How to choose art: an artist's opinions.
A home comes alive with art. When talking with interior designers, they often say the biggest thing you can do to your house is to add artwork. There is something magical about artist made work, something that rises above our current mass-produced culture and waves a happy flag for humans, culture and connection. However, choosing that work can be significantly less than magical. It can be stressful instead of joyful. Purchasing original art, or even artist-made prints, can be expensive and time consuming so you want to get it right. You're planning to look at a piece every day, potentially forever and possibly pass it on to your heirs. So, right, no pressure.
Here are the things I consider when I'm buying work for my own home. I'll tackle the hurtle that most people consider first... the cost.
People often think that you can't collect art on a budget. It really depends on your priorities... if art is a priority, you can make it happen. Case in point: one of the most amazing art collections of the last century was amassed by Dorothy and Herb Vogel, a librarian and a night post office mail clerk (there's a film about them, I haven't seen it yet, so let me know how it is please). Figuring out what you want to spend, saving to that amount or setting it aside until you find the perfect piece will help you follow your love of art. There are ways to find great work at many price points.
Early Career Artists (*)
Look for artists beginning their career as their work will still be priced low and will likely rise in price as they progress further into the art world. It is exciting to discover new artists and they're often on the cutting edge. You can look for early artists at art festivals and fairs. Art centers often have "student and teacher shows" where professional artists teach classes and display their work along side their students. Depending on the venue, the work can be pretty amazing. These shows are usually more variable and pretty crowded with work since there are a lot of artists featured so make sure to look at all the nooks and crannies in the gallery so you don't miss something perfect for you. The same idea for local colleges showing "student" shows by art majors. These are who have committed years in higher education to pursue art training so they are serious about their work. Often the shows will feature a long term theme or even the culmination of a thesis project.
* No one really likes the "emerging artist" term, let's all agree to use "early career artist" instead. Plus it reminds me of an insect emerging from some sort of sac or egg. Not something lovely and beautiful like a butterfly but some kind of menacing, biting pest. Let's not emerge, let's just get some paint and get to work instead.
I know, the internet! The internet! It's completely changed how we view and often acquire art. But, people still love to see things in person. While galleries are great, there are other spaces where you can find art. Art festivals often have early career artists who aren't in galleries yet. Cafés and restaurants often feature guest artists and have changing exhibits. Keep your eyes open, many businesses use local artists to bring life to their spaces and you can always inquire when you see something you like and find the artist to make you something special.
Inside the Gallery
Sometimes, you want to go traditional. Galleries are consider a gatekeeper in the art world, meaning that the art you find is considered vetted by someone, the gallery owner or art buyer. If you're not sure about your taste yet, you may want to start here. You can often buy works on paper or small studies that are less costly than big oil on canvas paintings. Look for these items tucked in corners of galleries, often by the same artists featured on the main walls.
Fine art prints are made or authorized personally by the artist. Stick to high quality reproductions that are signed by the artist. Limited edition prints (those that the artist commits to only making a certain number and then no more, ever) are preferred over open edition (the artist will keep making that print indefinitely). These often look stunning, especially when framed with mat board and gives you a way to enjoy the work completely without committing to buying the original.
Payment Plans and Rental
You can always ask, whether you are in an artist's studio or a gallery if they consider payment plans. I am usually happy to do this with clients and this sort of "layaway" program makes purchasing larger works much easier. I always put everything in writing but if you are working with a different artist or gallery, make sure you do the same so that you know the stipulations. Rental of artwork is an upcoming area in the art world. It's not something I've delved into yet myself, but I'm intrigued. The chance to live with art that you adore but change it out if you get tired of it and for a much lower price than outright purchase? I may just barely be a millennial (or not at all depending where you make the cut off), but even I'm interested in the idea. Let me know if this is something that you would be interested in me offering and I'll work up the details.
I know, that doesn't sound cheap! But hear me out. If you find something you love and can't live without, you can always contact the artist. They will often work with you to find the size that you need and a small size will be much cheaper than that 60" x 60" you fell in love with and way easier to find a spot in your home for. Personally, I love commissions of all sizes and don't shy away from even 5"x7" or 8"x10" works. I often start with small studies first and then progress to larger, similar works once I know the composition works on the canvas (and not just in my head where everything looks great every single time!). If you contact me, I often have studies that are similar to the larger paintings you'll see on display. If not, I can paint it just for you with the bonus that I can make any color shifts or add personal elements, such as flowers, etc. that make your eyes happy. Contact me to get started!
Remember, the important thing is to fall deeply in love with the art you live with. It will make your house a home and bring joy to your days. Once you've falling in love, you'll figure out how to bring art into your life! I'll follow this up with a lot more considerations when buying art. Comment below about how you make art buying decisions!