'A' for Art Decorating

Your Thoughts on Original vs. Mass-Produced Art?

I’ve talked a little about the vintage painting over my fireplace before. I like it, but it’s not my favorite. It doesn’t ‘speak to me’ or remind me of my time in Venice (seeing as I’ve never been). If anything, it reminds me of the painting that hung above my grandparents’ sofa. They had probably bought it in the late 60s or early 70s, and it was mass-produced to look like it was hand-painted. It was a cityscape, of Venice or maybe some vaguely Italian city, and it plugged in so the lights in the buildings’ windows lit up. It was pretty tacky, but also pretty fantastic.

I know that association doesn’t say much for my painting. I went for it because I liked the look well enough though, and I wanted a painting over the fireplace as opposed to a print or a mirror. It was the right size, color, and price, and I liked the way it was framed. I wouldn’t hesitate to sell it if the day comes that I find something else to replace it, but I’m not in a hurry.

Vintage Painting of Venice

I was walking through the art selection in a big store recently and I started thinking about how people approach art for their homes — more specifically, paintings, not prints. I do have some original art that I’ve slowly collected over the years, but paintings are expensive. I’m not saying they aren’t worth it (because artists should value their time and expertise and charge accordingly), but the fact is that they are typically pretty pricey and therefore often out of reach, especially for larger works.

Big box stores make art more affordable, but there is sometimes a snobbish stigma attached and I’m curious about it. Is it that you’re spending your money at a catalog or chain store rather than supporting an independent artist through a direct purchase? Is it that you may have the same art hanging in your home as many other people? Stores and sites like Z Gallerie, Ballard Designs, Art.com, One Kings Lane, Target, Crate & Barrel, Home Decorators Collection, and Pottery Barn all carry paintings printed on canvas that are mass-produced but aim to look like hand-painted originals. Some can be pretty generic, but there are plenty of interesting options out there too. How do you feel about them? Tacky or tasteful, or does it vary case by case?

It’s easy to advise people to eschew faux-original paintings and only buy the real thing (whether vintage or new), but that’s often easier said than done. So if you’re not a fan of mass-produced art, what do you choose? Will you save up until you can afford a one-of-a-kind (directly from the artist, through a gallery, or through sites like Etsy, Chairish, or Serena & Lily)? Paint something yourself? Search for a well-priced find at the flea market or a student art show? Maybe you tend to choose something else (like a mirror), go without entirely, or you make a distinction between canvas prints offered by independent artists vs. those from big box stores? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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70 Comments

  • Reply
    Monique
    February 9, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    I’m all about the mix. I’ve picked up a few art pieces from C&B and I really like them. I’ve even thrown in a few from Home Goods. I try to balance those out by one-of-a-kinds from Etsy. I’m looking at purchasing from Minted, too.

  • Reply
    cathyv
    February 9, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    We have a mix. Mostly original oils but some prints, some photographs and some personal photos. I would rather see mass produced art being used over no art, but think I prefer originals.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    February 9, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    I like this post, Nicole. This is something I think about a lot too, especially since I went to art school and a lot of my friends are trying to make a living through art – some as fine artists working in NY and some just selling online or through their own networks. A friend of a friends recently got one of her painting mass produced and sold by Land of Nod and it was very exciting for her, so it’s not like it doesn’t benefit the artists to be carried by retailers. I find it’s very easy for me to get caught up in the snobbery of the mass-produced-is-crap attitude, but I try to keep in mind that not everyone went to art school or has design prowess or the time to scour for art, so retailers like West Elm can offer some really good options that far exceed the quality of the stuff carried by most other chains. Personally, I try not to get caught up in rules other than “I love it.” If I love it, then it doesn’t really matter where it comes from. I have student art, more professional art, my own art, and a few mass produced items have snuck in recently since I bought a bigger house with a lot of wall space. A particular issue that most of us regular-joe-income folks will have is finding large works of art, so places like Ikea and Etsy can be great resources. My one piece of advice is not to jump on the art made by retailers right away – search Etsy and other print retailers to see if you can find something better by independant artists. This is also how you can find out if you’re jumping on a trend you’ll regret in 6 months. So, wait, see what everyone is carrying, figure out what appeals to you and shop around a bit before you purchase. Lastly, I do think that Crate and Barrel and others are charging a bit too much for those mass produced prints…I mean, you can get a beautiful original on Saatchi for the same $400 you would pay for a big picture at Crate.

  • Reply
    Emily
    February 9, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    We have a lot of vintage artwork as well as original or small-lot reproductions. I’m a big fan of vintage advertisements because they can be really large and colorful. We have a trio along a very large wall in our bedroom that feature three different towns in the Alps (1920s and 1930s travel advertisements). They’re a decent investment because if you treat them well, they will likely appreciate in value. Our original artwork has been purchased in small galleries or sometimes directly from the artist. None of this is cheap so we also have a fair number of framed vacation photographs. We are not great photographers but a large photo in a wide mat with an Ikea frame fills a wall with something personal that doesn’t break the bank. Shifting from a tiny apartment to a single family home I found that I didn’t really have art on the appropriate scale and not every wall can be a gallery wall (wouldn’t that be overwhelming?). So, we have collected over years and some walls are still blank. To wit, there’s a large wall in my dining room that someday will have the perfect artwork. Someday.

    • Reply
      Emily
      February 9, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      Speaking of that large wall in the dining room, I’d love a recommendation for where to purchase large-scale art. The piece that’s required for the wall should be at least 60×60 and could be as large as 72″wide x 60″ high. Most of what you find produced at that scale is mass produced and not that lovely to look at. Keep in mind that this will be the first thing people see when they enter our home. It’s gotta be something we love.

