Saturday, December 12, 2009

Having Your Artwork Appraised

People frequently call me to ask if I will appraise their artwork- it is the start of a long and involved conversation which starts with "I don't do appraisals." That being said I try to help people who call with this question.

The first thing I try to ascertain is if the art is an original or a reproduction. Being a reproduction does not necessarily mean that something is valueless. When possible I like to see the artwork to determine this.
  1. If it is done by a famous artist is it in the correct medium (oil, etching, watercolor)? I have seen a number of Van Goghs in the gallery but they turn out to be reproductions- determined by the fact that they are printed instead of painted.
  2. Is it a true artprint process (intaglio, lithograph, monoprint) rather than a reproduction method? By looking at a print through a magnifying glass you can determine if it is a reproduction if the ink is applied in dots- a machine process. You should also see the embossed edge of the plate at the outer perimeter of a real print.
  3. Do the brush strokes match what is painted? Famous art is being reproduced on canvas and "enhanced" with brushstrokes.
  4. If the piece has age to it, flip it over and look at the back. The wooden stretcher bars of a painting will show oxidation (turned dark brown) to indicate age. All of the components should look about the same age.
  5. Is there a signature? Most artwork has little value without a signature. Check the back too! If it is quite dirty or the varnish has discolored the signature could be hidden.

The second thing I try to ascertain is if you want the appraisal so that artwork can be insured, valued for an estate or if you are simply curious about its worth. For legal or insurance purposes you will need an appraisal done by an appraiser. The value will need to backed up with auction records of comparable works by the same artist. Appraisers are liable for their appraisals so they research thoroughly. They have also gone through years of training or apprenticeship. For this reason they need to charge for their services. In return you will receive the information backing up their estimation of worth on the art. The appraisal will need to be written on their letterhead. They should also be willing to share their credentials. If you are merely curious, you probably don't want to pay for an appraisal and should skip to the paragraph on "looking on the internet." If you have a contemporary piece the gallery where it was purchased should be willing to provide updated valuations on request.

Value is determined by what an artist's work fetches on the secondary market- this means there must be records of the work being sold at auction. Your painting by great grandpa may have great sentimental value and could potentially fetch a decent price on the open market, but it may have no appraisal value because the artist has never sold at public auction. People often ask what a piece is worth before opting for conservation work. They feel that if the painting is only worth $200 but the conservation work will cost $300 that they shouldn't move forward. My feeling is if you like the artwork and hope to pass it on to future generations then conservation is worth while. If you compare the costs of conservation to the cost of a new piece of art it REALLY makes sense.

So how do you determine if the artist has any art world recognition? The first place to look for information on an artist is the internet. A good site is You can at least find out if there are any auction records for your artist. You will need to pay a fee if you want to look at the records, but you may buy a limited number of inquires for about $20. Be careful- it is addicting! Another great resource is Ebay. This will at least give you a sense of what the going prices are if there are any listings. Compare works of the same medium, similar subject matter and similar condition to get the most accurate estimate of value. If the artist has a more local or regional fame, the state or town Historical Society is another great resource.

If you do need an appraiser I am happy to recommend some names of people that I have worked with. Be clear on what you are receiving from them- is it a replacement value or fair market value? Replacement values are much higher. They reflect the cost of going out and purchasing another piece of art similar to the one you currently have. A fair market value reflects what you might receive if you took your art to a dealer to be sold. I recommend that a copy of this appraisal be kept on the back of the artwork so that it is never separated from it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ted Arnold- Objects of Desire

McGowan Fine Art announces the opening of “Objects of Desire" featuring the paintings of Ted Arnold. The show will run from December 1-January 2, with an artist’s reception on December 4 from 5 to 7 PM.

Ted Arnold is a Dartmouth educated painter from Maine by way of California. The West Coast landscape still informs his still lifes and mise en scénes with strong light and vibrant colors, but his subject matter of china, teacups and other prosaic kitchen utensils are the stuff of more universal appeal. He also harnesses these bright colors to portray festive family gatherings and street scenes.

Arnold’s studio has shelves full of teacups, platter, urns, and richly decorated fabrics that he uses as models for the densely painted canvases. “I don’t think of my teacup paintings as simply stillifes” says Arnold, “but as conversations.” Each painting requires a careful balance of colors and shapes with a composition formed from his collection of china and fabric. Some cups- because of their unusual color or seductive shape- star in many of the paintings. Patterns of china emerge to create families- similar yet distinct like a reunion of cousins and siblings. Elegant bleeding blue china stars throughout the show as a counterpoint to the homely orange daisy teacup or green Fiesta ware plate. “The cups and pots and creamers are from many lands and of many persuasions like people in our cities,” says the artist.

