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ursulav

The Pricing Wall

Been running into the Pricing Wall of Doom lately. Also known as James saying "Dear god! What are you THINKING?!" It's not commissions this time, which I'm fine with, it's the originals.

I know I probably underprice my work. A bit. I mean, my stuff almost always sells, and I like it that way, because that keeps cash flow flowing. And when I grit my teeth and raise my prices a little, it still sells. Usually. Takes a bit longer, mind you. But still, the majority of paintings I sit on for less than six months, and some of them go the same day, even when I price them in the $300-400 range. So I am comfortable with that range. That's a nice safe range where the art seems to move well. I get twitchy going beyond that. $450, $500, okay, since I started taking installment plans, that's been going, too. Get into $600 and the stuff screeches to a halt like a...screechy thing. Get into the thousands, and I've still sold them, but usually to friends or long-time buyers who circle the piece for several months, presumably looking for a sign of weakness, and then finally succumb and start making payments on it. (Or maybe the painting circles them...okay, the metaphor is breaking down...) But still, the good sales range seems to be between $300-450 for the medium sized acrylics.

So I spasmed like a kicked duck when James baldly quoted me $1200 on the voodoo woman. "WHAT? Are you MAD?" (I had, in my more delusional moments, been contemplating as high as $600--I mean, I spent most of a week on that piece, and I do like it quite a lot, and I don't mind if it doesn't sell immediately because I like looking at it, but upwards of a thousand? Jesusmurphy. What am I, Picasso?)

On the other hand, "It Gnaws the Walls" went the same day, and I had tacked on an extra $100 at James's insistance (and he wanted double what I charged for it, and got a lot of people to IM me with quotes in that vicinity, too...)

Now, if James had his way, my work would be so prohibitively expensive that I suspect it would probably never sell, but I am willing to concede that perhaps I do price myself too low, particularly when James hauls in the witnesses for the prosecution (I'm lookin' at you, Dave!) who start flinging numbers at me. His argument is that I'm not hurting my reputation by asking for more money, my argument is that I'd like to, y'know, occasionally SELL the stuff! I like getting money!

So I dunno. Accepting that I price too low, I'm trying to inch them up a bit, but nowhere near the rareified heights James is quoting me, because...well...y'know. He loves me, and I worry that his confidence in me is tainted by affection.

Anybody got any thoughts? I figure that this is one area where I could use outside input, and y'all were so instrumental in getting me to raise my commission prices...*grin*...

My mom has the same problem. She actually calculates time, effort, supply cost ect... and usually she thinks that is too high and ends up going down from there.

If I had it to spend I would totally pay $1200 for that voodoo woman.

Honestly, I think James has the right idea. That painting IS a masterpiece. You've got the fat interesting woman, the necklace, the cat with it's amazing expression, and the sweet vial of green stuff. I think if you priced it at $600 it would sell fast, I really do. Its close to the holiday - people need to get gifts and its a seriously cool painting. All of those elements make for a phenomenol piece. Maybe $1200 is a bit high...perhaps $800 - $1000?

Oh and don't forget the rooster!

So take an average of what you think and what he thinks.

But whatever you do, don't let him know you're taking averages, 'cos he'll up his quote to compensate ;)

try it.. if it sells, have a party.

If it doesn't.. lower the price. Won't hurt you.

It is better to never ever lower your prices once you've set them. This is one of those rules of thumb about artistry. You don't want to piss off the people who may've already paid more for a print or an original, because they're the most likely to come back and buy something else expensive from you, and if they come back and find out the $1000 painting they bought is now being sold for $800, they're going to feel ripped off. *nodnod*

I don't comment often, but I absolutely love your work. If I had $300-400 I would buy an original in an instant, if you raised your prices to $600 and I had it, I would still buy an original in an instant, if you raised your prices to $1000 and I had it I would still be buying this theoretical original.

So what I'm saying is, I think your work is worth that kind of money, but the number of people who can afford to spend that kind of money on art is smaller then the number of people who can afford to spend $300 on art.

*nod* That's the big problem--it's not that I'm laboring under delusions of inadequacy, but the market can only bear so much.

"...screeches to a halt like a bobsled on blacktop."

...that's about all I can contribute, though.

