HOW TO KNOW WHAT ART YOU WANT TO BUY
Many people think the subject of art is so vast that it's impossible to completely comprehend. But it isn’t a monolith. Understanding a few key elements is all you need to discover and appreciate the art you love.
There are so many different kinds of art. How do I even start breaking them down?
Agreed. The many different types of art that have developed over the centuries can be overwhelming. But they can usually be split into two broad categories: figurative and abstract (though some works can be both). Figurative art represents things found in the physical world, like people, plants, animals and architecture. Abstract art does not. Portraits, still lifes and landscapes are common examples of figurative art–but even those can vary dramatically in style depending on the artist. Abstract works can be equally diverse in style but instead rely on free-form shapes, colors and gestures to achieve a finished composition.
I know I like paintings, but what other kinds of materials are generally used to make art?
Knowing an artwork’s medium is a great way to hone in on the art you like. The medium refers to the material used (like paint) to create an artwork, and it isn't unusual for people to be attracted to some mediums more than others. Paintings are cornerstones of many art traditions, but paint is not the only material used to make flat works of art. Pastels and chalks create works with a soft, airy feel–often on paper–while certain printing techniques, like lithography, create art with a graphic quality. Photography is among the newer artistic mediums (and wasn't even considered art by many until well into the 20th century). Photography can be made using either analog film or digital technology.
But what if I'm interested in works of art that aren't flat?
That's great! Art doesn't stop at painting, prints and photography. Sculptures have the unique advantage of being viewable in the round, and some might find them more engaging for that reason. Sculptures can be made from many different materials, like marble, metal or even cast polyurethane.
Is there anything important to consider when it comes to the size of an artwork?
For sure. While an artwork of any size can be great, scale can have a major impact on how you see and experience it. Artworks done in a small size can create a sense of intimacy with the viewer–their details can only be taken in up close. Larger works, like a monumental painting by Barnett Newman or a massive sculpture by Richard Serra, operate in a different way. They almost envelop a viewer thanks to their scale and that can create a different kind of immersion that some viewers prefer.
Got it. Are there any other fundamentals I should keep in mind when looking at a work of art?
Color. It might seem rudimentary, but that's why it's critical. Most of us have a favorite color or colors, so it's only natural that we gravitate toward works that align with those preferences. Plus, the unique way artists combine hues can expand your palette!
What if I'm looking to make a work of art part of my home?
Scale is the first thing to consider before bringing an artwork home (it does need to fit in your space after all). But style is critical, too. If your interior leans minimal and sleek, you might want to seek out art that complements your aesthetic preferences.