Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Balancing Business with Creativity

This is a timely topic I've been discussing with some blogging artist friends. With the new year, I have sat down and evaluated my costs and my prices. I knew the inevitable would have to happen. I need to raise some of my prices for 2007.

Before everyone jumps ship here, I'll explain some of the reasoning behind this move.

In the world of painting there are a number of hidden costs that the patron may not realize. Lets use a painting that is 18" x 24" in size to see what some of these things are (mind you these prices are specific to my country and what is available to me currently, an artist friend you know might have access to wholesale boxes that I might not):

18" x 24" Canvas $150.00 (example sale price on ebay)

Standard size canvas $12.16
Paint $5.oo (approximately, more if textured)
PayPal fees $7.10
Box $2.50
Ebay Listing fee $4.57
Ebay Final Value Fee $5.18
($24.35 total cost here)
Total profit $125.65

Okay, that doesn't sound too bad... until you realize two key things here.

1. A painting this size can take around 10 hours to paint. Add in the time to scan/photograph, write up listings, answer emails, package and make trips to the post office... lets say another 2 hours.

125.65 / 12 hours

The artist is averaging a paycheck of around $10.00 an hour.

2. The buyer will most likely see a gain in the piece (as long as it is done with quality materials and is a well executed piece of art.)

Longterm, who knows how much it will be worth? One thing I do know, cheap Ikea prints or "mall art" will most likely lose value or hold steady over time. A good painting is a solid investment provided it is cared for.

Also, A painting can last centuries - $150.00 is three dinners for two at a decent restaurant. Maybe time spent in total.... 6 hours?

So, while I am aware that my customers may not be pleased about this, I hope they understand that a great deal of thought has gone into this. Too much thought, I've been worrying about reaction for some time now, but I have to do it.

If you bought a piece from me in the last while and then see a similar size going for a higher amount, I'm so happy that you got a great deal on that past work. I do not regret any sale, at any price - all of this has allowed me to learn, to continue painting and build my portfolio.


Shabby Cottage Studio said...

Michelle, first I wantto say I LOVE the pic you added to this topic! I know it's always hard to talk money but I have always been an advocate of educating the public about all aspects of art. We struggle daily against wal-mart mentality & imports from China & India where people are paid starving wages so that we here can get a "deal".

People tend to forget that we've usually put many years into learning our skills and those skills should be worth more than something manufactured and reproduced in the multiples overseas.

Michelle said...

LOL, that picture I drew in 2002 when I was working on a series of "business" stock illustration for my portfolio.

Thats my bidnez man eating the profits. :p

Walmart mentality. That is exactly it. Why buy the cow (original) when you can get the milk (low cost laser print in a dollar store frame) for free (or $0.99 on ebay)?

I once calculated my "studio rate" at $30 per hour. With all my supplies, electricity, gas + mileage on the car, equipment upgrades etc etc etc I should charge $30.00 per hour spent on a painting.

Unfortuneately, as an emerging artist, I can't charge that comfortably because I fear I would lose all of my business. LOL.

M.Anderson said...

It really is a catch 22 situation sometimes. I don't want to devalue what I do but I also need to make a living. Educating the public is key. I also think it is key to educate the public that allowing starving wages to be paid to others so a "deal" can be had is not appropriate either.

Ivan Chan Studio said...

Hi Michelle!

Yay! You've raised your prices. This is good news for many reasons (as your collectors will see).

One, you are meeting the costs of production and costs of living. This means your business as an artist remains viable and so you'll keep making your wonderful art!

Two, higher prices for your work literally means higher value for your work, too. Those that have invested in you as an emerging artist, and in your artwork, are now seeing the fruits of their investment! The work they have bought from you has now increased in value because you've increased the prices for your work. (The opposite holds true, which is why collectors and investors can feel slighted by sales.)

Three, you're opening your work to more markets. Instead of cautiously courting only the bargain hunters, you're sending out the signal that you're maturing as an artist and that you're ready for serious collectors. Having work ready for budget-conscious people (like myself!) also helps keep your connection with more than one market, as well as bringing in new collectors who will grow and mature along with you.

Your art is gorgeous. Customers don't need to be educated about what goes into it--the value is apparent and doesn't need to be justified--you only have to recognize it yourself to feel good about giving yourself a (much-deserved and long-awaited) raise for your hard work, skills, talent, and development.



Michelle said...

Aw thanks you guys. Hopefully this will prove to be a wise move. LOL.

Penny Cork said...

Michelle, this is a very well thought, perfectly worded post. There are so many factors to consider when buying art, and for the consumer, I would always say, to buy something that you love! I have often thought it a shame that people will spend much more on a mass produced print from the one of the "Marts," rather than the money to support a real, live and very talented artist!

Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting during his life... I think that his track record of resale value speaks for itself!

On a personal note, I have one of Michelle's ACEO's, which I adore! Quite honestly, I live in a home filled with art, and her work is one of my most favorite pieces!

Thank you!

Penny :)

Michelle said...

Aw thanks Penny, I am always so touched when another artist buys my work. It is a HUGE validation that I am on the right track.

I hear you on prints often costing way more than quality original art.

I was at a local grocery/department store yesterday and saw they had framed prints of Winnie the Pooh illustrations (around 4"x4"). Cheap frame, cheap matte... $19.99!!!

How many ACEO could be had for that? How much would some of those ACEO be worth in 5 years?