Tip for Choosing Art: Using Line and Shape

Springtime in the Peak DistrictLike color, the lines and shapes in a work of art convey strong emotional cues to a viewer.

When you’re selecting artwork for a particular room, pay special attention to the mood you want to create within the space. Choose art that supports those feelings.

For example, if you want to add energy to a space, consider artwork using a vertical (or ‘portrait’) orientation and diagonal lines. Angles within a picture carry lots of visual energy and can strongly direct the viewer’s eye.

You can even position lines within artwork so people will look at other elements within your interior design scheme, like furniture and drapery.

On the other hand, if you want the art to have a peaceful, calming effect, avoid angular jagged lines. Instead go for visuals with more rounded, smooth and flowing graphics. A horizontal (‘landscape’) orientation can also emphasize calmness and stability.

When you’re looking at art, pay attention to the way an image makes you feel. Then evaluate the graphics in the picture. In no time, you’ll be able to quickly identify the best pictures for specific moods.

Get lots more tips on choosing art in our free design guide Mixing Art & Matching Moods

NEW Free Design Guide: Mixing Art & Matching Moods

Free Design Guide: Mixing Art & Matching MoodsAnyone who has been on a search for a new work of art knows how overwhelming and daunting it can be to find good art and choose the best piece for the intended space.

There are so many available options—at all price points—that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start!

The challenges are compounded for interior designers, who must adhere to a range of criteria for the proper selection of artwork in an interior scheme.

(Hint: when you’re doing a design project for a client, choosing art just because you personally like it doesn’t quite make the grade!)

Designers must balance the need for art that fits into the design scheme, pleases the client, emphasizes the mood you’re trying to create and meets the budget.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the solutions fall well short of optimal. We’ve all been in hotel rooms, corporate offices, healthcare facilities, etc. and marvelled at the atrocious art.

It doesn’t need to be this way! Whatever constraints a design project brings, you can source good art.


Using Art as Wall Decor, Part 3: Provenance

In part 2 of this ongoing series we looked at the Fundamentals of Specifying Art. This time, we’ll investigate provenance.

In the art world, provenance can be a crucially important attribute of a work of art. The term is based on the French word provenir, which means “to come from”. Strictly defined, provenance describes the source of origin, the chronology of ownership and the history of an object. Provenance is used to provide evidence for the authenticity of works of art as well as books, archaeological specimens and other objects of historical and monetary value.

Certificates of Authenticity
One of the most common documents for artwork is a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). These may take a variety of forms, but in general a COA will include

– the name of the artist
– the name of the publisher or printmaker
– date the work was created
– edition number (if applicable)
– materials and processes used

It’s important to note that a COA should be issued by the original artist or publisher at the time the work is created. Anyone else creating a COA after-the-fact, such as a gallery, dealer or auction house, usually cannot guarantee the authenticity of the work if an original certificate was not obtained.

The provenance of a work of art can refer to its creation (by whom and when it was made, and using what materials) in addition to the work’s custody since its creation. Thus, the provenance of an artwork is one of the most influential factors affecting its perceived value, mainly because it establishes its authenticity. Good provenance can increase the value of a work of art; indeterminate or undesirable provenance can decrease the value.

What to look for

So when considering the purchase of fine art, you should always investigate the provenance of the work and be confident in the completeness and factual accuracy of the information you receive. Of course, if you’re buying an inexpensive poster print or other unlimited reproduction, provenance may not be important. But if you’re paying anything more than a few dollars for a piece of art, you owe it to yourself to ascertain

a) that the work is genuine and was actually created by the named artist,
b) exactly how and when the work was originally created (or reproduced),
c) who previously owned or possessed the work, and
d) how and where the work has been handled, displayed and stored.

