Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Art Collecting 101: Tips for Getting Started, Part 1

"The Water Tester," oil, 12"h x 24"w (plus frame), ©2016 Jill Banks. Do you love this painting like I do? Personally, I'm drawn to the memories of spending time on the beach. I'm intrigued by the family dynamics played out in front of me. I love the colors -- turquoises, pinks, jewel tones. The artist (me) has placed me (now the viewer) right smack in the middle of the scene. I'm transported into the painting and that's where I'd love to be. I'm intrigued, even, by the title: "The Water Tester." The more I look, the more I see in this piece. It reveals itself layer by layer. So cool. Those are all reasons why this piece of artwork pulls at my heart, excites me. I hope this guide to art collecting helps you surround yourself with work that does the same. ("The Water Tester" is available for purchase, framed, for $1750 plus applicable taxes through the artist. Get more info here.)

I was asked recently about how to go about starting an art collection. This blog post and one to follow sometime in the next week are here to help budding collectors and more seasoned art-acquirers think outside the box to surround themselves with pieces they love. Usually this blog is more about my daily Life as an Artist but part of that life is making home visits to place art, connecting collectors to art, etc. Comments are definitely invited. Make your voice known.


Trust Your Gut/Heart

Buy what you love – the piece you can’t take your eyes off of, that elicits an emotion at every glance. 

This isn’t the only piece of art you’ll own. The options are endless, all unique and as different as can be. You will see other pieces of art you’ll love, too, later or even on the same shopping trip. Choose the one that’s calling your name the loudest now.

Art is personal.  No one else can guide you to what you love. Over time, I’m able to guess that a collector is likely to love another piece of mine but only because they’ve already expressed their strong preferences. Sometimes I’m right, other times wrong. You are the one who knows. Most (if not all) of the time, throwing other people's opinions into the mix to try to help you discover what art you're drawn to (vs. making suggestions, offering options) just messes up the works.

Hunt for Art with an Open Mind

Don’t go out looking for a painting of three bunnies sitting on a couch eating boysenberries that will perfectly match Aunt Mildred’s drapes. Who knows when your vision and an artist’s will collide on that one?

Be willing to purchase art “out of order” … when and as you find it. Your biggest need might be the most prominent, blank, screaming for art wall in your abode but the piece that grabs your heart first won’t fit that space. Skip purchasing the one you love for practicality’s sake (to fill that blank wall) and a picture of the one that got away will keep popping up in your head.  Relentlessly. Bring that piece home and it will deliver joy as you continue to ponder and hunt for the next. Seize the moment.

As you add to your collection, you’ll start to understand what kind of work you gravitate toward (mediums – watercolor, mixed media, oils, acrylics, fiber, sculpture, etc., colors, styles, subjects) but continue to stretch, follow tangents, discover. At an art festival, go into those booths that contain artwork that's different than any pieces you've collected prior. Just see. There are lots of facets to your personality and experiences.  Let your surroundings and acquisitions speak to all of you. 

"Irish Pub," oil, 18"h x 24"w (plus frame), ©2014 Jill Banks. I leave much to your imagination in my work ... letting you fill in the blanks ... to form your own impression. There's an air of mystery in "Irish Pub" but it's familiar, too. ($2700 plus applicable taxes -- more info here.) It's an award-winner as well ... from the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club's Annual Open Exhibition held at the National Arts Club in NYC.

Matching the Sofa (or the Decor)

Thank goodness husband Randy and I did not try to buy art to match our first couch. Yikes. Over time, color schemes, upholstery, interior fashion changes and grows weary.  Purchasing artwork solely because it matches some piece will make it go out of style at the same time. Don't. Buy. Art. To. Match. The. Sofa. (It's okay if it does ... but buy it because you love the piece.) 

One couple that spent literally hours in my booth at a show -- first on Saturday and then on Sunday - discussing and measuring, thinking and thinking, eventually made the decision to purchase two of my paintings. Throwing caution to the wind, I asked them what took them so long to make up their minds. (Hopefully, not in those exact words.) They were both concerned that one of the pieces would not go with their decor as it introduced another color ... a purple tone ... that wasn't part of their home's palette. (They also loved MANY of my paintings making it a tough choice.) I offered to let them exchange the painting for another or refund the purchase if it didn't work once they got it home -- gave them my number and asked them to call. Immediately after packing up the van after the show I got the call. "Oh, no." But instead it was "oh, yes!" The painting not only looked great everywhere they put it, they also wanted to purchase one more that they'd been seriously considering. The next day, Randy and I delivered piece number three, had a chance to see their home (a huge treat for me), helped them figure out where to hang (and then hung) those three pieces plus two more that we pulled out of the van that hadn't been displayed that weekend. (I had a strong suspicion they'd love those two, too. They did.) 
"Hoot and Flowers," 24"h x 18"w, oil, ©2014 Jill Banks. This painting's color palette gave a collecting couple pause as they weren't sure it agreed with the decor. Turned out it looked beautiful no matter where it was placed. Private collection. See more of my still life paintings on my web site here.

I imagine someday the decor in that home -- beautiful as it is -- will change. Their love for those paintings, though, won't wear out and they'll be just as excited looking at the art in decor version #2.

Wall Space: The $1,000,000 Painting

At last weekend's art festival, a couple fell in love with my piece "Back Story" -- a 40"h x 30"w oil painting framed to 48"h x 38"w. They were also definitely shopping for art. The husband told me that "Back Story" would not fit in their house. I asked, "By how much?" thinking that a frame change might make a difference. (Artists and galleries are usually willing or happy to have you purchase work unframed so that you could find something more suitable for the space and in this case the purchaser could shave eight inches off of each dimension. The day before a woman purchased my painting "Market Day" unframed to better fit her decor and make the overall dimensions slightly smaller.)

