It's the hardest part of being an artist. You've poured your heart and soul into a piece of work. Conceptualised it, planned it, bought the materials, created it, paid for a way for displaying it and place it before the customer who gasps with awe, comments on how wonderful it is and how talented you are and asks how much it is. Then there's the awkward silence, followed at best with a heartfelt apology of how it's not within the budget or, at worst, a scoffing laugh with a look that says, "Pull the other one."
Pricing an artwork is painful and most non-established artists undervalue their work. Not because they want to but usually because the price would be truly ridiculous by the time they've covered their costs.
Take my most recent artwork, "Evening Bluebells."
This one took a bit of planning due to its larger size and inclusion of flowers which I'm not used to. Then there's the materials. Professional pencils are not cheap, usually between £2.50-£3.50 per pencil, and a large work takes a lot of pencils. Then the actual paper. Not a sheet of cartridge from a pad, I use Strathmore Bristol 500, a 2-ply vellum surface which in layman's terms means professional and 'pricey'. But the the thing is the time. I counted the hours for this one - 37 in total. The current minimum wage is £8.21 per hour, so that comes to £303.77, not including the preparation time. On top of that is the cost of framing, a pewter finish with a double mount. Once completed, I take it to the gallery who, as is the standard, adds their own mark up (I was told their business rates and frankly I can understand the necessity for what can seem excessive costs). So once these are all taken into account, the price can look a little eye watering, and that's at the minimum wage cost. This is not some glorified hobby! This is my living so I have to price my portion at a level that is a little more healthy but by no means greedy.
This is what every artist goes through and this is why it takes a lot of self control not to poke the person in the eye who's just balked at the price and expects you to laugh along now that they've seen your joke. But of course, the customer must love your work enough to part with their own hard earned cash and thankfully I've had a good reaction so far to mine. I would just ask that when you next look at an original work of any artist and wonder why the price looks so high to please consider the effort and cost that has been put into it and ask yourself, "What would a plumber charge to fix that leaking tap in my bathroom?"