Part 2: The Value of Owning Original Art and Photography

“I can find a piece of art that looks pretty good at the discount store!”

Fair enough! And you can absolutely do that for a very reasonable cost. In fact, artists at Studio 176 have some of their original artworks reproduced on products, such as shirts, bags, and cards. It’s fun!

That being said, if you’re looking for something that is going to be a part of your home, workspace, or commercial space, you might want to look at buying something that is totally unique. I’ve been in several homes with all original artwork and it’s fascinating to see how it completely transforms the space.

Ah, I hear you, you’re thinking, “How do I know if the original piece is quality artwork?” A good starting point is visiting your local galleries or galleries when you travel. Trust me, they will be happy to talk about the work and guide you through it. Do you know the artist or is the gallery owner able to talk about the materials the artist uses? If the artist is new to the gallery, the owner/curator can certainly find out more.

Take a closer look. Is it a work on canvas? Is it oil, acrylic paint, or mixed media  (more than one art material)? All types of media have their pros and cons for the artist and the quality of the paint or materials being used can vary.

For example we know that oil paintings that are taken care of have lasted for hundreds of years- and those artists mixed their own oil paint! The jury is still out on acrylic paint, having only been developed in the early 1950’s generally speaking it is rated for an estimated 50 to 60 years.

The only difference between the two mediums is the binder (the thing that holds the paint together); both use the same pigments. One uses oil for the binder and acrylic uses a polymer synthetic resin- basically a plastic. Both types use the same pigments. The amount of pigment being mixed with the binder usually increases the cost of the paint but the quality is better. Another example to indicate the quality, is you might experience a painting where the richness of the color draws you in more than other paintings in the gallery or space and seems to have a luminescence unlike anything else. This effect could be an oil painting and pigment mixed with linseed oil was used which imparts a bit of a glow or the artist could have varnished it to seal and protect it from the environment such as smoke, dust, light, etc. As you start looking at works you’ll start to notice those small nuances that make a quality painting.

What about photographs? What should you look for? How is the one from a chain store any different than what is in a gallery?

Naturally, to display photographs they have to be printed on a surface of some sort. This is where artists who use the camera as their media of choice decide on the size, substrate (canvas, metal, fine art print, etc) the image is printed on and the quality of the inks. The typical at home inkjet printer is probably not going to be in the running. The artist also has control over how many of the images will be printed, and may decide to have a limited edition.

For example, produce only 10 prints of one image to sell versus the mass produced tens of thousands of one image that are sold in national chain stores.

Most of us, regardless of what type of camera we are using, utilize a “point and shoot” method.  The subjects are kids, family pets, sprinkled with our images for social media posts. However, photographers who cross over in the artistic realms of this art form will spend hours scouting out places and observing light at different times during the day to achieve optimal conditions in order to capture their artistic vision.

Once the photographer starts shooting the work, it doesn’t end there. They upload their images into the digital darkroom and can endure countless hours of post production/editing work to bring the work to the point of their desired artistic expression. Some photographers create composites- manipulating their photographs into completely new works which reference collage, but others fine tune, slightly enhancing the natural beauty captured in the moment and scene.

When assessing the quality of an original photograph, again, take a closer look. If you see pixels (the small squares that make up a digital work) the photograph has been enlarged too big and the overall quality and aesthetic suffers.

Ask if the photograph is printed on an acid free archival surface with archival ink--most are rated to last for 100 years. Think how newspapers yellow and age quickly - that’s from the acid in the paper, so an acid-free paper that is designed to use archival inks is ideal. Fine art papers for photo reproduction vary from velvety surfaces to super glossy to textured and all have their place in adding to the aesthetics of the photograph--the artist will know what to recommend if you are unsure.

Another great quality print medium for photographs is metal which should be printed with archival ink, and has a variety of finishing surfaces from glossy to matte. Most metal is printed on aluminum so it is lightweight and extremely durable. It is waterproof and UV proof, so this artwork is ideal for spaces exposed to water, humidity or smoke/grease from cooking, making it possible to hang artwork in unconventional spaces, even outdoors!