Does It Spark Joy: Originals vs. Prints

Raise your hand if you’ve seen Marie Kondo’s Netflix show, “Tidying Up”? Okay, me too. I’ve been going through the process of cleaning out the things that don’t spark joy. I wouldn’t call myself a collector. I’m pretty good at always getting rid of clothing before I bring in new pieces of clothing. However, as I’ve become a homeowner, I’ve noticed my collection of original art growing.

I’ve recently been looking at the art on my walls with a more critical eye. I have pieces of ancient Chinese rice paper paintings given to me by my grandmother, that if I were to reframe them, the paper would disintegrate (they probably need to be professionally restored). I have original pieces from fellow artists that I want to support and loved the story behind the work. I have prints that I bought in college to just fill a space when I couldn’t afford original pieces. There are a couple of prints I’ve decided to pass along in the pursuit of only having original art in my home. It is a personal goal of mine to only have original works in my home. Why do I only want originals? A few reasons.

  1. No matter how good the quality of the print, an original feels different. When bringing an original into a space, the energy is different, you can tell there is history, there is something more than merely décor. There is a detail to an original painting that simply isn’t there in a reproduction print. It’s the stray brush hair, it’s the little imperfections that make an original more beautiful and more of a story than a print could ever be.
  2. Originals are always more valuable than prints. Buying pieces from artists that are aware of their brand voice and value in the market means I can choose artists that I believe will only go up in value.
  3. Buying original art from artists, means giving more profit to the artists. When you buy a print from an artist, or third party, the artist is only getting a small percentage of that sale price, it’s usually 10% or less. So if you’re buying a $23.00 print from Wayfair, the artist is only making $2.30 or less. 10% is considered a high percentage in the licensing world. When you buy and original from the artist they receive 100% of the profits after taxes and material expenses. The margins are much greater and more meaningful to artists when collectors buy originals.
  4.  Living with an original changes the way I think about myself. When I look at the Chinese rice paper paintings that are hundreds of years old, I wonder about their creators. I want to honor their art by creating beautiful pieces that will well outlive me. I want to pay homage to their practice and techniques in my own work.

And that is what is most important about originals instead of prints. Originals have a real connection to a human being. Living or dead, someone lived and labored over something I have hanging on my wall. Despite the artist’s intention, the artist made the piece for a reason. Each painting is a part of an artist’s story. Each original painting is a fragment of time from an artist’s life, hanging on my wall. A print is made for profit, to provide the artist margins, and an income beyond the immediacy of what they can produce. An original is made from love, labor, high quality materials, and with a purpose beyond profit.

So thanks Marie, for inspiring to make hard choices when it comes to my art collection. I’m choosing originals that spark joy while tidying up and cleaning out my art collection.

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