Behind the price tag of original art


Why, oh why, does original art have to cost so much?! Let’s find out.

First, please know that this post isn’t about shaming anyone who looks at a piece of art and thinks it’s overpriced - because, yes, that can and does happen and we each have a different idea of what is or is not expensive. Before I became an artist, I lacked an appreciation/understanding of pricing and while the topic of money always feels a bit taboo to discuss, I think it’s important to shed light on what goes into pricing original art.

This is a bit of a long read, but for those who aren’t artists, I promise you’ll learn a few things if you read until the end (which is where the surprising parts enter)!

Have you ever looked at a beautiful piece of art and then cringed at the price tag, thinking it sounds totally unreasonable? Well, while there are artists who mark their work at very high prices, much of the time that’s not actually the case. Your instinct to think a price is high is totally understandable, but that’s likely because you don’t get to see the business side of an artist’s work. It’s also partially because we regularly find art and prints for sale at a low cost in big box stores. Here’s your chance to learn.

While there are several formulas many artists use to price art systematically by size (we won’t be getting into those now), I want to focus on more specific costs.

Each piece begins with supplies. Hopefully the artist you’re purchasing from has chosen to use quality supplies that will hold up over time. Let’s just say that professional quality paint (not to mention canvas, brushes, varnish, etc.) add up very quickly. Supplies are the usual thing people think of when it comes to cost, right? However, they’re just a very small part of what goes into a price tag.

Next, we have time. Yes, there are some artists who work very fast and can complete a big piece in an hour or two. Most do not. Many of us pour days and weeks (and sometimes months and years) into a piece. For example, when I add simple stitching to a painting, it typically adds on anywhere from 2-8 hours of time. Think about how much you expect an artist to make per hour. Let’s break it down for an easy 8x10 painting (easy meaning one that goes smoothly and according to plan) made by me. It can and will vary a fair amount depending on the piece, but this is on the lower end and gives a general idea:

  • Color mixing = 1 hour

  • Research/planning time = 1 hour

  • Painting = 3 hours

  • Stitching = 2 hours

  • Clean-up, varnishing, and/or framing = 1 hour

  • TOTAL = 8 hours

  • Shipping + thorough packing (if applicable) = 1 hour

  • Photographing + listing online (if applicable) = 1 hour

  • TOTAL = 10 hours

So, what do you think an artist’s time is worth? Where I live, a decent entry level position for an adult *might* bring in $15/hour. While it’s frustrating to think that a college-educated professional who has poured hours and hours of time and thought into learning and advancing their craft is only worth $15/hour, I want to start here to show how pricing using the above time commitment looks:

  • 8x10 painting at $15/hr. x 8 hours = $120

  • 8x10 painting at $15/hr. x 10 hours = $150

For many people, these prices sound high for an 8x10 inch piece. People who have expressed desire for my work regularly bypass an original 8x10 even when it’s marked at only $75 (which, if based purely on time, would make my time worth $7.50 - $9.38 per hour). Think time and supplies (not included in the above pricing) are where it ends? Think again.

Here’s what most people don’t know. If you purchase a piece using a credit card, there are fees. Often, 3% or more. If you purchase a piece using a credit card on a service like Etsy or an artist’s personal website, closer to 6% may be taken out. If you’re a local purchaser and taxes are included in the price you’re paying, up to another 8% or so comes out in the form of city/state sales taxes. Beginning in 2019, we’re also required to pay local taxes for whatever location in the US you’re purchasing from. Basically, fees account for a 3-15% reduction in what we take home. Think this is where it stops? Ohhhh, how I wish.

There is also the cost of maintaining a website, an online store, shipping supplies, business cards, studio rent, commission percentages taken by stores and galleries, and in the US... federal taxes. If you’re self-employed, you’ll already know this, but for those who aren’t, here’s the deal: we don’t have federal taxes taken out of our ‘paychecks’. This means that each year, we are required to pay in those taxes. This makes perfect sense, but most people don’t think about it when purchasing from someone who is self-employed. Even if I am making poverty level wages, I am required to pay in a percentage of my earnings. I’ll skip the exact percentages, as it will vary some depending on how much an artist makes, how much you’re able to deduct, etc., but know that that what we pay in does even further reduce what we’re earning from each piece of art. Please know that this isn’t me complaining, it’s simply an explanation of factors that sit behind the price tag of a handmade item.

The term starving artist doesn’t apply to everyone, as there are artists doing an amazing job and making a great living. Sadly, that does not apply to a huge number of us, myself included. Many of us are forced to hold more than one job simply to pay the bills and feed ourselves (again, not a complaint, just a fact - I consider myself lucky to be an artist!). So while we completely understand if you are not in a financial position to purchase original art, we hope that if you like and appreciate our work, you’ll consider supporting us in other ways. If you like what an artist is doing, please consider:

  • sharing their work on social media or with friends who might also like it

  • commenting/complimenting when you see something you enjoy

  • purchasing a print or small item (in cash, when possible - those credit card fees are tough to stomach!)

