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How do I put a price on it?

Valuing your work for art competitions


Whatever their attitude to material reward, very few artists fail to enjoy the buzz of a buyer’s sticker appearing on their exhibition piece - and none more so than when it happens for the very first time.


Especially for competitive art events, there’s definitely a lot in the old truism about winning not being everything. Even if you’re pipped for the prizes, if you nonetheless make it to the shortlists, there’s the chance to have your work showcased at the exhibition. A high-profile stage, catalogue entries, whole new audiences seeing your work: ‘winning’ at a competition really is as much about exposure as prizes…


But before all this comes a (perhaps not quite) sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. What price should you give your competition submissions? Here are some guidelines to help you get your sums right…


Start with the competition guidelines


Reputable competitions (National Open Art included) will urge a measured approach to this.


They’ll be looking for a “sensible, affordable market price”. On the one hand, organisers will be keen to ensure that artists get a fair price for the work they’ve produced. At the same time, successful competitions are built around participation - and that’s as much about encouraging viewers and buyers to get involved as it is about the artists themselves. Fair, realistic pricing triggers interest; something that benefits everyone.


Don’t price to win


Will going high or low price-wise make a difference to your chances of picking up a prize in the competition? In a word, no. Or at least, it shouldn’t do - because in a well-organised, fair competition, your artwork should be assessed by the judges on its own merits.


It’s one of the reasons why it’s worth paying special attention to anonymously-judged events. Speaking for NOA, we take this very seriously. Apart from the actual submission, the only information in front of the judges when they make their decisions is the title, medium, type and artist’s statement.


The lesson? Don’t price your artwork based on what you’d like the judges to see - because they won’t actually see it until after the decisions have been made.


Got a catalogue already? Be consistent in pricing…


Let’s say your body of work is available to buy online. Instead of sticking to your usual pricing method, you decide to apply a ‘one-off’ special valuation for your competition entry. You either add an extra zero, or else price it lower than usual in a bid to trigger maximum interest.


Fast forward to the exhibition - and a viewer loves your piece. They hit Google on their phone to check out more of your work. Trouble is, there’s a big, confusing gap between the price of your work on Instagram, Pinterest or your Website compared to the artwork in front of them. So they move on…


Before they convert into an actual buyer, interested viewers need to be confident about what they are looking at. If they think they are going to pay a premium just because it’s on sale in a popular exhibition, or it looks as if the price of your art changes depending on where it happens to be sold, that initial interest can soon evaporate. Remember; consistency is key for building up that all-important buyer confidence.


Never sold before? Read these pointers…


Even the most seasoned gallerists can disagree on what constitutes a “sensible market price” for a particular piece! So if you’ve got zero experience at selling your work, it can all seem a bit daunting. Fear not; here are a couple of key pointers…


  • Compare with similar pieces. As a starting point, narrow your search to artwork similar to yours in terms of medium (e.g. oils, watercolours, photography, sculpture) and composition type. Just as important, hone in on artists who seem to be at a similar point in their artistic career as yourself. This can include formal training, breadth of their body of work, public profile and technical expertise.
  • Get paid for your work. Your artwork should never be sold for less than the cost of the materials that have gone into it. Equally, it’s only right that the piece reflects the hours that have gone into creating it. Yes, it can often be hard to view art as “work”. That said, taking into account the time that went into it, what broad level of payment would reflect the level of effort that went into it?
  • Check out previous exhibitions. View previous NOA exhibition pieces and galleries for a closer look at how other shortlisted artists have valued their work.

Ready to make your artwork visible to a whole new market? The National Open Art 2018 competition opens on 30 September 2018. You can find out more right here.



Packaging guide for artists shipping their paintings, canvas, prints, or framed artwork

Although we will take great care transporting your artwork through our fragile services, it must be protected against any unforeseen accidents. Nobody wants to receive a telephone message informing them that their artwork has been damaged in transit. The best way to protect your work is to have it professionally packed in a bespoke foam lined plywood box, or A-frame if a large piece.


