What's the deal with really cheap paintings?

Lately I’ve been seeing tons of ads for art shows that advertise “sofa-sized” paintings for $19. Apparently these shows are at small hotels and they are very explicit in the ad that no painting costs more than $59.

So what’s the scam here? Is canvas and paint really that cheap? I presume that most fine art isn’t measured by “sofa-size.” Who are these artists pumping out this stuff and how much could they possibly be making? What are the subjects?

Has anyone ever been to one of these sales? Are the paintings bad enough to appreciate ironically (or good enough to appreciate unironically)?

Basically they are mass produced paintings typically done in China using cheap supplies. They are almost never original works of art, but rather reproduction of someone else work. The Chinese painter does the same piece again and again. As a result some of them may even look OK, but buying them is not really supporting real artists.

Having said that, it is amazing they are cheap as they are. I have an artist friend who when he wants to do a larger piece will go and buy one of these paintings and then whitewash it. It is cheaper for him to do this then to try and buy a new canvas in those larger sizes.

I’m also an artist, and I’d never do this. I’m not even sure they use actual canvas, and whatever they use for paint might seep through to the surface.

That seems an odd response. If the previous poster isn’t flatout lying wouldn’t it be worth a go?

Let me clarify: the kind of art I do is very complex and very precise. Each piece takes several weeks, or more. I use an expensive brand of canvas and an expensive brand of paints, because they give me the quality I can have confidence in. I would never use someone else’s used canvas just to save money . . . only to have my work ruined.

I’m not suggesting that you commit weeks to a project on a suspect canvas, just that you get one and try it out with something simple. If it fails who cares. If it works out OK you have a source for cheap canvases. Of course if your work sells for so much that you don’t need to worry about the cost of materials…good luck and well done.

It’s assembly line painting. Cheap supplies and no original thought is put into reproducing this things. I’ve seen up to 50 of the same painting in a stack. There is no quality control either. There are ones with giant flaws mixed in.

Agreed. They are also all universally hideous.

Which gives me an idea for another thread on ‘who buys the awful art sold in seaside galleries painted by amateurs who want us to pay for their retirement’? I thought the bad-but-expensive seaside gallery was a British phenomenon til I visited Provincetown. At least the Chinese stuff is cheap.

If you just want something big to hang above the sofa, why don’t you paint something yourself? Just take some of the colors in the room, add one or two contrasting ones, add a little gold leaf or metallic paint, and make some pleasing configuration of color blocks.

I’ve seen it where different people do different bits of the painting too. Someone has the black brush, someone the red one, someone the green one, the painting gets passed round, and the same people make the same brushstrokes over and over again.

Most people would sooner do their own root canal than make a painting.

I’ve heard that with a lot of these cheap paintings, the “artists” mix a lot of turpentine into the oil paints because they need to pump out the paintings quickly and oils traditionally take far too long to dry for assembly-line operations like these - a real oil painting actually takes several months to dry completely.

If that’s the case, these paintings aren’t even worth buying as a blank canvas… too much turpentine can cause oil pain to crack or flake, which means anything layered over it could be affected even if it’s been properly mixed. And you certainly don’t want to buy them as “art” to hang in your home, since they’ll fall apart in no time.

It’s cheaper in the long run to go to Ikea and buy a couple of big framed prints.

Before you subsidize these people consider this:

Do you know who else painted pictures not for their quality, but based on their measurements compared to furniture? :eek:

that never gets old

Hey, Ludovic, they may paint with old-world, Teutonic efficiency but don’t go knocking German quality!

Alright, Ludovic, I’ll bite. Who? Hitler?

Anyway, thanks for the responses. I figured it was something similar, I just thought that canvas and paint alone would cost more than $20. I guess they probably do, with real artists.

Yeah, apparently the style in Vienna at the time was to buy cheap paintings to put on the back of a chair or other furniture, without which Hitler wouldn’t have been a good enough artist to sell anything, or so I’ve heard.

Aren’t those big canvases the Chinese paint in, aren’t they basically printed with a picture already, like giant paint-by-numbers? And dear God, are those pictures UGLY. They must sell millions to people who just want something to brighten up their drab living rooms, cheap. I bought beautiful framed prints online at posters.com and it was like eating pistachio nuts, I couldn’t stop.

My friend does much more abstract work, and I doubt if he was spending months on a painting he would be doing this. It is more of a just for fun type thing for him (although he does occasionally sell some of his works), so he tries to do things cheaply. Next time I see him, I will ask him if he has had any problems with longevity issues.

For one thing, when you paint on an unknown surface, the problems aren’t always immediately obvious. Two years from now the canvas could tear or buckle, and 10 years from now the old colors might seep through.

Also: I paint with “studio” acrylics, not oils. There’s a rule that you learn in painting 101: “Fat over lean.” That means when you’re painting in layers, like with traditional oil painting, you should always use paint with more oil on top of paint with less oil. So since acrylics have no oil, you should never cover an oil painting with acrylics.

Both of my parents were artists, and I have tons of old canvases that weren’t so good, or unfinished. I could save a fortune by painting over them, but I can’t take that risk.

I don’t understand the bashing of Hitler’s art. The paintings I’ve seen by him were pretty damn good, I thought. They weren’t particularly creative, but they were technically very precise, and interesting to look at.