8 Tips for Buying Art Directly from Art Fair Artists with Confidence

Updated: Feb 23, 2020

A do's and don'ts check list.

How to Fare an Art Fair

That’s me! Thirty years ago, frazzled, at my first art fair as my confidence evaporated in the August heat.

Here's an excerpt from my memoir, A Lone Birch, My Artistic Journey.

It was seven o’clock on the mid-August morning of my first art fair where I planned to display my watercolor paintings. It was hot. It was humid. The rising sun had turned the non-air-conditioned Chevette into a pizza oven on wheels. I had just finished working the night shift at the hospital as a registered nurse. It turned out that was the easy part of my day.



With the sub-compact jam-packed, I chugged along to the neighboring town thirty miles away, roasting all the way. My thoughts, meanwhile, simmered with insecurity. This was my first public display where I would be within earshot of every comment. Could I take the heat?

Yet one patron, late in the day, handed over cash for one of my painting!


That one transaction boosted my spirits, firing up my confidence to keep going.


For a gal who prefers the Holiday Inn over camping, I haven't missed enduring the outdoor elements. I've been glad to leave behind this mail delivery slogan: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night ... " as I've been out in all those elements literally weathering art fairs.



However, for those of you who attend an art fair, here are some tips from someone who still appreciates your loyalty to buy art.


Before you go to an art fair:

  • Do a quick google search.

The big fairs will have maps indicating the best parking options, shuttle bus schedules, restroom availability, and food options. Smaller shows will not be as organized, but if you arrive mid-day, plan to walk from your car because parking fills up quickly.


In both cases:

  • -Measure the space(s) in your home before going

  • -Remember artist will offer big and small options so check every room

  • -Take paint chips, fabric swatches for color match

  • -Bring cash. Although most artist will take credit cards, cash eliminates processing fees for the artist therefore they may offer a cash discount.

  • -Wear comfortable shoes and a sun hat

  • -Apply sunscreen before hitting the elements

  • -Bring a water bottle

  • -Take an umbrella, and my least favorite … bug spray

  • -If you plan to buy large items, pull a wagon or stroller


How to buy art from an artist:


  • Let your personality be your guide.

Trust your gut that you’ll be drawn to your favorite colors, mood, and style. Art also has the power to trigger a memory or feeling in you. Accept that as a good sign. Art is yours to enjoy and lift up your spirit.

  • Remember art will look different in the sun compared to when it hangs in your home.

Think of the light source in your room. Is it the softer, indirect light of north-facing windows? If so, you may need stronger colors?

  • Consider re-framing.

The function of a frame is to protect and lead your eye into the art. Depending on your home décor and personal taste a simple frame switch can accentuate different colors in the art.


  • Consider increasing the size of painting if the art is too small.

Use added mat width / or a frame.

Or buy a collection.

  • Ask about custom work.

If the size or colors aren’t’ quite right, many artists paint commissioned pieces.

  • There is a difference in price between originals and prints.

Don’t be afraid for clarification, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the reproduction process. Technology changes daily!

  • One key question about prints is to ask about ink qualities and light-fastness.

For additional protection for both paper and ink, prints should be displayed under UV protective glass. Don’t be afraid to ask about the glass on the art you’re considering.

  • You can ask about a discount, beyond cash.

Just remember the artist sets their own prices, and I personally prefer to respect that. There’s always another painting if their art is beyond your budget. If you do make an offer, be kind. Put yourself in the artist’s shoes. How would you feel about someone asking for a discount about your livelihood?


So go and enjoy the vast assortment of hand-crafted items. Plan to take your time and savor the day.

As for me, nowadays,

I fare the art fair as a fair-weathered art fair viewer!

Clink here: for a year-round list of Michigan Art fairs.