I LOVE art! My mom is a sculptor and art teacher so I grew up with a passion for art. However, as many artists know, it rarely pays the bills and so, I majored in business (the other family legacy), but I have always kept my love of art alive. While I may dabble in it once in a while, I really enjoy having original pieces of artwork in my house. This hobby is generally not considered a low cost one. However, there are ways to find great artwork at frugal prices. This post is about how I do it, but I would be happy to hear from anyone with other ideas!
The first step in collecting is to know what you love. Go to galleries and museums and get to know the style you like. I enjoy Folk and Outsider Art with lots of color. I also like Scandinavian landscapes (my Danish grandfather painted these) and ethnic pagan masks. Don't be concerned about names of the artist or value. While it is nice (and very exciting) if something you buy is eventually worth something, it really isn't truly valuable to you unless you enjoy it.
Once you know what you are looking for, one of the best places to find cheap artwork is at thrift or consignment stores. Most of the stuff you find will be awful but occasionally you will find that diamond in the rough. A few years ago, I found ShopGoodwill.com. In its earlier versions, you had to click on each entry to see the picture. In the last year or so, they changed it to appear more like ebay so you can easily just glance through each photo. You can select the categories for the type of artwork you are looking, or under the search tab, you can put a keyword and it will pull everything with that word in it. Here is a little tip. Go to the search tab and choose a location near enough for you to drive. Choose the Art category. If you see something you like, it will be cheaper for you since you would not have to pay the shipping like other bidders and you can bid higher. Also there are often pick-up pieces only that would be to your advantage. I have never paid more than $30, usually under $20. There were many I had to pass up because the bidding became too high. Sometimes they have a masterpiece donated unbeknown by the donor such as a Frank Weston Benson watercolor that sold for $165,002 or Edouard Leon Cortes' painting "Flower Market" that sold for $40,600. So all you frugal shoppers, before you take dead aunt Eunice's ugly vase to Goodwill, google the signature to see what it is worth!
Here are a few of my favorite pieces bought online:
This is a ceramic mask by Sammie Nicely a Georgia artist who likes to use found objects in his artwork - really cool. After I bought it, I found out that his masks sell for far more ($200 - $700) than what I paid (about $17).
The above was bought also through Shopgoodwill.com, however I found it in the Home Decor section not the Art section. It just looked like a really cool folk decorated cabinet which I purchased for about $20. When I went to collect it, the lady helping me to carry it to my car noticed the metal tag on the inside of the door. It says T & J Touchstone. This turned out to be Tom and Judy Touchstone, primarily folk pottery artist from Georgia. So I was thrilled. The lady was disgusted because she could have sold for more if she had noticed the tag sooner.
This came from a thrift store in Florida. I just loved the colors.
I bought this online. It has no signature but I thought it was interesting. I love the colors. See a theme, here?
I don't normally go for still life but I thought this was cool because of the mouse. It was bought online and is by someone named Benfield.
This a ceramic and was bought online and picked up locally. I liked the realistic look to it. My mom called it a death mask, which of course made it more interesting!
I bought this painting from a Kansas Goodwill online. Other than the cool picture, it is interesting because it used to be part of a collection called The O'Bryant Collection as noted on the metal tag. It is obviously an older piece and the only information I found on a possible O'Bryant collection is the Joan O'Bryant Kansas Folklore Collection at Wichata State University. Joan was a serious Folklore collector but died tragically in an automobile accident in 1964. I don't know for sure that this was one of her pieces but it is very interesting.
Another great way to collect art frugally is to make your friends give it to you. We may rarely go on vacation but we know people who do. When they ask you what souvenir you would like for them to bring back, ask for a piece of artwork. We like masks so now we have some from Hawaii, Mexico, Philippines, China and a few others.
Another great way is to take advantage of your friends' and family's talent. Can cousin Tommy draw? Make him draw you something. My mom is a sculptor, my grandfather a painter and my husband's brother is a painter. Here is what I have gotten from them.
This is a sculpture of my middle son that my mom did not long after he was born. He was born in June while she was off from school and had time over the summer. She came to my house every day and sculpted him while I held him in my lap.
This is a print from an engraved plate my mom created in college. This is a self-portrait. She was reorganizing her house and she offered it to me and of course I snapped it up in a heartbeat.
This was done by my grandfather and I would give anything to get more of his paintings. They were moving to Florida and wanted to lighten their possessions. I was l-u-c-k-y to get this.
This is a cool painting from my brother-in-law. The frame around it I found behind a house we were restoring (that was hit by a tornado which is another story). An old man was dumping stuff from his basement behind our house and we had to clean it up. I salvaged this really, really old frame and painted it.
Finally, and this post has gone on way too long, you can always make it yourself. I have seen some really great posts on art projects recently that I would be proud to have on my walls. Here is one of my pictures I did sitting on the porch of the tornado hit house while waiting on our insurance guys...Oh those were the days!