Art was once the preserve of the rich, with artists creating one-off paintings for those who could afford to pay their fees. These days, with advances in reproduction technology, anyone can own a Van Gogh print or a Monet canvas.
But what if you want something a little bit different – something that isn’t hanging in 100 other homes? You don’t need to spend a fortune. Creating affordable, personalised art is easier than ever. But there’s more to it than simply sticking a holiday snap in a cheap frame. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Create a photo wall
One photo in a frame is nice enough. A set of three is better. But a whole wall is art. The key is to create a theme. For example, colour: black and white is a classic choice, or why not take photos of objects in shades that suit your room?
Family walls are popular, too; mine is in my hallway and always makes me smile when I come home. But don’t limit yourself to people and places. Try snapshots of items in your home, such as a set of special candles or the front door number, for a collage that is both stunning and individual.
2. Print on canvas
Another way to turn photos into art is to get them printed onto canvas. You could go for a straightforward single print, but why not split a landscape shot into a triptych? Multiple-panel collections work well in groups, and you can always add a funky effect such as Andy Warhol-style pop art colouring.
3. Discover young artists
If you want an original -Damien Hirst, expect to pay big money. But there are plenty of artists who are just starting out and don’t yet command huge sums for their work, especially if you buy frameless paintings and put them in affordable frames yourself. I recently bought a set of prints by the vintage-camera photographer Cassia Beck (www.folksy.com/shops/CassiaBeck) for a mere £17 (Dh99).
New artists often display their work in local restaurants and shops, so keep your eye out for price tags or search online marketplaces such as www.etsy.com.
4. Go digital with wallpaper
As a child, I always dreamed of painting a mural on the wall of my bedroom, but sadly I was never good enough at art. These days, you can buy ready-made digital murals specially printed to fit the size of your wall. You can choose from a wide range of lifelike or abstract prints, and some companies will even allow you to customise your digital wallpaper with images of your own. Check out www.printedspace.com and www.digetex.com for more ideas.
5. Draw it yourself
Talking of wallpaper, how great would it be to draw your own? Or to give your kids free rein with the colouring pens and pencils? The Frames wallpaper by the artists Taylor and Wood (available from retailers including Graham & Brown, www.grahamandbrown.com) gives you just that opportunity, with a design featuring black and white frames in which you can draw pictures, stick photos or do whatever else inspires you. It’s a great choice for a child’s bedroom or playroom.
6. Chalk paint
Along the lines of the Frames wallpaper but with a more sustainable outlook is a type of paint that dries like a chalkboard (available at Ace Hardware stores, www.aceuae.com), forming a whole-wall canvas on which to try out your artist skills.
You could divide the wall into sections so everyone in the family – and even guests – can create their own masterpiece, and once you’re bored, all you need to do is wipe off what you’ve done and start again. Some versions are even magnetic, so you can add pretty magnets to the mix and use them to jazz up your creations.
7. Display your treasures
One of my favourite interior design books is Creative Walls by Geraldine James (Cico Books), in which the writer urges readers to display their treasures. From hanging your jewellery on hooks arranged in a gilt frame to lining up your poshest shoes on a shelf in your bedroom, everyday items are increasingly doubling as art. Use frames or message boards to exhibit your wares, or simply arrange a grouping on your mantelpiece. It’s what designers refer to as “crowding”, the art of presenting lots and lots of everyday objects, such as old mismatched clocks or vintage bottles, in a creative way. Even books arranged in colour order can bring a touch of the artistic to an otherwise ordinary bookshelf.
8. Frame it all
Practically anything can be framed: wallpaper swatches, fabric, postcards or pages torn (carefully with a ruler and craft knife) from magazines or books. Travel and fashion books are particularly fruitful places to look, so have a dig in your local second hand store. Box frames are perfect for displaying 3D objects, from shells or feathers to your child’s baby shoes.
9. Unleash your inner artist
If you have any creative ability whatsoever, try making your own art. And why not get the kids involved? From splatter painting à la Jackson Pollock to colourfully overlapped handprints, kids are great at coming up with fun abstract ideas. The key is to buy canvases or use good quality paper, then crop and frame properly to create the illusion of professionalism even if your artists are strictly amateurs.
10. Stick it up
Wall stickers are so popular right now – and no wonder. They’re cheap, available in a range of styles, easy to customise and, when you’ve had enough, they peel right off. Typography is trendy at the moment, so watch for favourite phrases and sayings. The Dubai-based Wall Cravings (www.wallcravings.com) even has designs in Arabic calligraphy. For more ideas, take a look at www.takiwall.com, also based in Dubai.