  • asking what is available within your price range - I can’t speak for others, but I’m always happy to consider making prints or tiny pieces of original art if you can’t quite afford the larger one that you wish you could purchase.

  • putting an artist on your wish list for holidays! Perhaps a family member will surprise you with a piece!

These are all wonderful alternate options and SO appreciated! Last week, I was having a rough day and as someone left my studio, I heard her emphatically tell her spouse that my work was breathtaking. This seriously made my week. Would I have loved it if she had bought something? Of course, but I also realize that not everyone has the money or the right place for my work, and so sometimes, just knowing that what I’m doing with my time is valued, is more important than you might realize. After all, most of us are creating in hopes that we can provide some type of positivity or other emotional experience to the viewer - YOU!

Did reading this lend a new perspective on what goes into the price of original art? Did I forget to include something? Please comment and share and let’s educate others!

One last thought - you might have asked yourself, ‘why should I buy original art when I can get art at all the big box stores at a fraction of the cost?’

First, you’re receiving something that’s one-of-a-kind when you purchase original art. You can look at and feel the textures, brushstrokes, color variations, markings, etc. and hopefully you can feel the love and passion that are silently embedded into a piece. And if you ask, you’ll also likely get the story behind the piece you’re purchasing. For example, I’d like to think I’m not just selling a random landscape. I’d like to believe I’m sending you home with a place for your eyes to rest when you’re weary with all of the world’s chaos and a calming reminder of all that our natural environment has to offer when we step outside to examine and explore.

So, to sum up - if you previously thought that $75 for a small original painting was out of line, I hope you feel differently now (or at least gained a bit more of an appreciation for why prices sometimes seem high. Above all, I am so grateful to be living a life where I can create and share with others, so thank you for joining me in this journey!


3 Free Photo Editing Apps for Artists & Instagram Users

3 Great Photo Apps for Artists and Instagram Users!

If you’re photographing for social media (especially Instagram), you might find that it can be tricky to get just the right light and color in your photos. Natural light makes a huge difference, but isn’t always possible. That’s when a bit of editing can come in handy. So, if you’re aiming for those light and airy photos, need to adjust colors, or edit videos — here are a few phone/tablet apps that I love and use often:

(As of 1/19, all of these apps are free to download and use the features I mention, though some offer in-app purchases for things like filters, etc. I am not affiliated with the apps in any way, I just enjoy using them.)

1. Snapseed (Brighten up shadowed edges or remove nail holes!)

Why I love it: there’s a selective tool that will allow you to brighten specific spots. If there’s a shadow on one corner of your photo and you want to lighten it to tie in better with your Instagram feed, this is such an easy way to accomplish it! Shadows be gone! The are so many amazing tools on this app if you’re willing to spend some time on it. The vignette tool is another great one if you want the edges of your photo to be lighter, as it the vignette can go either direction (darker or lighter).

How to use the selective tool:

Load your photo. Select the tools category at the bottom, then selective.


Once you’ve clicked on ‘selective’, you’ll be able to add markers to the spots that you want to adjust. Make sure the add/+ button is highlighted in blue, then click the spot you want to adjust (you can delete or shift it later if you didn’t hit the right spot).

Click on whichever marker you want to adjust and it will turn blue. The B stands for brightness. If you move your finger up and down, you’ll see other options like contrast, saturation, etc. To adjust the brightness (or any of the others), move your finger left to make the area darker or right to make it brighter. As you can see in the photo above, I’ve brightened the lower left corner by +11. I continued on and did the others until it looked how I wanted (shown below). All done!


How to use the healing tool:

One more awesome feature on Snapseed is the healing tool. This is helpful if you’re trying to remove nail holes from a wall or a speck of dirt on your photo, etc. Little defects like this are easily removed! Below, I’ve used the tool to remove nail holes in the wall.

How: Choose the Tools category, then choose the healing tool (with the bandaid-like icon). You’ll simply tap on the area that you want to be ‘healed’, watch it turn red for a second, and then the spot should be gone! If it didn’t work quite right, there’s an undo arrow that you can push.


2. A Color Story (adjust both photos AND videos!)

Why I love it: It’s user friendly and doesn’t take a lot of time to figure out (like some others). It can even edit video or apply a filter to one! Most photo apps I’ve tried don’t load videos, so that had me very excited. It also has a grid feature that allows you to preview your Instagram feed before making a new post. Check this one out if you’re looking for artistic filters - there are many unique sets available to purchase at a reasonable cost and there are also some free ones. There are quite a few fun lighting effects, too, including bokeh and sunlight flare. If you’re willing to sift through free vs. paid options, you’re likely to find some features you’ll enjoy.

