Why do they buy?


Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Edward Abela was wondering how many artists are interested in why people buy their art. Ed wrote, “At a recent show I found varied reasons: a visitor from England wanted a painting to take home as a souvenir; a young couple bought a painting because it fit in with their social ideals; others needed paintings as wedding or anniversary presents, gifts to colleagues or community VIPs. As usual, a few regulars just liked the work.” Edward feels this knowledge is an added bonus to direct selling as opposed to selling through a gallery. He asked if artists missed this aspect by using galleries.


“Toogood Pond”
acrylic painting, 16 x 20 inches
by Edward Abela

Thanks, Edward. Some artists don’t give a darn about such mundane thoughts. But, like you, I’ve always been curious. Working with dealers, I’ve found show openings give ample opportunity to try to read minds and overhear remarks. At a recent show I asked a woman why she had bought a particular painting. “I like that spot there,” she said, pointing to an orange brushstroke about the size of an aspirin. A lot to pay for a spot, I thought. It’s been my experience that many folks are unable to explain their true motivation.

While rationalizations are legion, it’s often personal experience that connects them with the work. “Climbed those mountains, seen that condition, felt those feelings,” they sometimes say. There’s something totally genuine about these kinds of sentiments. Also, it’s obvious to me that some folks simply take pleasure in spending money. As well as connection, their faces tell the joy of money well spent.


“French Alps”
watercolour painting, 12 x 16 inches
by Edward Abela

Commerce is full of examples where people say one thing and do another. Even intended wedding presents may be rationalization. Many planned gifts go home instead. Reading between the lines, you might say they buy from an innate human desire to uncover what they think is uniqueness and quality. Many of us think we have this perception in shirts and steaks and spouses. Sometimes we’re wrong, of course, but that’s the game. The art game includes connection, friendship, joy, love, sentiment, experience, taste, honour, acquisitiveness, the collecting instinct, social acceptability and investment. That’s why the experience is so rich, varied and, yes, mysterious. When leaving my openings and heading for the local bar, I often think of George Bernard Shaw‘s remark: “When you know the artist you think less of the art.”


acrylic painting, 11 x 14 inches
by Edward Abela

Best regards,


PS: “Buying is a profound pleasure.” (Simone de Beauvoir) “People will buy anything that is one to a customer.” (Sinclair Lewis)




“Mill Pond, Richmond Hill”
oil painting, 16 x 24 inches
by Edward Abela


Esoterica: A significant number of buyers are influenced by the herd instinct. Sales of popular artists such as Erte, Itzchak Tarkay, Peter Max and LeRoy Neiman, for example, happen partly because others are seen to be purchasing. There’s safety when the same art is on other people’s walls. Before condemning the herd phenomenon and the baser instincts of our fellow man, artists need to realize that small but effective herds thunder in modest galleries and for “local” artists as well. Andy Warhol noted, “Success is what sells art.”




Empathy and Karma
by Eleanor Blair, Gainesville, FL, USA


original artwork
by Eleanor Blair

Many of the people who buy my paintings do it because there’s something about my style that reconnects them to something in themselves. I love to buy art myself, always on impulse. My favorites: Lennie Kesl, Norman Jensen and Ken Kerslake. I’ve purchased original art since my ‘starving artist’ days. My first acquisition was a small sculpture by Dennis Kowal. I paid $50 for it. Took me almost a year to pay it off, at $5 a month. I have a theory that artists who collect art have an easier time selling their own work. Maybe it’s karma. Maybe knowing what it feels like to be on the buying end of the transaction makes it easier to relate to patrons. Maybe it’s a bit of both; empathy and karma.


