Buying Original Art from Unknown Artists

Mark Gordon BrownStarred Page By Mark Gordon Brown, 20th Jul 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Art>Painting

In years past art was a thing of value, respected by the purchaser. Now days people want instant art, cheaply reproduced meaningless art, something for their walls to match their sofa. Why not take a chance and buy something REAL from a unknown artist?

What is Original Art?

Original art is art that is the actual artists work, it is not a copy or cheap print. For the purposes of this article I will be referring to 2 dimensional art, such as paintings or drawings. Paintings may be oil, acrylic, watercolor, mixed media, or a variety of other media. Oil and acrylic paintings are generally NOT put behind glass, whereas watercolors, and drawings are.

Original Art is not mass produced in any way. It should be signed. Often a more well known artist will have prints made from his or her original, these are made in limited numbers and are called “Editions”. Limited editions are valuable when done by acclaimed artists. Limited edition prints are always signed and numbered, either by hand or in the plate itself, after which the plate is destroyed. The prints are on acid free paper and will stand the test of time.

Most of the art you see in furniture stores, department stores, and so on, is NOT original art, nor are they valuable limited editions. This art is often massed produced and usually what you are paying for when you buy it is, in fact, the frame, it may have a signature on it, but the signature is part of the print. When in doubt you should ask if a piece is an original or not.

There is also a system of painting that involves one person painting the sky and a mountain, another person painting in some background trees, another painting in a cabin, deer, or creek, and yet another person paints the foreground. These paintings are quite recognizable, and generic. Each one looks a bit like the other. It is unlikely these pieces will even gain value, but they were very popular back in the late 70's. These are not considered Original Works of Art in terms of value.

Where to Buy Art and What to Buy

Art galleries and Art shows are the most common places you will find original art, and before an artist is well known you can often find them selling pieces out of their home or studio, or even in smaller consignment stores and places that display local art. Particularly check Art Shows put on by local Art Clubs.

I would like to point out that not all Art Galleries are the same, some, like those in shopping malls, sell prints more than originals, if you are looking for original art in a gallery you need to look for a gallery that has actual art showings by selected artists. The problem here is that most art galleries have shows for fairly well known artists rather than totally unknown ones.

What should you buy? Well for starters buy something you like... Do not buy something only because you want to make money, if you do not like it as a piece of work, there is no point in owning it. Buy something with meaning, a painting that makes a statement is more likely to be worth something than a painting of a pretty little stream. That is not to say pretty pictures do not go up in value, they do, but ONLY if the artist gains fame.

Key Things to look for.
1.It should convey an emotion or feeling (even if the emotion is not positive)
2.It should have meaning (even if you do not understand the meaning)
3.It should be captivating, forcing you to look at it.
4.It should have unusual subject matter, or subject matter handled in an unusual way.

For example if you took two paintings of flowers in a vase. The flowers in one, perfectly centered, perfectly formed, nothing hidden, full sunlight, white background, and so forth. The other painting featured some tattered or faded flowers, slightly off center, a thistle in the mix, with extreme lighting from one side, and so on. The second painting is likely the one which meets the criteria suggested above, the artist has shown more originality in composition and more thought in how they treated the subject, as such this is the piece that will likely gain value over time.

As an Investment

Very few artists will gain National acclaim, fewer still will be known Internationally. However if you have selected your piece well, there is a good possibility that the artist will gain local or regional attention and other collectors in the area will be interested in their works.

Limited edition prints usually increase gradually in value, this is because the artist is already established and well known. Buying original art from an unknown artist is a slightly more risky investment. You can snap up art for less from an unknown artist on speculation that they will one day become well known, and the value of your piece will then increase greatly. Again I must say, look for subject matter that is either unusual or is handled in an unusual manner. This is the best way of spotting an artist who will gain fame.

To improve the value of your collection you should own at least two or three pieces by the same artist.

Prices of Original Art

People who are use to seeing the prices of mass produced art may be thrown by the higher cost of original art (or even limited edition prints). You must remember however that it takes a lot of time to make one original painting, as well painting supplies, paint, and brushes, etc., are costly. Factor in the artists time, and you will begin to understand the higher cost. Mass produced art can be made quickly and cheaply.

The main advantage of buying art from unknown artists is that the price should reflect their lack of fame, and as such should be less than a well known artist.

Remember anyone can own a mass produced print, it takes a person of vision to own an original piece of art. If your art goes up in value or not does not matter, it is a status item sure to start conversations among your friends and house guests. You will be viewed in a better light socially by owning original art. You own something that is one of a kind, not mass produced.


Art, Artist, Artists, Buy, Buying, Drawing, Drawings, For Sale, How To, New, Painting, Paintings, Uknown

Meet the author

author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
Raised in Michigan, I have a son who recently joined the Military. I am living in Canada with my wife where we have a hobby farm.

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author avatar M. J. Joachim
25th Jul 2010 (#)

Always been a fan of original artists. I understand the time and effort of making things from scratch. Personally I consider myself a crafter--make all sorts of things from odds and ends, but by far my specialty is coming up with original crochet patterns and designs. Your pics are really neat. Your article realistic and true. Thanks for writing it!

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author avatar Gary McCoy
7th Feb 2011 (#)

As one attempting to change professions, fom computers to artist, I hope people will buy may artwork, a new artist. I like your 'key things to look for.' You don't have to buy what others buy. I pray that artist's websites like mine,, can be found by the buyers.

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author avatar Etc.
31st Jul 2014 (#)

It's wonderful to promote artists! And most of us/them are unknown. But, it's also wonderful to BE an artist and make your own original works of art. Everyone is an artist somewhere down deep.

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