Two weeks since we moved to Spain and so far so good! In between the hectic times of organising our new life as an expat, I have discovered the little perks of living in a warmer climate. Cycling! Oh my, how I’ve missed cycling. I don’t mean sporty cycling in lycra on a racer or a mountain bike, no, just using a bicycle to go from A to B. To do the shopping, to take the kids to school. In just a thin jacket. Wind in my hair, sun on my face, smiling from ear to ear. Wonderful. Now I just need to train those leg muscles to get me uphill. Ouch.
Have you ever noticed how there seems to be more colour in warmer countries? The blue sky for a start (although lately it’s been grey and rainy too – still 10 degrees warmer than Aberdeen though), but also the architecture. Even the children’s school has great happy colours painted all over the outside walls. The older, colonial style houses in the various town centres dotted just outside the city, as well as old city parts like Cabanyal, are often bright blue or yellow or covered in colourful, patterned tiles. The sub tropical plants in front gardens and on balconies make the streets look so pretty. I realise that being surrounded by lots of colour really energises me. Having lived in the silver city of Aberdeen with its grey granite architecture, makes your eyes used to seeing in black and white. Valencia is a feast for the eyes.
Valencia is also well known for its bold street art. In parts of the city centre whole sides of buildings are covered in cool graffiti. I managed to have a day to myself last week and thoroughly enjoyed wandering the streets, taking it all in and pinching myself for being here.
feeling better in a light filled house
Then there is our new house, which has giant windows, lots of space and is mostly on open plan. I love it! White walls, sunlight streaming in. (Oh, and look who’s arrived too?). It is a joy to hang up our artworks and make the house homely, room by room and I will post updates on the blog of my decorating attempts, as much as that is possible in rented accommodation. I was shopping for blinds and curtains today at the local Bauhaus store nearby and it is funny how I am suddenly drawn to bright, bold colours, whereas in Scotland I would have gone for the more muted greys, greens and darker tones. I guess yellow blinds just go better with a blue sky.
Art is a funny thing. I absolutely love art and have always been interested in it, from when I was very little. I just need to have art around me, whether it is paintings, photographs, sculpture or ceramics. I yearn for the handmade, original qualities of a piece of art. Problem is, I keep buying it, even though I have long run out of wall and shelf space to display anything.
I find it amazing how art just seems to have the ability to ‘grab’ you and you feel you need to own it, probably because it is such a one-off, unique piece and you adore it. Well, that has happened to me more than once. Even though I sometimes couldn’t justify it and it was not in my budget. One time I was working at the Glasgow Art Fair for a previous employer and during a little wander around suddenly this big orange Rothko-like painting stared me right in the face and drew me closer. I couldn’t walk away. It was as if the devil himself had taken over my sanity and before I knew it I took my card out and spent every last penny of my hard earned savings. Utter madness. But it is still my favourite painting and it has pride of place in my house. Countless visitors have looked at be baffled and don’t see why on earth I love the painting so much, but that is the thing about art: it is not about what other people think – it is very personal and if you love it and it means something to you, it is worth buying. Even if you have to live on porridge oats and water for the rest of the month.
If you spot something you like – or even more than one piece, don’t be put off buying it because of lack of wall space. Group pictures together to create an interesting gallery wall. And don’t be scared to buy something large either. Nothing worse than a tiny picture frame on a massive wall. Here’s a great website explaining you how to create a gallery wall: decorationchannel.com
If you are not too familiar with art buying, you might feel a bit at a loss when finding something great for your walls and may choose to be safe, going for a picture that matches the colour of the curtains rather than that it makes you smile or evokes any emotion at all. Such a missed opportunity, because why not make your home a place that inspires you? Fill it with things that are meaningful, not mass-produced.
Still, if you feel you know very little about art or claim you are “not really into art”, then where do you look for something that ticks those boxes? Here are a few ideas.
First of all
Don’t care about what everyone else may think about your choice of artwork or whether it is by someone famous. If you love looking at it, it is meaningful.
Pick something that ‘speaks’ to you. Does it make you happy? Does the subject have significance? Or do you just really love the colours or composition? You’re onto a winner.
Set yourself a budget if you don’t want to be swept away by crazy impulse buying tendencies. Yup – I am talking from experience.
Sleep on it. Do you still think about that artwork in the morning as worth it? Get it.
Where to find art?
Visit the degree show of the local Art School. Those fresh graduates are dying to make it big and have their art out there. You are bound to discover some pretty cool pieces and will make someone’s day (or month) if you go home with one of their works.
Go to local art fairs and markets. There must be some in your city or area. Stroll around, speak to the artists. These events are usually very lively and informal and feel less daunting than shopping for art in a quiet gallery.
Buy online. There are a growing number of online galleries selling original artworks at various prices. An easy way to familiarise yourself with different styles and see what you like. Rise Art is one of them. They have some more great tips on what to look out for when buying art. Oh, and if you don’t want to buy, you can rent! How cool is that?
Be brave! Dive into an actual gallery! Galleries may look scary for someone who doesn’t usually go to these kind of places, but trust me, gallery owners want to sell art and you are customer just like anyone else. You’ll probably find there are pieces of art at different price levels. You may not be a regular, but you have every right to go in and have a look around. Many galleries in the UK now have a scheme called Own Art, which let you buy an artwork with a 0% loan, so worth popping in for.
On a budget? Or maybe on the hunt for something more vintage?
The local auction house will have plenty of artworks too. Have a look in their online catalogue of items to see if it is worth bidding. You’d be surprised how often you could pick up a framed original for less than £50. Of course, as with markets and charity shops: it is hit or miss, but certainly a good way of buying quirky art on a budget.
Browse the charity shops, car-boot sales or flea markets for original paintings, etchings and vintage posters.
Feeling creative? Make something yourself. Paint, draw, sew, print or take photos. Frame a piece of fabric or wallpaper you love. Get the kids involved and let them go crazy with their felt pens and finger paint. It is amazing how good things look in a frame.