Buy What You Love!!

I recently took a painting to a client’s house. He loved it and had decided to buy it but wanted to make sure his daughter liked it. I left it with him for three days so he would have a chance to get her opinion (she loved it). After the third day he left me a message saying he had decided not to buy the painting after all. He had invited a bunch of guys over for poker night and they had all argued about whether or not the work was well suited to his living room.  Most liked it, but one friend felt strongly that the space needed something less abstract with a softer colour palette to go with the sofa. The friend was so persuasive that he left my client doubting his own opinion, and in the end he couldn’t bring himself to buy art that one of his friends didn’t approve of. My client took his friend’s advice and hired a decorator, and he is now the bored owner of a dull landscape that matches his wall so tastefully that it’s nearly invisible. The poor guy had found something that stirred his senses, and he let his passion be stamped out by someone else’s colour preferences.

There is so much advice out there about how to buy art, but I always tell my clients that what it boils down to is pure and simple: just buy what you love.  You don’t need a decorator or art dealer to tell you what moves you. Life is too short to not surround yourself with things that make you happy, and those moments in life when we find something special that we connect with are so rare, we need to grab them when they arise. When you see a work of art that you love and can afford, don’t think too hard about it- just make it yours. Don’t worry about where you’ll display it- if you love it, you’ll find a place.

I found “Nipple Tassles” by glass artist Claire Anderson at an art fair.
“Tassles” in my powder room.

Last year my husband and I attended a party at the home of a couple we met, and hanging their family room was a large painting by an artist whose work I immediately recognized. As I excitedly chattered on about the artist’s last show and her impressive new works, I realized both sets of eyes had glazed over and my friends were politely not listening. One of them finally admitted that their decorator had chosen the painting without their involvement, and not only did they know nothing about the artist or the piece itself, neither of them even liked it.

Unfortunately this happens all the time.  People are busy. It can be helpful to have a decorator narrow down some choices based on your preferences: there is a wide range of art out there and it can be a daunting process to find the right piece. But to entirely make the selection without the homeowner’s input? How sad that so many people are living with art that has incredible stories that they don’t learn! How does that process even go? Hmm…going to spend thousands of dollars now on something that will dominate my primary living space. Let’s see: I could choose something I find soothing, moving, beautiful –something remarkable that makes me think – definitely something I want to keep looking at day after day. Nah. I’ll just hire a stranger to pick something they like.   After all they picked the sofa so they should choose what they want to hang above it.

People buy art for different reasons: for investment, for enjoyment, for decoration.  But art is and has always been a societal signifier of status, wealth and cultural intelligence, and too often people get caught up in what others think and forget about what’s important. In displaying art in your home, you are expressing your liberty, your passion and your individuality without saying a word.  The art you buy must resonate with you… whether its significance is aesthetic, cultural, intellectual or sentimental in nature. Never let anyone sell you art that you don’t like because of some perceived value that you don’t see. Displaying art that has no meaning to you is like lying on your resume. It’s a false description of who you are – both to the people who visit your home and to yourself.

When we connect with a work of art, we make a connection to the artist, to the world and to ourselves, and to buy art that enhances our lives and moves our spirits is to live life on a higher plane. Happy collecting.

“Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness.”
(Pablo Picasso)
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Happiness is….A Decomposing Shark

