Demystifying Abstract Art

| By Lois Perdue |

As an abstract expressionist, I am frequently asked the same two questions about my paintings.

“How do you start one of those paintings?” And, the next one is usually: “How do you know when it is finished?”

Maybe for those reasons alone, buying abstract art is a challenge!

But with a better understanding of this exciting genre and its potential investment opportunities, collecting abstract art can be a win-win.

First, What is Abstract Art?

The most important difference between abstract art and representational or subjective art is that you just cannot find a subject in an abstract painting.

It doesn’t relate to anyone or anything or try to resemble something. Instead, color and form are the subjects of the painting.

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“Chasing the Blues Away,” Mixed Media on Yupo, 37 3/4′ x 28,’ Won “Best in Show” Florida Focus at Gold Coast Watercolor Society 2018 Exhibit at ArtServe

What to Look for in Original Abstract Art

New art collectors should look for vibrant colors, rich brush strokes, intriguing designs, intricate details, touchable textures and a focal point.

If the work is painted on canvas, even the smell of an original work is an experience, particularly if it is an oil painting.

But what sets original abstract artwork apart so you can begin to make wise decisions?

There are dozens of well-known abstract artists, including Picasso, Klee, Mitchell and Diebenkorn, to name a few. A quick search on the Internet will familiarize you with dozens of different artists and their techniques of painting.

How Do You Want to Use Your Abstract Art?

Here are some questions to ponder in order to find the best placement for your purchases.

Have you started noticing abstract artists whose work you admire? Each has a distinct style.

Have you thought about beginning to collect this type of art? Or do you simply want the paintings to complete the interior design plan of your home’s new modern/contemporary concept?

Are you working with an interior designer to find art for your yacht? Or is it for corporate use for offices, hospitals or the hospitality industries to furnish hotels or restaurants?

Why Buy Original Abstract Art: An Emotion or an Investment?

A majority of art professionals (86 percent) surveyed said clients buy art and collect art for emotional reasons, but also focus on investment value, according to Deloitte’s Art & Finance Report 2017.

Wealth managers (54 percent) sell art as a way to safeguard value — up 3 percent since 2016.

And 88 percent of wealth managers surveyed (up 10 percent) think art and collection should be included as part of their investment strategies.

“People buy because they simply love the painting or it connects with them on an emotional level,” said. Linda Jerrell, co-owner of Heritage Art Galleries. “Others buy art because of its ‘worth’ or what it will be worth in the future.”

Co-owner Claudio Tomassone believes people buy abstract art because it is a matter of taste.

“Some people just prefer not to have a conventional shape or form in their artwork,” he said. “Others look at textures or the strokes in the paint, etc. And in some cases when a painting is being purchased for a public space, an abstract is preferred because it will bring ‘warmth’ to a space while keeping a ‘neutral’ feeling. Abstract art leaves more room for one’s imagination.”

Where to Buy Abstract Art: Directly from a Gallery?

One of the best ways to find an artist who works locally is at art galleries around the cities in which they live.

When buying from a gallery, they have done the leg work for you, vetting the artists they represent.

According to Linda, their gallery invests in local artists because it helps to support the local art and cultural communities.

“We also look for artists who stand out while always keeping trends and clients’ aesthetic desires in mind,” she said.

“Whether we are representing new or established talent, we do a great deal of research to determine if their art is marketable and a good investment. We look at their current following, pricing and level of interest in their work.”

Claudio added that they look for the most talented, accomplished artists. Heritage not only represents local artists, but their collection includes artists such as Tarkey, Erte, Schluss and Treby, to name a few.

Buying from a gallery also provides services such as art restoration, framing and custom framing, according to Ian Jerrell, co-owner and head of the restorations and framing at Heritage.

“It’s not only how the framing and restoration are going to look, but the preservation of your artwork so its beauty continues to bring joy for many years.”

Or Do You Buy Directly from the Artist?

If you don’t go to a gallery, where will you find those artists whose work appeals to you?

You may find them at local art exhibits, libraries, festivals, museums and other venues.

I belong to more than half a dozen local art guilds and art societies in my area, and each of them hosts about half a dozen or more art exhibits each year at a variety of places that are free and open to the public.

Check your online local media’s weekend listings, library and museum listings, too. You will soon see the same artists appearing multiple times and you can begin tracking favorite ones on your way to buying/collecting.

Sometimes, the artists are at the venue and you can meet them in person to discuss their techniques, prices, etc.

