Go On Then, Tell Yourself a Different Story

During a coaching call yesterday, the subject of pricing your art was raised.

The artist on Skype told me:

“Someone said that the best way to determine a price is this:

“Time spent plus materials = cost

“Wholesale price = cost X2

“Retails price = wholesale price x2”

And yes, that works.

But is it what your work is really worth?

After all, the value a work of art has is quite arbitrary.

Example: there’s a guy who steals other people’s photos online, draws on a moustache or whatever, and then sells prints of it for huge amounts. $200K, I think.

Which is a practice I don’t condone, by the way.

Theft is theft, is unacceptable.

But it does go to show that you can get folks to pay any price you want.

So is the times 2 formula really the best way to price your work?

I say it isn’t.

After all, it took you years to get where you are today.

Your entirely life made you into the person and the artist that you are now.

And, that’s probably been a long and arduous road to travel.

Sure has been for me.

So who should pay for all that practice and experience and learning and failing&getting up…


Or your buyers…?

There’s that nice anecdote about Picasso (retold with artistic liberty – I don’t know the actual details or even if it happened – but the point is EXCELLENT).

Ole’ Pablo was sat on a terrace in Paris, drinking Pastis (or coffee or Absynthe or whatever).

Along comes a wealthy lady:

“Oh Mr. Picasso, would you draw my poodle please?”

He puts pen to a napkin, throws down some squares and circles, and a triangle for good measure, and hands it over.

Thrilled, the lady wants to know the price.

He mentions a number, a high one.

“But Mr. Picasso, that only took you 5 minutes to make!”

To which the eminent artist replies:

“No madam, that took me 25 years”.

And you, are you any different?

Did you get born with a paintbrush in your mouth, did the power of creation just happen to you?

Of course not.

Even if your art career only started a few years ago, it’s your entire life that trained and prepared you for making what you make today.

And that’s worth money.

Good money.

Good money that you could ask for it – IF you dare.

Point in case:

My friend Emma Plunkett showed me some drawings she recently made during a life drawing class.

Except, this wasn’t like your average life drawing.

In this case, the model was a gymnast, sitting in and then hanging from a hoop.

And the pose changed every few minutes!

Put that on your brush and paint it…

And the drawings, they were amazing.

Just a few quick lines, as much as she could put down before the model would change.

But the movement, the power, the elegance and strength in those lines…

You can’t do that unless you’ve been at it for years or even decades.

And yes, those years or decades, they’re worth money too.

So if you tell yourself the story that your art is worth what a simple calculation gives you, you’re selling yourself short.

Tell yourself a different story, and let that guide you.

You art is worth all the years that you put in, + the experience of the buyer.

And that last bit is especially interesting, because the more something impacts a buyer, the more they’re willing to pay for it.

So look for the people who are REALLY thrilled with your work, and THEN set your prices.

As always: it’s all between your ears, including the story you tell yourself.

So maybe you want to tell yourself a different story, one where you value yourself, your work, and all the years that went into it.



Also published on Medium.

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