Layaway Days: Art collecting on a Budget
'CONSISTENCY IS THE MAJOR STRUGGLE.’ After scrolling through the beautiful paintings, drawings, and sketches on Instagram yesterday, I was stopped in my tracks by the aforementioned statement. The printed statement was in uppercase grey lettering, on a white background, and occurred amongst the day’s vibrant and colorful pieces. The contrast was striking. The post was authored by Sergio Lopez.
I’ve followed Sergio’s work for a few years and enjoy his ‘Painted Roses’ series (see: ‘Blue Girl’, ‘Greensleeves’, ‘Sagiso’, and ‘Chromatella’). I voraciously read his post, appreciating his candor and willingness to discuss an issue that seldom sees the light of day. Sergio discussed the financial perils facing emerging artists.
After processing his post, I reached out to him, as I wanted to interview him for the blog. He recently created a Patreon page, where fans of his work can donate as little as $1/month, to help him keep creating authentic work. Every dollar donated, can be used towards a future purchase: a modified layaway plan for collectors. He also has an option where supporters are granted access to tutorials, high-resolution images, and videos.
I am glad Sergio posted yesterday, as it gives artists and collectors an opportunity for discourse.
LD: When did you become involved with Patreon and how did you ultimately decide to create an account?
SL: I actually have had a Patreon account for over a year but I just now started to promote it. I felt like I had to come up with a good way to stand out from other Patreon accounts before I wanted to put it out there. Also, I wanted to make sure that the perks were something I could keep up with and still be hopefully enticing.
LD: As fans and collectors, we see work posted on social media but are rarely privy to the trials and tribulations facing our favorite artists. Can you describe what it’s like, as an emerging artist?
SL: An emerging artist has a lot of challenges ahead of them. There is a lot you need to do to build trust in collectors before they decide to start collecting from you. And a lot of times that trust has to be built in conjunction with the galleries that will take you in. This makes things difficult for someone who is trying to sell directly to their potential collectors. There are a lot more tribulations of course, but this gives you an idea of one aspect.
LD: Do you prefer that collectors purchase your work directly from you or through a gallery?
SL: I only prefer that collectors purchase directly through me because that means I don't have to split the profit, but that doesn't mean that the gallery's job isn't important or that they don't deserve their cut. Their job is difficult and they depend on us to give them product. Going to a gallery to purchase my work makes it effortless for me, but I make less money that way.
LD: Let’s say a collector likes a piece but is on a budget (like most of us), should they make an offer on a painting and are options, such as layaway or payment plans available?
SL: You should absolutely try to make a deal. There is a little more leeway in directly dealing with artists as well. The profit margin is significantly lower than with a gallery so you are more likely to score a deal if you are willing to ask. As far as layaway plans go, it's probably an artist-by-artist basis. A lot more galleries are willing to do layaway plans than you think, but they aren't so quick to advertise. As a customer, you have more power than you think, and you can get a deal if you are willing to ask.
LD: Any pointers on etiquette for collectors who'd like to contact artists directly?
SL: Just like any other profession, be courteous and don't act too entitled to anything. If you are commissioning an artist, it's important that you are very clear about what you want, and expect to pay part of the commission up front as collateral.
LD: Have you found social media has introduced new collectors to your work and art collecting in general?
SL: It has absolutely done all of those things and is the lifeblood of my advertisement strategy as an independent fine artist.
LD: Do you have any advice for new art collectors or individuals who are contemplating entering the hobby?
SL: Sure, first be passionate about art in general. Find an artist whose work you love, and start saving up for something small or inexpensive to begin with. There are so many artists out there, and they are not hard to find, especially on Instagram. If they search hashtags, or take a look at the suggested follows, I have found some new artists that way. You can even ask your favorite artists who inspire them, and hunt for them that way!
LD: Why is it important to make your art affordable to individuals from all backgrounds?
SL: As an artist trying to stay afloat you need to spread yourself out far and wide, and offer something for everyone. Staying true to your vision, but being flexible in what you offer. If you only offer original paintings, not only will you not be able to keep up with demand, but you will be shutting yourself out of the range of all but the smallest sliver of collectors on Instagram. So it's important to sell not only prints but other products, such as what I offer on my Society6 page.
LD: What can we expect from Sergio Lopez, in the future?
SL: I am currently working on more Painted Roses paintings for a group show in NYC at Rehs Contemporary Gallery, and aside from that, I have a side project of an experimental new series that's completely different than anything else I've done up to this point. I have posted a couple of sneak previews on my Instagram stories a few weeks ago, but I haven't had time to work on it as much as I have wanted to.