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How much?! for a piece of paper. Understanding art pricing

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

I recently chatted to my Dad about the price of one of my paintings, "HOW MUCH?!" was his response. "What someone would pay that for an A4 piece of paper". Now I know there's a lot to unpick in that statement, but don't panic, I'm not crying into my laptop as I type.

He wasn't being nasty and he wasn't casting dislike on what I had produced. I mean he loves everything I do, I'm his favourite - he literally answers the phone with "Hello Daughter number one" (which has nothing to do with being his first born).

What he was saying, was exactly what most people think about when they purchase anything; the price tag.

Unfortunately, most of us aren't in the position to waltz into a shop and pick out anything we fancy without checking that tag. We're also a bit obsessed about picking up a bargain, which in most cases means spending as little as possible.

Don't get me wrong I love a hinch haul and pre lockdown a trip to Homebargains or B&M was one of my favourite things. But, one of the reasons I go there is because I know I can get a trolley load of stuff and rarely go over the contactless card limit.

So, as I said, when my Dad questioned on how to price art I wasn't surprised.

Now, to the point in hand - how much for a piece of paper? how on earth do you work out how much an artwork should go for? Well there's lots of different ways, some you need a degree in mathematics, others are slightly easier and you work out a cost per surface area, others base it on medium.

Honestly, it's a little confusing, but what I want to do is to make sure my art work is affordable, for me and those buying it. So how do I work it out? Drum roll please....

Materials Cost + Time = Price


So as an example a good quality 100cm x 100cm canvas can cost £70, plus the delivery. Then on top you have the paint cost, varnishing and UV to finish. The artist will also need to factor in an amount to cover business rates, electricity, throw in there gallery cuts, card processing fee's... So you have the rough materials cost already over £100.

Ok, I lied it's not that simple- time?! how do you put a price on that?

Well what I also take into consideration is what people spend their "enjoyment / leisure / treat" money on. Perhaps I should label my artwork - this is getting your nails done, this is a cut and colour, this is a weekend away and this is a mini break. Or, this is a bottle of gin, this is a new outfit, this is a full blown takeaway and this is a night out.

So, back to a large painted canvas it would easily take me as long as a weekend away or a mini break so for me, other artists pricing will be different, I would put a 1meter x 1 meter canvas painting between £400 - £600.

If you're still saying how much?! then if we were to take the price per surface area inch method 39inch x 39inch (100cm x 100cm) = £1521 ..... Then my way you are grabbing a BARGAIN

So I explained this logic to my Dad and also my husband who was in ear shot and it was like watching a lightbulb switch on above their head.

It makes sense, particularly when you take into consideration that I've not even touched upon the additional value of handmade. I've not touched upon

Also the value in you knowing that when you buy from a maker or small business there is an actual normal person benefiting from your purchase.... but that's another blog post.

However, if big paintings are still out of your price range then there's always a "getting your nails done" item in the shop.

Side note - The image used is of me getting my nails done by Your Beauty Hideaway

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