Are You Decorating A Space?

Deep ThoughtI’m throwing you a curve ball . . . a Deep Thought on a Monday. Who knows where this unorthodox behavior might lead?

Deep Thought

When you loan images to a workplace, are you decorating it?

Is “decorating” a bad word for artists to use?

Does using the word “decorate” detract from the fine-art qualities of the work? Or does it make the work easier for people to relate to?

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24 comments to Are You Decorating A Space?

  • In my circles ‘decorating’ is a bit of a swear word, you don’t decorate, you design.. That being said, I think one of the functions of fine art is to decorate, as long as that isn’t the only function.
    At this stage my studio is in our living room, and our guests have gotten used to visiting with an easel pushed off to the side, with a work in progress, or a recently finished painting on it. It certainly changes the whole atmosphere of the room, the tones and subject matter, and it also affects the mood, with some paintings I will notice that the guests’ eyes just keep wandering back, they’re silent, but they keep returning to watch it, and I love seeing that effect. Sometimes the subject matter controls the conversation, with my marble paintings people will get nostalgic about their childhood years, and tell stories and remember whatever happened to their toys, which is the perfect outcome.
    In terms of loaning work to office-spaces, I’ve only done it twice, but I cant be objective about it, I only know the affection it creates in me! And it always brings positive feedback and sales.
    I suppose it all depends on the kind of office, and whether the work blends in or stands out! You have to pick them right to attract attention in a positive way.

  • As an artist I love the word “decorate” – especially when it is followed by a credit card or check from the buyer who wants to buy my painting(s) to match their sofa/chair/rug/etc.

  • In graduate school one must be very careful about the use of decorating, decoration, design or decor… All of which I believe in and have had to fight for in my work and in my thesis statement and upcoming MFA show. It is not just the words that are frowned upon, it is the look of polished regularity of pattern or the use of ribbon and shelves in the installation of the work. I have heard in critiques: “Isn’t that a bit … Martha Stewart?” (insert sneer face)

    Having said that, I can handle the criticism. My work is currently hanging in three different locations on campus “decorating their walls and spaces” and in the local city hall in Claremont CA. It seems the general public (and people I have gladly invited into my studio) is OK with decorating with art. I am willing to walk this tight rope.

    • I completely agree. LoL with Marth Stewart comment … as she laughs her way to the bank. The more depressing work the better evaluation one receives. No one gets an Oscar for Comedy.

  • When someone says my work is decorative it is a bad word, almost as terrible as being called “Cute”. Another bad word might be your art looks like an “illustration”.

  • When I hear the words “decorate” and “decoration” I think of a do-it-yourself kind of thing. But when I hear “design” and “fine art” I think of something created by a professional.

  • I currently have work out on loan to an innovative business incubator workspace. I don’t think of it as a “show”, but a favor. (unlike a friend of mine who is listing it as a ‘solo show’ on her resume!) After hoping for a couple of sales, which didn’t happen because I wasn’t given any names to follow up, I’m pulling it. But I’m going to leave a notice that my studio will be open on the free tour in town.
    The phrase “merely decorative” is one I’ve uttered more than once.
    Perhaps the distinction could be that “decoration” is subservient to the surface or environment; whereas a work of art has its own meaning/integrity and reason for being, and stands on its own even though it may enhance an environment. I also aim for “beautiful” rather than “pretty”. Deeper complex references/meaning vs. surface decoration. sigh…. can’t stop people from wanting to match a couch though

  • Ann

    Not for potters.

  • I have no problem with the word “decorate.” Semantics are different for everyone. Out of curiosity, I looked up the definition of “decorate” and found this in the Miriam-Webster site:

    “Definition of DECORATE:

    1: to add honor to

    2: to furnish with something ornamental

    3: to award a mark of honor to

    If that’s the definition, surely we all decorate with out work, no?

    I would venture to say that most of us want our environments to be aesthetically pleasing, and that includes the colors and palettes we choose to surround ourselves with. What’s wrong with that?

  • Sometimes the word “decorative” is used as a put down for artwork. I have loaned my work to businesses I regularly deal with, and am happy to do so. It certainly starts conversations going, and makes people more aware of what I do. My work tends to be colourful, and I’d like to think it’s also beautiful — so in that way yes it does cheer up the environments where it hangs. Though it may not sell in that location, the exposure leads to sales and commissions. I put my cards, and postcards with the work. Wasn’t it you Alyson who told us to get the work out there. If you’re trying to sell it’s best not to get offended by the public’s definitions of what you do.

