Friday, 5 March 2010

How are paintings priced?

The weather has been lovely this week, still a nip in the air but wonderfully sunny! The first daffodils have come out in my garden and the yellow crocuses have been joined by the purple ones.

But I've spent most of the week indoors, making a catalogue of my greeting cards (and wishing I had a lot fewer designs!) and printing nearly 100 cards to take to The Trading Post, one of our most popular coffee shops.

I managed to get them all finished and packed and labelled in time to take them in at the less busy time (I thought!) between the lunchtime trade and the arrival of the 'Afternoon Tea' brigade. As I expected, there were very few customers at around 3.30 - but I was completely wrong to assume that would be a quiet time for the manageress! She barely stopped her sweeping and mopping when I arrived with my basket of cards but just indicated a space on the bottom shelf where I could leave them.

I don't feel very optimistic about selling many - I don't think I would bother to stoop right down to that level to investigate what's in the basket. So I shall check them over when I'm next in the coffee shop after the Wednesday Walk and if there hasn't been much movement, I'll think of somewhere else to take them. I have one or two other places in mind!

Having delivered what had seemed to become quite a heavy load by the time I reached The Trading Post, I decided to try to find a newish gallery that I'd heard about, tucked away up in one of the side streets. Normally I'd be rushing around the shops as fast as possible so I've never managed to track it down till now. But today, having worked so hard all week, I took my time and found it. It isn't actually new at all, it's just that I've been too busy to look for it! I had an interesting conversation with the gallery owner and we got on to the subject of pricing art, which turned out to be one of his specialities. I've always been baffled by how art is priced.

When I first began exhibiting, the gallery owner advised me to price my work just under £200 and that did seem about right, judging by the amount of original pastel paintings I sold at my first exhibition. But a few months later, I only sold prints and photos at my second exhibition and couldn't understand why as it took place in a very affluent area. A friend who helped me cart some paintings down to a gallery in Monmouth insisted that I was under-pricing my work, that I would sell more if I asked more for my paintings. He backed this up by pointing out a window-full of really very bland paintings, just horizontal stripes in shades of blue, suggesting the sea, I suppose, in a nearby gallery, that were priced around the £2000 mark. His argument was that if people saw a high price they would think they were buying something really good - and vice versa. I never did quite have the nerve to try it but it did make me wonder!

I also wondered whether 'size' was a factor? Are there people who buy paintings by the square yard as some purportedly buy books 'by the yard'? If that were the case, I might well become rich as I prefer to paint really big and 'downsizing' for greeting cards that will fit in my scanner has been quite a challenge! I've been known to use full sheets of plaster board for life drawings, though this quick sketch was a mere A2 size!

I was in my element painting scenery for various amateur dramatics groups - these were for a church group's panto, Dick Whittington. The stage was very small and there were a lot of scenery changes so we hit upon the idea of 'minimalist' scenery. Someone somehow obtained some old, brown sheets from Norwich Prison and I painted on those, with powder paint, mixed with washing up liquid. These were attached, top and bottom, to broom handles and lowered and raised by an improvised system of pulleys. Miraculously, on the night (or rather 'nights')  nobody tripped over the ropes and the 'scenery' moved up and down at the right times!

But, after that trip down memory lane, back to the question of how art is priced. This afternoon, in Martin's Gallery, I learnt that it is really quite simple and logical. It all depends on how well known the artist is. So it may be that we're back to the thorny area of 'promotion' again!

I saw very little to get really enthusiastic about in the gallery, but just as I was leaving, I noticed a small rack of greeting cards for sale - and these, by John Knapp Fisher I loved! He is apparently Wales's most well-known painter, though he wasn't born in Wales. His cards are on sale for £2.50 and I shall defintitely go back there when I want a really special greeting card! (Yet another place to buy cards in Abergavenny - I've thought of at least 20 places now!)

On my way home, I went into our little department store next to the newsagents and took this photo.

No, it's not by another famous Welsh artist - it's by the newsagent himself!

He had told me that he works 'next door' on a Wednesday and when I went in to collect my money on Tuesday, he took out a scrap of paper on which he had sketched Sugarloaf mountain (in the pub!) from a photo in a magazine. It was just a pen and ink scribble really but I could see that he had captured the 'moodiness' of the mountain that had impressed him in the photo. With that he left a shop full of customers and whisked me into the shop next door, where he showed me his chalk drawing above the main counter and pointed out all the little details, like the heart-shaped 'bites' he had taken out of the scrolls! He then pointed out various shop-fronts he had painted and decorated and ones he has been asked to do in the future.

If he weren't doing about four jobs already, he might do well on Greeting Card Universe!


Country Mouse Studio said...

I've heard the same thing about pricing art higher and have had the same problem trying to display cards without a rack. Some handiman needs to come up with a solution for us.

JudyAdamsonArtandDesign said...

Are there any creative handymen out there reading this?

Itaya said...

I love this post! I'm placing a link to it on my art blog. Thank you for all that you contribute there. I really appreciate it. :)