  • Reply
    kat mannix
    February 9, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I love good art, so prints are fine with me- I’ve been wanting some of Jon Klassen’s prints. We have original japanese woodblock prints, and also original paintings by family in watercolor, and acrylic. She is prolific and has hundreds just sitting in her studio and bathtub. So we will get more, eventually. I like to get signed and if possible, numbered prints- we collect some original New Hampshire artists- numbered woodblocks by Matt Brown (ooloo press) and etchings by J. Ann Eldridge. Also have prints from The Black Apple, and Catherine Campbell. Would love some original oils by a couple artists we love, but can’t afford the thousands of dollars they go for. The biggest piece of art is the Storm Over The Marsh giclee wrapped canvas by James McLaughlin Way for Ballard designs. Makes a huge impact and it was a price point we could never have afforded for an original, so we are thrilled and love it. So to wrap up– if you love it and it speaks to you, get what you can afford.

    • Reply
      Corah
      February 10, 2015 at 1:27 am

      I got a Matt Brown woodblock print from the Craftsmans fair this summer! Eyed it for a good 5 years before buying, but totally worth it! Storm over Mt. Moosilauke.

  • Reply
    Cora Potter
    February 9, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    While I’m still not able to afford any original art (other than what my artist friends like to give me – which are usually damaged items or ones they just didn’t want to put in a gallery because they weren’t up to snuff) I have kind of graduated to getting vintage lithographs or limited edition prints that come directly from artists. Also, small art – specifically produced to be affordable like Art Card Original Edition (search ACEO on etsy) is very reasonable and can make an impact if you display them as a collection. So, there is a bit of a happy medium between mass-produced and full size originals.

    Right now, I’ve got an enormous Bjorn Wiinblad lithograph in my living room that I found at a thrift shop for $50. I’ve beefed up its relevance with a couple of limited edition Bjorn Wiinblad prints.

  • Reply
    Nicola
    February 9, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I think this is why gallery walls are so popular. You can put in a mix of original art, prints, and personal photos without the investment of a 4 or 5 digit large painting.

  • Reply
    Laura @ Rather Square
    February 9, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Good idea for a discussion! My perspective is a little different: as an artist (a painter, actually) myself, I have a hard time buying other people’s art for my house because I feel like I should just make something myself. And I’ve got many (of my own) paintings and drawings stored in my basement (!) that I could take out and try to use around our home. I was taught in art school that art is original, unique, and therefore should have a lot of (monetary) value. But that “value” is so ambiguous, and I’ve always had a hard time pricing and selling my pieces.

    In the last several years, my thinking on art has changed – I see it now as a “value in the eye of the beholder” thing. If a painting really speaks to someone and it fills an emotional or aesthetic need for them, then it’s valuable to them, and they will pay what it’s worth to them. But that same painting might not interest or connect with someone else, so it has no value to them. Finally, the art market and/or current trends can often influence the public’s view of an artwork’s value. Whose “value” is right?

    In a different vein, I bought several affordable prints for my daughter’s nursery when she was born from an artist on Etsy. I suppose I could have DIY’d something similar, but it was worth it to me to pay for someone else’s originality, time, talent, and execution (I did not have the time or energy to make paintings when I was pregnant!). I also could have found something mass-produced at Target or Ikea, but I still wanted something unique for my daughter. So choosing prints from another artist was a good value to me at the time because it fit my decor needs and budget.

    In the end, it’s all subjective!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    February 9, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    I am totally going through this right now. Of course I would love a houseful of original art, but my art budget will never allow for that. I have a mix. I have also bought canvas and painted some of my own abstracts. I would love to support some local artists and hopefully someday I will, but for now CB2, my own works, home goods, and TJ maxx will have to do.

  • Reply
    Jackie
    February 9, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    This may sound crazy, but I ADORE the art above your fireplace – every time you include a photo with the art in it, I think to myself “I wish that were mass produced so that I could buy it!” If/when you find the perfect piece and wish to sell, e-mail me!

  • Reply
    guildencrantz
    February 9, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I’m in pretty much the same camp as the previous commenters with having a mix of artwork. The art and placement of it in my apartment continually changes. Most comes from thrift stores or has been given to me by friends or is a common item (like a bag from my favorite bookstore that closed) that I’ve turned into art. I’m not opposed to mass produced art, but I don’t have a lot of it just because I prefer lots of little items that have significance or a story.

    What about several small items that mean something to you instead of one large? Perhaps you could frame postcards you’ve collected or something similar. I have to say, though, I adore that painting of yours; but, if it doesn’t speak to you, then it doesn’t speak to you. That’s what is important, in my opinion.

    :) Jennifer

  • Reply
    Corrin
    February 9, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I’ve slowly transitioned much of my hanging art to originals thanks to Etsy. I’m in love with Gretchen Kelly and her sketches are within my budget while feeling special. I find that I take the time to really look at and appreciate original art more, as well, which makes me love my surroundings even more.

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    February 9, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    We have a mixture of original paintings, etchings and drawings, high-end prints, posters and letterpress art, and some posters, all collected over more than 20 years. I think Etsy offers the most affordable original works and great prints these days. Local art and craft shows are also great sources for original art at often good prices. But in the end, I think you should buy what you love, whether it’s mass-produced or one of a kind. One of the craziest things I ever bought is a vintage etching of a drunk clown with a cat on his head, holding a trumpet in one hand and a bottle in the other. It cost very little and makes me laugh every time I look at it.

