7 Things I Learned About Pricing My Artwork This Year

This is a topic that comes up in every artist’s career. If you’re like me, you’ve been drawing your whole life, and painting for at least half of it, and then you reach the point where you decide: you’re going to go pro. 

You do your training, constantly working on your craft and struggle to put your best work out there, and if you’re fortunate enough, people will start to ask to buy it. And therein lies one of the biggest dilemmas every artist must face: what is the value of my work? 

"Happy Not Hippy" 28x28" on canvas Amira Rahim
“Happy Not Hippy”
28×28″ on canvas
Amira Rahim

I’ve been selling my art for a little over a year now in the United Arab Emirates and occasionally, USA and Canada. And while I am still very much a newcomer and learning a great deal from others, I did want to share a few lessons that I’ve learned along the way:

    1. There’s no one size fits all formula to pricing your artwork. You can read the commandments on pricing your artwork and still walk away feeling confused. Should you price it by linear inch? By square inch? By time spent? How much you love it (no, don’t do that)? All of these are ways that artists and some galleries come up with their prices. The most sound approach I’ve found has been to charge by size. This keeps it fairly consistent and makes the most sense to your customers. It also helps you ascertain the price of a painting pretty quickly and objectively, which is important as you start to produce more and more work. You can then decide if you’re going to price it by linear inch or by square inch. The best way is to just do your research. When I was working on my pricing structure, I calculated the costs of several paintings using each of these models and then decided on the one that works best for me. One great piece of advice I found was to look at some artists who list their prices, and work backwards to calculate what formula (if any) they are using. I looked at several artists whose work I admire, including one abstract artist that I love who has most of her work priced publicly on Saatchi. Within a few minutes of number crunching, I was able to deduce, “Oh, she’s charging $1.5 per square inch.” And then you can decide from their what your work can garnish comparatively.
    2. The average person does not understand the value of art. Including us artists. Unless you’ve spent your formidable years attending art auctions, learning art history, and mixing with the upper echelons of society, you probably don’t understand the value of art. And even if you did, you probably are baffled by the egregious prices much of “modern art” and other works command these days.This is really important to understand as an artist, because it means that it’s our job to show people the value of art. Show them that when the designer bags wear and tear, or the Loubiton heels go out of style, their art collection will still be hanging on the walls, warming the hearts of their families for years to come. It’s the gift that keeps on giving and is one of the few things that usually appreciates in value. If you see a piece of art that you love, and you see that the artist is serious about his/her career, then chances are, the price that you’re looking at today will increase if not double in a year or two. But it’s sad that some people still try and bargain down an original painting much to the artist’s regret. I was talking to an artist friend of mine, Kellee Wynne Conrad, and she said something pretty profound:”People would pay an artist more to paint their walls white, than they would be willing to pay for a painting. That is sad.”discount img
    3.  In the beginning, you’re totally out of your mind. Have you ever gone to a market or bazaar only to come across some really amazing art. You see the artist, slightly hunched over the table, and proceed to inquire about a painting you admire. She names her price, and you gasp inside, but try not to blow it. She’s about to sell you an amazing piece of art that she conceived and hand painted for less than the price of a meal at your favorite restaurant. You’re getting a deal! As you hand her a few bills, you imagine exactly where it’s going on the wall in your home. She’s packing it up and thanking you from the bottom of her heart. Have you seen this artist? This was me not too long ago. Although I’ve been drawing and painting my whole life, when I first started selling my artwork about a year ago, I stumbled. You’re so caught up in doing what you love that you don’t have the foresight to view what you do as a business. I heard in a Fresh Rag podcast feature that “Hope is not a business model.” And for many artists, that’s all we have. We “hope” someone will want to buy our art. We hope they’ll pay us in actually dollars and not other mysterious currencies like exposure and networks.  The problem is, hoping for the bare minimum isn’t sustainable. It doesn’t work, because of the following.
    4. You will reach a point where the value of your art starts to exceed your earnings. And this is one of the most exciting things about being an artist and creative entrepreneur. Your work increases in value over time. And depending on how hard you’re willing to work, you can close the gap pretty quickly. That’s when you’ll start to look at your prices and say, my work is worth more than that, I’m worth more than that. A painting you were once willing to sell for $300, now you wouldn’t let go for 3 times that amount. The quality of your work increases. You’re using finer materials and your customers are noticing. But more importantly, you’re noticing and you feel more confident in what you’re doing. This is when you can raise your prices without owing anyone an explanation because your work commands it.
    5. Other artists will look at your prices. Remember that first point I mentioned above about doing your research. Well, other artists are doing the same. They’re on your website or online store right now, figuring out your prices. And guess what, they have an opinion about your prices as well. Just the other night, I saw an artist’s promotion on instagram quickly turn into a platform to talk about her prices. This particular artist was selling beautiful hand-painted original art for $30, framed! I’m happy if I can buy a decent pair of shoes for $30, so when I saw one artist comment and tell her flat out that she’s undercharging, I understood. The comment continued by letting this artist know that her prices affect us all. In other words, this artist got all but yelled at for saturating the market with below-profit price points. Her prices were too low and another colleague was not afraid to let her know she wasn’t happy about it! Some can argue that this decreases the value of art and makes it difficult for other artists to move their work at fair prices. But there’s a flip side to this experience as well: some artists will look at your prices are get angry because your prices are too high! We’ve all done it. Gone to an artist’s site and sit their confused, “she’s getting X-amount of money for THAT?!” But you know what? If collectors are willing to pay what that artist is asking for, then they’re doing something right. They’ve found their tribe, so get over it and go find yours.
    6. Your customers will ask about your prices. This is a big one. Basically, you need to be able to explain why a piece costs that much. Not necessarily on it’s own, but in relation to your other work. That’s why I like pricing by size, because I think it makes a lot of sense and is easiest to explain. I’ve met some artists that insist on charging more for one piece because they spent months creating it and its so detailed, and they used chopsticks for the edges, and blah-blah-blah. Why should your collectors pay for your work habits? I believe as you get good at what you do, you become more efficient, and the time it takes to complete a work should be independent of the price. Some may disagree, but unless you’re making jewelry one day, and crocheting a sweater the next, I really thing consistent prices for 2D art is the way to go. Some paintings take me months to create. I’m much slower and exploring different options, and not all of them work so the painting evolves. But you know what? If I didn’t love the creative process I wouldn’t be an artist.
    7. They will change. You will change. Don’t make excuses. This is my last and final point on pricing but I think it’s worth mentioning. As most of us know, our passions and styles evolve over time. Our prices can and should change over time to reflect this. If you are raising your prices, don’t make excuses. After all, when’s the last time you pulled up to a gas station and the owner apologized for raising today’s prices? Do retailers give a reason for their prices? Do we even ask? We know that H&M sells at this price point and Armani sells at another. We wouldn’t think of asking the sales clerk to explain the prices on the rack so don’t feel the need to explain why you’re asking for what you are. State your price and then shut up and smile. A good collector will see how fabulous you and your work is and be happy to pay what you deserve. And these are the people you want owning your art in the first place.

