Collecting: My Thoughts

I've had a few insights over the years, as I painted and then tried to sell my work. A couple things stand out to me and I'm going to share them with you. As you improve as a painter and measure yourself against other people's work and ability, you usually are able to charge more for your best work but also try to maintain the price point and market value over time with respect for the people who have collected your previous work. Many of my oldest friends come to my events and compliment my work but shake their heads and say that they just can't afford it. That's funny to me because most of my early paintings sold for a couple hundred dollars, even some of the larger ones. After 20 years of painting, my prices have gradually increased, due to exhibitions and exposure, gallery representation and art festivals, and improving my skills as a painter. Several experiences I've had have made me realize that until you trust yourself or take a small leap of faith, it's often difficult for people to justify buying original art. At the larger art festivals I enjoy having time to talk to people who enjoy my work and share stories with me. One lady told me about her first real job in Chicago, and walking to work each day she'd pass an art gallery that had a small painting in it she really liked. She finally went inside and asked about the price and realized that it was far more than she could afford. One day the painting was gone from the window. She felt empty and after thinking about it, realized that the price of the painting had seemed like a stretch, but looking back really wasn't out of her reach. As we talked, she said "I now realize that when the painting was something I couldn't get out of my mind, I should have bought it, and followed my gut. I'll never make that mistake again." She ended up coming back to my booth and buying a painting that stood out to her after seeing all the other work at the show. Another time, I received an email inquiring about a painting called "Beachwalk" from a young college student named Ryan who said he really liked the piece. I replied with the price and some more info about the painting and a week or so later he replied and said it was too expensive and that as a student going to college there was no way he could buy it. Several weeks later I was sitting in my booth at another festival and a guy walked up to me and introduced himself as Ryan, and walked up to look more closely at "Beachwalk". It was obvious that he really liked it and told me so. It became clear to me that he should own it, he truly valued that painting. As an artist, one of the best situations you can have is knowing that your work will be valued and seen as "a treasure" by the person that owns it. The dollar amount you were paid is not the most important thing, because over time you mostly remember the customer and time you spent talking. He walked away and a while later was back. "I'm gonna do it. I work part-time for my grandfather's property management company and was saving up to go to Costa RIca to surf, but I want the painting more." We agreed on the price and it went home with him. Two happy campers. A couple years later, I contacted him to borrow the piece for an exhibition at the Oceanside Museum of Art. I told him "You own one of my paintings and that makes you a "collector." He laughed about having that title and also agreed to the loan. He told me he was stoked he had taken the leap to buy it when it was something he couldn't stop thinking about. Oh, and he'd just gotten back from his second trip to Costa Rica. As we grow older (and wiser), our values usually change. We tend to surround ourselves with things that have meaning to us and are of a better quality than we settled for when we were young. I think of college days and my bookshelves made from cinder blocks and wood, and posters on my walls. Once we settle down, buy a home, the true value of what we own and keep becomes more apparent as the cost is forgotten. The pleasure it brings you each day goes beyond money -- it's an investment in yourself, and it triggers memories or thoughts that resonate for you in your lifetime. My favorite stories (so far) that two different collectors have shared with me about owning my paintings -- and the enjoyment and value they have to them, are these comments: "We've agreed that it's the first thing we'll grab if there's a fire" and "Our kids are fighting over who get's them when we pass away." I'm fortunate that in addition to being a painter, I enjoy the challenge of finding the right painting for the family and home it belongs in. Thanks for reading.

5 thoughts on “Collecting: My Thoughts

  1. Hi Jeff, hope you’re well. I’m back living in Southern California. The outrigger piece is still with me through a divorce and a few moves. I’d love a chance to catch up with you.

    • Su-
      So good to hear from you. Life throughs a lot at us, but you sound well and we think about you and Jake often. Send us a picture of him! Madilyn’s a Bruin sand volleyball player, heading to the NCAA championships in Alabama in early May. But some of her games are on TV and there’s film on the Bruin website too.
      We’re all healthy, and gettin’ old.

      Jeff and Merrylena

  2. Jeff- thanks for your words of wisdom.
    I really love your paintings and look forward to seeing more of your work.

  3. Well said Jeff! I took out a small loan to buy one of your paintings, but the painting was like I had commissioned it from you and knew I had to have it. I asked my wife to marry me at Heisler Park in Laguna, and this was the painting. Two people walking the sand heading north, which is what we did after a friend of mine had written the words, “WILL YOU MARRY ME ANN?” in cobble stones. It’s a small piece but one that I see each and everyday, which brings our family warm feelings & gives our kids a mental image of when their parents began their life together.
    A collector,
    Tom Arntson

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