3. Adobe Lightroom CC (Modify an individual color!)

Why I love it: If you’re used to using Adobe programs, you’ll probably like this one best. It can be a bit overwhelming if you’re not used to editing. There are a LOT of adjustment functions, but hands down, my favorite is the ability to adjust individual colors. If you’re a painter, you know that certain colors never seem to photograph properly (turquoise, I’m looking at you). So, if a color isn’t popping quite as much as you’d like or you just need to tweak the hue or saturation a little, give this app a try.

How to adjust an individual color:

Open the photo you’ll be adjusting. Select the ‘color’ tab and it will drop down will several options. Click on the color wheel (highlighted in a blue square below). Now you’ll see individual colors that you can select (green is selected below). Choose the one you want to adjust and then play with settings that appear below — hue, saturation, and luminance. The settings shown above (temp, tint, vibrance, saturation) will adjust the entire photo, so use only the three below. Like most editing apps, if you make a mistake, there’s an undo arrow (at the top on this one). The sample below shows how I’ve edited green trees to be warmer.


I love sharing helpful tips, so feel free to comment if there’s a topic you’d like to know more about and I just may create a post about it!

Follow along on Instagram to stay updated! I’m also excited to hear what you think of these apps and if you have any tricks of your own to share with us.

DIY Wall Easel - Easy + Affordable + Adjustable!

The Easiest DIY adjustable wall easel for artists {tutorial}

If you follow me on Instagram you may know that I recently shifted my workspace from the living room, kitchen, bathroom (pretty much anywhere I could find space), to a newly remodeled 6x9 foot room in my little house. Don't get me wrong, I so appreciate having a designated space now... but it's really difficult to work on large paintings in a room that's crowded with art supplies and is too small for a floor easel. I usually end up trying to paint with a canvas flat on the floor or propped low against a wall, which leaves me with an awful headache/neckache every single time. So, last week I decided enough was enough: painting at eye level while standing or sitting = necessity.

Enter adjustable wall easel. Except, if you hunt for decent wall easels online, they can cost HUNDREDS of dollars and most sit flush against the wall. I don't know about you, but I prefer a slight angle when I'm painting. It's more like working on a traditional easel and means I don't have to secure the top.

Thinking about this easel was so much fun. I'm geekily excited about it even if it is only wire shelving wearing new pants. Goals: affordable, easy to install, adjustable height so I can sit or stand, possibility of adding palette/tool shelf, parts available locally. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Here's the deal - I created a multi-page tutorial with details, photos and even a printable shopping list. It will walk you through the EXACT parts you need to buy, the tools you need, and how to install everything (+ more info than you probably ever wanted). Anyone can make this easel! The tutorial is for a 4 foot wide easel with a 7" depth shelf that will likely cost you $35 or less. All of the measurements are totally adjustable based on your own space and budget. **My easel accommodates canvases up to 3ft in height (any taller and you'll want to modify my plans simply by using a deeper shelf).** 

Quit yammering and give me the tutorial, right?

You got it! Click on the image below and you'll be able to print or download the PDF.

                        CLIck on the image & you'll be able to download the PDF

                        CLIck on the image & you'll be able to download the PDF

After you've read through the tutorial, feel free to come back here to ask any questions. Did you make an easel based on this design? I'd love to see it or hear about your modifications.  Also, a new canvas framing tutorial is coming up, so check the blog again soon!

Happy easel building. :)




Studio Remodel + choosing flooring for the best indoor air quality


I live in a house that's about 550 sq. ft.  This doesn't leave much room for creating large art. My 6x9 ft. back room has always been my office and tool area and I typically paint in my kitchen... or bathroom.. or bedroom (or anyplace that has a clear space at any given time, ha!). As you might imagine, my floors and tables have paint splatters galore.  I decided it was time to convert the back room into a studio only space.  So, I emptied the room and set out to complete a long overdue remodel.  

I don't talk about my health struggles much, but let's just say that my body is very sensitive to the things I eat as well as the environment around me.  Since chemical exposure affects me in a big way, I always seek out products that are as healthy as can be, within my budget.  Budget being the key word here, as healthy and budget don't always go together.

I spent hours researching flooring that was within my budget, DIY within my skill level, and offered the updated yet slightly rustic look I was going for. Finding a healthy option that fit these requirements was not so easy (and the outcome was not exactly a success). Following my week long internet search, I walked into Lowe's to see what they had for flooring. I asked a question about a laminate sample and unexpectedly, the man working took me over to the clearance area to show me one and offered 50% off the already low clearance price.  I wasn't necessarily planning to purchase laminate, but who can say no to that?! 