  • Reply
    Laurie
    February 9, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    I think it is important to stick with art that speaks to you. Whether it is the source of the subject matter or the memories around the art itself. If it evokes something in you that you want to live with, then you should.

    That being said, of course it is more fun to have something special and exclusive and supporting the artist themselves. That isn’t always possible. I do enjoy seeking out artists at festivals and shows. I found an artist at a seafood and wine festival and I had such a strong, positive reaction to one of his pieces, I picked it up. I loved that I got to talk to the artist in person too. The next year, I sought him out again, this time I had a little more money and could buy one of his original pieces.

    I’m sure an “art critic” would not agree with me what is “good” but I’m the one living with it and I think honoring that is more authentic than trying to please someone else with the art in your home.

    I love your painting above the fireplace. I think it’s wonderful to have something that brings your grandparents into your home in a little way.

  • Reply
    Emily
    February 9, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Love this post! I have the same conflicting feelings…though not with mass-produced photographs. Also…I am grateful for etsy and eBay where I can find great original art at prices I can afford if I’m willing to do a little digging!

  • Reply
    Ilse
    February 9, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I don’t think mass produced artwork is ‘tacky’ or bad or anything. If people like to have it in their home I think they totally should.

    But I don’t want it. I only want to have original art in my home because that feels more meaningfull to me. Like I am building a collection instead of just filling my walls. I don’t have a huge budget either so most of the paintings I own are rather small. I have one big painting gifted to me by my father; it used to hang in his home, his mothers home and her fathers home. But until I can afford more big pieces, I rather keep my walls bare than fill them with something that is just pretty but has no real value.

  • Reply
    Lauren @ Faith and Macaroni
    February 9, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    I agree with most other commenters- if it speaks to you, go for it. I have a huge canvas I got at World Market for $50. I loved it for over a year, so I pounced when it went on sale. It hangs next to a wedding picture, an Etsy print, and a large piece of wrapping paper. There are a mix of things in my house. I hope as I have more disposable income, I’ll focus on more original and unique art. I don’t want to fill my home with junky stuff I don’t love, but bare walls aren’t that appealing to me. Interesting post!

  • Reply
    Brittany
    February 9, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    My rule of thumb is to buy what I love, what speaks to me, and what inspires/makes me smile. I buy a lot of my art on Etsy or from small studios, as I like supporting the artists/designers directly rather than maybe a mass chain, but if I saw something that spoke to me on some level I would always consider it, no matter the source.

  • Reply
    Amanda
    February 9, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    I’m happy most people like having a mix of art. I have very little art, but the large pieces are from thrift/second hand/antique malls. I’m happy to take my time searching for art I love and will want to have in my home for a long time, and this also means I don’t have to spend a lot of money (my most expensive piece is $85 2.5′ x 3.5′ abstract – a lot of $ when I was furnishing my place but I really love it). I also have a collection of framed postcards featuring the work of Herb Ritts – not only are they beautiful pictures but it reminds me of the Museum where I bought them. What I don’t like is when people only buy art for the appreciated value. Because I’m sure that’s not why it was made.

    I think people should buy/make whatever art makes them happy. That said, I find a lot of massed produced art (like, the cheaper stuff) really tacky, especially anything that says ‘live laugh love’. I feel a lot of massed produced art is merely there to fill blank walls, but if they love it then hey, I’m happy for them. It’s your walls to fill. Lots of people are weirded out by my thrift store couples portrait from 1972. Won’t stop me from loving it. (No I don’t know who they are – everyone asks me that).

  • Reply
    Penne
    February 9, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    I buy art that I like and will look nice in my home. It is usually mass produced, but always used and at least 35 years old. I paint or stain the frames or reframe with one from my stash. I don’t like contributing to all the stuff that is out there. I wonder though if in 2050 I’ll be buying art mass-produced in 2015. I appreciate original artists, but I’m just not able to afford that right now.

  • Reply
    Lora
    February 9, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    We have two kinds of art in our home (for the most part): original oil paintings done by my extremely talented stepfather and artist proofs. Are you familiar with APs? My husband loves Charles Wysocki and while we would love to own an original that is obviously not in the cards. But, we can afford an artist proof. They are all numbered and signed by Wysocki and they are the next best thing to an original for us.

  • Reply
    Joanna
    February 9, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    I buy what I love. I’ve spent $1,000 on an original painting and I’ve spent $5.00 on a thrift store painting. I bought them both because there was something about them that I loved. I’m happy to hang them side by side.

  • Reply
    Anna
    February 9, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    Thanks for a thoughtful post that has inspired a really great conversation.
    We own a lot of original art, but it’s been a deliberate process that has spanned the last sixteen years. We have a couple of large canvases painted by my step-mother-in-law, a talented painter of abstract art, and a couple of paintings by my husband. But, most of our art has been collected over time from art markets and directly from artists that we have connected with through galleries or friends. Some of it is on the expensive side, but we’ve never paid more than $1800 for a piece and that was a really substantial work on paper by a fantastic artist that my husband has been admiring for the better part of two decades (and a gift for his 40th birthday). One of my favorite pieces is a painting of three houses on a piece pf scrap wood that we bought from the artist on the street in New Orleans. This piece was probably $60 or $70. We like to buy art from artists because we are directly supporting an important component of the American economy – the creatives that enrich our lives and inspire us to put anything on our walls, whether it’s made by the artist themselves or reproduced by Home Goods. I really don’t have a problem with art that is mass produced, but I do think that you run the risk of purchasing something that has been inspired by, but not licensed from, a working artist. This happened to an artist that I love, Lisa Congdon, last year, and I think it happens more than we think with art from Cost Plus and TJ Maxx.

