9 Places to Pay Less for Original Art

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Sick of those posters you collected in college, the velvet Elvis, or dogs playing poker? Inspiring, original art doesn't have to break the bank. Brush up on where to shop, then fill your walls with the works of promising artists for $50 to $100 each.

There are a few things in life worth paying extra for: once-in-a-lifetime experiences, gifts for best friends, healthy food.

Art, however, in my opinion, doesn’t fit that bill. Unless you’re a serious collector, there’s no reason to pay up when there’s so much great original art available from lesser-known, and less expensive, artists.

There isn’t a blank wall in my house and everything I have cost less than $100; most less than $50.

Here are nine places you can buy original art from local and independent artists at discount prices.

1. Etsy

Etsy is a marketplace for artists to sell everything from prints to hand-painted canvases to reclaimed art made from fence posts, license plates, or anything else you could imagine.

Artists set their own prices and shipping costs. You can find great deals – many for $50 or less. Customers also rate and review sellers so you can shop with confidence.

My favorite feature on this site is the ability to talk with artists via messaging. Many artists are happy to customize their pieces, so if you see something you like but it isn’t quite perfect, send them a message. I recently asked an artist for a different custom frame and got it for $5 more.

2. Society6

Society6 sells prints, framed prints, and stretched canvases from dozens of artists. The site has a bunch of different categories, but I think they offer some of the best typography prints available. They also have a huge selection of humor prints you won’t find elsewhere. Most prices are based on size. For example:

  • Prints – $15 to $30 and up
  • Framed prints – $30 to $100 and up
  • Stretched canvases –$85 to $150 and up

3. deviantART

DeviantART is primarily a portfolio site. Aspiring artists upload their creations to get feedback or show their art to potential clients, but the site also has a print shop, which has a huge range of art: everything from classic portraits to abstract pieces. Artists are allowed to set their own prices and you can find some great deals. I’ve seen small prints sell for as little as $5, but most fall in the $100-and-under range.

4. RedBubble

RedBubble sells smaller prints, poster-sized prints, and other products like stickers and calendars. For artwork, you have a choice of basic prints, framed prints, canvases, and matted prints. The independent artists on the site sell mostly modern prints like typography or film-inspired designs, but you can find abstract art photography as well.

The artists set their own prices. I’ve seen small prints priced under $50 and many medium and large-sized prints priced under $40.

5. The Working Proof

The Working Proof is part charity, part art store. Every Tuesday the site releases a new print. The artist picks a charity and the site donates 15 percent of each sale. You can also browse and buy prints from previous releases.

The prints sold on Working Proof are limited editions, and they do run out on occasion. They can also get expensive – $2,000 or more for the largest size – but you can find good deals on small and medium-sized prints.

6. Eye Buy Art

If you like photography, Eye Buy Art is worth a visit. The site sells limited-edition prints and photography from independent artists around the globe. Eye Buy Art has a more simplistic design than other sites and one great feature: shopping by price point. Every photograph and print on the site falls under five categories: $25, $50, $250, $500, and $1,500, making shopping by price easy.

7. Craft fairs

As a kid, I hated going to craft fairs with my mom, but once I moved out on my own I started going myself at least once a year. Craft fairs are a great place to meet lesser-known artists and score good deals on original artwork. I’ve seen huge, hand-painted canvases sell for less than $100.

The downside – these fairs can be hard to find and you might have to pay a small fee to get in to some events, but you can find upcoming fairs in your area on these sites:

8. Garage and estate sales

In 20 Things You Shouldn’t Buy Used I listed a whole bunch of stuff I’d never buy at a garage or estate sale, but art isn’t one of them. I’ve picked up art for myself, gifts for friends, and just for a cheap frame when I didn’t like the art itself. I’ve never paid more than $20 for a painting at a garage sale and I’ve bought prints for less than $2.

If you’re new to garage sales, check out 10 Ways to Save Time and Money at Garage Sales for a guide to getting started.

9. Local art markets

Neighborhood weekend art markets are a great place to pick up original designs from local artists on the cheap – like the five-piece painting set I recently bought for $50.

These events are usually posted in your local newspaper, on your town’s website, or on community billboards in your neighborhood. And don’t forget to check out farmers markets; they often have art and craft booths.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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