Decorating Your Walls The Digital Way

Decorating Your Walls The Digital Way


On the recent Brooks Brothers post, a reader left a comment asking where he could find prints similar to the ones hanging on the walls of the store. I’m not entirely sure I understood the question— exactly what sort of pictures did he mean, old military and sporting prints? That type of thing shouldn’t be too hard to find.

But it got me thinking about how I acquired many of my own pictures, and that some older readers out there might never have thought of this.

With a longtime interest in art, photography, and every other sort of visual imagery, I’ve always been very specific about what I want hanging on the walls of my home. So ever since I got my first apartment after college, I’ve relied primarily on my local Kinko’s or Staples to fulfill my art needs. What do I mean by that? Namely, that I started by having color photocopies made of pictures I liked that were in books. Then the Internet took over as the cynosure of our lives, and these days I rely on Google Images to help me find exactly what I want.

Taking this approach assumes that the image itself is your primary concern. Obviously this has nothing to do with collecting original works of art. I could do that, saving a bit to buy works from local artists hanging in my neighborhood cafes, for example. But I’d feel like I was at the whim of the artists, rather than following my own vision. To collect original works that please me would require much more money than I’m likely to have in this lifetime.

The digital approach also assumes that image specificity is more important than finding something that is prized simply because it’s old. It’s possible to cover your walls with pictures found randomly at thrift stores and flea markets. I’ve done that, but I don’t think the results were terribly refined or sophisticated, and they certainly weren’t personal. My walls were covered in a sea of mediocre things acquired primarily because they were old and cheap, with only modest visual interest and little, if any, personal relevance.

To take the digital route, first come up with an idea of what you’re looking for. Then perform a Google Image search, narrowing the results to  large-sized files. Save them on a disc or email them to your local printing place. If the original image is a photo, have it printed on glossy photo stock. If it’s a painting or drawing, print on cardstock. If the image is in black and white, be sure to specify that the printer is set to grayscale mode, as black and white images mistakenly printed in color typically come out blueish. Your local frame shop can take care of the matting and framing, though it can be very expensive and takes away the satisfaction of doing it yourself. I prefer to find frames at the thrift store or flea market (which are better for frames than the images inside), then use an online service to cut the matting boards to my exact measurements.

I checked my walls and it looks like I currently have over a dozen pictures that were created in this way. Above, in my bedroom, is a grouping by the Belle Epoque engraver Paul Helleu, who has been my favorite artist for some 20 years. A couple of them are from an exhibition catalog, the rest were printed from JPEG files.

 That first apartment of mine had about 20 pictures by another portrait artist from the same era, Giovanni Boldini. Today I’ve just this lone image currently taking up space by the front door:


That’s probably because I’ve gradually learned that photos and drawings look better than copies of oil paintings. Also in my entryway is this study by Fernand Khnopff, another artist who’s fascinated me for years:


Continuing down the hallway, we reach some 20th-century photos. This image of Aga Khan ran in the magazine The Rake, from which I scanned it:


This shot of the Nicholas Brothers, my favorite dancers (after Astaire, of course) for their combination of elegance and daredevil athleticism:


In the living room, the digital images include this Renaissance drawing — I’ve somehow managed to forget by whom:


A caricature of the Duke of Windsor adds a touch of whimsy:


I’ve played many sports and have had vintage photos of tennis, badminton and table tennis, but currently I have this great photo of a golfer named George Duncan:


… and this turn-of-the-century fencer among the bottles and bric-a-brac:


I’ve never played cricket, but I couldn’t resist this old shot of guys in sweaters and top hats, which rests on a book shelf:


Contemporary abstracts are reprsented by Sam Francis, whose work used to fill an entire wall. Alas he’s been downgraded and is currently used to cover the rat’s nest of cables and wires beneath my desk:


… as well as the ugly circuit breaker panel thing in the hallway:


Finally we’ve got the most dandyish image, a nude worshipping a peacock, which always brings a wry smile to my face. It was scanned from one of my books on Symbolist art:


 So while it doesn’t work for large images, there’s one way to fill your walls with exactly what you want. Next time we’ll look at the other items that hang on my walls, such as the larger pieces as well as a photography project I’ve been working on recently.