Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Judging the PGE Member Show

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Dorothea Schulz of the Pastel Guild of Europe to be the judge for their "Get Dusty" Online Member's Show for the month of April.  I was honored to accept! Past judges from the shows include Jacob Aguiar, Adrian Frankel Giuliani, Jude Tolar, and Christine DiMauro, among many others.

April's theme for the competition was Baby Animals. Awww... who could resist? And based on my own work, I guess I was eminently suitable for judging. Dorothea sent me the link to the entries last weekend, and I enjoyed viewing them for a couple days before making my choices.

There were only 16 entries. They are a small group - but very talented!! It was quite as difficult to decide on the placements as it would have been with 10 times the entries, mainly because almost all of the works were of equal quality, with a variety of strengths in different artistic ways. 

I wanted to share with you here my picks for First, Second and Third Places, and the three Honorable Mentions that were allowed. All of the entries demonstrated strength in values and draftsmanship, so I'll be commenting on the additional qualities that made these six stand out in my viewings.

First Place - "Harley" by Claudia Chimenti
The composition was the first thing that struck me about this precious puppy portrait. The variety of flowing diagonals, enhanced by the strong warm light and the relaxed and trustful pose of the puppy make this a powerful painting. Chimenti is also wise in her choice of a limited palette, using shades and tones of whites to set off Harley's brown patch. The reflected light blues in the shadows are very well done. The simple, un-fussy handling of the background and sleeve fabric are the perfect frame for the more detailed rendering of this adorable face, while the bits of warm salmon-brown color pervading the entire painting allow his brown patch of fur, as the one main area of vibrant color, to still harmonize with the whole.

Second Place - "Explorer" by Dolores Saul
Light, color, texture, and a moment captured in time are what I see first in this little wild Explorer. The subtle handling of the warms and cools within the various tones of fur are masterfully done! The wonderful textural contrasts of the finely detailed fur, to the ripples of the water, the middle-ground grasses, and finally the very loose, gestural rocks in the background, create a convincing sense of depth. I like the unconventional pose withing this otherwise traditional portrait composition (the subject centered within the area of the painting.) The cat is looking off to the left, as if something there has caught his attention, and in a moment he will leave the frame. But this doesn't encourage our eyes into leaving; the sunlight streaming on the cat's face holds our eyes, and the bits of dark along his shadowed side and in the background bounce our eyes around and down the right side, and back up the sunny side to his face...

Third Place - "Triplet" by Elisabeth Blass
This one got the "Awww!" response right off the bat for me, but I might be a sucker for ducklings in the light. Then the more I looked beyond that initial cuteness, the more I liked. The arrangement of shapes and patterns within this square come across as refreshingly spontaneous without being awkward, which makes me suspect they may have been very carefully composed. Even though the two ducklings closer to us are offset in high contrast by the shadowed rock, our eye still jumps back to the duckling above, who, in spite of being mostly the same value as the water, appears to be more strongly bathed in the bright warm light because of the temperature contrast of the blue around him.
Fresh and spontaneous describes the pastel application as well!

Honorable mention - "Ducklings" by Karin Kießling
Balance, contrast and harmony. Incredible color harmony for one; the entire painting looks like it may have been done with shades and tints of just three colors. The balance in this composition is sweetly calming, just as the visual of these ducklings are for our eyes. Almost symmetrical, but not quite. Held in place by the reflection which touches the bottom edge. The amazing detail of the wet feathers is contrasted by the smooth, calm surrounding water.

Honorable Mention - "Guarded Childhood" by Eva Schläfli
Yes, baby animals -- what's not to love? This painting perfectly exemplifies a mother's love and a baby's safe haven. Once again, wonderful color harmony. Excellent detail without looking overworked. The close cropped view with the chimp's face centered is another almost-symmetrical composition, but the subtle variety of angles created by the hand, arm, and head create a sweet cocoon of comfort for this baby chimp, and pull us back to the expression in the face, and most especially, the eyes.

Honorable Mention - "Puppies" by Ute Farr
Speaking of expression... These are the happiest puppies I've seen in a long time! This one's all about the JOY and the FUR! In fact, in spite of there appearing to be no discernible light source (the reference may have been a flash-front photo?) Ms. Farr was able to create a wonderful depth of fluffiness within the subtle varied tones of warm and cool whites, blues and violets that make these coats so believably thick. The simplicity of the background and the sofa edge support the strength of this traditional portrait pose.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed the show, and check out the rest of the Pastel Guild of Europe's site!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How to Start Pricing Your Artwork

So you want to sell your art, but don't know how much to ask? 

