Sunday, November 09, 2008

HGTV Might Have Redeemed Itself Today

I have to confess that I have a slight addiction to HGTV - there's just something about home remodel and decorating shows that sucks me in, and I often find myself writing blog posts or responding to emails while I listen to HGTV in the background. And just about everytime I do this, I find myself getting all riled up when the subject of art inevitably comes up. A lot of the shows on HGTV are all about design on a budget, or doing it yourself, and I can't tell you how many times I've seen a designer on the show set up the homeowners (or carpenter or dog or whatever) with an enormous canvas and paint and have them make their own piece of art to "match" the new room design (the "art project" segment of the show, if you will).

My issue with this is twofold.

First is the obvious assumption that there is no point in purchasing fine art, since anyone can do it. While I agree that anyone can throw some paint on a canvas in colors that will match the couch/chair/entertainment center, etc., I disagree with the underlying suggestion that this is fine art. To me, the artwork that I have in my home is deeply personal - each original piece that I own resonated with me for a certain reason, and having the work of other artists in my home recharges and inspires me.

Second is the assumption that artwork is just a design element, or a decoration. As a landscape artist I know it would be unrealistic to assume that my collectors never give any regard to whether or not my paintings match the couch they'll hang above, but in a perfect world I would love to have that not matter - I would love to think that all that mattered were the person's initial gut response to the painting. My favorite piece of artwork in my house doesn't match anything, but I could still stare at it all day, so it always hangs where I can see it when I'm going about my businesss all day. It's the impact that matters to me.

Anyhow, I don't mean to rant, I just mean to say that collecting art is about something deeper, and that sometimes I feel like these shows don't do much bring the masses to a greater appreciation (which is not their goal, btw, so that's all right).

SOOOO, I was pleasantly surprised when I caught an episode of "Deserving Design" today, in which host Vern Yip actually commissions the deserving couple's favorite artist to do what is ultimately a really fantastic original piece of art work for their living room. Not only that - he visits the artist in his studio and gives a short talk about how purchasing an original from an acclaimed artist is a great investment, financially and emotionally. There's no talk about the artist using colors that match the design, or anything of that sort - the final painting has an emotional connection to the couple who own the house and their story, and is the centerpiece of the final design for that reason alone. How great is that?

Of course, then it took me a good half an hour to find James Way's art online, since the network didn't bother to include him in the credits or link to him on their website, but I guess I can't expect too much all at once!


  1. Not only do I also have a bit of an HGTV addiction (unfortunately in Canada we don't get 'Deserving Design'), but I agree on the art thing...whenever I complete a painting it's as though I've poured a piece of myself into it. It's not purely decorative. And I defintely surround myself with things made by hand and heart.

  2. Catch those shows, too, Stacey. My artist friends and I are often baffled by the education that needs to occur on the 'investing in fine art' avenue. I realize that part of our job these days is teaching other's about the benefits and enjoyment of collecting and appreciating art made by "an artist" - who has often studied art or 'workshopped' with other artists in their "quest to make their best"! Thanks for writing about it today. It's definitely a movement worth continuing to make.

  3. Hi Stacey, i know what you are saying here but I would like to bring up a different point of view. I actually think it's kind of nice that the homeowners are encouraged to make a painting that works in their new surroundings. I do think that just anyone can and should make art (even if is crappy, though that is certainly subjective:), especially if it is something that they can enjoy and find meaning in, which is probably often the case if they are making it for their own home. And maybe the process of making something will encourage them to appreciate fine art by artists as well.

    The matching does bug me too, but again I have come to have a different perspective on that too. We have a lot of art in our house and we have never bought anything because it will match. We just collect what we like and I do hope that that is what most people will do. however, it can be tough finding a spot to hang a painting where it will look good. We have run into this with our new living room. We had a huge piece from a friend of ours that we had planned to hang in there, but it turns out that it looks awful on the wall color I ended up going with. Not flattering to the art at all and it would have really lessened the impact of the piece.

    Anyway, sorry to hijack, but these are topics that I think about as well (I love HGTV too) and I guess I have come to the conclusion that there is no easy answer to these pressing issues:))

  4. Veronica - you put it well whe you say you surround yourself by thinggs that are made by hand and heart. I think that's what's missing sometimes - the creative process that makes it something made with the heart.

    Pattie - I agree, I think it's on us to share our passion for art with others.

    Tracy - I totally agree with you on both points, and I'm glad you made them because I probably didn't elaborate enough above. I hit publish and then hoped this wan't too much of a negative rant, because I think ANYONE can and should make art. And I know what you mean about figuring out where to hang something that doesn't match - not always easy. I was just so excited to finally see a different perspective on this show that I had to share and rant just a bit =)

  5. hi stacey, i agree with you too. i always rant when i see them do that. the biggest offender was always Trading Spaces...oh i used to get so mad, my ears would spout steam when my husband would say ' i could do that ' because he is severely artistically challenged, and if he felt he could do it, what did that say about art and the effort and TALENT that goes into it. i felt as though it was demeaning to all artists abstract to realists.

    nothing in my house matches and i LOVE it that way. we fill our home with artwork and furniture that we can't live without because it generates an emotion and makes us feel good, not because it matches a sofa or wall color. i don't feel comfortable in homes that are all perfect and matched, there's no personality or expression of the owners.

    to each his own i suppose.

  6. well, I love a good rant and yours was pretty good:) I like James Way's work also and I too wish that some of those shows would feature fine art more often.

  7. I use to be addicted to HGTV, until I got quite tired of the slapdash mentality.. and that it was okay to so many.

    I find the art making aspect okay, in the same way I find putting up a childs piece of artwork. However, I do hope it makes them aware that art is important in our lives, and they might now look at it in a new way.

  8. Hopefully, those pieces just stay up until the homeowners find something they like better.

    I hate making art, and I would cringe if, like, Ty Pennington came over to renovate my house and asked me to make something to go in my bedroom. It would suck, and I would hate having it there almost as much as I hated making it.

    Making art is YOUR job, thank God, and you are welcome to it.

  9. GREAT POST! I too love HGTV but cringe every time they create a decoration for the sake of color - why not paint the wall? Anyway, trying to understand the show and the point I do understand why they do what they do. I guess the saving grace is the fact that they are showing how easy it is to make "that type" of art versus the fine art classical realism many of us try to do in our studios.

    By the way...I love your blog.

  10. It's your blog - you can rant if you want to!

    Back in the day when we had cable, HGTV was addicting. Now, with just network, well, I've kicked the habit cold turkey ;)

    I have more of a problem with people going to the big mass produced painting shows at hotels that are advertised as "Genuine oil paintings - all for less than $59.99 apiece" which are all probably sweat shop paintings from off shore.

    There are probably different levels of art appreciation in the world. Some people want the matchy thing regardless of where it comes to that matches their budget, and others search out art that speaks to them regardless of price.

    I just found out about Blurb (a couple of posts down) today and think I'm going to give them a try. I originally intended to make little handmade books, but realize my time might be spent better elsewhere.

  11. Yes that was a rant. Just paint for yourself. Your work will attract those who can appreciate it.

  12. I found your blog while looking for James Way's art online. I agree with you completely. As an artist myself, I'm often inspired by seeing other artists' work, on tv, online, in magazines, etc. I was excited to see that his work was featured.

    I've been lectured time and time again about making some of my art "accessible to everyone". While my block prints are inexpensive, I can't imagine making my paintings "cheap" just to sell. It's a piece of me, why would I want to part with something that has a piece of my soul for $5?

    Although, HGTV is insanely addicting...