We are aware that sometimes professional packing isn’t an option so the following

… offers an alternative solution to prepare your item for shipping. Neither NOA nor Flight Logistics/ShipArt can be held responsible if you package your own work insufficiently for the journey. Please bear in mind that insurance providers will rescind theircoverageif the packaging is inadequate. Don’t assume bubble wrap will do, unless you’ve wrapped it in a metre of the stuff, it’s not great at protecting against pressure damage.


If you’re in any doubt about how best to package your artwork, please contact us via email.


Packaging process for paintings, canvas, prints, or framed artwork

  1. Painters Tape- If glass is involved apply painters tape in an X manner across the face from corner to corner (leaving a lip over the edge for easy peel). Put a single layer of bubble wrap over this.

  2. Acid-free archival tissue paper (Glassine)– Use if shipping a canvas, it protects from moisture and dust. Place a piece on the floor about 3 inches larger all round than the canvas. This is pH neutral and will therefore have no chemical interaction with other objects. You can get this from art and craft stores.

  3. Put your picture/canvas face down on top of the paper.

  4. Hard Card– Place a hard card on top. Fold back the edges of the paper and tape down so that it is fixed to the hard card with the picture/canvas sandwiched between the two.

  5. Plastic wrap– Cover with plastic sheeting, poly wrap, or heavy plastic bag to protect against water damage.

  6. Corner cardboard – For extra protection you can apply to all 4 corners.

  7. Bubble Wrap– Wrap the above at least twice in bubble wrap.

  8. Foam board – Place a piece of foam board front and back of the picture/canvas. Make sure this is at least 5 cm longer and wider than the picture/canvas. Tape around the boards to hold in place. You can get this from art and craft stores.

  9. Cardboard– Fashion a cardboard box as exterior protection.

  10. Fragile– Write fragile on box.

  11. Label – Apply label clearly writing the full address where it is going. If the box is blank, you can write the address straight on the box.

  12. Add “Fragile”.

Packaging process for unframed work if it can be rolled up


  1. Acid-free archival tissue paper (Glassine) – put on the face of your art and roll at same time.

  2. Plastic wrap– Put in plastic sheeting, poly wrap, or heavy plastic bag to protect against water damage.

  3. Tube– Put in a thick and sturdy cardboard tube.

  4. Label – Apply label clearly writing the full address where it is going.

  5. Add “Fragile”.



Please bear in mind that insurance providers will rescind their coverage if the packaging is inadequate.


Cost of shipping and the effect of packaging

All carriers will look at the actual weight and the “volumetric weight” and will charge shipping at the higher of the two (UK delivery volumetric weight is calculated at LxHxW / 4000). Volumetric weight is a calculation based on the space taken up by an object. If your crate weighs 3kg but volumes to 10kg your cost will be based on 10kg because of the amount of space being used in a vehicle.


It’s worth bearing this in mind when you package your artwork.

Prepared by Steve Bodie (FCMI)

Flight Logistics Group Ltd – (ShipArt™)



Reach, recognition and reward: these “3 Rs” sum up the benefits that taking part in a competition can offer an artist. In other words, whether you’re looking to widen your audience, get your work in front of art insiders, build commercial interest (or all three), a competition could be just the opportunity you’re looking for.


But of course, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right: a rule that most definitely applies to competition participation. From picking the event that’s right for you - through to making your entry stand out, here are our tips for boosting your chances of a happy outcome...


1. Check the rep

Rather than taking the organiser’s word on the awesomeness of their competition, always do a little digging to see what other people think.

Is it given coverage in the likes of Art Week and The British Journal of Photography? How about the BBC? As a rule of thumb, if a competitive event is deemed newsworthy by the wider art world (for all the right reasons!), then it’s more likely to be worthy of your attention.


2. Just who’s judging you? Look for kudos

Check the identity and profiles of the judges. Ideally, prominent individuals from across the art world will be more than happy to get involved with the event. So if the panel includes an interesting mix of curators, critics and creatives from multiple fields, it’s a reassuring sign. A healthy mix of corporate sponsors is a good thing, too.


