When should I buy art?

When you come to an art gallery, and see that some of the works are available for sale - do you ever think that it could apply to you? I used to think that buying art was for others, more rich and sophisticated than me. And, I used to think that because I can do some drawing and painting I’d be responsible to DIY my art and wouldn’t ever support others doing it.

But I’ve been changing my opinion lately. Just like investing in my own education, reading, and leisure activities - buying art can be rewarding. And surprisingly affordable! Even when you buy original work, pieces by local artists (you can spot them before they’ve become uber famous!) and smaller works can cost less than a nice piece of clothing.

  Shadow  -  Bianca Bello

Shadow - Bianca Bello

Here are the things that made me decide to make what felt like my first original art purchase. (I guess I’m now a collector!)

Find something you actually like

And the art world can get pretty stiff and full of itself sometimes. Or, most of the time. Just reading an artist statement can feel inaccessible - like we’re not in on the cultural knowledge that only Special Art People have.

So we often forget that simply liking how a piece looks can be enough for a very real, satisfying encounter. And there’s no shame in trying to figure out whether a piece would look good next to your couch.

I used to have a similar problem with books - I would buy the “serious” ones I would like to have read, but might not enjoy or relax during the actual reading. I’ve since decided that I don’t particularly care which books I am seen reading, or how highbrow or lowbrow my art choices might seem to others. So, don’t feel pressured to buy art for the idea of it - find something you really like the look (or feel!) of.

If you’d like a comprehensive, but humorous book on demystifying the contemporary art world, Grayson Perry’s Playing to the Gallery is great.

Then, find out something about who made it, and why

Once you’ve narrowed down to things you like the look of, dig a bit deeper. Think of your research as adding value to a piece you would already enjoy being around. Read or ask the artist about their process. Why was the piece made? When? Did it lead to other work, or a new direction?

Finding out the story of the artist and the work could either add to your reasons for wanting it - or it could cool you off. Either way, you’re narrowing down your choices and getting closer to a piece that would be the best fit for you personally.

  Shadow , detail (via  http://wildhumm.com/ )

Shadow, detail (via http://wildhumm.com/)

In my case, I was increasingly interested in the piece I bought, Shadow, as I learned about the inspiration behind it. Bianca used black ink and pattern to express the subtle overlays and variations she was seeing in her vibrant, layered watercolors. I found the piece rare, and it spoke to my own interest in pattern. In fact, here’s proof - a colleague (who just happened to be an illustrator) drew me as I was writing a blog post about repeat patterns for web design work.

Illustration – Logan Faerber

Let your art inspire you to hustle!

Even thought steps one and two lined up for me on this piece, what really convinced me to finally buy my first piece of art was this: it will serve as an inspiration to hustle, to keep writing, and keep learning about artists’ work and ways of thinking.

I don’t just enjoy Bianca’s art aesthetically - I admire her level of hustle, and the determination it takes to transition from doing school and work to go full time as a professional artist. On top of painting, she publishes a blog, titled Wildhumm, featuring in-depth artist interviews as well as writing about Bianca’s artistic process. After 8 months or so of working on DesignArtPractice, I sense the level of grit it requires to publish things yourself, and have a better appreciation for regular, high quality output.


So - don’t let assumptions stop you. Find art you truly like, and can afford or save for. Then, narrow down your choices to the best value - pieces that are aesthetically your thing, but also have a compelling story, and will nudge you in a good direction.

For me, all three things worked out perfectly in this piece. It answered my visual appetite for pattern (like the Yayoi Kusama art I also enjoy) and even color, on a theoretical level (one of my favorite subjects for geekery and research). It also fit aesthetically into my current living situation (don’t underestimate the multiplying effect a well matched couch has on your art :)

And let your art serve as a daily reminder to keep hustling!