Buying Art As a Novice

I’m always on the lookout for paintings and prints, both to sell and for my own collection. Our house is liberally adorned with pieces. But I’ll be honest, I know nothing about art and painting techniques. I’m a total novice. I buy what I like and then follow it up with research. (Of course if it’s an online purchase I can do the research before I buy it.)

This mid-century McCaine painting was one of my early successes. I paid $30 for it at a Habitat Restore and sold it for $275. It took 18 months to sell, but I didn’t mind because we enjoyed displaying it in our living room. I still miss it!

Another surprising find was this ship painting. A tiny appealing piece that I discovered was by Harry Hambro Howe, born 1886 to a ship-faring family. As a known New England artist it sold quickly for $225. (Paid $2.)

I bought this cool 1969 Dean French San Francisco painting for myself in a lively online auction. (Paid $77.)

In the dud category was this 1970s estate sale find for $10. Not sure why I bought it as it didn’t particularly appeal to me. I recently donated it to a thrift store.

More recently I was perusing (one of my sources) despite having been outbid for every painting I’ve been interested in lately. Darn frustrating. Take this one for example. It’s by American painter Lawrence Hansen Sindberg (1902-1977) titled “Chicago Street Scene.”


I really wanted this one. I loved its grittiness. But it quickly jumped past my top amount and ended at $328.99. More than I wanted to spend on it, particularly after viewing the eBay solds on Worthpoint.

But I did find a charming numbered print by Kathleen West. Hmmm. This looked good. And “The Lady” looks like Jane Morris, William Morris’s wife.

But who is Kathleen West? Turns out she is…

….an American print maker that has been inspirational to many artist of today’s Arts & Crafts movement.  Kathleen has over 50 years of hard work and inspiration in developing her craft, which helps her stand out from other print makers in the Arts & Crafts style.  All of Kathleen West’s prints involve designing, drawing and cutting a block. Once this process is complete, Kathleen will hand-print and hand-color with the use of a wooden spoon technique and watercolors. 

Mission Motif

I checked out her other work and it’s fabulous! Here’s a snippet of some of the dozens of Arts & Crafts style prints she’s designed. I was sorely tempted by so many of her pieces.

Just a small portion of Kathleen West’s lovely work on Mission Motif.

And here are West’s latest Worthpoint resale prices…

So after looking at the current and sold prices, I realized “The Lady” print (at $39.99) was definitely worth the gamble. It’s a beautiful piece in autumnal colors. So far I’m not finding any comps on this particular print (which is no longer in production), but given it’s size and potential scarcity I’ll likely list it in the $300-$400 range. Fingers crossed it finds a home!

My Art Buying Guidelines

Buying what appeals to me.

I have eclectic tastes, but I figure if I like it, someone else will too! I know, not the best business model, but in general it’s been working.

Be willing to spend more for known/listed artists.

I bought a Rip Matteson (1920-2011) from an eBay seller a few years back. Matteson is best known for his nudes (that sell in the upper hundreds to thousands of dollars), but I thought this small gouache cityscape was intriguing too. The original matting was stained and the frame lackluster so I got rid of them. Later, by kizmet, I found this gray distressed frame and mat that both fit and suited the painting perfectly. I’m still enjoying this one and am not sure what my listing price will be.

Paid $120.

Keeping an eye out for mid-century paintings and religious art.

Both of these broad categories tend to sell for me and I like them!

I found this hand-painted reproduction icon by Tomov in a thrift store while on vacation a few years back. I paid $5 and it sold quite quickly for $65.

What I’m Not Buying

No Bob Ross-style landscapes.

Nothing wrong with them. Members of my extended family had many such paintings on their walls. But I’ll confess I found them boring. And I’m not sure there is much demand for pieces like this anymore.

No Thomas Kincaide-style art.

I know lots of folks love this sweet, romanticized style, but it’s just not something I’m interested in. I’ll let others sell these.

In Conclusion

While selling art is not a big part of my business, it is enjoyable and I have sold 20+ pieces now over the years. I have had a few duds, but as time goes on (and I learn more and develop a more discerning eye) I hope to minimize that!

If you sell paintings and prints would love to hear how it’s going for you and what criteria you use.

If you buy art, I would love to hear what types of pieces you look for.

As always, happy hunting,



  1. Funny that I didn’t own proper paintings before and in recent times I have too many! (some of which I’m now letting go as space is getting too tight).

    I follow a similar approach as yours – buy what I like and/or what my gut feeling tells me to – that is , if I can afford it!

    I pick different styles, so I’m as eclectic as you 🙂
    I’m sure sometimes I got pieces that other might not like at all!
    I had to laugh when you mentioned one of your no-no (the mountain landscape) because I happen to have just one such hanging in my kitchen (just to the left of where I’m sitting right now)…. hahaha

    If I had the purse matching, I’d buy a lot of antique paintings…

    Thanks for sharing your experience and purchases – it was a very interesting post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good to hear from you Gabriella. Like you I came to appreciate proper paintings and prints later in life. (We didn’t have much art growing up.) Now they are a passion. Thankfully my husband has been very tolerant of those I want to keep!! And mostly I’ve done okay with those I want to sell. Still, like you, I have a few too many.

    I know what you mean about antique paintings. Some are so exquisite!

    Take care, Karen

    P.S. Glad you’re enjoying your mountain painting!


  3. Oh my gosh, that Kathleen West was a huge score! I knew exactly who she was – haven’t been willing to shell out full price though. I like your eye in the pieces you buy. Even if I don’t love a piece for my own home, I see the great appeal in your choices!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lisa, isn’t Kathleen West’s work just fabulous?!! I saw six pieces on that website that I so wanted!! Thanks for the vote of confidence of my art choices. I have a lot of fun looking for it. – Karen


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