Why is Art So Expensive?

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

WARNING: Probably some attitude and fowl language. But it's an enjoyable read.

I have found along my ventures (along with every other artist, I'm sure) that one of the most difficult things to do is price your work.

Ok. Stop. Whoa. You know what, I'm taking that back.

Trial and error are pretty much the only way artists can figure this out as we all work with different materials, at different paces, and for different reasons. After several years of doing so for myself, I have figured out a pretty solid ground for my work. I think every artist comes to a moment of self-realization of their worth where this process starts to get easier over time.

What I have found is that artists who have a hard time pricing their work don't usually have a pricing problem, at all. They have a self-worth problem. And the most difficult thing to do is explain to other people why your art is worth the amount you are asking for it. And it's also the most important. Let me explain.

1) Most people and clients are asking you to do the work because they can't do it themselves. When you hire a plumber to get the shit out of your house, you could pay anywhere from $30-$100 per hour for their professional services. If you are remodeling a bathroom, you pay professionals however much they charge for their EXPERIENCE and TIME. There is this horrendous stigma about artists (mostly because some people can duct tape bananas to a wall and make millions... asshole... ) that they don't need to be taken as seriously as other professionals for their time and experience. Do your research just like you would a plumber or remodeling guy and make sure you pick someone who is in your price range and delivers the style you are looking for. But please, don't ask for professional quality work if you can't afford to compensate them for their time. There are people who can and do. Understand that you as the artist are not the problem and take the time to talk to your clients about why you are worth it. They simply just don't know any better and that's not necessarily their fault.

2) How much AM I worth? The fact is, I spent 4+ years getting my degree in fine arts, 4+ years teaching it, and now own my own studio. You will not be getting college freshman student pricing from me, bruh. And I still dabble fairly low on the price scale for fine art and canvas paintings. Because art. It is still going to take me 20+ hours to complete that painting you asked me to do. That's 20+ hours of my time that I could spend doing other things to help pay my bills. I might be more experienced in my trade than the plumber you just hired, and you are still probably paying him more.

3) If you don't ask, you will never receive. If you have the education under your belt, if you have the experience, if you have the ability, don't be afraid to ask for what you deserve. "But what if they say no?!" Omg guys.... seriously... you will be right where you are anyways. And you will never get more because you don't try. Not everyone will agree. Not everyone will be able to afford it. These are things we must face knowing how misunderstood we are and can be. But what if they say yes?

4) Canvas size is not relative to price. Oh ma lort... if I had a nickel for every time someone argued over commission prices because they heard I charged susy this much for a canvas this size or see one hanging on my wall... Susy asked me for a 16 x 20" canvas with a simple design that took me 5 hours to paint. You are asking for an elaborately detailed storyboard in one painting with 20 people in it and 50 buildings that will take about 15+ hours to paint. Susy just wanted a strawberry. Same canvas size. Significant difference in the amount of work required to complete the job. Don't be afraid to remind clients of this. Chances are, they just don't know.

5) You can say no to the pieces you don't want. So many people think of "starving artists" and assume that we will take whatever work we can get for whatever price they can offer. Because y'all are doing US a favor. Even though we usually end up spending way too much time on it and we end up feeling frustrated and undervalued until it's done and out of our hair. No. And if you continuously accept these, you will be continuously known as the guy who does. And you will keep getting it. You will continue to starve under shitty commission conditions. Y'all know what I mean. Lol Find that second part time job and keep doing those things you WANT in your free time. It's better than wasting time and materials on projects that don't pay their worth. Because it's for your friends. And you don't have anything else. Real friends will want to compensate you for your time. You could be spending that time making more money at your day job. Doing these things will slowly kill you.

6) People don't NEED art. This is a tough subject to cover. Unlike the plumber who gets the shit out of your house or the remodeling guy that repairs damage, you can survive without that thing hung up on the wall. This is a fact. And it's how most people think! It is so hard to sell something that there isn't an inherent need for. If you are going to sell your work for the price you deserve, it's gunna be hard to find a buyer who can appreciate it in the same way (but not impossible). THIS is why I love teaching so much. It puts the brush in the buyers hands and gives them an opportunity to understand the process. How much effort and work really goes into creating a piece.

At the end of the day, what we do is very different. The struggle is incredibly real. And we are incredibly able. Don't do or say things to undervalue yourself and your artwork if you plan on going anywhere with it. Say yes AND no. And if you are NOT an artist... find one that speaks to you and support them

I'm not perfect by any means, but I did learn a few things.

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