If anyone knows anything about the Huffingtons, they know that once we get an idea in our heads, we tend to run with it – nay, sprint with it! – to bring it to fruition. And such is the case with our blog series (and section of the website, to be explained), entitled Art Talk. These are easy tips on how to collect, frame, hang and light art.
A few of you old timers (wink wink) might remember some of the articles we published on our old site – The Art of Collecting, The Art of Hanging, Can This Marriage Be Saved (buying art with your partner isn’t always easy…), etc.. Each article offered helpful tips and tricks about everything from how high over a sofa to hang a painting to whether or not you need to light your art. We wanted to share this knowledge with all of our readers, new and old, as well as have a place to house this information on our new website. So. From all of that reminiscing and head scratching came about the idea for a tip-line of sorts on the blog, and Art Talk was born. We’ll be publishing a new blog series that is a little more focused on the subject of art – if you only come here for our fluffy and fun trip talk, feel free to skip over these posts, but we hope they will be a valuable learning tool for anyone and everyone. The blog posts will go more in depth on subjects such as collecting, framing, lighting, hanging, etc.. and the Art Talk section of the website (located on the Huff Harrington Fine Art homepage) will offer easy, straight forward tips for quick reference.
The Art of Collecting Art
Tips #1 – 11
1. Start with your heart: Art is so personal and unique, that we believe the only magic formula for collecting art is to start with your heart. 2. One Day at a Time: Don’t look at the whole room and think, I’ve got to fill all these walls with art, now! Wait to find what you really love. You’ll be happier with blank walls than hanging something you don’t love to fill a void. 3. Get Smart: Visit art galleries, museums, art shows, artists’ open studios and art fairs. Savor the process and ask lots of questions. The more you see, the more you’ll come to refine your own taste preferences and be able to recognize what you love. 4. Match the sofa: What?? That’s right. It’s natural that when you buy what you love, your taste will be drawn to what works together. But here’s the kicker: Don’t buy it to match the sofa; buy it because you love it. And then watch it work with the sofa. 5. Know when to pounce: When you feel your heart being tugged, and you love it but don’t know where to put it, you probably should buy it. Art is one of a kind and you won’t find it again, and for that reason, you don’t want it to get away. Trust us! 6. Buy Something Old: As you build your collection, no matter what your taste in art, give it some depth and soul by adding a few wonderful old pieces, perhaps something you’ve inherited. Mix it with contemporary art and see how one makes the other sing. 7. Stretch yourself: Just like you don’t want to know everything about a person when you first meet them, think of modern art as a wonderful challenge, that you will get to know over time. Let it unfold slowly, and watch your love grow for it over time. 8. Something Borrowed: If you’re not ready for the big purchase yet, perhaps you should date a little, and offer to lease a painting with a monthly fee. If you love it when the lease is up, you’ll have the option to buy it. 9. Something Blue: Art, like fashion and design, has certain styles that go in and out of popularity. Be aware of the trends but don’t become a victim of them. Will you be happy with this over time? Whenever in doubt, let your own heart be your guide. 10. Something Tried: Try it, live with it and hopefully love it. But if your love wanes, reframe it, move it, or hang it with something different. It will either come back to life or need to go away for a while or it will be time to pass it on, and that’s OK.
11. Something True: It all comes down to this: Love. Listen to that little voice that tugs at your heart and try to hear what it’s saying. If you buy what you love, it will it will work with what you already own, and make you happy every time you see it.
The Art of Lighting and Safekeeping Your Art
Tips #12 – 21
Now that you have bought your art, you want to enjoy it. But how do you protect your investment and guarantee its preservation? Here are a few handy little tips we like to remember here at the gallery: 12. Keep It Cool: Keep your art away from direct sunlight or heat(here’s a good rule of thumb: anything that will fade your carpet will fade your art.) 13. Use Soft Lighting: fluorescent bulbs tend to fade images – plus they’re so harsh. Use incandescent bulbs, which only have 4% of their rays in the damaging range, to light your artwork instead. 14. Install that Dimmer! Illuminate your art at the lowest light level possible for the least glare and reflection. We’re big fans of dimmers wherever we can put them. 15. Not Too Humid, Not too Dry, Please: hang your art in neutral climates, away from excessive humidity or dryness. Too much moisture can cause mats and prints to buckle or mold over time. Extreme dryness can also wreck havoc on works on paper. 16. The Clean Air Act: keep an eye out for pollutants and contaminants in the environment. Art is just as susceptible to environmental damage as we are. 17. Regular Check-Ups: check your framed artwork about every 6 months, front and back, for signs of damage such as cracking and molding. 18. Careful Cleaning: do not spray cleaner of any kind directly onto the framed piece. Rather, spray cleaner onto a cloth and then apply it to the glass or Plexiglas. 19. Just In Case: insure your art. If you are a homeowner, be assured that your artwork is included in your Homeowner’s Insurance. However, it is a good idea to take out a rider for artwork valued over $2,500. 20. Get a Receipt: make sure you get a receipt and proof of sale from your gallery that shows the retail value of the piece. (this helps with Tip No. 18) 21. About the Artist: always ask your gallery owner or artist for a bio of the artist and keep that in a safe place. (We like to send little thank you notes with bios to our clients after they’ve purchased from us, and we’ve heard that some clients tape the note and the bio to the back of the painting. How fun for future generations to know when and where their forebearers bought the painting! )
