Category Archives: art

Six ideas for pricing your artwork

What should you charge for your artwork, your hours, days, weeks and more of effort and agony?  This is a question that every artist considers, at least at some time during their career.  This is, of course, assuming that you are willing to part with one of your creations, your children.

The first painting that I ever sold was when I was in high school.  My art teacher was preparing our pieces for an upcoming state show for students.  The actual painting was an illustration of The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver. One of her friends had seen it at her home where she was matting the works.  On the recommendation of my art teacher, I was offered $50 for it which was a whole lot of babysitting money back then.

Needless to say, this set me on the path to thinking that I could actually make some money from something that I had created.  But it was a decade before I actually began to pursue my art in such light and sold it.

Pricing your artwork is a tricky proposition and one that attracts many opinions and much advice.  After thirty-five years in the business, these are some of the considerations that I use to price my paintings.

1  Materials and costs

Obviously any business person can tell you that you need to cover your costs.  This includes overhead, such as, rent, utilities, computer services and websites. Include your equipment to make your work – easels, kilns, brushes, even your vehicle if you need to transport it.  Materials like clay, canvases, paints, drawing materials count, too.

You need to eat and keep a roof over your head and pay the kids’ orthodontist’s bills so you must pay yourself a salary.  Hopefully, you can eventually do this solely with your art but you may need to take a part-time job here and there.  The whole point is that the more time you can spend creating, the more money you can make.

If you are not tracking your costs you need to start doing this right now.  You are in business so get a sales tax license and be professional.  After a year or two, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you need to bring in to cover your expenses.  Everything above that is profit.

2  Size matters

Frankly, I think the bigger the painting, the more you should charge for it.  You may have more work in a smaller painting, but the show pieces are generally the largest.  Customers expect to pay more for size. Plus, you have more materials in them.

I created a chart which quickly gives me the ballpark figure for the size of painting that I have to what I should charge for it.  I may not always stick with this, but it gives me a starting place. Price calculator

3  Talent and skill

Be realistic.  Your mother may have told you how wonderful you are and what a great artist you are.  But, take a look around.  How does your work compare to others, especially in your area and medium.  I have seen so many artists who just come on the scene and start attaching really high prices to their work, only to be disappointed when nothing sells.

Maybe you are one of the gifted people who will command high prices right from the beginning, but most artists do not.  It’s always easier to raise your prices than to fumble around and lower them.

4  Location

Where you live and where you sell your work can have a significant impact on the fees you can charge for your work.  In big cities, especially the coasts, the audience is expecting to pay more.  Galleries and museums have their own overhead to cover and, of course, higher rents in metropolitian areas.

In most rural areas, it’s difficult to command the same price structure.  Cost of living and wages are lower, thus people expect to pay less.  For the most part, not always.

Art fairs are mostly entertainment but few visitors are going to shell out thousands for a painting at most art fairs.  This also includes street artists so set your prices accordingly.

There are some caveats with this theory.  With the internet, artists can live in low rent areas but sell across the country, indeed the world.  But again, most people are not going to spend big money on something they haven’t seen in person.

5  Awards and shows

If you are an award-winning artist and have lots of credentials as well as significant shows and exhibitions, you can command higher fees.  You have proven your worth and the customer can feel comfortable that they are buying something from someone with good credentials.  Do you belong to any special art societies?  List them on your resume or website.

I was fortunate that my work was exhibited in some really good shows when I was still pretty early in my career.  I didn’t even know how good they were then but am pretty proud to list them on my website now.

6  Age

No, not your age.  The age of the pieces you still have hanging around your studio.  If it’s something fresh, maybe a new style or direction, stick with your best prices.  However, if you’ve got that box of photographs that you took twenty years ago gathering dust under your bed, do yourself a favor and price them to sell.  Yes, they really may be worth what you originally priced them at, but if you sell them, then you will at least recover some of your expenses and can use the money for more materials to create new work.

I will sometimes host a studio sale where I’ll invite local and regional friends out for a weekend.  I’ll clear my studio of most furniture, set up all the paintings that I want to move, and put some really attractive prices on them.  I usually do this in the fall before holiday shopping takes off.  And I always have some music, food and beverages for an added attraction.  I picked up this idea from a potter friend of mine who would unload his summer inventory every autumn.

