Creating Groupings of Art

I think a lot of times art can be intimidating. When I first starting thinking about the art I was going to buy for one space or another, I felt like it had to be prestigious and expensive and it had to mean something. Here’s the thing though. Art is just the stuff you put on your walls, and it only has to mean something to you.

Even still, figuring out what things mean something to you and what things you want to look at all day everyday can be tough, and it can be even tougher when you are thinking about putting multiple things together.

That being said, I like creating groupings of art, decorative items or a combination of the two, and here’s why: it’s easier to fill a large space, it keeps the eye interested, and if you want to make a change, it is much easier to swap one piece of many instead of one piece that is the focal point of your whole room.

So how do we do it? How do we figure out what to put on the wall?

1.      Ask yourself if you want multiple pieces grouped together or if you want to focus on one piece and where it/they will go. A grouping of art or a single piece of art can both serve as a focal point in a room, and often I like a balance between the two. If I have a room where I am placing a large piece of art on the wall, then maybe on another wall, instead of putting another large piece of art, I’ll have a grouping of pieces that provides a different proportion within the space as a whole.

2.     Let’s say you’ve decided on a grouping…that’s great! Now, what is it that you’re actually grouping? Go with your gut and choose things that are important for you. Personally, I don’t use a lot of portrait work in my spaces. What I do like to use though are pictures from trips that I have taken. Seeing photos from places I have been reminds me of the great time (or potentially rough time, can’t win ‘em all) I had in a place and gets me thinking about my next trip. Maybe for you it is pictures of your family or you love old trees or restore motorcycles. Choose one theme that you want your grouping to focus on, and that will make things so much easier to start.

3.     Now that you have decided on a central theme for your grouping, how do you know what medium you should choose? Much like I love a grouping, I love mixing mediums, but that might feel like too much for you initially, and that’s ok. The medium is what is used to create the art, and it can include photography, drawing, painting, glass and anything else you might think of. Mixing mediums is easier if you have a solid color scheme (see #4), but if you don’t have that but you do have a theme, start looking at one medium to see if it meets your needs. For example, let’s say you’re our person above who restores old motorcycles, maybe you want to look at drawings of old motorcycles. Maybe you find a number of drawings you like, and there’s no need to look at photography or metalwork or painting. With one more decision made, from there, you can decide on your colors.

4.     At this point, you’ve got a grouping centered on a theme and you know you want to use one or many different mediums. What colors should you be looking at? One of my easiest, favorite tricks is using black and white. Regardless of what colors you have in your space, a group of black and white line drawings, photos or paintings will always look sharp and will either fit within an existing neutral color scheme or provide emphasis within a complementary or monochromatic color scheme. You can also do the opposite if you have a room where the color scheme is neutral. You can choose one to two colors for your art to provide emphasis within the space.

5.     Lastly, how many items do you need in a grouping? As my mother was nice enough to teach me as a child, two is a pair and three or more is a few. Based on her standards, she might say you need three pieces, but in this case, I am going to slightly modify her rules and say two or more pieces can count as a grouping. The number of pieces you have will depend on the space and the sizes of the pieces. Ideally your pieces will be similarly sized, particularly if you only have two. If you have more than two, you can have one large piece and two smaller pieces, or you can have two smaller pieces and two larger pieces, it depends where they are going. A gallery wall of many pieces in many sizes and many colors can be tough on your own, and I would recommend calling in a friend or professional before going that route, so for now, let’s keep it simple and say two to five.

Now, let’s put it all together. In my first apartment in Baltimore, I lived in a converted warehouse that had an extremely long hallway. Sixteen feet long to be exact. I knew I was never going to find one piece of an appropriate scale to fill that space, so I decided to do a grouping. I thought if I did three to four larger scale pieces, that would work well, and to start, I went back to some of my vacation pictures to see if there was anything that stood out to me.

I realized I had some great pictures from a trip to Argentina and Uruguay, so I narrowed my selection to five or six and started editing. First, I knew I wanted black and white since I had bought a very long, bright runner, and I didn’t want to worry about finding harmonious colors; with it’s neutral contrast and large scale prints, I wanted the wall to be the focal point.

As I started to edit, I realized that I had a lot of pictures that were vertically (portrait) aligned, but I had some great ones that were horizontally (landscape) aligned. Since I am person who enjoys balance and symmetry (in my designs…in my life, I do not have the patience to achieve balance through yoga or anything similar, which I feel like I should probably work on), I knew, sadly, that some horizontal favorites would have to go.

In a couple of hours, I had four pictures I loved that I had edited to work in black and white. I had them printed at FedEx in the largest possible poster size, and then used silver binder clips to attach the photos to pieces of wood that I had painted black.

It was one of the easiest and most straightforward art projects I have done, and the hardest part was hanging them level (this was also pre-Dave, so I had every level I owned out seeing how I could hang these as straight as possible, and then I realized the wall was not level, go figure).

Thinking through the steps above helped me choose something that was right for my space and right for me, and if you do the same, I think you’ll have a fantastic art grouping in no time.

The finished product

The finished product