Resist the urge to run out to a discount store for a cheap framed print that picks up the colors of your couch, and don't make a wide flat-screen TV the focus of a room.
Instead, says Everett artist Janet Hamilton, take the time to learn about and invest in the work of local artists.
When you buy art that you love, not art to match your furniture, it's more likely to be around for a lifetime.
Snohomish and Island counties are home to dozens of award-winning, well-known and talented painters, sculptors, glass-blowers and carvers.
The one-of-kind artwork they produce includes impressionistic plein air pastels of nearby locales, crazy mixed-media, delicate floral watercolors and wild abstract sculpture.
It's possible to form a friendship with an artist, set up payment plans for purchases and become a collector of his or her work, Hamilton said.
And not everything costs thousands or even hundreds of dollars. Some artists sell postcards, for example, and these small prints, placed in nice frames, can be a great way to start an art collection.
Other artists will sell their work unframed from their own studios, cutting out the costs of expensive framing and gallery commissions.
"Art can last forever and even increase in value," Hamilton said. "I know that the overall value of my collection has gone up, while I enjoy it every day."
Here's a list of Hamilton's suggestions about buying local art:
See what's out there. Visit public buildings that feature local artists. Colleges, hospitals, libraries and government buildings all display art created by local people.
Stop at the Schack Art Center in Everett, the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner or the Seattle Art Museum.
The Arlington Arts Council has provided lots of great public art for that city.
Go to fundraising auctions for arts commissions around the county.
The Schack's annual benefit auction is Feb. 22 in the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Comcast Arena.
Meet the artists. Attend opening receptions at nearby art galleries and studios.
Take studio tours such as the one on Camano Island each May. Watch artists at work during the Fresh Paint Festival in August on the Everett waterfront.
Focus on an artist whose work you like. Start saving money to make a purchase. Contact the artist.
Schack Art Center Executive Director Judy Tuohy said great art will outlive any home decor.
"I love my art collection more as the years go on," Tuohy said. "And because I know these artists, it's even more meaningful."
Schack represents more than 200 local artists, Tuohy said.
"When you buy a piece from our gift shop, you support the Schack, the artist, the supply shop where she buys her materials and you support the culture of our community," Tuohy said.
"Glass art is huge in this county and that artwork is being sold around the world."
In Hamilton's home and studio, each room features art. Most of it doesn't necessarily match anything and yet it looks put together and classic.
The paintings and other artwork are by artist friends, teachers and Hamilton herself.
In the entry is a rural Midwest sunset painting by Hamilton's great aunt.
The stairwell is covered with paintings, floor to ceiling. One could never be bored in the Hamilton house, with so much to look at and enjoy.
Artists in Hamilton's collection include Yuming Zhu, Dona Anderson, Jack Gunter, James L. Davis, Lisa Spreacker, Marguerite Goff, John Ebner, Byron Bratt, Joan Pinney and the late artists Genevieve Tuck, Bernie Webber and Guy Anderson.
"You are buying the energy the artist has put into a painting," Hamilton said.
"It's a piece of them, their translation of the world. You learn what goes into the intense process of creating art."
People who are concerned about matching their sofas are missing out, Hamilton said.
"Real art is worth it."
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn about art
Like many artists, Janet Hamilton welcomes people to her studio. For more information and to learn about her painting classes, go to www.janethamilton.com.
For more about the Schack Arts Center auction, H'Arts 2014, go to www.schack.org/events/harts-2014.
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