Buying Art on a Budget

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A little artwork can cost a lot of money. If you’re looking to spice up your apartment or home with a couple of paintings or photographs, you’ll find you’re looking at an expense of a couple of hundred dollars. Per artwork, in some cases. If you’re decorating or buying art on a budget, it’s tempting to sidestep it altogether.

You needn’t. It’s a tad unconventional – but, with a bit of imagination (and a little bit of hard work), you can actually get hold of some of the world’s finest art on a budget of less than fifty dollars per artwork. See, if you care to look, there are actually a number of freely accessible online archives of public domain artworks maintained by some of the most prestigious galleries in the world.

(If you’re not familiar, a public domain artwork is an artwork where no-one owns the copyright – either because copyright was never filed, no-one can identify the original artist or the copyright on the work has expired. The works of William Shakespeare are an example of public domain artworks. It means they’re free for you to access and use as you like.)

For example, Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art allows patrons to browse through nearly 35,000 high-quality artworks via their Open Access portal. Flickr’s The Commons Project, similarly, includes photographic archives from organisations like The National Library of Australia, NASA and The Royal Library of Denmark. In both cases, all you need to do is register (which costs nothing).

From there, it’s simply a case of selecting which artworks or photographs you’d like to decorate your home or apartment, downloading them (in their highest quality) and taking them to a professional printer. Previously, I’ve used RGB Printing. If you look under ‘Art Prints’, you’ll find they can print a professional-standard A2 or A3 size artwork for between ten and twenty dollars.

(N.B. Many printers will ask you to select a specific type of paper for your print. If you’re unsure, a good idea is to opt for either Lustre or Matte. They’ll generally work with most kinds of pictures, they’re cheap and, unlike something like Gloss, you’re less likely to get dirt and grime on them.)

Now, if you’re buying art on a budget that’s a little tight, you can simply use those prints to decorate your apartment or home. However, if you’d like to give them a slightly more professional look, you can get them mounted onto a board or block. If you can afford it, your printer will do it for you – but there are cheaper options available (if you’re willing to put in a tiny bit of work).

For example, an art supplies store like Eckersley’s will sell you A3- and A2-size foam board and double-sided adhesive paper for a total cost of around twenty dollars. From there, you simply use your double-sided adhesive paper to attach your print to your foam board. You’ll have to be careful to get it right – but you can always trim the board with some scissors if it’s a bit off.

Another (slightly riskier) option is to head to Bunnings and have them cut you some light wood backings for your print/s. It may surprise you – but the wood will only cost you about ten dollars. You’ll need to buy some glue to attach your print but it shouldn’t do anything to break your budget. To be clear, though, you should be very careful with this option.

(Wood can add a real flair to your decorating – but you need to get the sizing just right and you need to make sure you buy some glue that isn’t going to ruin your print paper. Bring your artwork along for sizing and ask the staff when buying the glue. When you’re gluing your artwork to your board, get a friend to help. You don’t want to blow your budget because you made some mistakes.)

Written out, it may seem like a bit of work – but, at the end of the process, you’ll find you’ve managed to decorate your apartment, bedroom or home with high-quality, world-standard art on a budget of less than fifty dollars per artwork.

A little bit cheaper than a couple of hundred dollars, yes?

The image above - The Tomb of Cecaelia Metella, painted by François-Antoine-Leon Fleury in 1830 - comes Courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington. Source. - Ed.