Authorial Practice

(Part 5/Words and pictures/Authorial practice)

Authorial Practice

“A high degree of drive and marketing ability” referred to in the first paragraphs of this section are worrying to me. Marketing ability does not come naturally to me in spite of it’s being included on many courses I have done before. It requires extreme self-confidence in one’s ability to create high quality work on demand, a detailed knowledge of markets, prices, legislation, media and advertising as well as money , back-up, and a natural sales-acumen . Self publicists can succeed with minimal talent in all branches of art, photography and design and many do. A thick skin and a huge degree of self worth do not necessarily come with an aptitude for creativity. “Developing and using the means to target (an) audience”, is the key to success in any self-employed job.

Children’s publishing – unless one decides on self-publishing, this is a very difficult area to break into unless one already has a personal network which includes publishers.

Decorative illustration -This is an area for the self employed artist mainly so outlets are the important factor unless one secures employment with a very large company.

Fanzines and artists’ books – mainly a self-employed position although some semi-permanent contract work can be available.

Editorial – A very limited field available to a small number who have personal access to high-level publishing executives.

Artists’ prints and artworks – Work can be displayed on personal or commercial websites but publicity is the key to selling anything here. Galleries prefer to take work from ‘known’ artists. Winning competitions can be helpful in this area.

Fashion and accessories – this work tends to be based on employment by small companies. Self-created fashion businesses are also an option but funding can be the problem.

Employing a Marketing specialist who knows your business aims and your art world could be helpful but also very expensive. Being in partnership with a Marketing Specialist could be a key to success!

Commercial viability of artwork is a difficult problem. What you charge ‘per hour’ is the value you put on yourself. However, the time spent in creating an artwork is rarely reflected in the market value of the piece. Unless you are a known artist the work is worth only the cost of the materials, unless you can convince potential purchasers that your personal creativity has a value also. This brings us back to the art of salesmanship and the thick skin.

I met someone the other day who is a reasonable photographer. They randomly won a national photography competition and used that to create a photography business which after less than three years is worth a huge amount of money. This only happened because the person has amazing marketing and technical skills which were maximised by building a now very-profitable business from one successful photograph. Their photography skills (now much improved) were way down the list below the business creation, advertising, financial, computer and management skills used to achieve their success.

In Welcome to Artists’ Fine Art Gallery (Posted online November 29, 2012 by admin) I found an article which ended with the following quotation.


When all is said and done, it really comes down to one primary driving force… how effectively the artist is promoted to all aspects of the art world. The  gallerists and the artists themselves are the primary promoters. The more effectively they promote their art to the critics, the curators and the collectors, the greater the demand will be for their work and the higher the prices their art will command. A great example of this theory is Thomas Kinkade. In the opinion of most art professionals, Kinkade wasn’t a great artist but as a promoter, he was second to none. It’s reported that Kinkade was grossing around $100 million a year selling originals and reproductions and that as he grew he even hired artists to create his paintings for him.

While I wouldn’t offer even an original Kinkade on this site for sale, one has to tip one’s hat at his ability as a self promoter.

Until an artist can catch the eye and the interest of a leading gallerist to team up with them to promote their art at the highest levels of the art world, they need to shoulder that responsibility and accept the roll both as artist and marketing manager or engage people who can support that effort and that’s where we come in. We build the bandwagons and help start the buzz that gets an artist the recognition he/she deserves.

How much is your art worth?

As with any object , it’s value is the price someone is prepared to pay for it – a variable and elusive amount. Usually a painting is worth more than the canvas and paint upon it. The time spent creating it is relevant but that reflects the value of the artist not the painting. Apart from those aspects, its ‘appeal’ is crucial. Who is going to like it and why and are they prepared to put a value on owning it.

I found this interesting formula on “Artists Network” website:

A Simple Formula for Pricing Artwork by Lori Woodward

1. Multiply the painting’s width by its length to arrive at the total size, in square inches. Then multiply that number by a set dollar amount that’s appropriate for your reputation. I currently use $6 per square inch for oil paintings. Then calculate your cost of canvas and framing, and then double that number. For example: A 16”-x-20” oil-on-linen landscape painting: 16” x 20” = 320 square inches. I price my oil paintings at $6 per square inch. 320 x 6 = $1,920.00, and I round this down to $1,900.

2. My frame, canvas and materials cost me $150.00 (I buy framing wholesale).  I double this cost so that I’ll get it all back when the painting sells at the gallery. Otherwise, I’m subsidizing the collector by giving him or her the frame for free. $150 x 2 = $300.

3. Then I put it all together: $1,900 + $300 = $2,200 (the retail price). When the painting sells from a gallery, my cut after the 50 percent commission is paid comes to $950 for the painting and $150 for the framing, for a total of $1,100.

For much larger pieces, I’ll bring the price per square inch down a notch …  maybe a dollar or two lower so that I don’t price my work beyond what my reputation can sustain. Alternately, for smaller works, I’ll increase the dollar per square inch because small works take almost as much effort as larger works, and I need to be compensated for my expertise, even when the work is miniature.

Here is some advice for those making and selling jewellery:

Jewellery Pricing Formula The two-step system I use for pricing jewellery © by Rena Klingenberg

My Jewelry Base-Price Formula

It’s a simple equation:
Base price = (cost of materials + packaging) x 4, + your pro-rated hourly labor rate, then + 10% of that total for overhead costs

An Example of Using My Formula:

For this example, let’s say that: you made a necklace using $5 of supplies your packaging (tag, box, bow, bag, and business card) for this piece totals $1, the necklace took you 30 minutes to make your hourly labor rate is $20 (of course, your own labor rate may be much different, depending on your medium, your speed, and your skill level).

That means we can’t price the necklace below $37 without losing money on it. Now we can adjust that retail price up a little or a lot – depending on the  uniqueness and overall outcome of the necklace, how easily we could replace the components if we wanted to, and how much our intended market would be willing to pay.

There is a variety of data online and advice about ‘how much to charge for your design work?’
Much of it is from the US but there is also British advice too. There are discussions about whether to charge by the hour or a flat rate or a contract price or whatever. There is never a right answer and in the end it is down to the artist and the client or the company and the client. There is a whole library of books on the subject of ‘selling your artwork’ and even more on ‘how to start a small business’. Apart from the fixed legal regulations and requirements and health and safety stuff, a good deal of the information is little more than common sense advice. The answer is always charge as much as you think your client is willing to pay without losing any future business from them. When you become greatly in demand, then that is the time to raise your prices to the point where your workload is comfortably manageable. That will show you what your personal value as an artist is. Your profits should increase with success.

The commercial viability of your business will then become apparent. If your Design Practice does not pay for itself and keep you alive, then it is not viable and needs to be changed.