Attendees of the annual Art Under the Oaks festival examine a menagerie of local artwork. KEYS WEEKLY FILE PHOT

It’s a new year, and with it come resolutions and ending what you might have put off last year. It may also mean delving into the art world or perhaps adding some artwork into your own world. 

The first thing you must do is not think of art as a thing to fill up a space. The artwork should be something you enjoy and something meaningful to you. Yes, it might be frustrating having that wall bare, but the right piece that fits in the space will work wonders for you.

Before you even start your collection, have patience and take your time looking around. When you start collecting, you should be open and look around at different sources of art. Leonardo, Monet and Picasso are among the great artists whose works you might have seen. They are masters and there is much to admire, but there is something to be said for searching through local art. If you love the Florida Keys, a Monet or Picasso will not do. The best place to get some Keys art is by exploring the island chain. 

The Keys are known for their fishing, diving and general coastal lifestyle. The best place to get art like this is from artists who live anywhere from Key Largo to Key West. Now you know you want something coastal, why get something from a big-box store which everyone else will have. They make thousands and thousands off those framed prints. This is the easy way out, but it usually does not give you the satisfaction of discovering a local artist you love. It might not seem like it but there are many local artists out there. Some local artists are well-known and in plain sight, but there are other artists down here who may be harder to find. Guess what, they are pretty awesome, too. 

The best way to learn to trust yourself is to put out your feelers for these local artists and start to understand what is out there. When you look at many art pieces you will start to develop and refine your taste. You will learn to trust yourself and choose what you like. 

Even if you really have no idea of what you want, just go out there and start exploring. You might not like the first artist or the first place, but you will take this first experience and you will learn to trust what you are drawn to. Don’t be afraid to buy art that speaks to you. You may want to discuss it with other members of your household before you get something a little extra bold, but exploring new art is an important thing to do on your journey.

Take an hour here or there to explore galleries and shops. You’ll probably meet artists or people who know the artists well. Your art journey doesn’t have to be at galleries all the time. If you are at someone’s home and you see a piece you like, ask them about it. Since it’s the beginning of the year there is another good source to start exploring, and those are art festivals.

Unfortunately, there really aren’t a lot of festivals where you can find a variety of local art like you were once able to.  Luckily, there are still a few around.  One of the longest running festivals in the Upper Keys is Art Under the Oaks held in the beautifully manicured oaks of San Pedro Church. Art Under the Oaks is a real crowd pleaser. It is a festival that is committed to make the festival about art. The festival takes place Saturday, Jan. 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you find an artist you like, great. If you are on the fence about something, get the artists’ information so you can contact them in the future. If you don’t like something at all, you’ll learn what you don’t like. Either way, you will have taken that important first step.

An attendee checks out a display of large pictures made from recycled materials by A Third Life. KEYS WEEKLY FILE PHOTO