big money

pricing one's own art is a tough one.  there are so many different schools of thought.  there is cheap art, and there is expensive art, and then there's everything in between.  but does a higher price mean the art is of better quality? some people may be deceived.

a long long time ago, i read a little autobiography in an artbook by david choe.  at the time, his work was really blowing up, going for top dollar.  he had just recently made the transition from street artist to fine artist.  if i remember correctly, he says he made the leap simply by adding a few zeros to the end of his original prices during one of his first big gallery shows.  seemingly, his first lesson in pricing art was more or less this:  if it's expensive, they will take you seriously. hmm.

this is a dilemma to me.  mr. choe is unarguably a very talented artist.  he started out as a graffiti artist, breaking all the rules, and making a non-commodity anti-establishment type of art.  he happened to strike (or be struck) when graffiti was having a fine art-world revival.  i think high prices were choe's way of telling the art buyers elite to pay up.  and they did.  but nowadays, the art world is so saturated with hip-hop street style, it seems to have become commercial and mainstream. and choe's own friends probably can't afford his work.  so who wins?

what does the average artist, the small town artist, whose chances of making it big, are slim, do about pricing their own art? some people are likely to give themselves an hourly wage, and then keep track of time spent on a piece.  some artists shoot for the sky like david choe, or base their prices on those of other similar artists.  some work their way up a ladder of their own invention, gradually increasing prices over time. some have a gallery do the dirty work for them.  there are just so many ways to approach pricing.  what's the best?  as i prepare to hang my latest oil paintings at one of the most casual, friendly, and busiest living room diners in the whole world, i've been meditating on this exact dilemma.

my prices usually reflect real time spent.  to me, that's the core of being a working artist.  i try not to inflate my prices just to suit my ego or money hunger.  sure, i also have to pay those bills.  but if i budget my time as a painter, just like anyone else who works any other regular job, it works out.   truly, to me, prices are a matter of ethics.  i always want my friends, who are just as broke as i am, the real people i know, the ones who have to budget and can't always go out to expensive dinners, i want them to be able to afford my work.  i want them to think it is reasonably priced, i want my art to fill their homes with color and joy, and for their babies to grow up around it and learn to love it.   i want my art to be for everyone:  people of all socio-economic backgrounds.  because i believe good art should be accessible, not just reserved for the wealthy or art-educated. 


  1. Where's your show going to be?
    I went to college with Dave, he's one hell of an artist. I got some funny stories and awesome originals from those days.
    I still like to charge my current age an hour. Works well.

  2. i love this idea of age/hour! then you get a little raise every year.

    my show is at the old town cafe in bellingham.

    dave choe's work has really inspired me. i would love to hear more about what it was like to go to school with the man. only knowing an artist from his work makes him more of a mystical being, you know.

  3. I've always had trouble equating the price of a painting compared to it's value to me. I was once convinced to walk away from a painting I loved and wanted to purchase but because of the price I didn't. It depicted a Palouse farmhouse on a cold winter's sunset . I still regret my decision.

    All of the paintings I have of yours have a value to me: priceless.