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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Some Thoughts on Buying Art...

Love U by Willie Rodger (linocut)

The words which got away (and some of me pictures which hung around)

I wrote this feature about buying art a few months ago. It was not quite what the editor ordered (it's true what my husband says - I don't listen sometimes...) 

The finished article was quite different and I'll post that and some other bits and pieces at a later date.

Three Alliums by Abigail McLellan (screenprint)


TO the outsider, the art world is like a foreign country. Uncharted, confusing and full of alien looking and sounding people. Worst of all, you worry about appearing ignorant at every turn because you don’t speak the local lingo.
I’ve lost count of the number of times people have said to me: ‘I’m a Philistine, I don’t know anything about art’. Then they proceed to amaze me by their insight into what they see in front of them.
There is something out there in the art stratosphere for everyone if you are prepared to look for it and to trust your own instinct. If you like it, that’s good enough. There could even be a piece of art with your name on it. 
Up until a few years ago, my love of art had been consigned to a past life. I had been passionate about art at school and all through my secondary school years, the art rooms provided a refuge from the outside world. When I drew or painted, I forgot everything. When I looked at paintings or sculpture in a book or in a gallery, I felt that, like reading, it provided another way of understanding the world. 
I never totally gave up on art. I studied history of art at university for a year but managed to find the one tutor in the land who made it dull, so I turned my back on the drawing board. Once I started working as a journalist on national newspapers and magazines, I drifted, though I still loved to root around galleries when on holiday and even went to life drawing classes for a while.
I was OK, but clearly not touched by genius and somewhere along the line, the passion waned. When I met my husband and we bought our first home together, our walls were holding bays for photographs and reproduction prints. We chose them carefully and they were meaningful to us, but they were really just there to fill in the gaps.
About five years ago, I was asked to write a feature for The Herald newspaper on buying art. I threw myself into the research, enjoying every minute of discovery. This was followed up by another major piece of research called ‘50 Scottish artists to invest in’ for the same newspaper.
It was like a crash course in Scottish art. I was soon writing a regular slot on what was happening around the Scottish gallery scene and I quickly began to appreciate that for a small country, Scotland punches above its weight in terms of its artistic talent. 
The first painting that I bought following this Road to Damascus re-conversion was a little landscape painting of Catterline in oil paint and pencil by Anna King at the Glasgow Art Fair in 2007. I fell in love with it instantly. So simple and understated. Just a wee row of trees in muted colour with a deft pencil line on top of the oil paint. 
The gallery owner told me that Anna was an artist to watch – and sure enough, Anna won the inaugural Jolomo Award for landscape painting later that year. 
My painting cost £375 and because Aberdeen-based Heinzel Gallery was part of the Own Art scheme (an interest-free loan scheme now run by Creative Scotland) I paid it up in ten not-so-scary instalments. I can safely say I’ll never part with it. 
Since then, I’ve built up a very modest collection of original paintings and prints (handmade prints as opposed to digital reproductions) by artists such as Sue Biazotti, Jack Frame, Annette Edgar, James Greer, Willie Rodger, Charles Jamieson and Alma Wolfson. We still have a few reproductions, but bit by bit, they’re being edged out.
Once your eye starts tune in, it’s not easy to accept second best. There’s something energising and exciting about owning original art which you love and with which you connect. Each time you walk past it, you see something different. It’s an almost physical thing.
There are layers within which gives it a life of its own. In my humble opinion – and remember it’s only an opinion – reproductions don’t have these layers although superficially, they are nice to look at. 
The high end of contemporary art is another country for most of us, but there are so many places to find affordable art. 
You can find it in a wide variety of situations, from private galleries to art college degree shows, to charity art events, open studios events (where artists throw upon their doors to the public), in restaurants, public art galleries, art institutions’ exhibitions, galleries ‘at home’ and online – to name just a few options.
I’ve noticed a ‘softening’ of the art buying process in recent times and this could be attributed to the fact that people can now view art online, so the initial approach is not so scary. 
Most artists and all galleries have their own websites now and are increasingly using Facebook and other means of social networking as a way to connect with potential buyers. Buying direct can mean you don’t pay so much either. Always keep in mind that artists are open to negotiation.
The internet is a great portal through which you can view art and suss out prices, but seeing work ‘in the flesh is always best. Private galleries too are becoming much more ‘user-friendly’ and most gallery owners are art groupies at heart so will never tire of talking about the artists and their work given half the chance.
Take it from this born again art lover. Once hooked, you’ll never look back – and never tire of the pleasure and the never-ending ways of seeing which appreciating art can bring to your life. 

Fields, Catterline oil on pencil and board, By Anna King (2006)
This is not the painting which I bought, but it's very similar...

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