How to Buy Art as a Gift

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Octopi and gifts go together like tentacles and surprises!

So, you’re the sort of awesome person who wants to buy your loved ones some original art for the next gift-giving occasion. You’re here, so clearly you have excellent taste, you like to support independent artists, or you got lost on Google.

We’ll pretend it’s the first two.

What do you want to know before you buy?

Tentacles are always in season.

So, the first question to ask yourself whenever you’re gift-shopping for someone is, what’s my budget? It might seem mercenary, but there’s a world of difference between a $20 gift and a $50 gift, let alone a $500 gift. If you’re spending less, it’s good to find someone who sells prints, or small items with art printed on it. If you’re specifically looking at art from me for under $20, my Etsy shop is a great place to find prints and cards, or you can check and see which bookmarks are still looking for a home.

The next question is, what do they like? It’s all well and good if you love my art (and yay you!), but your mom might not want tentacles on her wall. Or she might, in which case, go her, too! It’s wonderful to introduce your friends and loved ones to an artist you adore, but it’s always good to make sure they really want the piece you’re buying. This is a bit selfish, but as an artist I hate the idea that someone might get my art and then not like or display it, or even declutter it to the trash someday.

This one's just shiny. Oooohshiny.

Plus, you want them to make the good face when they open the package. You know the face I mean.

There’s also the “art of things they love” clause — a Cthulhu original will generally go over well with a Cthulhu fan no matter what artist made it. Though it’s good to make sure it is something they love, and not something they once told their mom they liked and have gotten one of every holiday for the last 20 years.

Have you considered asking?

To frame or not to frame, that is the question.It may seem strange, but if you’re really into the idea of getting an original for someone that you think is just perfect for them, consider talking to them about it. Not just, you know, “hey do you want this,” (although that has worked for me in the past!), but showing them some links of art you like in another context. It’s a good sneaky way to disconnect the piece from your ego, so they’ll tell you what they really think instead of worrying about not liking your gift.

Think, too, about whether you want the art framed or gift-wrapped or sent directly to the recipient, and then find out if the artist can accommodate you. For me, I will gift-wrap free, ship wherever you like (but I prefer to be told if it’s going to a recipient so the thank-you card can make sense), and frames are usually optional and cost more, but sometimes included (for the salt pieces).

A letter of their name could be cool. I'm just sayin'.So, once you’ve figured out your budget, and the kind of art they like, and how you want to present it, what’s next? Buying, of course.

Why would you want to give someone art, anyway?

Original art is by definition unique, and hopefully something they’ll value and treasure for years to come. If you’ve paid attention to what they want and what they like, you can add a lot of simple happiness and beauty to someone’s life with art. It might sound cheesy, but the right art for the right person will improve their environment, which in turn improves their smile to frown ratio.

And who doesn’t want more smiles?

Smiles are the silver lining in having to shop for gifts.

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