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The cost of a portrait painting and what determines it’s value?

cline-final_ccc1Whether a famous artist, emerging artist, an artist starting out, or a gallery, auction house, collector or anyone else is in the art business, cost is of the upmost importance.  Art is, ultimately, a business.

A portrait’s cost, or selling price for the art community, is based on the sell-ability of the artist and their particular segment of the market.  The basic thought that is always present remains: whether or not the client is going to like and buy a piece of artwork.

The part that many do not understand is that most artists don’t just “whip up” their portrait creations.  It takes many years for an artist to perfect a commitment to their style.  That is not to say that earlier paintings are not as good as paintings later on in an artist’s career; If the Artist is very good, their growth is natural and seamless – whether their styles change and evolve after many years, like Jackson Pollock – or their style continues unchanged throughout their career like the genius of Norman Rockwell.  Either way, every artist starts out with a particular style, and when the time is right that style takes ahold of the artist.  This perfection-over-time increases the value, cost or price point of an artist’s work and the finished painting.

People must like the painting, of course, for without public appreciation, any art will be hard to sell.  So an artist has to reach out to the public that will like and purchase their work.

Again, artists start with a blank canvas.  This is hard for many to imagine because they simply see the finished product and there is very little understanding about how the artist puts down on paper (or canvas or whatever medium) an idea that is in their mind.  This is the first and all important “genius spark” of a work of art.  Even after this epiphany, there are many things that can go wrong. Bringing the art from a thought to reality is a struggle that is both a pleasure and a challenge. The mind must stay focused into every aspect of the piece from beginning to end in order to successfully finish and discover their masterpiece.

Usually the price reflects this internal struggle and is well worth it – a fact that is especially true when a client enjoys the art and wants it in their collection.


Written by: L.A. Cline, Master Pastel Artist