Wall Street Journal Photo Editor Rebecca Horne tells us why art might be the best gift idea out there.
This year, please someone you love by giving them something they want. Not something they need. Sure, I could probably use some new socks. But would I be happy to see them under the tree? No, I would not! When I want to really make someone shine, I think wish list, not to do list.
My friends and I have given each other art over the years– with happy results. Giving visual art requires thoughtful attention to detail, but the rewards are rich and lasting. The most cherished gifts I’ve received are the images I have on my walls that remind me of my friends, our shared history, and the open space of imagination.
When buying art for friends I’ve strived to make it extra special by finding images that reference an experience we have in common. I’ve also given pictures including something that I know the recipient likes. One year I gave my homesick friend from Hawaii a gorgeous vintage botanical specimen print of the Hawaiian Ti plant, (also known as the Good Luck Tree). She was delighted with the print and treasured it with shrine-like placement in her apartment for many years. I’ve also given or received photographs of a beloved landscape or person, or a painting with a particular motif or pattern. Taking this approach makes the gift more than a pretty picture– it becomes a special message, something that strengthens the understanding and social bond between you.
I also keep the size of the image in mind– do they have room for a larger print? Or is a smaller, more intimate print more appropriate? I try to keep the frame simple and clean, or give it unframed, in protective wrapping if I’m not confident about the available framing choices.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that giving art also provides an undeniable feel-good boost—especially because it is one way to foster creativity. After all, your money goes to an artist, and you’ve surprised the recipient with something unexpected that can give years of pleasure.