Arnold also looks for the relationships- or conversations- between people. In “Billy’s Dinner” he has taken a very thin slice of home life- a family dinner. This painting is almost twelve feet long and broken into three sections. The length of the painting allows the story to unfold in time as you walk the length of it- a narrative in real time. People and the detritus of a meal are scattered across the surface. There are dark figures receding into the background, wine glasses and plates glint from the glowing candles. A hand holds up a glass to toast the figure across the room. Each person and table setting is truly having a conversation of color and form.

The reception takes place the evening of Midnight Merriment in Concord. The Main Street will be closed to traffic from Pleasant to Centre. Caroling and hay rides will be taking place on Main Street to celebrate the start of the Holiday Season. For more information visit

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bridal Registry- At an Art Gallery?

Are you about to be married and dread the process of taking yourself and your future spouse to a giant chain department store to register for china and crystal? Have you waited to find the perfect mate- and in the meantime filled your home with all of the essential furnishings? Or do you aspire to have an art collection of your own now that you are settling down?

In the past I have been asked if we do bridal registries at McGowan Fine Art- and the answer is a resounding yes! It is a great way to start or add to your collection, and the process is easy.

If you are familiar with the gallery, just come in and I will create a list of artwork that you like. I can help you to choose a variety to give people a broad selection of price ranges. I will create a webpage with your selections on it which can be sent as a link to people making registry requests.

If you are not familiar with the gallery I would recommend making an appointment so that we can give you a complete tour of the gallery and our extensive collection of art. We can then create a list or webpage of the items you would like.

If people have purchased a piece of artwork that is not appropriate, we make it easy to return if done in a reasonable amount of time Another option is for people to purchase gift certificates which can then be be used to purchase a piece of art.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sandy Wadlington Caran d'Ache Demonstration

Many people showed up to see the Sandy Wadlington Caran d'Ache demonstration. Some people wanted to simply watch, others were here to participate, but all had fun.

It was fascinating to watch Sandy work. As you might guess, she starts off quite loosely and then begins to build up the contrasts- always mindful to leave the lights just as you would with watercolor. Closer inspection of some of the more finished pieces revealed that she doesn't use as much detail as many think. She gives the illusion of detail coupled with the beautiful surface texture that water mediums have. Spots, puddles and pools build up to create leaves, fields and ocean.

People picked up a few tips and then looked at her paintings anew- with the knowledge of how they were made.
There were many thanks from participants and requests for more events like this. I heard and I will try!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Burlington Art Hop

My friendly art escort, Mark Waskow- one of the Art Hop's organizers. We enjoyed some lively discussion regarding our different approaches to art collecting.

I had the pleasure of being this year's jurist for the Burlington Art Hop in Vermont. The event does not take place until the weekend of September 11 & 12, but I had to do the jurying before hand. Even though all pieces entered are included, there is a selection for the jurist's show and awards for first, second and third place for paintings and for sculptures.

The Art Hop is run by SEABA- the South End Arts and Business Association. I was very interested in what they were doing to create a relationship between Commerce and the Arts as I serve on the board of Concord Main Street and Concord's Creative Economy Task Force. I had an opportunity to meet Carlos Haase, their dynamic director who makes sure the events happens without a hitch. It is a big event that attracts 40,000!

I have been to Burlington Vermont many times over the years but I did not know about the South End. It is a fun mix of antique stores, bakeries, used book shops, artists, light industrial and more. It is a place I plan to visit again. I can personally recommend Myers Bagels for breakfast & Fresh Market for lunch. I had a tuna on baguette although the cold sweet potato salad looked really good. (I am on the hunt for the best tuna salad on the East Coast.) I was simply too full for even a cookie from Harvest Bakery, but they looked liked they serve a mean sandwich too.

The art work was wildly varied- both in skill level and content. But it is hard to not be caught up in the exuberance of the event and the variety of art to see in one walkable area. It sounds like a real happening. If you are in the area I highly recommend a visit. I regret that I was so caught up in the activity of judging that I neglected taking photos of the outdoor sculpture. These run the gamut from monumental keys, to interactive drumming posts and a shrine to outdated appliances swathed in burrs- don't let your dog get too close!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Few More Images

Melissa Miller and Jane Ryan painting at the Wentworth Coolidge Historic Site.

Plein Aire Painting Weekend

Today is the first day of the Plein Aire Painting weekend and lots of artists have showed up. Some are taking advantage of the beautiful view of the water and have set up next to the iconic anchor.

But many more have sought shade on such a beautiful day. This is Barbara Carr painting a view of the Wentworth Coolidge Mansion looking towards Little Harbor.

