My Art Festival Review

This may have been the best Des Moines Art Festival and ARTFest Midwest that I have been to. I’ll post some links to some of the great artists that I found there in separate posts, but I am going to start with a review of the festivals themselves.

First, the Des Moines Art Festival, which is the larger and more prestigious of the two. The overall quality of the art was amazing. I am a big fan of paintings, sculpture, and mixed media. I usually am not a big fan of glass or ceramics, as usually they seem to have a certain sameness even among different artists. Another issue is that many artists seem to make the same thing over and over. In this festival, not only did I find a glass artist that I found amazing, but found multiple ceramic artists that were very good. Any show that has not one, but multiple artists that surprise you with their quality of work is a great show.

There were close to 200 different artists at this show. The award for best in show was a cool installation of a small shipping container with oil paintings of wilderness scenes inside. In lieu of normal pricing or a price list, there was a “packing list” with pricing. The concept was that the whole thing was a traveling art show that had survived wars and had been “stolen” from other people. Now the whole collection was slowly decreasing as people buy items and then take them out of their context until the context is ultimately lost. The concept was fantastic, and deserved the Best in Show Award.

I have to admit that I was not overly enthralled with most of the jury awards or merit awards. I could see why people would buy that art, but honestly I thought there were better overall artists and better displays.

I spent the vast majority of the day at the big show. I only got to spend about an hour at ARTFest Midwest, but I did get to reconnect with artists that I follow and find two artists that I would like to follow. Again, if you can find more than one artist that you can connect with in under an hour, this is a great show. There were demonstrations from several artists, which is always fun.

Overall, the shows were very well run. Most of the artists were very approachable. The art was beautiful and most of it was priced reasonably. I had a great time.


Art Superbowl in the Midwest

This weekend is the Des Moines Art Festival and ARTFest Midwest. Both art fairs are on the same weekend and near each other in Des Moines, IA. They even have a free shuttle between the two events. While the Festival is more prestigious, both are very much worth going to.

Why is this like the Superbowl? We are talking about 200 artists from all over the country at the Art Festival with about 100 more at ARTFest. This is an all weekend event, but when you go it can be all day. There are two stages, one for performing arts (which includes dance and music) and the other for just music. Any time you decide for half-time, you have your choice of shows. The Festival is all outside, but there is a film festival as well, so you can cool off while watching some independant films. ARTFest is all inside with air conditioning, so during the heat of the day, you can go there and enjoy literally cool art. There will be a ton of food available, too.

While the shows will be great, the commercials are still the best part. There will be gallerists around, but the artists are trying to sell their own pieces. This gives you an awesome chance to actually talk to the artists themselves about their work. Not just one or two artists, but hundreds. Stand back and get ready to be convinced.

Here you can find new artists to follow, expand your collecting horizons, and fall in love with art you never had the opportunity to see before. Remember, you’ll never have enough money to buy everything you want. You really don’t want to do that anyway. But, you will definitely want to collect a bunch of the artists cards. This will give you a chance to get to their web pages, find what galleries show and sell their works, and get to know not only what they have now, but what they did before and are doing in the future.

This is the type of thing you want to do in order to collect art, not just buy art. Going to a big show like this really allows someone to expand their collecting horizons.

More information about the Des Moines Art Festival can be found at More information about ARTFest Midwest can be found at

Why Am I an Amateur Art Collector

There is a such thing as a professional art collector. These are people that can generally tell you long histories about why Van Gogh is such an influence on modern art, why Rothko did not consider his paintings to be abstract, and show you the difference between hard edge abstract art and geometric abstract art. I am not yet one of these people. I simply do not know enough about art in order to call myself even a mediocre art collector.

That said, knowing that you don’t know much can be an enormous advantage in the art world. Most experts in the art world, especially gallerists and many of the artists themselves, are more than happy to pass on their knowledge. For some, the problem isn’t getting them to talk about their art or even art in general, it is getting them to stop talking about it. This is a great opportunity to be quiet, listen, and learn more about what you are looking at.

