Two pieces of art got me hooked on collecting. One was an unsigned amateur dream painting that I bought on eBay about 8 years ago. I just adored it, even though the painter wasn't terribly skilled at painting people. It's so unusual – the Goreyesque couple in a rowboat should really be having a romantic moment, but they seem depressed, possibly even devastated, as if their child has drowned in the lake and they can't find its body. With its odd perspective, queasy green and gold waves, and mysterious falling glow-lights, it really captures the essence of a dream. (This photo doesn't really convey the richness of its color saturation – there is some kind of varnish on the painting that defies photography.)
Untitled by Unknown, oil on panel, circa 1970, found "at a church rummage sale in upstate NY," according to the seller
After that, I knew I needed more art, but I also knew I coudn't afford it. Unfortunately, prints just weren't going to do it for me. The fix I was seeking had something to do with owning a little one-of-a-kind masterpiece and being able to have tactile communication with its surfaces. I wanted to be able to see the brushstrokes and the rough edges and even the little pieces of cat hair that got caught in the paint.
Over the next few years, I bought a lot of naive and primitive art on eBay, most of it quite cheap, in search of the same feeling I got from that first piece – a quest which was largely unsuccessful. Then I lucked into this little gem, which gave me the same rush, and then some.
"The City" by Nicole Wong, oil on board, 2006
By this point, I had realized that, for the most part, eBay and ETSY artists weren't really my cup of tea. Most of them seemed to be pumping out versions of their bestsellers at a rate of one (or more) per day. I wanted paintings that were unique, strange, emotional, inspired, visionary – paintings that wouldn't be replicated a hundred times with slight variations. (This is a complaint I have with a lot of artists in our little lowbrow/pop surrealism universe, as well, of course.)
Frustrated and dissatisfied, I happened across deviantART early last year and soon discovered Dylan Sisson and Sarah Joncas. Fortunately, my financial situation had improved markedly since I began suffering from this little fixation, so I bought a painting from Dylan right away – but Sarah was elusive. She would sell her paintings (to someone else) before she even sent them to the gallery! I followed the Sarah breadcrumb trail to Thinkspace (I had never entered an Art Gallery with the intention to buy in my life) and though her paintings were already sold (for like $350, which is just ridiculous) I soon fell for a Kelly Vivanco painting in that show, and from that point on, each month's budgetary computations have centered around the question, "How much will be left over for art?"