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Exploring and Understanding Gouache

When it comes to paint mediums, many people are aware of watercolor, tempera, acrylic and oil, but one medium that is often overlooked is gouache (pronounced “gwash”). Gouache is seemingly a mix between watercolor and tempera paint. It can be used like watercolors–thinning the pigment down with water and layering the colors–as well as thick and heavy like tempera paint straight from the tube. As an artist myself, I found working in watercolor difficult at first. I was unable to figure out a fitting paint to water ratio without the paint being too thick and too thin. That being said, there are many strong watercolor and gouache pieces which take advantage of the ability to layer colors. Watercolor dries with a satin finish while gouache dries matte, so if that aesthetic is desired, gouache is an excellent option.

Comparing gouache and watercolor through wet on dry and wet on wet techniques, washes, and testing the opacity of the two mediums by layering paint on top of a line of graphite.

Comparing gouache and watercolor through wet on dry and wet on wet techniques, washes, and testing the opacity of the two mediums by layering paint on top of a line of graphite.

History

Gouache has been used in paintings since ancient Egypt. Egyptians used binding agents of honey or tragacanth glue with the pigments. Following that, the medium appeared on illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages. Although gouache was prevalent throughout the history of art, few acknowledged it or recognized its value. In 18th century France, the term gouache was developed and applied to the opaque water-based medium. Gouache was used by artists in combining different mediums to create a more unique surface in pastel paintings, as well as being used as a base layer in oil paintings. By this time, gouache began to include modern-day ingredients of gum arabic as the binding agent with an opaque white pigment, such as chalk. During the 20th century, the medium was manufactured in tubes, allowing artists to easily access it and use it outside of the studio.

How Artists Use Gouache

Landscape and nature painter Albrecht Dürer utilized both watercolor and gouache in his paintings. Because these two mediums are similar, they can work together to improve one another. In Wing of a Blue Roller, c. 1500 or 1512, Durer rendered a hyper-realistic view of a bird’s wing by using the buildable properties of gouache and watercolor. In instances like this, an artist might first put down a watercolor base to draw and plan out the values, then build the composition up with layers of gouache, creating structure, color, and details. Watercolor and gouache work very well together and can be layered to create depth and realistic effects.

Gouache vs Watercolor

Gouache and watercolor share many similarities, but one of the key differences is that gouache is much more opaque and mud-like than watercolor. In fact, the word “gouache” is derived from the Italian term guazzo meaning “mud.” For the most part, watercolor and gouache behave in the same way, but with watercolor, there is no real way to apply thick paint without it still appearing transparent. Because watercolor is watered down pigment, it has a tendency to bleed into other colors blurring the edges whereas gouache allows for clean and crisp edges. Even if the gouache was watered down, the paint would still remain opaque. Watercolor dries relatively matte but if more paint was layered on, it develops a satin sheen, while gouache dries matte no matter what.

Casey Matthews

Casey Matthews

Gouache in Contemporary Art

Today, it is not as common to see paintings only using gouache as most artists use it along with other mediums. Casey Matthews is a Florida-based painter who marries many different types of mediums and household objects to create pieces. His work includes many subtleties in color and line variation.

Spanish painter Annabel Andrews uses acrylic and gouache by laying down thick layers of paint which builds texture. Her work is very geometric with solid filled shapes sometimes accompanied by lines or other elements to help tie the piece together. The shapes are painted in a quick manner, not overly concerned about uneven edges or misalignment with other shapes.

Framing works with gouache

Because gouache is almost always done on paper, it is important to limit the amount of sun exposure to the piece. With too much sun exposure, the colors may start to fade and become less saturated than when initially put down. A good way to ensure your gouache painting is fully protected is to frame with UV filtering plexiglass and avoid direct sunlight. To learn more about plexiglass for archival use, read our blog post here.

Rebecca Shore

Rebecca Shore

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Fiber Art – Past and Present

Victoria Manganiello

Victoria Manganiello

Humans have been making textiles for thousands of years. Clothing, fabrics, baskets, and carpets are often practical as well as decorative and expressive. Because of their use as functional objects, textiles have long been seen as a "craft" rather than a type of fine art, but things are changing.

In the 19th century, British and American members of the Arts & Crafts movement started to challenge that distinction. The Arts & Crafts movement was a reaction to Industrial Revolution and mass production, advocating for a return to handmade objects and the employment of artists in creating household objects. Famously, British designer William Morris created furniture, wallpaper, tapestries, and fabrics that blurred the lines between art and craft. "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful," Morris once said.

A century later, textiles were used to transform the boundary between art and craft again–this time by feminist artists in the 1970s. Understanding that textiles and fibers were historically the domain of women, feminist artists reclaimed textiles in the 70s and pushed them into the realm of fine art. Now, we call this category "fiber art."

