What Value Art?

Nov 3, 2014

What is the value of an artist's work? Probably the hardest thing they do is try to put a price on a piece of art. After all, it's not a widget. It springs to our soul from our eyes and through our hands to become something unique.

Today, while I worked on the initial layers of my most recent painting, Dennis, my handyman and all around go-to guy these days was painting the two walls in the hall my 5'2" body couldn't quite reach. He put in 6 hours and I paid him $360 for his time.

The paintings I've done this year have taken me anywhere from three to 70 hours to complete depending on the size and the complexity of the design, but I don't charge by the hour. Artists need to price their work more consistently than that. Sometimes a small piece might be more intricate than you'd think.

People generally expect that a larger piece should fetch a higher price. And often they are correct. It usually does take more time to complete and the materials that are required are also more costly. Similarly most folks would find it odd to see two comparably sized paintings priced dramatically differently so like most painters, I price my work basically by the square inch, rounding up or down if need be and taking a hit on the paintings that took longer and recouping some on the ones that took less. It all evens out.

Which brings me back to my original question, what is the value of my work? If I were Dennis,  and charged his hourly rate my paintings would cost almost twice as much as they do now, and that doesn't include materials. Maybe I should change my trade and paint walls instead! After all, I know many people who will pay a painter a thousand dollars or more to paint a room or two but who consider paying the same for an original piece of art a luxury.

It's what you value, I guess. I'm just happy so many people value art.

Image: Sunflower [unfinished] © Lissa Banks