This floor was listed as Floor Score certified, which suggested that it's less toxic than others, so I was okay with the purchase given the deal I got. Fast forward to a week later when I open the boxes and set out to lay the floor. In the tiniest print imaginable (I truly had to hold the print up to my iPad camera and zoom in on the screen just to barely be able to make out the words), it says "this product emits formaldehyde", along with a whole paragraph of scary potential side effects.  I'm thinking, how can a product that's certified for healthy indoor air quality be emitting enough formaldehyde that there's a whole warning paragraph?!

There are two types of 'healthy' flooring certification - one being Floor Score certified and the other being Green Guard certified. This floor had the Floor Score certification. The flooring industry has created certifications based on adhering to certain rules/guidelines and tests the products to ensure they are within certain thresholds for various toxins, but that doesn't mean that these products are even close to free of chemicals or necessarily safe in your home. I equate it to choosing regular strawberries that have likely been treated with pesticides at some point vs. the organic option.  In all honestly, you probably won't notice any difference with the regular ones, but that's not to say that those chemicals aren't doing something or that long-term exposure won't do something, right? In this society, we're really good at buying and doing for the sake of convenience and low-cost, ignoring possible effects that we can't tangibly see or feel right now. We also tend to be trusting and if we see a certification that's associated with healthy indoor air quality, we believe it and buy it. 

All this to say - despite the formaldehyde statement on this certified product and the fact that I wanted so badly to find a healthier option, it just wasn't in my budget.  So, I installed the floor yesterday (wearing a respirator while sawing) and have been airing the house out.  My throat burned while installing and I'm ridiculously congested/sneezing this morning. I'm very sensitive so this might not be an issue for you, but know that whether you feel it or not, the odds of some sort of decline in your air quality are pretty good. The certified products likely offer a lesser decline that non-certified products, but a decline nonetheless.  


My current plan is to purchase a few more houseplants to help with air purification. Here's a link to an article that lists the top 10 plants (based on a NASA study) that remove indoor toxins:

I'm adding resources below (no affiliation to any, simply pages I've stumbled upon) that may help you to make a more informed decision. Keep in mind any resources which are linked to flooring companies may present information in a more positive light.

Links to shop some eco/air friendly options:





Today, I let my mind wander to days before electronics joined us everywhere.  Days when phone calls came only in our homes and making contact with others was via door knocks, landlines, handwritten messages, and even occasionally - two soups cans tied by string.  Cell phones and digital cameras never accompanied when you went for a walk, because they didn't exist.  You were present.  So much more present.

While technology advancement has gifted us many opportunities, it can also hinder us when it comes to having true sensory experiences, living in the moment.

Lately, I've caught myself 'behind the lens' and not enjoying moments for their intended purpose.  On a beautiful afternoon trip through the prairie this week, I caught myself wanting to stop and take video to share with 'everyone'.  I had to resist (more than once).  Would sharing have been so bad?  Not at all!  Here's the thing, though:  where beautiful moments in our lives used to be something special, something intimate, now they're moments that we have the option of sharing with random Jane or Joe (and more often than not, do).  Since it doesn't appear as though cell phones and social media are going anywhere anytime soon, it's up to each of us to decide which moments are appropriate to share and which moments we should keep for ourselves.  I'm not here to tell you which moments those are (because they'll be different for every one of us), but I do want to remind you think about it a bit more.  

If you're out for an afternoon stroll because you know the autumn leaves have just changed colors and your goal is to take photos - then by all means, share away with the whole dang world.  We love beautiful leaves, too!  On the other hand, if you're out for a walk at dusk because you had a long day and you need to unwind and recharge, think about letting yourself do that to the fullest.  Feel and smell the fresh air around you, brush your hands against grasses blowing in the breeze, gaze at the depth and changing shapes in the sky.  BE in those moments.  If you must bring your phone, mute it and keep it tucked away.  It's okay to pretend it doesn't exist, because not so long ago, it didn't.    

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that it's a rare week if I post everyday (#100dayproject aside).  I don't subscribe to notifications, and I typically see other's posts hours after they've been made.  Some days, not at all.  It doesn't mean I care about what's going on in your lives any less, it just means I'm trying harder to seek out meaningful things, and I'm trying harder to live my life in a way that is healthiest for me.  Please don't misunderstand - I truly value and am so incredibly appreciative of those who follow along with me on social media, but I also wholeheartedly believe that routine old-fashioned sensory experience is one of the most important things in living a well-lived life.    

How do you feel about unplugging?  When and why do you do it?  Is it important to you?

p.s. If you read the whole thing, you deserve a special treat (as my nephew would say)! I'm really good at getting all wordy when I'm passionate.

xo, Heather