One way to price paintings for sale consistently is to find a cost per square inch. That works, up to a certain point, and then fails. You can get only so small until the strategy breaks down…
A painting can be small in area, and in that uses less paint, less canvas, less acrylic medium or turpentine or linseed oil, less archival varnish. Less airbrush paint, less pastel. A painting can be less complicated, simpler in detail and execution. All of that makes less the investment in materials and actual motion and construction by the artist.
Two things are missing.
The first is time. Time to resolve the problems of composition, balance, aesthetic intension, color, form, directing attention. That may be standing in front of the painting and learning to see what’s not there yet, what the next steps are. That seeing is the key to artistic practice. Finding the rituals that push that into being is learning to produce as a professional artist.
The second is concept. My experience is that I feel an emotional hit from an inspiration for a painting, from photograph or memory or color, usually all at once. That’s my individual whole, my intention for what the painting will communicate when it is done, and the measure for when it is done. Getting a painting there is not measurable in motion or materials. Maybe it’s measurable in what it gives you as an artist or what it takes away from your soul…
This article came about because I was thinking about that square footage as a measure for pricing work, and circling around how to produce work that has impact and satisfies me as true and authentic, and that can find a market. A painting can only be so small to lessen the material cost, and that does bring the form and concept to a simpler place, just because of the focus needed to execute it in a smaller space. But doesn’t necessarily mean fewer problems to resolve to get the damn thing complete.
Painting-a-Day, or “A Painting, A Day”, is a brilliant professional drill. It forces a whole survey of method, material, concept of work, and ritual. I think an art school that made this the drill for a year or four would be the school I wish I had had, and had to knock around to find for myself.