saturday, october 17, 2015
Advice from a painter on collecting art

“I really enjoy art and would like to start collecting.  But, I am not educated in art at all and often don’t understand much of the art that I see.  I am intimidated by many galleries and artists. How do I know if a work is ‘good’ and will retain or increase in value?”

Painter Dena Peterson answers:

The best reason to buy art is because you love it.  I believe that if you do this, you can’t go wrong. 

However, if you also want to build a collection of art that you believe will have lasting value, there are a few things to keep in mind that might help you along the way.  These tips will also help you to have more confidence and feel less intimidated as you visit galleries and artists’ studios to begin your journey as a new art collector.

·        Has the artist studied her medium for many years?  This doesn’t necessarily mean a college art degree.  Many accomplished artists study with other reputable artists through workshops, ongoing classes, or apprentice programs.  Knowing the basics of art, having this “core” knowledge, regardless of the style of art she has adapted currently, shows the diligence and dedication she has committed to her art.  Most artists have a resume that will show this type of study.


·        Years of painting (sculpting, photographing, etc.) makes a difference.  This does not imply that a new or emerging artist is not worth collecting. However, I do believe that “brush mileage” shows dedication to the artists’ career and the perseverance needed to improve his skills.


·        The artist’s work must show an originality in concept and design from start to finish. This means that she does not rely on source material that was not created by her.  A true professional will never copy from a photo from anywhere or anyone, even if they claim they had “permission”. 


·        Similarly, just because a work of art looks “just like a photo”, does not mean it is good art! For me and most professional artists, that phrase is NOT a compliment!  Even if a work is representational (meaning it looks like something that most viewers can identify), it must exhibit a feeling of originality and passion that may have nothing to do with how much the work “looks like” the subject.  A good painting, for example, must go beyond the literal interpretation of subject matter.  The artist has a clear “visual purpose” in creating his work. This is what makes it a painting.  Otherwise, we could just take a photograph.  (In fact, good artistic photography does so much more than simply record a scene or subject).


Other “artistic” things to look for in the work of art itself are (and I know painting, so this is what I will speak to):

·        a strong understanding of values and how to organize them (values are the relative lightness and darkness of the shapes in the painting)

·        a good variety in the use of the brushwork (visually hard or soft “edges”, thick or thin paint, etc.)

·        a strong knowledge of design and composition (placement of shapes in an interesting way and in a way that leads the viewers’ eye easily throughout the painting)

·        a good knowledge of drawing skills and linear or atmospheric perspective.  Again, many artists know these “rules” and choose to break them for visual impact or other artistic reasons.  The key is that you can tell when they are doing it on purpose, and not because they have no understanding of them.   The same applies to non-representational paintings. Good non-representational work is not simply just throwing paint on a canvas like a “kindergartner”.  It may have seemed like that is what Jackson Pollack was doing; however, he did it very deliberately and purposefully in an attempt to achieve a desired design and effect.

I hope this has given you an artistic language that you can use to communicate with artists and gallery owners as you begin your adventure in collecting art!


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