”


“If you’d like to purchase it, just let me know and I’ll send you a link to a payment page where you can pay either with a credit card or your PayPal account [or whatever payment method you use]. Once I receive your payment and shipping address, I’ll ship your painting to you via [shipping service].”

[Be sure to indicate when you’ll ship — a day? a week? does the painting need to cure first? does it need to be varnished first?]”

Summing Up

The really challenging thing about pricing is that there are no hard and fast rules. Everything depends on you, your work, where you live, where you are in your career — there are so many variables it can drive us nutty!

The tips I’ve shared here have helped me get more confident with my own pricing. I won’t lie to you, pricing my work is still really, really hard, but hopefully these ground rules will help light your path as you negotiate this trickiest of areas for artists.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!


melissa dinwiddie headshotMelissa Dinwiddie is an artist, writer, performer, and creativity instigator, on a mission to empower people to feed their creative hungers. She coaches and consults with individuals and groups, and leads creativity workshops and retreats in inspiring locations around the world as well as online. Get a FREE mini-poster of Melissa’s Keys to Creative Flow and her Imperfectionist Manifesto at Living A Creative Life,



Summoning Love & Strength

May 13, 2011

Summoning Love & Strength

I completed a commission this week and thought I’d write a blog post about it. It is for a wedding, and when I was told about the couple my mind wandered around about what marriage takes to be successful. I came upon two supports: Love & Strength. Here’s the letter I wrote to the couple.

Dear Jon and Jessica,

What is created when two individuals join in marriage? I believe that when two whole and complete people come together to celebrate their individuality their relationship becomes an expression of the greatness of each person. This union brings forth something to the world that was not there before.

There are two components, or halves, to any relationship: Love & Strength. The circles in this piece represent your individuality, your tapped and untapped potential. You are coming together to create an interlock of your individual beauty and expression. The hearts express the two unique shapes of each of your personalities that, when together, create something new that cannot be created alone. You are surrounded by your love for each other. Your love can also been seen through you (the hearts are visible through the centre of the circle of your individuality).

You two are embarking on a life together that with both inspire others with your love and your strength. Love as the expression of the divine within each of you as well as the divine love created with your union. Strength for the times when challenges surface within life and your relationship. I wish you both the greatest life you can possibly create together. It has been an honour to ponder the power of love and strength while creating this art for you.

peace and love,


Since I enjoy seeing artists through their process, I am going to share a couple photos of the journey and then the finished product.


Other side

As usual, feel free to comment in the space provided.


Summoning Wholeness

January 2, 2011

I recently completed a commission. The piece was ordered for a doctor and my instructions were simple, “Carve an egg for me as a gift to my surgeon.” The great thing about this commission was that there were no guidelines. I could create whatever I wanted. I immediately had an idea that I liked a great deal. I worked through some design ideas but nothing was working. My ideas just couldn’t take form. I thought this was weird because I was jazzed up about what I had planned. I struggled with it for a couple of sessions and then had to reevaluate.

While in the reevaluation state, I ended up thinking about a previous piece, Summoning Intuition, which I had completed for the December show in Terrace Art Gallery. I found out that I wasn’t done with the driving force for that piece yet. When I started to think about it again a flood of ideas came pouring into my head at once, competing for the limited space available there. I then spent some time pondering why these empty circles were so powerful for me. This is what I came up with.

“I am currently fascinated by the potentiality of empty space. Space that appears to contain nothing which actually contains everything. A simple example that everyone can relate to is the empty space of a womb. A swimmer and an egg are both floating in this empty space and BAM, a human life begins the process of becoming. This happens in the realm of potentiality, or comes from the realm of potentiality (?). Out of this nothing comes something. There is this magic potential which is always available. Every single thing in this universe at one time only existed in the realm of potential. This fascination of mine has surfaced in the circles found in my current series of goose eggs.”

I created Summoning Wholeness, photographed it, and delivered it. With the delivery came a letter to the surgeon who will be receiving this piece. Here is a portion of that letter for you to read.

“I have always created circles in my art, but have also always filled them with something. I think the circle is a beautiful shape: strong, symmetrical, infinite. Recently though, I have been spending a great deal of time thinking about potential. I began a series of carvings that build around circles unfilled. The emptiness in them represents the potential nature of that particular piece. Your piece, Summoning Wholeness, has three circles. Because you live the in the healing arts, these three represent body, mind, and spirit. These are the essentials of wholeness, the feeling/sense of being a healthy and whole human. Each circle contains within it the potential of unbounded health in those three areas. You have the potential to inspire people. To approach these three platforms for healing and initiate change that alters the course of their lives. This has been very inspiring for me to ponder while working through the design phase of this egg.”

