Challenges of pricing work as a new artist

(Sherry Han/The AQ)
Brynn Haley, a St. Thomas University student and artist, holds up one of her drawings. (Sherry Han/The AQ)

When you’re starting off as an artist, family and friends can be a both a burden on your earnings and your greatest promoters.

Some young artists find it tough to get a start, especially when family and friends ask for free pieces.

“It can be a little frustrating, because you love them and want to help them out, but you know that strangers would be paying you a certain price for all of the work you’re doing,” said Alex Landine, an art student at the University of New Brunswick.

“If it seems like the family member or friend is taking your work for granted, it definitely can make you feel under-appreciated,” Landine said.

April Harrett, a visual arts student at St. Thomas University, agrees.

“Most people justify it by telling themselves, ‘Oh, they like to do it anyway,’” said Harrett. “In reality, they’re just taking advantage of my talents.”

Brynn Haley, a STU student who does art on the side, occasionally gets asked for free pieces too.

“I’m still flattered because it means they like my work, but my time is worth something to me and I would rather not give it away for free,” Haley said.

Breaking into the art scene is no easy feat, especially at a time when visual art is becoming competitive as more people enter the field. Not to mention a single piece of art can take hours, days or months to produce.

Time isn’t the only factor to be considered. Art supplies can be expensive (especially when you’re a student): $10 for a stretched canvas the size of an 8×11 piece of paper, $5 per paintbrush, $25 for a pack of coloured pencils and $50 for a pack of six acrylic colours. Depending on the type of art, among and quality of materials required, size of the piece and desires of the client, making art can be costly.

Earning a stable income is also challenging for artists.

Catherine Craig is a St. Thomas student who sells her work at The Abbey, Issac’s Way and the Farmers Market.

“Around the few weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ll sell pieces every week and make around $400 a week. However, other times I’ll only make $10 a week. It’s hard to predict,” Craig said.

Craig began making art as Christmas gifts for her family and experimenting with oil paints. “My father took his and put it in his office, so he would have people coming in and seeing them and so others became interested in my art too.”

Although working for free for family members isn’t ideal, it can help some get started.

“I certainly recommend connecting with family and friends first because they’re the ones who will be supportive of you,” she said.

Craig also recommends contacting local businesses and using social media to promote your art.

“You have to get out there and do it. In Fredericton, there’s lots of opportunity [to sell your work]. If you don’t put yourself out there, then no one is ever going to know you,” Craig said.

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