The Cost of Art

The Cost of Art

Have you ever found yourself loving an art piece online or in person, but find that the price tag isn’t at all within your financial means? Many people dismiss the prices artists charge on their work, calling it “a scam”, “too expensive”, or at worst “not worth it”.

Some people even try to get free work out of creators and in return, promise exposure for their hard work. In the case of myself, I’ve dealt with old acquaintances asking for free or cheaply priced logo and branding work.

Most people have a limited budget on what they can spend every month. I completely understand that. However, it’s important to understand that the price of a final piece isn’t just determined by a creator putting a set of random numbers together. In fact, a lot more goes into that price tag than you may think.

So, why is art priced the way it is?

1. Time

This is most certainly a huge factor in how an artist prices their work. Time is the most valued thing in our society today next to money, and while money can be replaced, time can’t.

Imagine working at a job for months at end, and not getting paid for the effort or work you did. It would feel frustrating because you weren’t compensated properly for the time you dedicated to completing certain tasks or projects.

Similarly, the time that an artist puts into creating a piece is just as valuable. Therefore, the more time they put into creating something, the more they’re probably going to charge in the final pricing of their art.

Of course, that’s not to say that artists who don’t spend days on single project aren’t putting in effort compared to those who spend months completing a single piece. In fact, an artist who can quickly create something from sketch to final render in a matter of hours, probably spent time (usually years) honing their craft. It’s very rare that someone can just pick up a pencil or stylus and have the same, if not, comparable skills to that of an expert.

Execution takes time.

Therefore, expect to see this “time” taken into consideration when an artist prices their work. 

2. Taxes

While the average working person gets taxes and other wages withheld from their paycheck each week, a commissioned artist, or any other type of creative freelancer, will have to pay taxes in a lump sum at the end of each tax year.

Any money they make is considered taxable, and therefore will cause them to surrender some of their profits. Artists may choose to price their art accordingly to help cover these expenses.

3. Medical Insurance

Just like taxes, the average working employee can also have the option to have insurance or other types of benefits deducted from their paycheck each week. These benefits can help them in a medical emergency, and prepare for the future.

However, because a full-time artist solely relies on their own income, they’re responsible to set up their own type of benefits if they choose. This can be very expensive and can influence the price of a piece.

4. Tools

Every artist needs tools to create work, and items like brushes and paint need to be replenished over time. Professional tools, especially those of a high quality brand, are going to cost a pretty penny. Additionally, many traditional artists opt for the more expensive brands because they produce a much better result than their cheaper counterparts.

Creating digital art is a bit less expensive in my opinion, however, that doesn’t mean digital artists can create without having to pay some sort of expense to pursue what they love most.

Sure, there are free types of creative software on the market that anyone can use, but digital artists still have to pay for computers, tablets, or other peripherals needed to use such software. Additionally, with how quickly technology has been changing, the devices they invested in can become obsolete in a matter of a few years.

In fact, this is one of the reasons why I chose to build my own PC from scratch. It still came with a price, but this way I can update parts when needed, rather than replace the whole machine itself.

5. Finishing Touches

When an artist is finished with a piece, they do more than just sign their name. Many artists may choose to varnish, frame, or make prints of their piece. Not only does this make it look professional, but it helps to protect the integrity of what they just created.

It makes sense for an artist to do this because if you just spent weeks or even months creating something, you’d most likely want to take pride in protecting it. However, framing, varnishing, or printing can be quite costly. In fact, an illustrator named “Happy D. Artist” spent hundreds of dollars on her at home printing set up.

6. Event Expenses

It’s exciting to attend a convention with others who share similar interests, and it can be even more exciting to see all of the talented artists who have their own spaces with work for sale.

However, vendors and artists alike do not just get to set up shop for free. Whether it’s at a flea market or convention, they’re most likely going have to pay some sort of fee to utilize a certain space, and depending on the type of event this cost can greatly differ due to a variety of factors.

Additionally, this fee doesn’t include the cost of transportation, food, and room expenses while in attendance. Many artists have to travel far for an event or convention, so don’t be surprised to see artwork priced higher to help cover these expenses.

7. Shipping Costs

If an artist sells physical work online, they’ll need to ship it to interested buyers. Often shipping isn’t a major expense, but it can cost a lot if the work is large or being shipped to a different country. Certain artists may provide free shipping or simply add the average shipping expenses to the final price of the piece they’re selling online.

8. Additional Fees

Any other additional fees an artist can have include: licensing or copyright fees, website hosting fees, or even electronic payment fees if they run a store online or accept credit cards.

Ultimately, the price of art between artists can vary for a multitude of reasons, but these are often the main factors that contribute to the overall price of a piece or commission. Remember, they’re running a business, and need to make a living just like everyone else.

The next time you see an art piece you love but can’t afford, don’t dismiss the price, rather show support for that artist in other ways.

So, how can you support an artist without breaking the bank?

Give back on Patreon.

If you haven’t heard of Patreon, it’s a wonderful online platform that allows creators of any medium to utilize their community and fans to generate income and help support them in what they love doing most.

Patreon supporters often receive special gifts every months from the creators they support, and can pledge as little or as much as they want.

Various creators use Patreon as a way to maintain a stable monthly income so they can work independently full-time. If you see your favorite artists on there, don’t be afraid to show them some support and love, even pledging $1 a month makes the biggest difference.

Purchase prints or other affordable media.

Prints are often the most affordable way to go when buying a piece from an artist, and around the holidays, some artists even have special sales. Additionally, buying items such as stickers, pins, or patches is also another affordable way to support your favorite artist. Media like stickers and pins can be printed in bulk, and require less materials to create than say a piece on a very large canvas, so the price is going to reflect that.

Artists may also publish their work, process, or sketches in a book. Purchasing one of these books is a great way to see how other artists work. It’s very inspirational when you’re having creator’s block!

Here are a few of the books I currently own:

Art books on a white table.

Before you make any type of purchase, just be sure you’re buying authentic work from the artist themselves, and not from an online store that profits off of stolen artwork.

Show support through social media.

Artists continue to reclaim spaces online, from Reddit to Instagram to Twitter, artists are everywhere and will happily share their process or final pieces for the world to see. It’s a great feeling when people engage with your work online, so don’t shy away from leaving comments or likes if you do truly appreciate the piece an artist has created.

Be cautious of sharing artwork online though, not all artists are okay with having their work reposted by other people, and for the most part, sharing or using work that doesn’t belong to you can land you in a lot of legal trouble.

Remember, if you’d like to share or use work on your website, social media, or other places to show support, ALWAYS reach out to the original creator for permission, and once you’ve been given permission, be sure to credit them in the place you intend to use their work.

Do you have any favorite artists you’d like to show support for? Shout them out in the comments below!

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