Your Guide to Works on Paper

Kerry James Marshall, Study for Many Mansions (n.d.). Black and white Conté crayon, with stumping, on ivory wove paper. 663 × 635 mm. Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Kerry James Marshall

Works on paper occupy a special place in the art world. They provide a window into an artist’s creative process and a gateway into collecting art. Many artists work through ideas on paper, like Kerry James Marshall in this study for his painting, Many Mansions. Studies like these are traces of the creative process, where artists imagine and reimagine pictorial worlds in real time. They are generally more affordable than finished works, which makes them ideal for starting your life with art. A study is the perfect way to be a part of something bigger, part of a larger body of work. A study speaks to the personality of the artist as much as any finished work. Works on paper are generally more accessible than works in other media but make no mistake, they are true works of art. 

To that end, works on paper require great care. They are sensitive to sunlight, creasing, and other kinds of damage to which other works of art are less vulnerable. Works on paper are as real as any other work of art and they can hold their value – indeed, they can increase greatly in value – if they remain in good condition. Works on paper are ideal for starting your life with art and that means learning to care for it.

Image: Kerry James Marshall, Study for Many Mansions (n.d.). Black and white Conté crayon, with stumping, on ivory wove paper. 663 × 635 mm. Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Kerry James Marshall


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