“Why Does Art Cost So Much?” (Part Three – The Price of Presentation)

The Prints

Image by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

This is part three of the series, “Why Does Art Cost So Much?”.  You can catch up with Part One – Introduction and Part Two – Materials in the archives or by clicking the hyperlinks above.

The Roman Poet Titus Maccius Plautus famously said, “You must spend money to make money”.  This has more profound truth in business than in any other endeavour.  And for those who intend to turn a profit and/or make a living, art is definitely a business.

One of the biggest expenses is marketing or presentation.  Marketing is all about presenting your product or service to the marketplace with the intention of drawing customers in.  Artists accomplish this in many ways including  promotional post cards, professional stationary and framing their work (in the case of 2D artists).   The intention is to create a recognizable brand that conveys value to collectors.

The front of my two-sided business cards, created by graphic designer Charlie Stover (503-951-8919).

Post cards, business cards and letterhead are all used to create strong branding and exposure for an artist.  The best examples show consistency throughout, with similar colors, patterns, logos, and images.  These are often developed and created by graphic designers, who have to be paid for their professional services.

Creating a strong identity package can be a major up-front expense, but worth it.  Fees for professional graphic design can run into the thousands, and printing these items can cost hundreds for a run of 500 or less.  Though the cost is sometimes high, the return on investment in terms of increased level of professionalism and better reputation is well worth the cost.  It can help turn a potential collector into an actual collector.

Banner for this blog, "Fantastic Voyage". Notice the tie in to my business card?

Another key part of the identity package is found on the Internet.  In today’s market, it is critical that an artist have a strong web presence.   The most effective presence is consistent with the rest of the identity package and easily identifiable as belonging to the same artist.  Although it is possible to build a strong web presence on your own it takes time and a level of comfort with technology that not everyone has.  For those who are unwilling or unable to create and maintain a web presence themselves, paying a qualified professional can run in the thousands each year.

Even if an artist spends the time, effort and money (if using professional web design software) to establish and maintain his/her own site, the cleaner, more professional looking sites usually cost at least a small monthly fee.  These sites are free from advertisements , clutter and competition for attention with other artists.  For example, my site is housed on Yahoo Small Business and costs approximately $14.00 per month.  That is very inexpensive, it can cost much more.

No matter how well a website, blog or social media is prepared and presented, it does no good without excellent images of the work.  High-quality photography presents a critical part of a professional appearance both on the web and in print materials alike.  A stunning photograph can sell a piece sight unseen to someone half a world away, while a poor image can turn off someone who may already be interested.

Professionally photographed image of my painting, "Sailing Honu". This piece was purchased sight-unseen, with this image (at full screen size/highest quality) as their only guide. "Sailing Honu", acrylic on canvas, copyright 2004 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved.

While there are artists who have the skill to create a lasting photographic image, most are better suited to paying a professional photographer specializing in capturing art.   A quality art photographer doesn’t come cheap, but the investment can be an important part of launching a career.

Once the work is made and photographed, 2D artists must consider framing their work.  Whether or not to frame is  up to the individual artist.  The key is determining whether doing so would enhance the work.  If it will, most professional artists will pay what is needed for quality framing.

Even for the savvy shopper, custom framing often costs $100 on up – usually much more, depending on the size of the work and the quality/design of the framing.  When done right, the presence of such presentation enhances the aesthetics of the work and increase the likelihood of sales.   The cheaper option of the standard frame is sometimes utilized, but having a custom framed piece of art, with quality materials specifically tailored to have the piece look its absolute best, is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Now that we’ve explored the cost of materials being far higher than many consumers think, and the thousands of dollars that can be spent to market the work in a professional manner, next Wednesday we will explore the value of the artist’s time in Part Four – Time is Money.

© 2011 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved


About Amy Buchheit

I am a Signature Member of the International Society of Acrylic Painters and an Ambassador for Artist Trust. I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Marylhurst University and have exhibited on regional, national and international levels since 2000. I am committed to connecting with the viewer through my work - stirring buried emotions to the surface for further inspection and introspection. The inspiration for my art comes from direct observations, research of subjects I am passionate about and personal experiences. For more information about my art, workshops and exhibitions, visit my website at http://www.amybuchheit.com. My blog "Fantastic Voyage" can be found at http://www.amybuchheit.wordpress.com, and I can be found on Facebook under Amy Buchheit Art and on Twitter as @AmyBuchheit.
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10 Responses to “Why Does Art Cost So Much?” (Part Three – The Price of Presentation)

  1. Patrick Ross says:

    This is a great and valuable series, Amy! I’ve spent a lot of time promoting information on the expenses of time, training, materials, etc. that artists take on, but I’ve learned more with this series. On behalf of all creatives, thank you for this.

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  3. amybuchheit says:

    Thank you Patrick! 🙂 I’m glad you are getting something out of the series.

    I’m also happy that I moved past my own conversation that “writing is not my medium”. I get it … I’m a writer. Maybe not a pro (yet 😉 ) but I’m a writer. It’s part of my creative path. Even got inspired to write a memoir/autobiography, just by hearing a song lyric that stood out as a perfect title. (Not writing it yet! And its starting to kick around the ol’ noggin’.)

    Thank you for being so supportive! 🙂

  4. Kate Singh says:

    Amy… thanks for this blog. And then there are professional fees and organizations, computers, cameras, update, update, update… at the tune of thousands of dollars per item! The CS5 Photoshop is $2400!

    I’m presenting a workshop at a convention for professional photographers this month… and still my out of pocket will be close to $1000! just to be there and enter 4 prints in competition!

    Keep up the good work, Amy… !! 🙂

    • amybuchheit says:

      Good points, Kate! Some of the things you mentioned are in Part II – Materials and/should be mentioned in other parts of the series (if I can find an appropriate catagory to put them in). These are all very valid, very real things that consumers often don’t take into consideration when they hear the cost of an art work.

      I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “That piece costs $X.XX for that little thing? Artists must be rich” in addition to “Why does art cost so much?”. Of course those are in direct counterpoint to the other, more prevelant conversation about starving artists. That is exactly why I am trying to write about all of this … to give the public a real sense of the cost behind producing, marketing and selling art.

      I appreciate other artists chiming in … I can only cover so much and can only write from my own perspective/experience/knowledge. It’s good to hear what other artists are experiencing in this arena.

      Thank you for the kudos! 🙂

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