The cost of fine art and why there are no prices on my website

Every now and then I am getting an email from someone who is interest in buying a painting. While I think that’s very nice, I will have to explain a few things since most lay people do not know much about art or the art market.

Purchasing original fine art is not cheap. Most collectors constantly watch for up and coming artists and purchase their work early as it gets higher and higher once an artist is established and working with high end galleries. Original art means there’s only one unique painting and usually no reproductions unless otherwise noted. So why is art expensive?

Great question! The price of art is closely related to the reputation of an artist. The work of a nationally known artist will fetch a higher price than the work of someone in a local art association. Dead people’s work is much higher simply because they no longer produce new art. Unfortunately, the price of art has nothing to do with ‘how good’ the work is. There are artists who are great self marketers and despite being poor painters, they are selling at high prices. Anything can be art. The word ‘art’ is not protected or even well defined, just like the word ‘natural’ in the food industry. But I digress…

I thought it would be a good idea to break down costs so everybody can easily understand why paintings cost what they cost. On a side note, there are artists out there who overestimate their value, but also some that underestimate their worth. It can go both ways.

Anyone who works with galleries (like myself) is not underselling their galleries. That would be very unwise but I know some people do it regardless. What that means is to sell a painting directly for much cheaper than what it would sell in the gallery. If the gallery gets wind of it, they won’t be happy and in all likelihood drop the artist.

Galleries do work for us. They promote us and give us space so we can properly showcase our art. Where else can you go see art? The only other place is a museum or sometimes when an artist has an open studio sale.

Social media or the internet in general is not a good place since you can’t trust what you’re seeing. How would you know what you’re getting unless you are personally familiar with the artists work? I’d be very careful as there are artists who ‘doctor’ their paintings in photoshop software to ‘enhance’ the look of it. Besides, most people would have to see what impact a painting has and that can only be done in real life.

Furthermore, reputable fine art galleries have mailing lists of collectors that many artists can just dream about. Most artists have mailing lists with other artists on them. (who want to paint like them)

The price of a painting has several factors included.

1.The percentage the gallery takes (between 40 and even 70% in San Francisco) Yes, they take that much! Nowadays, 50% is pretty common.

2.The time and years spent on art education, i.e. going to art academy or other schools, taking workshops or whatever other formal training there was where considerable money was spent as a long term investment. (Comparable to what a lawyer charges you just to see you and their rate is much higher)

3.Costs of materials. Not that much but it has to go in

4.Cost of framing. No, the gallery usually does not frame our pictures. We do.

5.Cost of shipping to gallery. Unless we can drop off our work, we have to factor in shipping costs. I work with a gallery in North Carolina and live in California. UPS has just raised their rates again by almost 20% for my type of shipping.

Lastly, at the end of the year we have to pay taxes. Every painting will be taxed with federal tax.

Here’s an example: Let’s say the painting costs $1800 in a gallery (not too high, not too low, pretty average price)

50% for the gallery: $900 = $900
Time spent for education: $100 = $800
Art materials: $40 to $50= $750
Framing costs: $150 to $200= $550
Shipping costs: $50= $500
Tax: $25= $475

So, on a painting priced $1800, the artist might get approx. $475. If the gallery percentage is higher, it’s of course less. (Note: these are approximations, some may be higher or lower)

So, why are there no prices on my website?

The reason I am not putting prices is simple and my personal choice: I don’t want anybody to know who just visits my site. If someone is really interested in buying, they will go through the ‘trouble’ of sending me an email. Some artists come to my blog and website basically just to get information. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I have control over what information about my art should be public and what shouldn’t be. Another good reason is as stated above, the artwork will become more valuable as the reputation of the artist grows. We sell lower when we are first starting out. It’s just like in any other professional field, i.e. musicians, athletes etc.

This should help clear some of the confusion. Many artists offer payment plans. We are well aware that not many people have money piled up at home. Life itself is expensive enough.

Would I ever sell directly? Yes, I would but only unframed works and with all the above considerations. For pricing, please email me at eberdotfrankatgmaildotcom

Design in painting

A painting starts in our heads. An idea or something we see that ignites our inspiration. Then the design part follows, which means placing shapes and objects in a way that makes sense. We need to consider how to divide the space, how the patterns and lines relate, what to leave in and what to leave out.
The editing process can be quite difficult since nature usually supplies too much information.
For me, the best way is to ask myself whether the object supports what I want to show or not. If I am not sure, I usually leave it out.

