When I was a kid, my mom had a business cleaning houses. She was hired this one time to clean out a rental that had been abandoned by the tenant. Now, this house was downright disgusting, from the piles of stuff everywhere to the food left in the oven. To this day, she refers to it as the “maggot house.” Yes, gross. But stay with me! The landlord told her if she wanted anything in the house, she could take it, otherwise it was all going to the dump.
Most of the contents were junk but the house also had a couple of really beautiful oil paintings of landscapes that she brought home. I’m not sure what happened to most of them, most likely they were sold at garage sales of our own. But one of the paintings has hung in my mom’s bedroom ever since. It’s over five feet across, came in this massively over-the-top gold frame and, despite its somewhat kitschy rococo style, it’s pretty fantastic. It was instantly a perfect fit for her décor and with a little scrubbing on the frame, turned out to be a free art find.
Collecting art doesn’t have to mean spending thousands of dollars at auctions and galleries. Everyone should have a little art in their lives, even if you live in a tiny studio apartment or the dorms. To start your collection on a budget, try these alternative routes for art hunting:
Antique Stores, Flea Markets & Estate Sales: Really, these kinds of events are like the real-world version of art dealers and you never know what you might find. Though it’s not all that likely you’re going to find a priceless original, you might just find something spectacular and unique that you never would have seen elsewhere.
University Art Departments: Art students are often eager to sell their work even though they may not be featured in galleries yet and they tend not to be as costly as professional artists because they are just starting out themselves. This is a great way to find up-and-coming artists and cutting edge art without necessarily breaking the bank.
Local Chamber of Commerce: You may very well be living in a secret haven of artists and not even know it! Your local Chamber of Commerce should be able to point you in the direction of co-ops and small-time art galleries featuring local artists. You never know what you might find in your own backyard!
Prints: Yes, it isn’t ‘real’. No, it isn’t cheating. But don’t be afraid of prints! Just because you may not be able to afford an original Pollock doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy classic works of art. Art.Com offers thousands of prints on paper and canvas that are affordable and high quality, plus they offer framing services (though a frame from the thrift store will work just as nicely.)
Tip: Rather than crowding your walls with prints of famous works like Starry Night and Waterlilies, search for prints of lesser known pieces that really speak to you personally. Your space will be more special and your use of prints will be less obvious.
DIY: When all else fails, DIY. Anything you can frame can become art. Did you experiment with abstract paintings last summer? Dust off those masterpieces and hang them up. How about those souvenir stubs and photos from your trip to Mexico? Collage them under glass. Don’t limit yourself to a picture frame either: try hanging antique plates on the wall or gathering glass trinkets in a shadow box.