Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

Posts tagged “cost of making art

This Painting Costs WHAT?!!

I can practically hear people thinking this sometimes.

After many years of having the  conversation in my head or with other artists about what goes into the price of an artwork for the career artist, I decided to take my rant public.

I will use as an example a recent pastel demonstration in my studio. I carefully planned a piece that was horizontal (so folks could see around me); had seasonal color; and had elements that were quite familiar to me, even if I didn’t know until I was in progress exactly what I was going to include and where it was all going to go. I knew that I was planning on finishing this piece in the hour+ time I had allotted for the demo, so picking certain kinds of imagery (a flat sky rather than complex clouds, and a minimalist hillside with some field dividers instead of marsh grasses, and so on) was essential.

And so, with many years of experience paintings landscapes and quite a few doing demos for students and occasionally the public under my belt, I pulled it off. Here it is, below, a 10″x27″ piece.

Red Field/White Sky

“Red Field/White Sky”

For an exhibiting artist, prices need to be consistant. This means that same-size pieces (unless they are an entirely different series or medium) should be the same price. Furthermore, for me personally, it doesn’t matter in the least that one pieces takes me six times as long as another, since it all averages out.

A lovely minimalist piece that practically painted itself is worth the same price as an equally lovely image of more complexity that I might have struggled over, or just surrendered to with exquisite patience. I love doing them both, and often my buyers prefer one over the other fairly strongly.

And REALLY furthermore, there are many things that go into the price of an artwork. So to any of you who have ever thought, “OMG, she just did that piece in 1.5 hours and she is charging $1,500 for it without even framing it, so that’s $1,000 per hour!”, here goes!

Sticking to the example of my recent demo:

1. I spent hours arranging and cleaning the studio. (Let’s say, 5?)

2. More time driving to get the paper I needed and planning the pastel, including looking for and then contemplating all the references photos that this one required, and selecting my palette of pastel colors. (4?)

3.  Creating the email and Facebook invitations, back-and-forth with folks wanting to attend, photographing and processing the digital photo. (3?)

3. Materials, since the quoted price I am using for the piece is unframed, were minimal. ($50?) but that doesn’t take into account that I have hundreds of pastel colors (mostly Schminkes costing $6 a stick) necessary to my work, even if a small amount of those actually got used up.

4. Also averaging in other overhead that I must cover daily or regularly to create and sell my work: A larger car that uses more gas than I would otherwise drive and the many errands and deliveries to galleries, framer, art supply store, and private buyers (this is both time and money); studio construction, maintenance, and heat;  emailing galleries and creating events (hours every day and tech and office expenses); keeping up with taking and processing photos (IPhone and time, laptop); ferry or airfare and accommodations and meals further afield for shows (expense and time);

5. My husband is very helpful for deliveries and installations and repairs and being personable at openings. Does his time get factored in?

6. Brain space. This piece used quite a bit of it. They all use a goodly amount (and are supposed to!).

    7. Gallery commission, on most sales, 50%. (And trust me, they earn it!)

I am not even getting into how many years/decades it took me to be able to do this work with enough ease to a) do it well and successfully and b) do it in front of an audience. Nor am I going to add up the above estimates of time and materials.

With any luck, I have made my point.