I was asked a little while back by anotherartist about how I sell my art... you know... how much do I charge?... who do I sell it to? and so on....so I thought I might share my answers to her with all of you...I hope you might find it interesting...

The Art Scenario

As with all artists, we would love to make a living from our art. As it happens, that scenario is rare. Many people may love your art and praise your efforts, but when it comes to actually purchasing any, the numbers are small.

The biggest mistake is selling it cheap. Once you sell one piece at a low price, you set a precident for all of your art. Cheap art has low creditablity.

Setting a price for your art is a difficult task, there is really no "blue book" price to work from, so you have to rely on guesswork to find one. Then it may be too low or too high... We've all been there.

If you live in a low income area, then there may be very few that can afford the luxury of purchasing art. I live in such an environment. "Pots and Pans" I call it.... For most of these folks it's, buy food, pay rent, buy fuel and have very little left for any luxuries... such as art.

There are people out there however, who can and will buy quality art, the task is to find them.

Is my art good enough?

The best way to find this out is by showing several people a piece of your art they have never seen before. You listen for the magic word - WOW - you can't buy the wow response, you have to earn it. If that it what you are hearing, then it's pretty sure indication that your art is good enough to sell.

Paid by the hour

We wish...If I asked to be paid by the hour for my last picture, I would never have to work again. It is impossible and impractical to consider pricing your art this way.

A Pricing Strategy that works for me

I paint on canvas, using acylics and I now know that art on canvas brings a far better price than most other art. The argument that oils out sell acrylics is a mute one, it all depends on the quality of the finished piece and, to be quite frank, most, non-art savvy people don't know one from the other.

(Note: if you work with other mediums... I will explain more down the track)

I calculate my art price by the inch... usually some where between eighty cents to a dollar an inch.

So, a 30" x 40" painting would equate to $720, I would round that off to $700. Trust me, it works.

If you think that is too high, then try it at fifty cents to the inch (you do the math).

The danger is, that if you drop below fifty cents, you will undersell yourself and set that precident I spoke about earlier. Trust me, I've been there.

What about other mediums?
Other mediums, in particular, Watercolor and Pastels, generally require framing, so the same pricing strategy can be used for them as well. the overall dimensions of the art, including the frame, priced by the inch.

Where to sell

Try tapping into selective markets -

If there is a bike, car, truck, air show or a festival on near you, then design your art so it relates to the show or festival's theme.The same would also apply to dog, horse or flower shows - paint to suit the theme of the show or festival. That's what people are interested in at these events.

You should always add a couple of non-related paintings to your display, this will give the public some idea of the scope of your art subjects. I have taken on several commissions this way.
Some would think that a painting of a rose or a cute puppy would not be the thing to take to a custom motorcycle show, we commonly assume it's only guys that attend these shows. Not so, I have found that they usually have their ladies with them and ladies like flowers and cute puppies. The ladies are the ones you'll find checking out the stalls and art displays. 70% of my sales have been to ladies.
If it's a show or festival near the beach, then do pictures of seagulls, pelicans, the beach it'self etc.
There is hardly a weekend goes by without a festival, fair or show happening somewhere. You may have to travel a few mlies, but it may be well worth the trip.
Check the Internet to find what is happening in your area or state.
It's all about having the right art in the right place.
If you are fortunate enough to find a gallery that will handle your art, then you have to remember that they will charge you a fee. Most galleries will take a percentage of the selling price as the fee. This can be quite often very high and, if you chose the fifty cents to the inch pricing, you will make very little. Generally speaking, you will have a better chance to sell your art if it's in a gallery, but it will limit your returns financially.
Selling Online:
This can a difficult way to sell art, the buyer usually has only a photograph and a description to go by. I have found that most serious buyers will steer clear of buying art this way. They want to see it "in the flesh", particuarly if it has a high price.
In addition, you will, in most cases, have to get the artwork to them if they buy it and that can be very expensive to do. You also run the risk of it being damaged or lost in transit.
I know some that will disagee with this, but I have never really had any great success selling art online.
Posting your art online
An absolute must do... Sites like The Art Colony are a fabulous way to show the World your art. Additionally, It's here that you can let people know what show or festival they can find you at. You can return the gesture by printing a flyer about yourself, your art and the web site and hand them out at the shows.
Having said all that - here is my disclaimer...
All that I have stated here is drawn from my own experiences over the years. There will be some who will disagree with what I have said, either wholly or in part, but that is the way individual logic works.
If you find some of it helpfull, then try it, you'll never know if you don't give it a go...
As an end note I will pass on a piece of advice that was related to me many years ago by a successfull, established artist, he said..." Never do your art for the money, do it because you love it...if you love it, you'll do it well...it will then sell itself"

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Gail... thank you... I took a look at you portfolio... It's very good.. bright and cheerfull.. I can assure you, there is a market for this style of art. Everyone has different tastes in what style of art pleases them.. If you set a particular theme that people like, then stick with it as much as you can... When it is on display together, it will be in harmony and pleasing to the eye.

