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Art in the Home: 5 Ideas for Do-It-Yourself Artworks Inspired by Famous Artists

Deputy Editor and contemporary art lover Amanda Roberts shares creative ways to make art for your flat while giving a nod to notable artists from over the past century.


With the approach of the new academic year, it is the perfect time to think about what art you might want to spruce up your flat or room. While contemporary art typically comes with a hefty price tag, creating your own artwork is a cost-effective way to have unique pieces that are just right for your space. And luckily, you don’t even need to be an expert artist! Instead, look to your favorite artists and memorable pieces from exhibitions you have visited to get inspired. Read on for our easy-to-execute concepts for creating your own art for your flat, no matter your skill level and without breaking the bank.

Image(s): Artsy, Fine Art America

Matisse: Colorful Cut-outs

Every art lover is familiar with Matisse’s colorful, whimsical paper cut-outs. Toward the end of his career, Matisse (1869-1954) devoted his practice to almost exclusively working with cut paper. He equated the process of cutting to flying and was inspired by elements of nature, such as floral and vegetable forms and birds, as well as dance, jazz, and abstracted human bodies in motion.

Make like Matisse and find your inspiration in nature and movement when choosing your cut-out shapes. Perhaps you look to the specific surroundings here in St Andrews and select an abstracted seagull in flight, a stone you find on Castle Sands, or a flower that grows along the Fife Coastal Path. You could also turn your mind to the scenery from a favorite vacation, like in Oceania, The Sky (1946), which is inspired by Matisse’s memories of a trip to Tahiti. Or, take a still shot from one of your favorite dance performances à la Two Dancers (1937). Start by sketching the outline of your selected subject on a piece of painted or colored paper, then simply cut, paste, and frame! You could also play around with creating your cut-outs digitally. One or two framed cut-outs would be great as part of a gallery wall in a bedroom or study.

Image(s): Guernica Magazine

Donald Judd: Minimalist Sculpture

Donald Judd (1928-1994) was a key figure of Minimalism in America. While today he is recognized as one of the foremost sculptors of the 20th century, Judd was adamant that he did not create sculptures, instead referring to his works as ‘objects’. His boxes, stacks, and wall progressions, made of industrial materials like aluminum and plywood, are not intended to represent anything or have any underlying meaning. Rather, Judd sought to encourage the viewer to simply explore how they existed in space in relation to the object.

To bring a bit of Judd into your own home, create a monochromatic, brightly colored square box to hang on the wall. Use plywood to create the sculpture (or object, as Judd would prefer you to call it!) and choose a bold shade of color to paint it in. You can leave one plane of the box open (as pictured here) or build a box with all of its sides. The materials for this one are a bit more expensive, but a Judd-inspired box would be the perfect focal point in a large living or dining room. (Insider secret: I made a bright orange-red Judd style box for my house when I was younger, and it’s still one of my favorite pieces of art I’ve ever owned!)

Image(s): Pinterest

Louise Bourgeois: Abstract Forms

You may be familiar with French-American artist Louise Bourgeois’s (1911-2010) monumental spider sculptures; however, she was also a prolific painter. Over the course of her long career, Bourgeois explored themes of the human body, sexuality, femininity, and motherhood. Lullaby (pictured here) is a series of 24 screenprints created by Bourgeois in 2006. She traced common household objects (can you find the pair of scissors?), turning them several times to produce these abstract shapes. While the forms in Lullaby remain abstract, Bourgeois’s interest in the bodily is evident.

For your own version, first, sketch the outlines of your shapes lightly in pencil and then use gouache to fill them in. These work best in a set, so make four or six of them in total. Frame each individually and then hang together in a square or rectangle. (I also did this for my own flat, and it turned out really well!)

Image(s): Hammer Museum

Jenny Holzer: Text as Image

Language plays an integral role in the work of contemporary artist Jenny Holzer (b. 1950). Holzer’s series Inflammatory Essays (1979-82) consists of essays, each one hundred words and twenty lines long and exclaim phrases such as, “Don’t talk down to me” and “Forget truths, dissect myths”. Another notable series of hers, titled Truisms (1978-87), is composed of one-line statements stacked on top of one another on one sheet of paper. Statements such as, “Abuse of power comes as no surprise” speak directly out to the audience.

Take a cue from Holzer’s focus on the power of the written word and turn to one of your favorite texts to create a work of art. Pull out a page from your favorite novel or book of poems and frame it (this would look great as part of that gallery wall idea I mentioned earlier!). If you are looking for a slightly larger work to fit your space, try selecting four pages of illustrated poetry and putting them in the same frame. I recommend checking out Milk and Honey, a collection of poems by Rupi Kaur with beautiful line drawing illustrations, or Heart Talk by Cleo Wade. For another way to execute this concept, take a page from your favorite novel, and paint a watercolor partially over it, inspired by the text. Or, if you want to flex your writing skills, try writing your own series of inflammatory ideological statements to create a personal manifesto. Use InDesign to type it up in your preferred font and choose a bold, punchy color for the background; print on poster paper, as Holzer did with her original Inflammatory Essays. As an added bonus, these ideas are particularly low cost!

Image(s): Getty Museum

David Hockney: Playful Photocollages

David Hockney (b. 1937) was one of the most influential figures of British Pop Art. While he used photographs as references when making some of his paintings, it wasn’t until later in his career that Hockney explored photocollages. Hockney’s composite polaroid works, such as Blue Terrace Los Angeles March 8th 1982, and Jerry Diving Sunday Feb. 28th 1982 (both pictured), depict a scene from both multiple angles and multiple moments in time. By combining a number of images to create one larger photograph he was able to show the scene from a multitude of shifting viewpoints. This use of a Cubist perspective provides a varied texture and captivating sense of movement.

For your version of Hockney’s photocollages, select your own photographs of a cherished landscape or memorable moment (you can use a photo printing app like Snapfish to get high-quality prints of your digital photos), or purchase a second-hand polaroid and take some new images. Arrange the printed photos or polaroids to fit within whatever size of frame works best in your space, hang it up, and admire your creation!

Image(s): Getty Museum

We hope that these ideas get you inspired to start creating art for your home. If you try any of these out, we’d love to see - share and tag and @calliopeartsjournal!


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