Thursday, March 26, 2015

#2 Art Marketing and Prices (It's nicer to be nice.)



Marketing and Prices

Main ideas:


One, always be nice, gracious, and appreciative of clients, collectors, support people, and the people who run the galleries that you show in. You have to be sincere and you have to really understand that they’re doing you a favor.

Two, don’t overvalue yourself or your artwork and only when you start selling everything that you make should you really consider raising your prices.


There was a movie work when Eastwood once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

I think the same is true about valuing oneself and one’s work as an artist. I know that in the last 50 or so years we’ve all been brought up to be the kind of people who value ourselves. However, in an age where everyone gets a trophy for showing up to sports practice and games, sometimes we tend to overvalue our worth and the value of our art.

Please don’t be offended but we are not all Leonardos.  

Starting with behavior, we all including myself have to realize that there are probably at least hundreds of people who can do exactly what we are able to do. Competition is stiff. 


In my experience running a gallery at the school where I teach, Ohlone community college in Fremont California, I ran the art gallery for couple of years. My experience is that a lot of artists who I showed were very “entitled.” They weren’t really gracious nor did they roll with problems that happened in exhibiting in my rinky-dink on important little community college art gallery. Often they acted like my students were unimportant.  (These students are actually long term clients who may buy your art long after they graduate.)

People who exhibited acted kind of snarky at times especially with my students who were helping. 

Say it again, "The same audience who could buy there art in several year's time."



As a gallery director I can call them on it but all these people overvalued my gallery but also overvalued the experience of showing in the gallery. I guess what I’m trying to say is they should’ve been a hell of a lot nicer and a lot less demanding. 

Of course there were many of the artists who were totally cool, gracious, and were sincerely grateful to have a show.

I’m not trying to be arrogant, however, I’m really good at being super cool and gracious when I am given a show at art galleries. I don’t get huffy and I don’t get demanding with the gallery directors. I don’t worry about how the work is being hung because they know what they’re doing and I have to trust them. 

I also really try to be empathic with the demands that they have to deal with both in terms of money and in terms of the demands of their customers. I felt that any gallery show that I got was a gift because the gallery itself was taking an enormous risk on me by spending a month of their walls to show my work. If you look at how much commercial space is cost sometimes there is much as 50,000 a month. Of course in smaller towns, which have less important galleries, the overhead is really much smaller however the cost that that galleries laying out our proportionate to the cost of living in that area. 

When you factor in advertising, the fact that they man the gallery for eight hours a day, and the aggravation that they have to put up with and the ass kissing that they have to do with both the artists and the client to come in I think 50% is a little small of a percentage for them to take on selling my work.


The lesson is they are outlaying a ton of money and time to represent you and if you’re snotty arrogant and demanding that I can ask you back unless you make double their rent that month. I learned that I needed to get over myself and I needed to get over how much I thought of my work. The bottom line is I don’t think I ever really covered a gallery’s expenses by having a one person show at a gallery.

Okay let’s talk about pricing.

In galleries since they have to make so much money to cover their overhead, rent, advertising, and other incidentals they have to charge a lot for your artwork. If they charge $5000 and only sell one painting at $5000 and their rent is $10,000 they are screwed financially. So most galleries do try to inflate your prices and try to get more money. When I was young man, about 15 years ago, I showed it a very commercially successful gallery. I didn’t understand the things that I was talking about above and so the gallery would ask me how much I wanted for painting and I would say $300, the gallery would then mark the painting up to about $1200 and I would get a check for $300 for my painting. I didn’t understand at the time that that was okay or cool. And so I raise my prices to $600 and they had to compensate by raising it even more. It was kind of like a cold nuclear war. Of course I lost the war because eventually I out priced myself and was no longer a deal for my collectors.


Now I’m showing online on Etsy.com. Almost all of my work is priced below $100. Friends of mine often tell me I need to raise my prices. I did a little while ago and the result was I sold a lot less artwork. When I looked at my inventory, from a supply and demand kind of orientation, I have nearly 500 works of art for sale and it doesn’t look like I’m going to sell out of my inventory anytime soon. Even though I’m getting a lot of pressure from my wife and my friends to, “get what I deserve for my work.” I am still warehousing 500 works of art.

I’ve decided that when the demand for my art work exceeds my inventory that is when I will raise my prices. I do sell a lot of work usually about 10 to 15 things a month but I’m always in the studio working. I also try to give away at least 10 to 15 works of art a month and the way that I do this is that I often throw in an extra work when clients by a painting or drawing I give them something of the same subject and size. I don’t tell them that I’m in a do this. I also spend a lot of time on Facebook looking at photographs of dogs and primarily Chihuahuas. I love dogs and so I’m always sitting around at night drawing these pictures and so I Facebook message the people whose dog it is and a lot of times I’ll send it to them for free.

I guess the takeaways from what I’ve been discussing are,

One, always be nice, gracious, and appreciative of clients, collectors, support people, and the people who run the galleries that you show in. You have to be sincere and you have to really understand that they’re doing you a favor.

Two, don’t overvalue yourself or your artwork and only when you start selling everything that you make should you really consider raising your prices.

I totally understand that a lot of people can disagree with me on this and think that I’m not valuing myself enough but if you give something to someone and they feel that they got a deal and you are both satisfied with the transaction you both win instead of you running out and saying “I won I won I won!” Both of you get to say, “wasn’t that a nice experience.”


Oh yeah.  Here's a sample of how I price my work.  YES size counts!

http://kenney-mencher.com/
Kenney Mencher

18x24 Painting $128
18x24 Drawing $118

16x20 Painting $98
16x20 Drawing $88

11x14 Painting $78
11x14 Drawing $68

9x12 and 8x10 Painting $58
9x12 8x10 Drawing $48

8x8  $38