The husband eyeing "Back Story" explained, "What you don't understand is that painting right there is a $1,000,000 painting. I'd buy it and my wife would insist on purchasing a new house to fit it."
"Back Story," oil, 40"h x 30"w (plus frame), ©2016 Jill Banks. ($5800 unless you need a new house to go with it.)

That is one of the rare times that wall space should be the determining factor for your buy/don't buy decision ... if the painting itself, sans frame, will not fit any wall in your house once knickknacks and furniture are moved.

While it might not come to you when looking at a piece at an exhibition, art festival or wherever you're shopping for art, you will be able to find a place for your new acquisition in your home. For those well into collection building, open areas might be fewer and smaller -- but there are shelves, columns, ledges, nooks, pieces that are not favorites that may be culled out to make room. 

Large pieces look fantastic in large AND small spaces. Smaller pieces can be grouped to fill large spaces OR used in more intimate settings OR given lots of space around to make a dramatic focal point. Choose the art versus the art that fits the wall space. What you select will work.

I know a lot of people are downsizing -- moving to smaller spaces and getting rid of so much of their "stuff." One couple who had recently moved into a condo purchased a major painting from me last Fall -- "Back Story" sized.  That purchase, I think, was a celebration of this new chapter in their life.  They drove off with it in their mini car. The point is -- most of us have walls. Think of the possibilities those walls hold to enrich your life.

Shopping as a Couple or Going It Alone?

What a sticky subject. I’ve asked you to go with your gut instincts. Told you art is personal and that your tastes are what matter when choosing pieces for your collection. (Notice all those you’s and yours’.) Enter spouses and partners. Now what?

It happens that some couples shop for art incredibly well together. They manage to find pieces that evoke a shared love or experience in some way. Great! The hunt to build their art collection is one more wonderful aspect of their relationship.

One spouse/partner loves art; the other is indifferent.  This combination works if you don’t try to change reality. Once a year, I hold an annual special collectors party in my home. Invitees are welcome to come with other art-loving friends or family as their guests … or come alone. The choice is theirs. When guests arrive, they are given a list of pieces hung room by room throughout three floors …. all available for sale. If only one in a couple really is into art collecting, my hope is the right one shows up solo. That collector then gets to fully enjoy the experience and has the best chance to add a new prize possession to take home. I bet the other half is happier, too.

Never the Twain Shall Meet -- Both love art, just distinctly different art. This is a tougher couple-buying scenario … but here’s my suggestion. Instead of building the Dick and Jane “These Are the Only Pieces We Could Agree On” Collection, create the Dick Collection AND the Jane Collection, housed at the same address. Is part of your home primarily your space? Hang work that reflects your personal choice where you’ll see it. Ditto, for your other half. In common, main spaces: mix the two. Really different styles can look fantastic together.

Attendees at my solo exhibit at ArtSpace Herndon in Herndon, Virginia. Collectors can find my work at: 1) fine art outdoor festivals from Spring to Fall (checking my blog, email newsletter and web site's Events page for a schedule), 2) at the studio I share with nine fellow artists: the Artists' Atelier at 756 Walker Road, Great Falls, VA during regular open hours or First Friday Art Walk in the Village there from 6-9pm, 3) at solo exhibitions that generally happen once or twice a year, 4) in juried regional and national exhibitions at the Art League Gallery in Alexandria, VA (in the Torpedo Factory) or the Salmagundi or National Arts Club in NYC -- or elsewhere around the US, 5) in my home when you're invited to my annual Collectors' Party as a unique art-shopping treat, 6) in your own home if you'd like me to bring artwork to you and 7) on my web site and blog as finished or work in progress pieces with stories attached. Well, that's a partial list and you are always welcome to ask for a private viewing or appointment. What's your favorite place to view/shop for art?

More on Art Collecting Coming in Part II
Where to find it, how to hang it, ways to hone your eye, and more are coming up in another installment to my blog. If you aren't already subscribed to Life As An Artist: Jill Banks -- go to jillbanks.blogspot.com to sign up. (Free and fun art news.) I should tell you when Part II is coming out. Hopefully, by the end of this week -- July 17.

Do You Have Other Tips to Help New Collectors or Stories to Share?
Please do! Add a comment to the blog or send me an email at: jill@jillbanks.com.

I'm going to collect some other resources to help you collect and post those in Art Collecting 101: Part II. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading!


Phone: 703.403.7435
Email: jill@jillbanks.com
Web: www.JillBanks.com
Blog: jillbanks.blogspot.com

May through December:  First Friday Art Walk, 6-9pm, Artists' Atelier, 756 Walker Road, Great Falls, VA. The Atelier is also open on Wednesdays, noon to 4pm and Saturdays, 10am to 2pm (or whenever an artist is in there working.)
June 21-August 15: "Fresh Fare: the Still Life Show" Solo Exhibit, Triny's, Great Falls, VA.  14 of my original still life oil paintings on exhibit at Triny's Tex-Mex Grill in Great Falls.
July 18-29: Salmagundi Club's Non-Member Painting and Sculpture Exhibition, 47 Fifth Ave, NYC. "Heart of Telluride" accepted into exhibit on view in the Upper Gallery.
July 23-24: Loveladies Fine Art Festival, Loveladies, NJ (on Long Beach Island)
August 27-28: Shadyside: the Art Festival on Walnut Street, Pittsburgh, PA
September 17-18: King Street Art Festival, Alexandria, VA
September 24-25: Armonk 55th Annual Outdoor Art Show, Armonk, NY

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