Budget decorating
Jan 19, 2015

10 ways to add art on a budget

By: Yuki Hayashi
10 ways to add art on a budget

Learn how to add art to your space on a budget. Author: Janis Nicolay

Budget decorating
Jan 19, 2015

10 ways to add art on a budget

By: Yuki Hayashi

Art is always in style, no matter the season. Here are 10 simple ways to add art to your home on a budget.

Individuality is in, cookie-cutter is out. Need a surefire way to add personality and verve to your home? Original art is the easy and enjoyable way to do it. But if the recession’s given you the blues -- or put you into the red -- here are 10 simple ways to add art on a budget.


1 Get 'em while they're young
The most affordable artwork comes from emerging artists, often for three figures or less. If you want your collection to include "name”"artists, expect to pay more -- a lot more -- due to supply and demand, and because costs must recoup expenses like a dealer’s cut, studio maintenance, assistant salaries etc.

If you're keen to buy art you love, which is the approach you should take because your chances of making a future killing on "investment" pieces aren’t great, truth be told, browse the local gallery circuit to see what’s on display at the independent galleries.

Check the websites of galleries in your city and subscribe to their e-newsletters so you’ll know whenever a group show is coming up. Bring your cash or checkbook and strike if you see something you love: it may go fast.

2 Buy art books
Art books are another option. If you love browsing, keep your books in an accessible spot on the coffee table. Or if you're not averse to a bit of slicing, cut out a page and frame it so you can enjoy it all the time. Carte Blanche, V.2: Painting came out in 2008 and features a juried selection of work from Canada’s top emerging, mid-career and established painters. (Volume 1 focuses on photographers.)

3 Turn your vacation shots into wall art
Print your digital vacation snapshots onto photo transfer paper and transfer them onto a canvas. Mount the canvases onto the wall, unframed. 

4 Enlist the kids
Frame your kids' paintings. Or give them a canvas or board and glue gun (if they're old enough), and let them go nuts on a mixed media project. Who knows, maybe Jr.'s the next Marla Olmstead, a child prodigy artist featured in the doc My Kid Could Paint That. Olmstead's abstract canvases, compared by The New York Times and BBC to Jackson Pollock and Wassily Kandinsky, have sold for thousands of dollars!

5 Skip the canvas and button up
Toronto's Gallery TPW offers a set of 10 buttons featuring the photo-, text- or found-art based designs of 10 up-and-coming artists in Button Glutton 2006. Mount them inside a shadow box, or take a more creative approach by pinning them onto cushions or upholstery. The cost? A mere $50 plus $5 shipping.

6 Make like Andy Warhol
The Pop Art provocateur was right: commercial packaging design can be beautiful. The next time you find yourself admiring some packaging, mount it. Or take a cool can (Chinese water chestnuts, Italian pasta sauce, artisanal coffee) and use it as a cool, recycled flower pot.

7 Buy student work
Many art and design colleges and universities have end-of-the-year studio sales. They're a great way to pick up paintings, prints, mixed-media and textile pieces from the next generation of emerging artists at cut-rate prices. Search your local institution’s website for details.

8 Frame your old LPs
CDs and digital music files are convenient. But the golden age of album-cover art definitely was during vinyl’s heyday. (This may be one of the reasons why vinyl's currently undergoing a resurgence among music fans these days.) Got some great album covers kicking around? Display them in custom frames.

9 Rent before you buy
Ultimately, the best way to support living artists is to buy their work. But if you're not sure you can live with an expenditure in the up-to thousands of dollars, consider "testing" the goods by renting them first. The Art Gallery of Ontario, for instance, rents pieces for as little as $20/month. A portion of rent can usually be applied towards the purchase of a piece if you realize you can't live without it. And if you're commitment-phobic, renting lets you enjoy art while supporting your local gallery.

10 Give some, get some
And now for something a bit different: If you're thinking now's the time to bust some taboos or confront your body-image issues, consider signing up to be a nude figure model. (Journalist Emily Yoffe of Slate.com did it to humourous effect here). For safety's sake, only work in a studio setting at an established art college or school. See a sketch of yourself that you like? Speak up: chances are you can either buy it cheap or get it for free from the student artist. Bonus: getting paid to hold those poses!


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Budget decorating

10 ways to add art on a budget