Art is basically an expression of emotion. Artists are paid to express that emotion. Most do that best with the piece itself, but some few are very good at expressing it in words as well. These professionals are the most valuable to the amateur art collector. They are the ones that make you better at finding your taste. They are the ones that will help you make those great purchases that you will treasure for years to come, maybe even your whole life.

Once you find an artist or gallery that gets you to that point, be sure to pay them for their time. This isn’t done by giving them money. It is by buying a piece from them that you really love. The best payment for any artist is for you to love owning a piece as much as they loved making it. The best payment for a gallery owner is for you to appreciate the piece as much as they did when they took the risk of their reputation (their single most valuable asset) by putting it on their wall in the first place.

My First Commission – Art By Magic

MAGIC is a versatile artist that works in acryllic and mixed media. Some of her art is very minimalist. She also has some complex abstracts, impressionist landscapes, and even a few figurative pieces. This variety makes collecting her art both challenging and fascinating.

While she was not the first artist from whom I purchased art, she is the first artist I commissioned. A great part about MAGIC is she will work diligently to get exactly what you are trying to do, even if the art is not typically what she creates. However, what I wanted was a collection of small pieces that could be combined into a larger work. I had four pieces from her already, so I commissioned twenty more to form a larger whole.

The concept was mine and I drew up a picture of what sort of pieces I wanted and how they would be arranged. The rest was up to her. The concept was to have several of her less abstract pieces surrounded by her minimalist art. In effect, I was framing her art with more of her art.


I found the effect stunning. The “top” is a combination of two forest scenes, the one on the left entitled “Landscape” and the one on the right called “A Little Forest.” The five pieces under are called “River”. The minimalist pieces on top represent a sunset (to me) and the bottom is water. The whole piece together looks like an abstracted island at sunset. It is my happy place. The twenty larger pieces are each 6″ square, and the four corners are 5″ square. The entire collection is about 48″ long x 30″ tall.

MAGIC has a couple blogs and an Etsy store. Her web site is I suggest checking her out.

My Rules for Buying Art

Every art collector should have some rules that they follow when buying art. If you don’t have rules, you have a much higher chance of paying (let’s face it) a lot of money for something you end up regretting. Having some internal rules will help avoid that issue. It won’t eliminate it, of course, but it will help. Keep in mind, you will likely not have the same taste in art over time. Eventually, that piece that you bought will seem old, tired, or just not up to your standards. Don’t be afraid of this! You should expect and even embrace it. After all, how cool would it be to have enough art that you can rearrange everything so you can have your own private exhibitions.

So, here are my rules for buying art. You should come up with your own rules, which honestly may not look anything like my rules.

  • I buy art because I want to own art. I do not expect to ever sell any art I buy. This is not a financial investment.
  • I want to support the artist and the gallery where I buy art. In order to do that, I want to meet and talk to the people involved. If I don’t like the artist or the gallery, I will not buy from them. While this isn’t a monetary investment, it is a social investment. I don’t want to invest in companies or people I don’t like.
  • I will always buy original art. I do not buy giclee, prints, posters, or reproductions.
  • I will look at something three times before I consider buying it. If I love it after seeing it for the third time, there is a good possibility that I will be happy with it for a long time.
  • I will not haggle with an artist or a gallery.
  • I will trust my feelings on the art in question. As Dr. David Holcombe says “There is no one gold standard for art.” If I love a piece, it does not matter if everyone else thinks little of it. The fact that I love it is enough.
  • I will make sure that my wife will accept any art that I buy. After all, she has to live with it, too.
  • I will not allow my rules to hamstring me in finding, buying, and enjoying a piece.

I highly encourage everyone who is interested in collecting art to come up with their own rules.

My art blog

I’ve been looking for some good blogs and web sites about art collecting, but either they are about artists or are selling art. While some of those are really cool, they don’t help me a lot in how to collect art. How do I tell what is good art? How do I know how much to pay? What should I look for in the art that I am buying? These seem to be difficult questions. So, I decided to write my own blog about art, artists, and collecting art.

I love feedback, so feel free to post something and I’ll be more than happy to comment.