Diana Probst, Cambridge Artist

Pricing Art

Over the past few weeks, finding a good price range for my work has been on my mind.  It will take me many months at the least to build up a portfolio that is ready to show to certain galleries.  They are businesses, which I appreciate, and they want to know that if they sell something of mine, they can replace it in their stock with something in the same style, rather than my current eclectic mix.  I do not object to this, but it makes it unlikely that I will be on sale in such places in the foreseeable future.

There are other, more flexible places, and I will be looking to join a particular art collective, but that still leaves me with a problem.  Galleries give confidence, because they have that implicit glow to them; people go to galleries knowing that they are looking at things that are pre-selected.  To sell my works of art direct is to ask people to take the risk that I may produce very little more.  I have no established market.  This is not a problem.

It is not a problem because it takes away one of the main difficulties of art pricing.  I do not have to guess at what my work will be worth in the future, and that means that I have a relatively simple task.  Although I have no prior sales to guide me, I also have a good idea of how much work and effort has gone into any particular piece, how well-executed it is compared to my original conception, and whether in my heart I really want to lose it.  (Charcoal Roman, I am looking at /you/.)

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Image: Charcoal Roman, winning staring contest with artist.

Once I had started on his eyes his accusing glance followed me around the kitchen, asking awkward questions like ‘why are you hanging me upside down’ and ‘why is that child dressed as a penguin’. Art is not pain, but this soulful gaze came pretty close.

Ahem. … whether in my heart I really want to lose it. That brings me neatly back to a bit of advice from an artist friend;

Charge precisely what you think your art is worth and not a penny less.

I like that advice.  It reminds me that I am serious, that my work should not go for nothing.  It is not a hobby; it is beautiful things that can take a long time over.  A charcoal piece on A4 paper takes between two and four hours, which in winter can be most of the working day.  A pencil sketch can be an afternoon’s work, and even the quickest of my in-situ oil paintings takes 6 hours, with an hour at either end for setting up and packing away.  The things that I keep on my easel and my drying wall can take weeks to complete.

The best advice so far seems to be ‘charge what you think is right’ and that is what I am going to do. I will find out as I go what the market will bear, but I will not second-guess it.