I thought I’d include photos of the process for this piece. I hope you enjoy them.



Riding the Carousel

December 27, 2010

There are five stages to creating the eggs I do. The first stage is the design. For the Carousel no.1 that was already done. This piece is a reproduction piece that I make available on a regular basis. They sell for $125 plus shipping unless you are close enough to pick it up, or have it delivered. So, the design is already taken care of. For some eggs, like The Guardians Among Us, the design portion can take many many hours. Each angel in that piece was created in the negative space by arranging the flowers and leaves in such a manner to create the lines of the angel.

The second stage of creating Carousel no.1 was to draw it on the egg. I do this by eyeballing the top and bottom of the egg and marking these two points with an X in pencil. Then I put masking tape down and redraw the X. I measure the egg top to bottom in millimeters and divide it by two. I grab my trusty compass and attempt to mark the halfway of the egg by making a mark from both the top and the bottom with the compass. If the two meet, then I do the same on the other side. If those also meet, which doesn’t happen very often, then I know that I have found the center of the egg and go ahead and use the compass to draw a circle around the circumference of the egg. If it doesn’t work, which is most of the time, then I have to adjust either the top X of the bottom X, and sometimes both. Now the egg is divided exactly into two halves. From here I measure the other horizontal lines in a proportionally decreasing fashion so they will taper as they move up the egg. I then disect the egg into however many parts there are. For example, Carousel no.1 has five points on it. So I measure the circumference at the bottom and divide it into five equal parts. From there I then do the same for each horizontal ring. Even though this is a production piece, each egg has to be made from scratch because goose eggs come in quite a variety of shapes and sizes. So the numbers I use for one will not work on another.

Once I have each layer broken down I create a paper template of the shape for each point. You can see that I had a bump while using this template. This line will be cleaned up prior to the third stage. The template takes quite some time to create because the one template must fit exactly five times around the egg.

Once all the drawing is done I am ready for stage three.

Stage three is etching. This is where I carve the lines that I have drawn onto the egg. Technically I carve just on the outside of the drawn line because I want the space between the lines to be the width of the line from pencil to pencil. I just realised that I don’t have a photo of Carousel no.1 in the etched stage so I’ll show you what Summoning Intuition looked like at this stage just to give you a visual.

From this point I can start to see home plate, but I never get excited here because there is still a lot of work to do. I can now clean the egg using soap and water, and sometimes a scrub brush or toothbrush to get the pencil off. Once the egg is clean we are on to stage four. Stage four is the carving stage. This is where all my work so far begins to show. At this point it’s too late to make design changes. That’s why stage one and two are almost the most important stages in this process. Carving involves a quiet mind and a still hand. The carving process can take many hours depending on the egg.

Once the carving is done and the lines are cleaned up with my drill, I am ready for cleaning. This is a stage I don’t take lightly anymore. Many years ago I had a completely carved rhea egg. It was a beautiful piece called The Clouds of Alyssum. It was filled with these tiny carved flowers. Anyway, I had it tied to a string so I could lower it into the bleach water (a few drops of bleach in a can of water to kill the bacteria and help remove the inner lining of the egg). It was completely finished and I lifted it up by the wooden rod holding the string and the string came loose. The egg fell into the can of bleach separating into many pieces. I was in a pretty good place spiritually back then so the event didn’t get much attention other than a soft farewell. I always had the motto that I was more interested in the process than the result.

After the egg is put through the bleach water I wash it many times in regular water to clean off any bleach residue. Then it’s time to finish it. Carousel no.1 gets a top glued on and then a gold ring put through the tiny loop hole. I then hang it from one of the walnut based hanging stands and it’s ready for a new home.

That’s my carving process for Carousel, which is pretty close to the process for all my eggs depending on their design.






Facelift and a little tummy tuck

November 28, 2010

I decided to give my website a new look recently. Since I purchased an iMac I hadn’t been able to use FrontPage, the Microsoft program that was on my old computer. It’s not that a mac can’t run that program, but I just wasn’t into getting it for the mac. All macs come with iWeb, a web building program. What took me two or three weeks a couple years ago with FrontPage only took me two days with iWeb. The program, with the help of google and very knowledgeable people in the internet world, was simple to use and has been easy to update and make changes to. Just another reason, on the vast list, to buy a mac.