As for being your own worse critic.. well join the club, most artists are their own worst enemies when judging their art. The best way to assess if you art is people friendly is to show a group of them a piece you've done that they have never seen before...and listen for the word WOW ... if you hear that, you are on the right track.

I hope this is of some help... Cheers

Thank you so much for this, Dallas.  This is one of the very best articles I've ever read on the subject - good solid information I can use!  I've been toying with the idea of selling some of my work, but have no idea how to price it.  This was very helpful in that regard.  And also, I must say that I heartily agree with the last statement.  If you love what you do, that love will come through in your work and it will sell itself.  Thanks again!

Gail, You are most welcome.. Cheers

Hi Starr... Thank You.... I wrote it because I come across many budding artists who are great at their art, but then struggle with the selling part. Sadly, many undersell themselves in fear of scaring off the buyer. You've just got to believe in yourself and your artistic gift. Don't get too cocky, just be confident. When someone asks me which is the best painting I've done...I always answer... hopefully, the next one.


i agree that a price per square inch is the best way of setting a price on a painting. then paintings of the same size are consistently priced. customers don't understand why 2 paintings of the same size would be different prices.

However, make sure that you are paying yourself enough when you set the price per square inch. you are not going to get anywhere if you end up paying yourself a pittance per hour.

what i did was build a spreadsheet that calculated prices (including materials, frames, etc) 2 different ways... one by $/per hour and one by square inch. i picked a $ per hour that i thought was a reasonable income, then adjusted the price per square inch to an amount that paid me that much. Fortunately, it worked out that the prices looked competitive with other artists. This has to be an average over several paintings, but it will give you a good indication on whether you can be competitive with other artists and ensure you are paying yourself a reasonable amount.

Hi Michael..Yes can I see your point. Fortunately the dollar an inch has covered me up to now. I will, however, l try out your system as well and see if it is something I need to also take on board.. Thanks for the feedback.. Cheers

Hi... Yes, this was written with "flat art" in mind, I appologise to the "3D" artists. I guess the best way to judge how other styles of art,such as sculpture etc, would be priced, is to look around for art objects similar to yours. Take note at what the average is price they sell for.


Thanks for writing this!! Very helpful.

I primarily work small to medium, and I price things based on size but *sometimes* duration (by the hour) and *sometimes* that is acceptable. There are still times I have found I put far too much into a piece and the by hour becomes staggering, like you mentioned. So, depending on that I will consider the size I am working at.
I've definitely noticed that selling online can be difficult with large scale pieces. Then there is the shipping cost, and insuring the work. I do recommend selling prints and smaller pieces online. With the internet and sites to sell work, I feel you'll get just as much out of it as you put into it. There's a lot of cross connecting between social platforms to be done in order to build an audience and make sales, I've noticed. At times I've become engrossed with the process of social media promotions, all of the viewers all potential clients and they act as your support system - your encouragement!

Good, practical information that is very helpful to me. Thank you for sharing this!

Thank You, Diane... you are most welcome.

Hi, Hayley... I had a look at your gallery.. very good work... There is a good market for horse related artwork.. Get a portfolio together and head to horse related events... that's where you'll find your potential customers... Cheers

Hi, everyone, I read your very helpful article with keen interest, Dallas. All of the comments are really interesting, too. Thank you for sharing. I'm new to selling my art, and in fact have just had a gallery accept a few of my pieces this week. So I'm in the process of getting them matted, framed and ready for them to hang.  All 5 pieces are colored pencil or pastel works. At this point it seems like quite a gamble, as I am spending quite a bit on frames, mat, mat cutter and other stuff. I have a couple of questions, if you don't mind.

Is it common practice for galleries to ask artists to show their work exclusively at their gallery? And if there is that restriction on showing at other galleries, would the artist normally be able to sell at festivals and fairs? Is a 60/40 split of the proceeds a good deal?

Thanks for any comments.




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