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Fiber Art Techniques

Weaving

Weaving involves an artist using a loom to intertwine threads. By threading different colors, artists can create patterns or images in the weaving. Contemporary artists are also increasingly exploring different types and thicknesses of thread to create dynamic, almost sculptural weavings. Some artists use lap-sized looms for small pieces, while others use looms the size of a room to create large-scale wall hangings. Chicago artist kg uses weaving and found objects to create pieces that play with dimensionality.

Knitting and Crocheting

These are two similar techniques, both using a hand-held tool to create stitches or knots. Knitting uses two needles, while crocheting uses a single hook, to form patterns. Often used to make things like scarves, blankets, and sweaters, knitting and crocheting are increasingly appearing in art. Artists use these techniques to interact with objects in novel ways. Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos creates sculptures by crocheting around animal figurines. 

Joana Vasconcelos

Joana Vasconcelos

Yarn Bombing

This is a new form of street art that has emerged in recent years. Artists "yarn bomb" by knitting or crocheting around an object in a public space, much the way a street artist might use stencils or stickers to interact with spaces. Polish artist Olek yarn bombed an entire house Finland in 2016. 

Sewing

Sewing is the act of connecting fabric or objects with a needle and thread. Sewing can be used to create garments, often exploring the boundaries between craft, fashion, and fine art. This technique is also used with a variety of materials to create sculptural pieces. Chicago-based artist Nick Cave is famous for his fiber work, called "Soundsuits" which are both wearable by dancers or static sculptures in galleries.

Embroidery and Quilting

Embroidery is another type of sewing, which create images and patterns on the surface of fabrics. Quilting involves sewing different fabrics and fillings together to create patterns. Pia Camil creates large scale pieces from different fabrics, as well "wearable paintings" in the form of ponchos. Learn more about Camil and other pioneering fiber artists on Artsy.

Collecting Fiber Art

There are many reasons to collect fiber art. Acquiring fiber art pieces for your collection can allow you to engage with new mediums. Fiber art can add texture to a space, complementing furniture and color in a unique way. Many pieces of fiber art are "2.5D" or somewhere between two and three-dimensional works. If you are looking for a piece that can hang flat on a wall, but still has three-dimensional elements and utilizes space in engaging ways, fiber art wall hangings are a great option to consider. Fiber pieces can also have excellent acoustic properties, dampening sound in large, echo-prone spaces. Fiber art pieces of all types can add depth and texture to your collection and space.

Pia Camil

Pia Camil

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Art Conservation

National Portrait Gallery, London

National Portrait Gallery, London

While we absolutely hate to see it, damaged artwork it is a reality that we encounter from time to time. Whether it is a torn painting, a broken frame, or a dusty dirty textile, artwork can be greatly susceptible to damage if not properly protected, stored or shipped (check out our recommendations for treating your objects with care here). Luckily, we have relationships with top level art conservators that help our clients navigate these situations. 

What is the purpose of art conservation?

Art and object conservation refers to the scientific practice and profession of preserving artwork and artifacts from deterioration and repairing damage that has occurred. The primary aim of art conservation is to stabilize the work from further damage while retaining the maximum amount of original material, and secondary is to improve the appearance of the work of art. Art conservators use precise techniques to clean, repair, reassemble and at times restore works of art that have been damaged from time, environment stresses or accidents. Conservators also employ techniques for preventative conservation and scientific technology such as x-ray imaging to study artwork. 

What is the difference between conservation, restoration and preservation? 

The Art Conservator's Alliance explains these terms in detail:

"Art conservation includes principles and practices of technical examination, documentation, and treatment for objects of material culture. The intention of art conservation is to improve the condition of an artifact by stabilizing physical condition problems and addressing surface disfigurement arising from deterioration and/or damage. In doing so, the art conservator strives to retain as much original material as possible and to employ the best quality materials and the most carefully considered methods available."

"At times a conservation treatment also requires restoration, which is defined as the preparation and incorporation of replacement parts and surface finishes (i.e. 'compensation for losses') to allow proper visual interpretation of an art object and to recapture an acceptable esthetic appearance..."

"Another often-used term is preservation, which encompasses all of the varied activities involved in preventing damage and reducing the rate of deterioration for art objects, collections, and structures."

http://www.artconservatorsalliance.com/what_is.html

Want to learn more?

Here is a great link to a glossary of conservation terms compiled by the Smithsonian Institute:  https://www.si.edu/mci/english/learn_more/taking_care/painting_glossary.html

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EXPO Chicago - A Week In Review

Gladys Nilsson at Garth Greenan Gallery’s booth at EXPO Chicago

Gladys Nilsson at Garth Greenan Gallery’s booth at EXPO Chicago

We are still recovering from a busy September here in the office. The end of the year is always a race, but the addition of Chicago's premiere art fair, Expo Chicago, always makes things that much more exciting. Art fairs are a great opportunity for art consultants to take in an extensive array of artwork from a vast network of national and international galleries in a relatively short amount of time. Additionally, we welcome any opportunity to see art in person and connect with its makers and purveyors, making this close-to-home option a must on our list.

