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An Artist’s Insider Guide To Collecting Art On A Budget

Last week I shared my top ten reasons for why you should be collecting art... and I hope you found the list so compelling that you’re ready to start.

Exciting, right?

Damn right.

Only problem is… you don’t know where to start.

Well, f*ck…

Except I totally got you here. As both an artist and a collector on a budget, I’d love to share six of my insider secrets for scoring some awesome and affordable art to either get that collection started or broadened. Ready?

Let’s go…

1) Prints!

Don’t discount the value of a print. Sure, they’re not the original, and owning an original piece of art is a rush but… they’re a starting point and they tend to fall in the $20-$100 range. Feeling a little more spendy, spendy and wanting a little less cookie cutter-ness? Try limited or numbered prints. They’re not one in a million but they may just be one of one hundred. And here’s a tip in a tip, if you’re really dead set on getting that monetary value out of a limited edition print, go for the artist’s proof print (if you can snag one) or the lower numbered piece ;) And speaking of value - want to visually “up” the value of your print? Get it out of the protective cellophane wrapper and into a frame stat (you can snag one cheap at the thrift store so no excuses here: frame that art). Bonus too, you can finally toss that picture insert that came with the frame (and by toss, I mean recycle ;).

2) But I Want Original Art!!!

Prints are fantastic but you’d love some original art… your budget is just… ahem… lacking. Years ago my husband and I were at a local art show run by a non-profit dedicated to making the arts accessible to community members. At the show one of the city’s magnet art schools had a table set up. The table was filled with art work done by high school students. All of the work was either original or numbered prints and there was not a piece being sold for more than $15. I bought these two original pieces, the pitcher and the songbird for $20 total and the frames I had sitting around. Two original, beautiful pieces of art for $20! The other fantastic thing is that my money went back to the school to help fund their art program… so twin wins for one (three if you want to count each piece of art individually). My tip here is that you should check out all artists, including high school artists: there is amazing work to be found (at very affordable price points).

3) Bigger Isn’t Always Better. Speaking of shows…

Although this isn’t always the case, the smaller shows will often attract more emerging artists while the larger and more largely attended (and more expensive to participate in) shows will attract more professional and well established artists. I’m not saying to not attend the big fancy shows with the perfect juried tents… go! But the prices will tend to be more… well… pricey. So if you’re looking for art on a budget, check out all the shows, especially the little ones: the ones in parking lots of coffee shops, your local church harvest fair, etc. Here’s something exciting to consider too… when you find and buy an artist‘s piece at a small local show, you’re going to be privy to that artist’s work long before they hit the professional show circut. So when that annoying neighbor comes over to gush about the new artist they saw at the fancy show last month, you can proudly show her the piece you bought from that same artist three years ago for a fraction of what she paid for hers (suck it, Sarah - if her name is Sarah and you’re down with the petty bs - I’m not judging and I’m sure Sarah IS annoying - who even comes over to brag like that - ugh).


So you went to all the shows… and at one of those fancy shows, you found a TON of art you like and you couldn’t afford a single thing. Total bummer. Now hold on… just wait. First, ditch the tude’. Second, it’s so damn easy to stay in contact with the art and artists you love so grab their business cards and the second you get home add them to your social. Subscribe to their email lists. Follow them! “Why,” you say, “I can’t afford their work?” I won’t say that all artists do this, because they don’t BUT I know a lot of artists that will occasionally offer discounts or have pieces on sale. I follow an artist on Instagram that will even send you free prints on occasion (you just have to pay for shipping). I wouldn’t know that though, if I wasn’t following him. I have another artist friend that sells the most gorgeous tree paintings (hi Sean, if you’re reading this) and just recently he had a gorgeous piece of his going for something insane like 50% off... I know this because I follow him. Someone is going to get a steal of a deal when they buy his piece and someone that loves his work and isn’t following him is going to miss out. FOLLOW, SUBSCRIBE, LIKE. You may just get a deal.

5) Just Ask!

You fell in love with an artist’s piece. You’re following them (good job, btw!). They offer no sales. They offer no discounts. There is no way you’ll ever be able to snag a piece of theirs. What do you do?? ASK! Now I am NOT saying that you email your favorite artist about a $5000 painting that you could only offer $200 for. Don’t do that. God, please don’t do that. But what I would say is this… reach out to that artist. Ask them: do you offer payment plans (I know many artists that would feel honored you’re that dedicated to owning their work). An artist that has their work flying out the door as it’s in the process of being created probably won’t be down, and that’s ok… but there are plenty of artists that would happily take incremental payments until the piece is paid in full. And maybe they won’t… but it doesn’t hurt to ask and open up a line of communication. Maybe they won’t work with you on payments but maybe they have a similar, smaller piece that you love and you CAN afford right now, you just don’t know until you ask.

6) Speaking of Small…

I know I spoke about small shows being a potential for some big finds but what about small art? Miniature art is hot right now (say that in a blase’ European accent for more zing). And miniature art (although some can be very pricey) is often much more affordable than a much larger piece done by the same artist. If you’re local to the Tampa Bay Area or you’d like an excuse to get out of your snowy winter hell-scape and get some sun, The Miniature Art Society of Florida has some incredible work and an awesome show every January - February. Feeling lazy and you’d rather shop at home? Subscribe to for some amazing work, emailed to you daily from 12/1 -12/25. It’s like an advent calendar of art you can buy (everything $500 and under with most pieces in the $100-$250 range) and the exciting part is that all of this art is coming from highly collected artists (many of whom sell their work for much more). A good chunk of these artists work large and only sell minis during this time… so if you’re pining to get your hands on a piece from any of these artists (many are pretty well known in the art world), here’s your insider tip: subscribe to 25 Days of Minis.

And there you have it my friends… an insider’s guide to starting or expanding that collection on a budget. Happy hunting!

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