Art shouldn't be intimidating, but when you walk into a gallery and note that even the low priced items are several hundreds of dollars, it can be.
But fear not, art lovers. There are plenty of ways you can support the artists whose work you've reblogged on Tumblr or pinned to Pinterest even when your funds are limited. Check out the suggestions below.
1. Seek out artist merchandise.
It's fairly common for artists to sell merchandise based on their original work. Postcards and t-shirts have long been a popular item, but many artists are also adding jewelry, as well as cell phone and laptop skins to their inventory.
Hana Kim, who helms the art blog Supahcute and curated Supahcute's Dream Team show (currently running at Leanna Lin's Wonderland in Eagle Rock), suggests searching for your favorite artists on Etsy or Big Cartel, where they might offer lower priced merchandise. Kim also recommends looking for art toys. A number of artists have been collaborating with toy makers to create everything from plush items to vinyl and resin figures. “Even if you can't afford original artwork, there are a lot of options for fans,” she says.
One of the coolest pieces of merchandise I've seen are Camilla d'Errico's art blocks. The Vancouver-based painter and comic book artist offers hand-stained blocks, each one featuring a small, UV laminated recreation of one of her pieces. The 10″ x 12″ blocks sell for only $35.
Zines are another great, and really inexpensive, item to get, though not many artists make them. They're more personal than an art book . At last weekend's “TxB” opening at Toy Art Gallery, I bought a copy of Bwana Spoons latest zine, Sleep It Off for $7. It's 24 pages crammed with comics, drawings and other fun stuff and came wrapped in paper featuring a print he co-designed. The package also featured three trading cards, two postcards and one Bwana Spoons pencil.
2. Seek out prints.
When I asked my pals about affordable art, people had mixed views on prints. A print will always be less expensive than the original, but oftentimes, those can be pricy as well. Keep tabs on your favorite artists' websites for announcements on new prints, though, because a well-priced, limited edition one can sell out fast.
If you're interested in art with a strong pop culture influence, check out Gallery 1988, which frequently includes limited edition prints as part of its shows. Prices will vary, though they're usually well under $100.
“The way our gallery has progressed we deal with a lot of clients who are just entering the art scene, or really just purchasing some pop art they love, no matter what the 'buzz' about the artist is,” says Jensen Karp of Gallery 1988. “So, it's important for us to involve affordable price points in every show, to round out the higher priced original works.”
Karp adds that prints have become the gallery's most popular items. At shows like “ which ran at the gallery's Melrose Ave. outpost earlier this year, there was a line down the block to purchase prints. “It's a different type of buyer,” says Karp of the market for prints. “It's like the sneaker collector. They'll sleep outside our gallery to just get them.”
3. Go to a convention.
One of the staples of fan conventions is the artist alley, which feature both established artists and up-and-comers. If you're interested in comic book or fantasy art, conventions are a great place to meet artists and find something new for your collection.
Prints are the most common item at convention booths. Prices will vary depending on the artist. As one might expect, the newer artists tend to offer the lowest priced prints. Some artists take commissions. Many others include fun items like mini comics, zines and sculpted figures at their booths. Make sure you scour the artist alley because you will likely come across a new artist whose work you'll enjoy.
If you're interested in pop surrealism or designer toys, head to the exhibit hall at San Diego Comic-Con. A number of L.A. galleries have booths at this convention and offer artist signings. There's also a small section of the exhibit hall dedicated to designer toys and plenty of artists have booths of their own.
Also, be sure to check out DesignerCon at the Pasadena Convention Center this November. This annual event is essentially one giant artist alley.
4. Contribute to a Kickstarter Campaign.
Many artists are turning to fundraising platform Kickstarter to raise the money for ambitious projects. Since Kickstarter is an “all or nothing” fundraiser– i.e., you must raise meet your goal to get the money– it's a perfect opportunity to show your support for your favorite artist. One of the coolest things about Kickstarter campaigns is that they typically offer cool rewards for donations of all levels.
Earlier this year, New York artist Molly Crabapple made waves when she more than doubled her Kickstarter goal of $30,000 for her forthcoming series of paintings, “Shell Game.” Everyone who pledged at least $1 got access to livestreams that show her progress on the work. For $20, supporters will receive a signed postcard, plus a Molly Crabapple gambling chip and million dollar bill. After that, the reward packages grew bigger, including rarities like the black and white and watercolor studies for “Shell Game.” Overall, 701 people contributed to the campaign and only two pledged for the 6' x 4' paintings.
5. Check the price, you might be surprised.
Original or custom art isn't always expensive. For example, right now at TAG's “TxB” show, you can find miniature figures from Bwana Spoons for only $40. Always double-check the price because you might be surprised at what you find.
One show that is consistently low-priced is the annual Post-It Show, which takes place every holiday season at Giant Robot's GR2 gallery in West L.A. Artists Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson curate the show, which features over 1,000 tiny pieces of art on Post-It notes. Every piece is priced at $20 and it's a “cash and carry” show, so you can take your purchase home with you that night.
The show is one of the most popular events at GR2. “It starts people on their art collections,” says Giant Robot's Eric Nakamura, adding that the small, inexpensive works of arts make great gifts.
Supahcute's Hana Kim says that the Post-It Show is her favorite event to find great art at an affordable price. She's picked up pieces from Souther Salazar, David Horvath and more at the annual show. “A 3″ x 3″ post-it isn't much of a canvas, but a lot of the artists go all out and create really detailed pieces,” says Kim. “It's not an exaggeration to say that there is something for everyone.”