“A painting is never finished, it just stops in an interesting place.” -Picasso
Buying art is a deeply personal experience. Some people say the act of acquiring art is akin to falling in love. Art is tangible evidence of an artist’s expression and evokes an emotional response in the viewer. Just like music, great art endures time and is a reflection of who we are at a given time in history. The best advice anyone can give you about collecting art is buy what you really love. Don’t buy for an investment, or because you think an artist is important…but because you like the way the art makes you feel. After all, your art will become part of your home and your world. It will be a part of your life much longer than most of your other possessions. So how does one become a collector? When you start to collect there are several things you should consider. Once you have narrowed down your genre of focus you can start learning all you can about the art within this genre. Read books, research the internet, and visit museums and galleries. The more you know about your art and the artists, the more you will enjoy your collection. It is wise to build a relationship with a gallery as an art advisor can use their experience and knowledge to guide you. Learn about the artists in your genre. When purchasing a piece, it is wise to look at an artist’s body of work, not just the single image you are considering.
Collecting Animation Art
The establishment of animation art as an important art form really flourished in the 1980’s. One of the contributing factors was an important Warner Bros. animation show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. For the first time much of the public saw original animation drawings, cel set-ups and original backgrounds for the stunning and historical art it truly was. Many important collectors began their collections during this period and the excitement for this great American art form grew. Nostalgia is an important aspect of collecting art and has fueled the animation and comic art industry. Is there a better feeling than seeing a humorous Looney Tunes scene, a beautifully rendered piece of art that reminds you of a happy time in your childhood? When you hang a dramatic Batman print in your home not only do you enjoy the drama and rich rendering of the image, but also there is the added depth that this art features one of the great popular icons in our history. There are several ways to collect animation and comic art: in animation there are original production cels and drawings, limited edition hand-painted cels, and interpretive artwork. With comic art many artists have agents that sell their original work from cover or page designs, and there are signed prints of reproductions of their noted color cover illustrations.
Original Production Art
Although it takes thousands of drawings and hand-painted cels to create an animated film, they were originally thought of part of the production process and not yet recognized as art unto themselves. For this reason once a film was finished most were destroyed, which is why so few vintage pieces survived. This is also why art from important historical animation features like Snow White can cost tens of thousands of dollars. By the late 1970’s, the value and importance of this art was recognized and many studios began to save and market their production art. With the recent advent of animation going digital, these hand-painted cels and backgrounds are no longer being created, which makes this art form all the more rare and special. Some animated productions combine traditional and modern techniques in what is referred to as “digital ink and paint”. In this form of filmmaking, animators create traditional pencil drawings, which are scanned into a computer to be digitally colored and output to film. As a result, no painted cels are created. But drawings are still made in most productions and are special because the animator’s hand creates the drawing. There is also an opportunity to have our studio create one over ones where we take the original drawing of your choice, have it hand-inked and painted, and matched with a background printed from the production’s digital files. These are one of a kind creations and truly collectible.
What to Look for in a Good Original Cel or Drawing
The first and most important aspect of choosing a cel or drawing is that you like it. Art is a very personal thing, and what appeals to one person may not appeal to another. That being said, there are a few rules of thumb used by many collectors: Full frontal figure images with eyes open are generally preferred by many collectors, however, others focus on the feeling of the overall scene. Owning a production cel is owning a frame of a cartoon, and each element: the main and/or secondary characters, the background, the scene as it relates to the story and the mood, contribute to the success of the image as an art piece. As far as the choice of which character or characters to purchase, there are two very different ways of looking at it. Some believe that star characters are most desirable. These collectors focus on Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse and other famous super stars. Their thinking is that these lead characters are the ones around whom the films are built, and they are the most important. Others prefer the unusual characters who appeared in very few films or television episodes. Some of these lesser-known characters have developed a strong following, and their added rarity makes them a must-have item if and when one becomes available. Ultimately the choice comes down to which piece has the most appeal to you.
Hand-painted Limited Edition Cels
Hand-painted limited editions recreate classic moments from great cartoons, using the same materials and techniques as were used in making the originals. Some limited editions are exact reproductions of frames from the films they represent, while others are based on contemporary interpretations of great characters and scenes. One great advantage of a limited edition over original production art is that you are able to combine all the best aspects of a scene into a single cel and provide art of great scenes where original production art was destroyed. In either case, the animator’s drawing is transferred onto acetate cels, then each is meticulously hand-painted by studio artists. Each piece is hand-numbered in small edition sizes of between 25 and 750. In some cases the finished cels are then signed by the animator.
Many of the comic book publishers have a policy where they allow their artists to keep their original artwork after it is used for publication. Many of the artists sell these originals, either directly to collectors, or through an agent. Because comic pages are often created with three artists: the pencil artist, the inker and then the colorist (usually done digitally), the original pencil may be the only art available to collect. Glen Orbik is an exception to this in that he draws and renders his illustrations in paint. His work has incredible depth and drama, and we represent his original paintings and his prints. We are also proud to represent the work of Alex Ross who also works in a highly rendered style. Many of his originals have sold for tens of thousands of dollars. A print of Alex’s, “Mythology: Good Vs. Evil” was recently being sold through the print gallery of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. No matter what art genre you favor, collecting art is a wonderful and satisfying endeavor that transcends time and place. Museums throughout the world hold treasures that once had homes in individual’s collections. Every collector starts somewhere. No matter what art you choose I hope it brings you much pleasure over the years. It is our privilege to guide you as you begin or build your collection.