how to tell if a painting is REAL, FAKE, or a print!

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me in my studio. the large
painting took me over 600
hours to complete.

NOW over 90- thousand people took the time to read THIS GUIDE.
My qualifications are that of a self supporting artist for over thirty five years who holds her Master of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from top Universities in the United States.

I have sold literally thousands of pieces of my work to collectors across the USA, Canada, Europe and Latin America.
Some of my sales have been framed prints of my work.....

I first became aware of the public lack of knowledge on the subject when I was in my twenties. I was invited to a wealthy woman's home because she intended to commission me to paint a portrait of her and her daughter. At one point in our meeting, the Patron asked if I would like to see the oil portrait in their Grand Piano room. I said "Sure!" -naturally I was expecting to see an actual OIL PORTRAIT---but as I got about ten feet from the "thing" I immediately knew the woman had been hoodwinked. It was a four feet high, three feet wide color PHOTOGRAPH with some clear acrylic brushstrokes applied to the surface. I did NOT have the heart to tell her---BUT+ she did NOT own an OIL portrait!
the thousands of lying and cheating photographers who sell -------F+A+K+E+ ----"OIL PORTRAITS." make me SICK!

this NEFARIOUS scam has been happening WORLD wide for decades!

I will DISCUSS SOME of its ORIGINS- and then PROCEED to tell YOU how NOT to be SCAMMED!

you would THINK the lousy businesses who propound this SCAM---- LIE

would at least use clear OIL gel to propound their lies!


I visited a photography studio nation-wide 'Chain office'
(I will mention no names for fear of a lawsuit)
and I SAW the ACRYLIC gel medium BEING APPLIED by the hired hand-

along WITH the fake brushstrokes to fool the customer in to thinking they are buying a REAL PAINTING!
The sad fact is that these photography studios are not only damaging the consumer public by LYING to them-

they have SINGLE-handedly put several generations of REAL, TRUE, CLASSICALLY TRAINED portrait painters out of business!

The monstrosities they sell under the auspices of "OIL PORTRAIT" used to cost the Patron around fifteen hundred to three thousand dollars in the 1990's.

I have no idea what they charge NOW.

they MAY POSSIBLY take the photography studio  ---two to five hours to make from start to finish-
that includes the lying photographer setting up his camera,
to the complicit developer developing and printing the "THING",
to the technician daubing on some fake brushstrokes.

Contrast that time
with the DECADES
involved in a REAL PAINTER's
study of
and on and on.

Then to top it all off, let's examine the hours involved in painting a REAL OIL portrait of a family. You're talking HUNDREDS of HOURS.

Do you think a REAL artist can afford to work HUNDREDS of HOURS for fifteen hundred to three thousand dollars?


If they live at home with their parents, or in a homeless shelter! Ahhh...Can you tell this scam makes me ANGRY?
Next topic: So now we know there is that clear acrylic jell stuff to simulate brushstrokes. In the 1960's the printers would also texture the paper to simulate brushstrokes. remember the prints of the BIG EYED GIRLS and BOYS?

You knew THEY were prints. right? -I hope so!
There was a VERY famous artist whose initials are T.C. He perpetrated this same scam for a couple decades and became a millionaire in doing so. He specialized in gingerbread-style houses with lights inside the sparkly windows. I personally think that all his collectors should file a class action suit. Some of the Gallery Franchise Owners have, and GOOD for THEM! They WERE lied to!
The VERY BEST way one can know whether or not he or she is buying a print, litho or REAL PAINTING may be to visit the artist and watch them work.

If that is not possible, there are a couple other VERY SIMPLE ways which are just as effective.
1. Hold the piece up to the light. USE a magnifying glass. That is ESSENTIAL. Antique dealers carry magnifying glasses (loops) to read stamps and signatures, etc. GET a MAGNIFYING GLASS!  A REAL PAINTING will have REAL brushstrokes. The brushstrokes will vary in size and texture.

2. Now hold the painting up to the light and look at it from the BACK. You should be able to see variations in the light coming through the back of the canvas. This is because artists use varying degrees of impasto (heaviness of paint in certain areas). A lithograph on canvas will not have these variations.
3. A REAL painting will almost ALWAYS be signed by the artist in the lower right hand corner. The artist's signature should have a dimension to it (if it is signed with REAL PAINT!) .....This does not apply to a watercolor. I will cover that in the next paragraph. This applies generally to acrylics, egg tempera and oils. The EXCEPTION here is that SOME artists paint very smoothly, and their technique is to NOT show brushstrokes. YIKES! This is complicated. I guess this is why there are art appraisers! BUT NOT THAT COMPLICATED! COME ON NOW! we can DO this!
4. Watercolors (which I have not specialized in and am not an expert in) I will not comment much on. It can be difficult to distinguish a PRINT of a watercolor from a LITHOGRAPH of a watercolor.
5. Most Collectors know that there now exists the technology to make a VERY good print of a painting on canvas. These are in ample supply on eBay, and mainly are of images of famous paintings which are now in the public domain.

ABOUT ASKING MY OPINION on a PIECE of ART YOU OWN++++++++(of mine or of another artist's)
I receive about 50 to 100 requests a year to appraise a piece of work. PLEASE don't ask me to do this. I di at one time-  politely write back and suggest that one find an appraiser.  I will no longer even have time to respond to inquiries about artists signatures, or whether I think a piece may be "real" or valuable"....

THE FACT IS-----I probably have NO idea! You could send me a painting of an original Picasso and without examining it IN PERSON and spending HOURS tracking down possible forgeries etc. I WOULD NOT KNOW!!!!

CAN YOU SEE now WHY appraisers get so MUCH MONEY???????????

PLEASE do NOT contact me to appraise anything. OR to give my opinion on anything!

This article IS my help to YOU!!!!!

I am NOT a certified appraiser AND do not have the time to do those services for free!++++ BUT YOU CAN do an internet search YOURSELF!

IF YOU THINK YOU may own a FAMOUS original- GREAT! Do some research and you may find you own a real gem! I hope you DO!

Sure, it may take you one to ten WEEKS to track down a signature or an artist.

That's what appraisers get the bucks for!

if you own my art and want my opinion as to how much you can now SELL it for...just THINK for a minute about how rude that is...

don't do it.

Kata Billups
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