An artist’s opinion on buying original art

The Stinking Fish Studio Tour is good reason to buy art

Intervening Space 3 Lorraine Thorarinson Betts

Why should I buy original art?

My brother once boasted, “It isn’t everyone who has original art on their walls.” Once I got over the shock of realizing he was referring to a piece that I had painted and given him, I started wondering about the comment.

Is it only people with lots of money to invest who collect art? The kind of people you might see through a window at an art gallery opening, as you trudge home from your late foray to the grocery store? Are they swishing back champagne and canapés, lingering in front of an explosive shaft of blue paint on camo green garbage bags while you envision piles of laundry waiting back at the house? What if you actually catch a glimpse of something that you might be interested in? Likely as not, just the idea of stepping in to get a better look is akin to swimming with sharks.

So why are many of us so intimidated? Aren’t all humans pretty much the same underneath our clothes? Setting foot in a high-end gallery can immediately make us feel a little out of our league with the posh interior, high prices and high heels. What language are they speaking? Can we look savvy, avoid the eye of the staff and get out in time to gasp our next breath? Whew! The truth of the matter is that this sophisticated, often stark and tasteful environment is carefully created to reduce distractions and to showcase the art. The work is sometimes unfamiliar, ‘cutting edge’ demanding openness and curiosity from the viewer. Although we may be afraid of seeming stupid, why not ask the gallery worker, ‘what should I be paying attention to in these paintings’ or ‘can you explain how these pieces were created.’ Most gallery owners and employees are proudly supportive of their artists and keen to promote them. As artists, many of us long to have our work on their walls, to be ‘recognized’ and compensated for our efforts.

In a conversation with a fellow artist the other day, we agreed that although we may yearn for our story to grace the art history books, the real joy in selling our work is to witness the appreciation of the viewer. That they like it enough to buy it, means they are experiencing some of what we felt when we created the art. I have been told as well, that for the buyer the art work means more to them if they know something about both the piece and the artist. So this leads me to the Stinking Fish Studio Tour.

Despite this being a more intimate setting, in my opinion it is much more comfortable for both the artist and the guests. Seeing the artist at work, learning about the process and what the thoughts are behind the art piece makes the experience immeasurably more enjoyable. Surprisingly, the artist also really enjoys the conversations, because we get to know about our new friends for the moment of that exchange. And admittedly, most of us like to talk about our work!

We often like art that reminds us of an event or a place. A glance at the watercolour of a Mexican town takes our mind back to the warm January holiday and the brilliance of the bright pink bougainvillea.

Buying original art means trusting your heart. When we see a piece that catches our interest, moves us or cheers with its colours, we need to set aside our swirling doubts and pause to reflect. Will I still like it in the morning? Probably, and if I don’t, I can ask the artist if I can exchange it or take it on a trial basis. Will my friends like it or think that I am colour blind and design challenged? If it catches your interest, it will probably catch theirs too, given that birds of a feather flock together. And it doesn’t hurt to be a little ahead of the curve. Art can grow on us, but what if you don’t like the art? You won’t necessarily be able to afford or like everyone’s art enough to buy it. Feel free to admire and linger or leave for the next studio. You can also purchase art cards to remind you of the visits and the artists.

Is it worth the price? Believe me, when artists factor in the cost of framing, hours spent crafting the piece and the studio overhead, minimum wage for slinging beer looks more attractive by the day. But we create because we are passionate and we hope you will be too. Happy hunting. Lead with your artist’s beret held high.

The Stinking Fish Studio Tour runs from Aug. 3 to 12, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Some artists showing from Aug. 8 – 12). Please watch for the brochure and map or visit the website at www.stinkingfishstudiotour.com.

Elaine Morton is a watercolour painter on the Stinking Fish Studio Tour.

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