Pricing a Painting, Inch by Inch

‘Tugboat: Pictou, N.S.’ 2014 – Oil on Canvas, 24” x 30”

The price? How much is this painting really worth and how in the world did the artist come up with this apparently arbitrary figure?

Well, this mysterious amount does have a rational origin, and is not merely pulled out of thin air. So how is it determined?

There are numerous methods to determining the price for a painting. Some artists will simply assign a table based on a few categories of size, i.e. small, medium and large. Others may opt for a more precise, calculated model to establish value. And it’s not just labour that should be considered: materials are also a factor. Oil paints, depending on their quality, can cost two to three times that of acrylics. On a large-scale painting, this could be a considerable cost of production.

Then, there is always the market to consider: how does a particular artist’s work compare to other works of similar caliber? What is the history of sales for the artist? And what can the market support?

Framing is another issue. Often times, art buyers are not aware of the costs of quality, custom framing vs. ready-made products found off-the-shelf. For this reason, artists may offer works “framed or unframed” as options. (Note: I plan to delve into this topic more thoroughly in a future blog).

So, what is the price of ‘Tugboat: Pictou, N.S.’?

I have used the tried and true “dollar per square inch” model. Depending on variables mentioned earlier, a dollar figure is determined (I have established $0.85 per square inch for this work) and then multiplied accordingly.

This painting is 24” x 30”. Therefore, 720 square inches multiplied by $0.85 = $612 (rounded to $625 for uniformity and clarity), unframed. Note: This is my private sale price. A mark-up would likely be applied if sold through a gallery, as they tend to take as much as 50% in commissions on final sale price (another major topic to explore in the near future).

Would you like that framed or unframed?

– Robert Kramberger

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a good painting is priceless.