In Ameen and Deep Dhillon’s backyard, the chickens do double duty—as egg layers and as models. Ameen, an artist who teaches art classes for kids (studio-kids.com) in the green-roofed, sky-lighted studio Deep designed behind their Ballard home, opens the coop for her “life drawing” classes, so the students can study the birds’ movement and capture it on paper. It’s an apt metaphor for the sort of out-of-the-box thinking that has led to a house full of vibrant art.
“Our main way of getting art is traveling.” The Dhillons’ house is electric with color—splashed across woven rugs and pillows, paintings and small folk art sculptures, all sourced from faraway places. In addition to traveling to India every couple of years, the duo took their 5- and 8-year-old kids on a trip around the world in 2010, bringing only carryon bags. “We were very conscious of what things weighed,” Ameen says, but she was determined to carry home art, including several small village scenes crafted from tin, found at a street market in Cape Town.
“Everything will fit together because it’s what you like.” Despite being from wildly different places (including South Africa, Spain, Jerusalem, Syria and Seattle), the artwork seems perfectly in tune: a metal thali plate adorned with Ganesh by Indian artist Aarohi Singh, a large oil painting by Jordanian artist Samer Kurdi, a floral monoprint by Vancouver artist Heather Aston and memoir-focused collages and paintings by Ameen and Deep (the latter is a technologist and painter too). “It makes sense together because it’s all what you’re drawn to,” says Ameen.
“Start small.” Ameen, who earned a degree in printmaking from Emily Carr University in Vancouver, B.C., and was a member of the Malaspina Printmakers Society on Granville Island, is a huge fan of small artworks. She has a thick stack of pieces she calls her “framing pile,” which includes holiday cards her friends have made. She suggests that if you fall in love with an artist’s work that you can’t afford, buy a much smaller piece or print “to remind yourself” to save up for a more expensive work in the future.
FIND IT: The Dhillons enjoy browsing at local galleries such as Lisa Harris (lisaharrisgallery.com), Grover Thurston (groverthurston.com) and Davidson (davidsongalleries.com), but they also suggest looking outside the gallery setting. “People think good art only comes from a gallery, but that’s not true,” says Deep, who recommends local art walks and school auctions for serendipitious finds.