How many of you have a piece of manufactured mass-produced art in your home or office?
Those printed and framed paintings or posters of everything from reproductions of great masters to artists you have never heard of. The art you walk by every day, but rarely look at and definitely do not derive any enjoyment from.
At the office, there are often now meaningless mass-produced paintings or posters hanging on the walls. Dramatic photos with printed words like TEAMWORK, AIM HIGH, EXCELLENCE, or ATTITUDE, meant to inspire you, but you stopped looking at them years ago, let alone derive any motivation from them.
At home, how much of your art came from a department store? Do you even know where you got them? You probably have a poster of a cat holding on to a bar with the words: HANG IN THERE! You have paintings on your walls, but they have become almost invisible, for you do not even notice them.
I want you to throw them out.
Take them down off the walls of your home and office and throw them out. All of them.
Next, visit your local art galleries or go to Art & Craft Fairs, you know the ones with booths of artists showing and selling their art, and replace all your meaningless manufactured paintings with real art. The art you choose, art you love.
You do not have to do it all at once. Most cannot afford to replace all their invisible art at one time.
So do one a month, a quarter, or annually. Or do one room at a time.
Of course, if you do not own the company, do not take the art down at work without permission. If you do own the company, put an art procurement line item in your budget, and create guidelines for replacing and acquiring local original art for the company.
Make it an adventure and a treasure hunt to find the art that you enjoy and find inspiring or comforting. Meet the artists, and if you find one whose work you especially like, commission them.
Now don't go out and purchase an original Van Gogh for $5.2 million. The time you should have bought a Van Gogh was one hundred years ago when he was a poor starving artist. Instead, visit your local art galleries and Art Fairs for art that speaks to you. The art you find engaging, challenging, or peaceful. Art you love.
Then one by one, replace your invisible art with meaningful works of art.
Imagine if every home and office did this, we would usher in a new renaissance.
We would have a more significant impact than all the charitable donations made to the arts. An art revolution ushering in a new era of celebrating and valuing art.
John Sebby dabbled in art while in high school, drawing and sketching, but he laid down his paintbrush after he got married and started a family. He’d break out the watercolors once a year to do Christmas cards for relatives, but that was it.
Then, one day at The Salvation Army, inspiration struck.
“I went to a Salvation Army workshop on how important it is to do something meaningful to thank our donors,” said Sebby, director of development at the Augusta, Georgia, Area Command. “Without our donors, we couldn’t do all that we do. … Whether it’s a dollar in the kettle or a large donation, it all adds up to make our work possible.”
“It hit me that maybe donors would enjoy my watercolor paintings.”
His works were so well-received, he’s been painting for donors for the last 20 years.
Original watercolors, executed in pen and ink on 4-by-5-inch cardstock and colored by hand, go to donors of $1,000 or more; and printed cards, to those who give $100 to $999. Sebby sent out more than 100 originals and 900 prints in 2017.
“Donors call and say thank you for the cards,” Sebby said. “Some have framed them and have invited me to their homes or offices to see where they’ve hung them. So, it’s a way to have more contact and build stronger relationships.”
Sebby also has painted watercolor Christmas cards for family members since 1993. In the early years, he’d do a pen-and-ink sketch, hand-color it, and send out signed and numbered copies.
“I did that for 10 years until my Christmas list became so big, it became too time-consuming. Now I make one color print for all my Christmas cards.”
Sebby prefers landscapes. He’s most fond of a winter scene of an old mill at The Salvation Army’s High Peak Camp in Estes, Colorado. Another of his favorites is an Emergency Disaster Services canteen in the field after an Oklahoma tornado.
His most Christmas card depicted something closer to home: the Sacred Heart Cultural Center, down the block from the Army’s Center of Hope and homeless shelter in Augusta.
“I’ll see a scene that looks good and do a sketch of it. Sometimes, it all comes together very nicely. Other times – as with the Sacred Heart – it may take three or four paintings.”
“It’s a hobby I enjoy,” he said. “Some people have asked me if I’d like to do it professionally, and I tell them no – then, it would be just a job, and that would take all the fun out of it.”
If you already have a manufactured picture hanging up that you relish, leave it. It is doing what it is supposed to do – elicit a reaction from you. So, if you have a mass-produced Monet, or a Norman Rockwell illustration hanging on the wall that you love, no need to replace it.
We have a small still-life oil painting hanging in our dining room. It belonged to my wife's grandmother. For her, it brings back the smells of family Thanksgiving dinners, lemonade on a warm summer day, and joyful Christmases as a child. It is doing what art was meant to do.
I am not looking at getting anything out of this for me, I don't have paintings to sell. Oh, I paint, watercolors, mostly landscapes, but I am just a hobby artist. I paint because I enjoy it. I will not have anything for sale to ride a wave of any art resurgence. I have been asked a few times why I do not show and sell my art. Because it is my hobby, I do it for enjoyment. If I had to work at it, it would become a job. Plus, I am just not that prolific.
I do paint for work. As a fundraiser for nonprofits (I often tell people my title is the Director of Begging, which is more descriptive than Director of Development), I found my original watercolor thank you cards, signed and numbered, have been a great way to show appreciation to donors.
Donors often will call me and thank me for the card. Many donors have had them framed and invited me to their homes or office to see where they hung them.
I would love to see art elevated, and value increased.
When purchasing art, it is not just a business transaction, you have bought a piece of the artist's passion, talent, and soul.
Art and music should be part of the curriculum available in every school. We all know so many people who say they only made it through school because of band, or art, or music.
So, leave the kids' drawings on the refrigerator but go through and evaluate the art in your home. The paintings, stained glass, pottery, and sculpture, and if it does not move you, speak to you, or has become invisible, then take it down and replace it with art that does its job. The art you appreciate and enjoy.
The End of Invisible Art is an excerpt from my book
Scratch N Sniff Resumes and
Other Dangers of Thinking Outside the Box.
My original watercolor painting inspired by The Salvation
Army's Emergency Disaster Canteen serving hot meals to
victims, rescue workers and firefighters during a disaster.