First a little about the medium itself. I may be bias but for me there is a unique sparkle and immediacy about a good watercolour. Being water based and essentially translucent (allowing light to pass through), it lends itself perfectly for painting big skies, seascapes, landscapes, sunsets and snowy winter scenes - all the subjects I love to paint. This same translucence makes watercolour notoriously difficult to work with, by the way, as you simply cannot overpaint - the light must come from the paper itself. Purists refuse to use white pigment at all. I and others employ a little Chinese White, sparingly.
So, you`re sold on watercolours - what do you look for on eBay? First, don`t be fooled into thinking that because prices often seem low for original work, this is bargain basement level. Certainly there are all standards here but that includes some very good artists indeed, if you seek them out. More on prices in a moment. If you`re new to buying paintings, forget all the nonsense that inevitably surrounds art, trust your own judgement and go for what you enjoy yourself. Perhaps, like me, you love wild places and wildlife and those subjects will attract but there are fine industrial and urban watercolours, still lifes, abstracts, even portraits to be found. In time your tastes may change but your eye for what pleases will improve rapidly.
Avoid disappointment and consider the artist as well as the work. Whether buying for yourself, as a present or as an investment, check out their feedback of course but also the standard of all pieces on offer, and their CV., if any. Also note the size of the painting - be it inches or centimetres! Then if stated, the quality of paper, ensure it is not a copy or print, whether it will be sent flat packed or tubed, (tubes can crease or warp and the better, heavy quality papers are more at risk). Is a mount included? Most important of all, a reasonable returns policy is essential! A real life painting is always different from the on screen version. Hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised but better safe than sorry.
About those low prices - there are a number of reasons for this. First, an experienced artist can work very quickly, in fact with big washes, it is almost required, so a volume of saleable pictures can be produced quite rapidly by a busy artist. Next, the internet is an incredibly cost effective way to showcase work to mass audiences, regardless of sales. Artists are `discovered` on the internet. B and M galleries can and do buy eBay work to sell on at handsome profits. I spent some years travelling around East Anglia involved with exhibitions, shows and galleries and it is hugely time consuming and expensive so the end price of a painting is far higher than the painter might wish. Most galleries, if the artist can find one, demand 50% commission, for example, and this is after the artist has paid for framing and delivery. All good reasons for low prices then, particularly when you consider that framing, or lack of it. Most ebay and internet watercolours are sold unframed, to keep purchase prices and p+p low. This suits everyone fine. As well as a steady turnover of work, the artist is relieved of constant expensive outlay. Buyers enjoy affordable art and are generally happy to make their own framing choices which allows them to have real input on the finished hung picture.
Come to think, these are the very the reasons why I now work pretty much only on the internet and can make the genuine claim to have sold hundreds of paintings on 4 continents.
What are those framing choices? Well, mounting and framing a painting has its pitfalls and books have been written on the subject. A few handy types like to make their own frames while some prefer to leave it to a professional. The third option is to buy ready made frames and mounts and put together your own picture.I am constantly asked for the do`s and dont`s so to simplify things, I include a blurb to all new customers which is repeated here.
`WATERCOLOURS REALLY COME ALIVE UNDER GLASS. QUALITY FRAMING WILL ENHANCE ANY PAINTING AND MAKE A GOOD PAINTING LOOK GREAT. WHILST YOU MAY PREFER THE SERVICES OF A PROFESSIONAL FRAMER, DECENT `OFF THE PEG` FRAMES ARE AVAILABLE IN MANY HIGH STREET STORES ALONG WITH READY CUT MOUNTS. CHOOSING YOU OWN FRAME IS FUN AND CAN SAVE MONEY. HERE ARE A FEW POINTS TO CONSIDER-
1. EVEN FOR A LARGE PICTURE, A THICK FRAME CAN BE OVERBEARING - A WIDTH OF UPTO 1 INCH (2.4CM) IS USUALLY BEST.
2. LIGHT COLOURS ARE ADVISABLE, EITHER NATURAL WOOD OR A CLASSIC SILVER OR GOLD FINISH.
3. MOUNTS SHOULD BE LIGHT TOO - CHAMPAGNE, IVORY, LIGHT CREAM OR SIMILAR. THEY SHOULD BE BEVELLED (AN ANGLED CUT) AND AT LEAST 2-3 TIMES WIDER THAN THE FRAME.
4. ABOVE ALL, PLEASE RESIST NON REFLECTIVE GLASS. IT MAKES A PAINTING APPEAR DRAB AND LIFELESS WHERE CLEAR GLASS ALLOWS IN THE LIGHT AND LETS YOUR PICTURE `BREATHE`.
FINALLY, THANKS TO THE QUALITY OF MODERN PAINTS, WHEREVER YOU DECIDE TO HANG YOUR PICTURE, THERE IS NO FEAR OF FADING. PROVIDED THE AREA IS DRY AND DAMP FREE, YOUR PAINTING WILL BE AROUND IN A HUNDRED YEARS TO MAKE A FORTUNE FOR YOUR GREAT GRAND CHILDREN.`
Well, there it is. A very potted quide to get you started. Doubtless you will have your own ideas to add to the mix but I hope some of my ramblings have been helpful. It only remains to wish you luck and good fortune in your endeavours.