How to put a price on a work of art

How to put a price on a work of art

Two artists break down what to think about when valuing artwork

Many artists struggle with pricing their art because of how subjective an artwork’s value can be. I asked two artists to outline how they price their work, and how young artists might start pricing their own.

GARTH LAIDLAW: PRICE YOUR TIME

Garth Laidlaw

Garth Laidlaw works as a freelance artist, creating animations for organizations like the Bank of Montreal, Niagara College, and the University of Guelph, as well as writing and illustrating children’s books.

Laidlaw sees animating or illustrating as any other kind of contract work. Time should certainly be a factor in how artists price, but they should also keep in mind their experience and skill level.

“Early on in your artistic career, it will take you longer to complete tasks, generally, and so your hourly rate should reflect this to help compensate for the time it would take a faster or more experienced worker. Once you get faster at completing the tasks, it’s fair to increase your wage. I also think it’s obvious that your wage should be increased as your general ability and skill increases,” Laidlaw said.

Laidlaw also commented on another important aspect of pricing: the complexity of the project.

Does the animation need a voice-over? Will there be sound effects? Music?” said Laidlaw. “It’s absolutely the duty of the artist to know what questions to ask, as clients are far less aware of all of the ‘bells and whistles’ than artists are.

CHRISTINA LUCK: LOOK TO OTHERS

Cat Cooper

Christina Luck is a traditional fine artist based out of Cookstown, Ont., who has shown her work in many galleries, and whose artwork can be found in the collections of CIBC, the Four Seasons Hotels, and many others.

Luck advises artists to take example from how art is priced in galleries. “I learned through going to galleries and looking at the prices [of other works],” said Luck. “I also showed my work in galleries, so they helped me to price my work, and still do.”

Luck also describes time as a factor, although she thinks less on an hourly basis and more on the larger scale of weeks or months. But time is only one factor in naming a price.

“[Keep in mind] size, and the difficulty of the technique, and cost of materials, and all of that. But it isn’t like looking at your list and figuring it all out, because what also factors in is your exhibition experience, your awards, the collections that your work is in. All of those things factor into how you can price your work.”

Luck suggests being consistent in price, and remembering that when working with a gallery or art dealer, they will charge a commission.

Image by Alora Griffiths/The Ontarion

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