I am often asked by artists in the early stages of their careers how they should price their work. Likewise, many an art collector has shown me a recent purchase and asked if I thought it had value. These questions aren’t as difficult to answer as some would think – although they each require work on the inquirer’s part. Sorry, no short cuts.
Regarding the artists’ question: a standard practice is to attend art festivals – where you’ll have a chance to see many artists at once – and pay attention to the work by artists you feel are of similar caliber to yours. But don’t reach for your price tags and markers yet, because it doesn’t stop there. You’ll need to find out how long those artists have been working professionally. If an artist you feel comparable to has been in the business ten years, then know that they have been promoting themselves and their work, improving their motifs and methodology, and rising in value for their collectors all that time.
You would do better to start low and enjoy the good feeling of selling, and then raise your fees after a few years – this also shows collectors that your work has the ability to increase in value. One thing you don’t want to do is start with inflated prices and then be forced to lower them; it sends a very bad message.
A final point I stress is not to allow a buyer to talk you down from your price. This is no time for flea-market mentality. If you set a fair price, then stick to it or expect to dicker the rest of your career. The only time I am comfortable lowering a price is when the buyer is purchasing multiple pieces, or when it’s an older painting going to an already established client. If you don’t value your work, no one else will.
For you collectors trying to decide if you’re getting your money’s worth, the first points are fairly obvious: Do you love it? Does it mean something to you? Will it enhance your environment? Yes? Then buy it. However, if you are looking for artwork as an investment, then count on the amazing world wide web to investigate an artist’s background: Have they been working for a substantial period of time? (You probably won’t want to invest heavily in a possible flash-in-the-pan) Have they garnered awards and honors? Passed juries? Where have they exhibited and what press coverage have they received?
Whether it’s your own artwork, or work by someone else, following your heart may seem like a good idea, but this artist recommends using your head.
Tara O’Neill, a lifelong, award-winning, artist has been an area resident since 1967. She holds degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida and is currently represented by Blue Mangrove Gallery on Marco Island. Visit her at www.taraogallery.com.