Suddenly the herd appeared
by Lorelle Miller, CA, USA


“Out of the Ashes”
pastel painting, 29 x 41 inches
by Lorelle Miller

People passed by not really being blown away by what they saw, when suddenly “Wham” there was a microphone in my face asking me my thoughts about winning “Best of Show.” I woke up from my trance then suddenly the herd appeared. Who was I, what was the painting about, do I have my work in a gallery, on and on. My work and I were exposed and placed in the limelight. Strange how transient it all is. For a brief second you are it, then as quickly as the attention is drawn to you, it fades like a fairy tale into dust. I want to find my success within my own satisfaction not by the whims of a judge or an audience. I am certainly not naïve nor am I a true rebel. I simply want to feel the glory on my own.




Why they buy art
by Roger Cummiskey, Dublin, Eire


“The Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin”
watercolour painting
by Roger Cummiskey

People buy because they are sold — either by someone else or themselves. They buy because they want to enhance their lives. Because what they see reminds them of something. Because there’s a story behind the art or the artist. Because they want to get rid of money — sometimes lots of it. They want to invest. They need to make a gift. Their neighbors have something like it. They want to look smart, sensitive or clever. They want to have something on the wall. They want to encourage somebody or become a benefactor. And last but not least, they may actually buy because for some unknown, deep-seated, atavistic reason they can’t explain, they just can’t live without it.


Grateful for the sales
by Susanne Kelley Clark, Dallas, TX, USA


“White Rock Lake West”
pastel on paper, 19.5 x 25.5 inches
by Susanne Kelley Clark

Recently I heard that if one wanted to sell they should not paint dead trees, or work in dull colors, or work small, don’t make paintings which are too personal, and on and on. But then the public shows up and completely surprises you with what they respond to and as with everything, you cannot predict how people feel or think, or how they “feel” your painting because that response is more about them than you and that is why they buy it. And yes, I watch and listen too and find that some people just love to buy paintings, just as we love to make them. I am grateful for the sales, no matter why they happen, since it allows me to continue doing what I love to do.


A collector’s rules for buying
by Phil Taylor, Halton Hills, ON, Canada


acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches
by Phil Taylor

My wife and I are collectors of contemporary art — that is work by living, working artists. The first thing we look for in an artist is technical mastery of their chosen medium. This eliminates about 90 percent of all artists out there, since mastery in art today is not considered too important (though it seems that may be slowly changing). The second thing is that the artist must have a strong personal artistic vision and esthetic; when you see his or her work it must be unmistakably his or hers. Thirdly, the art must speak to us on a gut level. This is purely subjective and cannot be explained. Fourth, we only look at artists who are not yet well known in the art community — they do not have a reputation. This way we are only paying for the art itself and not the reputation. We are not made of money, but are not afraid to spend significant sums on quality work. My wife and I have to agree on any purchase, and we both have veto power over any proposed buy — no questions asked. We both have to live with it, so we both have to love it.


Delight in buying
by Shelley Grund, KY, USA


“Creek Crossing”
original artwork
by Shelley Grund

In the past 3 weeks I opened my very own Art Studio with gallery in this small town in South Central Kentucky. I’ve already sold 5 paintings — and the buyers all had their personal reasons. Two paintings, plein air field studies of the area, were purchased by sisters who no longer live here. Buyers say they love my style and the paintings brought back memories of growing up here in the hills of Kentucky. It’s so wonderful to hear them speak with delight about their purchase.



Life’s a beach
by Roger Asselin, St. Petersburg, FL, USA


“My Friend Nancy”
original painting
by Roger Asselin

As a former sales person I learned early on that targeting your audience is one of many important keys which produce above average sales. Living in St. Petersburg, Florida, affords me the privilege to sell my paintings on a weekly basis at local beaches. This time of the year marks the influx of millions of tourists. Many if not most come for sun and fun at the beach. They spend millions on souvenirs and paintings are high on the list. I cater to the beach crowd and it is usually the 45 and up that buy most of my art. Needless to say it does not take a rocket scientist to decide who your audience is going to be and what they will be looking to buy. While I carry a mix of 100 paintings for each sales day of various styles and subject, I am keenly aware that seascapes, sunsets, local fauna and beach scenery are the top sellers in that particular order for me. My last sales day at Pass-A-Grille beach netted me the sale of 5 paintings in a 6 hour sales day. We operate from 8:00 AM until 2:00 PM. Yes, we catch the breakfast crowd at the beach. Every painting sold was a beach scene of some sort. Five “point of interest” paintings are set high on tall easels behind my sales area (10 by 10 feet). They range in size from 20×24 to 24×36 museum grade wrapped canvas. They are big ticket items. Smaller paintings are on canvas or watercolor paper mounted to foam board and matted ready for framing. Displayed on racks on my table in 5×7, 8×10, 11×14 and 16×20 sizes, it is usually the 8×10 and 11×14 which sell best… Why? They can be slipped into a travel bag or easily shipped. I offer shipping for a nominal fee. One more selling point… I sell no prints. My customers are guaranteed to be purchasing only original paintings.