Here's the deal on dat from my perspective...

Yeah, your skillz and talent are at the level you can charge more and make a rather good living at it.

You will however migrate away from your current customer/social circle into the wine and brie set the farther above 1K you get. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

At the higher price points, people are buying ego as much as art. The 1500$ painting may well hang on the gallery wall a lot longer than the 4500$ painting.

You both *really* need to talk with your mom and preferably a gallery owner (bonus for two!) if you want the low down on higher priced works. Big numbers work for well established artists.

To sell art in to the higher monied social circles means you have to start circulating in those circles, and I'm afraid the bulk of fan base you have established on the 'net ain't it. Unplug your computer from the net for a month, take down your online gallery and see how sales go.

A formal gallery carefully chosen to "break" you into the wine and cheese set is necessary to sell the big $ pieces consistently. You have a fresh perspective a delightfully creative style and gobs of talent, but do you have the personality to hobnob with the Rolex and Porche crowd who will spend that kind of money on art? I dunno.

I'd ditch the small con and 'net artworks for N months and concentrate on creating a gallery show quality portfolio.

My gut feeling is that you should skip any price points under $2000 and target the bulk of your first show's works at the $3000-@5000 range. That gives the gallery a reasonable commish after their marketing expenses and puts dinner on the table and booties on the baby, err cats.

It takes pelotas to do the fine art game, but you guys won't starve give James' job and your ability to sell prints of your existing works while you do the gallery portfolio, and WalMart sells a biiiig bottle of Maalox for cheap.

Bonus is if Operation Gallery augers in, you still have the 'net crew to fall back on. Just don't forget us "Little People" when you're showing at the Met, ok? :-D

Bon Chance and Iron Guts!
Mako




*makes terrified meeping noises at the $4500 number*

What could I possibly paint that would be WORTH $4500? I mean, crimony! It'd have to be the size of a WALL! I'd have to do the Garden of Earthly Delights with wombats!

Ahem. Well, the thing is, having chatted with my mother, who charges, oh, probably about three to four times what I do for art--and takes probably five or six times to paint it--I--*cough*--actually make a lot more money than she does. I mean, she turns $2K at a show, it's a raging success, I turn $2K a month and it's pretty much a non-event. A large part of that, of course, is just that I'm prolific as hell, and while she's an artistic genius, she's a slow and painstaking one.

Well. Anyway, I think you're right, and James has, indeed, been driving me to do the Gearworld set for a gallery show, which I figure is at least worth a try. But...well...I like the internet, damnit! It's been good to me, all my fans and friends and supportive people are here, and...yeah. *clings to the ankles of the internet in terror*

The small stuff, like stabby hamsters, is still probably good for the 'net, because it's never gonna get into a gallery, and it really doesn't take that long to do, and it sells really well here--and I can't see myself not doing those quick little on-a-whim pieces, since they're just part of my brain. But I think you're probably right, in that I may be starting to run into the upper limits of what the 'net can field for prices on the big, complex pieces. And it might be worth at least trying galleries for that.

And James wishes it to be known that he thinks you're 100% correct. *grin*

Higher price => smaller market

This is true. But your price should certainly be proportionate to the amount of time and material and effort that goes into a piece. Those who can't afford an original will buy limited edition prints or whatever they CAN actually afford.

It sounds like $1200 is a big jump from where you have been up to now. But you can get there gradually. Compromise with James and price this one at $800 or somewhere in the middle. See what happens. You can always lower the price if it doesn't sell and you get tired of looking at it. :)

There is no spoon... I mean, there is no wall.

Your originals are just that: originals. One of a kind items. There's no other original like it.

The price for it should be whatever the market can bear.

Don't sell yourself short. If you want to remember us little people, make some pictures that can have prints made...

Right. Prints are gooooood! Very good! Wanna print.

Put it up for $1200. We spent around that for Fairy of Ravens, by Nene Thomas (original watercolor). We've spent not-quite-four digits for big originals from Robin Wood. We've spent mid hundreds for prints of Michael Whelan's art stuff, and mid to low on Artist Proofs of Whelan's stuff. We dropped several zeros on all the originals for the GURPS IOU book, from Phil and Kaja Foglio.