  • Reply
    Mara
    February 9, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    My ideas about original art have shifted drastically over the last year. I graduated from a very fancy art schoo, almost every single wall in my house is a gallery wall covered in original paintings or short run prints primarily made by students I went to school with. I was 100% a snobby original art person but over the past year I discovered art licensing. Big box companies have a huge demand for art and the only people making it for them are artists. Now when I go into any box store, even Ikea, I look at the art completely differently. A real true artist created the art you’re seeing and I can guarantee you that that artist is THRILLED to have their work offered at these retailers. Anyway, it’s a different way to look at it.

  • Reply
    Molly
    February 9, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    My rule for art in my home is that I have to love looking at it. I also love having a story that goes with the pieces in my home–most things I’ve purchased while traveling. The hunt is so much fun and it’s so nice to be surrounded by reminders of past adventures.

  • Reply
    Celeste
    February 9, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    It took me some time to start buying art because I was stuck on the notion that anything mass produced was tacky, but I also couldn’t afford to buy original art.

    Thank goodness for sites like Etsy, where artists breaking into their careers can sell art directly and affordably to people like me! I’ve built up a collection that way, as well as through traveling and swapping artistic friends for work. I even started a mail art exchange one year as a way to challenge myself to make art and to get pieces of original art of my own!

    As far as I’m concerned, I’m not filling a museum, I’m filling my home with things that make me happy. I’ve not bought anything mass produced for big box stores since college, but I have framed post cards from time to time. (And boy, do they make me grin!)

    One day, however, I hope to buy a painting from an artist I have been admiring for some time… I just have to save up and commit!

  • Reply
    AK
    February 9, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    I’ve blurred the line by decorating with museum posters of beautiful art that is framed or nicely mounted. It isn’t trying to be original, but it is also kind of cool because of the museum collection. I have one from my Mother in Law that is a poster of a Matisse painting from a USA/USSR joint exhibit. I love the image and the fact that one of the countries sponsoring the exhibit doesn’t exist anymore.

  • Reply
    FrancesVettergreenVisualArtist
    February 9, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    I’m an artist, so my home is filled (!) with original art, by me and by other artists — luckily I can trade, but I also make a point of saving up some cash to buy pieces I love occasionally.

    I’m not fond of mass produced canvases done up to look like they’ve been handpainted. Some of the images are aesthetically pleasing, yes, but it’s a cheat. An honest reproduction, on the other hand — a poster with the name of the artist at the bottom, say, or a vintage ad — those can be lovely. It’s not the original, but it’s authentic in that it is not trying to be something it simply isn’t..

    I don’t even mind the framed images at Ikea — I wish they’d credit the artist more often, but at least they are not fake paintings. And some of them are very good.

  • Reply
    Silvia
    February 10, 2015 at 12:32 am

    What a great article. I love to go to museums and admire beautiful paintings, but I not only cannot afford an original, I don’t believe I’d spend the money on one even if had plenty. Most of the art in my home I made and it means something to us. Otherwise, I purchase something i really love from local artists.

  • Reply
    Corah
    February 10, 2015 at 1:19 am

    We have mostly framed up photographs (8x10s) that we have taken where ever we go. I’ve also framed up old maps, including an old platt map that shows our town and street in the late 1800s. Art fairs are a great place to get inexpensive art as well. I think the most expensive thing I’ve got on my walls is a woodblock print that I eyed for a good 5 years before finally buying it. Most of my stuff the framing cost more than the art!

    In the end, I think it’s important that your art mean something to you. Why have stuff in your house that you don’t love?

  • Reply
    Sarah Nightingale
    February 10, 2015 at 8:23 am

    I love this discussion! Thank you for posting. Reading in the comments has been fantastic. There are many points I agree with! I am an oil painter myself and love having originals around my home. Most originals I hang are not my own however, but they are pieces from artists I have loved for years. I either save up for their work ($$$$,) trade, or wait for a smaller piece to go on sale. A large frame can make a small piece shine. I personally love originals though because I know that behind every painting is not just the story being told in the painting, but it is a harmony of stories that cannot be removed from the piece: the stories are what the artist wants to say, what the painting says to you, and a history of the artist’s life. I don’t think there is an artist who creates without a piece of themselves being lost on the canvas. Regardless of how ridiculously(!) cliche that is. Beautiful art does not just happen. Things have to be experienced, and often the artist’s best work comes after the refiner’s fire. When I sell an original, it really means something special to me. No matter what the piece may be of, it brings me to tears knowing that things I value deeply, my time, my talents, my choices, my beliefs that I try to express in my work are valued too. This also brings up an interesting thought for me. Recently I quoted a client on a product for much less than my standard rate. I really wanted her to have it, but I personally couldn’t afford the loss of just giving it away. I work full time as a painter, and we rely partially on the income I make. In the first conversation with this client when I quoted her, she expressed that “it was my time, and I should charge what I think is best,” and asked if I “could I rethink the price?” She didn’t know I was quoting her way below what I normally would, and I assumed she wanted an even lower price. When I left the meeting with her, I wrangled with the idea for a couple hours and cried. I wanted to share my work with her so much because it meant a lot to me and I knew it would mean just as much, if not more, to her. (That’s where the joy in art making come from, when others can have something mean just as much to them too.) After counseling with my husband and mom, my business advice go-to’s, I decided to lower the price a bit just once more. I would take a profitable loss, but by this point the product’s “value” meant more to me than just the monetary gain. I love art so much that it is difficult to not want to help others enjoy it too. When I met with the client again, before I could get a word in she said, “I wanted to talk to you about the price, would $X be ok instead?” She quoted me a higher rate than my first quote to her! The misunderstanding was that while she was asking me to rethink the price, and me assuming she wanted a lower price, she was asking for a higher price knowing the “value” I place in my time and work. I am still thinking over this situation and learning so much from it, mostly learning about myself and my work and feeling so grateful to this client for the perfect lesson that I needed. I am still and always will be learning what it means to be an artist, and I think this is part of it. My take away is to not forget what is behind a piece of art. Whether it’s your story you see in the work, or the artist’s. I don’t think any walls should be bare, and I think work that means something to you should always be what hangs in your home, original or not. I also think that you should know what’s affordable for you and do your best, but always let the source you buy art from be from the artist or representative, as they’re the ones who are really giving you the value for your dollar.

