The Real Thing

7 03 2012

My home is filled with beautiful and strange works of art that I have collected over my fifty years of life.  Nothing very big.  Each one is precious to me and carries a story with it: the little hand-painted tiles I found in an ancient bazaar in Iran, the oil painting that I purchased on an island in the Dnieper River in Ukraine, the painted, basswood toucans that my husband and daughters made for me one Christmas when cash was low, my Schwartz-Buenemann paintings, one of which my husband obtained as payment for carpentry work.  ( I now paint with her oil paints.) These are just a few.

As the years go by, I like them more and more, not just because of the happy memories they evoke, but because they are beautiful and real. They are not perfect, thank goodness.  The burn marks and the firefighters’ water stains on my icons from Sidney, Nova Scotia, tell a tale of these paintings being snatched out of a burning church.  The flaws make them more beautiful.   The artists’ hands held the works of art (maybe even dropped them), carved, chiseled, sewed or painted them.  In most cases, I have visited with the artist, held those toiling hands in mine, and  become friends with them.  They’ve helped me to be real and genuine, accepting of my scars, and not just a copy of someone else.

So, when a friend suggested that most people would prefer to buy a reproduction at Walmart for $6.99, than pay hundreds or thousands to get an original work of art, something in me protested very strongly.  It’s like asking someone if they prefer receiving a form letter or a personal handwritten letter.  Better yet, it’s like asking if you would choose to watch a documentary on Tuscany ahead of going to Tuscany.   There are ways of getting to Tuscany on the cheap (I’ve done it.), and there are also ways to collect original art, without spending a lot of money.  In this blog, I wish to dispel the notion that original art is reserved  for the rich.

Original art can be affordable if you buy small items and if you buy from unknown or undiscovered artists.  Buy art that you like.  Don’t buy the name.

In many cases, artists are open to you paying for their art in installments.

Some artists are happy to barter their art for other goods and services.  In the past, I have traded my paintings for a holiday at a fancy B&B, dental work, bushels of fruit and vegetables, a private quintet concert in my home, and other works of art.

If you can’t afford the art you like, just start saving.  If you really want something, you can usually find a way.   I wanted to buy my husband a soapstone bear for his 50th birthday.  I had to save and wait for several years, but the sacrifice made it even more special the day I brought Frobisher home and gave it to him.

Hand-pulled prints, such as lino-block, or wood-block prints are generally cheaper than paintings or sculptures and are wonderful works of art to collect. All of my early art purchases were lino-block prints.  Some came from thrift stores.

Art collecting takes you on countless adventures as you track down treasures in little galleries and studios or second hand shops in out-of-the-way places. You get to know your area.  You meet inspiring people. You find out a lot about art.  You support your local economy and build community. You feel alive.

Go to local arts councils and studio tours and find out where the artists are and what they are creating.  You will find that there’s a great deal to explore right in your own back yard.  You might not need to go on that cruise after all and you can save yourself a ton of money.

The $6.99 will get you nothing more than a fading poster and a cheap frame from Walmart.  Original art will open doors for you and give you much pleasure and a lasting legacy.   Choose the real and the genuine.   You’ll catch the spirit.  Happy Collecting.

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8 responses

8 03 2012
feistyredhair

The spirit is certainly catching with the way you’re writing! It makes me want to go out and start collecting art today! I do want to start making more of an effort to find pieces I like. Thanks for the inspiration.

17 03 2012
feistyredhair

Where’s your next post?! I’m needing my weekly dose!

19 03 2012
Jane Nigh

I like your post Elizabeth. I’m so happy I have some original art from you. Actually I have quite a few pieces over the years, the first being a tiny water colour insert in a letter after a visit together in Paris. I treasure them all. You have helped me to appreciate art even more than I normally would have, I think. I’m looking forward to your next post!
Jane

20 03 2012
ejohnsonart

Dear Jane,
Thanks for reading my post. You are the one who encourages me to buy local, you who generously support artists and local farmers, wineries, bakeries, cheese makers. I treasure the Jane original that I own: a beautiful hand-braided rug made from old wool coats.
Elizabeth

20 03 2012
feistyredhair

And that is precisely why I love both of you!

12 09 2012
Veridiana

Elizabeth is the most talented woman and artist which i had a pleasure to know and specially enjoy with her beautiful and special moments. I am so thankful to had an amazing opportunity to see your wonderful job in person. Congratulations dearest Elizabeth wishing you all the best. Veridiana and Isabela.

7 04 2013
Gail Johnson Morris

Elizabeth,
I enjoyed this posting very much! It reminded me of one of my rites of passage. In my early 30’s I was on my own, had just bought a house in Toronto and rented 1/2 of it so I could afford the mortgage. I bought myself an incredible sculpture ‘Triple’ sits on a black granite base and stills stirs me today. I made a decision to invest in things I wanted, to not wait. I invited Mom & Dad over for an unveiling. It was more a signal that I was declaring myself ready to step into the rest of my life. Once I started to collect art, I moved into different mediums. Quite wonderful. The good pieces are well worth the wait.

8 04 2013
ejohnsonart

How lovely to hear from you, Gail. I enjoyed your story of your purchase of “Triple” and particularly glad to hear that it still speaks to you. Good art never fades but acquires more meaning, a special patina with the passage of time. I hope you are well. I’d love to hear how you are and what you are doing.

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