Thrift store art for $20 or less

Yes, you read right. You can get original paintings for under $20 dollars, though really most of my thrifted artwork has been less than $10. No, I'm not bragging. And, no, I'm not about to show you horrible art that will cause permanent visual scars.
Take a look at what I found two weeks ago at one of my local thrift shops:

Not bad, huh?
Take a closer look at my $19.99 painting:
I used to be the kind of person who thought somewhat affordable art could only be found at places like Z Gallerie. Really! Then, my husband and I bought what I now think of as a ridiculously large house at 3,000 square feet. Many would consider that McMansion size; others with bigger ambitions would not. Either way, that's a heck of a lot of walls to decorate on a budget (and what parent is not on a budget?). Also, let's not forget how much I hate staring at blank walls.
I've bought my share of Ebay and Etsy art, but I've always loved a good bargain so it was only natural that I would eventually gravitate toward thrift stores for my "art" fix. Before you read any further, you should know that I'm not an art connoisseur or snob. I'm not on the hunt for something that could someday be worth a lot of money. I like old, chipped, rustic, folk art, vintage, antique ... anything with character, history and color. I am not a collector and simply buy whatever elicits an emotional response in me. It's definitely a bonus when a piece brings back fond memories, like these two I bought last week:

I almost decided against buying them because the colors are a little subdued for my taste, but I'm fairly certain these are original watercolors and they're already framed and matted. At $3.55 each, they are undoubtedly a bargain.

The scenes remind me of towns in Europe that I've visited. I enjoy looking at them for the memories they bring back of lazy travel days spent chatting away with friends in cafes.
I always feel like finding these kind of pieces are just happy coincidences. I do frequent about half a dozen thrift stores, but I usually come up with nothing new for my walls. Either way, I would like to think that my thrifting expeditions with my kids are teaching them to be resourceful and thrifty. It is a great way to try out a type of artwork that might not make the cut if it's being sold brand new for full price.
The following would not have come home with us if it cost more than $5:

This painting, hung at my kids' eye level at their request, is not quite what I would choose for my kids' rooms. But they were so excited when they found it at the thrift store that I didn't have the heart to tell them they couldn't have it just because it didn't meet my taste test. Although it felt a little too homey for me, they liked it because the little girl looks so happy with her cat (my kids love animals).

This next one, an amate bark painting, was also a little pricier at $14.99, but I like the scenes it depicts. I have yet to find a frame for it so I just hung it temporarily on an antique pants hanger.

OK, a warning that this next photo shows the "boys' bathroom" in all its bare, stark reality so it's not decked out with soft fluffy towels or other feminine touches, other than the Itzchak Tarkay framed print. The painting next to it was $4.80 at a thrift store and reminds me of San Diego, where I once lived.

Finally, this last photo reflects a new obsession I have with Kokeshi dolls. I am in search of a pretty, affordable Kokeshi, but until I find her, I will settle for similar items. These next two pieces, a three-dimensional wall hanging and the melamine nesting trays were less than $5 altogether.

Finally, my walls are filling up.
My top five tips on hunting for artwork in thrift shops should you decide to give it a go:
Suspend judgement for a bit. Be prepared to get your hands dirty as you rummage through merchandise. Be prepared to rub elbows with all kinds of people.
Shop often. Thrift stores are continually stocking their shelves as they get new donations.
Make quick decisions. Good items get snapped up quickly so don't hesitate to buy something if you're fairly certain you like something and it will fit in with your decor. Grab a piece as soon as you know you may want it. There are plenty of other bargain shoppers and resellers who could snap it up even while you're still at the store. I know because it has happened to me.
If you're hunting for artwork for a specific spot, take a photo of that space in your home. Take the photo itself or the camera shopping with you so can see whether the colors and the style are right. Also, take measurements of the approximate size artwork you need and take a measuring tape with you.
Be nice to employees. They will sometimes point out items you may have missed and sometimes give you a discount.



Sharyn said...

How interesting!

MyLittleHappyPlace said...

I'm with you on the art finds - whatever suits your soul... I LOVE that first painting!

Also, really love the pink lamp in your kiddo's room - mind sharing where you found it?

Minnie said...

I love to share resources! And it's actually quite funny where I got this lamp, considering I scoured online shops to no avail for a pretty, pink non-ceramic lamp with no cartoon characters on it ... for about $30 at Lowe's hardware store of all places while shopping for storage bins. This lamp actually was in the "Sex in the City" movie in the fictitious bedroom belonging to Lily, Charlotte's daughter. Though I like the room concept, it is a little too chaotic, even for me. But there's our pink lamp (with some pink flowers or something stuck on the lampshade). Check it out at:

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