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Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

Am preparing to go to my first show in a couple of weeks.  Got the tent, display, etc. pretty much under control.  All the great conversations here have been a tremendous help.  Have one question I could use some help on.

I'm an abstract painter.  I've never sold anything.  So, I'm thinking I'll set my prices pretty low.  If I sell out (one can dream), I can always raise prices next time.  My question:  If I set my prices low (that is compared to the more experienced artists in the show), will that be considered bad form or unfair competition or just somehow not kosher?  If someone is selling their large (4x4) abstracts for $6k, is it bad form for me to sell mine for under $1k?

I've paintings between 16x20 inches and 4x4 feet in the show, ranging in price from $150 (framed) to $900 (gallery wrapped).  I wouldn't think better known artist's would mind, but I'm beginning to wonder if there is some sort of unwritten rule about this sort of thing.

Am I over thinking this?  Any insight would be appreciated.

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Beware of setting prices too low. They will depress the perceived value by buyers and they leave you no room to negotiate.

If the quality and visual appeal of everyone's work was completely and exactly the same the answer would be an easy one. However, the creative skills and talents of everyone is different...regardless of the years of experience or lack of... All of us have seen creations that have seemed overpriced for what it is and also creations that seem to be priced entirely too low.

You have to decide on a price that is fair for the time, effort, experience and expenses you have incurred...and then see how and if they sell. We are all here to make a profit in a competitive market and in my opinion we only compete with ourselves....

I hope your first show goes well and helpf you get some answers. Some shows are visited by crowds that spend money and others only attract crowds that are not buyers...

Good questions, and important to think about. You might consider doing a bit more research on current pricing for comparable artist works and materials used, as well as the tastes and lifestyles of the patrons expected to be at the venue. 

My husband and I are glass artists and know nothing about the "value" of paintings. But in our beginnings (15 years ago) we were chastised by other artists for setting our prices so low, and grateful for the input.

You don't want to put all that effort into your work and not show that you are proud of it. You don't want to give the illusion that you have used inferior materials, have copied the work or perhaps have not done the work yourself at all. You don't want to sell all your paintings and find out you've actually lost money by doing the show in the first place. Or worse, not sell any and then not understand why.

Best, I think, to price your work as fairly as you can from the beginning. My experience has been that you want to be in the "middle" range, not too cheap, and not too expensive.

Best wishes to you!

There's a lot of considerations with pricing.  I do colored pencil drawings and my originals range from $450 up to $3,000.  Even at shows where it's rare to sell a higher end piece, this price range validates the price of my smaller pieces.  Even when a buyer can't commit to the higher price drawings it provides a logic that will allow them to feel comfortable with a $450 purchase.  I agree to not undersell your work.  After figuring out the expenses of materials and the cost of the art fair you have to determine what your time is worth in the studio.   What do you feel is a fair price for your paintings?  What price range would you feel comfortable with?  Then go with that.  You can always adjust prices with more experience.  There's nothing worse than to sell a painting that is underpriced and resent the fact that you undersold your talent.

Personally I don't think the fact that you're new to selling your work should impact your pricing. No one who is coming to these shows has to know that you're just starting out. Set a price that you think compensates you fairly for your time and skill level. 

It’s ok to price your art according to the venue, too. When I participate in a high end art show, my prices are higher than when I go to a local art and craft show.  The market is different at each type of show, and really, your costs can be dramatically different, too, so pricing differently makes sense.  But like you, I am newer to showing, and have had other artists tell me I should raise my prices even higher!  Funny story, very well respected art show this past summer, a fellow artist came to my booth and wanted to buy a couple of my paintings at the end of the show if I still had them.  He also remarked on how low my prices were.  At the end of the show, I made a little profit, but not a killing.  I saw this artist again, and he sheepishly said he would have liked to purchase my paintings, but he lost money on the show and couldn’t afford it! 

Sonja, for any artist who also exhibits at a gallery, will be seeking gallery representation eventually, OR for an artist who hopes for repeat collectors/clientele, it is NOT okay to price your paintings according to venue.

The only price change should be when your work improves, causing the value of your work to appreciate, allowing you to INCREASE your prices.

When an artist cuts the price of their paintings, many people consider the skill of the artist as depreciating as well.

If you set your prices too low, people will think there is something wrong with, that you used poor/low quality canvas or paints, that you, as an Artist aren’t worth their time... Think wal*mart versus Macy’s.

You need to do some more research and maybe have an advisor guide you through what's really involved in doing an art show. What goes into how much it actually costs to do a show is more involved than you think. I've seen painters guided by their accountants to make sure they are actually earning a living when they sell a painting for a fair price. Expenses are not just booth fee, transportation and material cost. There are a lot more costs behind your fees that should reflect your cost of living including insurance and studio space. A lot to think about.

Larry Berman

I might be really hated... I sell 11x14 for $50, 16x20 for $75 and 22x30 for $110 - 100% all originals, never done a reproduction and never will. All my artwork is matted and bagged. The upside is I sell 50+ pieces on the average per show (only done a few shows since I just stated this summer). My artwork is also abstract (or semi-abstract), all done on Arches paper (watercolors anyway). 

I have just started on oils and canvases, 3'x3', 4'x3', and 6'x5'... those I'll have to price differently. I just rented a studio to do the larger pieces, no more room at home. 

Thanks to everyone.  What great advice.  I'll have just do some more research.

Bottom line is you can do whatever you want. But also consider the price you sell at also gives you incentive to create new work.

Larry Berman


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