Recycling frames at sales
by Corrie Scott, Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados


“Shell IV”
oil pastel & gold paint, 16 x 20 inches
by Corrie Scott

Gallery shows can be overwhelming. I sometimes hide in the kitchen. The added list of why people buy is “it matches my walls,” “it matches my rug,” “it matches my…” It’s all upsetting, but it makes a sale and allows me to carry on painting, which is my life. I have learned to have the frames easy to remove as quite often the frame does not match the person’s taste and this way they may see it without the frame, which often closes the sale. This way I also get back a frame to use again.


Showing up at shows
by Harlan Hoffman


acrylic on canvas
by Harlan Hoffman

I sometimes think I sell more art when I am not at the gallery openings. I wonder what you think about the artist being there at the openings and talking it up, hosting potential clients, etc?

(RG note) Thanks, Harlan. At openings I rely on the dealers and try to avoid commercial conversations. If they start one up I point them in the direction of the dealer. If they ask my opinion whether this is better than that, I give it careful thought and an honest answer. I try to give factual information about time and place if they ask. Many artists I know also feel more comfortable talking about motivation and the idea behind works. I have absented myself from a few shows and they seemed to go okay. Showing up is really a courtesy to the dealer, and they appreciate it. My friend David Hagerbaumer, famed for his sell-out wildlife shows, amused a lot of people by always saying he would be there, and not showing up. It seems he just liked hunting, fishing and painting better.


What is the luring mystery?
by Louise Francke, NC, USA


“Rabbit with Cherries”
oil on panel, 12 x 24 inches
by Louise Francke

What is it that attracts many buyers to the same work? Recently, I had several potential buyers for one painting. Why this painting instead of another? What is the luring mystery? Some said it was the rabbit and the myths about what a rabbit represented. Others thought it was the mystery or the weird juxtaposition of things they loved. Here it is and I would appreciate more input as to why anyone might be attracted to this painting?

(RG note) Thanks, Louise. (1) It may be the best one in the show. (2) It may have created a buzz and the buzz went viral. (3) Seeing it sold generated further interest and talking points. Keep in mind that sold paintings are easy game for praise because they are already taken. The first reason is the interesting one. Some paintings have a sort of mysterious moxie that makes them stand out and connect above all the rest. Curiously, I’ve noticed shows where all the works are somewhat similar or equally mediocre can be sellouts. One excellent work in a collection can stop the interest in the others. It’s like a dance floor with one particularly pretty girl.


One delicious stroke does it
by Karl Leitzel, Spring Mills, PA, USA


“Fishing a Mixed Hatch on Penns Creek”
oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches
by Karl Leitzel

Your quote of the woman who bought a painting because, “I like that spot there,” struck a chord with me. There have been many times when, either in my own finished work or that of another artist, I feel as though the strength of the painting comes most fully together in one or two perfectly placed brush strokes. Yet, that perfect brush stroke would be absolutely meaningless were it not for the context created by the painting in its entirety. Everything else works together to set up the perfection of that stroke.