    Whew. I didn’t mean to write so much. :)

  • Reply
    Nicole
    February 10, 2015 at 8:34 am

    I have a BFA (majored in printmaking) so I would easily say I come from a biased perspective! I’ve never really had a blank wall problem (I actually have too much art for the wall space I have – it’s really hard to resell original art I find!), but I also prefer a gallery wall to one larger piece (easier to rotate pieces!).

    Yes, I am an art snob. But it is so easy to get affordable art these days! Go to a local art school’s year end show, go to an outdoor art walk or studio tour, heck go to Etsy! There are so many affordably priced options. And why does it need to be a canvas to be considered worthy? I have a stunning 2′ x 3′ framed print in our bedroom (by print I mean original numbered print, not a mass-produced print of a painting). If price is an issue, it does not need to be a ooak canvas!

    I’d rather (and do!) hang old maps or book pages – something that speaks to me or evokes a memory, rather than something I can buy while buying my linens. Really though, I don’t care where or what is bought – just don’t buy it because it matches your furniture and fills the space!

  • Reply
    jenn aka the picky girl
    February 10, 2015 at 9:07 am

    I’m really lucky in that I live in a college town with an art department. Each year, as a fundraiser for scholarships, they do a silent auction and gala. The amazing thing is that you can go bid the week leading up to the gala, so you don’t have to shell out for the pricey tickets (though one of these days I hope to). So I bid every year unless I don’t see anything I like. There is always a lot of art and a lot of different mediums. I’ve scored several pieces I love that way.

    Then, my great aunt was a painter – pretty prolific. I’ll spot her pieces in vintage shops around here from time to time, and I have several on my walls. They mean a lot to me.

    But in general, it’s the originality I seek. I love cultivating pieces as opposed to just buying them up, lock, stock and barrel.

    Also, if you ever decide to sell that painting, holler at me. I love it.

  • Reply
    Kelley
    February 10, 2015 at 9:27 am

    I say a little bit of all of it. Whatever strikes your fancy!

  • Reply
    Ashlea Walter
    February 10, 2015 at 9:47 am

    It’s absolutely worth it on so many levels to buy original art and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Yes, it can be, but there are so many options out there for original art that is accessible to most of us. I suppose it depends on priorities. Some people would rather spend money on a lot of cheap Ikea or Target furniture instead of one really nice piece that will last a long, long time. Some people like to buy easy, cheap processed food over real food that takes time to prepare. The same goes for art or items to put on walls. It takes more effort and (sometimes!) more money to find a piece you love, but it is SO WORTH IT to support the artist, art-making and to honor yourself with something you truly love.

  • Reply
    Laura
    February 10, 2015 at 10:07 am

    I remember a post critical of the wall hanging from Target because it wasn’t bought from an artisan. I felt it to be a snobbish comment, in that we all want to decorate our homes but we can’t always afford artisan prices. Having affordable wall objects allows us to change, upgrade if you will. Home decorating, as you well show, is not static, and it should be fun. One’s home is not an art gallery or boutique store.

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    Sarah
    February 10, 2015 at 10:21 am

    While some of my most prized possessions are my original Cbjork paitings and drawings by my artist cousin, I do have a couple mass-produced pieces I like. I think as long as it’s something that speaks to you, where you got it doesn’t matter. If you’re picking it up just to fill a blank spot and its some tacky metal wall mounted collage piece, I hate that.

    We tend to stick to prints of independent artists if we can’t afford originals. My husband got some amazing original prints from Etsy based on Megaman for his office and we love them! I also love picking up originals from thrift stores and stuff too. I’m a fan of nature and landscapes, so our house is littered with oil paitings from antique stores and photos and such.

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    Kristen
    February 10, 2015 at 10:22 am

    These days I have put away most of my mass produced art, not on philosophical grounds, but just because that’s how I feel. I have a lot of art I’ve made myself, some that artist friends have gifted me, I have framed some of the kid’s pieces, I order from etsy.com (love the black apple!), and my husband went on a painting-buying spree in a coffee shop. Also, I love ordering art prints from etsy.com, and we have some great prints we bought at a book fair years ago. I also have some vintage mass produced art that is fun and whimsical. I did buy a bunch of art from Ikea and Target for the kid’s bed and bathrooms. I have to say I still like the piece from Ikea (it’s sufficiently odd), but I’ve grown tired of print from Target. My 2 cents!

