How to build a great art collection on the cheap…

Garage or estate sales:

I purchased this lovely abstract painting at a garage sale 20 years ago; it was my first original art purchase. It was lying face down on the floor, and the seller was thrilled when I offered $100. She would have taken far less. I still have no idea who the artist was…from the look of the painting I would guess it’s a study by a student artist – but that never really mattered. It’s pretty and well composed, it’s original, and I still like looking at it.


My grandfather, after he retired, spent every weekend hitting the yard sales and picking up old frames for as little as $2 so he could refurbish them and use them for collages. This striking numbered lithograph by Israeli artist Tumarkin was hiding in an ancient dusty frame he brought home. It now hangs in my kitchen.



I have traded art for spa services, chiropractic appointments, and even a week-long vacation home rental. Do you provide a service or sell something? Ask an artist about barter! (Especially if you’re an Orthodontist…my kids need braces).

Unexpected Places:

If you keep your eyes open, you can find good art in totally unexpected places. The basements of elderly relatives, for example, can be a goldmine if you can look past dust and old framing.DSC_0020

Last month I found this hand-printed serigraph dated 1973 lying by the side of the road. The frame was ancient and cobwebby, and so brittle I had to break through it with a sledgehammer … but the print inside, signed by Canadian artist Margaret Peter, was pristine. I can’t wait to treat it to a new mat and a crisp white frame.

So the next time you’re complaining about your empty walls, remember two things: 1. If you must have new art, see if you can barter with a working artist. Some artists won’t do it, but some will. What have you got to lose?  2. If you’re not particular about where your art comes from, there is a lot of good art out there that will get tossed in the trash if a hero like you doesn’t rescue it and give it a good home. So use your magic eagle eyes today and go find some art to save from languishing in your great-great aunt’s mouldy basement.

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. (Roald Dahl)

Why so many people think they can’t do art…

One thing I find bizarre about telling people I’m an artist is that they sometimes get all wistful and say, “Oh…I could never do that”.


My brother is a surgeon with a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Pathobiology. He takes out cancers and saves lives several times a day. And yet it’s ME to whom they say oooohhh…I could never do that.

What people say to my brother is more along the lines of, “Sigh…I should have gone into medicine.”

So…just to recap: intelligent, educated, cultured, hardworking people think they can’t be artists, even though it’s one of the last remaining skills you can learn well without higher education or a lot of money.

And lazy dumbasses think they could have been surgeons if they had only decided to go to medical school.

Why do so many people think they can’t do art? You made art when you were a kid, and you liked it – you know you did. So what happened to you? Don’t say a teacher gave you a bad grade on an art project because that’s not an excuse. My brother failed scissors in preschool. You think he gave up and said ‘I’ll never cut again’? The problem is we live in a world where we tell our kids they can be anything they want to be, so everyone believes they could have been a doctor.

In med school if you get a wrong diagnosis they make you try again until you get it right. In art school if you produce a bad piece of work they tell you to stick to your day job.

But not every working artist started out with innate abilities, and art is something that we already know can be learned. Yes, talent is innate. And shining art stars have talent, but so do shining medical stars. And just as in medicine, where an inherent ability and sensitivity can’t be taught but good technique can be learned, art technique and theory can also be learned.

And by the way, just like in every other field, plenty of successful working artists have no talent.

Art is something everyone is entitled to do. It’s fun and relaxing, and if you’re not good at it, you can take any number of classes offered at affordable rates within minutes of wherever you live. Don’t ever say you can’t do art because you’re not gifted or creative. You don’t have to be either- just go take a class and the instructor will tell you what to do. You’ll experience the rush of creating something from scratch with your own two hands and I promise you’ll feel like a kid again.

To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.

(Kurt Vonnegut)