We have a booked up Spring schedule & we are working our little butts off trying to get everything from paintings to reproductions ready. Unfortunately our shows are small to medium sized events. 

Medium sized, being Fairview, Lubbock...Small being local wine shows and small local shows. We aren't going to venture out of state this year and want to make these count. We averaged around $1000 per show last year..If you're a painter with original canvases & reproductions like us, what do you earn as an average per show?

To earn more; Do you limit the variations on your print sizes? Do you hike up your prices on your originals, in relation to the booth fee/expenses? 

I'd rather  sell a high priced canvas, but am fearful of spending our whole time worrying we don't sell anything because we've out priced ourselves for a small show. It seems to take courage to price our 24x24"canvases above $500..

A relative our mine once told me he nearly went out of business in his manufacturing plant, because he was too competitive with his prices. As a last resort he doubled his prices and his business became a resounding success!

Is upping the price the true gutsy move to success?

Opinions welcome.

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  • Small show isn't always a low end show. I had one small show where I only sold notecards and originals over $600. Nothing in between. Bring a range of work.
  • WOW...is this topic germane to today, or what?....I'm an ol' fart that for all of the '90s and the first half of the 00s got very used to shows where I sold nothing until after the show and nothing was less than $2400.  Yes, much of it was commission work with some upfront sales of things I brought with me. This type of marketing I stumbled into, an organic process, and like anything organic it had a shelf life and began to quickly rot after around 2005.  By 2009 I gave up on shows entirely and found junk day jobs. Stinks. Today I'm completing a new and totally different body of work and plan to start shows again this year.  I'm fully aware how the "middle class" is dying and all that, but I believe people gotta have art.  I grew up in Ann Arbor and watched that show absolutely boom through the 70's when Michigan's unemployment was over 40% in many locations yet the Street Fair was packed and grew.  I'm struggling with pricing with my new pen and ink drawings that are supplemented with very high quality archival pigmented inkjet prints done here in my studio on a Canon Pro-1 printer.  Nothing is larger than 11x14" framed.  The originals are to be priced around $500 and the matted prints under $50.  I plan on keeping the shows "small" in COST overall and thus hope just one original will get me out of the doghouse (no offense to dogs) and any smaller sales are more or less profit.  I'm in new territory here so I'm the blind leading,... I don't know,... the blind?  

  • Thanks for your input. I figure we'll start upping our prices say by a 3rd overall, see if it pays off...Scary to think we might not make anything, but then again it may well be the difference for making an actual profit to painting and putting all the hard work in. I've also read elsewhere before, that artists that have their art priced too low will ruin it for everyone else. I have a habit of talking myself out of a sale when it's priced highly..I also offer discounts which is a bad idea. It reeks of desperation..My wife who has a background of sales always tells me to introduce the piece then shut the hell up and wait...

    • Hi Lee, I am just wondering how your strategy went?

      • I would also like to know how that's working out for you?

        • Yeah, me too.  I am happy to see this conversation bumped up.  I think many that are starting out in any field of art or craft potentially deals with this subject.  My prices on my coasters are double what they were 2 years ago and sales have not slacked off.

          My tumbled travertine trivets on the other hand have languished.  I had them at $25 and they just quit selling about a year ago.  So I dropped the price to $20, and still no sales.  I am thinking about doing something with the price but not sure what.

          • Thanks for the input guys. We took a year off from doing art festivals. I suppose that answers it. As much as we love being out there with other artists and getting our stuff seen and hopefully bought, we just didn't get enough revenue to justify continuing with the applications and then the booth fees. We have upped our skateboard prices on our last festival and sold a few more but we also lowered our print prices and sold small blocks..i think when do decide to rough it out in the art festival market again we will bring lots of canvas prints rather than all original work. That way we will always have plenty of work on display and also be able to sell more competitively. I think it takes guts to jack up the prices of original art and risk not selling a single item. We will take the safe bet with canvas prints along side originals. Also we'll be looking to have a seriously professional booth set up utilizing trimline tent and propanels rather than our ez-up and meshpanels..

  • Hi Lee
    I too have wondered the same thing about my art and prices. I do 3D mixed media. I am starting out with pieces 100-300 and a few over 500. Hopefully, this will be a good range for the work. Not too low and not incredibly high. I am scared to death that I won't make anything, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. We will see how it goes, my first show is this weekend.
  • I'm a photographer, so some things may not translate well. The gist of it is that last summer I lost my shorts. I've been told by customers that my prices are very reasonable, and that's a coded phrase that says "I could have paid more". Like your relative I durn near went bust by being competetive and reasonable. My prices are going up by about 1/3 this year. My add-on for frames is going up more,  as frame shops charge about 3 times for the same frame.


    The sizes I've offered have been an 8x12 print in a 12x16 matte (flip bin only; no framed versions), a 12x18 print in an 18x24 matte, and a 16x24 print in a 24x30 matte. I started adding 20x32 canvas prints this past year with mixed success, and in retrospect the price was too low and they're going way up in price, 50-70% higher just because everyone else's prices are up there. Price it too low and the customer thinks something is wrong with it or it's printed in China.


    My mid sized pieces sell more often framed, probably because the frames are lower than the frame shops. Those prices could go up and I would still be getting a decent profit while cheaper than a frame shop.



  • I will let others address the specific questions you have asked, for now, because I'm a photographer, not a painter. 

    But I am unclear about one thing: A "small show" can be small in terms of number of artists, or small in terms of number of attendees, or both...and I'm not sure which you mean. Could you clarify? 

    If you mean a small show is small in terms of number of attendees, I'd like to challenge one of the inherent assumptions you've made:  That "small show" necessarily equates  to "low-end show". 

    Whether a show is high end or low end depends on who the show is marketed to, and who responds to that marketing by showing up. 

    I've had some of my best sales days at small, 40-artist shows marketed only to niche buyers within a high demographic, where only 1500 people attend.  I've had some of my worst at huge, 300-artist shows that are marketed to all comers and 50,000 attend. 

    My point:  Don't assume a well-run, small local show won't be nicely profitable.

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