Introducing mood and passion
by Carol Morrison, Oakville, NS, Canada


“Mabou Highlands”
original painting
by Carol Morrison

Having gone to the show in Washington, D.C., I had not realized before that J.M.W. Turner was very concerned with financial success, and was very good at having it. His paintings are designed to arouse feelings. Some, such as his painting of the death of Nelson, are designed to arouse patriotic feelings, whereas some show the horrors of war or disasters at sea. He also raised the stature of landscape painting with his “sublime” landscapes, in which he is a master of using theatrical light effects, for example in paintings of ruined castles, mountain passes, the burning of the Houses of Parliament and historical scenes such as Hannibal crossing the Alps. I am used to interacting directly with the scene in front of me, as a plein-air landscape painter, but this show made me realize that clients may relate more to my work if I am not afraid to introduce mood or passion into a painting.


Falling in love
by Theresa Bayer, Austin, TX, USA


“Procrastinate Later”
stoneware, 5 inches high
by Theresa Bayer

Over and over, people have let me know that the reason they bought my work was because they fell in love with it. Maybe the subject matter had something to do with why they bought, but in the end, it was how the piece was made — it was ambience, personality, something expressive in the work that connected with them. One of my most memorable sales was a small cat sculpture. The woman who bought it told me she hated cats, but somehow the piece was irresistible to her–she simply loved the way I had done the piece. It was one of my favorite pieces and came out unusually well; if she hadn’t bought it I would have been happy to keep it.

(RG note) Thanks, Theresa. Hundreds of artists wrote and mentioned “love.” The question is, “Why do we fall in love?” This goes for falling in love with others, cats or paintings. Whether we admit it or not, we’re all trying to get to the bottom of this mystery.


More love
by Barbara J Carter, Valencia, CA, USA


“Glowing Hills”
acrylic on canvas, 24 x 36 inches
by Barbara J Carter

When a person sees my work, they either love it or hate it. A select few fall so much in love that they have to buy it. When it happens it is amazing to see, and frankly I don’t understand it. I still feel very humble and grateful whenever it happens. I do it too, occasionally. Out of all the art that I see, I love only a tiny amount. I’ve bought a handful of paintings from other artists. Always it’s because I fell in love with the painting.



Possibly dangerous connection
by Anonymous

On a darker side, sometimes clients purchase work because they have lost their sense of who they are. Often wealthy, lonely and without family or friends, the only definition they have of themselves is through the “stuff” that they buy. Innocent enough, a client called to say hello, then told me how much they enjoyed my work. This was gradually followed by invitations to lunch and other outings, then by gifts of appreciation. The manipulation was very subtle, as he was so very charming. Please be forewarned, that your own natural need to reciprocate can eventually lead to feelings of indebtedness, being emotionally burdened and even stalked. When a person such as this one calls to befriend you, say thanks, and hang up.

(RG note) On the other hand, I have had a few of these lonely, undefined persons enter my life and I feel I was able to enhance their lives through letting them purchase my art and be apprised of my comings and goings. In time a deeper friendship came along and we were both rewarded.


Signing by incision
by Charles Morris, Grand Junction, CO, USA

On the subject of signing, since I have been unable to paint my signature with any degree of style in the manner in which I write it, I have started inscribing my written signature with a metal stylus into heavy fresh paint. It appears less clumsy and amateurish to my eye. It is also quite legible and it seems to me to be pretty permanent. What’s your opinion (and other readers) of this method?

(RG note) Thanks, Charles. I think it’s a good idea. Anything that gives a signature texture or the feeling of imprint adds permanence and authenticity. Even chops and dies driven into dry oils as an adjunct signature seem to add authority and probably, in the long term, provenance.


Painting on a black ground
by Larry Todd, Calgary, AB, Canada

I was wondering if you have any ideas and advice about painting on a black canvas. I am an oil painter and generally paint landscape. I am intrigued by this and would like to try the technique.

(RG note) Thanks, Larry. Working on black or other dark grounds has its creative values and its technical problems. Dark grounds gradually darken lighter colours placed above them. Over time whole paintings can be ruined. Consider isolating the ground with a well dried, clear varnish before starting to paint. This precaution can also be taken for medium grays and strongly coloured grounds, and applies to acrylic as well as oils. Dark grounded acrylic canvases should be isolated with a clear medium—either shiny or matte.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Why do they buy?