I have another friend who actually rented the high school auditorium and set up thousands of paintings to move.  He made $50K that weekend!  I don’t make nearly that much but it’s good to make some extra dough around the holidays and clear some room for new work.

Occasionally I will have an online sale but I don’t want to do that too often.  My patrons should realize that I charge a reasonable price and shouldn’t wait around for the sales.

7  Bonus point.   Be fair

Make sure the prices you list on your website are the same you’re charging in a gallery or somewhere else.  The quickest way to lose a gallery is to undercut their prices.  I give my galleries some leeway to negotiate prices or to bundle sales.  Everyone comes out happy.

These are some of my suggestions for setting prices for your artwork.  You’ll probably find some helpful or maybe you’ll create your own set of rules.  Whatever you do, remember to keep creating and have fun!

Something a little different

I’ve been taking a break for the past several weeks from working on my current series of paintings Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread.  Although I tend to be pretty disciplined when I’m working on a big project, sometimes I need a respite.  Recently I’ve returned to some old themes, particularly western scenes and my travels.  Culling through a couple of decades’ worth of old photos, scenes that I may have skipped previously, now draw me in.  It doesn’t always have to be the entire picture, just a small portion of it.  And I always feel free to change things around.

Atrium at Longwood Gardens, du Pont estate, Pennsylvania. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, impressionistic style, Kit Miracle

Here are a couple of my most recent paintings from my travels.  The first one is of the Atrium at Longwood Gardens on the du Pont estate in Pennsylvania.  Although I visited in March of that year, it was still beautiful.  The gardens under glass were particularly impressive. Touted as the most beautiful garden in America, I couldn’t disagree.

Garden Cherub, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16. Pittsburgh, PA Kit Miracle

The second painting is from a different trip to Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh to be exact.  One of our favorite places to visit is The Strip District, a multi-block area of food shops and restaurants, fish markets and collectibles.  This particular shop had some very enticing items in the front of the shop, but as I walked through the store to the back, they had a garden shop with rusty gates and ironwork, birdbaths and outdoor trellises.  I loved this little garden cherub.  Now I wish I had purchased him but at least I could capture him in paint.

Both of these paintings are painted on red-toned canvases which peeks through, adding another layer of liveliness to the scenes.

In case you are interested, these are both available in my Etsy shop KitMiracleArt.  AND….I’m having a 20% off Labor Day sale through Monday.  Free shipping, too.

After School, 96th Hoosier Salon Exhibit

After School, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 Kit Miracle This painting is currently on exhibit at the 96th Annual Hoosier Salon show at the Indiana State Museum through October 25th, 2020.

I’m thrilled to have my painting After School on exhibit at the 96th Annual Hoosier Salon exhibit at the Indiana State Museum.

This painting depicts two girls having a snack after school.  I assumed that they were in band or cheerleaders as they were dressed alike.  I was attracted to the silhouette shape of the figures.  Despite the high contrast of the figures against the light background, the painting itself actually has a lot of color.  Notice the distinctive color outlines.  These are painted before the rest of the painting, however, sometimes I go back and reemphasize the colors.

The background is painted very loosely and doesn’t really include any details except the umbrella.  It’s always as important to know what to leave out as well as what to include.  More details, parking lot, would not have added anything to the painting, just more distraction.

This is another painting in my Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series.

After School, detail 1. Acrylic on canvas.

After School, detail 2

The painting is currently on exhibit at the Indiana State Museum.  The exhibit opens tomorrow, Saturday, August 29th with free admission.  It runs through October 25th.  You can find the Indiana State Museum at 650 W Washington St, Indianapolis.  There is so much to see at the museum it’s certainly worth the trip.  A great outing for kids and adults.  And it’s right next door the the Eiteljorge Museum of Native American and Western Art, too!

If you can’t visit the museum in person, here is a link to the exhibit online.  All the works are for sale, of course.

Lunch at the Museum

Lunch at the Museum, Kit Miracle, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24.

This is the seventh painting in my Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series.  A bold, vertical portrait, this painting certainly grabs attention.  I’ve been noticing that in addition to telling a story, my portraits often include a wry sense of irony.  Yeah, I just now figured that out but looking back at much of my work, I can see what often attracted me to the scenes initially.  Maybe it’s my quirky sense of humor but hey, it’s my work and I can do what I want.

