The Value of Paintings vs Drawings | Art Business

As an author, I’m contacted by my readers quite often. I love their questions, for they really make me think. I found the following one regarding art business very interesting.

In this email my reader asked about the value of art. His question was a good one, and it made me ponder. He wanted to know why some forms of art are deemed more valuable than others. Why are oil paintings for instance, valued higher than drawings. This is what I came up with as as answer; maybe you have a few more ideas that we can add to the list.

Michelangelo | Art business advice,

These preliminary drawings by Michelangelo were used to create his famous paintings. This is where he worked out the shapes and developed the tones for later use. It wasn’t until much later that the value of these drawings were recognized.

When it comes to the value and pricing of artwork, there are a few things to factor in. Much of it has to do with the difficulty of the piece, and the experience of the artist. An accomplished artist with a lot of time invested in their talent is deserving of a high price. You’re paying or admiring years of hard work and learning.

Also to consider is the cost of the supplies and the skill required. Oil paintings will alway demand higher pricing because oil is a very difficult medium to become proficient with, and usually it will take the artist much longer to complete a piece. Also, the cost of paints, brushes and canvas is quite an investment. Brushes for oil can run into the hundreds of dollars. Some tubes of paint that are of high quality and pure pigment can cost over $100 per tube. But the longevity of oil is unsurpassed, for it’s a medium that will endure and not deteriorate much over time.

Watercolor, along with pastel, can also be deemed more expensive and valuable due to the products used. These pigments can be very expensive to produce and to purchase. Yes, manmade, synthetic pigments are more affordable, but pure pigments from the earth are quite expensive. This becomes a true investment.

Michelangelo | Art business advice,

Preliminary drawing by Michelangelo

The artist must have a lot of time invested to learn the techniques for using these products as well. All three of these mediums have been used by artists since the beginning of art. Historically, the materials were all handmade using earth’s pigments, and that’s why they have lasted the test of time.

When you get into the drawing mediums, the price will go down. The materials cost less, and the time investment often goes down as well.

Colored pencil is still considered a relatively new medium, as it wasn’t used for fine art until the last 75 years or so. It gets more attention and recognition every year, thank goodness, and is now allowed in art galleries and shows where it wasn’t allowed before.

As an artist myself, I charge a lot for my colored pencil works due to the time I put into them. It’s a difficult medium to master, and it took me a long time to become good at it. I still charge a lot more for my oil paintings, though, due to the difficulty and the costs associated with them.

Michelangelo | Art business advice,

Detail of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, by Michelangelo. A lot of preliminary work preceded this famous painting done in oil. Of course, today it’s invaluable.

A lot of the attitude about different mediums stems from the Old Masters. Back in the 15th century, drawings were often looked at as a preliminary study for future paintings. The drawings were where the artist sketched out the ideas, worked out the problems, and then moved on to paint. They were just concept pieces. This gave drawings a stigma of being “less” than paintings, because they were looked at as mere stepping stones to the real art coming up.

Wealthy people wanted the expensively done oils because they were so highly regarded. Their value was always much higher due to the demand, and the fact that it was a purchase made only by the richer class.

Today, little has changed in the perceptions. Remember, as artists, we tell people the value of our work by what we charge. A cheap price makes the buyer less attached to the piece. Don’t be surprised to see it in a garage sale some day.

A higher price makes it an investment and a proud heirloom. People value their things by the amount they sacrifice to have it. Don’t undersell yourself. Your time and talent is worth being compensated for.

Until next time,


Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. In addition to providing popular drawing lessons, she also has fantastic books and videos filled with easy-to-follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!

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