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5 things to know when buying art for the first time

A lot of my friends are beginning to purchase their first homes and have come to me asking about artwork to furnish them. These are a few tips compiled about purchasing artwork for the first time:

First, know what you’d like. There are three standard options when purchasing work from an artist: a print, an original, or a commission

A print is a photograph of an original piece of art, printed from a digital file - usually on acid-free paper to prevent yellowing.

A lot, but not all artists offer prints.Sometimes, they handle making the prints themselves, or they use a third party site such as society6 or redbubble. (Like me! You can find my prints here)  There are usually specific pieces offered as a print and the artist will be able to direct you to those. For the most part, prints are only available on paper.

This is a good option if you’re on a tight budget. Prints are usually less pricey and can sometimes come in a variety of sizes to fit your specific needs.

An original is a piece the artist has already completed by hand and signed/sealed. This would be ready for you to purchase immediately (unless otherwise specified). An original is what most people think of when they think of buying artwork. This is a great option because your choices are clear and the artist was able to make exactly what they wanted. Be prepared to spend money on an original. It is one of a kind, hand made, and takes skill and time.  

Your third option is commissioning a piece. A commission is requesting that the artist make a piece specifically for you. Not everyone accepts commissions, but if you do enter into this relationship with an artist there a few important things to note:

1.Know what the artist does. Don’t ask for something they aren’t prepared to do.

For example, I am an abstract artist, but for some reason, when I first started, people kept asking me to paint pictures of their dogs? This was a hard thing for me to navigate because, while I was thrilled people wanted to work with me, I had absolutely 0 desire to or experience in, painting pets. I wasn’t prepared to do this and I should have sent these clients to someone else. ( You live and you learn.)

2. Know how big you want your piece to be.

This seems like a no brainer, but I’ve run into a lot of clients that are “flexible” on size. Don’t do this. I have no idea where you envision this piece being, and I can’t come into your house, work space, or company to measure the space. Do your research and look into standard canvas or paper sizes in order to know what would be the best fit for you.

3. Be specific.

On the same note, be specific. An artist needs to know what elements you love from previous work in order to create a perfect piece for you. Vague communication will lead to a piece that takes far more time (and therefore cost you more money). Have examples of your favorite work, know what colors you’d like and what elements you definitely do and do not want. The artist should be prepared with questions for you when you first inquire about a commission - take your time answering, it will make the whole process so much easier.

4. Allow time

This is not a quick process. Each artist has their own work style and are usually working on multiple projects. When commissioning an artist, give them time to complete their process and work in a way that isn’t stressful. It will result in a much more thoughtful piece.

5. Be prepared to spend money

A commission is an investment - you are asking the artist to carve out time to make something specifically for you. They will also be buying specific materials, as well as putting other projects on hold. Also, know that you will be paying for shipping as well. An artist should be able to give you a pretty accurate quote on shipping once they know the size of the piece you are requesting and where they will be sending it. This is the most personalized, but pricey option when purchasing artwork.

Artists -  if you’re interested in purchasing a copy of my introductory email regarding commissions, please email me at - it covers all the questions you could need to ask a client. I struggled through the learning process to create this, so please don’t go through all of that if you don’t need to!

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