WHAT IS VERNISSAGE?

DeGroot Fine Art at Vernissage

DeGroot Fine Art at Vernissage

The art season in Chicago opens in early September with many top-notch shows in the galleries around town leading up to the night of Expo Chicago or “Vernissage” as it is referred to in their programming. This term simply means a private viewing of paintings before public exhibition. This event is heavily attended, and the people-watching is as interesting as the artwork. That said, it is hard to fully perceive what is being exhibited behind the throngs of people, so it is important to strategize how and when you will be best able to take things in.

PROFESSIONAL PREVIEW

Every year I make sure to attend the professional preview before the fair opens for Vernissage. During this time I was able to take some quick snapshot reminders with my camera and write notes down of those pieces of particular interest. I use these notes to flag and quickly communicate artwork options for our private and corporate clients and get a head-start on any acquisitions. This year, I was focused on new prints, potential acquisitions for two different homes in Evanston and Lincoln Park, and executive level artwork for corporate clients.

Alex Katz at Richard Gray Gallery’s booth at EXPO

Alex Katz at Richard Gray Gallery’s booth at EXPO

PRIVATE TOURS FOR CLIENTS

This year DeGroot Fine Art was asked by Expo Chicago to give a private tour for the Northern Trust V.I.P. guests the morning before the fair opened to the public. Our Project Manager, Julia Sobieraj, donned a microphone headset and toured through the fair with a group of about 25 executives, highlighting artwork from locally relevant artists of note, including: Gladys Nilsson, Alex Katz, Judy Ledgerwood, Celeste Rapone, and Stephen Eichhorn. We were honored to be included in their programming and welcomed the chance to meet individuals with a mutual interest in fine art. 

After the tour, there was plenty of time the rest of the weekend to slowly take in the fair's offerings. We always plan to review any fair at least twice, as observing so much can be overwhelming at first. It is always advantageous to use fresh eyes in another round the bend. To see more of our top picks from this fair, check out our Aesthetics page on the website for the affiliated post. We are often tasked with being the eyes and ears of our clients for fairs such as Expo Chicago, but in addition to this service and offering exclusive invitations to our clientele, we also walk individuals around at their request to personally guide their experience custom to their interests.

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Finding the Right Fit

Steven Cox

Steven Cox

In fine art consulting, unfortunately there isn’t a single comprehensive resource with all available artwork across the board. While the internet allows access to more resources than ever, and we maintain extensive files of artwork options, for each acquisition project we essentially begin with a blank slate for what to present to a client.

Details to Keep in Mind

To become familiar with our client’s style, we go through a tastemaker to learn about their interests; you can read more about that process here. The next step is to find artwork options that work with their design aesthetic, collection goals, and fit the scale needed for their space.

When working with a designer or renovated space, we look for artwork that appeals to our client's taste while complementing the style of its location. Customized details like framing, labels, and display cases are effective ways of making a space look cohesive. Many clients with contemporary interiors will gravitate towards gallery-esqe thin white frames, while more traditional companies may opt for hearty, custom-stained wood frames. The design aesthetic of an office also helps us determine the type of artwork to pursue. A large atrium can be a great opportunity for sculpture, while large open walls are an inviting setting for paintings. If the location is public-facing, we suggest work that will make a memorable impact. For private, employee-facing areas, we focus on artwork that's meaningful to the people who work there, and might be works on paper or prints. 

In the process of finding artwork options, it's relatively straightforward to determine what people like and dislike; the consistent challenge is finding work that the client loves, but still fits their budget and is the right size to balance out their space. Most of the time spent researching includes procuring this information and balancing these factors, and we have a wide network of fine art resources that we call upon to find options that will work. 

The Research Process

The best way to find artwork is by going out into the art world and looking for it. The consultants in our firm are regularly visiting galleries to see new work by new artists, as well as attending exhibition openings. These events are a great opportunity to network with gallerists, artists, and collectors. Investing time into these relationships makes working in the art world enriching and enjoyable, and it helps us access information more easily. We make it a priority to work with art organizations that we've built relationships with whenever possible. 

Another great way to find artwork is by visiting artists at their studio. It's fascinating to see the individual drives and methods an artists uses to make their work. Art consultants are like translators between the art and corporate worlds, and when we visit a studio we learn how best to illustrate what makes that artwork special when presenting it to a client. We schedule studio visits throughout the year to steadily grow our network and artwork knowledge.

Technology is a steadily growing presence in our personal and professional lives, and one effective tool for finding artwork is through resources like Instagram. While artwork is best viewed in person, Instagram provides a quick and comprehensive look into what artists are making and what galleries are exhibiting. We use Instagram for preliminary research and often find new work that way. It keeps us up-to-date on visual trends in our local network and in the broader international art community. 

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