There's a difference between viewing artwork on museum or gallery walls and purchasing art to keep in your home. But how do you even begin deciding what kind of art you want live alongside you in your space? Understanding a few key elements will make it easier to discover, appreciate and learn how to buy 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. In contrast, certain printing techniques, from lithography to silk screen, 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) and 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. Scale can have a major impact on how you see and experience a work of art. Artworks rendered in a small size can create a sense of intimacy as their details can only be taken in up close, drawing the viewer near. Larger works, like a monumental painting by Barnett Newman or a massive sculpture by Richard Serra, operate in a different way. They envelop a viewer thanks to their scale to create an immersive experience.

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 factors are important when it comes to actually making a work of art part of my home?

Style is crucial. When you buy art, a work should be able to stand on its own, but it's important to remember that it can do a lot to enhance an existing space. If your interior leans minimal and sleek, you might want to buy art that complements those aesthetic preferences. The same principle applies to elaborate decors, which might offer more freedom for playing with color and level of detail.