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The eternal question: how much to charge?

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Hi all, I know this is a classic question and I'm not asking how much YOU charge for an art commission as I feel a bit as though that's like asking how much rent you pay, it'll vary widely depending on your circumstances! But what I would love to know is how you calculate a fee for a commission?


I've been asked to do two different types of commissions, something I've never done before. One is simply a watercolour, from my imagination, for a kids' bedroom. The other, more difficult for me, is to use a photo to create a watercolour based on the people in the photo, for a watercolour painting. Both clients know that I draw/paint in the style on my website and that's what they want.


I am happy to do it and am excited to have the opportunity, but I don't want to start out by charging too little and I also don't want to start out by charging too much either! In my usual writing work I charge per word, which makes things very easy. When I calculate how much I earn per hour with my usual work, though, and translate that over to finishing a watercolour painting the end result gets eye-wateringly expensive! That's also because, unlike more experienced watercolour artists, it probably takes me longer to get a result I love.


I've looked on Etsy and Ebay to see what others charge, but the prices range from $10 up to $400 and quite honestly, with some of them, I can't tell the difference in quality/product!!


So... what I'm asking is, how do you do the calculation? Figure out a minimum per-hour wage that you're willing to work for, then figure out how many hours it'll take, add on materials, and then use that?


Thank you!!!!!!
#1 - July 05, 2014, 06:11 AM

I draw stuff for chocolates.
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Best bet is to ask your perspective clients what they have budgeted for the painting. But expect them to say, "I have no idea."

As far as pricing on Etsy and Ebay, not such a good place to look for something reliable.

here are some links http://www.artbusiness.com/pricerealistic.html or http://www.artistdaily.com/blogs/theartistslife/archive/2009/12/18/a-simple-formula-for-pricing-artwork.aspx

You can't charge for an illustration by the word, or the hour or the brush stroke as you have discovered. What you are charging for is your skill level and collectiblity. And make sure your clients both know they do not own copyrights to the image. That's a whole 'nother can of worms.

Make sure you cover the cost of materials and non-consumables such as paint brushes and office space maintenance. I have sold original watercolor paintings from a few hundred dollars to over one thousand. They were framed and matted and a variety of sizes. None of them were a commissioned portrait, which could cost a lot more because of the need to recreate a likeness of an individual. As with a photographer, the charge should be based on the number of people your will be portraying.

Have you ever created a likeness of a real person before? Whether it's in your style or not, this is a very difficult task and requires some degree of specialized skills.

I've been painting in watercolor for decades and I am no faster now than I was 20 years ago. At least not that much to make a difference.

I suggest looking at web sites of artists selling similar works. A good bet would be an artist's site with sold images in strong evidence. Here is one artist's price list http://www.rachaelrossman.com/commissions/

Hope some of this helps.
#2 - July 05, 2014, 07:23 AM
patreon.com/wendymartin
Animal Totem Mandala 2016
The Story Circle 2016 (Piñata)
Color and Conjure 2017 (Llewellyn)

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Thanks, Wendy! Going to check out those links now.


PS The from-photo illustration doesn't have to be realistic in any way, they simply want some of the characteristics of the child in the photo - long pigtails, brown eyes, that kind of thing. It's still more difficult than simply creating something out of my imagination, though, obviously.
#3 - July 05, 2014, 07:50 AM

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Obvs I have no advice about your original question, but as an aside, my husband's aunt is a professional artist and makes quite a good living doing from-photo paintings. She puts the photo onto a slide, projects it, traces it, then colors it in her own style. She stays away from faces somewhat, though -- most are profiles. And they're almost entirely of children.


Okay, hijack over!  :)
#4 - July 05, 2014, 01:06 PM

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I imagine portraits is quite a lucrative business... if you're good at it! I can just picture me insulting people with my realistic impressions of their faces. Oh the horror! Doing it in 'my style' means I can always say that the thin mouth, squinty eyes or whatever are 'just my style'!


I asked for a decent amount, based partly on what another watercolour artist here in Concepcion charges. For an unpublished not-that-experienced person like me I think it's a good amount. And that's important, right? That I feel like it's a good fee. Both customers immediately agreed to the amount happily, so I think I did okay. Probably could've charged more but I don't think I underpriced myself either.


THANKS!
#5 - July 05, 2014, 02:20 PM

I draw stuff for chocolates.
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If it's win-win, that what counts. As you gain in experience, you can raise your rates.

A lot of artist make a living making insulting caricatures. Just say'n.
#6 - July 05, 2014, 05:56 PM
patreon.com/wendymartin
Animal Totem Mandala 2016
The Story Circle 2016 (Piñata)
Color and Conjure 2017 (Llewellyn)

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