Art Talks by Art Professionals

This past quarter mhArt launched a pilot project of providing art talks by art professionals for interior designers and the general public. These are ARIDO CEU accredited talks where interior designers garner credits for ongoing professional status. This innovative approach offers information rich discussions on various genres of art including original paintings, antique and rare prints as well as fine art photography and framing.

The objective of the series is to offer the foundation for the designer or collector to enjoy art from a broader understanding. The objective is not to give answers but to provide definitive questions to pose to artists, dealers or galleries in order to select art and purchase with confidence. I believe that quality works of art are an essential to harmonious living and should be chosen with the same care that goes into a quality professional design. It is our intent that these professional presentations in the midst of an excellent display of art will support a more robust conversation between the Interior Designer and the Art Professional.

The first talk was offered in May at the Elisabeth Legge Gallery and the subsequent five symposia and open houses during this past July were held at the Dignam Gallery at the Women’s Art Association, Toronto where the exhibit was brilliantly curated by WAA president and art appraiser, Barbara Mitchell. These two exhibits were wonderful examples of how diverse works of art – styles and techniques – can live cooperatively on a wall and enhance one another in complement of colour, pattern, texture and design. The exhibits created the perfect backdrop in which to explore these various art forms.

In regard to the talks, you might say the byline is “All you wanted to know about art but were afraid to ask.” It is direct answer to my own experience in navigating the art world and finding it a minefield of misinformation and no direct path to sorting that out. In tracing the thread of disconnections (broken threads) I discovered an interesting statistic. It is that 4% of our population creates art and 2% buys it. If this is true, why doesn’t everyone enjoy the pleasure of living with an original work of art?

My discovery was that the art world tends to be rather exclusive and doesn’t embrace the first time or uncertain buyer. Even for seasoned collectors like myself, the world of galleries, art fairs, art societies and studio tours often tells a very different story to the one that informs me best and that is my aesthetic sensibility.

The big “A” art market that we read so much about which sells the old masters and the avant guard – the market that is presently outperforming the gold index as an investment – accounts for only a miniscule percent of the population. It is also a market driven by many other factors besides pure aestheticism and offers an investment risk, not for the faint of heart – or weak of capital. This market is not in my purview.

What does interest me and certainly is the motive behind all my activities with artists, designers and collectors is art that is beautiful, harmonious, balanced and a constant pleasure in our midst. This qualification does not impose any rules on type or style, but only on excellence. And what defines excellence?

Well, that’s the thing isn’t it? Is excellence proven by the artist’s name? The price of the work? The size of the work? How well it matches our decor? I say no to all of these. How, then, do we judge a work for ourselves? And what does excellence have to do with it if you just like it … because?

It is my experience that those who grew up with original art, not only understand its intrinsic value in nourishing our environment, but are also discerning as to what is pleasing and enduring. Enduring art is not a measure of market or resale value but of its continuing pleasure and effect on our lives. Seasoned collectors and newcomers to collecting art who have informed themselves of these aesthetics will choose art with greater confidence. They buy knowing that art is a complement to life not an accessory to a decor.

These factors of art as complement to life vs accessory to decor are not exclusive from one another. The willing client and the confident designer will easily incorporate art into the design scheme so that all elements at our place of work or in the home are harmonious, lovely and lively. It is to support and augment this relationship that we have created this series of talks on art for the professional designer.

To us, an original work of art is not a product or commodity but a vital and energetic slice of an artist’s life – never to be equated with wallpaper. Art is bought for the love of it – and I don’t mean that term in a saccharine way. Art we love goes with anything. As one designer commented, “It’s not a matter of does in match, but where is it best placed?”

Here is a brief overview of our six talks.

Is it Worth the Paper is Printed On?”

Elisabeth Legge, dealer in antique and rare prints and past president of Antique Dealers Association of Canada, on the history of antique and rare prints. With samples from the vast and diverse collection, the talk discussed types of printing techniques, how to assess the authenticity of a print, the various papers and their qualities for longevity. Stars and unsung heros through the centuries were outlined. Included was what to look for and where to buy, terminology and relevant resources.


Capturing the Extraordinary”

Anne Launcelott, fine art photographer, chosen top 100 in international competition for prestigious photography publication “One Life” 2012, on the difference between a snapshot and a fine art photo. Discussion included technique and artistic sensibilities, quality of inks and papers, printing specifications as well as variety of prints illustrating the versatility and budget worthiness of fine art photography in a contemporary design.


Colour Light and Versatility”

Anthony Batten, CSA, OSA, artist, past president and lifetime member of the prestigious CSPWC (Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour) and winner of A.J. Casson medal, on a brief history of watercolour as it grew as an art form. Discussion included contemporary attitudes and applications for watercolour paintings in interior design, their selection and preservation. Suggestions were made for discernment and purchasing and bargain potentials through online auctions.


Abstraction – Pattern, Shape and Spirit”

Linda Kemp, CSPWC, CSA, OSA and winner of A.J. Casson medal, on modernist art and the move away from realism. Historical perspective of the “isms” that defines the quickly changing art scene of the past century beginning with Impressionism through Cubism and Abstract Expressionism. The talks perspective was that Non-representational art works offer a design complement to the contemporary interior through stylization capturing themes, patterns and pallets.

Universal Themes in the Art of Realism”

Lynn Bertrand, artist and member of the Portrait Society of America on the enduring qualities of art in the classical style. Discussion included a brief history, technical skills that define the quality of a work and its complement to any style of interior design from classical through modern and contemporary. Particular emphasis was on commissioned works including the portrait.


The Frame – Art in Context”

Nicholas Legge, custom framer for Legge Gallery (established 1987) on the historical evolution of framing, changing styles, signature frames and the value of original frames. Discussion included choosing profiles that complement both art and interior design and the importance of the mat and combination of materials for preservation and protection of valued pieces. Further illustration showed various considerations and configurations for hanging – from both a design and safety perspective.


 What did interior designers say about this series?

Articulate and excellent command of the subject.”

Wonderful evening! – So glad I attended.”

Amazing presentation – wonderful information.”

Very informative and entertaining – thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Informative, fun and inspirational. I enjoyed it”

I enjoyed the casual atmosphere and being able to discuss and here tips from other artists as well.”

Should have more of these events – thank you.”

In answer to the last comment, we say – see you in the fall! We are planning to present this series again as well as additional topics in the spring. Subscribe to our news bulletin to stay informed or follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Also watch for Webinars!