Types of documentation

Proof of provenance is dependent on accurate, truthful documentation and certification by recognized authorities. Expert certification can make the difference between an artwork being worthless or worth a fortune. Any records provided ideally will be authenticated by the original artist or art publisher; established and respected galleries and dealers may also provide reasonable proof of provenance. Examples of documents commonly used to establish provenance include

  • Original artist signature on the work (however, this is easy to forge!)
  • A signed certificate of authenticity, either from the artist or a respected authority
  • A label attached to the artwork by the artist or gallery
  • Verbal or written statement(s) or audio-visual recordings from the artist
  • Sales receipts
  • Lists of previous owners
  • News clippings and other samples of media coverage pertaining to the artwork
  • Inclusion of the artwork in exhibit catalogs, auction records, etc.
  • Appraisals from respected authorities and art experts
  • Testimonials of qualified people who know about the artwork and/or the artist

Authentic provenance is based on fact, not presumption. Any references to a particular piece of art must be specific enough to precisely identify that work; generalizations about the artist or other similar works are inadequate. In other words, if something is not known for certain about a work of art, it cannot be used to help establish provenance.

However, even specific documentation and certifications are increasingly fraudulent. There have been many well-known cases of false provenance, which significantly affects the market price of counterfeit works and, when exposed as fraud, creates major problems for all parties involved.

Read more about art forgeries
NY Times Fake Art Prints -Big Business
Fake Jasper Johns sculpture
Counterfeit Art on Ebay
F.B.I. article
NY Times Murky Laws

More benefits of good provenance

For an original, one-of-a-kind work of art, good provenance establishes its uniqueness. Even for fine reproductions such as giclée prints, establishing provenance can help prove the reproduction was authorized and as such can increase the value of the print. Provenance can help assure the buyer of the inherent quality of the work: documents that describe the processes and materials used in the creation of the work can provide confidence regarding the archival qualities of the art (how long it should survive without significant change) which also affects its collectible value. For collectors, knowing the provenance of a piece of art makes it more fun to own, because you know more of the story behind the work.

Provenance is most important to establish when purchasing work from an existing inventory but is also important when commissioning new work. If you pay to have original work created just for you, be sure to get appropriate documentation that establishes the provenance for the work. Having these records starting from when the art is first created will help establish and maintain the value of the work over time.

At Nat Coalson Fine Art + Design we take provenance very seriously. One of the benefits of ordering original artwork or fine art prints from us is Guaranteed Provenance.

If you’d like to learn more about provenance, visit the links below

Using Art as Wall Decor, Part 2: Fundamentals of Specifying Art

Interior designers need to source artwork that integrates with and strengthens the complete design scheme for every room. In part 1 of this series, I provided an overview of Using Art as Wall Decor. This issue outlines the basic criteria you should consider when specifying art for your project.

Your selections for artwork in a design scheme should be driven by the needs of the client, and ultimately, the occupants of the space. And even when visual imagery is used in a supporting role — subversive to architecture, lighting, wall coverings and other interior decor — art carries its own weight within a design scheme. As such, the choices you make for what to hang on the walls are vitally important.

Here’s a basic checklist of considerations when specifying artwork
1. Budget
2. Color palette
3. Format
4. Style
5. Medium
6. Finishing
7. Installation

As with all other aspects of an interior design scheme, it’s crucial to establish a budget for artwork as early as possible in the planning process. Unfortunately, too many design proposals severely underestimate the cost of artwork or neglect to include a budget for art at all. In these situations, sourcing artwork becomes a major challenge late in the implementation of the project — often during final stages of fit-out — and the quality of the total interior design suffers as a result. Clients will often resist budgeting for artwork, or choosing it, very early in the design process, but it’s essential that you communicate the importance of the artwork along with other decor accessories in completing the design. Try to create as detailed a budget as you can for the project artwork, as the constraints imposed by the budget will determine the options available when specifying the art.

Color palette
The colors (or lack of color) in the artwork is the single most important element to consider when integrating artwork into a room design. From the most basic standpoint, you can choose to use art with complementary or contrasting colors. Complementary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green. Color contrasts are created using colors from different families of hues, such as green and blue. You’ll need to decide how much you want the artwork to stand out from the other design elements and choose art with color palettes that either blends in with the other decor or stands out in remarkable contrast. We’ll look at color in much more detail in an upcoming installment in this series.

Format: size and shape
In art and photography, the “format” refers to the size and aspect ratio of the picture, which, in turn, determines its overall shape. The aspect ratio is not a fixed measurement, rather a proportional relationship between width and height. For example, a 2:3 ratio indicates two units on the short side and three units on the long side, where a “unit” could be any unit of length measurement. Along with color, the aspect ratio is one of the most important design specifications for any piece of artwork.

