The nuts and bolts of buying an original painting

I often get asked for advice on what to consider when buying original paintings. Not an easy position to be in for an artist but I get that you want to know that you have made a good decision. Original work can be an expensive purchase and I know you want to make sure you are making the best choice. So here are my nuts-and-bolts considerations for buying an original painting.

Please note: all the paintings shown in this post are SOLD to patrons on Mayne Island, and in Victoria British Columbia, as well as in New York City, the state of Illinois and in Switzerland. For my original oil paintings currently available please visit the Art of Day online gallery store.

Buy what you love. Yes, a painting can be considered an investment but that should not be the primary reason it is enhancing your walls. Many times paintings do substantially increase in value but there is always a possibility that they won’t. When purchasing a painting, my suggestion is that you can imagine continued enjoyment of the work for the rest of your life.

Think about where the painting is going to “live.” What room will it be in? What will it add to that room? What purpose is the painting going to serve? For example, I often suggest a seascape on a wall where I feel the room needs opening up or some movement. Conversely, I will suggest a dense forest painting on a wall in a room that needs a feeling of warmth or privacy. However, sometimes we just fall in love with a work and will create or organize a room or space to enjoy its company.

Stick to your budget with creative vigor. No one needs to be art poor. However, there is usually a way to have a few carefully chosen original pieces in your possession. First, decide on your budget. Next decide if you need to save for your painting or if you are ready to purchase now. If you are saving for an original piece, can you buy a card or a small print of the artist’s work to help focus your intention? This is a great way to support an artist and a successful strategy to eventually being able to purchase an original painting. Also, if there is a specific painting you just can’t live without but it is beyond your current budget – ask about purchasing on lay-away. I have done this with many buyers on what I call a three-payment-lay-away-plan. The buyer makes 3 equal payments on pre-agreed dates and when the final payment is received they take the painting home. Finally, consider making the artist a fair offer within your budget. Pricing is partially subjective and many factors are taken into consideration. I have been known to accept a reasonable offer below a ticket price simply because I knew the work was going to be appreciated. Often, I make a counter offer that adds value without reducing the price significantly such as delivering and helping to hang the painting or paying for part of the shipping costs.

Ask to take the painting home on trial. Sometimes it is just too hard to decide if a painting is right for your home or office space. You are almost sure but you need to “see.” Many artists and galleries will let you take a painting home on trial for a few days. You pay for the painting by cheque or by leaving credit information and it is not processed unless you go through with the sale. Further, with online purchases I offer a 30 day satisfaction guarantee. If you are not completely satisfied with your purchase it will be fully refunded if the painting is returned to me unharmed at the buyer’s expense within 30 days.

Know the quality of what you are buying. By this I mean the physical quality of the products used to create the painting. For example, I use premium quality canvas or mounted boards and good quality water-miscible oil paints. Sometimes artists, out of necessity, will use economy grade or poor quality materials. If it is not obvious what was used – ask. A painting on good quality material using good paint should offer more than one life time of enjoyment. However, poor quality products can be fragile and a painting will need extra care for preservation. You still may choose to buy it but it is best to know ahead of time the quality of the materials used.

Take your time. Be prepared to wait for “your painting.” I have often told this to patrons of my work. It has sometime taken months and even years until “their painting” was painted. The deep smile of knowing “this is the one” is worth the wait. Of course some buyers become collectors and they have purchased a handful of paintings. For some reason it seems to get easier after the first purchase.

If you don’t see exactly the painting  you want, ask about commissioning a piece. I have only one word of caution. Do not ask the artist to paint something just like the one they have for sale only in colours to match your couch. I once had a buyer do this and my response was “have you considered buying a new couch to go with the painting?” Also, not all artists do commissioned work. This is always a good first question to ask before making a request. Sometimes you may be looking for a larger or smaller piece than what is being exhibited and the artist will have what you are looking for in their inventory. So ask for what you want because you just might be able to get it.

There you have it! Good luck with your original painting purchases.

Again, for my original oil paintings currently available please visit the Art of Day online gallery store.

Sprout question: What nuts-and-bolts considerations are part of your art purchases?

STUDY OF BLUE  solo exhibition opens Thursday June 30, 2011.

© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

FromMayne Island,British Columbia,Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at

16 thoughts on “The nuts and bolts of buying an original painting

  1. Terrill – I loved this class! “How to Purchase Artwork 101” by Terrill Welch. A wonderful primer and must-read when considering the addition of art to your home 🙂

  2. Great post Terrill! I have been slowly collecting art, as my artistic nature has been making itself known from within me. So far they have been small, but I’m working up to bigger purchases. I apprectiate your insights and the sprout question is perfect:
    What nuts-and-bolts considerations are part of your art purchases? One very important consideration to me is the emotional impact. I need to connect postively with a piece of art if it’s going to come home with me. I appreciate the talent and creativity that goes into creating all art, but if I don’t connect with the piece with my heart, it’s not for me.

    This reminds me of some wonderful sculptures I found in Taormina, Sicily. They were these beautiful, elongated sculptures of women in dresses. The problem was, they had no arms, and they seemed a bit helpless to me. As much as I found them beautiful artwork, I couldn’t bring that helplessness into my home.

    • Thank you and excellent point Kat. Glad you expanded your consideration with an example. I too have seen many pieces of art that I adore for their creative energy and yet would not be able to say I could live with them day in and day out. Yet for someone else these pieces will seem perfect and something I really like they might say “it is lovely but does move me to want it for my own.” That heart connection you speak of Kat is vital for the longevity of enjoyment.

  3. dear terrill,

    i wish more ARTISTS selling would also read this although this is for those who are buyers. you have much to offer in terms of business and also in the sense of not losing that very special exchange that takes place between someone who is really interested in a piece that means a lot to them and the creator who has made it.

    thank you for this post and your authentic and practical insight for many.

    and i found it quite amusing—have you considered buying a new couch for the painting! LOL



    • Thank you Annie. Hum, I may also do a post from the artist’s perspective later on. What is clear right now with the ability of online exposure, more buyers and artist are connecting directly. So some of what I have hear may seem new but it is I am sure what galleries have been doing for years. But whatever the reason, I have been asked often enough to know that this post will be useful to readers and people thinking about buying original paintings. I am glad you found the couch comment amusing. It was a bit cheeky of me I know but the words were out of my mouth before I could edit them. Being all of 20-something years old, I hadn’t got to a place in life where I realized that someone could be very attached to their couch.

  4. Wow, I had no idea I could ‘take home a piece of art on trial Terrill’. This is VERY valuable information. The last original I bought I watched as it was being painted. It was an impulse buy for sure. . .I was all reved up by the energy. I liked it for a little while, but the truth is it exudees sooooooooooooo much energy that it really overwhelms any room I put it in. It’s in my closet at the moment because I feel intimidated by it. I appreciate knowing that in the future when I’m considering adding a piece of art into my life, I have the option to ‘date’ before we ‘comit’ to living together.

    • Alison, not all galleries and artist have this same flexibility but I have found it often gives a person the courage to purchase a painting based on the buyer’s first impressions if they find themselves second guess a moment later. Of course there is always the chance that a buyer gets swept up into the purchasing impulse as you experienced. Seems to happen to all of us at some point. By giving this ‘take home’ option I hope to avoid one my paintings the fate of being stuffed in the back of someone’s closet and a customer who feels badly for making a wrong purchase. Other times our taste change or we change homes. All can result in a need for releasing current pieces of work and acquiring new work. Alison I hope your high-energy painting finds its way onto another wall someday – even if not your own. I love the analogy of being able to ‘date’ a painting before living together. Great image!

  5. Terrill: This rewarding post reminds me of an episode of Rod Serling’s seminal 60’s fantasy/science fiction series “The Twilight Zone.” In an episode titles “The Masks” an elderly man dying from a long sickness tells his “enterprising” son-in-law Wilfred that he buys painting not for their “beauty but for their worth.”:

    “Wilfred responds only to things that have weight and bulk and value! He feels books, he doesn’t read them! He appraises paintings, he doesn’t seek out their truth or their beauty!”

    Your advice is sound throughout, and it’s true that one shouldn’t bank on a spike in value. It must be the intrinsic beauty that sustains the work’s house value. And the trial period is vital too. Needless to say too, one must know their financial limits and stick by them.

    • Sam you have given the perfect example to explain why I think it is important to buy the painting we love. What a powerful story. I feel a person should always buy gold and paintings with surplus cash after meeting the minimum requirements for food and shelter. There is much beautiful art we can enjoy even if our own walls are bare. That is the blessing of art galleries.

