In February, 2012, I made my debut as a columnist in Home and Garden with this opening paragraph about art, “You spot the piece … it’s caught your attention … it’s calling your name, making you sigh, laugh or cry. You love the colors, the drama, or maybe it expresses a subtlety you recognize. You connect with its message or it triggers a memory. Maybe it reminds you of who you are or where you’ve been. Or maybe it inspires you to become who you want to be. Perhaps you can’t pinpoint its effect on you other than you can’t get it out of your mind.”

If this is the case, then whatever you’re looking at probably belongs in your collection. But choosing art is not always driven by pulled heartstrings. It might just be a matter of liking something, and if you know why you like it, it becomes more meaningful to you and to your collection in general.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of Open Studios Napa Valley. Seventy-one artists will display their works in 43 different studio locations from Calistoga to Napa. This free, self-guided tour is the most perfect way to meet artists, hear what, how, and why they do what they do, and what inspires them. Being privy to this insight allows for deeper appreciation of their works.

The cover of this year’s catalog features “Tres Amigos”, an oil-on-canvas by fine artist, Beverly Wilson. If you love color, you’ll love her work. I do. To quote Beverly, “My work is inspired by the changes of the seasons, temperature and light. With bold compositions, unique strokes, and a personal collection of colors, I explore the universal rhythms of rural life and my love of the Napa Valley countryside. The land itself and man’s place in it are favorite themes”.

Acrylic, oil, watercolor, pastel, pen & ink, jewelry, sculpture (metal, clay, and wood), ceramic, monotype, photography, printmaking, collage, mixed media, textiles, glass, and encaustics are on display and available this year. If you have a favorite artist, medium, or genre, mapping out your tour’s itinerary is fairly easy. But what if you don’t yet know what appeals to you? Open Studios is an excellent introduction.

Open Studios will expose you to a wide variety of possibilities. You’ll start to feel what resonates with your own tastes and interests. Sometimes, artists will also display their initial concepts or works-in-progress. And sometimes, you may be able to purchase an initial sketch. What’s fun about this is that, if you should purchase a completed piece from the same artist in the future, you can see where your collection started and how it has progressed.

Whether a veteran collector or a rookie, here are a few ideas to keep in mind:

— Buy a piece from an artist about your age. It will be interesting to see how his or her art changes as you both go through world events and stages of life at the same time.

— Make the pieces of a collection speak to each other and relate in some way — through the artist, genre, medium, color, image, country, or century. This is not a steadfast rule but just one approach.

— Buy at least one piece that makes you feel nostalgic.

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— Buy something slightly outside your comfort zone; something that makes you feel a little giddy.

— Don’t let the image portrayed in television movies of humorless gallery owners or temperamental artists proclaiming “a certain knowing” — invisible to the rest of us — scare you from meeting real artists. If you have an interest in their work, ask about it. Artists put their hearts on display, often with vulnerability, so they are thrilled when someone notices.

— By all means, do not choose art merely to fill an empty space and do not reject a piece simply because it doesn’t match your room’s color scheme. It doesn’t have to. Art stands on its own merit.

With these tips in mind, your collection will develop into the essence of your own history. That is, over the years, with each Open Studios event, each life experience, each trip you’ve travelled, and with ever-developing viewpoints, your collection will evolve into your own autobiography. Individual pieces and groupings within your collection will come to represent the many chapters of your life.

Adding art to your home is like adding a pet to your family. Sometimes you pursue it and sometimes, when you least expect it, it pursues you. Whether you find a piece by design or by accident, if it speaks to you, listen to what it says and how it makes you feel. Your senses will tell you what to do.

Open Studios will be held on Sept. 16-17 and 23-24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit to learn about the artists and the locations of their studios.

Patti L Cowger is a credentialed, award-winning Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at call (707) 322-6522; or email Demystifying Design appears every other Saturday.