Art awakens our awareness. It provokes thought, tells stories, enchants us with its beauty, and gives us great joy or peace or emotional release.
I have several memories from my childhood where the viewing of an artwork sparked something deep inside of me. The first, was from a poster my grandfather had hanging over his workbench in the garage. It was Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World.” I didn’t know the full story behind the masterpiece at the time, but as a young girl–who freely romped in the dirt, climbed trees faster than any boy, and still loved pink–I was smitten.
I was also deeply affected by Jean Francois Millet’s “The Gleaners.” A framed poster of it hung near my desk in the 6th grade and I looked at it for hours, mesmerized by the workers’ grace and the fineness of artistic execution.
Incidentally, it was print reproductions that spurred these powerful experiences. It truly is awesome what modern technology can do for our access to great artworks. In fact, I’d bet most people’s exposure to art, these days, is in some kind of digital format.
So what are we missing in the translation of paint to pixel?
Many people do not own an original work of art. It’s no surprise, really. The availability of cheap, commercial prints makes it real easy to purchase reproductions of paintings.
So what makes original art worth investing in?
As both an artist and collector, I’ve thought about this question for many years. I hope you learn something here today and are encouraged to own an original work of art too!
5 Reasons to Own Original Art
1. Materials Matter Most
Wander the rooms of any museum and the paintings dance and glow as the light reflects off the oil paint. Marble sculptures positively shimmer with pearlescent color.
Once you’ve seen an original there’s really no contest.
Materials matter because they define both the art and the artist. Materials matter most because they are the literal framework in which an artist communicates.
I am an oil painter. I knew it from the very first brushstroke of buttery pigment.
Everything about this paint speaks to me. I love the smell of linseed oil and the richness of its glisten. I completely depend on oils’ slow dry time for my artistic process to even work!
I am inextricably tied to my material.
So reducing an oil painting into a printable image, for me, destroys most of what I loved about the artwork to begin with: its materials. But, I have “artists’ eyes.” I’ve spent many years training my sight and learning to look for clues as to how an original artwork is constructed. I know most people have never been taught to really look like this.
Most people probably have no idea what they’re even missing!
I will never forget how appalled I was the first time I witnessed the above scene in front of the Mona Lisa. Back in 2003, when I was copying a masterpiece in the Louvre Museum, I frequently saw massive crowd pile-ups that occurred in front of the museum’s most famous painting. It wasn’t the sheer number of people that was so disturbing… it was their behavior. I watched as tourist after tourist (far too impatient to wait in line for a closer view) snapped crappy photos, looked at their screens, and promptly left the gallery.
They didn’t even look at the Mona Lisa!
Robert Hughes talks about this phenomenon in his excellent survey of American Art in the documentary Mona Lisa Curse . In short, with the availability of cheap prints, cultural desires for art have shifted away from materials to a focus on an image’s message instead.
In our modern era, original in “concept” is thought more important than original in “material”.
My favorite art writer John Berger takes this discussion to ultimate heights in Ways of Seeing. Here’s a free pdf version of his pocket-sized book. I highly recommend reading it, if you haven’t already done so. It’s dense, though, so let his words simmer…
Materials matter because the human eye can perceive up to 10 million varieties of color.
Even the best of cameras can’t compete with our innate ability to see so many subtleties. Cameras use light meters to gauge relationships, creating filters and then condensing everything into a flat, photographic image. Have you ever tried taking a picture on a brilliantly bright day? It’s incredibly frustrating when the lights get blown out while the darks become indiscernible. This isn’t how our eyes actually see!
To combat this light metering problem, I often take two photos and stitch them together into a composite image that better reflects the way the scene actually appeared off-screen.
But this innate problem with photography demonstrates why it is so important for artists to work directly from life. And, for collectors to see the original painting in person.