      I browse great paintings and just intriguing paintings any chance I get – along with pottery, expensive dishes, fine table linens, large lush bath towels, sculptures, architecture, and lovely stones. I do not feel any pressure to take them home with me. Owning one of my original paintings is a luxury as it can be a powerful want but never can it be mistaken for a need. This is one of the reasons I love Creative Potager and redbubble because we can view and enjoy paintings or photographs in smaller bites or even just a nibble. Being a well practiced window-shopper the myself I delight in the fact that people can drop by my blog and browse from anywhere in the world. So please dear readers, browse away. Every look-e-loo is welcome.

  6. I know little about art – other than what I see. All the art in our house are drawings and painting done by my husband and kids or family photographs. Except for the dining room – those are pictures from Alaska artist Ann Miletech Warbut ( I believe that is how her name goes) She lives in Port Townsend, WA. – where she paints and then spend the rest of the year being an environmentalist educator painter on the Alaska Ferry system or teaching art to the dump children of Brazil. One of my daughters was a park ranger/waitress/ teacher in Alaska and her partner was a park ranger in Glacier Bay… One original of Warbut’s 100 paintings of Alaska for their centennial celebration and three numbered prints were purchased. The original was a graduation present for our daughter and the 3 prints will go to her when she gets her first house or condo….It was just something we decided to do after she bought us a cruise on a small ship and we hiked and got away for 12 days – the art was a fundraiser for a worthy charity too. They are very valuable to us – and help us remember our adventure and life.

    My husband received an environmental design award for one of his designs in Hong Kong several years ago – He is a very “green” architect. He wanted to repeat the experience and bought two pieces of art back with him from Beijing. One is very big – I can not relate to it at all…I do not think it will increase in value. I have never been there.

    I have 2 prints in our daughter’s bathroom of a fanciful local artists work – the frames are worth a ton of $ the prints were damaged on the back and I got them for $5 each….Those happy children on a school bus and the family on vacation are the most commented upon pieces of art in our home….they just make people feel a sense of joy.

    A wild rose bush in winter in the guest bathroom – is contemplative…

    My Aunt who just died in Victoria has 10s of thousands of dollars worth of amazing art in her house She took me to so many galleries and showings when I was in NYC and the museums – Oh she knew art so well…

    I think art just needs to give the owner pleasure or else having it hanging on a wall it could become overwhelming.

    I know there is investment art and I still come back to – I know what I like and what feels right. Like sending Terrell’s tree calendar to my friend who moved into the interior of the USA and missed the water and trees and fog and beauty of her lifelong home, but had reached a time she needed to be closer to her children. Priceless and meaningful.

    I liked your lesson very much. Nice sharing and you do beautiful work indeed.

    • Patricia thank you for taking us through your house and introducing the various art pieces. This is I think the great gift of art… it can and does become part of how we are in relationship with the world. It creates context and depth to our lives. A gallery owner once said that going to hang a new piece in an owners house was often like seeing a stamp collection on the walls of everyplace the collector had traveled with each piece hold a story for sharing with the viewer. Your comment reminds me of that kind of experience Patricia.

      I like to think that my paintings will have a story to tell by their owners. I some of those stories but only a small portion. When I release a painting for sale I often think of the adventures it will have without me – the places it will travel, the conversations it will hear and the appreciation it will offer completely unrelated to me – the artist who created the work.

      Again, thank you so much Patricia for taking the time to do a long post which accentuates these art buying nuts and bolts.

  7. Terrill, I will refer to this post often! So helpful. The guidelines are practical yet they allow room for letting that painting into your heart that just “feels right.” Thank you for providing professional guidance in this area — I hope people find it who are looking and unsure. A joy to drop by this afternoon and learn that there is still hope for the indecisive! Take care, my friend, and gaze at a wonderful sunset or sunrise this weekend. Always so inspiring. With appreciation! –Daisy

    • Daisy you were an inspiring influence in the creation of the this post and I am glad it hit the mark. Our weekend not only had wonderful sunsets and sunrises but also a grand outdoor meal yesterday complete with bbqed local organic beef sausages and asparagus, salad made with greens from the garden and local tomatoes, some local hard cheese, Malbec wine from Argentina followed up with decafe coffee and ice-cream. Oh it was so very delightful. I think we may have scared the birds from the shiny white of teeth due to the permanent grins on our mugs. I hope your week was equally enjoyable and the high waters from the mighty Missouri river are starting to recede.

  8. I take a bit of a different approach. I don’t care if the piece of art does or does not fit in with the furniture. It’s good enough in and of itself – and anyway it fits in to the way the world is in my imagination – and that’s more important.

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