One of the best gifts that anyone could buy is an original work of art from a living artist. It enriches your life in ways you never expect. My paintings are like old friends. They're always there. They're great, they're expressive, they nourish me and they challenge me. Whenever I visit someone's home, the first thing I notice is whether or not they have original artwork displayed. Sadly, in most cases, they do not. It's a shame. One artist once told me that people are more than willing to spend a couple of hundred bucks on an IPOD or TIVO, but they won't spend that amount on an original painting! There are so many artists out there who are struggling for their art. We need to support them. Yet, let's face it, many of us get intimidated when it comes to art. How do you put a price on a painting anyway? Can you negotiate a price if you're dealing with an artist directly? How can you even ask without insulting the artist or making yourself look like an idiot?
Well, wonder no more. Now, I'm no expert, but I have been buying art online long enough to pass on a few tips. Here we go!
1. BUY ONLY WHAT YOU LOVE.
Would you buy a television or sofa or coat that you didn't like? So, duh! Don't buy a painting that you don't like! Of course, you might be thinking that the artist whose work you're buying may one day become famous like Picasso. If so, great! But the truth is, even the most knowlegeable museum curators and art gallery owners don't know who'll become famous. No one has a crystal ball. Besides, famous doesn't mean good. Buy what you love and even if the artist doesn't become famous, you STILL own something you love! Happiness is a good investment. (See tip 5)
2. SUPPORT LIVING ARTISTS.
I think that it's best to buy works online from artists who are alive and working. There are so many of them! Thousands and thousands worldwide. They deserve to make a good living creating their art. It's what they were born to do. I have forged online relationships with artists. The relationships with the artists are just as great as owning the artwork. Trust me on this one!
3. PURCHASE ART THROUGH ESTABLISHED, TRUSTWORTHY WEBSITES.
Look for the "gold lock symbol" at the bottom on the righthand side of your computer screen when purchasing, or "HTTPS" in the address line of the website when buying. That lets you know it's secure.
4. DON'T BE AFRAID TO NEGOTIATE.
This is a tricky one, but here's the deal. We negotiate for so many things in this world. Why not artwork? Artists live in the real world like the rest of us. They WANT to sell their work. But, keep in mind that they work hard like the rest of us. They're not going to give their work away. Nor should they! All they can do is say no! If so, respect that and move on. There are plenty of fish in the sea! I think the best approach is to just send the artist an email saying that you love his/her work and ask if they sell anything in the $100 range, for example. Some artists even let you PAY IN INSTALLMENTS. Try it! I've done this. I have yet to be disappointed. However, keep in mind that we're talking about artists who represent themselves. Gallery-represented artists are a whole other ball of wax.
5. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.
A painting isn't neccessarily good because it's posted on some website or hangs in a gallery. Anyway, what's good art to you may be bad art to someone else and vice-versa. Trust your instincts! Most importantly, if other people judge your purchases, do not be forced into defending your choices. If you like them, that's all that matters. Politely show your critics the door! (Smile)
6. DON'T JUST BUY PRETTY PICTURES.
Who doesn't love beautiful art? Still-lifes, landscapes, portraits of attractive people are all nice, but art is about more than just, "pretty pictures." BE BOLD! CONQUER DOUBT! Buy art that challenges and stretches you. Buy art that makes you think and feel. When considering art, don't just think in terms of what you like or dislike, think about whether the piece "moves you." This will help you make more soulful choices. I have some paintings that aren't conventionally beautiful, but I was moved to buy them. They spoke to me somehow. I believe I'm a better collector for taking this approach.
7. PRINTS & POSTERS.
This is a tough one. There are so many framing shops out there that sell these. We should try to support them. However, keep in mind that oftentimes, for the price of buying a print or poster, and then, getting it framed, you can also buy an original drawing or painting from a struggling artist in your own community! The choice is yours.
8. READ AND RESEARCH.
Read art magazines, visit museums and galleries. This will help you determine what "moves you." It'll refine your eye. I still have a long way to go, but I find that this helps.
9. TALK TO ARTISTS.
I always like to ask artists what inspires them to create. Knowing what inspires an artist and relating to that inspiration can often help you when it comes to purchasing a piece online. I have found that talking with artists is never a waste of time.
10. DON'T SPEND MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD.
I cannot stress this enough. If buying artwork means that you're neglecting that badly needed brake job on your car, I certainly hope that you'll put off buying that painting and get your brakes fixed!
11. TRY AGAIN.
If you miss out on a painting for whatever reason, just try again. If you fell in love with one painting and someone else got it, trust me, you'll find another one that you can afford that you love just as much, if not more!
MICHAEL CORBIN IS A WRITER AND AVID ART COLLECTOR