Friday, May 31, 2013

How To Research The Artwork You Find...

So you've gone to an auction or a fleamarket or a garage sale (aka estate sale, yard sale, boot sale) and found a piece of art work for cheap (or not) and bought it!!  Yahoo!! Good for you. 

Now how do you know what you have?? Well here is my method, which I devised when we briefly were selling in an antique market stall:

1. Get a higher power magnifying glass or jeweler's loup and look at the art work close up thru that. You'll be able to see brush strokes if it's a water color, oil or acrylic.

Each medium (the fancy work artists use for WHAT they painted with..oil, watercolor, acrylic paint etc.) will have different characteristics but anyone with a brain...(Oh seriously, there are some brainless bodies walking around for sure) will be able to deduce which it is by what they see.

Watercolor - thin light applications normally and with brushstrokes visibly overlapping in darker areas

Oil color - thicker paint, more vivid color and in some areas more built up.

Acrylic paint - if it looks like oil paint but is REALLY vivid and really thick and higher ridges, then it's likely acrylic but take it to an art gallery if you're not sure

2. if you see dots in a cross-hatch pattern, it's a print of some kind. There are numerous kinds..too many for me to master... if it's NOT paint or ink and not cross-hatched it could be an older type of print called a Chromo-Lithograph or just a lithograph or engraving.  Take those to an art gallery also for an expert's opinion.

3. you can tell pen and ink drawings, pencil and charcoal/pastels with it too - If you look at the ink lines an in pen & Ink drawing or at the pencil lines in a sketch, you will immediately recognize the technique as the same that you get if you write your name on a piece of paper with that implement.  Ink pens, of which there are also variations for artists, still leave an "indentation" of some sort, however mild. Pencils may or may not depending on the technique adn the skill. But you should at least be able to discern if it's really pencil or if it's a print of a pencilled drawing. (there's that cross-hatch thing again)

4. Lithographs and engravings generally have an impressed (call it dented) border from the Plate or stone used to make the the print.  It's why you see pictures with "pushed" in areas...

Now, with your magnifying glass or loupe, looko for a signature, in the art area (in the print it's called) or on the border? 

Then go to and search the artist's name. Or to the library and use their Davenport's (which is the go-to guide for artwork for auction houses and dealers etc)

AskArt if you subscribe will even tell you prices (or worthpoint) (no affiliate links since I use them sparingly myself and don't subcribe)

Now you can more comfortably approach an art gallery or an art dealer to ask for an appraisal as you'll know if they are BSing you when they say it's nothing ... only the unscruplous ones would do that and well know there are none of those out there... right?? Yeah!  Ok

So now you can also go to your insurance agent and add a "Rider" for your art work since it's likely not covered by your regular homeowner's policy.

I am by no means an "art expert".  I learned to do this to know whether I wanted to sell what I'd bought and what I could expect to get for it.  Consult a paid professional for more advice than what's here. 

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