One of the most common questions I am asked on Houzz.com is how did I build my art collection and where did I find my artwork. Unfortunately, there isn't an easy answer to that question, 1. Because my number one resource would have to be my mom. And 2. She did not find all the artwork in one place, but through being a collector for many years. However, all is not lost, because I can suggest the best place to start, and what to look for, and what to be thinking about when you're trying to build a collection of artwork that is unique, personal to you, and elevated in style. Below is my top ten list:
START WITH ETCHINGS AND PRINTS
Many of the pieces that I and my mother have are prints and etchings, which are much easier to come by than original paintings or drawings. Many of them were pulled from old books and sell for considerably lower prices than singular works of art. I have a favorite Zebra etching that I purchased at Brimfield for less than $20. I framed and matted it, and it looks much more expensive than you'd ever expect (see below, it fits quite well in my entry).
INVEST IN ORIGINAL PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS
Nice, original, and quality paintings and drawings are hard to come by, and most often are an investment. My mother has a few gorgeous portraits, these were works of art that she invested in - nothing like a Picasso, but something that took a thoughtful considered decision, not an impulsive one, to make the purchase. If you want a gorgeous painting, you're really going to have to love it! You can sometimes find good prices, but no one is completely naive these days, quality is valuable.
MIX IN MIRRORS
Mirrors are a beautiful way to fill space and add another layer to your art collections. They're frames alone can be works of art. Frames even have the ability to change the mood and direction of a collection. The mirror inset is added light and glamour. Another positive, you can find mirrors at a range of prices, sizes and shapes.
LOOK FOR UNKNOWN ARTISTS
Budding or unknown artists are often going to sell artwork at a better or more affordable price. There are several new companies starting up, aiming to educated us of these new artists. A perfect example is a friend of mine, Katie Armor who recently started Buddy Editions. Buddy Editions is limited-edition fine art prints, many of which, start at $50.
SHOP & LOOK IN UNNEXPECTED PLACES
If you're on the road and see a shanty thrift or antique store, stop in. You never know what you'll find. Look for yard sales or estate sales that are near you to visit on the weekends. And if you live in the city, keep your eyes peeled on the sidewalk. You truly never know what you'll find. I actually picked up an original, limited edition, signed Shepard Fairy, Noam Chomsky print on the sidewalk waiting to be trashed. The print isn't worth thousands but it is worth hundreds (thanks to the 2008 Election, Hope prints that Fairy designed).
MIX & MATCH NEW WITH OLD
You don't have to spend 20 years of your life scouring fleas and antique stores or auctions to call your collection complete. First of all, a collection is never complete, but secondly, you can also think about mixing in some new pieces in with your old finds. As I mentioned before, there are several companies that sell new artwork that is very reasonable. The mix adds a little style and builds a more personalized collection.
COLLECT WHAT YOU LIKE - NOT WHAT'S COOL
Remember when the Keep Calm & Carry On posters were all the rage? Did you buy one because everyone else had them? Do you still have it up? Just make sure, when you purchase something that is massively shown in all of the blogs and magazines, it is not something that you've just grown to like due to popular decision. A way to tell if you truly love a very popular piece of artwork, is to think will you still love this even when it's on the uncool list? Because if it's on trend, it will most definitely be off trend at some point. If the answer is yes, then no holds bar.
Also, have friends or family members ever sent you a beautiful greeting card or post card? Taken an amazing photograph on Instagram? These types of images are also considered works of art, especially if they're something that you find beauty or value in viewing. Frame them. They're yours, they are a part of your personal style. You do not need an art critic to tell they're good.
BUY FRAMES SEPARATELY & ALWAYS BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR GOOD ONES
My mother taught me to look for frames whenever I'm at a thrift store or antique store - the trick is to look beyond the empty frames, at the ones that are holding ugly or bad artwork. Often, stores will mark up the cost of an empty frame considerably over an awful piece of artwork that is framed.
FIND A FAVORITE FRAMER AND BUILD A RELATIONSHIP
If you make a great relationship with a framer not only will they support and help you in your matting and framing decisions, they also may be a source for future art purchases. If they know what you like, they can be on the look out for you. I mean what they do all day and everyday is frame artwork, some of those pieces that walk in the door will be getting framed to be sold. Also, if you have a great framer, you can buy printed copies of your favorite works and have them matted and framed to meet your personal aesthetic. This way, the artwork will be original because it has been interpreted according to your tastes for your home.
NEVER STOP LOOKING
There isn't one answer on where to find artwork. The best single suggestion I can offer is to never stop looking. My mother has been collecting artwork for over 50 years and she is continuously looking at artwork whenever she enters an antique store, flea market or shops online. Some of my favorite shopping destinations, where I've had the best luck are: Housing Works, Brimfield, The Chelsea Flea Market, Estate sales, Etsy.com and several antique stores in North East Connecticut (where I grew up). Other friends of mine have found gorgeous portrait paintings on Ebay as well.
I hope this list has been helpful and will aid you in building your wall art collections. Do you have another suggestion or favorite places to dig? Ever had an amazing dumpster dive experience? I'd love to hear about it!