Outsider Art is almost exclusively comprised of sculpture and paintings. Though traditional art mediums such as oil paint, watercolor, canvas, wood and stone are used, much of this art is not created in traditional ways. Artists use found or easily accessible materials such as plastic, cardboard, discarded wood or metal, organic materials such as tree roots and mud, combined with house paint, plaster, or colored marker pens. All can be sources of inspiration and tools for the artists’ creations.
The genre has grown in popularity over the last 40 years, with the works of recognized masters such as William Edmondson, Martin Ramirez, Howard Finster, Sam Doyle and Bill Traylor commanding prices in the thousands. Important public and private collections house pieces by these artists and others, and as such, collectors should be prepared to pay accordingly. Sources known to handle these works, such as collectors, dealers and auction houses, should be consulted when pieces become available for sale. However, this is an exciting field in that despite its popularity, Outsider Art is still available and affordable for just a few hundred dollars.
The key to collecting is study and patience. “Honing the eye,” by viewing works first-hand in museum collections, exhibitions and galleries, is just as important as reading one of the many books written about the field. Having a passion for what you buy and buying the best quality you can afford make collecting a fulfilling experience. Many of these works can be colorful, textural, bold, interesting and mysterious; in some cases this can describe a single piece. Outsider Art will show you many one-of-a-kind perspectives on the world, and the adventures you have while seeking pieces and learning about artists will produce priceless memories.
Wes Cowan is founder and owner of Cowan’s Auctions Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio. An internationally recognized expert in historic Americana, Wes stars in the PBS television series History Detectives and is a featured appraiser on Antiques Roadshow. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Research by Roxanne Argenbright.
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