Why Buy Local Art?

James Swanson painting - borrowed from www.jamesswansonfineart.com

James Swanson painting – borrowed from http://www.jamesswansonfineart.com

***The featured image for this post is of Chicago-area painter James Swanson. Be sure to read all the way to the end to discover why he’s on my blog!

The holidays are not here yet. However – my local art + craft store had their Christmas decorations out on the floor last month. (And, amidst my drafts of this post, I got an email from Etsy titled “A Holiday Head Start”.) Sheesh!

They’re out for a reason, though. Some people are Christmas-in-July types who shop for the big holiday early on. For those people, and for the rest of us, I offer some food for thought for the upcoming gift-giving season…as well as for your everyday home décor purchases.

I cringe when I see the price tags on big-box store “wall art.” Do people really pay this much for imitation art? For art created by an unknown artist, to hang on their wall, not knowing the story or the heartbeat of the artwork? Many people do. Many people feel that “real” art created by a “real” artist is too expensive. Or they’d like a bigger piece to fill a particular space on their wall, and the price tag on an original painting is too daunting.

Consider the fate of the art you are buying. What will happen to the art when you change your color scheme, or move to a house with smaller (or bigger) wall space? Chances are, your money spent on factory-produced art will wind up at a resale shop.

An original painting created by a local artist, however, will live on in your family through generations. You will have the opportunity to know a person – the artist – with humanity and spirit whose passion resulted in an original work of art. You will have a story to tell to future generations about how you met the artist or discovered his or her work. A story about the way the art was created or about the inspiration that drove the artist. You will learn little “secret” details that live inside the art. In other words…you’re getting a lot more for your money.

This painting hangs on a wall in my home. It once hung in the apartment of my great-great-great aunt and my great-grandmother. It is signed "Harrald". No date, no other details.I don't know its mysteries, but I like that it is a link to my ancestors.

This painting hangs on a wall in my home. It once hung in the apartment of my great-great-great aunt and my great-grandmother. It is signed “Harrald”. No date, no other details.I don’t know its mysteries, but I like that it is a link to my ancestors.

For artists, “making a sale” feeds their habit…it gives them more resources to continue their artistic pursuits. It feeds their fire of creativity, giving affirmation to their efforts. It completes the circle of creation – it is one thing to create for yourself – but creation is also a human experience, a conversation, which is given deeper meaning when shared with another. And – it clears out room in the studio for more new art to be made!

Talk to artists. Most of us are more than happy to discuss our craft, our inspiration, what we’re working on these days. Some of us are introverted by nature, so it may (or may not) take us a while to warm up – don’t let that be a turn-off. On the other hand, if an artist happens to be rude, or condescending, or uninterested…move on. You don’t want that vibe hanging on your wall or standing in your corner, anyway.

I encourage you to seek out local artists – for example, if you’re searching on Etsy, use a location search. See who’s in your ‘hood! You’ve got a connection already just by your place in space and time. Spend time learning about their art – how they make it and why. Even if you do not walk away with an heirloom art piece, you will walk away with a human experience – something you can treasure in and of itself.


This story is inspired by a recent addition to our own fine art collection. My husband and I have several original paintings that we have inherited from both my family and his. Recently, we added a painting by Chicago-area artist James Swanson. The Bloke is a beautiful painting of a boat…but, since we purchased the painting from the artist, we know so much more about it than that…it even has its own secrets!

The Bloke ©James Swanson in its new home

The Bloke ©James Swanson in its new home

James has been a mentor and a friend to me. He is a very talented artist, and in getting to know him as a person, I have learned so much about his approach to painting, both in terms of his vision and passion and in terms of his technique. I am thankful for his generous nature and for the manner in which he teaches his students. His class got me back to painting regularly after many years of drought, and I am proud to have one of his paintings among our collection. Thanks, Jim!

The Bloke, oil, 12x16 ©James Swanson. Source: http://jamesswansonfineart.com/JamesSwansonFineArt.com/wet_paint.html

The Bloke, oil, 12×16 ©James Swanson. Source: http://jamesswansonfineart.com/JamesSwansonFineArt.com/wet_paint.html


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