Art prints worth looking at.

Finding good pictures for my home has been so frustrating that I decided to create the company that I think is missing from the art world.

The problem.#

I’m middle class, educated, and religious. I’m decorating my house. Options for art on my walls is a complex problem. I don’t have a collector’s budget so I’m priced out of most good originals. I also have no idea where to start finding or evaluating contemporary artists. The mainstream art market is mostly focused on cynical games and esoterica, which makes me distrust their taste makers.

It feels a little cheap to be buying art off places like Etsy. Marketplaces like Saatchi Art are so un-curated that it’s exhausting to look through. I don’t feel comfortable evaluating artwork directly off Instagram (and it’s also not curated). I’m insecure about my taste and what makes a good painting. I would buy something from someone I know to support them but I also don’t feel confident evaluating them. In the end I buy prints of old masters, impressionists, or other famous artists from an online retailer since they are known, loved, and low risk. I might even buy generic “pretty” art from a home decor retailer like Magnolia (which makes me feel a little guilty).

Buying prints directly from artists can be a little awkward and also time consuming. First, you have to have found an artist you like. This is difficult when there is no reliable source for discovering important contemporary artists who are not playing the mainstream games. I feel a little sheepish buying prints when I know the artist really wants to be selling originals. Assuming you’ve found an artist, and picked out an artwork, and sheepishly bought a print, you then have to find a stock frame or have it framed professionally.

Don’t get me started on frames. Anything with charming detail is either very expensive or fake and plastic; anything with natural materials like hardwood is either very expensive or minimalist in style. In the end I get a fake frame with nice detail or a real frame with minimalist style. I’m always a little disappointed.

Over the past few years I’ve become more interested in art for my home. Shows like “For the Love of Kitchens” or “Fixer Upper” have started featuring artwork as a key home decor element. Companies like Rifle Paper Company have revived wallpaper in America and richer color schemes for paint and finishes are permeating the home improvement shows. Charming details and natural materials are displacing smooth, minimalist styles. The pandemic lock downs and rise in work-from-home jobs have ignited a new desire for more meaningful living spaces and more intentional decor. I’m updating my kitchen and door hardware with heftier brass fittings or even polish pottery knobs. The livelier shapes and charming details delight me and make my home feel more gracious and inviting.

It’s not just about decor. My kids are going to grow up around these pictures. I remember the pictures that hung on the walls of our family home during my childhood and I want my children’s imaginations to be formed and inspired by worthwhile pictures. I don’t want to be limited to the quality of originals I can afford. This is too important.

I am also looking for religious pictures but what’s available is either sentimental and cliche or old masters and icons. I end up going with old masters and icons (which I love) but which makes me feel like there’s nothing good being made now. I want to support religious art but I get annoyed when second rate pictures are hawked to me using religion as leverage. Art and religion have always gone together, until recently. Why do they have to be siloed? Why can’t I easily find great contemporary art that’s also religious?

I’m open to learning more about art and developing my taste but most “Artsy” retailers seem to be on the woke spectrum and/or have an “everyone is an artist” mentality. I want to like art, I wish there were good artists that I could understand, and my friends and I are always talking about the importance of beauty; but in the end I settle for cheap prints in cheap frames from long dead artists because at least I know the image is worth looking at.

The proposed solution.#

A curated selection of prints from important living and recent artists beautifully set in hand finished frames made of natural materials with charming details. These pieces will be accessibly priced for the middle class market so that customers will buy prints for multiple spaces and occasions.

Framed prints will be beautifully staged and photographed as decor in situ. The feel will be that of discovering new and unique works of art that resonate with this market’s thirst for meaningful, un-cynical, and beautiful works of art that affirm rather than undermine their belief in the dignity of the human person and the redemptive power of suffering.

The essays and biographies of art and artist will be intelligent, tasteful, and without condescension, satisfying people’s desire to become educated about the works they love as well as introduce them to new works and ideas that resonate with them. This will open up the rich world of living and recent artists whom they may not have known but who speak to them.

There will be a meaningful editorial component with essays from important poets, musicians, composers, philosophers, writers, artists themselves, and even, where appropriate, theologians. In an effort to open eyes and minds to what art can be in our time, the editorial writing will situate the artists and their work in continuity with a revered past but also reinforce the necessity of a fresh newness and relevance.

Art and religion will sit together without awkwardness or apology. Great art has always had to do with a transcendent view of the human condition. McShurley and Co will not leverage religion as a reason to buy a picture but neither will it shy away from pictures that are religious. Many important living and recent artists are religious themselves and their work cannot help but deal with the great themes.

Each purchase will directly support the artists, their estates, and the dealers who believe in them. Buying prints will not be an anonymous transaction but one of direct support for the artists whose work they admire.

Paper, presentation, and frame will be designed in collaboration with the artist if so desired. Archival, handmade paints and finishes with real wood frames as well as unique shapes and designs will create art pieces of real presence and distinction.

This idea of art reproduction will carry on a long and distinguished thread of art history. From Raphael to Bruegel, from Fra Angelico to Rubens, from etchings to tapestries: art that is worth looking at has always been worth reproducing, and when great art is made accessible it has the power to lift hearts and minds and shape culture.

More to come.

Who I am.#

I’m a family man, entrepreneur, and lover of art.

I started my first business when I was sixteen staining and painting decks. Now I own a large exterior remodeling company operating in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Texas. It’s called Roofsimple. I also own a solar company and a commercial division. My business partner and I hired a CEO last year and I finally have more time to turn my attention to my passion for the arts.

My wife Bridget and I have eight children and live on an old farm on the western most ridge of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. We’ve been remodeling the old farm house since we moved in three years ago and are slowly sculpting the surrounding fields, woods, and ponds into an arboretum of mostly native species inspired by English landscape gardens.