The true colors of bargain art

Original artwork makes a house homey – no matter how little it costs.

I've discovered that a collection of paintings can warm up a home. There's something about original artwork that is lively and immediate, in a way that prints and replicas can never be. So when I began buying secondhand artwork, my home changed entirely.

I'm not an acquisitive person by nature. My logic is that the less I own, the less I have to clean or to transport if I move, so an empty home is a good thing. It seems bigger, and it's easier for me to think in an uncluttered environment.

But I took the hint when people visited and asked, "Do you have stuff in ... storage?"

More straight-forward guests would simply ask, "Where's your stuff?" My minimalist approach seemed to make them uncomfortable.

So I decided that it was time to fill my home with treasures – but how? I drew the line at knickknacks. No shelves full of curios for me.

The walls, however, were a perfectly good place to hang paintings. Paintings wouldn't get in the way as I moved around, and the collection would be easy to dust.

But when I started shopping for original artwork to hang in my home, I gulped. My perfect solution had one major drawback: It was out of reach economically.

There must be a way, I thought. And then I remembered the thrift shop.

Our city has a series of thrift shops, secondhand shops, and flea markets. I visited them all, looking for artwork at a bargain price. To my surprise, there was a large selection.

These pieces aren't the kind that anyone buys as an investment; they'd be more trouble to sell than they're worth, so they get donated to charity resale shops. But the artwork is still original, unique, and cozy.

Thanks to these donations, I now own an $8 large oval of Queen Anne's lace hand-embroidered on a blue background.

I've bought a $12 amateur painting of Mt. Rainier, as viewed from across a river.

I have a $15 portrait of an elderly lady whom I sometimes jokingly pass off as my grandmother.

The list goes on and on – every wall is filled with art. These days, I have to restrain myself from looking for artwork, because there isn't much wall space left.

A friend of mine who is an appraiser assures me that I have absolutely nothing of value. I believe her, and yet I don't believe her. Because now when people come into my home, they ooh and aah and say, "You have so many paintings!"

My collection is valuable, in a way. The warmth and joy that genuine artwork bring to a home are priceless.

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