Building an Art Collection, Explained

Building an art collection is more than just buying art, although there is nothing wrong with that! When a collector assembles artworks that inform each other, the collection says something more than each piece in isolation. In that way, building an art collection is a creative endeavor all its own.

Art is an adventure into an unknown world, only accessible to those who are willing to take risks.

Mark Rothko

But how to get started? First, look at a lot of art and discover what you really love. Get out, or get online, look at loads of art and take note of what work moves you the most. Museums, gallery shows, open studio events and art fairs are great places to look if that’s available to you. If not, there are myriads of wonderful websites for art collectors to browse online.

Are you fascinated by photography? Crazy for collage? Drawn to drawings? Take note of the subject matter that captures your attention. Do you just love landscapes? Or is still life painting your thing? Do you lean toward the figure or are you intrigued by portraiture? What about abstraction? Is there specific style or idea that you find you are always coming back to?

For example, say you find yourself gravitating toward abstraction. That’s great! But that’s still a broad category. Maybe you would like to collect artists from a particular region? Do you keep coming back to paintings that share a particular style, technique. subject matter, or idea? For example, I find that I am drawn toward contemporary abstract paintings that use a layering technique. In this case, I used Artwork Archive’s discovery platform to look for paintings, but you can really browse any large, online gallery site.

Linda Fischer, Outskirts of the City

Linda Fischer’s painting Outskirts of the City (shown above) incorporates geometrical elements, mark-making, and masking techniques to achieve an expressive, but still nicely balanced composition. Fischer says of her work, “Many layers reveal fragments. I add and remove paint creating a history meant to be explored, and felt thru the use of scale and texture.  The layers like life itself, need history to tell the story.” This piece in particular, she says tells a story about the lockdowns and the events of the last year, and the “let me out, let me out” that many of us can relate to.

J. Kent Martin, Fervor

J. Kent Martin says his work reflects an unpredictable process that parallels the human condition, noting “how we view life…changes as we grow as people…like life, the image I create, the meaning and what the piece represents is realized through the process.” In his painting, Fervor, shown above, you can see evidence of paint being added and removed, in a process of building up layers over time to create a fully resolved composition with a sense of depth.

Rand Kramer is similarly focused on process and letting the final artwork reveal itself over time. He says that his goals is to craft a story with “subtle details, richness of texture and soft imagery” that inspires feelings of “calmness, beauty, ambiguity and playfulness.” He achieves in this richly layered work called Vestige, shown below.

Rand Kramer, Vestige

Gretchen Warsen shares that a sense of playfulness. An intuitive, responsive process defines her practice, using “gestural marks, wet-on-wet painting, playing with transparent and opaque paint, wiping out and painting over the ghosts of marks left behind.” Warsen also notes that line plays a important part of her evolving composition which often juxtaposes “organic shapes and textures with architectural or mechanical elements. ” An example of Warsen’s work, New Year, New Me, is shown below.

Gretchen Warsen, New Year, New Me

So there you have it! Each piece has something unique to say about the notion of layering in painting. By placing each of the images in juxtaposition, the sum becomes more its parts. Of course, this is only one route an amazing art collection that reflects the personal interests and taste of the collector, and there are as many themes that could guide a collection as there are collectors themselves.

Want to learn more about artists featured in this post?

Linda Fischer

J. Kent Martin

Rand Kramer

Gretchen Warsen

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