Colorado artist Gene Van Essen’s explanations of why he buys art serve as a good lesson in how to sell art. 

Van Essen makes a point of explaining that there are some baseline requirements a piece needs to meet. It has to be of good quality, and the painting needs to be impressionistic/representational. Lastly, he needs to like it. “I purchase what I enjoy looking at, no apologies,” says Van Essen. “This goes back to the emotional response I have to the artwork. Is it talking to me? My passion for the artwork increases if I know and like the artist. If you are likable, I will connect my knowledge of who you are as a person to your artwork. If I look at the art and see the artist, this brings additional joy to my owning it. We all love and respect art, and to see how another artist handles values, edges, brushwork, color, and composition is part of the passion of ownership. To hold someone’s creative process is a joy. Owning an original painting of an artist you truly respect is like owning the breath they breathed into that piece.”

“Roses,” by Sergey Poljakova, oil, 16 x 20 in. Collection of Gene Van Essen

Many painters have heard the advice to tell the story behind each piece, and it is a remarkable sales tool, one that builds collectors. Van Essen is not immune to this approach. “Many of the paintings I have purchased have a story behind them,” he says. “The story within the paintings gives additional richness to my art collection. For example, I own quality work from Russia, Ukraine, and Armenia, and they all have a location and a story. This adds additional interest to the artwork. So tell the buyer your story, your thoughts, why the subject you painted has meaning to you. Give them that richness.”

“Untitled,” by Sergio Lopez, oil, 2 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. Collection of Gene Van Essen

Van Essen is not afraid to use the “I” word, either. He does buy art as an investment, but in a way, it’s more an investment in the artist selling the piece than the particular painting. “Another element to the purchasing of art is both the cost and the question of whether it’s a good investment,” says Van Essen. “These questions go together for me. Investment is less important than cost. But most artists sell their work to other artists for as much as 60 percent less than the gallery price. I sell my work for around that same discount. The reason for this is that we all understand the deep passion we have within us for the beauty of creating and owning art. Lastly, I guess purchasing art can be a humanitarian effort, as we are, in a way, family. I have purchased artwork from a husband-and-wife team who live in the Ukraine. They want to be free and raise their little boy in a free country, and both are outstanding artists. So helping other artists because they could use a financial lift or to brighten someone emotionally is another wonderful reason to put artwork on your walls.”


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