How To Fill Your Walls With Cool Canadian Artists Without Breaking The Bank

Rachel Joanis
After six months of living in my new place, I’ve painted the walls in my bedroom a beautiful sage colour, purchased way too many pieces of furniture on Instagram floor-model sales, and have successfully (and not so successfully) tried a few DIY projects at home to personalize the space. The next step to transforming my house into a home? Finally hanging art. 
It’s the kind of task that’s both exciting and daunting. Where to begin? I’ve always tried to stray away from mass-produced art that you find hastily displayed at department stores. Instead, I’d like to curate my space with artists who tell a story through their work or that I have a personal connection to. Some of my favourite pieces that I brought with me from my condo were abstract art prints by Élana Camille and an illustrated map of Toronto by Lauren Pirie
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The process of finding new art and selecting a piece from an artist whose work you connect with can make the space feel more personal. The only thing worse than showing up at a party wearing the same outfit as a friend is realizing that you all have the same art in your home, too. The good news: Buying original art from the artist isn’t as costly as you’d think. Often the price of a digital file can be a fraction of the cost of what you’d find elsewhere, and then you can save money based on where you print it off. Or, if you buy a print directly from a local artist, their prints are usually under $50. 
For those looking to add a bit of colour and Canadian art into their space, here are some ways to discover pieces by women artists, and unique ways to display them.

How to discover new artists

One of the best ways to discover new and emerging artists is on social media. Instagram has become an excellent medium for elevating artistic talent and has created a space where artists can showcase their work by curating their profile grid and story highlights. Where a gallery showcase may have been cost-prohibitive in the past, social media has democratized the way we learn about up-and-coming artists.
Find new talent by scrolling through the Explore page or clicking the profile arrow to find similar accounts to an artist you already follow. You can also find new artists to follow by filtering your feed with the hashtags of past art fairs (like #TheOtherArtFair) or their tagged photos to see who displayed their work.
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"Instagram has provided me with a platform to tell my story both as an artist and a shop owner. I can show people how I come up with new ideas for my art, my art-making process, as well as how I turn the art into prints or how we use sustainable packaging," says artist Sabina Fenn. "As an artist, the most rewarding thing is seeing people hang my art up on their walls from their homes all over the world. People often find my art on Etsy or in stores like HomeSense and will tag me in their photos, and I think that's the most impactful and heartwarming part of the platform."
For those looking for other avenues, Nuria Madrenas, founder of Mrkt Gallery, recommends scrolling through women who draw, where you can filter by location, race, religion, or even sexual orientation to celebrate the range of techniques and styles of women-identifying artists. This has allowed her to discover new artists to showcase online, furthering her goal to amplify women creatives by only selling women-identifying artists at an accessible price point for the emerging art collector. 

Art is like style. Make it your own.

While interior decorating ideas have become more popular than ever on Instagram and Pinterest, people are looking for new ways to arrange the art in their homes. There’s only so many ways that you can style a ceramic circular vase, and not every room looks good with a shiplap or board and batten wall. Crea Henry, founder and principal designer of Hampton Rowe, recommends looking beyond the blank wall to hang art and using art to highlight the architectural features in a space. “For one of my clients,” shared Henry, “we arranged the art display above the doorway, which was an interesting take on a gallery wall that plays with the proportions of the room.”  
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Start by switching the classic black frame for a colourful or gilded one to enrich the art. To add a bit of texture or dimension into your space, Madrenas suggests “integrating not just framed pieces, but items like a clock, your favourite record, or an original piece that doesn’t come framed to make your art wall more dynamic.”  In my guest room, I centered the art wall around a photo my mom purchased for my dad for his 30th birthday, but surrounded it with other vintage art prints, a floating shelf, and a hand-made clock to make the gallery wall feel three-dimensional. 
“Instead of hanging art, I am finding new ways to place art on floating shelves, bookshelves, or leaning art against the wall in unusual places, like on the counter against the backsplash of their kitchen,” said Henry. “This allows for most versatility and options for where you can place art and move it around your home.”

If wall space is limited, consider investing in a television that can switch into art mode to display digital art. For example, The Frame from Samsung currently has over 1,400 pieces of artwork in its collection, including work by Canadian artists Leanne Shapton and Holly Coulis, that you can rotate through with a subscription to the Art Store or purchase for unlimited digital use. 

Up-and-coming Canadian artists you need to know about

When designing rooms, Henry first asks her clients if they are “buying art to enhance the space or are buying art to display in the space.” If the latter, they are often looking for the art to be the focal point in the room, and the first step would be to design the space around it. If the former, she recommends trying to find pieces with more “balance and colour” to fit with the room. One of her favourite artists is currently Gayle Harismowich because the colour palette in her abstracts (like in Mid-Fabrication) blends well in a room and her sketches (like in Gestured Flight) add a moment of playful movement into any room.  
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“There are specific colorways and hues and textures that you can integrate that will stimulate your senses,” shares Madrenas. “If you're looking to achieve a sense of calm, try integrating a lot of soft, blues and natural hues.” While the Mrkt Gallery currently sells Alyssa Goodman’s sensual watercolours, Madrenas loves her work on ceramic plates that are almost too pretty to eat on. Consider hanging these plates to add a layer to your art wall or display them upright on an open shelf to add an artistic element.  
To transform your space into a gallery, Madrenas also recommends exploring Rachel Joanis’ latest collection The Women, which challenges unconscious stereotypes through nine intimate portraits of the female figure. Each piece can either be displayed on its own or in a sequence to spark conversation and intrigue. 
For a more modern approach to art, Henry has also been coveting the graphic work of Toronto artist Alexis Eke, whose work is on the promotions billboards and artwork for season four of Grown-ish starring Yara Shahidi. 

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