After my house tour at Design Mom ran last month, I got lots of questions about the house that I’m going to attempt to answer here over the next few weeks. The most common thing people asked about - and this happens with guests in our home, too - was about all the art. (Though no one asked about the nudie art. Thank heavens.)
What you put on the wall is the most important decorating decision of any room: the paint, the wallpaper, and of course the art. Color and texture sets the tone, and original art takes any home from generic to unique.
I’m supremely lucky because I’m married to an artist. The Gorilla is a painter, his college degree is in art, and he will blow you away with his skills. We have several prints of his paintings hanging in the house, but currently our only piece framed and hanging is in the playroom. It is amazing. You can see more of his art here.
So, because art was his world for so long (and still is, only now it’s in the digital form, which is harder to display), some of our best pieces came from his artist friends. Clearly, we’ve got a leg up in that department. But in the last ten years we’ve both acquired things and are on the same page about how and what we’re looking for.
Don’t buy from a gallery. Galleries serve a certain purpose, but it’s generally not for the normal buyer. Art in a gallery is marked up 100% or more, so unless you’re really short on time or have no budget, use galleries as a way to educate and inform, but don’t purchase there.
(unless it’s a student gallery)
The most fantastic sources for original art are students and student galleries. Find a local college or (even better!) art school in your area, and they will always have art shows or stand-alone galleries featuring new talent. The cost here will be so much less than more established artists, but you may just find a total gem. And, if investment is in the back of your mind, student art is the most likely to increase in value.
I bought an amazing pen and ink piece at one of the SCAD student galleries. There were several things I wish I had taken home with me that day, but I settled on the one. I believe it was in the $300-$400 range.
If possible, go directly to the artist. The internet has made finding and contacting artists much easier. Start small on a site like etsy that does sell originals, or use a little google detective work if you hear about an artist you’re interested in.
Another great way to browse for art and speak with the artists themselves is attending art or craft fairs. The handmade movement in the last few years has made craft fairs cool again, so even if a lot of the stuff isn’t your style, you just need to find one booth that gets you excited.
Years ago I discovered Ruth Ann Borum’s paintings while I was wandering through The Girlie Show in Oklahoma City. I was living paycheck to paycheck at the time, but after a couple of hours circling her booth, I just couldn’t leave without the two pieces that were calling my name. I think I paid $500 for them combined, rent money at the time, but beyond reasonable for two beautiful paintings. Eight years later, they both hang in prominent spots in my house, and this was worth a few weeks of living on ramen.
When speaking with the artist directly, you are much more likely to negotiate a price, or possibly work out something custom. Or, if you really like their style, you may ask about older works that they would be willing to sell you for cheaper than their current stuff. If it’s an artist you really, really love, this personal relationship could prove to be invaluable.
If price is an obstacle, consider bartering for art. Now, this only works if you have a relationship with artist, but you might be surprised about what a working artist needs or wants. The Gorilla traded art for art quite a few times, and those pieces are some of the best we have. But if you’re not an artist yourself, consider what your value is and talk to the artist. (Again, this really only works if there’s a familiarity there.) Could you offer a month of after-school care? Help editing a project? Web site design? Whatever it is you have to offer, the artist might have a need beyond cash.
Whatever your budget, make sure you account for proper framing. Do not take a beautiful piece of art and then buy a frame from Target. I’ll post more about framing later, but assume that you’ll have it done custom, and it might cost more than you anticipate. There are several ways to frame outside the norm, but whatever you choose, you must do justice to the work of art.
Having great art is a priority to us because it brings us joy to surround ourselves with it in our home. But I'm no expert on art (at all), and we choose not for investment purposes, but by what we like. Don't be intimidated to start a collection. Beautiful things are beautiful things.
*first photo by Jules Bianchi