Two paintings I watched being created at this year's CELT Auction
by Carol Douglas 40"x40" (left/top) and Marsha Donahue 18"x24" (right/bottom)
Have you ever found yourself at an event where paintings are being sold to benefit a cause that touches your heart, wondering if you should buy one, and not knowing how to choose? Having participated in many of these events and bought paintings, I've thought about this a lot. And I've written this blogpost to help you.
There are a number of things to consider. First, what's your goal? Are you looking for a painting for a specific spot in your home or office? Or perhaps you've fallen in love with a particular artist's work, want a piece for yourself, and will decide where it will go after you find it.
The most important thing when buying a piece of artwork is that YOU like it. It doesn't matter what other people think unless they are your spouse. And even that won't likely matter for small less expensive pieces. So make a habit of looking at paintings; in other people's homes, in galleries, and online, and get a feel for what you like.
Another favorite, by Jill Hoy, 24"x31"
If I see a painting I really like, and I'm tempted to buy it, I usually look at multiple paintings by that artist. I want to see if the painting I'm attracted to is consistent with the overall style and quality of the artist's work. I look at the artist's website and their work at galleries online. Simply google the artist's name followed by artist or painter, and you'll see where to find examples of their work online. Visit the artist's website, And look for sold paintings as well as those currently available. Sometimes those are found on a page called "Archive" if they aren't included with the available paintings. When an artist creates a new body of work, it takes months or even years for the best paintings of that collection to be sold. It can be instructive to see what other people liked well enough to buy.
If you are an artist yourself, beware of paintings that impress you because of their skill. Looking at them is instructive, but that alone is not a good enough reason to buy one unless your goal is to study it rather than live with it!
If you're shopping for paintings online, it's critical to make sure you understand the size of the painting you're looking at, and that you take the frame into account. Look for the dimensions and find something in your house that's about the same size to give you a better idea.
More favorites, Holly Ready 24"x18" (left/top) and Colin Page 36"x24" (right/bottom)
There are a few things that attract a person to a specific painting. Probably the two most important are subject matter and color. Subject matter is a broad topic, basically divided into still life, landscape, portrait, and abstract, with many sub areas in each. You may find some subjects more appealing for specific rooms in your home. Still lifes of food are a natural for the kitchen. A landscape or abstract goes well over the sofa. But really, anything goes. Often people find landscapes of places they love to visit appealing, for example an area where they like to vacation. Paintings evoke memories of good times at one of these special places. That's a good way to start a collection.
As to color, that's very personal. and there's nothing wrong with paying attention to the color of the sofa when choosing a painting to go over it. But if you have color favorites, you'll likely be drawn to paintings that include the same colors already in your decor. And paintings that include color x look great on a wall of that color.
More favorites, by Judy Taylor 24"x31"(left/top) and Erin McGee Ferrell 48"x48" (right/bottom)
Price is another thing to consider, and don't forget to include framing. Oil and acrylic paintings are less expensive to frame than water colors and pastels because they don't need mats or glass. In fact, with a few specialized tools and a frame you can buy online you can frame oils and acrylics yourself. Here's a blogpost that will show you how.
If you're looking for a painting for a particular place, first decide the size range that will work. Then choose the subject matter or color preferences depending on which is more important to you.
And where to buy? There are many options, both online and in person, far beyond what I can cover in this blogpost, so I'll save that for another time. The paintings illustrating this post are all from the Paint for Preservation event put on by the Cape Elizabeth (Maine) Land Trust this year. The auction starts Saturday at 8AM and ends Sunday at 9AM. View all the paintings in the event here. And no, I don't have a painting in this event. I look forward to painting large en plein air in the future.