See if it sells. You can always lower a price, and it's a crying shame that most art we buy costs more to mat and frame than to purchase.

(Also do up an art book with full color stuff, so I can wave it around my spouse and mumble something about originals going way too cheaply.)

Anyway, calculate your usual weekly take from the things, or monthly, or whatever -- and see if you get the same take if you raise the price. If you do, and it's just that it's not coming in quite as fast, go with it, because it means you're getting the same take for fewer pieces, right?

it's a crying shame that most art we buy costs more to mat and frame than to purchase.

I work in Michael's art's & Crafts Custom Framing, and I get TONS of customers coming in and complaining that the original art they bought costs half the price of their framing package, and that's when we have a %50 off your entire custom framing order. We always say "it looks more valuable in a frame", which it does, but it's definatly interesting seeing someone spend $400 to frame a $35 print.

You'll still be my favorite artist, even if I can't afford your work. I agree that you have the talent to charge much more. (That Wombat/Gears piece probably could've been in the $600 - $750, especially if people could have seen the true beauty and not just the scan.)

However, on behalf of the poor college student crowd: WAAAHHH! No more Ursula for us! Sorry, sucks being poor and seeing the word "SOLD" pop up under a truly amazing painting. Perhaps an installment plan that lasts for years instead of months is a good compromise?

On the other paw, I've been trying to convince my local art museum to host an exhibit of your works if you would be up for it. Being a musuem instead of a gallery, I don't think any of it would be allowed to be sold during the exhibit, but probably afterwards would be okay. I'll even donate my original to the exhibit (the viewing part, not the selling, of course) because I am just that pleased with your work.

I'm afraid the bulk of fan base you have established on the 'net ain't it. Unplug your computer from the net for a month, take down your online gallery and see how sales go.

I'm going to strongly disagree with this statement. While your current fan base may not be capable of affording $3000.00 paintings, there are a number of people on the net who can and will. You may want to reach out to them more, but certainly don't ignore their existence by shutting down. Yes, it may be time to consider getting a gallery show together, but it may also be time to start figuring out how the higher priced fantasy artist (of which there are lots out there) manage to handle their web presence.

I will also disagree that at the higher price ranges art buying is ego and art equally. At the higher price ranges, art is actually more investment than either, and prices that continue to rise make people like me (who snapped up paintings of yours at lower prices) exceedingly happy. And make us more inclined to buy more BECAUSE your prices are going up and thus the value of what we're buying is likely to continue to rise.

So, upshot? Yeah, go ahead and try it at the $1200.00 range. If it doesn't sell in a year, drop the price. If it does, paint more like it!

One does not market $3000 and up art through the 'net. That's done through the art gallery, which puts your art on their web page and promotes it through their catalog &ct.

There are very, very few artists who can consistantly sell $3K and up original art through their own studios. Those who can have been in the art business a long time with very well established reputations, marketing infrastructure and fan followings.

Think www.thomaskinkade.com and the chap who does all those undersea paintings of dolphins and whales. They have built very sucessful businesses selling their original art through their own studios (and of course stores). I'll leave it up to the reader to ask if they are actually selling art or not ;-)

The first artist that I was aware of that consistently was able to sell his art for good money was Red Skelton, who besides being a brilliant TV comic, was a painter of some renown. He painted mainly clown portraits and had a gallery of his work in Honolulu which did rather well, not that he needed the money of course.

Personally I think Ursula has the talent and skills to grow into the $7,500-10K market over the next decade should she have the belly for the business. None of this sucess is free however. Look up Ted DeGrazia (from my home town, yay! :) to see what happens when a brilliant artist can't handle the price of success in the big money art world. It's just not very pretty...

CYa!
Mako

How big is the VooDoo Woman?

I'm not much of a vendor, but I'm one heck of a consumer. I think it might be a good idea for you to have some works priced in the $1k+ range, and continue to produce the $100-500 works as well. It appeals to the bargain-hunter in me to know that I'm buying a piece from someone who produces works priced beyond what I can afford. Even if you never sell a piece for more than $1000 (although I find it likely that you would) I think that having the large prices there makes the small prices look more appetizing.

Would auctions help you to determine the appropriate price? (I would not buy an original; paying $15 for a print is more my style.)