If you have never visited my website you can access it HERE. I have never posted any of my carving on this blog, something that I am going to change soon. So what you’ll find there is completely different from what you’ve found here.

Here’s a photo from my carving page (I may be changing the carving page to “Gallery” soon as I’ve had some new ideas pop into my head lately). This piece was carved from a Rhea egg. It’s called “The Hawthorn King” and the flowers you see are from the Hawthorn tree. The Hawthorn flower symbolizes hope.

If you have any suggestions for improvements please leave them in the comment box. I love to hear other people’s ideas.



Opening night #2

March 15, 2009

Well, my new Canon G10 and I went down to the gallery and took some photos of the show with the intention of sharing them on this blog. I set it to auto and indoor scene with no flash.

Two brothers, on with a home, one still without

Two brothers, one with a home, one still without

This is the first wall you see when entering the gallery

This is the first wall you see when entering the gallery

Another view from the lower gallery

A view from the lower gallery

Collaboration with Amy

Collaboration with Amy

I think the collaboration pieces should be a seperate blog entry so I’ll leave you hanging with what they are, or why they are.

These photos are not a great sales pitch for the camera, even though I am not selling them. It’s a really great camera, I’ll post some proof soon.


A homage to mothers

March 3, 2009

I recently finished a piece for a friend of mine. His mother passed away the same year that mine did. We are about the same age and of very similar personalities, and this event affected us both in the same way. Even though this was five years ago for me and just over four for him we still talk about the impact of this change in our lives and how we still hold our mothers close to us.

I can’t share the story of the piece itself as that is his story, told through my interpretation, but I can say that it touched me to create this and touched him to receive it. I got his permission to put it in my upcoming show that opens Friday at the Terrace Art Gallery.

Homage to a mother. 6X6 mixed media on a cradled panel

Homage to a mother ~ 6X6 mixed media on a cradled panel

We discussed the title and he chose the first of about eight titles I had written down. He chose this title because our feelings are universal.


A comfortable hiding place

March 1, 2009

We tend to get stuck in mental patterns, whether we are aware of it or not. Some of these patterns do not help us grow and unfold into who we are, but instead contain us, trap us, and keep us from experiencing the joy of who we are and the people in our lives. Sometimes we take refuge in those patterns. They become a hiding place for us. A place so comfortable and familiar that we almost don’t want to let go of those patterns.

For me, one of the goals is to recognise those patterns and let them go. Listening to myself when I talk with people, when they talk, or while I am alone with just my thoughts and mental patterns.

Sometimes people enter our lives who can offer us the potential to recognise those patterns within us. It takes courage to want to face those patterns and release yourself from their grasp.

This painting is about my own suffering and  my journey to attempt erradication of those patterns and comfortable hiding places.

I take refuge in the suffering of my past

I take refuge in the suffering of my past

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to share your thoughts.


The various light falling upon a fern

February 23, 2009

These are gelatin monoprints. The printmaking is made on a block of gelatin using printing ink. Monoprints are one of a kind. They cannot be reproduced because they are not made on a base that doesn’t change like woodblock, or even linoleum blocks (the gelatin starts breaking down within a couple of hours of use). The originality is what I love about this style of printmaking. There is a magic that can only happen once through each creation.

Each fern is found in a different light. The first is the light of the coming day: the quiet perspective found before sound or thougt penetrates the quiet of the mind. Second is the light of death and the ghost image we leave on each other’s minds after we pass on from here. The third is under the light of the moon: calm, peaceful, quiet.

Rising fern

Rising fern

Ghost fern

Ghost fern

Monnlit fern

Moonlit fern

Each of these prints are matted, framed, and ready to hang in my upcoming show at the Terrace Art Gallery. Opening night is March 6, 2009 if you are anywhere near the area.


A once forgotten forest

February 21, 2009

Here’s another piece going in the show I am having with Amy Warner and Melina Jacques at the Terrace Art Gallery in March. Opening night is only 12 days away. This piece still needs to be framed, but at least the painting is done. I am happy with this piece. It looks better in person, of course, as the texture of the water doesn’t show up in the photo and the colour of the background isn’t quite accurate.

It represents the deep longing of the trees to reach the water from which they have been severed from. This once forgotten forest is trying to come alive again: grow leaves, leak sap, and blossom seeds.

A once forgotten forest

A once forgotten forest

I hope you like it. Feel free to leave a comment as I love to hear other people’s thoughts on my art or art in general.


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