Art as Investment…

When I first started showing my work professionally, my target market was young professionals. Most of my clients had a miniscule budget for buying art, but they saw something they loved in my work. My paintings were inexpensive – I was just starting out and trying to gain purchase in a highly competitive and intense market. For many of my early clients, my work was their first real art purchase. I loved dealing with people who were excited about this new art-buying stage of their lives, as I was excited about this new, art-making stage of mine. In the years since then, I have counseled many of those clients on further art purchases, and some have since grown into attentive and serious collectors.
In the first few years of my painting career, I knew that many of my customers had to stretch financially to buy my paintings, and as a result, they treated them with great reverence and a bit of awe. They were proud of their purchases and proud of themselves for making art a priority. It made them feel grown-up.  So the first time I heard from a potential customer that my work was too cheap, I was more than a little surprised!
It was one of my first studio shows, where I invited friends and family to my home to view my new collection. I had only been showing my work for a year, and had only had feedback from young, inexperienced buyers. At this show, I had invited relatives, friends of my parents, and business associates of my husband; all of whom had a more sophisticated handle on the art market than my usual customers, and many of whom were serious collectors. The first person who came in said it was nice work, and that in a few years he would consider buying something. He liked a small piece that I was selling for $300, and said to let him know when it was $3,000 and he would come back and look at it then.
That size painting now retails for more than triple what it did then, but my work is also far more advanced stylistically. While it is certainly more expensive, it is also more balanced, richer and far more developed than it was when I was just starting out. However if I called that guy today and showed him the exact same early work from 2006 and slapped a $3,000 price tag on it, he would probably buy it.  I have met many people like him in the years since.
Most collectors are passionate about the aesthetic appeal of the art they purchase. But sadly, there are also many collectors out there who have little appreciation for the art itself. The only measure they know of whether the art is “good” or not is the market value, and unfortunately they are missing the point: the best judge of the value of art is the human heart.  We don’t need art critics, dealers and price tags to tell us what we love. We just need to look at art, learn about art, and remember that the real value of owning something beautiful is the joy it brings, not the resale value.
Am I opposed to buying art for investment? Absolutely not! Some of the world’s most spectacular museum collections are only available for us to enjoy because wealthy collectors have purchased and donated them. Investment collectors keep money flowing into the art world; keeping auction houses, galleries and artists alive to keep doing what they do. But I feel conflicted when I think that one day, someone could buy one of my paintings for investment purposes and feel nothing when they look at it.
In 1991, celebrated British artist Damien Hirst created a huge stuffed shark preserved in formaldehyde and mounted in a glass case. In 2004, an American collector bought it for an undisclosed amount, rumored to be somewhere between 8 and 12 million – a staggering sum for a living artist’s work.  It was an affecting and important work, but by the time the deal was made, the original shark had long disintegrated into a decaying ruin. Hirst had already stretched its skin over a plexiglass model of a shark. This plexi version showed in galleries for several years before Hirst again replaced it with a fresh shark.  Much has been written about this story, but my interest in it today is the question of how far collectors and artists will go to own or produce something that the market declares important. Where is the intrinsic value in this?
My rule of thumb when buying art is to ask myself how much the piece is worth to me in terms of how much I will enjoy looking at it. We assume the purchaser of the shark was concerned only with investment value, but maybe he just loved the way a huge dead decomposing animal looked next to his TV? I’d like to think it was the latter, and I hope he made back his 8 or 12 million dollars a hundred times over in sheer enjoyment every time he looked at his acquisition.
Thanks for reading!
There are no rules about investment. Sharks can be good.
Artists dung can be good. Oil on canvas can be good.
(Charles Saatchi)

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)   

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Art at Homesense…

Welcome to my art blog. I have some things to say about the subjects of making, buying and selling art.  For my first post, I thought I would start with some basic feelings about art collecting that hold true for me. These ideas have grown from years of knowing that most people understand why humans need to create art, but have no understanding of why buying and collecting art is equally important to the evolution of humanity.

So here are some of the things I believe about buying art:
    • I believe original art always retains the energy and passion the artist put into creating it.
    • I believe everyone should buy products that were handmade with care.
    • I believe quality and originality matters.
    • I believe acquiring original art teaches my children that there is great value in things that are unique, quirky, imperfect and unexpected.
We found this guy in a gallery in Quebec City
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    My sister bought me this ceramic box at an art fair
  • I believe supporting local artists will inspire my children to follow their dreams and to find value and inspiration in the creation of something magical that comes from hard work, knowledge and passion.
  • I believe my money is better served in the hands of a working artist or craftsperson, than padding the pockets of a huge corporation.
  • I believe mass produced items hurt our environment and dull our senses to what is truly unique and beautiful.
  • I believe original art can make us think, feel and appreciate in a way that mass produced art never will.
  • I believe buying original art promotes mindfulness and personal connection between human beings.
  • I believe buying original art promotes the kind of excellence, craftsmanship, creativity and quality our society is sorely lacking.
  • I believe something made by hand is always worth more and will usually last longer than something that is not.
  • I believe that supporting artists and other small businesses is good for the economy, and supporting Homesense and Amazon is not.
  • I believe there is great joy in discovering an artist or piece of art you connect with.
  • I believe in supporting the people who do not pander to mass sensibilities and are not willing to compromise on what they find real, meaningful or beautiful.
  • I believe in encouraging and celebrating the cultural, personal and creative diversity that is humanity.
  • I believe in the value of maintaining a visceral connection to the earth by remaining connected to where things come from.
  • I believe my life is richer since I began collecting original works of art.
  • I believe it doesn’t have to cost much to begin a meaningful art collection.
  • I believe that art can be far more accessible and affordable than many people think.
  • I believe the benefits of owning meaningful art outweigh the costs.
“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry,
and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that
worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful
which God has implanted in the human soul.”
(Goethe)