From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Nov 06, 2007

Sorry, but I have to disagree with George Bernard Shaw’s comment, “When you know the artist you think less of the art.” For more than 30 years now, virtually all the people who have purchased my art have been people I actually got to know. And even though some folks see me as arrogant, it is my focus, perseverance, commitment, and total dedication to my creative manifestation experience, plus my twisted sense of humor, that attracts those people into my life. I keep thinking one day it may go beyond this, but it hasn’t yet.

From:>George Robertson — Nov 06, 2007

Many years ago, as a very straightened student at Columbia University in New York City, I lived in a gloomy, one room, ‘affordable’ apartment. Across the street was the Tepper Auction Gallery. One Saturday I stopped in and found a soot-blackened landscape by someone named Thomas Griffin that no one apparently wanted to bid on. I would like to say it spoke to me, but I suspect it was more the ornate frame which promised some relief from the depressing ambience of that room. Knowing absolutely nothing about art at the time, I spent my last $25 and ate spaghetti for a month. I cleaned it as best I could using saliva (an age-old trick) and today, fifty years later, remounted and professionally restored, it hangs beside my bed where (aside from my wife) it is the first and last thing I see every day. Quite simply, it daily gives me enormous pleasure. Now that I am producing my own landscapes, I have no idea exactly ‘why’ people buy them, but my hope is that they too will give daily pleasure. As a footnote, it turned out that Thomas Bailey Griffin was a member of the so-called Hudson River School (mid-19th C); when I Googled his name a few years ago his least expensive available canvas was priced at $2,000.

From: Alar Jurma — Nov 07, 2007

I think the quote by Andy Warhol is right on the money: “Success is what sells art.” Also, I would add, my own. It helps when a customer falls in love with the artist. That seems to work good too.

From: Baby Jane — Nov 07, 2007

At one of my openings a woman visitor showed up and asked interesting and meaningful questions and we had a great conversation about art. The dealer left us soon after we started talking. When the woman left, the art dealer made a comment that this woman was not a “buyer”. I replied that she was nevertheless a very informed appreciator of art. The dealer said – yes, but that doesn’t count. I kept my thought – it counted to me.

From: Bob Ragland — Nov 08, 2007

At this stage of my art career, I do want people to know me. I have sold a number of works from my home/studio. People who have a pleasant experience in an artist’s studio often will tell others. I try to think of my personal art history. In reading about artists of the past, it’s always informative to hear stories of studio visits and personal encounters with those artists. People who get to know an artist, matter. When an artist talks about their work, the intent and how the work was created, that matters also. In this age of technology, personal contact with an artist is very important. Just think of all the publications about Picasso written by peole who actually met him.

From: Jim Clark — Nov 09, 2007

One of my favorite reasons for someone buying one of my paintings was “it looks like a place I’d like to visit”.

From: Valerie Norberry — Nov 09, 2007

This may not apply to paintings, but when I do calligraphy, it is sometimes almost like telling fortunes. When I do a name and meaning of a name, people are often given insight into their identity. For boys I embellish the name with a little tractor, for girls, a Sumi-e rose. When I do scripture calligraphy, the Holy Spirit gives me recollection of particular verses that meet a need. Such as healing. As for landscapes, I have a loose and free one that is very fun of a farmer’s market which I made 100 copies of and sold a couple, gave away probably 75 or so, and people loved it because it had a little Amish girl we know in it, one of “our own” from our neighborhood. I feel that freezing a moment in time of our own people, in a loose and free manner that is not attainable with the camera, is invaluable. People crave the original, and yet the personal. I feel my work fills this niche. I am somewhat of an entertainer, but aren’t we all as artists? In the depression of the 1930’s in USA, there were many films made that were very lavish. Again this is art. My dad would pay a dime and sit through several movies by hunching down in his seat and staying for the next movie. What these movies did was transport people from the mundane to the glorious. Isn’t this what people are looking for? In their offices, in their cubicles (our cubicles, I myself am an office worker, with my own office), we need that transportation, that mini-vacation, as we gaze upon paradise or some other picture that for a moment relieves of the present. For some of us, being in the present is not good. Some of us would desire to be elsewhere, and that is what much of art does for us.

