Buying Art for the First Time

by David Finley

michelle-arthur-sculpture, A piece of glass sculpture by artist Michelle Arthur

My First Art Purchase

There's a little piece of glass sculpture hanging in my kitchen window. Hues of vibrant red, lively green, and soothing lavender spray their color into my house as the sun passes through. Though solid, the simple sculpture seems to move and hum. Kinetic overlapping slender rectangles are suspended in the air by a single metal ring. It likes to dance in the sunshine providing splendor as I wash the dishes or peel carrots.

 On its own, it is a beautiful piece of abstract sculpture, but for me it represents much more. This is the first piece of original art I've bought from an art gallery. I've always wanted to have a good collection. Hopefully, it is a contagious wish that you, my reader, shares as well, but every art collection has to begin somewhere, and this piece is where mine began.

How it Started

My road to purchase art from a gallery actually begins a little over three years ago in the same gallery who gave me my first chance.

Southport, North Carolina is a beautiful and quaint coastal town filled with great restaurants, antique stores, and a few art galleries. Most of these art galleries are filled with what you might expect from a ocean side town. There are beautiful photographs of the ocean tides, watercolor lighthouses, pen and ink pelicans, and paintings of various marine life. They are simple and straightforward, exactly the kind of art you'd want to hang in a beach house.

 These galleries, while lovely in their own right, were not the environment I was hoping to find to display my paintings and mixed media pieces. If you've taken the time to look at my work, particularly my fine art pieces, then you understand I definitely don't make quaint paintings of lighthouses and pelicans. Still, I perused each gallery in town anyway, if anything, just to exhaust my own curiosity.

 To my surprise, one gallery defied its competition. The sign out front read "Artshak". Artshak, would one day change the direction of my career, providing me with two very special friends and mentors. But for the time being, I scratched my head at the very casual name and strolled in anyway. The art that greeted me inside was unexpected. While it did feature some pieces that could be expected in a coastal town, the rest of the gallery was filled with an assemblage of contemporary pieces of sculpture and painting. Even the ocean themed work was a bit more experimental.

 It turns out, I had found a home. Within a month of that day, I sold my first two pieces.

Why Buying Art is Important

 When I sold those pieces, a part of me sprang to life. For one, I made money doing something I loved, but it represented much more. What I painted on a canvas was my own chronicling of life, filtered through my own voice; my passion and emotion laid bare. Now, my work was being passed on to someone else,  who continued adding to my narrative. It became their story, with the meaning altered by their own interaction.

 This is the power of art. It can be a gateway that binds and connects us. As the artist shares himself, the viewer learns more about herself.

 The closest comparison is an author writing a profound work of literature, with the reader integrating the story into their own life. The writer's story becomes the reader's story, too.

 We make art and intend for it to be seen. As we bring our art into the public forum it ceases to be a monologue, and becomes dialogue. It's why we see ourselves in Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" or Monet's "Water Lillies" even though those artists have long since passed away.

 Selling art taught me the relationship a buyer can have with a piece. The buyers of my first two paintings requested to meet me and thanked me for making the work. It is a personal and wondrous thing to enter a gallery and find that special piece. The little glass sculpture I bought was like that for me. I knew I wanted it as soon as I saw it, simple as it was. It did help that it was in my price range, but there were other pieces I could have bought instead.

 Even now as it hangs in my window it speaks a daily message to me, one I hope you don't mind me sharing with you:

  •  Art is beautiful in all its forms as long as it is true. 
  • Art is the most powerful tool in your employ to touch others deeply and connect with them. 
  • When you get discouraged and feel defeated, remember the effect your painting, drawing, or sculpture can have on someone else's life.
  • Always remember no matter how tough the business side of art can be, you are an artist first and foremost because you love art and want to share it with others.

Giving Back

 If you can afford it, look at buying another artist's work. Build a collection. If you are an artist yourself, it's just good karma, or at the very least, good manners. That awesome feeling you get when you sell a piece will be passed on to someone else,.

 If you're interested in beginning your art collection I have two words of advice. First, buy what speaks to you, even if you just like the way it looks. Second, don't buy anything just to impress someone else. Would you want someone to buy your paintings who didn't connect with them or really want to look at them?

 On a final note, I bought my little glass sculpture above from Artshak, the very gallery who gave my own fine arts career a beginning. It seems fitting somehow. The piece was sculpted by an artist named, Michelle Arthur. I hope selling the piece and passing it on has filled her with the same joy selling my own art does for me.

I hope she knows how much her work has touched me.

 Thanks for reading, Scofflaws!


 P.S. I'd like to share a little plug for Artshak. If you're ever in Southport, please swing by and check the gallery out. Visit their facebook page, which has more pictures, artist profiles, and examples of the type of work they carry by clicking here.

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