10 January 2008

faking it (in an artful way)

recently, the fab design blog desire to inspire had a post on the amazing work of photographer jen fong. like kim over at desire, maison21 was struck not only by the beauty of jen's images, but by the incredible art work in many of the photos, like the following three examples:

aren't those rooms gorgeous? but if you were to subtract the artwork from them, they would look a little sterile and bland. maison21 loves big, dramatic art in every room, but he realizes that not everyone can afford a morris louis or robert motherwell (he doesn't know who did the work in the first photo, but it sure is purty), so today he thought he'd talk about art in interiors- on every budget, including the most common budget of all: none.

abstract art is maison21's favorite form- it adds color and sophistication to any style of decor, even the most traditional. maison21 loves a bold modern work hung above an important antique- for some reason it makes him think of peggy guggenheim and her ancient palazzo filled with modern masterpieces- although her furniture was pretty modern too, so i guess that's not the best analogy, but the point it is, that art- any style- finishes your room, and modern art can make even a traditional room feel less like a museum recreation of a particular period, but more of it's own time.

when buying art, the most important factor in your selection is that you buy work you love. you are going to live with it after all, so even more than the furnishings you pick, it needs to speak to your soul. you don't need to understand the layers of meaning the artist is incorporating into the work (maison21 never does), just respond to the work on some level- even if you just think it's real purty.

maison21's second rule is buy big. not big as in big price tag , but big as in size- get the largest work you can afford (and will still fit in your room). now, big as in price tag is a plus, if you can afford it- if you've read my prior posts you'll know maison21 himself is saving up to buy a jeff koons' bunny if one ever comes up for auction. his goal is to have 50 million dollars in liquid assets on hand, should one become available- only $49,998,734.39 to go! but i digress- generally, a larger artwork should take priority over a smaller, pricy piece when buying your first pieces of art for the home- a tiny picasso pencil drawing is great, but it would look silly as a focal point above your living room sofa...

third rule is buy real. not necessarily real, as in "real important art", but real, as in not a print from ikea. that ikea print is fine for your dorm room when you are 18, but for a real adult, living in a real apartment or home, it's real sad. so if you have that ikea print hanging in your home, it's o.k. to work it for now, but start thinking about "real" alternatives- you won't believe the difference it will make in your decor.

there are all kinds of places to get "real" art on an ikea budget- maison21's favorites include the usual: swapmeets, consignment stores and vintage shops; there are great original pieces available on ebay or if your budget is a little bigger, a local fine art gallery. one of the most rewarding places to buy original art is at student exhibitions at your local colleges. just think, you are contributing to the development of the next generation of great artists by doing this and it makes you a real art patron- just like peggy! simply call your local college's art department and ask when their next student sale is- almost all art departments have them, usually at the end of each semester. maison21 and his friends have all scored great works at these sales, so give it a try.

maison21's last rule is more of an addendum to his third rule- if you can't afford to buy real, then fake it. yes, fake it as in "do-it-yourself", just like those hideous art projects you see on shows like "trading spaces"! now i know you say you can't make your own art- since you don't have an artistic bone in your body, your attempt will turn out worse than anything you've seen on "trading spaces", but maison21 is going to show you a couple examples of DIY art that anybody can do. even you. for real!

first example of maison21's DIY masterpieces is a jackson pollock inspired action painting. this piece of fake art is fast, and it's really, really fun too!

years ago, m21 sold a beautiful vintage painting that hung in his living room, and didn't want a blank space staring him in the face until he found something good to replace it, so m21 went to his local thrift shop and purchased a big, old framed seascape painting (from the hotel/motel school of art), and inspired by watching ed harris in "pollock" the night before, decided to create an action painting of his very own.

first, i removed the print from the frame, and after spreading a drop cloth in my yard, primed the printed canvas with leftover interior house paint primer (tinted gray, in this case). the primer is important as it provides both the background of your artwork and allows the paint to stick to the original painted surface of the canvas. then, i simply splattered on paint (again, house paints leftover from a variety of projects) onto the canvas, allowing the paint to dry somewhat between colors. if you don't have leftover house paint lying around, buy some custom mixed rejects from the paint store for cheap. i found that a palette of blacks, whites and neutrals accented by a bright color or two works best as opposed to all bright colors which can end up looking rather garish. i used a variety of implements to layer on my paint so the drips would be of varied size- a stir stick, a brush, and a plastic fork, knife and spoon. move around the canvas as you splatter too- it is action painting after all. again, watch ed for proper technique.

while waiting for the paint to dry on your masterpiece, you can work on painting the frame (the frame is vital in order to make this project look like "art"- without it, it really looks like the crap on "trading spaces". this should be another m21 art rule: frame it- even the most dubious of paintings can be made to look important in a good frame. first, i used a black primer spray paint on the frame, followed by a finish coat of satin black (again, a leftover) applied with a foam brush for a smooth, no brush strokes effect, but spray paint alone will work just fine, especially on ornate frames which will hide the drip and uneven surfaces often left by sprays. this being a quick project, i painted the linen matte border between painting and frame too, and i think it looks just fine. a linen border can sometimes give a dated look to a painting, anyway.

voila! you've made a masterpiece in an afternoon! hang your art in a prominent spot, preferably above an important piece of furniture, and now you are both peggy guggenheim and jackson pollock!

maison21's next bit of DIY art is a bit more complicated, but still essentially foolproof, even for those of you who say you can't draw a straight line. maison21 has news for you- you can draw a straight line! use a ruler!

originally, i thought of writing this post back in november, when the los angeles times had an article about an exhibition entitled "las vegas diaspora" at the las vegas museum of art, which featured the below painting as it's lead image. the brightly striped reminded me of another DIY art project maison21 had attempted a while back- inspired not by the "vegas diaspora" exhibit (it was still in the future) but rather inspired by maison21's then favorite paul smith shirt!