Anyway, this scene was when I took my granddaughter to the Carnegie Museum complex in Pittsburgh a few years ago.  All that walking around to see dinosaurs and artwork and more is hard work.  We stopped for lunch in the museum restaurant.

I guess that the first thing that strikes the viewer is, “What are those things coming out of her head?”  This, of course, as any photographer will tell you is a definite no no in composition.  You don’t want trees sprouting from your subject’s head.  But here with those globe-shaped lights, it works.  Some rules are made to be broken.

Lunch – detail 1. A sweet portrait but not saccharine.

There is a lot of vertical in this painting.  Not only the canvas but the stripes, the lights, the straw for the girl, the wood on the table.  The head is not quite in the center but everything leads to the face.

Lunch detail 5. Those squiggles become chairs and tables on the outdoor patio, viewed through the window of the restaurant.

Lunch detail 4. Up close, the people in the background look like beans, but again, from a distance, they come together.

I particularly like the balance between the warm and cool colors.  Even within the cool areas, you can see quite a bit of color if you look closely.  It’s about one third to two thirds ratio of warm to cool.

Lunch, detail 2. I captured this little still life even in a portrait.

Another little still life. The loosely painted silverware and napkin come together when viewed at a distance.

Some people like to see a photo realistic finish on paintings but that is not my style. (Been there, done that.)  As a contemporary impressionist, I look to convey the message with as few strokes as possible.  Looking at my paintings up close often reveals a jumble of bold brush strokes.  But stepping back about six to eight feet, it all comes together.  This is done to deliberately allow the viewer to become a participant in the experience by filling in the details with their own eyes where there may actually be none.

Canvas prep and under painting. This abstract painting doesn’t necessarily follow the composition of the painting but is designed to give a little guidance. Look closely to see my initial sketch of the subject before I begin to paint.

I also like to paint on a toned canvas, often with a rough gesso base to add texture.  One of my favorite colors is a reddish tone which adds sparkle where it peeks between the brush strokes.  This is particularly good for landscapes that have lots of green.  However, the tones on this series of paintings are more somber, greys with some splashes of color.  The subject is then drawn on top before I start painting.  When my husband saw all the prepped canvasses in my studio, he thought I was switching to abstract painting.  Well….not yet.

Back to the River

It’s still too early to do much planting although I have onions, snow peas, lettuce and kale growing. The garden is tilled but we have to wait another couple of weeks before planting the whole thing.  We’ve done some trimming and tidying of the flowerbeds.  The spring flowering shrubs are next.

Plein air painting along the Blue River in Southern Indiana. As you can see, my easel is actually sitting in the water. What we artists won’t do for our work!

Monday was beautiful and balmy.  A perfect day to return to the Blue River for some more adventures.  This time my husband brought his fishing gear and I brought my painting kit.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  A week since our last visit but I noticed changes.  The redbuds are waning and the dogwoods are coming out.

Blue River, plein air painting. Acrylic, 11 x 14. That spring green will only last for a few weeks.

Bridge over the Blue River. Watercolor / pen and ink. Kit Miracle Created from photos taken on our previous visit last week.

As you can see, I had to set my easel in the water to get the view that I wanted.  I nearly tipped in myself but this is the price an artist pays for the adventure of plein air painting.  My husband got his line wet but not much luck until right at the end when he caught a nice bass.  (He returned it to the river, of course.)

Fishing on the Blue River. My husband actually caught a nice bass but he released it. We peeled off our sweatshirts as the temps warmed up quickly. Spring is here!

Another wandering drive on the way home took us past a little greenhouse.  Of course we stopped.  Although we have some tomatoes and peppers started, I had to buy a few more.  Hey, it’s that time of year.  All you gardeners understand what I mean.  (BTW, I was the only one at the greenhouse wearing a mask!) Later in the week the mice in the greenhouse started nibbling the plants.  Dirty rottens!  I wouldn’t have thought they would like nightshade plants but now I know they do.

So, that’s pretty much my week.  Finished the plein air painting in the studio and did a watercolor/pen and ink of the bridge over the Blue.  Some gardening.  Reading.  Oh, and cleaning the attic of my studio but that’s another story.

