Yes, I have been working these last few weeks, but I haven’t had a lot of photos to share. That’s partly because a lot of my work has been non-art related. I’ve been painting walls that should have been painted several years ago, but I really, really hate painting walls. This week seemed like a good time to do it, since the weather has been so miserable that I can’t spend time outside, and the paper mache on Harry and my chimp has been drying painfully slow.
No excuses left, so I bought some paint. (And now I remember why I put it off for so long – I still really hate painting walls…)
Harry the greyhound’s clay form was redone, as you can see in the photo above. I removed all the old grey clay and started over with Super Sculpey. I realized that I was putting off working on Harry because of the icky feeling of the sticky oil-based clay. Once the old clay was gone and I replaced it with the Sculpey, it started to come together and I felt a lot better about the work.
The nose and mouth area were cast in Aqua-Resin. I then replaced that area of the clay with the new resin piece, and started covering the form with the shop towels and fast-setting paper mache paste, like I did in the Pantalone mask video series. When that was dry (it’s taking forever, even with the fan), I filled in the wire mesh ears with paper mache clay. Today I should be able to add the gesso and begin painting.
As you can see, the chimp is also coming along, but slowly. The face is cast Aqua-Resin, the body was made just like the masks, and now I’m adding paper mache clay to texture his fur. (You can see how dark it’s been here – they’re sitting in my greenhouse window, but still I didn’t have enough light for a decent photo. Sigh…)
But enough of my slow progress – I want to talk about how to price artwork.
This is what I think about this issue – and I’d love to know if you agree or disagree:
- If you feel better about having the money than the sculpture, you’ve found a good price.
- And the value of the sculpture or painting has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with how much time it took to make, or how much you think your time is worth.
This week I actually received some support for both of these ideas. In the little photo at the top of the page you can see that I watched a video of a conversation between Cory Huff and Melissa Dinwiddie while I applied the layers of paper mache to Harry last week. Melissa said in the video that one way you know if your prices are too low is to check to see how you feel when you’re making something that will be sold at that price. If you find yourself feeling even a little resentful of your buyers, it’s time to charge more.
Then this morning I was reading The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau, and found this statement:
Price your product or service in relation to the benefit it provides, not the cost of producing it.
He had several examples of people who sell information products and other services for many times their cost, and people were more than happy to pay the price. The key, according to Chris, is to make sure you understand what benefit the buyer receives from owning the product, and then choose the price accordingly. An example from the art world would be prints that sell for several hundred dollars, when the print itself cost $10 or less to produce. That would mean that the benefit of owning the print is worth far more to the buyers then the cost of the paper and ink.
But now the questions is “how can we determine the benefit of owning an original sculpture or painting without determining first how much it cost to create or how much time we spent on it?” And, since we all tend to be far more judgmental about our own work than other people are, how can we get inside the mind of a potential buyer and forget, for a moment, our own insecurities — and our natural qualms about asking for money?
When you shop for art, do you buy something because you have a strong emotional attraction that overcomes your reluctance to part with your money? Or because you you like the idea of showing the piece off to your friends? Or because you think it will fit perfectly with the look you’re trying to achieve in your room? Those are benefit-related buying decisions.
Or do you think “like the artist” and calculate how long it probably took to create the work, then multiply that number of hours by the hourly wage you think the artist’s time is worth, and compare the amount to the price on the sticker to see if it’s a fair price? Somehow I doubt it.
So, this really just means that we should price our work the way any business owner would do who is thinking about creating a little low-cost start-up company based on a particular product. If we knew how to make widgets, we would look at other widgets available in the marketplace, determine how our widget would fit in to that market, and determine if the average price of related widgets would be high enough for us to make a reasonable profit. This assumes no emotional investment in creating the widget – which also means that if the numbers don’t come out to our advantage, we would shelve the widget idea and think about making what’s-its instead. Many successful professional artists do go through this process, but beginning artists often have a hard time thinking this way.
So, after all this meandering, what do you think? Is there a practical, reasonable way for someone to put a price on artwork, if that person has never sold anything before? What kind of advice would you give to that person? If you sell artwork, how do you determine the price?