Design Dilemma: Art Collecting for the Faint of Heart | Home Design Find

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Design Dilemma: Art Collecting for the Faint of Heart

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Have you ever looked at your bland, blank walls and felt it was time to start an art collection? And do you feel intimidated at the very thought of it?

If so, count yourself among the many out there who can admire the homes of art collecting friends, but who feel at a loss when it comes to adding art to their own homes. After all, buying original art can be costly. And if you’re not so sure of your taste to begin with, well, it can be pretty scary taking the plunge. So here’s how you might dip your toe, ever so slowly, into the world of art:

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1) Figure out what you like.
If you’re new to the world of art, you may have no idea what kind of art turns you on. Perhaps you’ve never given it much thought. Well, now’s the time to explore the many varieties of art. If you like painting, do you enjoy figurative painting, such as landscapes, portraits or still lifes? Or do you prefer abstract, which may have no identifiable image but which can immediately communicate a feeling? Perhaps you find yourself drawn to photography or sculpture, or three-dimensional wall hangings? Or maybe you have a thing for “outsider art” created by people with no formal art training? The only way to truly know is to do a lot of looking. Spend a few weekends visiting galleries, art museums and artist studios. Flip through art magazines and art books. Begin your own little folder of paintings you have seen that you find beautiful and inspiring.

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2) Visit artist studios. There is no better way to learn about art and be inspired by it firsthand than visiting artist studios where you can see art being made and get to know the artist personally. Open studios events are becoming more and more common in many cities and can serve a number of purposes for novice art collectors: it helps you discover your tastes, gives you a better understanding of how and why a piece may come to be and it is often far less intimidating than visiting a gallery, which can sometimes feel pretentious. Another huge benefit: art bought directly from the artist is often heavily discounted compared to what you might pay in a gallery setting. If you are not sure where you might find an open studio event in your town, try calling the local university or college with an art program. They will most likely know about community art events and associations and can help get you started.

3) Consider different forms of original art. So you know you don’t want to buy another poster or mass-produced print from IKEA. What are your options for original art? They run the gamut and prices vary tremendously.

Original paintings.

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Original paintings are one-of-a-kind pieces that can be painted on canvas, wood or other supports, such as paper or masonite panel. They can be acrylic, oil and watercolor. You will find no other piece like that one individual piece. Paintings normally cost more than either prints or photography, in which many different copies of the same image can be reproduced.


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Prints are original pieces that include engravings, lithographs, screen prints, aquatints, linocuts and woodblock prints. They are original in the sense that each piece has been individually handmade. However, several copies of each image may exist out in the world. Because of this, prints are normally less expensive than oil and acrylic paintings. If the artist sets a limit for the number of prints he or she makes with a given image, that is known as a limited edition. Today, however, the lines are blurred, with artists using digital media to create original works, and a piece may be called a limited-edition print even if it was created or reproduced digitally.

Fine art photography.

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Fine art photography is a beautiful and low-cost way to start an art collection. However, since photography can be reproduced on a large scale it is up to the photographer to number the prints. The fewer the prints, the higher the price.

4. Go online.

Novice art collectors have a huge advantage these days — the internet. Numerous sites offer the ability to purchase original art online, at reasonable prices. Start with the obvious, such as, but you can also do a Google search to find many different online art galleries offering reasonably-priced original art.

Finally, enjoy the search. There’s nothing more rewarding than looking for, and ultimately surrounding yourself with original pieces of art, getting to enjoy it every single day!

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