The Art of Collecting: a journey of expression and discovery

The Art of Collecting: a journey of expression and discovery

As an artist, I strongly believe people shouldn’t collect art based on whether it matches their couch, but rather for their emotional connection to the work and the personal meaning it holds for them. My art practice is guided by this philosophy, but it also influences how I approach collecting art. Building a meaningful art collection is not just about acquiring beautiful pieces that enhance your interior design; it's about curating a collection that resonates deeply with you, evoking a personal connection and stirring something within.  I thought I would pull together a few tips and insights on how to begin building a collection that reflects you!

Start with What Speaks to You

Starting an art collection can feel intimidating, especially if you're new to the art world. I totally understand being hesitant about visiting traditional art galleries! If that’s the case consider exploring alternative venues like art festivals, local art markets, or artist studios. These venues are often much more relaxed and feel like a more approachable environment to discover new art.

Take your time to explore different styles, mediums, and artists. Visit online art platforms and search Instagram using hashtags representing the work you are drawn to.  For example; #landscape, #abstract or #watercolor.  This is a great way to discover emerging artists and connect with their work. Don't be afraid to reach out to artists directly to ask questions – they will love telling you all about their work!

Above all, trust your gut and collect pieces that resonate with you personally. Building an art collection is a journey of self-discovery, so let your passion and curiosity guide you.

Look for Stories Behind the Art

One of the most rewarding aspects of collecting art is learning about the stories behind the pieces. Whether it's the inspiration behind the artwork, the artist's journey, or historical context, these stories add depth and meaning to your collection. Seek out artists who have a compelling narrative or whose work reflects themes that are important to you.

As an abstract artist, I make it a priority to share the story behind each piece with viewers. This photo is an example of the label I display next to my work at shows. Abstract art can often evoke strong reactions from viewers, yet many struggle to articulate why they are drawn to a particular piece - I know I totally do! By sharing my story, I aim to provide viewers with a framework that enhances their understanding and appreciation of the artwork. Even if the viewer's interpretation differs from my own, this narrative adds depth and context to the viewing experience.


Mix and Match Styles

A diverse art collection can be more visually stimulating and reflective of your evolving tastes. Mix and match different styles, from traditional to contemporary, to create a dynamic collection that tells a story about your interests and experiences. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and explore new genres or artists. For example, you could pair a bold, contemporary piece with a classic, traditional artwork to create a visually striking contrast. This juxtaposition not only adds visual interest but also invites viewers to see the artworks in a new light, sparking conversations and deeper contemplation.

Support Emerging Artists

This is not just a shameless plug….  Building a meaningful art collection is not just about acquiring established names; it's also about supporting emerging talent. Explore local art scenes, art schools, and online platforms to discover up-and-coming artists whose work speaks to you. Not only does this support the arts community, but it also allows you to acquire unique pieces that may increase in value over time.

Ok – this part is a shameless plug! There are two opportunities around the corner where  you can view local emerging artists, both of which I am participating in.  The Palette show is a Fall and Spring tradition for the Calgary Community Painters Society for over 30 years.  I will be there along with over 60 other local emerging artists.  It runs April 9th and 10, click here for details.  The Calgary Artists Studio Tour is an amazing way for you to check out over 80 local emerging artists in their studios where they create!  This event is in it’s third year and spans across & outside the city, including Airdrie, Okotoks and Cochrane!  It will run May 3rd to 5th Click here to learn more. 

Originals Aren't Your Only Options

Not all of your art collection needs to consist of original pieces.  Prints provide the chance to own a piece of art that resonates deeply with you, even if you can't afford an original.  This is because prints are typically more affordable than original pieces.  Additionally, prints allow you to enjoy the work of your favorite artist without the high price tag of an original.  

Not all prints are the same though!   Limited editions are signed and numbered prints, adding value and collectability. Open editions are less expensive, more accessible, and a great way to provide variety without the high cost of originals.

Live With & be Enriched by Your Collection

As your collection grows display it proudly in your home or office.  Rotate pieces to keep your space fresh and engaging. The joy of collecting art comes from living with and experiencing the beauty of your collection firsthand.  As outlined in "Your Brain on Art" by Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross, "Living with art enriches our lives by stimulating our senses, sparking our imaginations, and fostering emotional connections. It adds beauty, depth, and meaning to our surroundings, enhancing our well-being and inspiring us daily."

My Collection

A selection of Mary-Jo's personal art collectionIn my own collection, each piece holds a special meaning and tells a story.  My husband and I collect art during our travels, a practice we love because each piece serves as a portal, instantly transporting us back to those unforgettable experiences.

We also have my work and our daughters work displayed.  Personally, I enjoy groupings of art that are eclectic, for example, in these photos from our house you can see there is a variety of prints and originals, as well as a variety of styles.  Each piece holds a special meaning for us, and we love the eclectic mix they create together as a collection. (For links to these artists go to the bottom of this blog.)

Building a Collection That Reflects You!

Your art collection is a reflection of who you are, your passions, and your values. By collecting art that speaks to you personally, you create a collection that is not only visually stunning but also deeply meaningful. Embrace the journey of building your collection, and let it be a reflection of your unique story.  Whether you're just starting or have been collecting for years, remember that the art you choose to surround yourself with should bring you joy and inspiration.  Have fun with it – and don’t worry about matching your damn couch!

Thank you for dropping by my blog!  To stay up to date, have first access to pre-orders/limited editions you can subscribe to receive emails at the very bottom of this page.  

Gratefully yours,

Introspection - 30" x 48" - Mary-Jo Lough (for sale)

Little Monkey Metal Works

National Centre for Civil & Human Rights - matted mural print

Heather Kinahan - my very talented friend!

I didn't even get into the world of three-dimensional art, like sculptures, which I find incredibly intriguing. Sculptures add a tactile and dynamic element to a collection, creating a more immersive and interactive experience. However, diving into this topic would make this post way too long!

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