Original paintings for sale in the gallery

Oil painting side view in a frame

Adding a new artwork to your collection should be a rewarding experience and I've put together some thoughts for you that will aid you when you choose your original paintings.

Why buy an original?

An understandable question given their price tag of and the availability of alternatives these days. There are many compelling reasons to own an original painting that make them a good choice to have in your living space.

It is a product of the ideas in the artist's mind and then realized by the application of practical skills. It is a very personal, human object that is made, using a favourite medium.

One of the striking things about unique paintings are that they reveal the physical quality of the painting process and something of the workings of the mind behind it. All the marks, indents in the medium, brushstrokes etc. are there for the viewer to see in all their richness and meaning.

When you create a painting, you use your tool of a brush or painting knife in varied ways that reveal all the properties of the medium. Edges of a brush develop different textures and subtle tonal changes appear in curves or lines where the brush has rolled as a mark is made. Light reverberates around an oil paint surface, reflected and contained by the various pigments, whether transparent or opaque.

The artwork has qualities of colour than no print can match. Perhaps best described as a quality of "weight" which includes the quantity of pigment on the canvas – its richness or thickness, the pure pigment and so the amount of light absorbed and finally physical texture – created through the type of application onto the page or surface. They are powerful qualities that give the artwork a special physical presence absent from any print.

Similar to the physical qualities inherent in it are the more artistic signs of expression which show in the way it is painted – the rawness of feeling and the power of their directness for all to see on the surface. There is nothing else like it in the world, as you know each painting is a once in a lifetime event, never to be created again. It is also made unique by the choice of annotations to the painting, particularly to the back of the painting where the artist may choose to sign, title or write notes on the back of the canvas as it is being made. The choice of materials is an additional, arguably less important quality that affects the final qualities of the picture.

They are less expensive than you may think and many painters choose to sell their own pictures directly from their studio with works available on the internet. It is sometimes the case that they will direct you to a gallery they are in a contract with to sell their art but you will find many artists are able to sell you their work simply through contacting them online.

Prints are cheaper but buying one-off paintings prove to be a much better investment in the long run regardless of whether or not the painter achieves fame. There is the personal satisfaction of owning a one-off, meaningful, beautiful object that becomes a permanent part of your home as well as the knowledge that you have contributed to the career of a creative individual and sometimes even a rise in resale price for your art.

How to find original paintings to buy?

You may be asking the question and are unsure where to find them.

As buying habits turn overwhelmingly towards online as a way of buying goods and services, so it is with art. Many a traditional gallery and retail outlets, even the big name auction houses are now adapting to the rise of online buying.

There are so many ways to approach buying. What you find and buy largely depends on whether you have a particular specialism or someone in mind when you search.

Here is a list of some of the options when buying:

  • A painter's website or online gallery showing collections by a single artist.
  • An online or offline gallery displaying art from a selected group of painters like Marlborough Fine Art
  • Online only art sellers such as Zatista
  • Auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christies
  • Online auction websites the largest being eBay, Etsy
  • Classified advertisements e.g Craigslist
  • Commercial spaces used to display original paintings for example restaurant walls, cafes, waiting rooms

If you simply start a Google search for “original paintings for sale” you will find millions of results and those who have the biggest presence, or who spends the most on advertising, may offer the largest selection of paintings from all around the world.

The upside of buying your art this way is that although it is time-consuming, it is possible to filter and sort through the paintings fairly efficiently and eventually discover an artwork you’d like based on what that particular platform shows you.

The downside is that you rarely have much information presented about the art you are buying and a large proportion of the listed price is taken by the business in commission rather than benefitting the artist. You will likely not receive any communication directly from the maker and so with many of the larger online art retailers, it feels much more like shopping for a ‘widget’ rather than buying a personal, hand-made item.

Another way of finding where to buy is to locate art retailers who match your preferences. With this method, you may find more specialized, smaller, independent galleries to buy from.

The upside of this approach to buying is that if you have some ideas about the kind of art you’d like to buy and are more specific in your search, you may uncover some more buying options than you would be using the first approach. You could look either online or offline for your type of painting through printed art catalogues, galleries magazine (which is often freely distributed), art-fairs, etc.

If you have a subject that interests you, or a style such as modern or traditional, it may be a useful starting point when looking to buy your ideal painting. So you aim in the right direction and find the right seller, gallery, or art retailer to buy from.

The downside is that for the very small artist-run galleries, you rely upon them to provide a good service. You may have to check for suitability before buying. Things like online reviews, making sure they have a secure checkout, or a secure website starting with https: and it might be a good idea to make personal contact or enquire through email or telephone and check they have a physical address.

