The Basics of Art Collection

Posted by Sarah Mackey on 31 August 2017

This blog is part of a new series that tackles the ins and outs of art collection and care.

Everyone remembers the first piece of art they bought. Whether it was from a street market in some European town, or from a fine art gallery, that first piece never leaves you, and is often the spark that starts a collecting firestorm. Here at Gainsborough, we often have people looking for advice on how to build their art collection. From true love to financial investments, there are a number of philosophies people use to guide their art buying. This blog endeavours to provide some best practices to make sure the art you buy is worth the investment.

It is important to acknowledge that good art is a welcome addition to any financial portfolio. It tends to consistently hold its value, be recession resistant, and offers returns comparable to government bonds. However, unlike stocks and bonds, art is an investment that should be made based on an emotional connection. If a piece does not move you or improve the quality of your life as it increases in value, it may not be worth the cost.

As with all things, art buying becomes easier with practice. Once you have an established network of artists you like and galleries you trust, your confidence in your decisions will grow. What follows is a list of best practices that should help you get your foot in the door of the world of art collecting.

Let's dive in by starting at the beginning just where are you going to buy your art? There are two ways of going about finding a perfect piece the primary market, which is made up of galleries or direct sales from artists, and the secondary market, which comprises auction houses and other secondary points of sale. When you purchase art from the primary market, you have the confidence that you are investing in established artists whose value is more likely to behave like what is described above. If you dive into the world of auction houses and private collectors, it is even more important to do your research. Go into a potential purchase with an understanding of what a fair market value is for the artist you're interested in, and don't be afraid to ask for condition reports to verify the authenticity of a piece.

As you can probably assume from the above paragraph, relationships are key in the art world. Once you've established what your tastes are, seek out those artists and galleries that satisfy that appetite. This may sound like a self-serving tip coming from a gallery blog, but cultivating these relationships ensures you have a host of people you can go to for advice and you can rely on to keep an ear to the ground for news about your favourite artist. Establishing these relationships is made even easier wth the new importance of social media. Almost every gallery and artist will have a website, a Facebook page, or an Instagram account. By following these accounts, you get a first-hand glimpse at new works as well as a direct line to where they are available.


It's also important to note that to be a collector doesn't mean you have to be wealthy. That being said, always invest in quality. The existence of the auction houses, prints, and layaway plans is predicated on the idea that anyone who is passionate can find a way to own a piece they love. Particularly if you're a knowledgeable and passionate collector, dealers are happy to accommodate to ensure everyone ends up with what they want.

Of course there is always more to learn, both about art and how to collect it. However, it is what you like that should always guide a purchase. For everything else, feel free to call here at Gainsborough and we're happy to answer any lingering queries.

Posted in: art Canadian artwork Oil Paintings Acrylic Paintings Sculpture  

Caring for Your Paintings

Posted by Sarah Mackey on 12 August 2017
Posted in: art Oil Paintings Acrylic Paintings  

Cowboys and Their Art

Posted by Sarah Mackey on 13 July 2017

Cowboys and fine art have had a relationship since the buffalo roamed the plains. Although the role of the cowboy artist has become more professionalized through the years, the goal of this genre has remained consistent. These artists paint to reflect the lifestyle of those people who live the life we'll never know.

Traditionally, when a cowboy took up painting, it was for the purpose of sharing something about his life, while collecting a little extra cash. Gainsborough Galleries is proud to represent artists who's work reflects this early tradition, including Richard Freeman and Jack King.


Jack King worked at a stable during the Great Depression. His primary duties included mucking stalls and feeding the horses. Until he became a full-time artist in 1972, King held several jobs including a role with the U.S. Marines, and work as a professional engineer. His work features the natural beauty of Alberta, B.C., and the Western United States. The influence of his early years working at the stable can be seen throughout his paintings.

In edition to his exquisite oil paintings, we have also included a selection of King's ink and charcoal sketches featuring livestock and ranchers. The lose, gestural lines employed in these works display a familiarity and care for subject matter. The oil paintings we are exhibiting, with their delicate shadows and precise composition, are examples of a singular talent. However, these sketches offer a different lens to see King's process through. They seem to represent King's attempt to chronicle a certain type of life, one that runs parallel to but never quite intersects with the experience of many Calgarians. All of King's work is masterfully done, but these sketches offer a sense of urgency and intimacy that demand a connection from the viewer.

Although Jack King's talent is undeniable, it is important to mention that the Western fine art genre has changed since his death in 1998. Contemporary artists have used the foundations artists like King built, and adapted its tenets to say something reflective of the modern experience. Shannon Ford is a good example of an artist whose work strives to make bold choices while respecting the tradition she comes out of.

Ford was born in Regina, and raised on a farm just west of Calgary. This upbringing exposed her to western culture. Ford's work reflects the sense of change in the western way of life, while pushing the standards of the genre in a way that makes her pieces feel fresh and unfamiliar. By combining metals and gemstones into her pigments, Ford is able to capture the intensity and wildness of the beasts she paints. This, coupled with the immense size of many of her canvases, makes it impossible not to stop and take notice of her work. Western motifs are a constant, particularly in the Alberta art market. Ford's work strives to manipulate the tropes viewers are familiar with and bend them to achieve a new end.

