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finding great art on the cheap: it’s as easy as (pizza) pie

I grew up with parents who appreciated art. And impeccable manners. And Cheez-Its. Not in that order because anyone with an ounce of taste knows Cheez-Its come first.

My parents weren’t collectors or afficionados or anything close. We didn’t live in a mansion with white walls and gallery lighting. We were your normal everyday suburban family in a nice neighborhood where we swam and rode bikes and roller skated and ate Cheez-Its.

I always felt our house was the best because, well, it was our house and that always feels best. But also because it was beautiful and interesting and not like every other house on the street. My mother didn’t have a photo gallery of us lining the walls of the staircase (“I see you girls every day!”).

She bought and hung art. Some of it was more expensive than others and some of it was a little different; but it was intentional and that made it real.

I learned about art appreciation from my parents. I learned that it’s important to spend money on something you love and to not just buy stuff (there’s so much stuff in the world, isn’t there?) to fill a space.

When I mention purchasing art to my clients, many look scared. I don’t know anything about art! I don’t know what I like! Well, that’s ridiculous.


Art Is Like Pizza and You Do So Know What You Like So Stop Panicking

There’s no need to stencil bible quotes on your wall or hang tchotchkes from some big box retailer unless you LOVE that stuff. If you love bible quotes and a wall full of baby bunnies, then by all means.

Still, budget is often the issue. I get it. I mean, I’m super-wealthy but not everyone is (as I sit here in my Walmart running shorts that have never been taken on a proper run). So how do you score some great art at a low price? I’m going to tell you. Like, right now.

Check Out Local Sales and Happenings

First – and this is big – local Denver artists are experimenting with selling their art directly to buyers instead of going though dealers, which is amazing. The program, aptly named “So Wrong It’s So Right”, runs through the end of the summer and pieces start as low as $12! Yes. I know, I know. Follow them on Instagram here. Even if you don’t buy anything your Instagram feed will be full of cool stuff. Which makes us all just a little bit cooler.

Frame Things Of Meaning or Just Random Dead Stuff You Find in the Yard

Not dead animals. Unless, again, you are into that. I don’t judge, I just design. I also hang art created by my children. The good stuff. The rest gets stored away (in the recycle bin).

I am about to embark on a wall full of sand dollars I collected on Clearwater Beach a few years ago. It reminds me of a perfect day (for those of you that know me, my perfect day is Pajamas-Bathing Suit-Pajamas) with people I adore. I haven’t decided how to install yet, but this shot from Horchow is inspiring:

and this from Margaret Donaldson Interiors is very pretty but looks like a lot of measuring which I hate.

My clients make fun of me because they often come home to a dead branch in their newly renovated space. But they can laugh all the way to the bank because that branch was fuuuhhhreee.

These branches from Crate & Barrel are pretty, but a bit pricey. Head outside and start salvaging. I send my kids to do this job for me and they love it. They don’t love unloading the dishwasher so I take what I can get.

Make Friends With Some Artists and Begin Following Their Work or Better Yet Have Your Bestest Gradeschool Friend Marry a doctor-artist-handsome-nice-funny-guy and Go That Route Instead

My friend Kathleen was the last of us to get married. Very smart, for a variety of reasons. First, she still likes her husband most days because she hasn’t been with him for 20 years like the rest of us. Second, he is a doctor and an artist. SCORE!

I’ve seen Adam Estevez work in his studio that sits behind their house. Kath and I were busy drinking gin and talking smack about our husbands which is an art in and of itself. The studio is hot and it’s messy and he wears cutoff scrubs (he’s a psychiatrist so when I see the scrubs I wonder what exactly happens in his office but better not to ask a lot of questions) and old Crocs and he looks so content it makes me jealous. His pieces are gorgeous. In fact, my mother just commissioned a piece for her reconstructed house; ours burned to the ground seven years ago and everything, including that aforementioned art and a box of Cheez-Its, was lost.

Download Free or Almost Free Printables

I started writing this paragraph but Melissa from Polished Habitat already did it for me so check out her blog here. You can find art on the cheap through design blogs and on Etsy and your gallery wall practically creates itself. I recommend having your downloads printed at Staples or OfficeMax because the quality is better and you can buy candy while you wait. Everyone’s happy.

Shop Online

What did we do before online shopping? I guess we read books or played with our children. I don’t know. But you can find loads of art online. I have had great success with who even custom frames per your wants and needs – and well-known spots like Grandin Road and, surprisingly, Pier 1 Imports. You can find interesting pieces if you do a little looking. Just a side note, I’ve had nasty experiences with Society 6 so shop at your own risk.

Get Personal

I mentioned in a previous blog that I had this quote from Cole Porter custom created as a nod to the owner’s son Cole. A friend and colleague from Three of a Kind Design did the graphics for this and the work that hangs on my own walls:

The Blackford kids each have a song (because they don’t have their own room so this was next best thing) – Three of a Kind Design created the graphics of the lyrics and I used IKEA frames and ta-da. Cheap art that means something!

And my friend A. Carter who shares my same odd sense of humor was game for photos of Jimmy Carter and Lynda Carter because if you can’t be famous you can at least highlight that someone with your same name is famous. Also, how cute is Jimmy?

Be brave, readers! You can find great art on a Cheez-It / Pizza budget. Or consider great Cheez-It art.

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