The images you see on the screen at this very moment, are photographs that have undergone the same kind of condensing. I could go on and on about the frustrations of “accurately” photographing original artworks but I’ve learned to relinquish a lot of control over how my original oil paintings are seen online. The calibration of a monitor screen and the light a painting is photographed and/or displayed under all have dramatic effects on our perception of the colors in the painting.
For example, above is the same painting shot under different lights. The one on the left is more accurate, shot under nature light. The one on the right is under artificial light. The color difference is so broad I eventually had the painting professionally photographed.
As our lives are saturated by photographic images projected on screens, it’s no wonder we forget what we’re actually missing in the subtle, finer aspects of original art.
2. Handmade is Unique & Durable
When I purchase something that is handmade I know it is unique. No two strokes or stitches or cuts will be exactly the same as the last. An artist’s touch infuses their work with personality and their attention to detail makes it inherently superior.
Artists choose their materials with care. We invest so much time, skill, and heart into our craft it would be self-disrespecting (as well as wasteful) to use materials that won’t last.
When I create an oil painting, I make sure it is done properly so it will exist for many generations. I’m in this for the long hall and take great pains to make the most beautiful and archival paintings I’m capable of. It can be a lengthy process, but it means everything.
All of my work is now created on wood panels (instead of the traditional stretched canvas/linen) because this surface is the most archival. As oil paint ages it becomes brittle. All those spider fractures you see in old paintings are caused by the flex of the canvas cracking the paint over time. The stiff surface of the wood prevents this common type of damage from happening.
I triple prime my panels to completely seal the wood and prevent any acids from leaching.
I also adhere to the strict rule of “fat over lean” when layering oil paints and choose colors rich in pigment that will not fade or darken over time.
My paintings are completed with a final coat of protectant varnish. This final coat has the beautiful effect of revitalizing the original luster of an oil painting. The varnish coat also, and more importantly, provides a layer of protection between the paint and the elements. I use Gamvar varnish which was designed for easy removal should the painting need to be cleaned in the future by a conservator.
This kind of attention to detail–choosing quality materials, constructing with intent and care, and creating a quality product–is what makes handmade so durable and valuable.
3. Originals Have an Engaging Personality!
People hang art on walls to personalize a space. Decor is often seen as an extension of ourselves and what we choose to look at everyday deeply effects us. A house doesn’t quite feel like a home until the art is hung. An artless environment feels sterile and impersonal.
Originals are by their very nature unique. Owning an original work of art often feels like an expression of uniqueness because it reflects our own unique sense of style, personal taste and aesthetic.
Originals also engage viewers in ways reproductions consistently fail to do.
I will always remember the first time I noticed the engaging effects of an original oil painting. I was 9 years old and my mother had taken me to visit the Crocker Museum for a girls day out. As we wandered the rooms of the classical wing, I was struck by the way the light reflected off the surfaces of the paintings. I remember moving around the painting, looking for an angle that would reveal new depths of color. I was frustrated at first because I was used to seeing art clearly from any viewpoint and was annoyed that these paintings demanded so much physical movement from me. But I soon realized that this engagement with the high-gloss surface of the oil painting is what made the experience so unique and enchanting.
Next time you have the opportunity to see a Monet in person, I beg of you to get as close to the canvas as possible. From a distance, his landscapes have a shimmering, dreamy quality. But up close, his paintings devolve into complete chaos. Scrapings and blobs and raw canvas are layered in an indiscernible, almost crude fashion. Step back again and wooosh… everything clicks back into place to become a clear, representational image once again. It’s thrilling to experience this kind of shift in how we perceive visual cues.
I can always spot an artist or collector in a museum because they excitedly move around original works. They aren’t content to view a piece from a single position but rather creep close to examine the details and then step way back to take in the grandeur of the whole.
Back and forth, back and forth, original paintings create a kind of partnership dance with those willing to really look.
An original looks different from all angles. Brushstrokes catch and reflect light, surface textures cast shadows and play with our perceptions of three-dimensional space. Oil paintings can both suspend belief and challenge our consciousness in ways unsurpassed by the best of print reproductions.