(When partners disagree on art)
Tips # 22 – 33
Couples, if you can’t agree on art, you are not alone! In fact, we’d say it’s rare to find a couple who have the same taste in art. That’s because art is so personal and our reasons for being attracted to it are so varied. We humbly offer the twelve step marriage counseling for buying art and healing your art differences. 22. Start with the easy ones. Hold off on the “big one” and start building you collection on several smaller pieces that you could agree on and that won’t break the bank. 23. Buy on trips: It’s somehow easier to find art in common when you’re buying it away from home and there are happy memories involved. Don’t worry if you don’t know where it will go; if you love it, buy it. It will have a happy home. 24. Don’t emphasize your differences: Instead of reacting negatively to your partner’s choice, try to understand it: “What do you like about it? What speaks to you?” Maybe there’s a piece you like that will speak to your partner in the same way. 25. Get help! Your gallery should help explain the painting, especially if it’s an abstract or something your partner doesn’t appreciate. Learning about it from the experts might bring it alive and let you both see it differently. 26. Make it fun! Attend openings together and mix a little wine with art. Take the pressure off and enjoy the journey of discovering what you love. 27. Meet the artist: If at all possible, meeting the artist gives the art an added dimension that brings the art to life and is another common bond for you and your partner. 28. Pick your battles: Does one of you feel more strongly about this? Then let that person drive the decision. But make sure the other person gets a room, or two. Basement doesn’t count. 29. Take turns: He picks this time; she picks the next. Or do birthdays: Let her choose for her birthday and you get to choose for yours. You each have one birthday a year. What’s fair is fair. 30. Divide up your rooms. If one of you spends most of the time in the family room, and the other prefers the living room, why don’t you pick the art for your favorite room. You each have visiting rights. 31. Take the art for a test drive: We’d love to have you take the art home and live with it for a day or two. This takes the pressure off your decision in our gallery and allows you to see it the art in its natural habitat. 32. Let her have it! If one of you feels strongly about a painting, there’s probably a good reason for it. Try to understand what he or she loves about it, and let her have it. Your turn will come. 33. Don’t go for a 100%. We’re not saying you need to compromise, but we do know that art can grow on you over time. If you are intrigued by it, and he loves it, give it the benefit of the doubt. Before long, it just may tug at your heart.
The Art of Breaking the Rules
Tips #34 – 42
We recently gave a talk to a group of art patrons on the art of buying, collecting, hanging, framing and lighting art. We kept coming across all kinds of rules that we disagreed with and ended up changing our talk to “Breaking the rules.” That said, here are our favorite rules to break: 34. Buy for a space: No! If you have a big wall and the painting doesn’t fit, add sconces or plates or accessorize around it. If you buy what you love, you can make it work; remember you’ll always have the painting, but not the space! 35. Large paintings can overwhelm small rooms. Not necessarily. A large painting can make a small room have more personality, and look bigger, bolder and different. We always welcome a juxtaposition of styles, sizes and colors. 36. Small art won’t work in large rooms: Oh yes it will! Don’t hang a small painting by itself on a big wall, but do create a grouping of different sized paintings together. Or find a small space in a big room for a small jewel. 37. Paintings should be hung over a mantel. No rule says that a painting should be hung. It might look great leaning on the mantel, hung over a mirror, propped on a floor or sitting unexpectedly in its very own chair! 38. Groupings should be framed identically: No again. Groupings work best if there is one thread of consistency either in color, style, medium or frame that weaves the grouping together. The magic is in the mix. 39. An art wall should be symmetrical: Not always. We think some of the most interesting art walls have an organic feel, like they’ve been added to and collected over time. Just keep one thing consistent, like the spacing between the paintings. 40. Keep your décor similar. No! What looks better than an abstract painting you love mixed with your traditional furnishings? Or traditional art in a contemporary room? A great mix always gives the room energy. 41. Marry the art with the theme of the room: Don’t do it! Avoid the clichés of putting like subjects in like rooms, and embrace the unexpected, like an 18th century landscape in the kitchen or a gorgeous nude in the living room. 42. A contemporary painting needs a contemporary frame: Not necessarily! We love to marry a cool abstract with an ornate gold frame and often put our traditional paintings in contemporary “floater” frames, just as we love to mix framed and unframed pieces together.
