I save money all year so that I can pay my taxes. One of the perks of this strategy is that I always end up with a little bit of money left over, and I usually take a percentage of that remaining money and buy myself something nice and expensive that I've wanted for a while. Okay, not always - last year, I spent every remaining penny to clear my credit card debt, but really, that was such a load off my mind that it might as well have been a gift to myself. ;) This year, I didn't have nearly as much left as I hoped, so I once again used it to clear "debt," but it was very specific - and special - debt. I had two expensive paintings that I'd been buying in monthly installments sent to the artist, but no longer - I've now paid them both down in full. I've already written about both before, but this time I've actually got, like, permission from the artists and stuff to share the images. ;)
Every year in August I go to Gencon, a gaming convention held in Indianapolis. I pretty much go for two reasons, and neither is gaming. One is to see all my dear friends who I see no other time of the year - Gencon, I often say semi-seriously, is my family reunion. The other reason, I go is to buy art. I've spoken before about my art collection a couple of times (here and here, specifically). I LOVE art, and I love owning original art, and since I can't afford Rembrandt, I content myself to collect the gorgeous fantasy art that I encounter as part of my hobby. I started small - my first original was $20, and my second was $5 - but I've gotten bigger over time. In 2008, I spent $900 on one piece and $600 on a second while at Gencon. But the real test came in August, 2009. That year, Omar Rayyan was the artist guest of honor, and as I was working my way towards his booth, I glanced over and saw a painting, and it was love at first sight. I couldn't take my eyes off it. It was a large oil, and I knew enough about the business to be able to make a ball park guess on how much money it would be, and I was terrified to ask him how much, because I knew how much I wanted it, and I knew that my credit limit was high enough that the temptation might be irresistible, but the timing was terrible to say the least. I was in the midst of trying to secure a mortgage before closing on my apartment, and about to leave for a three week vacation to boot, and anyway, when really is a good time to spend thousands of dollars on a frivolity - even a frivolity that one loves? But I couldn't not know. So I asked. And was told that it was $5,000. I actually debated buying it for 24 hours, but it was not an amount I could afford at that time. But it wasn't so out of reach that I didn't ask, before leaving, a few critical questions. What was the smallest down payment that he would accept? How could I get in touch later if I still wanted it? He told me $1000, that e-mail was fine, and he warned me that he'd be showing it again in November and if I really wanted it I might want to make a move.
As October came, I was still thinking about the painting. My situation hadn't changed. My closing date was coming up - it was 10/27 - and I needed every penny on hand to pay all the fees and such. I had promised myself I'd try to scrape together the $1000 down payment, but I just hadn't been able to. But I knew I wanted that painting, and so I contacted Omar, and I asked if he'd accept less with the understanding that in December I'd be able to hit the $1000. He said that would be acceptable, and in mid-October, 2009, I sent my first installment. I've been paying him every month ever since. And I'm glad I made my move, because he subsequently told me that when he attended the thing in November, one of his long-time customers had approached him and said they'd finally made up their mind, and wanted to buy the painting. If I hadn't made the move when I did, I wouldn't be the owner now, and that just breaks my heart, because I love it so very much. Every time I look at it, I grin like an idiot, ear to ear. ;)
I just love it. It's so Rembrandt (my favorite artist). I took down my poster of Sirius Black and hung the Man in it's place, and it's right next to my front door, so every time I leave the apartment, and every time I get home, and every time I walk in to the kitchen, I see him, and grin like an idiot again. My biggest challenge now will be not turning around and buying another. He's got at least two other paintings I would be interested in (one is the pendant to this one), and both are the same price. But while I really, really like them both, I don't love either the way I love "Man with Gold Earring."
The second has a story as well. Stephanie Pui-Mun Law (Shadowscapes) is the artist whose work first made me want to collect art. I remember scrimping and saving so that I could buy my first of her drawings, and being horrified that I was spending (gasp) 75 whole dollars for a piece of art work. How frivolous! How insane, when I was broke! And since then - that was, er, 2002 - I have bought at least one of her originals each year. At first it was drawings, but the last few years it's been watercolors (as my budget has improved). In 2004, I believe, she started working on a tarot deck, and from the start there were images in the deck that I fell in love with. My absolute favorite was the Lovers, followed closely by the Page of Wands (which, now that my taste has shifted a little, is now my favorite). She showed the Lovers at Gencon one year and I asked how much it was, but she said it wasn't for sale (a good thing, since that was when I still didn't have much $ for such things). And I waited patiently for the Tarot deck to become available. It finally did last year, and not long after she indicated that she'd be putting the originals on sale. I was dreading it a little, because I know how much her paintings go for, and I wasn't at all sure how I would scrape the money together. Still, I looked through the whole deck, ranked which cards' originals I wanted most, and waited until she finally announced the price list and the release day. The news was mixed. The Lovers was one of the most expensive pieces on there ($1500), and the Page of Wands wasn't for sale at all. So I modified my ranking and waited. Well, when the day finally came, the Lovers sold before I got to it, which was a mixed blessing - I love it, but the money really was an issue. I looked closely at what was still available from my most wanted list, and I finally settled on the Ten of Swords. I just love the color scheme. I finished paying for it out of tax money too - it was $760 total.
All in all, I finished paying for the most and third most expensive pieces of artwork I've ever bought, and I couldn't be happier with either. Now, I can't start saving money for this year's Gencon. ;)
Note that both images are used with the consent of the artists.