12 DIY Ideas for Creating Inexpensive Art
People get intimidated by art and I’m not sure why. I’ve always thought that art should be engaging, fun, experimental, and personal — the perfect thing to create for ourselves. Whether you’re on a budget or not, creating art can be an inexpensive and exciting way to decorate and personalize your environment. If your walls are bare and your hands are willing, here are twelve ideas to get your creative juices flowing. (See also: But Is it ART?)
1. Repurpose Wallpaper
Intricate or bold wallpaper designs can become modern art statements when framed and hung. Make sure to use enough paper to clearly show large or repeating patterns. Frame one large piece or use several smaller frames to repeat the same design in a cluster.
2. Press Some Flora
Single large pressed leaves or groupings of flowers make great subject matter for homemade art displays. Press and dry, mount on a white background, and frame simply. Experiment with off-center arrangements and mix plant types for visual interest.
3. Make a Collage
If you’re feeling creative, try your hand at collage. Use photographs, text, scrap wallpaper, and other media to create an original piece of art. Collage is a forgiving medium; just cover up what you don’t like and try again.
4. Snap in Black and White
Use a digital camera and printer to experiment with black and white photography. Snap images of faces, landscapes, architectural details, or close-ups of unique design features of almost anything. Manipulate and refine your photos using photo-editing software. Group together or create a mini-gallery in a long hallway.
5. Channel Warhol
Product labels with bold or classic graphics make excellent subjects for artwork. Labels from canned food, vintage perfume bottles, bars of soap, or fruit crates are particularly good places to start. Carefully remove labels (soak stubborn labels in warm water and then press dry), mount, and frame.
6. Frame Your Frames
Sometimes frames can be the art. Collect interesting frames in graduated sizes and “nest” them together for a bold and unexpected twist on traditional artwork.
7. Get Graphic
Old magazine covers or vintage ads are an inexpensive and easy way to make an elegant artistic statement. Look for subject matter that clearly represents an era — vintage fashion, cars, appliances, or travel destinations are great places to start.
8. Thumb Through a Catalog
It’s getting harder and harder to find old store catalogues, but if you can, consider framing their pages. Vintage catalogue listings that feature camping equipment, clothing, or bicycles can make interesting displays.
9. Frame Postcards or Greeting Cards
Arrange multiple postcards or vintage greeting cards in a single frame or frame cluster. Group cards of similar color, style, or subject matter together for a more curated and striking look.
10. Display Your Collections
Use an inexpensive shadowbox to display collections you would otherwise store in a cabinet or on a shelf. Silverware, political buttons, jewelry, perfume bottles, found objects, or antique keys can be grouped and displayed as artistic collections.
11. Unbind a Book
Vintage book covers or illustrations are ready-made art just waiting to be seen in a new context. I once found an old copy of the children’s book, "The Little Prince," by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Most of the volume was badly damaged, but I managed to pull one pristine illustration from it. I mounted and framed it for a baby shower gift to a dear friend.
12. Wax Poetic
Have a favorite poem, story, or quote? Print and frame it. Experiment with font, text size, and composition to create a piece that’s visually bold.
Here’s one important tip that will help keep your art on a budget: buy your frames first. Creating a piece that you’re really proud of and then not being able to frame it properly is disheartening. Scout thrift stores and yard sales for solid wood frames that can be rehabbed with a bit of stain or paint, then create based upon the sizes of your frames. It’ll help motivate your creative efforts and prevent you from breaking the bank at custom frame shops.
Do you decorate with your own artwork? What ideas, tips, and tricks do you have for beginners?