From craft stores to art fairs and beyond, there's a seemingly endless selection of art to peruse. Where does a homeowner begin to choose? "I always say, follow your instincts and love what you buy," Los Angeles-based art consultant Brenda Harrop said. Anyone who has stepped inside a home goods or crafts store lately will be met with plenty of options for paintings and sculptures, too. Produced en masse, these artistic renderings still manage to look great and burst with color and point of view. Of course, weekend art shows at local hotels and craft fairs are another source of art. As long as a homeowner truly loves their artwork, then it will fit authentically within one's home design, said Harrop, who advises people to visit local art museums to soak up a variety of styles before committing to a piece for the home. She also suggests collecting artwork over time through traveling, so whatever goes up on the walls is meaningful to the homeowner.Support starving artists "I guess for me, I'm always looking at supporting emerging artists," Harrop said. "A lot of people don't know they can buy originals." Framed original art is available from $50 to $2,000, said Linda Stephen, an artist and artist representative in Lincoln, Neb. Her clients display their art at noyesartgallery.com and againstthewallgallery.com. Stephen advises people to consider textures and materials in addition to a variety of media, such as stencils, watercolor, oil and even metal. She also notes that artwork that takes less time to create or is created by new artists tends to be cheaper. "I'll bet you can find one-of-a-kind original art for less than something mass-produced in China, and you'll be able to meet the artist and hear their story and support the local economy, too," she said. In fact, buying locally produced art is a great way for first-time home buyers to integrate into a new neighborhood, according to Harrop. "One of the fabulous ways to be a part of a community is to support emerging artists," Harrop said. "Homeowners can go to local art school campuses or attend graduate student art shows or request studio visits." She also suggests using photographs as decorations. "It's excellent to have a variety of media; so you might venture into sculpture and even wall collages," she explained. Of course, Harrop said she realizes not everyone can or will dedicate the time to visit museums or art schools. However, she and others advise biding one's time until the right piece pops into view. In fact, Cleveland-based Eric Smith, CEO of Artexpo International advises everyone to become a collector. "Don't rush it, or you'll be buying something else soon," said Smith. "Purchase something you like that tells a story." Customize it When former brand manager Kimberly Watts was looking to decorate her newly built home, it seemed like none of the art she saw was right for the job. "I knew what I had in mind for the space in the house," said Watts, who lives with her family in Milwaukee, Wis. "My options were very expensive custom art or reprints. I'd find an image I loved, but it didn't fit my decor." Watts ended up taking a cue from the paint colors from her walls, such as yellow and olive, and creating abstract works of art based on the motif she has established with her home décor. She realized that others must struggle with the same problem, and that's why she started My Motif (www.mymotif.com) to help other homeowners discover their artistic visions. "People came in [my home] and asked about my art, and I told them, 'Yeah, I did it for myself,'" Watts said. She's expanded from abstract images to customizable images with floral, music, youth and nature motifs, to name a few. "My clients can pick the design they want, pick the colors and whatever size to fill the space," said Watts. Another route to customized art is to ask the artists themselves. Stephen said that customization is more possible nowadays with a variety of artists. "If you love a piece you see and would like it in a different color scheme, ask the artist if they'll do it for you in pastels," she said. "Some artists do works on request or on commission." Final word Harrop suggests hanging paintings at museum height: 61 inches from the floor. "It would be nice to choose a piece to complement color and shapes [in a home]," Harrop said. "Sometimes I feel like with artwork, less is more. I would rather see one fabulous work of art in a living room rather than two or three mediocre works of art."
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