    Great discussion.

    XO Barbara

  • I won’t be offended if that is what other people want to call it, but I would never use the word to describe what I do or why someone would buy my art. They are collecting and I am creating. I believe the purpose of art (all types) is to elevate humanity; it’s what separates us from machine and animal even if in the end many collectors will just pick a painting to match their couch….sigh.

  • Embellish, Adorn, ornament, Adorn, Bedeck Beautify…those are the words.

    Yes I’m proud that my art does all of this for me and others…

    Yes I’m proud that my art does all of this for my walls and for the wall’s of others…

  • This is a very interesting discussion, since I am a former professional interior designer. I have always been interested in the healing aspects of the built environment, and have a healing overview to my artwork. I think many artists who are adverse to the idea of a customer wanting the art to match their couch, might want to consider a different perspective: that the colors that a customer has chosen to live with in their home reflect who they are, how they resonate, and have a balancing/healing aspect to them. Color has a profound effect on the physiology, as does the subject matter/image, and when a customer chooses or commissions an art piece to “match their couch/decor”, the artist is making a major contribution to their well-being.

  • Certainly Barbara, when someone chooses art it should feel right in the home. It should create harmony. Anything we bring in our home should add to our space and make it our own – especially what we choose to hang on the walls. But it is a rare thing when someone buys art consciously with both the physiological effects and personal meaning in mind. More often they pick up a pre-framed print of something that goes with the decor. It is disappointing as an artist that someone says, here is the space over my couch and these are the colors…rather than saying this makes me feel____ AND it works in the environment I am creating. I can only hope that I would make a major contribution to their well-being and not just fill an empty place on their wall! Never-the-less, I have respect and graciousness for anyone who takes the time to look at my art and would never correct them or put them down for their perspective on what art means in their life.

  • I have in the past shown work in a large doctor’s office/clinic, along with a few other artists. The reason for doing it was to gain some exposure which would eventually result in some sales. The work was changed every 6 months or so to keep things interesting. I had thought (hoped) that the doctor would purchase some of his favourite pieces to become part of the permanent decor. There were one or two sales to patients, and one piece went missing, for which no one took responsibility. There were no sales to the doctor. After a while, I realized that we were just decorating his walls, he really didn’t care, it just meant that he didn’t have to go out and find/purchase the art himself. I pulled out. I felt that if we were going to provide a service (keeping his walls covered in artwork), there should be some consideration, monetary and otherwise, for this service. So at this point, I feel that ‘decorating’ the walls of business is a service that needs to be recognized and paid for.

    • Kathy

      Another way to look at it is you got free gallery space and didn’t have to pay a commission on sales. Sounds win-win to me. Too bad on the art theft, tho.

  • BJ Lantz

    I agree with Kathy – artists are over-complicating this. People buy art that they like to “decorate” their spaces. For most, I would bet it doesn’t matter to them if it is technically called fine art, illustration or decor. They *like* it and that’s all that matters.

    I am in a situation right now where I am “decorating” a restaurant owned by a friend. No sales (and honestly, I didn’t expect there to be), but I am hoping to work something out with them to allow them to keep the paintings (they do look good in the space). We’ll see how that goes!

    • BJLantz, You are right on in your first paragraph. People buy what makes them feel good, or something that looks nice in their space and at harmony with their furniture. And yes, that is all that matters. However, for your current situation about “decorating” for your friend. Positive thoughts and Positive attitude is what you need. If you are unsure about yourself, don’t expect people to give you the confidence you need. Most people will try to pull you down than to lift you up. If you believe it will sell…there will be a sale. As the old saying goes “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you” -Matthew 7:7-11 With that being said, I hope you get what you want.

  • BJ Lantz

    Thanks for the pep talk, Roopa, however, I think either you misunderstood or I wasn’t clear. I don’t have a problem with believing in myself (quite the opposite, LOL). The reason I said I hadn’t expected there to be any sales is that it is a restaurant which is not what I would consider a terrific venue for selling large, expensive paintings. I was hesitant to even do it, but she is a long time friend, her walls were bare and I had a “why not?” moment.

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