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How to Buy Art for a Gallery Wall

We created a black and white artwork gallery wall in our dining room (see the makeover  and inspiration here.) I’ve had a bunch of questions on how to source and frame art so I wanted to put together a little guide on how to do it without spending a million dollars. (FYI-I did a whole post here on how to hang it all without nails!) For this project I wanted to buy affordable-yet authentic smaller pieces. About a third of it I already owned but most of it I purchased during a 4 month period. I knew I wanted black and white art and I wanted it to feel grown up, not cutesy, and not take itself too seriously. See all the details below:

Gallery Wall | Oh Happy Day Gallery Wall | Oh Happy DayiGallery Wall | Oh Happy Day

Here are my primary sources with direct links below:

1. Flea Market. This is my favorite place to find affordable artwork. Every time I go I buy at least one new piece for my collection. The art is usually between $15-$35 (occasionally I’ll pay more if I really love it) and the best part is it is usually already framed. Not just some boring frame either, usually they are beautiful old frames with character. I have this theory that even cheap prints look way better when they’ve aged 50 years. One time I saw this funny Einstein on a Bike print at the flea market. It was big and thought it would look cool in an office. It’s a common print you can buy off Amazon but when it was in an old frame from the 60’s it looked faded and had an authentic looking patina, and it was $10!

2. Thrift Stores. I don’t like Thrift Stores as much because to really score you have to spend a lot of time looking (like popping in a few times a week.) Spending a lot of time=Major Scores. I still get lucky every once in a while but it isn’t as efficient. When I’m searching the art section I keep an eye out for cool frames too. Sometimes the art is a terrible print but the frame looks great. (It’s easy to get new glass cut and a new mat cut for around $20 at a budget framing store.)

3. Directly from the Artist. If I’m a fan of an artist I usually contact them directly and ask what prints they have available. By cutting out the middle man we get a mutually beneficial deal. I’m obsessed with these photographs from Paris photographer Valerie Dray.

4. Etsy. I have a love hate relationship with Etsy. You have to comb through lots of things you don’t want before you find the gems. They are usually reasonable priced and usually shipped unframed.

5. Edited Online Artist Marketplaces like: Minted, 20×200. These are great because they edit down most of the art for you. They tend to be a little higher priced but there are some really great deals to be found.

6. Make Your Own: When I was looking for Art for this particular project I found an abstract sketch in my son’s room that I really loved and thought it would be nice on the wall. (it’s the oval blob shaped thing on the wall in the white frame.)  He loves that I framed his art and I love that on a wall of  fancy art there is a 4-year-old’s drawing.

Framing |This deserves its own post but I’ll focus on this gallery wall here. For a project like this framing gets expensive quick. Here is what I did:

-I used frames I already owned. A few of them were from college, I switched out the artwork and they worked perfectly.

-Cheap Frames. Most of the frames I bought from Target, Ikea and Aaron Brothers. I like the Target frames, I think Ikea ones have been hit or miss lately. Avoid the Ribba line as all of mine have fallen apart but the other lines are still fine. Aaron Brothers has a few sales throughout the year, I bought several during one of those sales. When I want the frame to be a step up from the budget options I usually use West Elm. The quality is really nice. (If I’m doing really fancy I have them custom framed.)

Mat Cutter. I would not recommend this option if you aren’t framing a lot of things at once. It requires patience and a bit of perfectionism. It’s a $50 investment and takes FOREVER but we cut all our mats ourselves with this handy little system. Most framing stores will cut a mat for about $10 so it really doesn’t make sense unless you’ve got a lot of art to hang. I bought this 5 years ago and it has more than paid for itself. We buy large pieces of mat board at the art store for $4 and can usually get 3-4 mats out of each one.

-Other ways to frame. Here are a few other posts I’ve done on how to create art and frame it: How to Make Abstract Art, Potato Print Artwork, Painted Words As Art, Make Your Own Picture Frame, & Floating Art Frame.

Gallery Wall | Oh Happy Day

Calculation

Gallery Wall | Oh Happy Day

Desert Diptyck

Gallery Wall | Oh Happy Day

I Wanted to Describe You to Someone

Gallery Wall | Oh Happy Day

You Blow My Mind Away

Gallery Wall | Oh Happy Day

Orange Hour, Ile St. Louis

Gallery Wall | Oh Happy Day

Dance Room

Gallery Wall | Oh Happy Day

Heads Collage

Gallery Wall | Oh Happy Day

Abstract Watercolor Print

Gallery Wall | Oh Happy Day

Beach Umbrella Print

  1. Emily

    December 11, 2014

    Who is the artist for the figure paintings at the top? They are beautiful.

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • December 11, 2014

      from the flea market. Artist is unknown.

  2. Louise

    December 11, 2014

    I would love a gallery wall in my home but unfortunately as we rent it we aren’t allowed to pin anything in the walls, very annoying!

    Louise x

  3. Jenn J.

    December 11, 2014

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I want to do a gallery wall in my room but none of the images I have are standard sizes. I looked at doing custom framing but it’s insane!

    I’ll be investing in a mat cutter this evening. Thank you again! :)

  4. Jenn J.

    December 11, 2014

    Oh and I’d love a post on cutting mats! :)

  5. Kurston

    December 11, 2014

    Loved this post! Especially since my art collection is growing and I tend to source my pieces the same way you do. Plus I date an artist so our home is never NOT filled with artwork. If you are looking for more authentic work/prints, I work with an online art gallery for local New Orleans artists called Where Y’art. You should check it out – http://www.whereyart.net. I think you’d find a lot of great finds for your home and/or gifts or yourself! And if you are ever in New Orleans you should stop by our current space. :) We’d be more than happy to give you a tour.

    Sidenote: I am a HUGE fan of yours and have been following you for awhile.

  6. kernedtightly

    December 12, 2014

    I love these choices. I love that they aren’t all photographs, too!

  7. Martha Ware

    December 12, 2014

    Love this post! Thanks for sharing. Your gallery wall is perfection.

    http://www.minimalistdecorator.com

  8. Tanith

    December 12, 2014

    Thank you for sharing these! I make and sell art prints on etsy too but who wants to put their own art on their walls? haha! I’m always trying to find wall art (usually a lot more abstract than the art that I make), and these are perfect!

  9. Anna V

    December 13, 2014

    thanks for this post! I just wanted to add that I bit the bullet and bought a stepped up version of a mat cutter, also by logan (the LO3011 32″ Compact Classic Mat Cutter). I think they sell for $100-120 on Amazon, but you can also get them at Michaels (and use a coupon) or B&H photo (online coupons also available). I got mine at B&H for $78. I had the stand alone Logan cutter you mentioned, but it was tricky to use well. I am really glad I got the more expensive version, it actually makes cutting mats enjoyable! : )

  10. Veronica

    December 20, 2014

    The abstract watercolor print really caught my eye. It would be a nice addition to my living room or bedroom. Understated chic!

    Don’t forget my new bohemian and eclectic finds on Etsy here http://etsy.me/1ySbzw5

    xo

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