How to Give Art as a Gift

Published Nov. 30th 2006


giftIf you‘re like me this holiday season, you might find yourself working on paintings for people or picking out framed art prints for presents. So today I thought I’d write an article outlining some basic rules for giving art, whether you’re buying it or making it. (The first two rules only apply if you’re creating the art yourself.)

1. Know your skill level. Make sure that the art will be instantly recognizable, easily displayed, and enjoyable. If they (the recipients) don’t know what it is or where where to put it, or worse yet, can‘t imagine picking it out themselves, then it’s not going to be a good gift. Put your artwork up against some store-bought art. If it holds its own, and people who don’t know you agree that it’s good, then you’re probably OK.

2. Don’t give portraits. At least, not unless it’s a portrait of a person they know and love. That’s pretty much the only time people will accept having a life-size, full-color face up on their wall. If it is a painting of a family member or close friend, just make sure to follow rule number one, and realize that your painting has a lot to live up to.

3. Match their colors and décor. Modern Art won‘t fit in a Victorian-style house, and although I could probably come up with a list of matches for artistic styles and interior decoration, it’s not really necessary. Just take a look at the house and make sure the art you’re giving has at least SOME of the same colors in it, and will look “at home” with their other décor. In general, look at the shapes present in the house and the shapes in your art; preferably they should mimic each other.

4. Give groupings. For homes that don‘t have a specific style (or even ones that do), giving a few small pieces of art can be a good way to make sure your art will fit in. For example, a few small prints, similarly framed, will look good almost anywhere because they work as a group. Adding a candle or some other decorative item might do the trick as well. The main idea is to create an entire space just with your own gifts that will feel natural even if there’s no other art on the walls.

5. Make it unique. Without breaking rule number three, pick artwork that not everyone has. We’ve all seen the same classic prints of classic artwork a thousand times. Why not look for a local artist or gallery and buy an original work of art? If that’s too expensive, consider getting a fine art print on canvas, which looks more authentic and elegant than just a print.

6. Find a subject matter that they’re into. No matter how much YOU like looking at puppies, porcelain dolls, or sailboats, the person you’re giving it to might not. Make a list of what they like, and start there. You might be surprised at the amount of art there is on almost any subject. For instance, this week while I was writing my review of Imagekind I noticed that on their shopping page they have a section called “Gift Collections” with groups of artwork organized by hobbies, themes, and lifestyles. That makes it even easier, and with the right choice of subject you’ll find that sometimes the colors won’t even matter.

frame7. Always frame the art. No matter how beautiful it is by itself, a proper frame and matting is the best way to present art. Not only will the recipient be able to immediately hang the art, but they also don‘t have to go out and find a frame themselves. Usually when you purchase art you can have it framed right then, so it’s no big hassle to you either.

8. Explain it. Finally, when you give the gift, include a note that explains it, or if you’re giving it to them personally, let them know what prompted you to think of them. After all, art is always better when you know the story behind it.

Happy Holidays!

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