BASIC ART-BUYING RULES I follow on eBay & elsewhere:
RULE #1 buy what you like. No need to "know" styles, particular artists >> the labels of abstract, impressionist, modern art, Monet, etc are not as important as knowing what you like. Specific terms are just short-hand (for searches) & useful as common vocabulary but not necessary to buy/find art on eBay. For example, I have had discussions with a client about his "peanut-butter colored" walls.
Rule #2 why do you want the art ie is it for a specific location, person? Valuation in art is so subjective, I don't buy as an "investment." Better to look for quality (conservation, artist grade, etc) & personal appeal.
RULE #3 COMMON SENSE - Be skeptical of purchasing art described as an "authentic" work by a famous artist or if the price seems too good to be true. Does it make sense a piece stated as having a "gallery value of $2000" would be selling in the $20 range?
RULE #4 "know" who you are buying from (read below).
RULE #5 ask questions if necessary. If you have criteria which you want to accomodate, you should ask before you purchase
RULE #6 be aware of limitations of online purchasing - a digital pic is a facsimile. Pics viewed on different computers/monitors/settings may vary a great deal.
Basic FAQs about buying a painting [Fundamentals of Searching for art on ebay will follow later]:· Who are you buying from? Read feedback comments & if buying directly from the artist is important to you, ask the seller if he or she is the artist and the composition is his or hers.
· Where can I find original paintings sold directly by artists on eBay? 2 main places: Paintings Original Listed By Artist & Self-Representing Artists. The two categories do not necessarily overlap; a painting may be listed under one category but not the other, so if you are looking for a painting, you will have to search both "catalogs". Some artists sometimes list in categories which are specific to subject matter as well e.g. dogs, doll house-related categories for miniature creations.
· READ THE DESCRIPTION carefully. If some of the facts mentioned here are not listed or described, ask the seller. You shouldn't assume a painting has certain attributes if the seller doesn't state so in the description. For example, and I'll get back to this later, if a painting is described as "no-framing required" you need to know whether the sides are covered with canvas and whether the edges are finished so they are smooth (ie without staples) and the canvas wrapped to the back so that the profile should be completely covered. See picstures in "framing" below.
· What is "Original"? Like "pure", the term "original" can be a bit confusing, at least when buying art on ebay. You should read the description carefully for what the term "original" modifies as a seller may adopt a meaning which is not common or which might be familiar to you. For example, a listed "original painting" may actually be a giclee (ink reproduction). If a reproduction, ask if the seller/creator has a LEGAL right to copy the copyrighted work. Read the "fine print"
· What’s the painting created with? Basically, paint is color (dye or pigment) held together by medium (oil, acrylic,wax) allows the final painting to be exposed directly to the environment. Materials such as pastels, watercolors (gouache) generally need a protective layer – such as glass of plastic - separating it from the environment. What does this mean in practical terms? The buyer of the latter will have to bear the expense of framing the painting to protect it. Most acrylic & oils are physically durable but anything with color is subject to fading to some extent over time. Certain quality of paints (e.g. housepaints or craft or student grade paints) will not remain lightfast for long. In any case, it is best to display all artwork away from direct sunlight.
· What’s the painting on? canvas, wood, board, etc? If canvas, is it stretched over a frame, mounted, unstretched?
· Do I need a frame? Could you hang the painting straight from the box or are other steps required to give it a finished look? If the painting is on a flat rigid support such as masonite, canvasboard (canvas adhered to a rigid support) or something equivalent, you'll probably need to frame. this can be very expensive. If the painting is unstretched, you will have to hire someone (or enlist a kind friend) to stretch the painting before it can be displayed. Even if the painting is stretched, unless the sides are completely covered and without staples visible from the sides or front, the painting will likely need framing. Both stretching and framing may be expensive and may exceed the cost of the painting.
o "Gallery-wrapped" is often used in ebay listings to describe pieces which are "ready to display". The first pic below shows one of my paintings on "gallery wrapped" stretched canvas. Notice how the clean painted edges look like a pseudo frame. ASK if the painting has STAPLES on the sides > in the second pic, the stapled sides look unfinished and the painting needs to be framed to display well. Pics also may be view on this page.
· How big is the piece? This info should be stated in the description. Tape together pieces of standard sized paper (or newspaper) to the size stated in the description & hang it in the space you have in mind to see whether the size works.
· Finish - is the painting varnished or have some other topcoat? Is the finish matte or glossy? Is glass required to protect the piece from damage?
· How do I hang the painting? Many paintings can be hung using the frame – the pic below shows a wired painting
· Shipping do not skimp on it - but the buyer is reasonable to expect some degree of care in packaging. Loose in a box without adequate immobilization or padding is NOT acceptable.
How do I value a painting I want to buy? I wouldn't rely on any representation of value. Unless an artist is established elsewhere (and even then it's questionable), it would be difficult to place a "value" on art (not dissimilar to the stock market, the monetary "value" really is what you would sell it for, imo). Even well-known auction houses can't predict price - that's why they are called estimates. Most insurance values are determined at the time of loss, not just by a value stated by the seller (not sure but if it is important, you should consult a qualified professional).
Happy purchasing - stay tuned - more tips on narrowing the field of listings by search or drilling down. If such info might be helpful, let me know, I'll add specific examples based on your input - I primarily sell art but I also purchase art on ebay so can empathize with buyers in the art categories.