The Art of Hanging Art
Tips #43 – 61
43. Anchor your art: art needs to be anchored, either by a piece of furniture, a picture rail or other art 44. Don’t go it alone: avoid hanging one piece alone unless it is something “important” or oversized which deserves to hang alone, with enough blank wall space around it to let it shine. 45. The eyes have it: always hang at eye level and avoid hanging too high (we’ve found that to be our clients’ most common mistake). When hanging over a couch, dresser or piece of furniture, don’t hang it too high – usually 3 to 6 inches will do. 46. Safety in numbers: hang in groupings if the pieces are small. 47. It’s all relational: hang in relation to something else, extending the lines of the windows, doors or furniture. Don’t let the art float in space. 48. See and be seen: hang according to where you will be viewing it and so you can enjoy it. How you live in the space determines the best placement. Do you want to see the piece as you walk into the room? Or is it something you’d like to view while sitting on the sofa? 49. Think big: for great visual impact, consider a big piece for a small room as long as it doesn’t overwhelm it. 50. Or think small: small pieces in a grouping can add interest to a large room. 51. Group with purpose: don’t hang lots of small paintings here and there in a room. Instead, arrange them in such a way to create the illusion of one big piece. We’re crazy about art walls. 52. Start with a plan: for large groupings of pieces, arrange artwork on floor first. 53. Create an illusion: group 4 small same-size pictures together in a four square to give the illusion of a bigger painting. Or hang large in center and smaller on either size. Group a series of framed miniatures inside one large frame as a great solution to displaying tiny pieces. 54. Take it to the table: small pictures don’t need to be on a wall; consider an easel or bookshelf. 55. Take framing into account when hanging: the width of the frames can dictate the spacing between pieces. A rule of thumb: hang larger pieces over smaller ones, unless the frame of the smaller piece is heavier. 56. Same kind of different: if you have several pieces from the same artist, hang in groupings. Hang work from different artists in a less strict manner to emphasize each piece’s uniqueness. 57. Go for the unexpected: try propping art instead of hanging it. Pay attention to overlooked spaces, too — corners and over doorways and archways are prime decorating spots. 58. Make an impact: for visual impact, group similar artwork together, such as black-and-white photographs. For even more emphasis, use the same style of mat and frame. 59. It doesn’t always have to match: a grouping doesn’t have to be a matching set. It can be hung according to common colors or subject matter. 60. Think spatially: pictures hung in a row horizontally will help to visually widen a space 61. Alternative groupings: Quieter works such as drawings, photographs and souvenir prints often work best in groups. Place them down a long hallway or clustered above a sofa. Together, they should create a rhythm or pattern that has a greater presence than each one would have hanging individually.
The Art of Framing
Tips #62 – 77
Framing is one of the trickiest parts of collecting art. Good framing enhances the art, while bad framing kills it. And, even though we’ve been doing it for years and have worked with some of the best framers around, we still make mistakes. When that happens, we have to bite the bullet and reframe, because nothing is worse that having a great painting ruined by the wrong frame. Our best tip: seek out the best framers and to learn from them as you go! As well as these: Frames: 62. Keep it simple: the painting should be the focus, not the frame. 63. Keep it neutral: avoid frames made of materials or colors that compete with the painting. 64. Break the Rules: don’t be afraid to mix it up. Use a traditional frame with contemporary paintings and vice versa. 65. Think complementary, not matchy-matchy: when grouping paintings together, keep the frames similar. 66. Room to breathe: use a liner to give a painting room to breathe (we like linen liners with more traditional pieces; gold or pewter in other instances) 67. It’s all about the proportion: if you’re using a liner, a good rule of thumb is that the liner should be about one-third the size of the frame. 68. Only the best, please: use the best possible molding you can afford (but keep it appropriate for the cost of the painting) Mats: 69. Mix big and small: make the frame a contrasting size to the mat – big mat, small frame 70. Bigger is (sometimes) better: we like to use large mats that focus you in to the painting 71. Neutral vs. colored mats: we’re putting our flag in the sand and stomping our feet! Mats should be neutral so they can let the art itself be the star. So heed our warning and use dark or colored mats sparingly. 72. Don’t forget the small details: we like to use filets (a thin little piece of framing that fits inside of the mat) to help draw the eye to the art or bevels, which is an angled surface cut on the mat. These small details can pack a punch and help make your art look as important as it is. 73. Don’t forget the small details, part two: we also love double mats for some extra oomph. 74. Don’t forget the small details, part three: if you’re framing a pastel, leave a tiny gap between the painting and the mat so that pastel dust falls behind the mat and not onto it. 75. Avoid glare with glass: When hanging art framed under glass, put a small piece of cork between the upper part of the frame and the wall to reduce glare. 76. Think long term: Framing your artwork adds to the life of your art. Be sure to ask for 100% conservation materials, such as cotton-rag mat board and acid-free backings. 77. Upgrade to non-glare/museum glass: For better pieces behind glass, consider using non-glare glass, which is much more expensive but totally worth it, especially if the painting has a direct light on it. Note: We generally do not use anti-reflective glass on paintings that are under $1,200.