Eye Of The Beholder: 3 Pros Show Us How To Love (& Live With) Art

We love surrounding ourselves with beautiful things: From the clothes we buy to the way we decorate our homes, our aesthetic choices have a serious impact on our quality of life. Collecting and displaying art — no matter the medium — can enhance your space, inspire you on a daily basis, and help support hard-working artists, to boot.
To put it another way, it's like 3-D Pinterest. But it can also be a little intimidating, particularly when you're buying on a budget. Luckily, gallery openings aren't the only entrée into the art world — and we're here to hook you up with an at-home tutorial. What it boils down to: You just need to figure out what you love, and then, when you see it, snap it up — and hang it up.
So, we sought out advice from three art-loving local ladies — a collector, a designer, and a painter — to help you turn any blank wall into your own personal gallery. Click through to meet them, see their personal pieces, and get some top-notch tips for starting your own creative collection.
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Meg Biram, artist, consultant, and blogger at MIMI+MEG.

What first sparked your interest in the arts?
"My mom was very artsy and my dad is in advertising, so I came from a creative family that encouraged me to follow that passion from a young age. I would take classes at museums in the summers, and I took every art class my school provided."

Many of your paintings feature bright colors and abstract designs. Are you drawn to other styles when it comes to collecting?
"I love painting with color, but I typically buy black-and-white photography and other abstract work. I am drawn to things that have some sort of meaning to me, or pieces from friends who are artists. I'm building up a little collection of pieces that all have something to do with love, for my bedroom. It should be fun to add to it, over the years."

Photographed by Sebastian Marin
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How long have you been selling your work?
"I just started selling my pieces about a year ago. I just figured that I should put what I was doing out there, or else I'd keep putting it off, thinking that my next round of work would be better. It's hard to be a satisfied artist, especially while you are still developing."

What is your creative process like?
"I have a list of series ideas that I continue to add to. I always have a sketchbook around and I keep one on my nightstand, because I often get ideas when I'm falling asleep."

How do you meet buyers and form those relationships?
"A lot of my buyers are my blog readers or friends, so I do have a relationship with some of them. I recently saw a piece of mine that I had given to a friend. She framed it so beautifully; it was cool to see that."

Photographed by Sebastian Marin
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Do you have any tips for displaying pieces, particularly smaller ones?
"When displaying work, I like to mix it all together: photography, paintings, screenprints, sculpture. I like art everywhere, not just hanging on a wall. I have a lot of small pieces dispersed across my bookshelves — even some on the floor leaning up against the wall, and a piece hanging in my closet."

Photographed by Sebastian Marin
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How does it feel to see your own work on the walls of your home?
"I have some of my own work up because I have a lot of wall space. However, I'd much rather it be in other people's homes so they can enjoy it. I also want to fill my home with work from other artists, so I can be inspired by them and support them."

Photographed by Sebastian Marin
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Andrea Pippins, graphic designer, professor, and blogger at Fly.

Why is it important to hang art in a small — or even temporary — living space?
"It is so important to have beauty around you, no matter how long you plan to be in a particular space. Art acts as a constant reminder of a moment in time, a place, an idea or thought, and it feeds your soul without you really having to think about it."

Much of what you collect is not traditional "fine art," but posters, found items, and flea market scores. How do you find these pieces?
"By being curious and open to exploration. I go to open studio events and craft shows, and visit flea markets as well as farmers' markets to see what I can find. When I go, I'm always on the lookout for what I like.

Sometimes there's a lot of stuff to get through, but I try to not let that discourage me. Actually, that's the best part — digging through bins, paging through books and portfolios, trying to find something perfect to take home."

What's the next step?
"I ask questions like where, when, or how was this made? And then I imagine it in my space. If I can't see it around me every day, or if it's something I think might be too difficult or expensive to frame, then I don't get it unless I absolutely love it."

Photographed by Sebastian Marin
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How does the art you collect and display inspire your professional work?
"The artwork I display is a direct reflection of my interests and experiences. I enjoy mixing colors, patterns, and textures. I try to infuse those elements into my work, and I encourage my students to pay attention to those elements when creating work of their own, as well.

In my office, I have a pair of framed Hammerpress letter-pressed concert posters that hang behind me. There is not a day that goes by that I don't turn around to look at the typography and color in those posters. I always want to bring that kind of beauty into my designs; seeing those posters everyday is a beautiful reminder of what I love to see and do."

