Sean Martorana_small


How to Price Your Art

Sean Martorana is an institution. If you are involved in the local art scene or are a member at Indy Hall, you have seen his work. Everything is Sean’s canvas, from wine glasses to jewelry; his iconic designs have graced both murals and products. Most importantly, Sean believes in fair pricing for artists and has generated one of the greatest self-pricing formulas I have encountered.

– Amanda V. Wagner, co-founder

Pricing artwork is tough for an upcoming artist. For 13 plus years I have worked to find the simple formula I now use to price my own work.

A few years after graduating a two-year college I started a small marketing and design company for small to mid-sized clients like architects, fashion designers, restaurants, and financial firms. Eight years later I switched my focus to my own artwork and design. I have been a full time artist for over seven years now, selling works of art, jewelry, murals, select commissions, and more. For all of these, I use the following method to help set my prices and charge for my time.

Pricing on materials and time doesn’t work. Does something that takes one hour cost less than something that might take three hours? What if you were inspired and you got it perfect the first time? Does this make the end result different in price? Absolutely not. Pricing based on your emotional attachment is also a terrible idea. If you love the piece, you will price it out of range and nobody will actually be able to afford it.

So, How to Price Your Artwork.

I price it by the square inch. Yup. By size. And it works every time. I originally learned this technique from Maria Brophy, an Art Business Consultant whose blog has provided answers to many questions I’ve had. Since I found this method, I have molded it to my specific career and helped others find their way with it as well. Let’s look into this formula and go through the process of pricing a 16” x 20” work of art.

16″ x 20″ = 320 square inches
At $1.00 per square inch, that = $320.

Is $1 per square inch an appropriate fee? To determine what you would actually be making off of the work you have to subtract your costs.

Canvas cost you $50, paint cost another $20; so, after you subtract your equipment costs from the square inch price, you are now making $250 off of this art.

A gallery’s commission could be anywhere from 40% to 60%. Let’s go with 50% for a happy medium. If that is the case you are now making $125 off of the painting.

What does that look like on an hourly rate? It all depends on how long it takes for you to create the work. If you spent five hours on the painting, you are getting paid $25/hour. Ten hours, you are getting paid $12.50 an hour. I’m not just talking about the actual time paint is hitting the canvas (or which ever medium you use), I’m talking about ALL the time. The time it takes to set up your easel. The time it takes to clean your brushes. The time it takes to research the subject you are about to create. All these and more are billable hours and should be accounted for.

Knowing around what you want to make hourly is important too. If we look at our final price and you aren’t making that mark, you need to raise your price. A good practice is comparing your rate to the rates at which companies contract freelancers. For example, if I were designing the branding and identity for a company, illustrating a poster, or even consulting on the interior of a space, I charge anywhere from $85/hr – $125/hr and this is within the market standard. Why should my fine art be any different? Don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth.

16″ x 20″ = 320 square inches

We are now at $320 according to the $1 / square inch math. The gallery is going to charge 50% commission. This should be added on top. Not baked in. You saw above that when you bake it in you start making close to minimum wage. So 50% of $320 is $160.

Total is now $480.

$70 in materials could be baked in but let’s add this on top allowing more room for time.

We are now at $550.

If you want to get this custom framed, add another $200 – $400 or more on top of that. Framing costs more than the artwork sometimes. This makes no sense.

So $550 (unframed) seems to be an ok price for a 16″ x 20″ painted canvas. This doesn’t look at the time spent because that changes for every artist and every work of art. You need to do the math and figure out if that actually makes sense to you.

If you don’t profit from your artwork, you end up paying people to take your art away from you, and begin to collect debt. You are not helping your craft. You are actually taking away from it and not financing your next project.

I move fast and I create a lot. I want to create more all the time. But I can’t do that if I have to spend my time making money somewhere else. People are not benefitting from my art or design if I have less to offer due to spreading myself thin with multiple jobs. I want my undivided attention on making this world better through art and design, and to do this I must charge accordingly and realize that this time spent creating art is valuable.

By Kat Zagaria__featuredlarge

This Is Where I Live

Fading Philadelphia: Brewerytown Sketches

Kat Zagaria is one of the most active consumers of Philly art that I know. A founding member of Paperclips215, Kat acted for a long time as their writer, which made sense, since she’s always out and about, attending gallery openings in Kensington, Fishtown, North Philly, and Old City.

Kat is also a visual artist. As she’s leaving Philadelphia for at least a while, to pursue an advanced degree in Chicago, it’s appropriate that the images below, which she drew of her erstwhile neighborhood of Brewerytown, draw our attention to fadings in and out, to things that are here and aren’t, and to the negative space that isn’t there.

