Tips for Collecting Art

When it comes to bringing art into your home, what is the first type of art that pops in your mind? A painted canvas, a print, or maybe a cool ceramic piece? Where do you buy your art? A big box store, a gallery, eBay? When you are shopping for art, are you trying to fill up an empty wall or get something you love? I have to admit, I have brought certain pieces of art into our home just because I was tired of staring at a blank wall! It took me a bit to realize that it is OK to wait until I have found the perfect piece. In this post, I want to share some ways I enjoy gathering art for my home and hopefully it will inspire you to look for different ways to gather art for your own home.

My first tip is to make personal items/mementos into art.

In college, my favorite art history teacher once said, “Art is anything the artist calls art.” I also think this statement applies to what I see as art. I have always been drawn to this statement and it changed the way I see what’s considered art. For me, art can be small or even mundane things, but when you stick it in a frame it can be turned into something extra special. An example of this is a little, framed flower in my bedroom. When I was on a trip, my daughter (who was a toddler at the time) picked a tiny flower and gave it to me. I loved it so much but wasn’t sure where to put it, so I placed it inside my iPhone case (in between the phone and case). I found it a month or so later and it was perfectly pressed. I got a tiny frame and put the pressed flower in it. Many people wouldn’t care about that little dried flower but each time I look at it, I’m reminded of the sweet memory of my daughter giving it to me. Personal pieces can be displayed in your home to remind you of people you love or a memory you shared with someone. Maybe you have a ticket stub from a really great concert you went to or a piece of nature you picked up on a hike. Whatever it may be, try to think of small and simple things you can turn into art. Something that tells YOUR story and brings YOU joy each time you see it.

My next tip is getting your art from artists you know. I am a big believer in supporting friends who are creative. Buy their art, display it, and encourage them along the way of their creative journey. Here is a beautiful weaving from my talented friend, Rachel Denbow. Another example of getting art through someone you know is having a child you know make something. This could be a niece, nephew, your friend’s kiddo, or even your own child. Children have an amazing way of seeing the world and translating it onto canvas or paper. When the Covid lockdown first happened in early 2020, I was home a lot with my kids. One week, we spent their lunch breaks watching art lesson videos on YouTube called Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems. My kids loved gathering around while watching Mo’s art lessons. It was a bright spot in an unknown time. I had a large canvas that I had textured sitting in the garage and after we finished a lesson, my then-first grader asked if he could paint on the blank canvas. I found a few bottles of (almost empty!) acrylic paint in the garage and he began painting. He worked for a couple of hours and came back to it a few times during the week until he said it was done.

The painting is a reminder of our time at home during the lockdown and the art lessons my kids so enjoyed. It didn’t take a lot of planning or materials, but I will always love this precious painting that feels like a time capsule and reminder of 2020.

Next, one of my favorite ways to collect art is finding secondhand original paintings. In college, I took multiple painting classes and tried my hardest to be somewhat decent, but I can admit that I am a horrible painter! I think this is why I am drawn to paintings so much.

Their beauty can be from the colors and composition but also the complexity of painting itself. My favorite places to find original paintings are antique malls and thrift stores. They usually have an abundance of paintings. My only personal criteria when it comes to paint shopping is to have a love at first sight feeling! If it is going to hang in your home, then you’ve gotta love it! eBay, EBTH, Etsy, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace are other excellent resources for finding paintings. I love putting original paintings in my kiddo’s rooms as well, that way they can appreciate them too!

Once when my husband and I were house hunting, we saw a house online and he wanted to look at it, but I wasn’t that interested in it. When I looked at the listing a bit closer, I noticed it had wonderful art and paintings in the listing pictures. We looked at the home with our realtor, but my secret reason was just to view the art! The owners, a sweet man and his wife (both 90), lived in the home and collected art throughout their lives together. Their story was amazing and their collection was beautiful. Well …we bought the house and some of their art! I was a little nervous asking about buying the art (I didn’t want to offend them), but was so excited when the realtor said the couple was thrilled that we were interested and it actually helped them downsize. I went to their house and they walked me from room to room telling me about each piece and how they acquired it. It was a special thing that they let me into their lives and sold me some of their prized possessions.

Here is my favorite painting that hangs in our bedroom. I have other ones scattered throughout our home, and I can’t help but smile when I see their paintings and think of that sweet couple.

My next tip is to collect individual items to make a collection of art.

My uncle is an amazing interior designer. He lives a few hours away, but each time I go to his home it’s like stepping into an art museum. Paintings cover all of his walls and are stacked one on top of the other and he has the most beautiful collections of items and trinkets that he has collected over the years. Each side table and coffee table in his home is adorned with something collected and special to him. He always has a story behind each piece, and I love listening when he tells me about them. He loves paperweights and has a great collection of the beautiful glass spheres. When I was small, I was mesmerized by the complexity and beauty of his paperweights. Just last year, I started collecting paperweights (thanks to him).

They are tiny crystal globes with intricate designs inside. There are detailed ones that are quite complicated to make and the process is truly incredible! Here is a little video on how a certain kind is made and here is a paperweight artist whose work I cannot comprehend! He is incredible! The level of creativity and time that goes into making these little glass pieces is nothing short of amazing.

If you study the history and different makers of paperweights, then you’ll find out quickly that they can be very expensive. I don’t have expensive or rare ones, but maybe one day I will stumble upon one at a thrift store or antique shop. I always keep my eyes peeled for them! For now, I enjoy growing my collection by perusing eBay and EBTH.

Another collection I have is this set of white pottery. I wanted to keep this china hutch filled with simple, yet beautiful pieces. I decided that all white pottery was the way to go. Making collections like this has been fun for me because it keeps my eyes open and I’m always on the lookout to add a piece to the collection. All pieces (except one) are from Goodwill or garage sales.

It is so much fun hunting for art for your home. I hope you enjoyed reading about my personal favorite tips and happy art hunting! -Janae

Credits // Author and Photography: Janae Hardy. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
    • Target did a collaboration with Dwell awhile back and the candle holders are from that line! 🙂 -Janae

  • I love this! As an artist and art teacher, I especially appreciate the sentiment “art is anything the artist calls art”. Your examples are so personal and varied. So much advice usually leads to links and purchases and consumerism, but really art is about what makes your heart sing.

    • Thanks for the sweet words, Sarah! I love how you said art is about what makes your heart sing! 💓 So true!!

  • For me, art is a picture, painting or piece that I immediately fall in love with. You want to display the things you love!

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