For those not entirely comfortable with the subject of fine art – or those of us who are a bit too practical – making art purchases can be a little daunting. Even more so if it's art you want to gift to someone you care about. You're thinking, “What's their style? What are their colors? Are they open to wall art at all?” You could second-guess yourself to death.

If you're not a practiced art-buyer, diving into larger pieces can be a little scary. So, our advice for the best way to start with art is ... small.

Small art can be powerful or simple or quiet or colorful, the same as "big" art, but if cost is a concern, they’re more economical. Plus, they can be moved here or there more easily and fit in tight spaces, like a compact car. Or they can be combined with many other pieces to create "big art", like a gallery wall or corner grouping. The point is, small pieces fit budgets better and they’re more versatile – kind of mistake-proof, which makes them not so scary to buy.

If your intention is to elevate your home or office décor, small art can – and should – include your own framed photos or your own art. But if you're not comfortable with your creativity level, (stop thinking like that!) there are other options to fill your home or office with great art on a small scale.

Small abstract original by Krystii Melaine

Consider Miniature Originals

You can start with miniature original works. Original art in a diminutive size keeps costs down but serves as an excellent introduction to discovering what kind of fine art pleases you: oils or acrylics, abstract or figurative, collages, art with social commentary, art for the heck of it, art with humor or art with angst.

With a little online research you can find a plethora of extra fine art at Miniature Art Shows taking place across the country. But almost every art site offers smaller pieces that will make your spaces happy. (At right, a small abstract original from a private collection, by Krystii Melaine.) 

A tip before you buy original art: I recently attended Art Fair San Diego. I didn’t buy anything, but merely walked the aisles, studying the broad range of works. Attending art events like this helps me refine my preferences – what I like and what I don’t like, and why. Very helpful for determining where my art budget will go.

Prints: Budget-Friendly and Beautiful

If you’re still unsure or if original works are out of your budget, you can go for small fine art prints. These gems bring in the quality and fun of originals while still serving as a great introduction to fine art styles, techniques and color -- but without the price tag. Two words to keep in mind: “Archival” and “Presentation”.

Quality lasts! Archival paper prints in particular are far less prone to fading, unless you hang them on a bright, sunny porch in, you know, Phoenix. Bad for any paper art. But, whatever the substrate, your investment will go to waste if the materials and inks are junk. And the difference in price between cheap materials and good materials for small pieces is usually pretty low. Go for quality.

Good presentation depends on several factors: your décor; where the art prints will be hanging; what, if any, pieces will be its neighbor; and to some degree, the style of the artwork. Boho and industrial style homes might use clips and string or even tape to put up paper prints. These can especially be fun for miniature abstracts.

For a more powerful presence, put your print in a significantly larger frame with a generous mat, or double mat (see above featured photo, "Ready to Launch" fine art paper print). Suddenly, your tiny art isn't tiny at all! This looks great on its own, or it will add panache to a gallery grouping alongside larger pieces.

Image of abstract Aluminum metal print, "Beneath"

On the other hand, you can go with a diminutive but interesting frame with no mat at all. This works well when you want to insert tiny pieces throughout a gallery wall to play against larger, primary pieces. They’ll be the accessories to your little black dress!

You might also try metal prints. They are only a bit pricier than paper, but they win the prize for gorgeous, rich color as well as convenience -- they arrive ready to hang or set in a stand right out of the box, no frame required! (At left is "Beneath", an abstract Chromaluxe aluminum metal print from Sanguine Fine Art.)


Everyday Items Can Make the Best Art

Exercise your imagination by framing or shadowboxing vintage, meaningful, or simple, everyday items that are pretty or clever or just plain fun.

Small art ampersands in my studio

I love ampersands in fun fonts. So I typed some cool ones to fit 4 1/2" squares (this could be done in Photoshop or any document editor) and had them printed on quality paper at FedEx. With stock mats and frames from the hobby store, they make adorable additions to my walls - which only proves that art is everywhere! In fact, accent art can be hidden in plain sight.

Here are some examples we've used ourselves or seen others use:

  • Pieces of colorful or patterned fabric
  • Doilies your great aunt crocheted
  • Vinyl record album or book covers
  • Pressed flowers or leaves from a special event or from around the yard
  • Vintage keys and locks
  • Vintage car parts or pulley wheels (cleaned up, of course)
  • Children's art (nothing more special than framing your kids' art)
  • Artsy, vintage or memory-worthy postcards
  • Greeting cards (check out our selection at!
  • Wine labels (some of them are artistically outstanding!)
  • Sentimental recipe cards or ticket stubs
  • Hats (love hats!) or heirloom jewelry
  • A million other things, because art is everywhere!

Option Four, Our Highest Recommendation!

All of the above! Thoughtful groups of big stuff and little stuff, fine art originals and prints, photos and typography, black and white and color, mementos and children's art - all those things add up to home decor that's warm, unique, stylish and YOU!

Art-buying isn’t rocket science. But if you feel a little unsure, just determine your budget and goals and start small. You’ll be a pro in no time!

🎨 🎨 🎨

PS: If you're looking for small pieces for your space or artful gifts for friends or family, we offer small originals and metals as well as a line of beautiful archival paper prints called "Petite Couleur" that start at $9! Add mat and frame and they’ll be right at home in a grouping or super as a single piece in a nook or cranny.

PPS: To solve any artful gift conundrum, browse our "Faire la Paire" collection in "Gifts & Décor" at These are high quality greeting cards that hold miniature fine art paper prints inside. The greeting card front image is a replica of the art within, so ... it's a gift inside a gift! You can find out more about these right here.

PPPS!: C'mon and join our Inner Circle of Friends to get the skinny on upcoming sales and events at Sanguine Fine Art. Plus, subscribers receive a FREE GIFT on all purchases while supplies last! Go to our Home Page,, and scan down to sign up!

Let's Muse Together

Yo! Grab a cuppa something foamy and a low-cal pastry and let's chat about creating havens in our lives - with art, with things we love and with people we love.


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