In my opinion, the more specialised the search, the closer you are likely to get to the individual or a gallery that is most knowledgeable, offers a more personal service and potentially help you find what you are after.

The answer as to how to find your perfect original is perhaps not as straight forward as it seems. You could choose to search using the internet to find a popular art website and pick a picture out of a huge selection. But in my opinion, the more you can establish what you’d like out of your original painting and look into those places which offer that, the more rewarding you will find your purchase to be. Those retailers will be able to help you buy according to your needs, offering the right support, and buying guidance.

Questions to ask yourself before buying original paintings

Buying new art is seemingly more than a little bewildering. Given all the choices you face when selecting a single painting or series for your home or office collection. Once you have found artwork that you really engage with, there are some further (more logical) practical questions which helps you decide whether it is the right choice or not. Here are some questions to ask before you buy:

Is it acceptably within my budget?

Establishing a budget you are comfortable with is important of course and this will also help you to focus on the kind and type of work you are likely to buy. If you'd like a rough idea of how much to spend, I've heard people suggest spending half of one month's income over a one year period on one quality piece.

Does the artwork's price or value make sense?

The price or value of a painting often reflect these further factors:

Whether it is a considered a major painting of the artist's oeuvre, signed and exhibited as a "Name of artist" etc. These will be more expensive than studies or work in other mediums not central to their major work (some make a distinction by framing their major exhibition artworks and leave their other work unframed but this is not always the case).

You might think that large sized artworks automatically make the work more expensive but in my opinion, it depends. Again, this is only my opinion but the time taken to create a work in traditional mediums is more of an indicator of an artworks price than size.

Is the art in keeping with where I will display it?

Size, colour, tones (light and dark), textures, composition etc. are properties to consider for the art to work well within it's intended space.

Is the artwork created in the same style as the other work?

This will help you clarify whether you would consider a 'one off', in a different style or if you'd rather stick to their signature style.

Is it signed and/or dated?

An official artwork by the painter is usually signed and it will probably be dated, possibly titled as well.

Does it come with a certificate of authenticity or record of provenance if not new?

A useful document proving ownership and authenticity. Not all galleries offer this but many will offer you a signed C.O.A or certificate of authenticity with your purchase. Like a passport, it can accompany your artwork, this is usually signed and issued by the artist if buying direct from him or her, or from the gallery and is a written or printed page documenting the details of the artwork. When showing ownership or reselling your artwork in the future, it can help to verify its authenticity. It can include the artwork's title, size, medium, the date released, the listed price and the name of the buyer.

Does the gallery offer a 'cooling off' period once you have bought your picture?

If you buy online, it is sometimes difficult to make a decision about art you've never seen, so it makes sense to be able to see it with your own eyes at home and to be allowed to return it if it isn't as you expected.

Is delivery included in the price?

It is worth checking beforehand as many galleries charge extra for delivery. The larger the painting is, the pricier delivery. So its something to factor in.

All these questions may help you decide and to narrow down further so you can make the best decision when buying!

Is the artwork framed?

This is something which painters and/or galleries have particular preferences for. On the one hand, it will save you time and cost but you will not have a choice as to its aesthetic. There is a strong possibility you will end up having it re-finished anyway to suit your taste or preference.

My opinion is that buying and owning an original painting is such a personal item with which you or your family (or indeed office) have a deep connection with and having the right frame is an important component as to how the painting looks. Everyone has differing interiors and preferred styles. Framing adds an extra cost to the artwork either way, so I suspect you would rather buy one that is right for you once rather than having to waste a less than ideal one and start again.

The established types of paintings

Artists produce pictures on a variety of surfaces, each very different, so let me take you through the two mediums I have some familiarity with:

Oil paintings

Picture of Calm seas original oil painting for sale by Timothy Gent
Calm seas | Oil on canvas

This medium of painting is considered the finest traditional choice for finished masterpieces since the Renaissance. The benefits of owning them are the incredible variations in visual impressions that are created on the canvas. It is a very flexible medium, from watery thin washes using a turpentine base through to inch thick impasto marks.

Oil paint exhibits numerous versatile qualities such as opacity for example, which makes it ideal for the expression of ideas using the magnificent colour and textural qualities of pigments in oil.

Their longevity and qualities of light together with their flexibility endears them to collectors. It is sometimes possible to undertake repair on them and they are robust enough to withstand life quite well. They are often painted on canvases that don't require a frame, so it is not always necessary to purchase a frame.

