To the New Collector: Notes from an Artist

A Beautiful Morning, a landscape painting by Judith Reeve
A Beautiful Morning

Most of the people that buy my work are beginning collectors mainly because my work sells in the middle range, is affordable and of high quality. This is my first advice to collectors: make sure that the painting that you feel inspired to buy is well made fulfilling the requirements of permanence. The foundation of all artwork should be quality: oil primed linen for oil paintings, acrylic primed linen for acrylics, archival paper for prints, drawings, watercolors and pastels. The paints and inks should be light fast and permanent. Although pastels are permanent, they are not light fast and should be protected under UV glass.

As a collector, you should inquire with the gallery or the artist the materials that were used to create the piece. Don’t take it for granted that the artist has used the best because they are in a gallery. I once went to a beautiful gallery on the Cape and I was intrigued by this one artists’ work in oils. I asked the manager if I could look at the back of the panel. She gave me permission and to my surprise it was painted on the cheapest possible foundation of acrylic canvas on cardboard. Now this artist was very popular and was doing well. Why should she have used such cheap materials? As a collector, I would not have purchased this piece or any of her work because it will quickly deteriorate. So quality of the pigments in the oils is essential as well as the foundation on which it is painted. Sometimes a sealing varnish is important, but the look of the finished image is the standard. If a gloss finish is important, then a coating of Damar Varnish or Archival Synthetic Varnish is required. But this may not be necessary as some techniques add the medium, which may have varnish in it, throughout the painting process and therefore the painting surface will be hard without a varnish.

When I have spoken to my collectors, they each have expressed a particular interest as to subject matter as the main reason for their type of collection. One of my collectors has purchased over 25 paintings of small pochades. He is interested in these lively, expressive presentations of a moment in time. This is his real love. As a new collector, begin by choosing what you really love. Begin with smaller works at first, refining your collection, and then move onto more substantial images as your aesthetic for that type of work grows.

Another type of collector is one that takes a keen interest in the artist themselves, taking classes with them, attending the artists openings, corresponding and really getting to know the individual. Some of these collectors enjoy purchasing demonstration pieces that amplify the artists technique and spirit without the finish. These are records of the artists creative process left unresolved and in many ways reveal a raw form of that energy.

Sometimes collectors will concentrate on a specific locale previously inhabited and painted extensively by artists such as Monhegan Island, Maine or Bucks County, Pennsylvania. One can also choose a school of painting such as the Lyme Impressionists of Connecticut.  Or one that I particularly like is the art of collecting self-portraits of the artists themselves. It gives one such insight into the creators of imaginative works. Many times the artist will use the vehicle of the self-portrait to explore new ideas or experimental techniques.

One can also invest in a series. Many artists work in series where they explore a certain subject repeatedly, allowing the image to fully evolve until the artist has manifested visually a fullness of expression. I work like this myself and find it really satisfying if the collector can be carried along as I was by the intuitive thrust of an image. I once had a collector purchase a series of river scenes titled, Glimpses, where I explored the idea of almost quietly and secretly coming upon a beautiful display of light and rocks in  the river. One had to peer through tree boughs attempting to get a better look and the images appeared more like a vision rather than a landscape of a specific locale. I built up the larger images from my pochades, attempting to get that immediacy of the moment as well as the spontaneous handling of the paint and color. All these images held together as a singular and unified vision.

This may give you, as a collector, a place to start. Remember to buy what you love and trust your intuition. While you needs to know what you buy is of the highest quality, more importantly, you need to feel an emotional connection to the piece. That is the only way that the artist’s intent can manifest itself. The image takes on a life of its own beyond the confines of the creator. It travels out into the world to have efficacy and find its place among those who are actively engaged in a search for meaning.

Author: Judith Reeve

For nearly 30 years I've developed my painting practice in the studio, building on what I leaned from my student days at the Lyme Academy of Fine Art. Along with my daily journey creating images which I write about here on this blog, I am also currently writing a book on the color practice of Robert Henri.

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