From: Dar Hosta — Nov 09, 2007

I think it is interesting that very few people brought up the notion that personal connections and conversations with an artist motivate sales on some level. I, like J.Bruce Wilcox, agree to disagree with Shaw’s remark that knowing an artist leads to thinking less of the art. I am a gregarious person who likes to have all sorts of conversations with people who stop to look at my art–sometimes they are completely unrelated but spur from something that an observer notices or decides to comment on. While a power seller type of artist might say that meandering conversations could distract from the persons’ interest in purchasing, I think these human interactions cultivate the kind of interest that leads to sales. In an often anxious world, in a hustle and bustle time, I believe many people are thankful that another person would stop to have a little meaningful conversation. Many of my most loyal patrons began as these types of scenarios– and not necessarily with a clinched sale at that moment. While many people reported that others fell in love with their work or related to some motif within, I put great importance on the artist and his/her ability or willingness to relate to the rest of the world. Interesting people are interesting.

From: Brad Greek — Nov 09, 2007

What I’ve noticed is that most of the work that I do that I’m not partial to, sells first. It’s those that I really like that I still own. So I’m thinking that I might have a bad taste in art LOL. On a note about George Bernard Shaw’s comment, I believe the meaning is about once you know an artist, or the artist is known, all of their art is worthy due to their reputation. The art then is bought with less thought about the art but because of who the artist is. I buy art that speaks to me, usually the colors or subject, but most of the time it is because of who the artist is.

From: Jack Dickerson — Nov 09, 2007

One should, perhaps, consider what kind of a person G B Shaw was. Apparently, he knew about some things, and not about others–especially the process of EXPERIENCING art, not buying a PRODUCT. It has been my experience, repeatedly, without exception, that people who buy my works demonstrate that they want to make a connection with the artist… And that this connection is an important part of the acquisition process. It seems to give the buyer something additional that is difficult to describe. It is also important to understand that many artists simply don’t want to share and talk with buyers. This is the way it is. And if artists are comfortable talking to buyers about their work… that is ENGAGING the buyers… it always seems to add something special to the EXPERIENCE, not only the dialog with the piece, but the process of buying as well. This dialog or added connection with the buyer is impossible to ignore–and in fact adds a certain value for the buyer.

From: Rick Rotante — Nov 09, 2007

Notes to myself: Last night I went to my regular Thursday night painting workshop to paint from the live model with my artist friends. When I got there late, the others set the model and had begun. I saw the model was nude and reclining. As a rule, nude or reclining is never a problem. The problem was I was not in the mind set to paint a nude or one reclining. I usually bring several sized canvas never knowing what I’ll need. This night, due to rushing to get there, I brought one canvas and an inappropriate sized canvas for reclining figure. My choice was either go home or try and use my creativity and come up with a solution. My initial enthusiasm about painting had diminished by the situation I now found myself. But I was determined to not let these factors deter me from painting. All the “good” spots were filled by others except one spot way on the side. If I chose this angle I would be faced with a strong forshortening problem to figure out. Also the light was coming from the same direction with limited shadows on the form. I happen to like to paint with strong light and dark areas. Faced with no other options, I placed myself there and started to think of how I could make the best of a bad situation (in my mind at least). The interesting thing that took place was I had to start to think about what to do and how to create something interesting. If I had arrived there early and had the right canvas size, I would have placed myself in front and ended possibly with a mediocre painting. As a result of having to leave my “comfort zone” I created what turned out to be a very interesting painting. One good enough to exhibit. Since all these factors forced me into an unfamiliar place, I also had nothing to lose. I chose to play with color. I didn’t settle on normal flesh tones that might have developed had I had a better placement. I keyed all my colors away from reds and went into more greens and yellows for flesh tones. The results were better than I could have hoped. Being a regular reader of the Painters Key I notice submissions on enthusiasim, and ways to keep your spark and interest. I had forgotten one important aspect of paint. Routine. I had fallen into a routine and my work shows the lackluster results. I had fallen into a rut of doing the same ole same ole. The lesson for me is don’t always take the same road. If it feels good, maybe you should make it a little uncomfortable, be a little off balance. I had a wonderful painting teacher who once told me if you’re feeling dull and stuck in your painting, get into a deliberate mess and try and work yourself out of it. Use the wrong color, put too much paint down too soon, change brush size. The mind is forced to rethink everything you usually do and the creative process along with your training will pull you through as it did for me last night at my regular painting session with my friends.