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    Nicole
    February 10, 2015 at 10:31 am

    I am really committed to only hanging things up in our house that are special to us, which means original art or vintage prints or family photos. I just don’t see the point of mass-produced, poster-type art. It all started sort of accidentally when we had about 1000 dollars left to spend of our wedding gift money after buying all the pots and pans and towels and dishes we could possibly need. I suggested to my husband that we find a nice picture for our bare living room walls. We found a painting that we both liked in a gallery near our house and it matched our sofa (if I am going to be honest, this was probably the deciding factor…) so we snapped it up. The next year for our anniversary neither of us knew what to do for a present and since we had really enjoyed the painting, I suggested that we look to see if we could find another painting. It would be a joint present so it took the pressure off of both us and it is the type of thing that you hang up and keep forever, to enjoy every day so the perfect anniversary present. We’ve kept up the tradition and give ourselves a 2 or 3 month window to find something that we like to mark the year. Sometimes we buy a relatively inexpensive thing while on vacation as a sort of souvenir, a few times we have really splurged an a large painting for a specific place in the house and call it our anniversary + birthday+ Christmas present. Now that we have a sort of collection going, it is easier to pull the trigger when we see something special and so we have also bought a few things from artist friends. We even decided to have a sculpture made of our daughter when she was 2 by a friend who was starting out in this area of work and it is one of the most special things that I own. I think that once you start buying and hanging special art work (not necessarily expensive but definitely an investment in terms of the time it takes to find those pieces), then the mass produced stuff seems really bland and a bit tacky.

  • Reply
    Margaret
    February 10, 2015 at 11:29 am

    I have some artists in my family, so I have a few oil paintings stolen from them, and I like those because obviously there’s something unique and special about them! As for the rest, I have a mix – some photos taken from traveling, some vintage movie posters (one is an original from the 70s in french – when they were still printed on linen!), some prints of work that I saw in a gallery and liked, but couldn’t afford at the time – the artist still gets a portion of the profit from buying that print, so I am okay with it. I am taking a class on art law at the moment, and what I’ve learned is that even those mass produced prints usually have an original artist, who (hopefully) has an agreement with the distributor to receive a share of the profits from their sale. The important thing for me is to have (1) work that I enjoy in my home and (2) work that where possible, supports an artist that I admire.

  • Reply
    Virginia (The Heartographer)
    February 10, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Interesting question! I used to be OK with big box canvases, but I’ve gotten snobbish as I’ve gotten older, (slightly) richer, and more developed in my taste. We’ll DIY something or whip it up in Photoshop and send it to a printer like Canvas.com before we’ll buy a Pier 1 painting nowadays.

    But we’ve amassed a HUGE amount of stuff to hang on our walls. This is mainly because we have at least five artists in our extended families. The most prolific doesn’t actually produce much that’s our style, but there are tons of art school study pieces and experimental pieces and pieces from colleagues and students that we inherit over time. So even though we wouldn’t necessarily hand-curate all those pieces, we never lack for material.

    Our challenge is actually learning to say no, or place things differently, or establish combinations that really reflect our vibe. It’s a good problem to have, but still a challenge!

  • Reply
    Bethany
    February 10, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    My opinion: if you want an authentic space, you’ve got to use authentic art. Sometimes this is a $5 canvas from the thrift store, sometimes its a $6000 original. For me, it is never a big box piece. I have more respect for artists than to buy something that an artist is paid very little for.

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    Stacey
    February 10, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Such a good topic! I have a couple dozen pieces (stacked over each other rather haphazardly in some places) of varying sizes but nothing overly large. Some items have been gifts but a vast majority are items that I have picked up along the way. I love shopping for art at shows featuring independent artists, Etsy.com, 20×200.com (briefly renamed youshouldbuyart.com), and flea markets. I only have one original work so far that I purchased directly from the artist via Etsy. I do not see the harm in mass-produced art at all, I just have yet to find a piece that I really love. Though I must say that Chapters (Canadian chain of bookstores) does carry a line of prints that I find rather charming.

  • Reply
    lisa
    February 10, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    We recently bought an old farmhouse. I found 4 nice old framed boat prints in a 2nd hand store in Maine and bought an old pair of oars in the same shop. $165 total and probably all the wall decor I’ll use. There would be no fun to me buying in a Target type store. The adventure is in the hunt:)

  • Reply
    merlin513
    February 10, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    I’m also a BFA. and i’ve never lacked for artwork on any of my walls. I’m a true believer in what’s art is in the eye of the beholder…i’ve got original paintings and prints hanging beside flea market scores and fanart that i’ve loved on Tumblr and printed on my color printer and framed because the artists didn’t offer prints themselves.

    I’ve bought from Pier 1, etsy, redbubble, Society6 and 20 x 200. I swapped with friends and fellow art students. Buy things from yard sales and flea markets…it’s all in what you love and what makes you happy. Snobbery over the price shouldn’t even factor in. I’m equally as proud of a quick acrylic color study done by a fellow art student as I am over one of my pricey Daniel Danger limited prints, a piece of fanart off of Tumblr, or a framed tea towel bought off of ebay.

    Long story short, if it makes you happy and you love to look at it, price doesn’t matter!

