No Money, No Problems: Creating budget-friendly DIY art

When I moved into my new apartment at the beginning of January, my priorities were focused more along the lines of acquiring a bed and stocking my fridge (shout-out to basic human needs!) than on decorating my walls. When on a strict budget, you learn the difference between a want and a need, very quickly. Art, for me, sadly fell into the former.

Fast-forward to two months later, and my excuses for having bare white walls are becoming less acceptable. I’ve been told there is a difference between chic minimalism and depressing solitary confinement. With our surroundings directly influencing our mood, emotion and overall outlook, I knew it was time to add some personality to my nest.

The first stop on my mission was one of my favourite places in the whole world, my local Salvation Army Thrift Store. While a brand new pre-stretched canvas from an art supply store can cost upwards of $30, thrift stores will often have pre-loved canvases of varying quality for around $3 to $12. I easily found two 30” by 45” (read: Big) canvas paintings for $6.99 each. I had to dig through a suspicious smelling wooden crate to find these treasures, but my life motto will always be, “Survival of the fittest.”

With both canvases featuring ancient fruit bowls as subjects, half of my work was done. These guys were already “primed” so I was good to go! Painting on a raw canvas can be difficult, so I paint over everything in white to create a consistent and smooth surface. As far as paint goes, my budget means the dollar store has become my best friend. They have a fairly well stocked variety of acrylic paints – my medium of choice due to the ease of cleaning and brief drying time. My brushes are also from the dollar store and are of surprisingly good quality. However, a paintbrush is not always necessary to apply paint to canvas, with sponges, string, the bottom of a yogurt container or pretty much anything you can think of creating an interesting application method.

The dollar store saves the day again.
The dollar store saves the day again. Photo by: Dara Fontein.

I prepared my space by covering the floor in newspaper, filling a jar with water to rinse brushes, and having a roll of paper towel nearby. I first applied the above-mentioned white base coat to cover the entire canvas, waited about half-an-hour for it to dry and then made my final colour choices. For my first piece, I decided I wanted it to have the feeling of Rorschach’s famous “Inkblot” test, and to achieve this effect, I used the paper towel as my tool. No talent is needed for this, as I simply poured my black paint on the white canvas and started randomly smearing and blotting with the paper towel.

For my second piece, I decided I wanted to go even simpler, so I just painted a rough, navy rectangle on the bottom of the canvas and a large square of minty aqua on top. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I like the simple pop of colour it lends to my unfinished dining space. This is a reminder that the art that you choose to surround yourself with has to be aesthetically pleasing to you. If it sparks any sort of positive emotion, give it a chance. If you love a piece but think your best friend/mom/grandma/dog will hate it, put it up anyways.

While these pieces may or may not live as permanent fixtures on my walls, the beauty of budget-friendly art is that it can be painted over and changed whenever the mood hits, without any hint f sentimentality. Now, back to stocking that fridge.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 9.33.04 AM
One of the completed pieces hanging front and centre. Photo by: Dara Fontein.

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