Buying art for the first time can feel daunting and in some cases, inaccessible. But if social media could give way to a plethora of digital-only cult brands, why can’t it do the same thing for art? And it has. These are five essential tips on how to buy affordable art for your home with plenty of suggestions of emerging artists and photographers.
How do you want to feel?
I wanted to get a sense of calm. I work from home and I thrive on high pressure, so it’s not naturally a place for me to unwind. I love bold deep colours but that’s like going to a restaurant for an experimental meal and not something I’d want to eat everyday. Then there’s thinking about the room which you’d like to display your art. I love soft watercolours for the bedroom and scupture in the living room.
Illustrator Jessica Russell Flint’s advice is to use “an array of different sized pieces with an assortment of mounts to really create a statement wall. You essentially create one big frame from many different pieces. My favorite place for art is a kitchen. You can be so much less pretentious and just have a lot of fun!”
Figure out your aesthetic(s)
It helped to look at what pictures I save on my phone and even the colour scheme of my wardrobe. I realised I adore pastels and rainbow but was worried about making it look like an adult’s home. Once you get an idea of what you like, research on Pinterest and Instagram for artists until you refine your taste. That’s how I get inspiration for abstract pieces I paint for myself.
I say aesthetics because I don’t believe you need to have a home that looks completely uniform all the way through. Our needs and tastes evolve throughout the day and with different activities. A watercolour of animals might be perfect in the bathroom with an acrylic statement piece as the backdrop to the dining table.
It can totally change the mood of the room and the art. If you live in a city flat like me, minimal slim frames and floating boxes compliments the environment. But if you’re a vintage lover then ornate frames are a way to soften your living space.
If you’re buying a painting on stretched canvas, these don’t strictly need to be framed. Doing so provides a more refined gallery feel, but leaving the stretched canvas exposed can look raw and powerful in its own way. Frames can also be super expensive, especially if they’re customised to a particular size or shape, so bear that in mind when thinking about your budget.
Starting your own mini art collection doesn’t need to involve a remortgage or tinned food for the rest of the year. I worked at one of the world’s most famous art galleries when I was in my last year of university and I learnt that prices are totally negotiable. Depending on the spend, galleries can take off as much as 25%. But if you aren’t shopping for a near six-figure canvas, let’s talk about where to find affordable art.
Websites like Partnership Editions provide curated artists that range from £50 upwards with many hitting the £200-£500 range. The brainchild of Georgia Spray, ex-Christie’s, the platform highlights in-demand and fashionable UK artists, like Venetia Berry.
Then there’s my personal favourite place to hunt for artwork: Instagram. I use #artistsupportpledge to search for creatives selling their work for £200 or less. This is an initiative set up by Matthew Burrows to support people like myself during the lockdown, as teaching opportunities and closed galleries have greatly impacted pay cheques. While the rate may change once life ‘normalises’, it’s a great tool to discover community-centric artists.
One of my favourite finds is Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2019, Lucy Pass. For 50 consecutive days, she offered portraits for £200 to her Instagram following. A typical piece on her website would fetch double, so you can bet I set multiple alarms. Then there’s the sculptor Emily Stollery, whose minimalist knot sculptures range from £50-£185 depending on the size.
Original versus prints
I’m hugely averse to mass market prints. There are so many incredible artists and photographers with work that’s often priced for less than your generic print hawker, which can go as high as £200. For serious wanderlust, check out Claire Menary’s work (starting from £25). If you’re into cityscape photography with lots of contrast, urban explorer Irwin Chan captures wonderfully moody golden light (starting from $20 with framing options).
If you’ve found an artist that has seriously great work but it’s out of your price range (and possibly a canvas too large for your walls) then a print is 100% the way to go. Emmie Lou creates huge six foot abstract magic that goes for approximately £1800, at the time of writing. Her prints are considerably smaller in scale but with just as much impact.
Jessica Yolanda Kaye is an artist whose work I fell in love with after seeing it on a Soho House newsletter. Admittedly, my personal taste is quite far from minimal line art. But her style is the most unique, fluid and warm I’ve seen. So while it’s great to know your style, a home is made more interesting with a little eclecticism. Original work is often on French paper or linen canvas (dreamy!) but her prints are just as covetable and wallet-friendly.
So please, no more black and white Kate Moss posters on the wall. We’re not in uni halls anymore. And Live, Laugh, Love graphics are totally out of the question too but you knew that already… right?