Before selecting art for a specific location, take the time to make some detailed measurements or refer to the plan and elevation drawings for the space. Depending on the interior design scheme, you need to specify artwork that correctly fills the wall spaces you have allocated. In some designs, tightly packed artworks with little space around each piece may be appropriate; in other scenarios you will want to leave ample space around each piece.

In general, whether you’re using one or more artworks on any given wall space, you should try to match the shape and orientation to the available space for the best effect. Simple examples are using a wide, horizontal piece on a wide (or square) wall and using a vertically-oriented piece on a tall, vertical wall. In simpler terms, try to match the format of the art with the orientation of the available space (but of course, there will be exceptions to this rule).

Style: Subjects, themes and motifs
Another key decision to make pertains to the style or type of art that fits the design. If you’re decorating your own home, obviously your personal tastes should prevail. For a designer putting together a commercial interior, your personal tastes should always be secondary to the needs of the client. Of course, every project can (and should) carry your distinctive, signature influence, but that overall influence is where your personal tastes should end when you’re sourcing materials for a client. What matters most is what matters to the client — and often, their customers.

With this in mind, when considering art for any commercial design scheme, it’s crucial to only consider styles that will resonate with the guests occupying the space. Always remember that in any public space, people are in transit through the building and will only occupy the space for a limited amount of time; the effect the artwork and your interior design will have are not the same as when you’re decorating a home.

This is why most artwork specified for public and commercial interiors is decidedly non-provocative. Especially with hotels and resorts, the main goal is to put the visitor at ease and make them comfortable. Placing art that is aggressive, risque or provocative should be done with utmost care, and only in properties whose business models support the type of clientele that would appreciate it. Abstract art is a good choice for interior design schemes in which the art plays a non-provocative role.

Specifying art for a hotel
Hotels and other hospitality properties have recently developed the desire to feel like a home away from home. The staid, spartan interiors of the 1970s Motel 6 have been replaced with lush, welcoming spaces, even in budget properties. In luxury boutique properties, the feeling of comfort and personalization is especially important. So choose art that feels like that which might hang in a home.

So when you’re specifying art for a hotel you need to choose subject matter that is comforting to the guest. What constitutes comforting depends not eh guest; a hoot. in mid-Town manhattan might have different art than one in the Maldives.

Choose a style that
1. goes well with the overall design theme and motifs,
2. meets the expectations and desires of the guest, and
3. can be economically reproduced and implemented within the design budget.

In my next article in this series I’ll discuss subject and theme in much more detail.

The “medium” of the artwork refers to the materials (and sometimes techniques) used to make the art. Oil, watercolor, pastel, charcoal, pen-and-ink and photography are examples of common mediums. “Mixed media” refers to an artwork made using multiple materials, for example, a combination of watercolor, pencil and collage. My artwork is often mixed media, incorporating a digitally printed photograph along with acrylic paint applied by hand over the surface of the print.

If the art is a reproduction, the medium might be a lithograph, serigraph or giclée. (A giclée print is a high-quality, archival inkjet print).

The artwork medium is a major determining factor in its cost. We’ll look at mediums in much more depth in a future installment in this series.

Framing and finishing
Nearly all wall-hanging artwork is finished to some degree. Unless you’re using thumbtacks to attach a print to the wall, you will need to choose a method of structural support and hanging hardware. A common, traditional method of finishing prints is using mat board (called the mount in the UK) and a sheet of glass encased within a wood or metal frame. You’ve certainly seen many pictures framed this way. However, there are myriad other ways to finish a piece of artwork, and some art looks great with very minimal framing. One example is the “gallery wrap”. This is currently a very popular finishing method, where a printed canvas is wrapped around a wood or metal stretcher bar and hung without a frame so the edges of the print are visible. This method is both visually attractive and cost-effective.

As with the medium, the type of framing and finishing you specify will have a huge effect on the project budget. In fact, a high quality frame can often cost much more than the artwork contained inside it! I will also thoroughly cover framing and finishing in a future article.