4. Original Art is a Solid Investment
When I first started collecting original art, I was so proud of my purchases! It was a big deal for me to spend $200-$400 on artwork, especially as I was struggling as an emerging artist myself. But I live frugally, cook most of my meals, shop second hand, etc. so I can invest in things that are really important to me. And guess what? Those first originals I purchased are some of my most treasured possessions. They still give me pleasure every single day.
Art is one of the only tangible objects that actually increases in value with age. Everything else depreciates as the materials break down or it become obsolete with the invention of a newer, better model.
Most of the things we buy regularly will disappear from our lives within a decade.
But an original oil painting will outlive you and everyone you know. Original art will only continue to increase in its value as the years pass and this is especially true after an artist has died, making their surviving work that much more rare and unique.
I like to believe most people collect original art because it speaks to them on a personal level. They fall in love with it and know it will make a valuable addition to their daily lives.
However, many collectors do invest in original art because of the predicated rate of return.
This standard model for investments relies heavily on art trends and the popularity of an artist more than it does on personal taste.
I think most collectors fall somewhere in the middle: we fall in love with a piece but also recognize its inherent value as an original.
When I purchase from artists, I know that I am enabling them to make more work. If they are talented and dedicated like their work shows, then they could make a name for themselves and further increase the value of my own art collection.
It’s a simple rate of return and one that, surprisingly, doesn’t require a steady input of funds. If you are excited about a new artwork you’ve purchased, share it on social media! Introduce the artist to your network or throw a party for the unveiling! Spreading the word connects artists with potential collectors, creates demand for the art, and, again, increases the value of my own art collection. So it’s really a win-win for everyone involved.
5. Buy Contemporary Art
Why is it so important to purchase art from artists working today? The simple answer is:
When you buy contemporary art it directly benefits the artist. It helps pay the overhead of life’s necessities, yes, but it also encourages artists to keep working.
If one thing my art history studies made clear, it is that support for the arts dictated the kind of work produced. Why do you think we have so many portrait paintings of royalty, epic battles, and religious scenes? Just follow the money. All art was commissioned.
I’ve often wondered, what sculptures Michelangelo would have created if he’d been left to his own artistic pursuits? Or, how many more oil paintings could Van Gogh have created had he experienced the sale of more than one during his life?
It makes me quite emotional to think of all the great artists that were lost to history because the support they needed never appeared.
But then I get really excited because I have the opportunity to be an artist working today.
Contemporary artists have much more access to materials, educational resources, and global networks than any other artist throughout all of history. It’s no wonder there’s been a burgeoning of fine artists the world over.
Ironically, as globalization has waxed, our sense of community and connection has waned.
We don’t know who grows our food, or makes our clothes and homes. Even art has been reduced from its original, handmade and personal quality to a cheap commercial image.
In an age of insane consumerism, buying original, contemporary art can be a radical act.
As an independent artist (not currently represented by any gallery) I sell all my original oil paintings directly to collectors nationwide. I personally package all paintings to guarantee proper protection of the artwork and a safe delivery. Art is fully insured during transit and requires a signature for delivery.
If you like my original oil paintings I hope you will consider supporting my work! There are many ways you can help and/or be involved…
- Purchase an original directly from my website.
- Get a Quote for a custom portrait commission.
- Join my layaway program on Patreon.
- Sign-up for my monthly newsletter.
- Follow Brooke Paints on facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and youtube
- Follow the Brooke Paints Blog (bottom of page).
- Share and tag content with your network online.
- Learn to paint with a private art lesson.
- Purchase a gift certificate
- Hire me as a performance artist and demonstrator.
If you have some other way you’d like to contribute to my fine art career, I’m all ears!
I believe people from all walks of life deserve original art and will do my utmost to help make a painting yours. I offer payment plans, barter for services, etc.
Do you work for an organization that needs art for their office, private event, or fundraiser? I enjoy working with locally minded businesses to help bring fine art into the community. Please contact me for details!