Photographed by Sebastian Marin
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What draws you to the pieces you collect and display?
"I've never consciously thought about my collection being a chronicle of my life story, but I guess, in essence, it is. I've lived in several cities, visited various places, and have always tried to pick up something along the way. Now, my collection tells the story of where I've been and the various experiences of my life. Putting those things up around me is a wonderful way to remind me of those times or places. Turning memories into art is the best souvenir of one's journey through life."

Any other advice?
"If you see something you like, and it's in your budget, get it — especially if it's one of a kind or it's a piece you come across abroad. You don't want to walk away and regret it. This happened to me when I went to Madrid. I saw a beautiful print, but because it was the first day of the trip, I was hesitant to spend the money that early... so I passed it up. I totally should have purchased that print!"

Photographed by Sebastian Marin
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What are your best tips for building an art collection — especially for someone on a budget?
"The first thing I would recommend is to decide what you like. What would you like to have around you everyday? Think about what you currently have, and what new pieces you can bring into your space to complement or contrast with those existing pieces, as well as the decor of your space. Once you have that information, you then have a checklist for what you're looking for when searching for art.

What's your best budget-friendly art-finding secret?
"Galleries aren't the only places to find great art. When you're traveling abroad, visiting a new city, or just strolling around your own neighborhood, try to visit the flea markets, artist markets, and thrift stores. You can always find little gems like old prints, vintage maps, and drawings to frame. Be on the look out for art school exhibitions. Usually at the end of a semester, art schools/universities/institutions have shows. And oftentimes the work is for sale. This is a great way to discover new artists and support their talents. I personally feel a lot of student work is particularly innovative and experimental, which is the kind of work I'm drawn to."

Photographed by Sebastian Marin
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Philippa P. B. Hughes art collector and founder of The Pink Line Project.

What was your initial motivation to start collecting art?
"I've been collecting art since I was in high school. I would mostly collect things from travels — prints and decorative items as reminders of places I had visited. I love to surround myself with beauty."

Has your perspective on discovering and collecting art evolved over time?
"As I've learned more about art — especially the contemporary art world — my collection has become more sophisticated. I seek out young artists, and I look for emerging talent. I want to fill my life with beautiful and meaningful things."

Photographed by Sebastian Marin
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How much of your collection is displayed at any given time? How do you store the rest?
"Less than half of my art is on display, and I am counting the wall and ceiling murals in that. My art is stored all over the place! I had the bathtub taken out of my second bathroom and replaced with art storage racks. I also have smaller pieces boxed in plastic containers in my basement storage unit. There are also a couple of large pieces still hanging in my old condo where my ex still lives!"

What do you say to someone who loves a piece, but is hesitant to buy it because they don't have space to hang it?
"If you love it, buy it. Any experienced art collector will tell you that the only regrets you will have are about art works you didn't buy. If you don't have enough wall space, then all you have to do is rotate your art collection. I just rotated my art and now my home looks completely different. I missed seeing all of the pieces that had been in storage. Some of the pieces had never even been hung before!"

Photographed by Sebastian Marin
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What are your best tips for selecting and hanging frames?
"Many works of art will come framed as the artist intended — you shouldn't change that. And many photographs are mounted in specific ways, as well. However, if you need to frame works like prints and some photos, just pick a simple style and stick with it. That way, your collection has a consistent look that doesn't distract from the art itself. For example, I frame everything with white wood.

As for hanging art, there is a formula. You basically want to keep things at eye level, generally 58 to 60 inches from the ground. However, you may need to adjust that based on where your furniture is placed. Whatever you do, just try to keep things at a consistent height, and try to leave enough space around each piece so that it gets the attention it deserves."

Photographed by Sebastian Marin
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Which piece in your collection has the most memorable story behind it?
"A couple of years ago when I was down at Art Basel in Miami, I got calls from three different friends who told me I needed to go straight to a particular booth at one of the satellite fairs to see a specific work that reminded each of them of me. When I got there, I immediately fell in love with the piece by Peter Dayton, and it's sort of a centerpiece to my art collection."

Have you personally met all the artists whose works you own? How do those relationships influence what you purchase?
"I have met about 90% of the artists whose works I own. It's important for me to know the artists and build even a small relationship with each one of them. I am not interested in buying art as an investment in stuff. I'm interested in investing in artists — in people and their creative talents."

Photographed by Sebastian Marin

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