February’s Art Production

February’s Art Production. The Food We Eat Series. Acrylic on canvas. Kit Miracle

I thought I’d do another post about a month’s art production.  I created ten food paintings for the series The Food We Eat.  I love the bright colors.  Most of the meals were at home but a few were while I was away. I really don’t eat out that often except when traveling.  Guess we like our own cooking best.

For those who may be interested, I am using my own photos for the paintings.  The pictures cover a span of over ten years so I have a good amount of inspiration.  They are not projected on the canvas but are drawn free-hand.  Dang, those circles and ellipses on the plates and glasses!  What a challenge!  And they’re all either 16 x 16 or 16 x 20 on canvas of 1.5 deep.

In addition to the food paintings, I did more tree drawings but they’re not shown here.

March will probably see some more food paintings but I think I’ll take a break.  I have other ideas rolling around.

The titles that you see here – reading top to bottom, left to right are:

  • Ahi Tuna
  • Raspberries and Oatmeal
  • Texas Tacos
  • Breakfast with Oranges
  • Lunch in Santa Fe
  • Leah’s Lunch
  • Good Lunch, Bad Lunch
  • Pie!
  • Hot Soup on a Cold Day
  • Holiday Meal

Each meal has a story which is on my website. Kitmiracle.com  You can click on the individual photos to see closeups of each painting.

Cultural Center Update

The latest view of the atrium in February. It’s really starting to take shape.

Last year I posted about the ground breaking for our new cultural center. (April 3, 2019)  It has been so exciting to watch the huge building going up this past year.  I’ve been stopping about once a month to take photos of this process.

Just to bring you up to date in case you haven’t been following this story, the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center is located in the center of Jasper, Indiana.  Jasper is a prosperous little German town in southern Indiana.  Although it only has about 15,000 citizens, in a county of only about 40,000 people, it boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state.  Many businesses are located here – Kimball, MasterBrand, OFS, Jasper Engines and Transmissions, and others.

The expansion of the arts began as a nugget of an idea back in 2006 when I first became Director of Jasper Community Arts.  We already had a decades long history of the arts and a very nice performing arts center. Unfortunately, the economic crisis of 2008 set everything back for years but in the end, we came up with a much better idea.

The new cultural center is a partnership of the arts and the library and will boast over 63,000 square feet of space, part arts, part library, and a central atrium for community events.  After many years of planning, public meetings, many design changes, getting a library referendum passed, our dream is finally coming to fruition.  With an amazing challenge grant from Jim and Pat Thyen, support from the city and the state, the local businesses jumped on board, seeing this as a wonderful recruiting tool, and private citizens have dug deep to help fund the project.

Although we were not able to save the old Hoosier Desk Building – it would have cost more to refurbish it than to build new – other old factory buildings in the area along the river have become apartments and condos. A new hotel has been erected and other businesses are moving in.  All in all, a wonderful development for a small town where people work together.

As my husband often reminds me when I say “we”, I don’t work for Jasper Arts any more.  But I’m still proud of all the hard work that has gone into making this dream a reality and will be so excited when it’s open to the public at the end of this year.

If you’d like to see the plans for the building, follow this link.  Or Google Jasper

Cultural Center photos for more images.

Jasper Cultural Center building progress, November 2019. In the background, most of the arts wing is framed in on the west and north sides.

Cultural center December 2019. The large part in the middle is the atrium and the part to the right is the new library wing.

Showing more of the library wing framing on the south side of the building.

The atrium of the cultural center is pretty much up except for the windows. It will be able to host special events with table seating up to 150.

View of the arts wing from the northwest corner. This will host three galleries, a small event space, classrooms and private studios. Plus offices for the staff and a sculpture garden.

Another view of the arts wing classroom space. Here it is being bricked already.

Making temporary fixes to a painting

Far Horizons, original painting, acrylic on toned canvas, 20 x 24, Kit Miracle This is the original painting with portions of the toned canvas (raw sienna mostly) showing through as well as the original charcoal sketch on the canvas.

A few weeks ago I posted about changing the background of a painting.  I took a standard flower painting from a traditional dark background to a colorful reddish-orange background to a mixed background.  Someone asked me if I made the changes on the actual painting.  Yes, I did.  I like the painting but I’ve long passed the point of where every one is precious to me.  As the artiste, I feel it is my right to paint how I wish and what I wish.

However, I’m going to show you a neat little trick which will allow you to make temporary changes to a painting.  Here you can try out new ideas, new approaches without making permanent changes.