When you buy oil paintings on canvas they tend to be the more expensive option, mainly because they are seen as representing the artist's full potential and that the painting is presented according to accepted art industry traditions or standards. They often take longer to produce and to dry than other types of art such as acrylic or watercolours.

Please note that in terms of materials used to create these paintings there are huge variations in quality between materials used:

It is a good idea to inspect the quality of the canvas before buying your painting or at least before you are committed to a purchase. Is it comfortably taut? Cotton as a material for canvases is a relatively recent invention and has not yet proved as long lasting as the traditional material of linen as a support. Buying an oil on linen is more expensive and if you look at the back of the painting, it tends to look naturally darker and less yellow than cotton.

Are the stretchers sturdy and well made? Quality stretchers should be either a heavy weight soft wood or preferably a hard wood (which is heavier, resists warping over time and is a very stable support). They normally come with 'keys' or wedges that insert into the edges of the frame which pre-load the canvas with surface tension.

Quality of paint is difficult to find out but a good paint will show in the intensity of colour reflecting off the surface, it is rich, clean, bright and pure.

The thickness of the painted surface is worth checking if you are interested in gauging the longevity of an oil painting. In general, the thicker the layers, the greater the potential for cracks to appear because the paint shrinks as it dries. The likelihood of this happening is reduced if heavy layers of paint are confined to one off marks or sections of the canvas. 'Fat over lean' is used to structure the build up of paint to give it maximum flexibility to avoid future cracks. Simply where oil rich paint is applied over to less oil rich underpainting.

Watercolour paintings

Picture of Bright shore original watercolour painting for sale by Timothy Gent
Bright shore | Watercolour on paper

When you go for watercolour paintings, they are an excellent choice when it comes to collecting. The medium offers many benefits and many people prefer the aesthetic to other forms of art, regardless of the fact that they tend to be less expensive than others. Some people prefer to buy these paintings when their budget does not stretch to larger artworks such as oil on canvas and also if they are keen to purchase work by a particular name.

Today it holds its head up high as an established medium and one in which is known for its beautiful subtle colours and tones. As I mentioned, their aesthetic is different to any other kind of picture and it is very attractive to many people.

They were used as a medium used for rapid sketches in preparation for a finished painting. Eventually they evolved into a very popular art form and are now used to produce finished work, with a particular beauty in their unique crispness of line and sensitive, lucid transparent washes.

Created in the opposite way to oils, going from light to dark, they use the colour of the paper as their light. It is also flexible art form in that it may be applied opaquely or in watery washes that dry quickly.

In the past, they were seen as secondary examples of an artist's work and therefore more affordable, despite the skill needed to produce a successful one. It is a challenging art to master because of the element of fluidity, foresight and speed required. For me, they are rewarding to paint and offer a high satisfaction rating, perhaps because of the economy of means and the simplicity of adding water to paint and applying it to paper.

Like drawings, they require more careful handling as compared to other mediums. Your fingers will damage the paper and pigment surface if touched too much and they need to be kept away from too much light or exposure to UV.

The ultimate in protection for them is to be stored in a dark place with constant humidity (I guess why they are often kept behind curtains in art museums). But if you want to see and enjoy it whilst keeping it protected, you might want to hang it away from sunlight or source of humidity, in a UV protected glass frame with conservation grade mount.

The only associated cost of its hanging is the need for framing and glazing, which is an extra cost but has the side benefit of protecting the art as well. However, the overall cost after buying your painting and framing it is usually less than with an oil on canvas.

A few notes on framing

It has many benefits although the thought of getting your picture framed may seem fraught with difficulties. It is not always easy to find a good supplier you are happy with to finish off your beautiful artwork.

By opting for quality framing, it will transform your picture and add to its visual impact. It will protect the surface and structure of the artwork from environmental pollution and cumulative effects of ageing due to handling.

It is important to consider the effect the type of frame has on the finished artwork and how it is perceived or viewed. In my opinion, if you are able to match the artwork to a frame which aligns with the visual message of the painting, what is about, that doesn't shout over it or offer any visual confusion then that is the ideal outcome.

From a visual point of view, (rather than the tail wagging the dog) I feel it is important that it serves the artwork, so why not pick a design that allows it to shine.

Finally - worth the time and effort

The end result of owning an original painting is that it makes for a beautiful art statement and bring all those wonderful reminders of nature, the fresh air, the light, the airy space to mind when you catch a glimpse of it on your walls. It expresses your affinity with nature and a love of the sea and I believe they make for a worthwhile investment in yourself and your home.

Published November 2023