Particularly during these two weeks in July, it can feel as though Calgary is saturated with images of people riding horses. It is therefore useful to take a moment and reflect on those canvases that constitute truly honest reflections of the traditions we celebrate this time of year. We are lucky at Gainsborough Galleries to have a broad selection of diverse artists who achieve that very thing.  In addition to Jack King and Shannon Ford, our Stampede Showcase features Harold Lyon, Michelle Grant, Randy Hayashi, Miri, and Carl Schlademan. Until July 24th we invite you to come by the gallery and explore how the artists we represent tell their experience of the Wild West.

Posted in: art Canadian artwork Oil Paintings Acrylic Paintings  

Casting History

Posted by Sarah Mackey on 7 July 2017
In a province where cattle outnumber citizens, it isn't hard to see why so much of Western Art focuses on the men and women who have dedicated their lives to the ranching profession. Gainsborough Galleries is lucky to boast a unique collection of fine art that represents the difficulty and dynamism of the cowboy experience. In the spirit of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, Gainsborough is taking a moment to reflect on the stories behind the cowboy life, as well as the process behind the creation of the art that reflects this particular community.

Alberta has been home to ranchers for centuries. The arid land, combined with consistent Chinook conditions in the winter create a climate that is singularly perfect for raising cattle. Over the years, Americans and English gentleman made their way west to take advantage of the "beef bonanza" that was happening in the colonies. The Bar U Ranch, situated near Longview, was one of the first corporate ranching outfits. In addition to shaping the modern ranching industry, Bar U is where bandit Harry Longabaugh worked as a horse breaker before joining up with Butch Cassidy and taking on his now infamous moniker as the Sundance Kid.


Outside of the ten days of Stampede, it can be difficult to catch a glimpse of a real cowboy. However, Gainsborough represents a suite of sculptors who immaculately capture the realities of that life, down to the dirt on their boots. There are a few different methods an artist can use to create their pieces, the most common being the Lost Wax technique.

An artist will start with a full-size model of their piece, sculpted out of clay. A wax mould is made from this clay sculpture. The artist will then go to a foundry, where liquid bronze is conducted into the mould. The sculpture is then placed in a kiln to melt the remaining wax, and remove any residual moisture. After the artist has a chance to polish the resulting sculpture, corrosive chemicals are applied to form a patina. This is the process that allows the artist some control over he colour and finish of the final piece.


the process of bronze casting dates back long before ranchers roamed the plains, and although the basic tenents of the art form remain the same, the process has also seen dramatic changes with advances in technology. Today the process is more accessible to amateurs, bur the technical aspects of the art make it challenging to master. Karl Lansing, Vilem Zach, and Reg Parsons are all masters of their craft. Each have different interpretations on the western theme and representations of heritage. This Calgary Stampede season, come down to Gainsborough Galleries and engage with the craftsmanship that goes into each one of these sculptures.

Posted in: art Canadian artwork Sculpture Calgary Alberta  

Painting the Canadian Experience

Posted by Sarah Mackey on 30 June 2017
Canadian identity can be hard to define. Our nation sprawls across six time zones, and is home to 200 distinct languages. This can make it difficult to identify one single thing that brings us together. We have the most polar bears, maple syrup, and doughnut shops per capita, but do any of those things really represent what it means to be a part of this great nation?

Starting on June 24th, Gainsborough Galleries has been exploring these themes in our Canada 150 show. We have curated a selection of works from twenty-seven artists, all of whose work showcases a unique aspect of the Canadian experience. From rugged landscapes to bustling city sidewalks, and a good old-fashioned game of road hockey, this show has everything.

The Canadian artists on display are as diverse as their subjects, hailing from New Brunswick to Vancouver Island, and all the way up to the Arctic Circle. Some of the featured artists, including Ron Hedrick, Fred Cameron, and Robert E. Wood have been with Gainsborough for nearly 30 years, while others, including Christine Nadeau and Ray Ward, are recent additions to our gallery family.

Ted Raftery first showed with Gainsborough in the 1970s, and is an example of an artist who is Canadian by choice. In 1974, he immigrated to Canada from England. He landed in the east and continued moving west until he arrived in Alberta, where he found the perfect location for his art. Raftery's work is a visual love letter to the vistas he spent so long searching out, from his iconic winter mountain to his big-sky prairie paintings, in which he depicts and heightens the drama one can only find in an Alberta prairie thunderstorm.

Artists like Vilem Zach and Harold Lyon explore the roots of our nation, depicting awe-inspiring scenery and the men and women who conquered it. The show also features more contemporary representations of our nation, with artists like Jennifer Sparacino and Miri employing techniques that provide a different lens through which we can develop a deeper understanding of their subject matter. By including materials from the habitat of the animals she paints, Miri's work enhances the feeling of wildness and nobility that accompany the beasts, as well as emphasizes the interconnectedness of humans and nature.


Canada strives to be welcoming to all who live here. Above all else, it is that spirit which links the paintings in this show. Viewers will definitely see some part of their experience of Canada reflected in the images we've selected.

Visitors can experience the complete show until July 7th, and a curtailed selection of the show until July 15th.

Posted in: art Canadian artwork Calgary Alberta  
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