Developing a focal point is certainly important but we wary of rules of any kind: there are plenty of ‘don’t do this, do that’ rules out there that were, over the course of painting history, often ignored by successful painters. In fact, the rule breakers were often times trail blazers for something new. Andrew Wyeth’s work (again!) comes to mind. I remember one painting where he put the subject (the girl he painted) on the bottom edge of the painting and cropping her half off. Yet, his painting worked just fine.

Following painting rules too closely can inhibit one’s creativity. Am I saying there are no rules? Not really. When we look at a painting we certainly know whether the design works or not. It’s easy to see when it doesn’t work. However, sometimes paintings don’t have large simple patterns, strong and connecting lines or the lightest and darkest values right where the focal point is. Yet they look amazing!

The only right place to put a focal point is where ‘you’ like to see it, not where a teacher told you because some lines intersect. Again, that may work but if you find another solution I would recommend going with that. It’s your painting, not theirs..

Having ‘a path through the painting’ is another tricky thing that may or may not work. There’s absolutely no guarantee that a person looking at the work will see it the way you see it.
I think educating ourselves about design is important. We need to know what has been done and what works. It’s a good idea to analyze paintings you really like and try to figure out ‘why’ you like them.
Once you know you can add those aspects to your own painting!

A week in Yosemite!

Once again I supported the Yosemite conservancy art program by teaching free classes for almost a week. In return, I got to stay in this magical place for free. Still a good deal, considering that the lodge is still $250 per night even this late in the season! Even without it, I feel good about giving back a bit and sharing my art with people who might not be able to afford a workshop.
My classes were filled every day and, despite some rain storms we had a wonderful time! Archer liked it also, even though he looks a bit apprehensive when we stopped at Tunnel view!

During my week of outside teaching I noticed that many students don’t understand the concept of color harmony. Many paint a blue sky, green trees and yellow grass creating ‘sectional paintings’ where one area has no relationship with the other. The results often look amateurish or child-like.

The key is to limit the palette to mostly primaries and be aware that every color has a bit of the other colors in it too. If you have a red barn in a green field it sticks out like a sore thumb, but if you put a little bit of that red in the grass and a little bit of that green into the barn, it looks much more natural and beautiful.

Lastly, there is a so-called super color in every painting. The color that sets the mood of whatever it is you’re painting. It can be found throughout the picture and helps to make the work look more unified.

Breaking the rules!

We’ve all learned painting rules during our Academic training or in workshops when we started out.
I always remember Kevin McPherson’s famous line: ‘Black in sunlight is lighter than white in shadows’. The other famous one which I can’t remember right now who said it: ‘the darkest light in the light has to be lighter than the lightest dark in the shadow. Keep the light and dark tonal ranges separate to show realistic form.’

How come there are so many paintings out there where those rules are seemingly disregarded?

That’s what Andrew Wyeth called ‘going beyond the facts’. Looking at the images below it’s easy to see that the value range in these pictures must’ve been at least partly invented. The tall foreground grass is too dark even though it’s obviously in the sun and the back hill is way dark for a more dramatic effect.

wyeth

wyeth2

 

It’s even more obvious in the second image: why are the blanket and the flower patch on the lower right so dark even though they are obviously in the sunlight?

The best answer is simply that art should be about expression and that fact is often completely forgotten or missed by many painters. I think it has to do with the fact that the general public judges art by how realistic it is painted. You often hear the phrase: oh wow, that looks just like a photograph. Like that’s the best thing ever! To some that is more of an insult than a compliment (harshly spoken of course) because what is the ARTISTIC point of copying something verbatim, even if you achieve photo realism? What message is the painting carrying? Where’s your personality in it?

Having said that, most artists start out that way. We are obsessed with copying it the way it is and that’s ok. It is a process and we develop and grow as artists. Further along in our art endeavor we might ask ourselves ‘what am I trying to say’, ‘why do I paint this scene’ and ‘what would my message be’?

I continue to go through phases like that. Sometimes a painting I paint looks overly realistic to me and then I don’t really like it. Sometimes it has a painterly quality or feel to it and still looks real (but only if you step back) and I like that best!

Check out this image I found of Wyeth painting on top of his jeep. Super cool! I love how the watercolors drip down the hood and of course the puppy patiently waiting in the car! My dog would try to climb onto my lap making painting impossible!

andrew-wyeth-plein-air2

American Impressionist Society and New Brushes!!