  • Reply
    Mary Beth @ www.mbzinteriors.com
    February 10, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Wow! Look at the reaction this post got! If I could afford artist’s original art, I would buy it. However, my home décor is always changing and it is just practical and economical to buy large canvas pieces from Home Goods. I do love to buy off etsy too but a lot of what I buy are prints and not sure that counts as art (Unless it is an artist’s print of his actual art). Let’s not forget framing and that can get pretty pricey too. My most favorite original art is found at High Schools but around here the students’ art is not for sale and it is disappointing. (I believe they need to keep their art for future schooling and part of their application or resume into art school). Thanks for the post and something to talk about :)

  • Reply
    judy
    February 10, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    I love art and have a mixture of original and prints and I love all of it. Years ago I bought a fairly large print of a pretty breakfast scene of a young attractive man and woman dressed in the garb of the 17th century the man is sprawled in his chair looking heart broken, the female alert and apprehensive and the title-The inheritance. I have imagined so many possible stories re: this print. The wife unacceptable and thus the young man disinherited or just a notice of a Fathers death and the consequent sadness. One other oddity about Art speaking to one. I was not raised with my siblings, I met them as an Adult but through the years all 4 of us have purchased many of the same art prints for display. A similarity not of nurture but our nature-odd to say the least

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    Jill
    February 10, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    I’m the snob I only like originals and have a house full of them. Each one gives me pleasure.

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    Emily H
    February 10, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    I’m a photographer, so we have a lot of my own photographs hanging in our home. I also used to do a lot more painting, and I play around with graphic design, so the majority of wall hangings in our home are done by me. I’m not opposed to mass-produced art, but I find I can create what I like, and there’s the added benefit of originality and budget-friendly. A few years ago, a good friend of my husband’s contacted us with a proposition of a barter. He is a crazy-talented painter, and offered an original painting for us in exchange for a few family portraits for him. So the painting truly is original, as we gave him some direction and inspiration for the piece, and he painted it just for us! So, barter when you can!

  • Reply
    Siobhan
    February 10, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    I am a big fan of original art, but like most people, can’t afford to buy it. But I have found a loophole, commissioning young artists at school (6th form) or college to make original pieces are the way to make your artwork unique. Plus it can help towards college fees

  • Reply
    Cindy Matthews
    February 10, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Trite to say but it depends. If you love something, print or original, use it. I have a mix of both not because I favor one over the other but because my husband has some prints he loves, we have his father’s artwork (prints, silk screens and carved wood), original watercolors from an artist friend and some of my original artwork as well. I studied communication art and made my living as a technical illustrator/graphic artist. But there are a number of people who can’t afford original art but can afford high quality prints of great artwork including photos. I don’t dismiss anyone’s quality of artwork on their walls but value them as individuals.

    • Reply
      Richard A Perez
      July 27, 2016 at 1:16 am

      Hello i dont know if im replying to right place but any help would be great.im a hungry artist to say the least.i have several one of a kind original paintings.not alot of people have seen my paintings.i dont know what the public might like.i was thinking about maybe mass producing one or two to let people see what i can do.but after that i would think people would prefer original one of a kind pieces of art.one thing that is different about my paintings over anyone elses i use spray paint cans and cut up pieces of paper for shapes and curves.the things i paint ive never seen anywhere else.i use bright colors and blend and mix them together to create almost like a brush stroke unique to myself.There are others that do spray can art but i see a blank canvas differently than anyone else.i already know what color im gonna put where and what paints im gonna mix and bend before i lay a drop where i want it.So which piece do i mass produce and who would i take it to?who would make the decission on what peope might like to see and what they may not want to see?if someone out there has any ideas on what direction i should go in please email me at rickyperez330@yahoo.com.

  • Reply
    Nicole
    February 10, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    I started following The Jealous Curator a couple of years ago. I am constantly awed by artists that she features of her blog. I’ve picked up about 5 pieces now from artists that she’s turned me onto. Most are prints, but they are usually originals available also. I would rather have these or vintage pieces over mass-produced work any day :)

  • Reply
    MJ
    February 10, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    I like Sarah Nightingale’s reply because it gives you the artist’s viewpoint on original art. While I do appreciate mass produced pieces, an original work is something only you will have. Of course, you pay the price for originality, and that’s always a factor, or a priority, to consider.

    There is a watercolor artist, Frank Eber, who blogged about fine art pricing here: https://frankeber.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/understanding-fine-art-pricing/

    His work is not mass-produced, and neither is it priced exorbitantly high, but he provides good insight into how and why original art is priced as it is.

  • Reply
    Jaimie
    February 10, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    I just collect things I like and I don’t think much about where it will go. I just know that I will find a place for it if I love it. I have a lot of prints from artists on Etsy or Tumblr, a vintage oil painting of a palomino horse I found at a thrift store, and a large original sharpie drawing on canvas of an octopus that an artist friend did for me in exchange for a ton of old art supplies I gave her. The same friend also gifted me a sketch she did that is probably my most meaningful art piece, because it was one she sent me while I was in BCT. I also have a couple of my own paintings, although most of my own art I get sick of looking at eventually. But yes, original art is incredibly expensive, especially paintings. I think whatever you pick, you should choose things you have an emotional connection to.

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    joanne
    February 10, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    As an artist, the idea of anyone buying art to ‘match their sofa’ or decor, or the bathroom tile, makes me insane. Yes, there are fairly good mass produced ‘art’ on the market, but my sensibility is that you only buy what you ‘love’, not as an accessory to your latest decor, but something you will always want in your home. You can spend $50 on a terrific tag sale find, or it can be a $5 Goodwill buy.
    I have wonderful original art I have found at estate sales, thrift stores, art festivals, garage sales, as well as from the artists themselves. I have also been fortunate to receive wonderful art from friends who knew I admired their art. My collection has been ‘curated’ (a word I not comfortable with) over the last few decades.
    My advice would be to get what you can afford, that will make you happy and content with your current situation. But, always, be on the lookout for those works that make your heart sing!

  • Reply
    Sarah @ Sarah's Daybook
    February 11, 2015 at 7:21 am

    It’s hard to say, but I guess that I love both. Obviously I think that it would be a stretch to have a rendition of a Starry Starry Night, but I think that if it works in your space and makes you happy, then go for it. I also love when people make are out of something not art (advertisements in newspapers, maps, etc.)

