I'm lucky to have started my art career at the dawn of the digital age, the use of photographic slides to document and share your artwork was still common but it was only a few years before digital photography and the internet opened up sparkling streams for artists to float their work worldwide. Having experienced both of these scenarios I feel like I have an appreciation and understanding either way, but I, without a doubt in my mind prefer being an artist of the now.
I'm not even going to begin to scrape the surface of what the internet has done for artists (or what it has taken away), I'd just like to narrow in on the social media side of things, and even closer in... Instagram. I'm not assuming you have an account, but I'm pretty sure you have a grasp on the general idea, people share their photographs, you can look at them if you want to. Selfies and food pics aside, what you might not know is that visual artists have taken up the network as their own, it has become a vast and buzzing database of realtime worldwide creativity. Artists post their works in progress, shots of their studios, as well as the processes and final pieces. Not only are we getting a more in-depth understanding of the artist as an individual, as a human, but we are gaining access to a direct line of communication with them. I personally treat my account as a library, cataloguing artists and groups I admire, pouring through the images at my leisure.
Once you go ahead and choose a thread to tug at by searching for things you legitimately want in your 'library', bit by bit the web will light up before you revealing a previously unimaginable network of art, artists and artworks.
Erik Jones is an New York based artist I came across in this way. One follow here, one follow there, and eventually the path led me to his account. I knew nothing of him, I liked his work, I started to follow, no big deal.
After about six months of having Jones' work regularly pop up in my feed, I became familiar with his style, his processes and his musing. By the time he announced his Dipped series print release, I had no hesitation in handing over my money, I felt like I was part of it already. What an immeasurably valuable tool for an artist, AND for a buyer!!
The series I purchased is a set of five high quality, A5, double sided, spot gloss prints. Each print is signed and dated, and rather than being editioned (limited to an amount of reprints) the prints have a time limit and are only available during 2016. I haven't come across this way of doing things before but I think it's a great way of retaining a sense of exclusivity for the buyer while allowing the artist to expand sales when needed.
I plan on getting my favourite of the five prints framed (pictured below) and I've already gifted two. Overall, I'm happy to be directly supporting an artist in a viable and sustainable way while receiving the artwork that I would otherwise not have been able to afford; or been able to find for that matter.
Lessons learnt - Social media is a valuable sales/buyer tool. Hashtags aren't just for hipsters.
Artwork - Erik Jones
Price - US$36 (print set of five) US$22 (postage to AUS) = US$58 / AU$78
Purchased via - Erik Jones Art Website
Find out more -
Instagram (Erik Jones)
Instagram (one of my favourites - Death of a coworker)
This piece was one of the very first and only pieces I've ever bought from a gallery in a traditional sense. I'd gone along to the opening of a friend's exhibition at Fortyfive Downstairs in Melbourne's Flinders Lane, and while not expecting more than a wine or two, I ended up not only purchasing an artwork, but a work by a completely different artist to the one I'd gone to support (sorry friend!). As many multi-space galleries do when exhibiting more than one artist, there was a joint opening and Christine Larsen's just happened to coincide with the one I was attending.
As Larsen's first solo exhibition, it was pretty polished and was thematically strong under the title Encrusted. I was immediately attracted to this piece (pictured) but it didn't really enter my mind that I could own it.
At this stage, in 2011, I had exhibited a couple of times as an artist myself but I hadn't yet experienced what buying 'off the wall' felt like or how it actually worked for that matter. I picked up the room-sheet to check the titles etc, and lo and behold at around $400, the prices were less than half of what I had anticipated they would be. Initially I had thought the works must be prints, the blacks were so black and so consistent, and the prices seemed low, but now that I knew (thanks to the room-sheet, always read the room-sheet) that they were original works and they were in my price range, a whole new world opened up before me.
I said a shy hello to the gallery attendant and asked her if I could buy it. She said I could. No surprises there, although a big part of me thought maybe I had misread the price and that I would be laughed out of the gallery thinking that I could even afford to be there. After agreeing I'd pay it off over a month or so I walked away thinking "What even happened? I'm a buyer? I buy art? I can do that??!"
Looking back after a few years of handling the gallery end of things, I have to remind myself of how intimidating the gallery situation can be. When people sidle up to me clutching their sheet of paper like an urgent piece of evidence and nervously ask "how does this work?", I remember the feeling; an unknown social situation, not knowing if it's even happening, not knowing if you're getting yourself into something you can't carry through. But more importantly I also remember the air gathering under my feet and the feeling I was becoming part of the artist, a true form of support, and I focus on this, this is the part of the experience the buyer should remember.
Lessons learnt - Always read the room-sheet. The gallery attendant is your friend.
Artwork - Christine Larsen
Price - $400 (approx) including frame.
Purchased via - Fortyfive Downstairs
Find out more -
The Humble Collector.
By sharing the unique stories of how I came to own the art I do, I hope to show you that not only is buying art for your home exciting, enriching and painless, but it's undeniably rewarding for all involved.