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How to Become an Art Lover

Most of us, to some degree, participate in the world of the arts: painting, dancing, photography, acting, writing, sculpting, etc. If we aren't personally creating, we are enjoying and supporting the efforts of others. And that's a good thing; else how would the average artist purchase paints, brushes and canvases, ballet shoes, or sculpture clay? And how about the years of study to bring their art to a professional level, and often finding they cannot maintain their passion due to lack of patrons? Without art lovers, the arts would die a slow death, and the creators of art would possibly revert back to the age when the walls of caves would serve as their only canvas.
In our everyday lives, we spend an exorbitant amount of time staring at a computer screen, the bumper stickers on the car in front of us on the highway, or yesterday's laundry. We focus on twenty-four hour news on television, sports, or sit-coms, none of which contribute to a lasting enrichment of our soul. Even with crisp blue skies and lovely gardens outside our window, we often lose sight of the beauty so focused are we on our daily routines.

Living with art in our homes and offices can be an antidote; removing us from the aforementioned mindset and bringing daily if not momentary pleasure. To some, art is a basic necessity, an oasis from the stresses of normal living. Look around your home. When has a favorite painting failed to slow you down, hold your attention for a moment, thrill you with the play of light and shadow, or cheer you with vivid colors or a sense of movement? A well-executed work of art can survive and exude pleasure to the viewer for a lifetime, showing little wear and tear as do most material objects.

Today's artists have a wealth of materials with which to express their creativity. In addition to oils, bronze, etc, there is clay, paper, fiber, colored pencils, charcoal, glass, and more recently the digital camera. But are the less common media considered fine art? There's a long-running debate in the art world on this subject; one that I certainly won't attempt to resolve. One distinction between fine art and fine craft, I believe, is its intended purpose. Fine art is not usually functional but concerned primarily with providing an aesthetic experience. One is not usually expected to sit on it, drink from it, or wear it. Artists who work in less recognized media however, have the same goals as every other artist, i.e.exploring a sense of form, color, design and uniqueness. Roberta Smith, art critic for the New York Times said it best: "In the end it doesn't matter if you call it art or craft; what counts is presence." It also doesn't matter whether or not it matches the sofa.

Creativity extends beyond mere subject matter to express a personal interpretation of the individual world of the artist. Creativity speaks to the soul of the artist, whether the work is a well-executed portrait, a vase of drooping tulips, an abstract study of light hitting form, or a series of colors shown in harmonious relationship to each other. A work of art, be it a pastoral landscape or a turned bowl, should momentarily divert attention from the world's ugliness to a feeling, if not awe, at least, of a degree of appreciation for the visual insight and talent of the creator.

Regardless of your taste in art - I know, 'you don't know much about art but you know what you like' - collecting can enrich your surroundings by putting your personal thumbprint on your home's decor. Nothing says more about who you are than the type of art you display in your home. If you're a collector, you know well the sense of wonder and excitement when you come upon a piece of art that speaks to you. After years of painting, it still amazes me how viewers react or don't react to a particular piece of art. Whether you respond to the colors, the subject matter, a nostalgic reminder of a person or place, it becomes a personal experience. The same reaction may not occur in a hundred other viewers or with an equal number of works of art. For this reason if a painting, a piece of sculpture, or an unusual vase speaks to you in an intimate way, every attempt should be made to make it a part of your life - an enduring part of your life. Understanding what the artist had in mind should not interfere with the viewer's personal aesthetic appreciation of the subject.

So how does one become a collector? Money helps, of course, but it shouldn't be the primary focus. Even on a modest budget, beginners can bring original art into their lives by training their eyes for the "little gems" found at art shows, galleries, and wherever art is displayed. Become aware of art all around you, visit galleries and refuse to be intimidated. Study art in books and magazines to develop your unique and personal taste, remembering that art is an intimate experience and your preferences are just as valid as more learned art connoisseurs. When you find that single object that reaches out to you, think of how it can brighten a special spot in your home or office. Then, decide if you admire it enough to forgo, if necessary, other non-essentials in order to call it your own. Most artists are willing to work with you. If you love their work, they want you to have it because, chances are, it will not end up in an attic or basement, never seeing the light of day. It's as simple as that. Good art can be found in many venues in and outside of galleries, and dealing directly with the artist can often further enrich the experience. Often an original work of art can be had for the price of a print, the value of which is mostly in the framing, and unlike a new blouse or designer golf shirt, the art will be a one-of-a-kind item not to be seen anywhere except in your home.

If the economy has you curtailing luxury spending, (depending on your view, art can be a luxury or a necessity), de-stress by viewing art wherever you find it. See what others have created from a single idea. You may be inspired to become an artist or artisan yourself. Believe me, becoming a collector is much easier and less time consuming.


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