The Living Art Collection: An Interview with Linda Lichtner

Perhaps you love a work of art but just can’t commit.  I totally get that. It’s feels like you have this one chance to make a perfect art selection that you’ll love for the next 30 years.  The idea that there’s a single right choice can be so paralyzing that often people end up not buying any art at all!

But let’s say instead, we take a step back and approach an art collection as a living thing, constantly changing and evolving thing.  Linda Lichtner has found a low-pressure and fun way to collect art but that still reflects her personality and tastes, while all the while not breaking the bank.

What first brought Linda to my attention was this idea of her “Water Wall”.  She has one large wall in her house dedicated to only paintings having to do with water.  I thought that was an interesting idea; taking one theme and building a gallery wall around this idea.  Here’s how Linda describes her wall.

What inspired her to create a “Water Wall”?

According to Linda, it happened organically.  The family had done some remodeling and there was an exterior garage wall that ended up being interior.  It was one large wall where no furniture would go.  Coincidentally, Linda’s mother passed away and she inherited some of her paintings. The room had a beachy feel so with these first few paintings, and some from her son, who also paints, so began the “Water Wall”.

How did she start collecting?

Linda has few key anchor points, including one large, important painting she that she bought for several thousand dollars, and some works she inherited from her mother. Filling the rest of the wall, she is more frugal.  The one rule she has, outside of working within a water theme, is that they must be original paintings.

What is she looking for when adding a new painting to the wall?

Linda buys only original artwork because she feels they have more depth and character.  This requires that she does a little research before she buys.  She looks for the name and signature, then does a google search to learn a little about the artist.  If she buys from an artist in person, she makes sure that what she is buying is an original, not a print.

As for subject matter, of course there’s the water theme.  But she wanted to avoid collecting a lot of seascapes that all look similar.  Thinking about water in all it’s forms – ice, fog, snow, fountains – leaves plenty of subject matter to collect.  She also likes works that are only peripherally related to water. For example, one painting is a cat looking through the screen door with drops of water.

She loves seeing quirkiness in a painting and a little twist that grabs her like location or the humor or artist, something she feels an emotional connection to.

Where does Linda find the paintings? 

Linda lives in a California suburb where there are not many galleries.  So she shops online sites like and Ebay to find secondhand paintings.  She’s been disappointed at times and had to send some back.  But aside from her initial investment in the one large painting, she usually is not paying more than $200 for a painting, and often pays under $60.

When traveling, she always tries to find something from a local artist (she says “I always make sure to always shake their hand”!).  She also loves going to open studios and buying directly from the artist.

When will she stop collecting work for the Water Wall?

Linda’s approach makes the Water Wall a constantly evolving and living collection.  Even when the wall filled up, when she found a piece the she liked better, she can give another one away knowing that she didn’t spend a fortune on it. This keeps the wall fresh and lets her constantly adapt as she finds new pieces.

Yet, she says now that the wall is finally complete and will have to start collecting something new.  But I have a feeling that Linda’s Water Wall will never be static and that she’ll always find some way to add new works!

Final advice for new collectors?

Look for art in alternative places. Linda says, don’t worry if it goes with the couch, buy the things you love and that you love and have some personal connection to.

Thanks Linda!



Patricia is CEO & Cofounder of Contact her at

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