I hope this article was helpful. Everything here is just my opinion, so obviously take it with a grain of salt. But, I think confidence and being well-informed goes a long way in an artist’s career. Now back to creating art and making the world a better place!


For more on my work and background, visit: www.amirarahim.com

Using Meditation in My Creative Practice

"Prayer Rug No. 2" 48x36 inch canvas Available
“Prayer Rug No. 2”
48×36 in on canvas

It’s that time of the year again: Autumn. Back to school. The days are getting shorter. The temperature cools. The leaves change. And our hearts change too. It’s always been my favorite time of year, literally the mark of new beginnings.

One thing I’ve been aspiring to implement into my creative practice is meditation. It’s not anything new. And even in our Islamic tradition, there is much on the topic of reflection, contemplation, and sitting in solitude–absolute stillness, and reconnect with The One. And yet, we seldom do it. Sure, praying five times a day is a spiritual discipline, but without a pure and undistracted heart, it can quickly turn into a chore.

I have to admit, I didn’t start meditating out of any religious encouragement. I see a lot of literature circulating on social media around meditation, but it’s mostly for the physical and mental benefits, which I can surely use.

There are so many benefits to meditating, and this post is certainly not the expanse to explain them all. So, I just thought I’d share a little of my thoughts on how it’s going for me.

Today, I decided to meditate for only the second time. I am using the Headspace app which I highly recommend because it guides you every step of the way without it feeling too “goo-goo gaga”. I’m not into that (or maybe, I am, but don’t realize it yet).