This is the painting that Jeannette Steele is working on.

Hannah Phelps and Linda Spaanenburg are set up underneath a tree also.

Dewitt Hardy ensconced himself right on the anchor!

Deb Claffey painted a closeup of a shrub on the property- reminiscent of her studio work.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Placing a New Sculpture

I purchased a sculpture from Lotus Lien a few months ago and finally placed it. Placement of sculpture in a garden can be trickier than placing it in your home. The backdrop is constantly changing.

I always think of what my favorite garden writer, Henry Mitchell, said about sculpture in the garden- "It is not a team player." It can easily dominate the planting or even worse- it looks like gilding the lily. Sometimes too much is just too much.

I had a spot in mind but it quickly became apparent how wrong it was. There was no mystery to the placement. It just looked plonked down and didn't relate to any of the plants around it. So I looked for a spot where there was low growing plants. It also seemed to fare better with smaller leaved plants- so that the large orbs contrasted with their delicacy.

This is the sculpture's final spot. It is a little hidden behind a spirea so that you have to sneak up on the sculpture. Its large round forms in shades of gray and terracotta provide relief from all the green and flowers without overwhelming them. It makes me smile every time I see it.
For those who might be wondering- this sculpture cannot stay out year round. It will be moved inside once the weather drops to freezing.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Studio Visit- Sandy Wadlington

One of the favorite parts of my job is going on studio visits. Artists often bring their personal vision of beauty to their homes and studios. They accumulate interesting things, have beautiful gardens and collect marvelous art from all of their friends.

Their studios are full of things too. There are often postcards, newspaper clippings and pages ripped from books that have images that inspire them. There will also be incomplete sketches or the sorts of drawings and paintings that they might never sell. This is all fascinating to me- like an opportunity to see how they think.

I visited the home and studio of Sandy Wadlington this past week to see how her show in September is shaping up.
Sandy's studio is small and cozy. It is full of the art in process. As pieces near completion they are put up on the wall for her to assess as she works on other pieces.
I am amazed at how many pastel sticks she uses. As you can see there are boxes and boxes of them. She has also tacked up paper bags underneath her work are to catch any pastel dust that filters down as she works. Pastels have very little binder in them to make them hold together or even hold on to the paper. Therein lies their beauty- they are almost pure pigment, giving a finished pastel unsurpassed color.

Sandy has also been working on a number of charcoal drawings which have the same same beautiful, atmospheric effect she gets with pastel but minus the color. For me they have the soft quality of a lithograph.

The show is shaping up nicely and Sandy and I decided on the images for the postcard. We are both looking forward to the show in September.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Glamourous World of Art

Mary McGowan always jokes about 99% of our job is schlepping art from here to there. This was definitely part of our day last week.

In anticipation of delivering a big job we moved 150 pieces from the bottom level where the frame shop is to the main floor. Brian, our framer, was glad to be able to have the room in his workspace again! Amanda packed the first car full for a delivery the next day after a quick call to confirm that the delivery was still on.

Throughout the day the amount of storage area available at the job site kept shrinking. Calls were made, hair was pulled, teeth were gnashed. Construction schedules had fallen behind and there was currently moving men installing all the furniture. By the end of the day it was clear that we would have very little storage area so only Amanda would be making her delivery.

Amanda showed up at the job site, but.... there was no place to put the artwork. So back she came... and the second round of schlepping began. Everything from Amanda's vehicle and the main gallery was moved down a level.

But we all kept our humors about it and worked out a system. Mary who is the master packer stayed downstairs and arranged things so that all of the frames were safe. Amanda and I did the running up and down the stairs. We made fast work of it and none of us needed to make an appointment with our chiropractors.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Janet Duncan Opening Reception

Janet Duncan's work was well received on Friday night. She is a charming lady with equally charming art. Here she is talking with a couple of fans. To see her work- go here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

McGowan Fine Art and the NH Humanities Council hosted a discussion with Peter Milton on the Future of Printmaking in the Digital Age. This took place at the Coolidge Center for the Arts in Portsmouth and was attended by more than 40 people, including the former director of the Humanities Council, Charlie Bickford.

Peter also brought one of his LED Display images of his most recent print "Sightlines I, Tracking Shot." There was much discussion on how the two different presentations affected the print.

After the seated discussion Peter mingled with the guests and answered the questions on his many prints.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Almost Done!

The show is hung and the painting of the walls is almost done. I will install the baseboards and the new gallery is complete!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Construction Continues!

We worked all day on Monday, May 4th and we accomplished quite a bit. We built freestanding walls around the existing columns.
We painted!

We patched!

We even wore our safety goggles.