-Julius Ferraro, co-founder





Canicular Door Interior_large

My Problem with the Arts in Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s Stepchild Syndrome

Kat Zagaria has long been one of the most active members of the Philly arts community I know. A founding member of Paperclips215, Kat acted for a long time as their writer, which made sense, since she made it a point to be out and about, attending gallery openings in Kensington, Fishtown, North Philly, and Old City. Kat took me to my very first First Friday, where I made connections with theartblog, Little Berlin—where I’ve since performed—and Curate This co-founder Amanda V. Wagner.

Kat is leaving Philadelphia for at least a while, stepping away from her job at the Barnes Foundation to pursue an advanced degree in Modern and Contemporary Art History at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We wanted to make sure to get her perspective on Philadelphia, as someone who knows and has seen more artists and art than most in her relatively brief tenure here.

—Julius Ferraro, co-founder

It is justifiable that many artists, curators, and art-lovers alike think they cannot do anything to change the entrenched infrastructure of Philadelphia’s art world, of which complaining about being excluded from the national arts scene is something of a pastime. It is frustrating that many issues in the arts community in Philadelphia stubbornly remain despite the best intentions. One person alone likely would not be able to affect change. But there is a larger, more insidious problem at work that causes Philadelphia’s non-competitive status to stagnate, and it is the lack of collaboration on artistic endeavors.

As excited as I am about the individuals that surround me, I cannot help but feel that in Philadelphia we often pigeonhole ourselves through complaints about exclusion from the international art scene. We box ourselves in and create a self-fulfilling prophecy of never being quite able to compete with our big brother and sister cities, with us taking the role of the poor stepchild forever excluded through no fault of our own. I see it every day when curators, artists, writers, and anyone involved in the art scene offers a myriad of reasons as to why Philadelphia is not competing, not being reviewed, not being talked about. As angry we are about our situation, years of living here have beaten us down into complacency. Many of us no longer bother to look at national publications, and the latest ICA show’s snippet in Art in America goes undiscussed by the very city that wanted the press coverage so badly.

During the past five years in Philadelphia, I have found a small community of collaborators that I was looking for when I arrived. I came to the city after graduating from art school in search of new experiences, and the most intriguing people I’ve found have one primary thing in common: they are doers, and doers attract others to collaborate and make their projects bigger, better, more innovative, and more fulfilling than they ever could have dreamed them to be. I have watched as Conrad Brenner built partnerships between his blog,, and many mainstream institutions in the city, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I have watched a (still budding) collaboration grow between FringeArts, our IndeGo bike share program, and the Women Bike PHL Community, which will enable more theater lovers and adventurous bikers to see the shows together this year. These are examples of the doers, who recognize that great art does not exist in a vacuum.

Collaborative projects have, in the last few years, produced some of the most interesting initiatives our city has to offer. Canicular at The Print Center in 2014 featured a collaboration with the Franklin Institute in order to fully realize artist Demetrius Oliver’s vision. Viewers watched a live feed of the Franklin Institute’s telescope view of the star Sirius—but only once they had crawled through a small doggie-door (Sirius is also known as the dog-star). As the star can only be seen at night, the Print Center had to change its hours just for the exhibit. This was not initially planned as part of Oliver’s piece, but the institution remained flexible in order for the exhibition—the collaboration—to work. It produced one of the most interesting collaborations the city has seen. Both institutions went outside of their comfort zones to produce something more intricate and beautiful than either could have done alone.

Little Berlin is a collaborative art space run by its contributor-curators. The space has no board of trustees or overseeing governing organization apart from the collaborators themselves, each of whom curates a show on a rotating basis. The result is one of the most innovative spaces that Philadelphia offers, one that is not beholden to any particular type of art. Theater, contemporary fiber installation, and interactive art all share the stage. Sometimes, Little Berlin’s shows fall flat. Other times, they are extraordinary, reflecting the diverse range of tastes that the curator-collaborators have. They are a testament to the interesting complexity that can arise when doers meet each other and make truly original art.

Collaborative art spaces need to multiply and build off of their success. Philadelphia needs more spaces that welcome a diverse audience by showcasing different types of art in innovative ways. We need spaces that encourage collaboration on an individual and institutional level. To achieve such a goal takes fiscal sponsorship, of course, but we as an arts community have to be willing to show how we support each other in our common goals. Instead of squabbling over our right to be compared to other cities, we should focus on improving ourselves. Improving our collaborative spirit will lead toward greater projects, gains in our cultural sector, and most importantly of all, great art.

Collaborations are messy. They are not a succinct process, and often the results that they yield are less than what their creators intended. But all of that is the beauty of the process.

In this, we can take a lesson from Pittsburgh and its Charm Bracelet Project, where smaller institutions are pooling their resources together to do greater projects. The project has seen a once-desolate concrete wasteland become a green space called Buhl Community Park, featuring a piece of public art by Ned Kahn called Cloud Arbor. The model that Pittsburgh has built is being touted as an example of creative collaboration and was recently featured in an American Alliance of Museums webinar on engaging new museum audiences. They are now looking at renovating the former Carnegie Library into a space fit for even more artistic collaboration and community engagement.