Most of the time, they will have a business card or brochure near their artwork so you can reach them for further talks. Check out their websites and Instagram/Facebook profiles to see more of their collections.

Putting a Price on an Original Abstract Painting

Whether you work with an art gallery or buy directly from the artist, it is best to set a budget first.

“A lot of factors go into the pricing of a work of art. When dealing with local artists, it is a one-on-one agreement between us and the artist,” Claudio said. “As for established and renowned artists’ originals and prints, we study the market and find out what their art is generally selling for on an international level and price accordingly,” he said.

Navigating the Cost: Sticker Shock! Crossing the Threshhold Toward Buying

How do you approach an artist about the price of the work?

It is an emotional purchase. A lot of passion and hard work have gone into the artwork. Sometimes, it is difficult to put a price on an elusive emotion, but hopefully, there is a sticker attached!

The prospective buyer has to have confidence in the artist from whom they are making the purchase. The buyer can begin keeping detailed information about a favorite artist and his or her creative process; this information can most often be found on the artists’ websites along, with their resume and list of their other artistic activities.

Another confidence-builder before you go start collecting artwork is to ask for referrals from friends or associates who collect art, particularly from those who know the artists.

Does a local venue have any of the artist’s work on display? Are there any published articles about the artist and exhibits in which they have appeared?

For example, I let my clients know when and where I am going to be exhibiting on my Facebook page, Instagram and through emails — numerous times. I ask them to tell their friends and neighbors to come and see the exhibits.

I also talk about my unique techniques whenever I can, including the 10 to 15 layers of paint I use in each piece of artwork, the unusual tools I use to “paint” with, including shower squeegees and kitchen spatulas, and how and why I use certain paints.

Many of my abstract paintings begin on a plastic paper called Yupo that first has been given textural layerings to create dimension.

I apply thin washes of watercolor, many translucent glazes and then use vibrant acrylic paints, inks and nontraditional tools to create unique brush strokes and markings.

I focus on landscapes that I describe as “big, organic and intense,” reflecting my proximity to the ocean and experiences traveling worldwide.

My audience often is fascinated with the “how” and “why” and always want to hear my back story about how I wanted to paint since I was a child but didn’t pick up a paint brush (or squeeguee!) until nine years ago, when I retired!

Solving Clients’ Pay Concerns (Other Issues)

Clients may think that the artwork is “out of their budget” or the price too high. Remember that everyone deserves to have beauty every day in front of them!

To make it easier for some clients to buy art, some artists have credit card options or PayPal available rather taking cash or checks. Some artists will even make arrangements for credit card installment payments. Some artists lease their work on a monthly or other scheduled basis to make “beauty” more affordable in the home, workplace or on their yacht! Ask them if they have these arrangements.

And what if clients say your artwork will “clash” with their decor? Show them a similar piece with a different color palette, or offer to paint another (commissioned piece) with just the exact colors they request at the same price as the one they saw for sale at your venue. Remind them that your artwork will make the room “pop,” not the sofa!

And if a client can’t make up his or her mind, offer a gift certificate. They may not be able to select a painting or choose a color palette or whether it should be a canvas or framed painting.

By selling gift certificates in certain dollar amounts, recipients can redeem them for their preferences whenever they want. It is just smart business and oh-so-convenient!

Negotiating and/or Discounting for Art?

While these two words make most artists and gallery owners feel faint, some artists love the idea of negotiating.

I, personally, think that offering discounts devalues my work. I already have established a price based on my time, techniques, expertise, size of work, competition and uniqueness.

If I discount, then there is the notion that the price already was inflated; however, there are some artists who are ready and eager to negotiate, and you shouldn’t hesitate to inquire.

Give abstract art a look! While it is beautiful as well as mystifying, you always will find something speaking to you from within the painting if you seek it out.

This type of art should not be missed!


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Lois Perdue is a nationally acclaimed abstract expressionist retired from communications. She belongs to numerous art guilds and societies, teaches abstract workshops, and is represented by Heritage Art Galleries. 

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One thought on “Demystifying Abstract Art

  1. I have an unusual relationship with abstract art. Some of my favourite pieces are abstract, or at least semi abstract such as the works of Franz Marc or Picasso. But I find it very, very difficult to produce any abstract art myself. I find that limiting myself to expressing through colour, line or shape makes for an impossible task. I guess I am rooted in the real, and the surreal, and haven’t yet figured out how to reduce my paintings down to the bear minimum whilst providing any emotional connection to the viewer.

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