I have a large roll of acetate film which I used to use for wrapping large matted but not framed paintings, particularly watercolors.  This kept the paintings clean and protected them from fingerprint smudges and other dirt.  Great to use in art bins or wherever you want to display your work in public. You can buy acetate in rolls or sheets.

The painting that I’m demonstrating with is titled Far Horizons.  It shows my granddaughter looking out over the Grand Canyon. Not only does the painting depict the distant views of the Grand Canyon, but the deeper meaning of a young girl looking out to the future.

Although I love the composition of the painting, it somehow didn’t seem to give the impression of really far horizons, as anyone who has visited the great canyon can attest.  So I wanted to try to lighten the background as a test.

Far Horizons, 1st step. A clear acetate sheet has been taped over the canvas. No painting has been done on the acetate yet.

First, I cut a large piece of acetate and taped it to the painting.  Then just started loosely painting over the acetate with acrylic.  I lightened both the distant sky, and made many changes to the rocks with lighter colors.  I even added some more highlights to the girl’s hair and jacket.

Far Horizons, 2nd step. Here you see that I started with the sky and have been painting directly on the acetate sheet. The whole idea is to test out some lighter background colors in order to push it back.

Detail of step 2 showing some loose strokes of lighter colors.

Far Horizons, final step of the acetate painting over the original painting. I even touched up the highlights of the girl’s hair and jacket.

This is the actual painting on the acetate. I’ve put a plain piece of toned paper behind it to better show you the actual painting.

I plan to set the painting aside in order to evaluate whether I want to make any of these changes permanent.  If not, I haven’t done any damage to the original painting and can leave it just the way it is.

This technique works well for both acrylic and oil painting.

Painting in 3D

I recently had some work in an exhibit which was limited to works 8  by 8 inches.  That is pretty small.  So I decided to challenge myself by adding another twist.  I ordered three canvasses 8 x 8 by 2.5 depth.  It was almost like painting on boxes.

I’ve painted edges of canvasses before but this deep was extra challenging.

Kit Miracle – White Dahlia 3D, acrylic, 8 x 8

White Dahlia, left side

The first two paintings were of flowers, of course.  I paint a fair amount of flowers as you know.  Here it was fun to plan what part to focus on and which parts to wrap around with the painting.

Kit Miracle – Sunflowers 3D, acrylic, 8 x 8

Sunflowers 3D, left side. You can see where the flowers were carried around the edge of the deep canvas.

Sunflowers 3D, right side.

The final painting was really outside of my normal subject matter.  A goldfish bowl with a couple of fish swimming around.  I actually had great fun with it, especially carrying the fish bowl around the sides, top and bottom.

Kit Miracle, Goldfish Bowl 3D, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8 I love the way the fish on the right is looking directly at you. Or so it seems.

Goldfish Bowl left side

Goldfish Bowl 3D, right side

Goldfish Bowl, top

Kit Miracle – Goldfish Bowl 3D – bottom

I guess some artists are more comfortable painting the same thing time after time, but I find that I like the challenge of trying something different.  What do you think?

What a difference a background makes

Lilies with brown background. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. Kit Miracle

I often treat myself to a bouquet of fresh flowers when I’m at the grocery.  They just make me feel good and remind me that spring will be here soon (another three months).  This week’s selection included some beautiful lilies and other flowers.  Of course, everything becomes a subject for painting to an artist.

I started this painting yesterday and worked on it some more today.  Although the first image with the dark background is pretty classic, it was nice but didn’t move me.

Lilies with orange background. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. Kit Miracle (Apologies for the glare from my easel light.)

So…..I decided to try some different backgrounds.  First I painted a bright, orangey-red background. This really added some pop to the painting.  But it seemed very flat to me which is probably what I didn’t like about the first painting background.

Lilies with blue and orange background. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. Kit Miracle

Then I added some variegated shades of blue to the background, leaving the orange at the bottom. Much better and it ties in with the blue vase.  (I have many cobalt blue vases of various shapes and sizes which I’ve collected over the years.  This is why you see them in so many paintings.)

The flowers are essentially the same although I may have touched them up here and there. So, which background do you like best?  Dark brown, orangey-red, or blue and orange?  They each bring something different to the painting.

Hummmm….I wonder what a lime yellow-green would look like?