Everybody collects something. Whether it is stamps, seashells, sports memorabilia, antiques—or, of course—art. Collecting often begins when we are young and becomes more formal as we grow older. We collect things for a variety of reasons: investment, to preserve the past, expand our social circle, fill a void in our lives, or the idea of the hunt and the pure joy. There are as many reasons as there are things to collect.
The art of art collecting is no different. How many of us as children picked up a crayon, scribbled something on a blank sheet of paper, held it and said: “bootiful”? The collection has begun and the collector born. It may continue with a brush in hand, attending a museum exhibit, a gallery opening, a college course in Western culture or an emotional reaction to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”
The real test for a collector is that first purchase of art and the feeling that follows. A friend recalls his first purchase—a small print of a tree—at a local library sale. Thus began his journey as a serious collector. It still remains part of his collection, now totaling over 100 pieces of art: original oils, watercolors, pastels, prints, posters, photographs, quilts and sculpture.
My own children took their home walls full of art as a given. It was their teen friends’ visits and “wow” responses that opened their own eyes to the wonder of art and its importance to their day-to-day living environment. One evening my 11 year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, returned home from my group art show with the Bellefonte Historical & Cultural Association in the Gamble Mill Gallery. She exclaimed, “I want to buy the beautiful Ruth Kempner painting about Hansel & Gretel.” I smiled and said, “I bet if you called Ruth she would let you buy it on time payments.” Thus began a young girl’s journey as a collector: understanding the value of saving to obtain a special and desired piece of art.
Over the last 30 years I’ve watched individuals who had never had art in their lives develop a passion for collecting my landscapes. Two happen to be sisters who babysat my three children–my oldest of whom will soon be 33. These second generation, American-born women were raised in a family of eight by their Czechoslovakian parents who were very frugal. Through time, these two wonderful women become the sisters I never had. Their appreciation for art grew as our relationship deepened. Their children began to request my art as gifts, culminating in a combined collection of 48 oils and pastels bought, bartered and commissioned since the mid-1980s. Trust is a key relationship builder for a major collector of your art.
While individuals and collectors can be numerous, it is a rare instance when one discovers a patron. Every once in a while a serious collector may surprise you with multiple purchases. These collectors can be pivotal and become true patrons of your art and must be cultivated and nurtured as you would a best friend.
Developing a following for your art work or a “collector” of it, takes time investment and relationship building.
A few ways to do this are:
- develop a collector file – email, phone, mailing address, art purchased, preferred medium
- personal hand written thank you card for every purchase
- announcements/invitations to studio tours, gallery openings, (personalize)
- website, newsletters n social media – blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, (post regularly)
- emailing images of new work to past purchasers
- follow-up, follow-up, follow-up
On a personal note I would like to thank my artist father, Thomas C. Nicholas Jr., for encouraging my creativity and giving me the freedom to become an artist. Growing up in a house with art on the wall was the beginning of my journey.
— Written by Susan Nicholas Gephart & M. A. Zlotziver