It’s my birthday this month and that’s got me thinking about how difficult it is to gift art. Art is such a personal thing. It feels like you have to know someone as well as yourself to be able to choose for them. You want them to hang that piece of art because they love it, not because they feel obliged because you bought it for them. It’s tricky, I know. I have the same problem.
However I also know that if we persevere and follow these tips, gifting art can be incredibly rewarding precisely because it is so personal. What could be better than giving something that tells someone that you know them well, that you took the time to find out what they would love, that you listened when they talked about what they love?
The first tip is to consider your budget. What can you afford? What are you willing to spend on this person at this time? Is it a significant birthday or anniversary? These will all help inform you budget. Its best to think about this first and at least have a ballpark figure in mind as this will help narrow down your search for artwork. However, do bear in mind that many artists can works with different options/sizes to suit your budget.
Last November, while browsing at Elements of Avebury, my son found the perfect gift for my husband, a large wire dragonfly by Mandy Mander (Avebury Faeries). The price tag was beyond my budget for a Christmas present but rather than walk away I decided to ask if the artist made anything smaller. We ended up with a smaller version for a third of the cost, ready for collection within a few weeks. He absolutely loved it and I was pleased we had found something so personal and perfect for him.
Consider the space that could end up being home to the artwork. What is the colour scheme? Does this person favour neutrals, bright colours, pastels? Paint or wallpaper? Is the decor modern or traditional? Minimalistic? What is the furniture like? Light wood, dark wood, painted, glass? What else is in the space? Other artwork, ornaments, books? For this part think practical rather than emotional. It may help to jot down some quick notes or take some snaps for reference.
This step will help you determine the style of artwork that would suit as well as inform size, colour schemes and framing. Again, the aim is to narrow down your search with every new piece of information.
Now we’ve got the practical stuff out of the way we can get into what we know about the person. It helps to ask simple, specific questions about them. You may already know the answers or you can use this time to find out. Think of being a child again and being concerned about favourite things. That’s what this is all about!
What are their favourite colours, if any?
What is their favourite place? Best walking/cycling route? Favourite place to stop?
What is their hobby? Sport?
Where was their last holiday? Do they travel a lot? What destination comes up in conversation over and over?
Where is home?
What are their significant memories? What stories do they tell most often about themselves?
Favourite flower, animal? Favourite time of year?
If you’re gifting to a couple it’s worth looking at what they have in common. Same as above really but some specific ideas could be honeymoon destinations, wedding location, current home, proposal location, common hobbies.
The occasion for the gift can help you narrow down the subject matter. Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, Mother’s day, Father’s day, Valentine’s day, Christmas, they all make us think of different things. For me it’s flowers for Mother’s day, sparkles for Christmas, locations for weddings, memories for birthdays. Everyone’s different but it’s worth thinking about the occasion in relation to the interests you have listed above.
This is optional but I’ll include it here because it’s something I find incredibly useful in researching new pieces and I think it would apply well here.
A moodboard doesn’t have to be anything complicated. It’s just a place to collate your thoughts and research and help narrow things down to form an idea. It could be as simple as a sheet of paper with notes or you could use a notes app on your phone. Or take snaps and keep them in an album on your phone. A word document would work too – just dump your notes and images there as you go. If you already use it, a pinterest board, or a flickr faves list, or an artboard in illustrator works too.
There are plenty of methods, apps and software that will do this very well, do what works for you. The main thing is to keep your notes, thoughts and images somewhere together. This will really help when it’s time finalise your idea and to choose or commision an art gift.
Talk to an artist about taking your moodboard/notes and your budget and coming up with something special.
Allow yourself enough time for this process and for the artist to schedule and produce the work. If in doubt, talk to the artist about their lead time at different times of year.
Remember that the time and effort put in will pay off when you have the perfect piece of art to gif.