From: Carol Taft — Nov 09, 2007

Whether we sell or not, the important thing as artists is to keep on doing what we love.

From: Tatjana M-P — Nov 09, 2007

I agree with Eleanor Blair, It’s empathy, karma, and also encouraging the art market that artists benefit from as they collect art. If we don’t believe that collecting art is a good thing, there is something wrong with the big picture (pun not intended).

From: Dave W — Nov 09, 2007

Three men went out into the forest. One took a gun. Another took a camera. The third took only a bag containing his lunch. When they returned, the first one came home with antlers in hand. The second returned with a slew of photographs- birds, streams and all sorts of wilderness images. The third man returned with only a crumpled lunch bag, and I asked him, “Why did you even go into the forest?” “Why?” he said. “Well, because it is there, of course. And it is still there for me to visit another day.” ” That is why I paint! ” I said. ” We don’t need trophies on top of our blessings, do we!?” The man smiled at me and strolled away.

From: Rick Rotante — Nov 10, 2007

It’s the end of a long and busy day. I’m sitting at my computer after painting in my studio. I came to the Painter’s Key to relax and read what others are doing and read some art related comments which I enjoy. I re-read the George Bernard Shaw statement again “When you know the artist, you think less of the art” and it struck me he may be right. I’ve found that when I view a painting or read a book or see a movie and enjoy them emmensely, later, if I happen to see a TV interview with the author, artist or movie maker, I’m a bit disappointed in them and so the work I enjoyed. I still love the work but I think less of it now. I think this stems from my building in our mind an image of these people as greater than…and elevating them to something of a star status. When I meet them (in person or thru the media) I tend to see them as ordinary people and this takes the mystery and wonder out of the process. I’d like to think the person who created that work of art must be on a higher plain. Must be a thinker who leads a dedicated life of fabricating work that make us stand in awe when we see it. Seeing the “real” person deflates that image a bit for me and shows me the artist has clay feet and puts their pants on one leg at a time as do the rest of us. So Shaw’s comment has to relate to this theory in some way I think. I have no doubt that DaVinci, Michelangelo, David and all the other artists whom I hold in high regard would disappoint me if I were to actually meet them. The same is probably true with any “great” person. In private they more than likely kicked their dog, had bad table manners, passed gas, mistreated their kids or beat their spouse or some such thing. In short, they are us with warts and all. We see them as persons with faults, problems difficulties just like us. They are made of the same stuff. In my heart I would like to think they are dedicated, hard working, able to create great work and in so doing they are above the rest of us. They rose up and presented the world with something of great beauty or made a profound statement or conquered some personal feat with their art. I think believing this make me want to aspire to the same greatness. I want to walk in the same shoes and create work that moves the world. Put my stamp on it so to speak. We need heros to look up to. Alas today there are none. Today science and technology shoot huge holes in the belief I once held. The idols and heros we see today are a far cry from those of the past. Or as Shaw intimates, is it because we’ve never met them and don’t know them that they remain great and wonderous? The true mystery is in the not knowing.

