When you sit down with a group of figurative artists, the conversation invariably turns to questions like, “Where are the collectors of figurative art?”
Often the answer is, “Right here!”
In researching statistics and stories for this article, I was tickled to find out how many artists are also collectors of art, figurative and otherwise. However, artist Maria Bennett Hock, who collects experiences by collecting art, didn’t even think of herself as a collector until she started answering my questions.
This reluctance to call themselves collectors was repeated by other artists as well, even though the artists surveyed had collections ranging in sizes from 10 to 200 pieces, with most having between 20-30 pieces.
How did these collections get started?
Debra Keirce and I both kicked off our collections with lucky purchases from the Portrait Society 6 x 9 Mystery Art Sale. As a still-life miniaturist, Deb scored rare still-life works by Paul Keysar and Jacqui Grantford. I landed an Adrian Gottlieb at my very first conference and have been hooked on the 6 x 9 Mystery Art Sale ever since, padding my collection with works by Karen Offutt, Robert Liberace and Lea Colie Wight.
Ann Kraft Walker, whose own 6 x 9 painting was hotly fought after by Deb Keirce and a friend a few years ago, began her collection with a demo painting she purchased at a workshop. She has since filled in her collection with demos by Jeff Hein and Casey Childs, just to name a few.
Deb Keirce has picked up demos from workshops she has hosted at her studio, and she had her eye on Stephanie Deshpande’s work for a few years before she purchased Stephanie’s pop-up demo painting of fellow artist Chuck Morris at the Portrait Society conference last year.
Stephanie Deshpande, Portrait of Chuck Morris
Maria Bennett Hock actually scored her own custom 6 x 9 when she lamented to Tina Garrett that she didn’t get a painting at the auction. Tina offered to paint her a 6 x 9 for the same price, and Maria didn’t waste time taking her up on it!
Tina Garrett, 6 x 9 Portrait
Several artists surveyed began their collections with prints. Susan Bostrom-Wong, whose collection is mostly by artists she personally knows, began with a Mayumi Oda print inspired by Classical Japanese Mythology. Jan Nelson’s first print, a gift from his parents, was a Roy Lichtenstein serigraph for the 1967 Aspen Jazz Festival.
More than a few artists used the words “fell in love” and “couldn’t live without it” when they took the plunge to acquire their first piece of art. Artist Nancy Bea Miller, who writes the Women in the Act of Painting blog, used the words “personal chemistry,” “emotional pull” and “intellectual engagement.” Steven Daluz, with a collection of more than 200 drawings, warns of its addictiveness. A painter himself, he says he “considers drawings to be the raw reflection of the artist’s hand… everything is laid bare in that medium.”
Amy Lloyd remembers her first life-changing plunge to purchase a small painting by Susan Hall at the Around the Coyote Art Fair in Chicago.
Susan Hall, Portrait #30
Amy Lloyd and Steven Daluz, two artists who have never met and hail from two different parts of the country, share a common favorite artist. When asked to name their “most prized painting”, they both sent images of paintings by Stanka Kordic.
Stanka Kordic, The Shroud
Nicole Moné and Jan Nelson both have favorite paintings by teachers and mentors as well. Nicole’s is a “spectre-like” portrait of her by mentor, Aaron Shikler. Fittingly, it hangs in her home next to her own painting of Shikler, entitled The Model’s Perspective.
Aaron Shikler, Nicole
Jan Nelson treasures The Cellist by his first art teacher, Warren Wolf.
Warren Wolf, The Cellist
Ann Kraft Walker had trouble narrowing down her favorite, but one of her most prized treasures is Teresa Elliott’s Charoliais Call, citing the cow’s pink nose as the element that tipped the scales to add this piece to her collection.
Teresa Elliott, Charoliais Call
Susan Bostrom-Wong’s Diane Olivier figure drawing on paper is among her most prized works.
Diane Olivier, Figure Study
Another reason artists purchase art is to be inspired by it for their own work. Maria Bennett Hock acquired two paintings from International Portrait Competition Finalist and Portrait Society Face-Off Painter, Anna Rose Bain, stating she “studies the pieces, [looking] at the skin tones, bone structure and how the artist handled softening certain areas of the body and face.”
Anna Rose Bain, Portrait Study
This is also why Maria’s prize painting from her collection is a commissioned portrait of her by Juan Ramirez. She says it will inspire her own self-portraits!
Juan Ramirez, Portrait of Maria
Inspiration, love, obsession, or whatever your reasons for collecting art, as artists, we know that the greatest compliment is to find someone who connects with your work so much that they want to bring it into their home and make it part of their lives.
Look for the second installment where artists talk about the number one roadblock to collecting art: money.