Demystifying the Art Buying Process for New and Would-Be Collectors

Three steps to beginning a great art collection

So you want to start an art collection but a): think you can’t afford it and b): don’t know where to begin. My advice to you is to take the money factor out of the equation for now. You will come back to it later when it is time to narrow in on possible purchases. In the meantime, just gather information and figure out what styles and media you love.

 Art is not like clothing. If you love an expensive top but you can’t afford it, you gain nothing from buying it in a smaller size. But if you find an artist you love whose large works are too expensive, you can often start with a smaller piece or a drawing that fits within your budget.
Step one:
Look at art and become familiar with what you like.
Online browsing is the easiest way to hone in on your preferences so you can then go out and see it in person. Art always looks different in person, so once you figure out what you like, go see some of it up close.
Public Galleries
Follow a tour, learn some art history and have a cappuccino.  Enjoy some art with no pressure to buy.
Commercial Galleries
The old stereotype of the snooty, stuck up art dealer is no longer entirely relevant. Many galleries now make a point of being welcoming and helpful, and will patiently encourage browsing. If you happen upon gallery staff who are rude or snooty, don’t bother with that gallery. There are plenty of commercial galleries that have friendly staff and an array of beautiful art.Co-op or
Artist Run Galleries
These are galleries run by a group of artists who pay membership fees and rent a gallery space to showcase their work. The shows are curated by the artists themselves and there is often an artist on hand to answer questions.
Art Fairs

Art fairs are the best way to view plenty of art all in one place, at your own pace, in a casual environment where no one is pressuring you to buy. Fairs also offer the exciting opportunity to talk to the artists directly and learn about their processes and motivations for creating the art you love. If you do end up buying one of their works some day, you will cherish that connection you made with the person who created it. Most big cities have art fairs spaced out throughout the year, so there is always something to look forward to.

Studio Visits:

Artists may do business through a gallery or directly from their studio, or both. Don’t be afraid to email an artist and ask.

Step two:  

Make a purchase plan:
A couple I know buys a piece of art every year for their anniversary. Each year they put aside whatever they can afford to spend on art, and during the course of the year, they browse the art shows and galleries, making connections and discovering what they like. By the time their anniversary rolls around, they usually have a good idea of what they want and how to buy it.
Step three:
Buying and hanging your beautiful art:
Choosing art is simple: Just buy what you love. If you enjoy looking at it and it makes you smile, make it yours.
Many artists and galleries offer hanging, delivery and other services which are often included in the price of a painting. Some will come to your home and help you decide where to hang a painting or place a sculpture. Others will allow you to take a work of art home and see it in your space before you decide to buy it.
A few things to remember:
Bigger is not always better: A small work can have a very big impact – both on your space and on your heart.  (The most recent piece of art I bought is 4” x 6”. It is a tiny, sweet mixed media work by Toronto artist Kelly Grace and I gave it as a gift to someone I love).
These 3 tiny paintings by Joya Paul make a huge impact in my front hall

Don’t compare apples to oranges. Meaning don’t look at a piece of original art and say “yeah but I can get a poster 3 times the size at Ikea for half the price”. You can’t compare something hand made and authentic with something mass-produced: This isn’t even apples to oranges, it’s more like fresh farmers market apples to decorative plastic oranges.

If you are still unsure where to start, talk to someone who can offer you guidance.  If you don’t know who do ask, email me.  I love to talk about art (clearly), and can recommend websites, artists and galleries to help set you on the track that works for you. Trust me, once you get started, there will be no stopping you!

“Every time I make something I think about the people who are going to see it
and every time I see something, I think about the person who made it…
Nothing is important… so everything is important.” 
(Keith Haring)   

The Hows and Whys of Encaustic Painting

Why My Paintings are so HOT!

People often ask me how I heard about encaustic painting and why I do it.  They wonder why an artist would bother with a medium that is so messy, involved, difficult and expensive (not to mention the potential for serious burns and inhalation injury), when you can now create similar effects with acrylic mediums that are far cheaper and easier to use.
Encaustic is different from other media not only because of the look of the final product, but because of the paint itself: both in its historical significance and its connection to the earth. I work in encaustic because there is something about warm beeswax in the studio that makes me feel alive and connected to something ancient and authentic, in a way that manufactured acrylic paints cannot.
Encaustic painting is an ancient art form that was developed over 3000 years ago when Greek and Egyptian shipbuilders used hot wax to fill the cracks in their ships. Soon pigment was added and this led to painting designs on the surface of the waxed hulls. The process was eventually refined for the art of painting on panels. The word encaustic is Greek – meaning “to burn in”.

One reason for the popularity of the encaustic medium was the durability of its finish once it was dry. Beeswax is impervious to moisture and acts as a sealant to keep colours bright. Under the right conditions, an encaustic painting can last indefinitely. Probably the best-known encaustic works are the Fayum funeral portraits painted in the 1st through 3rd centuries. Amazingly, these portraits are still intact today.

Encaustic fell into disuse with the decline of the Roman Empire, when cheaper and easier methods of painting were developed. The process was so time consuming and painstaking and the cost of producing it so high, that Tempera painting eventually took over and encaustic became a lost art.

Encaustic had a few stops and starts in the 18th and 19thcenturies, but began to truly come back to life in the 20th century with the availability of portable electric heating devices to melt the wax. It began its resurrection in the 1950s with a few artists, including Jasper Johns and Diego Rivera, and continued to grow with the work of Tony Scherman and others in the 70s.  From then on it rose steadily.

Johns, Rivera and Scherman offer a good cross section of how encaustic can be used in any style of contemporary art, and I have been lucky enough to see works by all of them in person. One constant with encaustic work is that photos simply cannot capture their richness and intensity.  The luminosity, immediacy and depth of an encaustic painting can only be experienced in person.

It was seeing a contemporary encaustic show in Toronto that set me on my current path.  I had been painting with acrylics and epoxy resins (a highly toxic and chemically produced cocktail). After attending the encaustic show, I did some research on the method and tried it. As soon as I began, I was hooked.

I now paint almost exclusively with encaustic, often incorporating papers, inks, found objects, charcoal and other media. Oil paints and oil sticks are an important part of my practice and I use them liberally. One of the ancient practices I was most drawn to was the ability to suspend papers and objects in beeswax. They can be incorporated into the paint, or made to look like they are floating; giving the work an ethereal quality.

I make my own encaustic paints, staying close to an ancient recipe of beeswax, pigments and damar resin. I begin with a visit to an Ontario honey farm to purchase my beeswax, which I then melt down with the resin and pigments and mold into individual pucks of paint. The paints become solid at room temperature and are melted as needed on a hot palette in order to be brushed onto my panels. Each layer of encaustic paint must then be re-melted into the layer beneath it in order to fuse the painting together. I use a heat gun or iron for this process.  My studio is a crazy mess of brushes, scrapers, mark makers, collections of papers (both handmade and vintage), found objects, fabrics and natural matter.

Each of my paintings is a culmination of diverse elements coming together, and every day is an adventure in painting since I never know what I will discover next. As Jasper Johns said: “Do something, do something to that, and then do something to that”. I couldn’t agree more.

Painting with encaustic is about rich scents, warm, soft textures and smooth, glossy surfaces.  It smells like honey and the smell never dissipates, even after the painting has been finished for years.  I love working with it because of its tactile qualities. Other types of paints come alive when the painting is complete, but encaustic speaks to me because beeswax has a life of its own before the artist even begins working with it.   As I work, I give thanks to the bees for the gift they have given me, and I am ever grateful for being able to do what I love and put something new and beautiful into the world.

“I tend to like things that already exist.”  

(Jasper Johns)