While I was teaching in Albuquerque I got word that my painting won the ‘Award of Excellence for Watermedia’ at the 17th Annual National Juried Exhibition, held at the Howard Mandville Gallery in Kirkland Washington. This exhibition runs until October 30, 2016. If you’re in the area, please check it out! Some of the best painters in the country are part of it. It is 90% oil paintings, so I am very happy to have won an award with a watercolor.

Watercolors are generally ignored in the wider world of art. Especially galleries don’t like them, because they are mostly framed behind glass and they claim that they can’t sell them. The medium is arguably much harder to master and more expensive to frame, yet watercolors fetch only a fraction of the money an oil painting would. It has been like this historically and is unlikely changing any time soon. That’s why it is so important to get this recognition. Maybe it will help all of us watercolor artists.

I am happy to announce that I officially have my own brush line! I am very proud to work with DaVinci, one of the oldest brush manufacturer in the world. Today, almost all brushes are made in China, India and Sri Lanka. In the western world there are only a few original and small companies left that actually make brushes on-site. They are hand made by artisans who do three and five year apprenticeships! Nuremberg, Germany was always known as a brushmaker city and DaVinci is continuing this tradition despite all the cheap and low quality competition out there. These brushes come in three sizes (2, 4 and 6). They have newly developed, fully synthetic hair that holds the same amount of water a natural hairbrush would. Bristles never break and no animals were harmed in the process. Please check my website for more information!

A week in Provence

I had the privilege to teach a class in the beautiful south of France last week. There were an interesting mix of painters from Alaska, Texas and California as well as Israel and Norway!
The trip was organized by Jackie Grandchamps of French Escapade.  Jackie knows her stuff, she was a pleasure to deal with and did everything she could to accommodate us painters! I highly recommend French Escapade!

We lived and painted in Venasque, which lies in the mountains just east of Avignon, Provence.
We also did excursions to different painting locations like Isle-sur-la-Sorge, Gordes, and St.-Remy-de-Provence, where we painted in the garden of a famous hospital: the same one where Vincent van Gogh checked himself in so long ago. Remarkably, it is still a hospital today! Only the section where van Gogh lived is a museum.

Painting en plein air is hard work when it’s hot and we had very warm weather. Better than rain, that’s for sure, so nobody was complaining. There was always a nice and shady spot where we could hide from the heat! How does one deal with the heat when painting outside? Arguably, it might be better to switch to another medium but when painting watercolors, it is essential to bring a spray bottle to keep the washes wet. In dry conditions, every brushstroke dries in seconds! The sprayer helps to extend the drying time. I also make sure my painting and palette is never in full sun. Before I start my drawing I always spray my wells and close the palette so the pigments are ready when it’s painting time!

In other news: Yours truly will be featured in the October/November edition of Plein Air magazine! I was interviewed by Steve Doherty, the editor, and I am very grateful for being included! Here’s my painting philosophy as the magazine printed it:

“Painting should go deeper than copying nature as it is,” says watercolorist Frank Eber. “I want to find an interpretation of the thing that’s underneath — what gives it life. In essence, I am trying to paint what cannot be painted.”

Maybe I overdid it a bit, eh? …But seriously, wouldn’t that be something!!

Painting Vineyards!

We live in wine country and get lots of tourists over the weekends who do wine tasting tours and visit one of our numerous great restaurants in Paso Robles, Central California.

Many people tell me I should do workshops here, locally. They do have a point. Our area is beautiful with rolling hills, littered with nice barns, cows and horses. It is also extremely varied when it comes to landscape painting: I can do a barn painting early and be on the coast in Cambria in less than 30 minutes and paint the magnificent coastline, Torrey pines and rocky cliffs!

Painting vineyards is not easy. They do sell quite a bit in galleries around here but they are tricky to paint, I think. They are usually just rows and rows of sameness therefore it’s easy to produce something that looks all green, contrived and boring. Remember, there’s nothing more boring in painting than symmetry!

I didn’t like much how I painted them when I first moved here, (see sentence before LOL) but I think I am getting the hang of it. Slowly. The key is to somehow brake up the all the directional lines that the rows of vines naturally create. So it’s important how to position yourself to the vineyard, in other words, picking the right viewpoint! The vines can never be the focal point. Well, maybe not never but often it’s good to have a structure or some other point of interest in it. Rows of vines could look interesting with vineyard workers in them, but I haven’t encountered any so far. Maybe in the fall. Once the colors are changing it will look even more spectacular! I can’t wait…