From: Tracy — Nov 11, 2007

Couple of things…. People buy art for as many reasons as we artists create art. I think people when there’s a connection. They may connect on the same wire or by different wires; either way the electricity comes through. As for the Shaw quote, I had a completely different interpretation! I can see both sides of the coin, and I think my sales increase when they know me. Personally, I’ve probably made more sales to my clients from my other non-art business than strangers. My interpretation of “When you know the artist you think less of the art” involves percentages. If you don’t know the artist, you buy solely on the piece. When you know the artist, you may buy 75% because of the art and 25% because the artist may strike a chord with you. It can work to one’s disadvantage that if they don’t like your rude inconsiderate self, it can turn a sale away. Probably has more effect in an art festival-type atmosphere. Just my 2 cents. Although the moment I try to predict sales, I am continuously proven wrong. Thanks Robert for stirring up discussions!! www.tracywall.wordpress.com

From: Marj Vetter — Nov 12, 2007

I read Nick Rotante’s letter with great interest. I’ll never forget when a neighbour said to me, “I was so disappointed, (when the actor) who played John Luc Picard, on Star Trek, was interviewed on television, I thought he’d be a lot smarter!” Lost all the mystery.

From: Rick Rotante — Nov 12, 2007

Thanks Marj Vetter for your comment. Regarding “why people buy?” The more important issue for me is that they buy. This may sound trite but the “why” can never be calculated. The reasons are as varied as the amount of purchasers. No doubt when you make a sale your heart, mind and spirit soar, not to mention your purse. But I feel little time should be spent on the “why”. If you want to increase the “why”, paint sentimental things, things that don’t threaten, calm, serene, bland. Your chances of selling will increase. Of course this does not mean paint badly without thought or purpose. You still have to apply yourself and use all your talent. I decided long ago, after leaving several galleries, that painting this way only made me want to quit and go into another profession entirely. I found that the reason I paint is to satisfy a need to express myself. Not express what the gallery owners want or the public wants. If they want other things than I paint, let them paint their own pictures. The reasons (which are unimportant) people buy your art is because they see something (though unexplainable) that they don’t see in any one else’s art. You made a connection by being true to yourself and found a kindred spirit who was willing to part with their hard earned money to have your painting adorn their walls. Be thankful. If you could ask a thousand people why they buy and they gave you a thousand reasons and you had the ability to paint their requests, there is still no guarantee they would buy it. So why waste the time. Use your time and energy to paint your heart and there will be a buyer out there looking for your work.






Fishing at Eleven Mile

oil on canvas
by Roger W. Carlson


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Wendy Miller of Clinton, WA, USA who wrote, “You didn’t mention encouragement as a reason to buy. When I appreciate someone’s art, if I can afford it I buy to encourage. I always love the piece too, but often, when an artist I like has a show, I buy a piece to say ‘You do terrific things — keep going.’ ”

And also Daun Miller of Tampa, FL, USA who wrote, “Aren’t there still people left in the world who buy art for the sheer beauty of it?”

And also Karen R. Phinney of Halifax, NS, Canada who wrote, “The herd instinct: ‘This is a good thing, I’d better get into it’ seems to be the thinking. If those people went as individuals and were alone with the art, they might not be so hasty in buying.”

And also Norman Ridenour of Prague, Czechoslovakia who wrote, “The herd instinct is a negative factor. People are afraid to follow their gut feelings for fear their peers will turn up their noses. ‘WHAT is that?’ ‘I hope you didn’t pay over $100 for that thing.’ ‘My brother does better work.’ ‘Trees don’t look like that!’ ‘What a cute ducky.’ These kinds of comments can kill a buyer’s soul and willingness to risk again.”

And also Claudia Roulier of Idledale, CO, USA who wrote, “Perhaps buying is as mundane as the title. I think it is important to think carefully about titles.”

And also Daryl Jensen of Brentwood Bay, BC, Canada who wrote, “I acquired a virus in my computer and was forced to wipe out all my saved emails from you and would like to replace them.”

(RG note) Thanks, Daryl. Every letter and clickback is archived and print-friendly. The index is here.




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