Saturday, October 1, 2016


I was asked to post about art collecting from the vantage of an artist . I am happy to do so and will describe what I have learned from my three years of renting a studio in the arts district of NE Minneapolis.

A little back ground so you know where I am coming from. I am an architect by day and an artist by night. Each has a lot to do with creating and drawing in ways that hopefully affect people.  I love both of my jobs, yet they are two jobs so I run a double life and that double life goes well into the evenings!  I also teach art once a week at White Bear Center for the arts.

My advice on collecting and obtaining art is going to have less to do with galleries but more with artist working studio, open studio events and commissions.  Most of my work is primarily shown in my studio and in local restaurants and not galleries primarily because my art life is in the evening and it is hard to network galleries outside of business hours.  As I get closer to retirement I will go this route but for now I paint or draw every day and have my studio open at every opportunity.

There are online galleries such as Invaluable :, Etsy, Blue Canvas (before they closed),  and my gallery on Behance. Behance is more of a portfolio site and not as much for selling.  I simply need to put more effort into galleries and online, but with my limited time frame if new work is flowing I am going to give precedence to creating and then marketing during any creative ebb.

Open studios are a great place to see how the art is made, meet the artist, and visit repeatedly.  I will often get 3 or 4 visits before someone makes a purchase, but even on these non-purchase visits an artist will thrive on the conversation and encouragement.  It is also interesting to see which pieces get attention!  It certainly changes.

When visiting this is your chance to ask questions and by all means negotiate. When an artist has work in a gallery they have to add the galleries 25%-50% (and higher) commission.  So many people are afraid to throw out a number because they might offend. This not the case and can be fun.  I tend to be firmer on art that is framed because of the work I have in it, my options of where to market it, and your ease of just driving nail and hanging it. 

HOWEVER, at least in my studio, make me an offer on what I haven’t yet framed. I believe that is where the deals are. You will need to go and get it framed and there is expense there, but I love it. The art is my take and the frame makes it fit your house. I am in a constant struggle of what to get framed, and what to just plastic bag.  My wall has a portion of simple clipboards for this work. My happy medium is to matte frame and hinge a piece. It’s affordable to me and allows you to by a stock frame that matches your house.

I believe I make more off of commissions than art off the wall, but that varies through the year.  In NE Minneapolis all of the studios are encouraged to be open on the first Thursday of the month. I believe St Paul does something similar on Fridays.  We have an ever growing ART-A-WHIRL in the spring that will bring 2,000-3,000 people through our studio.  Sales are strange and the crowd is there for the live music and beer as much as art but I typically sell 20-30 small pieces and pick up repeat visitors that turn into commissions through the year.

Also, if you don’t see anything in your price range, tell the artist what your price range is. I promise in a working studio they probably have boxes of studies, or partials that you may dearly love. Some studies are among my favorites but I am not sure others like it enough to give it wall real estate.

Commissions are fun and funny.  It is the difference in seeing something you love and buying it versus paying for something you hope you will love. 
Honest advice on getting the best commission? Give simple direction on what you want and what you love about the artist work but little else. The more freedom you give the artist the easier it is for the artist to do something that sings.  Also even if you see high dollar work on the wall but your budget is $100, be upfront about it. Most artists can work backward on size, or details, etc while still producing something you love.  Your house probably only has so many walls capable of large art anyway.  Even if you can’t come to an agreement, ask away. You have no idea how much the encouragement and interest mean.

BUT, DON’T ask any one to do work for exposure.  Especially here in the cold north you can die of exposure.

Honestly when you buy an artist work, and especially if you buy straight from the artist, you are helping to make this part of persons life possible.

By what you love, and tell the artist you love it. (I also give a discount if I can tell someone is floored by something). If you are going for the working studios route you are more likely to get on the ground floor.

Also I love the quote, “ Please buy from a living artist, the dead ones don’t need the money!”

In my part of North East Minneapolis you can visit a dozen or more great studios but the 3 I am most familiar with are
 My own – Solar Arts Building – - about 20 artists and a great community. Indeed Brewery is on the first floor and a great place to start.

Northrup King Building – - Huger than Huge and amazing stuff.

Casket Arts building –

There are ton more, but one disadvantage of having an open studio is that limits you ability to wander to other peoples studios.

I hope this was helpful.  Love open studios so come and visit and take something home! My door has the big T-Rex on the second floor of the solar arts building. I draw or paint every day so it is always changing.  I am a bit buried in artwork right now and would love get more work out there so don't be afraid to make an offer!

1 comment:

  1. James,

    Thank you! You have a very healthy approach to marketing art. Your love for art is evident. Keep on going!