Saturday, July 19, 2014

Art Collector Tip #2 - Why Should I Collect Fine Art?

There's one best reason to collect fine art...  you love it, and you want to see it in your home or office every day, for a long, long time.

There is really no magic to collecting art.  Simply buy what you love.  Art is very subjective, and nobody can tell you what's good or bad... you just need to look at a lot of artwork, let your tastes develop, and decide what you like.  Don't buy art because it matches your decor... your decor will change, but you will own the art for a lifetime.  Think of art as an accent to your decor, rather than as a matching part of it.

How do you know if you're paying a fair price for the art you buy?  The value of art depends on many things, including the education and reputation of the artist, as well as the venue selling the art. Would you be surprised to learn that most galleries charge a 50% commission for the art they sell, and that it is usually the artist's responsibility to have his/her artwork framed?  As with many items, the best way to determine a fair price is to "comparison shop".  Look at similar artwork, by artists with comparable education, reputation, exhibit and prize history, and learn what constitutes a "reasonable" price.  The size of the piece has a significant effect on its price.  When you purchase artwork, you are not just paying for the cost of materials and the artist's time creating that specific piece, but also his/her years and expense developing the craft that went into the piece.

Today, the internet is disrupting art sales venues, as it has disrupted the sales of many things, and direct buying artwork from the internet is rapidly gaining market share over purchasing art from galleries.  If you are buying art on the internet, be sure there is a risk-free money-back guarantee, as art can appear different "in person" depending on the photography and presentation skills of the artist.  If you are already familiar with the artist's work, you are way ahead, because you know what to expect when you purchase a new piece.  If you purchase the artwork unframed, you minimize shipping costs, and can frame the piece in the way that you prefer.

It is helpful to have some knowledge of the materials used in creating the artwork, as you want it to last a lifetime.  Pigments (paints) and grounds (canvas, board, and paper) should be archival quality so you don't have to worry about your artwork fading, cracking, or disintegrating as time goes on.  The good news is that archival, light-fast pigments and superior solvents and coatings are widely available today, and are used in all mediums (watercolor, oil, acrylic, pastel, pencil) by responsible artists.  In addition, archival grounds are available for all mediums.  You may want to ask the artist about the materials he/she uses to ensure that your purchase will stand the test of time.  With proper framing and care, there is no reason that modern artwork won't outlive you and your loved ones.

Should you purchase art as an investment?  Some art has proved to be an excellent investment, while other art has a dismal investment record.  Purchasing art as an investment is an entirely different "game", and to play this game, you probably need the assistance of "high-end" galleries and art critics, since you're betting on the future "value" of the artwork, rather than simply choosing art that you love.  And by the way, the art that you love may very well appreciate in value as time goes on, which will be a bonus for you!

What about "giclees"?  Despite the fancy name, a giclee is simply a copy or reproduction of an original artwork made using an inkjet printer.  Many reproductions may be made of the original artwork.  Some of these "editions" are unlimited, and some are limited to, say, 300 copies, with each copy labeled with a number (for example, 15/300, meaning the 15th copy of a run of 300 copies) and possibly signed by the artist.  If you can't afford the original of the art you love, you may be able to purchase a copy.  Just realize that you do not own an original piece of art, and that you may see "your" artwork in other places.

So, although it is wise to be familiar with the artist, to do comparison shopping for pricing, and to understand the archival qualities of your art purchase, the bottom line to collecting fine art is: Buy What You Love.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Artist Tip #28 - Creating Depth

We realistic painters are in the illusion business - we're magicians.  We "represent" a limitless, 3-dimensional, moving reality in a 2-dimensional, limited-size, stationary painting.  As Frank Webb says, "Even if you're a good realistic painter, you'll never fool a dog".  A very important illusion that we representative artists must create is the look and feel of depth in our paintings.  There are a number of ways we can do this...

The simplest is to show shapes getting smaller in the distance.  A special case of this effect, which is very effective, is to show lines converging in the distance.  Both of these effects can be seen in the painting Seine-Side Booksellers.  Here, the people in the distance are much smaller than those in the mid-ground.  And the parallel "lines" on the sidewalk converge as they retreat into the distance.  These are direct results of applying linear perspective to our paintings.  This painting is an example of single-point perspective (there is only one vanishing point).

Another depth-creating illusion is to show evenly-spaced objects getting closer together as they recede into the distance.  This can be seen in the fence posts in the painting Winter Farm:  

Even though the largest 3 posts seem equally spaced, if you measure the distance between them, you'll see that the closest two are spaced about twice the distance of the 2nd and 3rd posts.  And each post is about half as high as the one preceding it.  Here we also see the converging lines of the snow-covered road as it recedes.  Note the very great degree of convergence here... in the foreground, the width of the road is over 2/3 the width of the painting, while around halfway "up", it is less than 1/15th the width.  One thing to keep in mind is that it is nearly impossible for the artist to make items in the foreground too large!

Another method for creating the illusion of distance is to manipulate the contrast, texture, and color temperature of objects at different distances.  Take a look at the painting Sleepy Valley:

The colors get cooler in the distance - bluer trees and grass and purple hills.  They get warmer in the foreground, tending from green toward brown.  The distant objects have a soft texture and little contrast, while the textures get harder and rougher as the foreground is approached.  The result is a definite feeling of great distance in this 2-dimensional painting.

Here's another example... the painting Lobstah...

The hills and water in the background have been painted very soft, while the boat in the mid-ground is well-defined with good contrast and detail, and the water in the foreground has significant texture in the rough-brushed marks.

So, for a realistic painter, perhaps the most important illusion to create is that of depth, so that the viewer is drawn into the painting as though it were 3-dimensional, and can develop a sense of actually "being there".

If you'd like to get Artist and Art Collector Tips like this delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for my fine art e-newsletter here!  When you subscribe, you'll receive a 10% instant rebate valid for one month for any of my paintings.