I recently had a question from another artist who wanted my opinion on what price she should put on a particular painting. It took me a few days to get back to her because I didn't have any ready answer to her question. The short answer is, "It depends."

What is it worth to you?

The long answer is complicated, and might not tell you what you want to hear. There are a lot of variables that can go into the pricing factor. If you're new to selling work, and you have no other examples of size/quality/price from any sales you've already made, than the simplest way to go is to ask yourself what is it worth to you? Make sure you are getting a return on your supplies and your time, and then add a bit more for how good you feel this one is compared to other work you've done.

What's the size?

Once you have a few sales under your belt, you can begin to price on size. For example: You sell an 8x10 acrylic on canvas for $200. Then any other similar paintings (genre, level of detail, etc) in 8x10 will be $200. You can then set your other price sizes based on this price per square inch ($2.50.) When demand begins to exceed your production, you can raise your prices a bit. 

What's the Venue?

It can also depend on the selling venue, and what other artist's paintings are selling for in that same venue. For example: If you are in an art festival or gallery where the average painting in your genre/size is selling for $800 to $1200, then your $200 8x10 is at the risk of being viewed as inferior by the collectors shopping there, because most collectors at a certain level believe that artwork is worth what they pay for it, and they'll think you must not value your work if you price it too low, and that there must be something wrong with it. (This mentality took me YEARS to finally "get"!) 

On the other end, if you're in some small town crafts fair where the range of merchandise price points is between $10 to $75, then $200 for an 8x10 panting might be out of the customers' price range. However, that wouldn't necessarily mean you couldn't still have the $200 price tag on an 8x10 original there, but you'd do better selling simple, small paintings, and prints in the lower price ranges.

If you're not selling in any venue that includes other artists, it becomes more subjective. For instance, if you're just selling to a friend, you need to weigh your need for an income with how close is this friend, and how much can they afford? In my experience, friends and family usually want a really good deal* (*i.e.: free.) In essence, you'd need to weigh the value of the friendship against the value of the painting. Some fortunate artists have wealthy friends who appreciate the value of the artwork. ;)

What about Online?

If you're selling online, the venue (some kind of art-selling site? Or just off your own blog? Facebook?) can sometimes have an impact on price, but not so much I don't think, because of the sheer volume of public out there that can have access to your art if they know where to find it. Online art buying does tend to be lower priced than other more traditional outlets (gallery, art festival, brick-and-mortar art show). Usually because of the high level of competition that artists face on the internet, and the low overhead (almost all of the sale price goes to the artist, except for payment fees, like paypal, site fees if listed on a subscription-based site like DailyPaintworks, etc, and any other brokerage type fees, if in a web-show that takes a cut, for example.)

How to price your art on the web, if you haven't sold your work before? 

I would recommend one of two methods:

1) Fast method: What did the materials cost you? How much time did it take? Consider materials plus $20 - $50 / hour depending on how fast you work. Then round to the nearest "easy amount". Example: the 8x10 canvas was $6. You bought the paints for $60, but expect to get a lot more use out of them, so maybe just factor in $3 of paint. You put a $50 frame on it. The painting took you 4 hours. So that's $80 - $125, plus supplies is $139 - $184, which you can round to $150 - $185.

2) Time-consuming method: Research! Look around online at other artists work that is similar to yours in genre, medium, style... When you find artwork that has prices listed, read up on the artist's website to determine their level of experience. Collectors might also be looking at this data to determine whether this artist's work is a good value. Artists with more experience, awards, shows, commendations, gallery representation, etc, will have a higher perceived value. When you have come up a list of artists who's work is similar to yours, and have noted their prices for certain sizes of work, you can make an estimation of value for your own work, comparing to your experience level to theirs.

Perhaps this method will leave you more confused and unsure than ever. I've not done any research like this online, but can imagine, especially having seen sites like, which has pretty huge pricing variations between artists, and an endless variety of artists from beginner through professional. (That site might be a good place to start a research actually. Many of the member artists have their own websites as well.)
Just know that for a beginner, you have to start somewhere, and it's easiest to start low, and increase your prices as your experience, quality, and clientele increase.

A place to start..

I've just touched upon these pricing concepts from my own viewpoint, but hopefully have given you a place to start. There are more aspects to be considered, such as when to increase your prices, how to be flexible and still be consistent, and pricing commission work. You can read more thoughts about these topics and more concise info on pricing at these great sites below:
Read more about pricing artwork per square inch on this good blog post I found on
And this post on explains about three good formulas for pricing your art.
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