Colored Pencils

Your Original Art Has Value

When I started drawing with colored pencils in September of 2014, I never thought about selling my art. I wanted to learn to use colored pencils so I could draw my children and my grandchildren. But as I progressed with my skill people started asking me to do commissions. And as I started entering competitions and started winning those competitions I started to realize that my drawings were valuable and that it was truly possible for me to not only produce beautiful pieces of art because I love drawing but it is also possible to switch careers and earn a living with my art. I had been so used to the idea of “starving artist” that I had started to believe that being an artist was not lucrative and that art could only only be created for ones own satisfaction or to give as gifts. I had come to believe that being a popular or famous artist was only for the geniuses and savants of the world. I had never imagined that me, a mother and grandmother with a full time project management job could possibly compete in the art industry against well known and prestigious artists. It wasn’t until I changed my mindset that I realized that creating art could be a lucrative business while at the same time satisfying my inner craving to create. Although the act of creating is for sure soothing to the soul, it doesn’t have to just be a hobby. I reminded myself that if I set myself up for failure would likely fail. So I started to set myself up for success. I started to think like a prestigious artist and more importantly I started to work like one. Success is not something that lands in your lap, but rather it is something you can achieve if you set goals and work hard to reach them. 

As my work ethic changed and I started to put more and more hours into mastering colored pencils, I started to appreciate the hard work that I put in to fine-tuning my abilities. I started to value my time and realize that for every 10 hours that I put into producing art, it was 10 hours away from my family. For every 10 hours of drawing, I put more stress and fatigue on my wrist after having already had carpal tunnel surgery in 2008. I started realizing that while there will always be those who undervalue their sacrifices to create art and share with others, that I could not afford to undervalue my own. I decided that if I was valuable in my day job because of my attention to detail, my enthusiasm on the job, my ability to complete projects on time and to keep customers happy, then surely I should be fairly compensated for all of these same traits that I use when I create artwork. 

Once I realized that I needed to be fairly compensated, I still had to answer the question “What is fair?” At first I reached out to a professional who claimed to be able to help me put a dollar value on my work based on my time and effort and fame or lack there-of. The fees for this professional to help me price my work were not cheap. And although he had the credentials to prove that he could do it with accuracy, I didn’t want to spend the money and possibly get an answer I didn’t like. This is how I knew that I already had an idea of how valuable my work was to me and I didn’t want to get the “wrong answer” from a professional. So I set out to define the value of my own work. First I calculated the cost of my materials. Then I calculated the amount of time spent on the piece. The problem with the time spent was that as I improved on my skill, I also got faster. Pricing my art by the hour would mean that I as improved and got faster that I would be penalized and my prices would go down. That didn’t set well with me. So I decided to calculate with my current speed a fair hourly rate and then I would figure out what that total was per square inch. Then I could set a price by “square inch” and then as I improve and get faster my rate would not change because it would be based on the square inch. My rate will not be the same as the next artist because I am basing my rate on what I know that I can earn with any other job that I currently have skills for. If I am going to replace my income from my day job, then I need to price my artwork accordingly. However, instead of basing the calculation on what my employer pays me, I calculated on the rate that my employer charges the customer for my time. I did this because as an artist, I am the business owner and not only do I need compensation for my time to create art but also for my time to keep my books, order supplies, drive to and from the frame shop and purchase necessary equipment to create prints etc. There are many expenses that go into your own business as an artist. 

At first, my prices seemed too high and I wondered if people would find them worthy of the price that I set and also I worried how many people could afford to purchase my art. But every time I did the math, I came to the same conclusion that for me to create art at the level of skill that I am at, I needed to be fairly compensated. The value of my art should not go down just because not everyone could afford to pay for it. So I set my prices and held firm. I knew that I would be passed over by many but I knew from juried competitions that my art was good and I knew from the outpouring of emails asking for me to do commissions that the demand was there. Only a month after introducing my art at the prices that I felt they were worth, the larger pieces between $1500 and $3000, I sold 3 framed pieces to art collectors. The sale of those pieces has given me confirmation hat I did price my work appropriately. 

My advice is to step back and take a look at all the sacrifices you make to create your art. Calculate your time and effort. Ask yourself what your time is worth. While there may be many artists competing with you, there is only ONE of you. Someone who loves your artwork will be willing to compensate you for your time. So don’t try to price your art the same as the mass produced posters sold at craft stores. Your original art has value. If you don’t value your own time, neither will anyone else.