for his bathroom, maison21 needed a big, bright painting to draw your eyes away from the hideous original peach and banana colored tiles, yet somehow tie the whole bath together. maison21 matched the peach as close as he could on a paint color chip, then he took the deepest, most saturated hue from the same family on the chip and had it mixed up at the paint store. with a roller, he then painted a long narrow canvas entirely with that color and after it was dry, maison21 drew a series of pencil lines on with a yardstick at irregular intervals- similar to his paul smith shirt inspriation.

now here's were it gets a bit tedious (simple, but tedious)- m21 taped off some of the pencil lines with painter's tape and used a trim roller to apply stripes of brightly colored acrylic paint (for smaller stripes, a foam brush was used). any colors you like will work for this project- the more contrast-y the better, and i purchased the cheapest brand of acrylic paint available at the art store. two, sometimes three coats were applied, depending on the coverage of the color. it's important to let the paint dry between coats, as well as before you peel the tape off, so this is NOT a quick project. repeat process with several different colors, one color at a time, until you get the end effect you want (remember to leave some of your background color showing). you'll probably have to do a few touch-ups at the end to correct paint seepage under the tape, but that's all there is to this DIY "masterpiece". simple and cheap, but a little time consuming.

maison21 thought the painting turned out kind of cool in the end, and to my bestest buddies, andy and marly, to whom i each promised a version of this painting, if you're reading this, i'm still working on them, i swear!

thus concludes today's post on the importance of art in interiors- even if you have to fake it! if any of you are brave enough to attempt (or have already attempted) a masterpiece of your own, maison21 would love to see the results!


Anonymous said...

What can I say, those rooms look like corporate lobbies or hotels to me. I much prefer your "faux" art. The Pollock is pretty damn good and the stripes are adorable. Thanks for the lesson, you've really outdone yourself! Next: How to fake it when you crave fab mirror. (?) Purty please?

All Things Bright and Beautiful... said...

Dear Maison -interior designer extrodinaire, online boutique owner, funniest man on the interiors blog net AND artist too! is there no end to thy talents!!!:-)
PS I really like your paintings and TOTALLY agree that art makes a space - AND its so cheap to do it yourself!!

Over here in HK we have art jam a shop/space /art cafe where you pay about 70US and get a canvas and use of the paints and free wine and snacks and you paint away for the evening :-) and get to keep your abstract version of Van gough ( coz that's what it often ends up looking like!!)

Easy and Elegant Life said...

I agree with anon 10:46. Your stuff looks as good and appropriate as anything "real."

This was a wonderful post for me to read as Mrs. E. and I have just wandered down the art collecting road. We buy unframed stuff at a local art collective. It saves a bunch and Mrs. E. has a good eye for framing.

Also, your point about student art is a good one. Mrs. Sydney Lewis, who lives here in town, and her husband once loaned an unknown artist some cash trading it for a portrait of Mrs. Lewis. She now owns several Warhols, although most live in our museum.

Habitually Chic said...

I love the oversized art in the photos that are probably too perfect looking because they were styled for the photo shoot. I love big art and would love to buy it but my apartment is too small so I've been buying up vintage watercolors on ebay and reframing them in old vintage black wooden frames I get an flea markets. I have also been reframing other little fun pieces of art in the vintage frames and hanging them to create a gallery wall above my sofa.

By the way, you're art is fantastic and you should definitely consider a sideline job as an artist!

Topsy Turvy said...

I love the art in these rooms and
agree with you about the importance of real art. And, if you have big walls, big art creates big drama!
Nothing ruins an interior for me faster than bad art.
Maybe you should consider a second sideline job as a stand-up comic doing interior design shtick!!! Oh, wait, you're already doing that online! You're great, so please don't stop.

midcenturyjo said...

Big is ALWAYS better. Even in a small space. Great Pollack interpretation!

Brilliant Asylum said...

Why didn't I think of this? Great job on your DIY artwork. There is nothing better than a big, abstract painting!

Things That Inspire said...

Great post! I am also a huge proponent of original art, although I do have a post today about antique prints, which can be charming in the right context.

I think you undersell the DIY art process - as easy as you make it look, it takes a great eye to be able to put it together. A critical component of art is an understanding of color and value, and you clearly have an eye for this. Selecting the colors, understanding which colors to use, and understanding the importance of values in a painting is difficult and is a huge part of the artistic process, particularly for modern/abstract art. You are an artist! I bet you would sell a lot of paintings if you put them on ebay.

Suzy said...

Fantastic! Love the 'action' looks great in that frame too.

katiedid said...

Thank you. I now know what to do about my own terracotta colored tile bathroom. You are a life saver! You have given me hope and inspiration....not a shabby gift! ;)

Anonymous said...

dahrlink-one of the rules of blogging is if you want the traffic, you gotta get in there in the comments section and talk to your people! your adoring public! ps. I thought you were going to do another PS post, what happened? We wants more PS!

maison21 said...

ouch- anon just called maison21 on his sh*t!

guilty as charged, anon. lots of the time i don't respond to comments simply because i don't have time- i'll post the latest comment and mean to come back to it later, but somehow that never seems to happen.

and i'm reallyi'm guilty of avoiding the comments on this post, because frankly they were all way too gushing, and maison21 sometimes doesn't know how to receive a compliment. so to all of you that left such nice comments about my humble attempts at art, a very heartfelt THANK YOU!

last, i promise a springs post soon- i just need the time and the opportunity
to get out there!

misssphinx said...

The very large photograph in that first shot is most likely a Richard Misrach.

maison21 said...

thanks for the info, misssphinx- i'm googling him as i type...