Some immediate things that have happened to me when I meditate:

  1. I concentrate on my breathing. This is really important. I have recurring back pain and at my last chiropractor visit, I was instructed on how to breathe properly. Turns out, I’m not even breathing right! Meditation makes you more conscious of your breath, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
  2. I realize exactly how much anxiety I’m feeling that day. Good or bad. I’m an anxious person. When I have a creative spark, I cannot rest until it’s out, expressed. On my best days, I am a happy, loving artist flowing colors from my magic wands. Today, in meditation I realized just how much I wanted–no, needed–to paint today. Which leads me to my next point…
  3. I feel the colors that resonate with me the strongest when my eyes are closed. You know how it goes. You’re in bed, trying to fall asleep, and then BAM! Hoards of painting possibilities seem to fly through your mind endlessly. I am been trying a mental practice of staying in bed, sleeping yes, but before sleeping, take a mental screenshot if you will of the paintings in my head. In the morning, I can usually remember what I loved the most. Meditation helps me know for sure exactly where I want to go.
  4. Today, I asked myself, my soul, my spirit, whatever you want to call it: “What do you need today? What do you want to feel? What do you want to love like, eat like, be like, today?” It’s a strange concept at first, but really comforting. Just saying to myself, I’m going to fulfill you. You are fulfilled. You are fulfilled.
  5. You get this cool, hippie vibe of general chilled-outness that I love. I’ve always been a worry-wart, self-prophesed perfectionist. That was cool and all in college. But I’ve made leaps and bounds in my self-awareness since then. It feels great to be honest with myself, to relax, to say “You got this,” “you’re good.” I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Taking 10 minutes to meditate each day is like giving life, society, people, the small voices in my head, whatever, a fat hand to the face. A pause. A complete stop, as I take a moment to…well, enjoy this moment.

How do you use mediation in your creative practice or in general?

"Hijab Figure Study" 12x16" on paper SOLD
“Hijab Figure Study”
12×16″ on paper

Setting Intentions to Travel and Be Bigger

June is almost to a close. I’ve finished my last free art class for the month, managed to injure my back (all that upside down painting), and I’ve been catching up on some commissions.

These last few days though, I’ve been stuck in a rut. Moody pieces have emerged from my studio. Dark, not really cheery colors like my usual stuff but I’m ok with that.


I’ve also been suddenly aware of the fact that I miss traveling. Yes, I know, I am an expat overseas. Abu Dhabi is far from what I would consider home. And yet, I can’t help but feeling like I need a change of scenery. I’ve quickly outgrown this desert island.

I traveled a lot in college. Brazil, England, Portugal, Turkey, France, just to name a few. I know that feeling you get when you step off the plane into a foreign land, somewhere you’ve never been before. It’s good for my soul, for my brain, and especially good for my creativity.

I’ve been painting pretty consistently these last few months, and happily selling my art to fortunate collectors here in Abu Dhabi and even abroad. But, lately, I feel the need to be bigger.

I want to paint bigger. I want to see bigger. I want to sell bigger. I want to be bigger. Maybe that means finding a gallery that’s excited to represent my work.

I think about this day and night now. It could mean I’m ready. Regardless, my eyes are now impatient with what’s in front of me. It’s not like I’m bored. I just feel that same thing stirring inside of me that rose a few years ago: this desire to see the world, relish in the ancient architecture of a land, speak Portuguese (or another language), and be so immersed in discovering new things that I forget myself and all of life’s current trials.

Looks like I’m going to have to work hard for this and hopefully manifest this into reality soon.

I hope in a few months, I will be sharing my travel experiences with you guys. I already contacted a good friend of mine in London for a reunion. We’re thinking Spain 🙂


If You Think You’re Going to Fail, Make Art Anyway

It’s a strange concept. Failure.

What does it mean to fail at so449ade0fc68f908a22d600372155c0d4mething? It’s even more obscure as a creative person, as a working artist. The longer you devote yourself to your craft, and decide that it’s worth your life’s pursuit, the more obstacles and challenges you’ll face.

In being a professional artist, many of us make the mistake of assuming, because a painting didn’t sell it isn’t good. Or because you didn’t make a certain amount of money this month, you’ve failed.

We have to overcome this fear of failure if we’re going to survive as creatives.

Lately, I’ve been having a very successful time here in Abu Dhabi selling my original paintings, connecting with more artists online and in person, and even being featured in The National‘s Art Blog. It’s really made me think about what success would me to me as an artist. My dreamy-colorful-art life would look something like this:

  1. Having the courage, audacity, and strength to create beautiful, authentic, and moving works of art everyday.
  2. Having a lifetime supply of family, friends and followers who support me on my art journey and believe in my work.
  3. Sharing my knowledge and experience with others in the form of workshops and classes regularly.
  4. Having a solid relationship with interior designers and art dealers as in love with abstract art as I am.
  5. Successfully operating my very own sustainable and prosperous art business.

I pray to God these things happen for me, and so I challenge myself everyday to work towards these goals because I know it won’t happen by wishful thinking. But say I accomplish this? Say it works out. Then what? Do I stop creating. Do I relax?

I want to share with you guys this very awesome Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (who, by the way, gives amazing Ted Talks) on how our Creativity must survive its own success. Very powerful concept, and very inspiring speech for anyone out there trying to do anything.