3. Anonymous judging means fairer judging

We all want a level playing field. That’s why it’s worth trying to find out how the judges go about their decision making.

Anonymous judging is something to be especially welcomed. And if the organisers take this seriously, they’ll have measures in place to ensure that this anonymity is scrupulously observed. This will involve controlling what information is presented to the judges when they see the artwork (i.e. no signature or bio). There should also be a requirement for judges to step back from the decision making if they come across work they recognise.


4. Want a wider audience? Pay attention to the exhibition…

A winner’s badge isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. If your goal is to extend your reach, focus on competitions that offer plenty of opportunities for shortlisted work to be seen by large audiences.

Speaking for National Open Art, we’re big fans of exposure. As well as a winner’s exhibition at the Pallant House Gallery in our home of Chichester, we also host a wider exhibition where winners and shortlisted entrants feature alongside internationally acclaimed artists. Last year, our 21st National Open Art Exhibition took place at the Bargehouse in London’s OXO Tower. You can read all about it here.

And beyond that? At NOA, both exposure and potential revenue are available for shortlisted artists via our catalogue and online sales platform.


5. What do past participants say?

In an ideal world, everyone should come away with a positive experience from involvement in an art competition.

So how was it for you? Do the organisers know their stuff? Did the exhibition go well? What happened next for the winners and shortlisted artists? Look out for testimonials and interviews from past participants to get the lowdown.


6. Check your eligibility

There’s the basic stuff to check (residential requirements, age, your career-point, artwork size restrictions etc.). Apart from this, look beyond the main prize at the competition sub-categories - as there could be a category that’s a perfect fit for you or one of your pieces.

Examples might be emerging artist awards, thematic awards - or separate categories for portraiture and landscapes.


7. Choice of submission: aim for impact

Hint: if you’re wondering which piece to send in, don’t automatically choose the artwork that features on the front of your commercial portfolio. Remember that commercial clients often have very different priorities to competition judges!

“Always follow your instincts and your heart”. For participants choosing what to submit, that’s the advice of Zelda Cheatle, photography curator, editor, lecturer and consultant, who was part of the panel for last year’s NOA Photography Awards.

According to Zelda Cheatle, as well as being technically sound, an entry “must also make the viewer feel something”. Proficiency matters - but don’t neglect the importance of sheer impact.


8. Technical instructions shouldn’t be ignored

Competition organisers will typically request digital submissions for the first round of judging. This makes sense as a way of widening participation and keeping submission costs down.

So does it matter if you send off a digital image that’s smaller than the rules stipulate? Or if it’s the wrong file type? In a word; yes.

No matter how good the actual work, grainy images, too much glare, images that are too small or that won’t open properly can all scupper your chances of making it past the first step.


9. Consider insurance for physical submissions

The latter judging stages will generally involve in-the-flesh assessment of your artwork. A helpful organiser should be able to recommend reliable couriers for transporting it.

It’s also highly advisable to insure your artwork. If you have some insurance already, check that the coverage includes off-premise damage - including competitions, exhibitions and damage in transit.


10. Don’t miss the deadline

Just as important, try to allow plenty of time to get the submission right! Completing the application form, photographing your artwork, formatting the image, honing your title and explanatory statement: to do your work justice, all of this deserves a little TLC.

Ready to take the next step? Over 21 years, National Open Art has gained a reputation as one of the UK’s leading art competitions. Find out more about our Spring 2018 competition here.


Image: Lil Wilkinson-O'Dwyer - Untilitled - Winner 21st National Open Art 1st Prize - The Graingers Award sponsored by Chichester Contemporary Art

2018 Prizes

The prizes for 2018 will be announced soon

All monies raised by our charity including sponsorship, entry costs, and art sales, are primarily to raise funds to support the Charity's aims and objectives.


The Foyle Foundation
The Arts Club
World First
Belmond Hotels
Welsh Award - Twr y Felin
Cass Art
Artists' Collecting Society


Galleries Magazine
Anthony Ward Thomas
Chessington World of Adventures Resort


Chichester College
Be Smart About Art
House of Fairy Tales
Pallant House Gallery