Mel's Guide to Art Collecting

Clare Downey
May 21, 2021

When do you officially become an adult? Is it when you move out, pay all your own bills, make a dentist appointment without your mom reminding you? I’ve always thought it was when you owned art. I grew up with art-obsessed parents in a house where a new painting meant a day of manually moving it around the house, ooh-ing and ah-ing at how the lighting affected the colors. Choosing the painting's final home was a family affair, but it was always my parents who chose the piece.

But when it comes time to embark on this art-collecting journey, it may feel daunting and crazy expensive. According to Mel (@melmitchia), it doesn’t have to be. As an art lover who has built a following off of her incredible collection, she was the perfect person to talk to—and it turns out she is just as cool as her color palette.  

We can all collect pieces we love with any budget and in any space. Here’s some tips from Mel to start you off (and gorgeous photos of her home).  

 

1) Get comfortable with empty space  

If your end goal is to have an array of pieces that feel super “you”, you first need to learn to love an empty wall. Looking at beautiful gallery walls can be inspiring, but patience will allow you to find pieces you truly love, making the process feel more meaningful. So, allow yourself to save up for the pieces you truly want and admire them as a stand-alone before you go out and buy more.  

2) Check out up-and-coming artists  

If you’re drooling over an Ashley Longshore piece that’s way out of your budget, look at emerging artists. Regardless of whether your art quadruples in value, it’s worth it to find pieces you love and support artists honing their craft. If you love abstracts and you meet someone who creates them, whether they are your friend’s sister or a guy you found on Tiktok, considering picking up a piece from them. Looking to purchase prints? Find talented Mel-approved artists, head over to Etsy, Society6, or one of the featured artists on her website, melmitchia.com.  

3) Attend art fairs and open studios in your area  

Regardless of whether you live in a big city or a small town, there’s an art scene for you to explore. Art fairs allow you to explore the plethora of options available to you. As you meet people in the scene and build relationships with them, you can get recommendations and opinions. Open studios eliminate the upcharge from galleries and enable you to meet the artists. Then, next time a dinner guest compliments your mixed media piece, you can share some background info on the art or a story about a fun conversation with the artist.  

4) Ask about payment plans  

Many small galleries and artists will be willing to accommodate your time frame in order to make buying accessible to you, you just need to ask. Remember, they love art and want you to be in on the fun. Many people will go out of their way to make that a reality for you.    

5) Redefine art  

Art does not always have to look like the pieces you see hanging up in museums—and sometimes something different is even better. Some of the first pieces Mel hung on her wall in her bedroom were a thank you note from her husband and a cartoon. Prints of photos from places you love or photographers who inspire you are phenomenal and often a less expensive way to decorate.  

Your home doesn’t have to be a Pinterest-perfect haven everywhere, it can just work for you and make you happy. So, have your art spark joy for you and the people you live with.  

6) Frame it right  

Don’t forget about frames. Framing can take a few pieces of art from a seemingly random combination to a cohesive collection. However, framing can be pricey. If you're on a budget, Mel recommends seeking art in common dimensions. If you don’t need custom framing, the cost will go down massively (look for 8” x 10”, 11” x 14”, 16” x 20”, 20” x 24”, 24” x 36”).  

 

An art collection creates a physical representation of memories. On that note, buy things you love that make you stop in your tracks. You may see a piece that looks like it will fit in your dream house, but if the piece itself doesn’t excite you right now, it’s probably not the one for you! Don’t be afraid to bite the bullet on art, because I can guarantee you’ll be glad you spent the money on something you love.  

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