  • Reply
    Mel
    February 11, 2015 at 8:55 am

    i’ve never been a fan of the argument that you have to buy original art to support artists. i’m a corporate artist. yes, i’d love to paint in a studio and show at galleries and only sell original pieces for $5,000. but the reality is, most artists need a day job to support their artistic dreams. just because the mass produced print you bought is being sold to thousands and coming from a major company, doesn’t mean it doesn’t support an artist somewhere along the line. someone had to paint that. someone worked hard on it. and if you love it, who cares how many other people have it? the greatest and most powerful thing about art is that no one gets to be “right” or “wrong” on their opinions of it. it doesn’t matter how educated in art history a person is (that’s my degree) or how little a person knows about art – the point of art isn’t to solely please the art elite. it’s simply to evoke emotion from someone – anyone. it can be the most grotesque thing to one person but make another person smile every time they see it. i say just buy the art you like and ignore the smug ideals some people have – they have no more authority on the matter than anyone else.

  • Reply
    Dragos
    February 11, 2015 at 9:40 am

    When it comes to buying art my wife and I apply the same philosophy as with most of the things we own: invest in what you really want, what makes you happy and provides you with most satisfaction, even if you have to wait a while to get it.
    In the case of art we invest in originals rather than mass-produced “art”. The thought that you are the sole owner of a piece that came directly from the creative hands of the artist, rather than a high performance printer, is very comforting. Original art reflects who we are as people, and the values we believe in: supporting individual families rather than faceless corporations, and encouraging genuine creativity.
    There is a common perception that original art is beyond the reach of most people. I used to think the same, until we opened an online gallery specialized in original paintings-no print or any other reproductions. Many of the artists I work with have works available for under $500. That’s much less than what many of us pay for our mass-produced living room furniture or area rugs. It’s just a matter of investing the time and doing proper research.

  • Reply
    Sava
    February 11, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    I have done both. I bought a vintage painting off of One King’s Lane and I loved it. I did partly purchased it because it went with my living room, but also I really liked it. I have no plans to replace it. I also purchase a faux painting from a flash sale site. Never again; it just looks fake. I also have some lithographs and prints from etsy.

    I do have mass produced prints in my daughter’s room, I think for kids rooms this works well. We have it mixed up with some of her art work and some artist prints

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    Jen
    February 11, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I liked this post. As someone who loves art, I dislike the idea of buying art to match furniture etc, and I’ve always been a bit snobbish against mass-produced art, art as ‘decor’. Obviously, though, you want things on your walls that work with the things that are already in the room. It’s hard to find a balance. Basically I can’t afford ‘good’ ‘real’ art, so I just go with framed prints of some of the pieces I love.

  • Reply
    Holly
    February 11, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I would love to include more original art in my home, but my favorite original painting sold for $8,000 – way out of my budget. (Artist: Sean Flood) The only original art in my home are items made by family & friends, and has more sentimental than artistic value.

  • Reply
    Annette
    February 13, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    Directly above my desk are three framed prints of Gustav Klimt’s work. Does it bother me that millions of people may have those same prints hanging in their home office? Not in the least. The three prints were a gift from my mother-in-law who purchased them while she was touring Austria, performing in several concert halls many years ago. It makes her very happy to still see her gift hanging in our house and she loves to share stories of her trip with our children. If mass produced art helps tell a story of who you are and helps document where you’ve been, there is nothing wrong with that.

  • Reply
    Ali Burtt
    February 14, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Thrift stores have been terrific for me. You have to search like whoa, but I’ve got 4 pieces that serve as centerpieces in 4 different rooms that together cost less than $200 and are worth much more. If I could afford large originals by living artists, I would be all over that, but I can’t. I don’t think I’d go the big box/print route. The only prints I have are sentimental. It’s not a snobbery thing. It’s just not me.

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    Erin
    February 14, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    we have a mix of original art (all from local artists and galleries, one from my sister), photographs (mostly taken by myself or my fiancé -we both dabble in photography), and a couple of prints and mass produced pieces. Ii love almost everything and really think that buying what you love is a good rule to follow. I love supporting local and especially emerging artists – there are likely some amazing artists locally just about everywhere if you know where to look. I hope to keep adding to what we have as years go by mostly through this route but I don’t think it matters much as long as it’s something you love.

  • Reply
    Michelle
    February 22, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    I think it absolutely depends. I’m a fan of original artwork, but unfortunately at this point in my life, I can’t afford anything in that price range. However, I did happen to come across something that appears to be original for $50. The artist wasn’t well known and all his other works sell for about the same price. It also depends on what you love.

  • Reply
    ashleywestartpdx
    November 29, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    I see this blog post is nearly a year old, but I just came across it as I’m doing research for a paper on a similar thing. I guess I’m still not %100 sure where I stand on mass-produced vs. original art. Mass produced anything generally implies an environmental destruction in favor of cheaper products, but there’s a lot of original art out there that looks abysmal that sells for millions of dollars that was made with the same cheapness and laziness that I despise about what the Industrial Revolution brought. In contrast, Norman Rockwell created beautiful and lively artworks using Old Master techniques that were intended for mass-production. This allowed more people to be exposed to excellent art without spending excessive funds. At the same time, there are so many wonderful video game concept artworks, graphic novels, and other mass produced items that are so much more beautiful than many contemporary artworks in museums.

    Boy does this make the mind spin. I’m glad you wrote about this.

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