Category Archives: Art Business

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

New website live!

My website is all new and updated! It’s also responsive, that means it works on smart phones as well. I can now upload pictures myself and finally keep it current. Web design by Indus3ous.com. Have a look, if you like: http://www.frankeber.com

I will continue to post paintings and painting tips here on my blog and, reluctantly, on facebook also. I generally detest anything social media and I think it’s insidious how they exploit this thing that was once good!
Just to give you an idea: An art page that doesn’t pay them money (like mine) won’t get the posts seen by many people. Even if the number of page followers is high, the algorithms they’re using make it sure that posts are not distributed widely. Same goes for posting itself: if you spend less time on there it works against you! The less you post, the less traffic will be directed to your page.
All the pages, the ‘suggestions’ you see popping up on the right side of your stream are basically paid advertisements.

As artists we have no choice but to be on there for the obvious exposure. Although it is debatable what inherent value there is in connecting to all these other artists who basically do the same thing as me. Same goes for this or any other blog, of course. In the end it might be good for filling workshops and that’s about it!
Thanks for reading my general rant!

 

 

Daniel Smith, Seattle WA

Just back from a workshop and demo gig at the headquarters of this great company!
DS make high quality pigments and were the first to develop Quinacridones, now copied by just about every pigment manufacturer out there. They were also the first to come up with the dot card idea. It was only a small step to develop dot cards for individual artists as we see them today. Dot cards are being copied now as well.
I am happy to say I was the first artist who had his own dot card back in 2011. Since every artists palette changes over time, I have a brand new card now with about five or six new colors.

I make the card available to workshop participants only as it doesn’t make much logistic sense to send it out. I don’t want to charge for it and I don’t want to incur shipping charges either. If you’re curious about DS colors in general, they sell a dot card with a good color selection for five bucks here: http://www.danielsmith.com/Item–i-001-900-501-LIST

I am very grateful to be a featured DS artist and my heartfelt thanks goes to Katherine and John, as well as Joe, Thom and everyone else at the store who took care of me last weekend!

Hillside Fine Art welcomes my work!

I am very happy to announce that my work is now represented by Hillside Fine Art in Claremont, California.
I am the only watercolor artist in a gallery that is full of oil paintings. There are many big name artists of the California Art Club on the walls and I am quite honored to have my work exhibited with them! I hope I can do well; I have no idea, only time will tell!

I will have my first ever solo exhibition at Hillside in September! Very excited about that. Reception is scheduled for September 5, 2015. Details will follow. Please come on by if you’re in the area!

Understanding Fine Art Pricing


It is wonderful when people get in touch with me to tell me that they love my work and would like to purchase a painting. Often, those are people who don’t know much about fine art or the art world in general. Many are on facebook and come upon an artists work they like.
I decided to do a blogpost to explain why buying original art from a professional artist can be more expensive than most people think.

Most collectors are very familiar with the art world and visit galleries and art auctions. For the lay people, the whole business is sort of mystifying and strange.

Firstly, the operative word in art is: business
Art is a business. That means, everybody who’s involved strives to make money, even the collectors sometimes. How does an art buyer make money? As an investment. They are constantly out looking for new talent and many try to buy an artists work early in their career. They know once the artist is established, the work will be worth ten times as much.
The value of a painting is therefore a perceived value. If an artist is unknown, nobody will buy their work (except maybe family members and friends) If an artist is well known and has a big reputation, the paintings will be sold for a much higher price.

Emerging artists sell work for a lot less than professionals with a long list of accolades. It’s only fair. Getting established is a lot of work and takes years and years, even if you’re exceptionally good!

Secondly, there are the galleries.
Galleries are a great thing. It is the only place where we can truly admire art work.( aside from Museums) No, the internet does not work. A photograph of something in this day and age can’t be trusted at all. Sadly, there are artists out there who embellish their work with photoshop applications. I know first hand because I was on the board of a big watercolor society and saw a few cases of this with my own eyes. Too bad one can’t name people on here! That’s another issue anyways and maybe worth another blogpost.
Collectors usually don’t buy on the internet. They might look but then they need to see the art. Of course, the do!
Would you commit to buying a car just from a glance at a picture? No way. Art can only be judged in real life.

When it comes to pricing, most galleries take upwards of 50% of the money for a given painting. In San Francisco, there are galleries that take 70%. Yes. The thing is, they do a lot of work for us artists. They promote, they sell and they build our careers. They deserve half the money. Maybe not 70%, that is certainly excessive but 40 or 50% is commonplace. That means the artist only gets 50% after framing, shipping, insurance and other costs. Galleries don’t pay for the frames, artists do.

If I get an email about a certain painting, even if it’s not in my gallery’s possession and I could sell it directly, I cannot undersell my gallery! I will have to charge accordingly. If I undercut them, they will stop working with me.

Lastly, there’s the value of an original. All my paintings are unique pieces unless otherwise noted. That means there’s only one!
It is not mass produced. It’s not available on etsy or ebay. Nothing inherently wrong with places like that, you just won’t find serious artist’s work on there. That’s my opinion. It implies ‘bargain’ and ‘craft’. Not Fine Art.
Speaking for myself, my art does not go ‘on sale’. It’s not available everywhere. It’s exclusive and it will stay that way. For $200 you get a print, not an original.
I am aware that there are some of my colleges out there who give away their paintings cheaply. That is on them. I think it will hurt them in the long run but everybody makes their own decisions.

I hope I shed some light on this topic. I haven’t even mentioned expenses like studio rent, fees for exhibitions and advertizing. All has to be financed somehow. Overall, the job of being a pro artist is not an easy one and most cannot survive without teaching, myself included.

Final tips:
If you’re in a gallery and see a piece you really like, it’s ok to ask the gallery sitter or artist about a payment plan. Most galleries are open to that.
If you buy more than one painting, you can usually ask for a small (10 percent) discount.
If you want the artist to do a commission, be mindful that the price will be around the same (or more) than his or her regular work. Commissions are even trickier since the artist is trying to please the taste of a person they don’t know.

As many art collectors would confirm:
Buying art is an art in itself!

Now available: Museum-quality giclée reproductions

Frank_Eber-Horse_Back_Central_CA_grandeFrank_Eber-A_New_York_Minute_grandeFrank_Eber-Lunchtime_Walk_Morro_Bay_grandeI’m very pleased and excited to announce that a selection of my original work and prints is available through CaliforniaWatercolor.com. California Watercolor is a renowned and respected Southern California gallery dealing with fine art watercolors dating from the 1850s California Watercolor movement to now. On their site you’ll find names like Emil Kosa Jr., Millard Sheets, Hardie Gramatky, and Phil Dike (just to name a few). It is an incredible honor to be part of this gallery, which is based in Fallbrook, California. I am very grateful to the wonderful Linda Gramatky for recognizing my work and for her support!

cw_artistcw_galleryFind my work here and here.

In addition to some prints, select originals are available. California Watercolor uses 100% rag Arches paper with archival inks, each print embossed with the company’s seal of authenticity.

Please note that this is a carefully-curated selection of my work. If you are interested in other pieces, please feel free to contact me directly. Comments are always welcome!


Here are a few more paintings from my trip to Central Texas earlier this month! For more Texas paintings, go to frankeber.com and click on the Texas, USA gallery.