To take this line of thinking a step further, our city should actively collaborate with other cities on art projects—and not simply on traveling exhibitions. Artistic exchanges, residencies, and works that are created through cross-city communication should become the norm. Other cities must be invited to the table to see how wonderful the arts scene here truly is. As recognition of the communicative collaborative scene here spreads, so too will Philadelphia’s reputation as a city serious about its art.

We do nothing but hinder ourselves when we complain that we are always compared to New York and LA. Let’s give someone a reason to focus on us over New York. Let’s build something different, unique, and beautiful, and ignore anyone who says that New York is doing it better. We’re not them. But our cities have a rich, collaborative history, and it’s time for us to capitalize on that individually, institutionally, and internationally with an eye towards our inseparable artistic future.

A dumpster that says Art Museum

Caption This

Tweeting My Way Thru #ArtSchool

Suzanne Maruska once made a skirt with a repeated pattern of William Shatner’s head. Most of what I have to say about Suzanne is summed up in that sentence. I lived with her in Baltimore, and partially with her urging ended up in Philadelphia. She always brings a playful perspective to situations and thinks deeply about most anything she sees. She is a talented fibers artist and a great writer. She can be found out and about at many First Fridays and museum nights in Philadelphia, and really cares about our city and its art scene. – Kat Zagaria, Curator


Mundane chair. Photo by Rachel Wisniewski.

In the Studio

Artist Seeking Gallery Representation

Giappo has (literally) stuck his face all over the city. Yet the ownership, the relationship between the artist and the city, that these stickers imply may be misleading. As an ex-gallery owner in Philadelphia, a lifelong artist, and long time curator in the city, Giappo has born witness to the flux of interest in Philadelphia’s art scene from the inside and outside. Despite the challenges, Giappo continues to strive for global recognition in a gallery scene that so frequently ushers its saviors to the manger. Curate This had the opportunity to take a tour of Giappo’s studio at Berks Warehouse.

Amanda V. Wagner, co-founder


All photos by Rachel Wisniewski.

Photo by B. Krist for GPTMC

Take Your Shoes Off at the Door

First Friday Is Still Flawed

First Friday in Old City is reappearing on the radar. There has been a staple group of visitors for First Fridays, yet the event has a reputation for discouraging local artists from participating. “In art school, we used to go to Old City for examples of what not to do,” a friend told me as we shoved through the crowd this past Friday.

When you have a chance to actually look at the work you see that the majority is skill focused, not informed by contemporary interests, says very little about the art community in Philadelphia, and (perhaps the biggest complaint) it is overly commercial. Why go to First Friday in Old City when you can go to Frankford Ave Arts’ First Friday, or to a show at Vox Populi, and be a part of something that reflects the art community and displays relevant work?

The First Friday tradition in Philadelphia has branched out, in part because Old City was only representing a small portion of the contemporary art scene in Philadelphia. Granted, a good portion of the art showing in the 40+ galleries at Old City’s First Friday is created by local artists, and the same can be said about the street vendors—who scale from pandering flea-market-esque venders to actual artists trying to support themselves through their work.

There is a distinct difference in the crowd at Old City and Frankford Ave Arts. In Old City you are confronted by people who are traveling from outside of the city, where Frankford Ave Arts caters to and supports their North Philly community. Community (and competition) seems scarce in Old City, but there are exceptions.

Surprisingly, some non-gallery spaces in Old City are drawing on their clientele to support local talent. This past Friday Indy Hall opened its doors to the public and invited people to KIN: “a collaborative exhibition featuring the creative endeavors of an evolving artistic community.” Indy Hall is not a gallery but a member based cooperative working space. All showing artists were Indy Hall members. A wider Indy Hall community was in attendance, supporting them, and as a result, purchasing local work and advocating for our creative economy.

Art in the Age, a store that sells an array of artisanal products, featured the work of Eric Kenney. His T-shirts, flags, paintings, and prints straddle the line between commercial and art, which sits well with a shop that does the same. Art in the Age is not stepping outside of their wheelhouse when they show and sell work like Kenney’s, but what they are doing is encouraging their customers to buy from a local artist.

Support for Philadelphia’s larger art community is why people like me are returning to Old City for First Friday. There are only so many Facebook invites from friends that you can ignore, but there is still a lot of room for First Friday to become more relevant. It will never be a noncommercial experience, but it has the ear of communities outside of the arts, so it is vital for those of us involved in the art scene to look at it critically.

Amanda is an artist and writer living in Philadelphia. Her work has been displayed at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art, featured at festivals, and in events with Fait Du Vide Collective. Amanda has published with, the Philadelphia Daily News, Art Attack, and VICE Media. In her spare time she likes to drink and draw naked ladies.