You’ll need to determine who will perform the artwork installation. If you’re an interior designer, you will also need to specify the method of installation (based on the available hanging systems) and identify any potential challenges pertaining to the installation, with regard to construction, electric and plumbing, wall surface finishes, etc. Don’t forget to include installation as part of the budget. You can learn more about artwork installation in a future article.

Don’t short-change your design
You should specify wall art with the same care you use for all other elements of your interior design scheme. Like lighting, floor covering, window treatments and accessories, the artwork you choose can dramatically support your design theme and elevate it to higher levels of success.

Stay tuned to Light+Colour for Part 3: Subject Matter and Theme
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Using Art as Wall Decor, Part 1: Introduction

The selection of artwork for interior walls has a major impact on how occupants of the space think, feel and behave. Artwork is a key element of any interior decor scheme.

People love art for many different reasons, and most of us enjoy being surrounded by interesting, beautiful or visually stimulating objects. From the earliest days of the human race, people have put art on walls. But not all art is well-suited for decor, nor is it even meant to be. Certainly, not all art is designed to be visually attractive. Around the world, and throughout history, art has served a wide variety of purposes.

Origins of art

Prehistoric cave dwellers drew art not to make their walls look pretty, but to communicate and create historical records. Early Egyptians created wall art as a way to elevate their dead closer to the gods. Religious buildings have always used art to depict important prophecies and events. More recently, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, art has been used extensively as propaganda, intended to convey strong political messages and influence public thinking, often through shock and controversy. Contemporary fine art is often horrifically ugly, on purpose, with a clear aim to make us stop and wonder — but not necessarily to feel good.

Art as decor

Still, with myriad potential applications for visual imagery as communication, probably the most accessible and common way we humans employ art is to decorate the spaces in which we we live, work and play. Used as decor, art helps us create environments that convey moods, tastes, styles and emotions. Whether you want to make a strong statement or impart a harmonious, comfortable feel to a space, art is an essential element in the design of any room.

Important choices for art

When you’re incorporating wall art into an overall design for a room, hallway or other interior volume, you have infinite choices with regard to both the artwork itself and how it integrates with other elements in the design. Ideally, you’ll want to balance the effect of the wall art with that of other decor accessories, such as wall covering and paint, carpet and rugs, drapes and other window coverings, furniture and case goods, etc. And certainly, the lighting scheme will have a huge impact, and also be influenced by, the art you place on the walls or as free-standing room dividers.

Art can be used as the main focal point in a design, and/or can play a supporting role in emphasizing other elements within the design. You can use the colors, textures and motifs contained in artwork to inform the selection of other design elements, and vice versa. In other words, you could choose a remarkable piece of art and build a room design around it, or generate the bulk of the room design and then find artwork that integrates well into the design.

It doesn’t matter if the art is a valuable original painting or a cheap printed poster, the choices you make in what you put on your walls reflect not only your taste and style but can also contribute to creating the ideal environment to match your desire for each particular space.

Contents of this series

In this series of articles, I invite you to join me as we delve into the specifics of using wall-hanging art in a coordinated design scheme. With so many variables to consider, I’ll split up this topic into a series of multiple installments.

Each article will focus on one or more of the following topics:

  • Fundamentals of specifying art
  • Subject matter and themes
  • Mediums and formats
  • Using color effectively
  • Key principles of design
  • Framing and other finishing methods
  • Hanging methods
  • Lighting
  • Protecting and cleaning artwork
  • Psychology and physiology of art
  • Trends in wall art genres and styles
  • Budgeting for artwork
  • … and much more

Whether you’re a professional interior designer or a homeowner with a passion for creating your own environment, my goal for this series to to simplify and demystify the entire process of finding, choosing, installing and enjoying wall-hanging artworks as interior decor.

Stay tuned to this blog for Part 2: Fundamentals of Specifying Art

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What’s it Worth?

One recurring theme I hear from people interested in contemporary photography is that it’s hard to know what a specific print is worth.

This confusion is not new to the digital age or to photography. Photographers (and other artists) have long been able to make multiple reproductions of their work and whether it’s in the darkroom or with a computer printer, this can confuse anyone involved in buying or selling in the visual arts. (more…)

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