Pedestrian’s Guide to Enjoying (and Appreciating) Art

The other day I was thinking about my job as a public school art teacher… the good, the bad, and the misunderstood. In some ways art and teaching art is frivolous. No, you don’t have to pass art to advance to the next grade. No, art isn’t “required.” No, art isn’t a basic element of survival (though I know people who would argue that). Even within the institution where I teach there is lack of understanding. I’m not going to lecture you on the benefits of art education (there are many!) but I want to point out that art is the most human and human only thing you can be a part of.

Thus to be more human, we should appreciate more art. And that thought has prompted me to write this post.

The “Art World” has a reputation of being stuffy, heady, and elitist. All are true. BUTTTTT here’s the good news, THAT DOESN’T MATTER! You can enjoy and appreciate art just like the next Guggenheim minus the millions of dollars. Here’s how:


1 :: Visit a Museum ::
This may seem obvious but it’s essential to beginning your art appreciation quest. A museum visit doesn’t and shouldn’t be hours long. Start by going to an area that sounds interesting to you and find something that catches your eye. You’re already building your appreciation! Take a picture of your favorites (if you’re allowed, usually without flash) and the name of the artists.

Try this ::
Look at your pictures from the museum trip and note if the works that caught your eye have anything in common. Colors? Subjects? Artist? Extra points if you google search your favorite artists of the day.

Recommendations ::
Start with a museum that’s close to you (in your city, the next city over). The more you support your local museums, the more pieces they can acquire and exhibits they can host. Buttttttt, if you’re feeling adventurous, make it part of your next vacation itinerary.


2 :: Get a Book ::
I’m going retro with this one… but go to an actual bookstore or library. A real brick and mortar one. Once you’re there, head towards the art section and/or the coffee table book section. You’re going to use the ol’ peepers and find something that strikes your fancy (much like you did at the museum). Now, buy/borrow the book and take it home.

This this ::
Once you’re home with said book flip through it and stop on any image that catches your attention. Practice describing to yourself what it is you like (or don’t like). Describe how the artist uses color and texture. Try to see if the art reminds you of anything… literally, anything.

Recommendations ::
Henri Matisse, Cut-outs, Drawing with Scissors (I own this one!)
Georgia O’Keeffe (and this one!)
Art That Changed The World (good primer)
Pop Art (more genre specific but fun)
Art of the 20th Century (specific but not… much like the statement itself)


3 :: Follow Museums on Instagram ::
Because even grandmas are on social media these days it should be no surprise that museums are too. An easy way to incorporate art into your everyday mundane life is to follow museum accounts on Instagram. Start by following museums that are locationally close to you and then follow who they are following.

Try this ::
Museum accounts are usually run by someone that works at the museum instead of being sourced out to creative/PR firms. If you have a question you will most likely get an answer from a real person that is more than happy to answer. I’ve interned at two museums and let me tell you only passionate people work at museums (jobs are hard to get and few and far in between). Here’s a good question: If I can only see one piece in the museum, what would it be and why?

Recommendations ::
Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco MOMA and their archives (they do the best job IMO)
The Met
The Lourve
Guggenheim Museum


4 :: Take a Class ::
There’s no quicker way to gaining an appreciation for something than trying it yourself. You can take a one off class or sign up for a series of weeks. Who knows, you might find a passion and a talent you didn’t know you had (lucky!). Bonus points if you get a friend to join you.

Try this ::
If you can’t find a class near you, YouTube and Skillshare are great online resources.

Recommendations ::
Watercolor: 10 Easy Projects Anyone Can Paint
Doodle Magic
Beginner Acrylic Painting
Drawing and Painting: The Virtual Instructor
Sketchbook Skool
Watercolor tutorials


5 :: Support an Artist Friend or Local Artist ::
This is by far the easiest and most impactful step to enjoying and appreciating art. If you know anyone that is an artist and you half way like the way their work looks, buy something… even if it’s just a print. If you can afford it, commission them to make you something or something you can give as a gift. Hang it up and enjoy it. Now that friend can continue to make things that make the world a beautiful connected place.

Try this ::
Here are some FREE ways you can support your artist friends:

  1. Follow them on social media
  2. Like their posts
  3. Share their posts
  4. Comment on their posts
  5. Tag friends who would like them
  6. Post photos of their art (if you own any), tag them, and use their hashtag
  7. Tell friends about their art and encourage support
  8. Write reviews on their etsy, google, etc.
  9. Sign-up for their email newsletter
  10. Send a message telling them you support and appreciate what they do

Recommendations ::
Go to local art festivals and buy something you love. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Have a conversation with the artist. Art is better when there is a connection. STOP BUYING MASS PRODUCED ART. Your friends and walls will thank you.


This concludes my TEDtalk. I love art. You can follow (please, please!) my art stuff on Instagram at @molliejoydesign and @bigwavepaper. Thanks!

“Artist don’t retire, they simply die.” – Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon

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