27 April 2006

Honesty, Artists, and the Buying Public

The other day, I spent some time looking around eBay at my 'competition'. I didn't learn much that would help me get out of the slow-sales on eBay slump I'm in, but I did see quite a number of listings that were misleading to one degree or another.

Here's several examples:
  • The title said "original oil painting" but the description, in line 143(!) said it was a print.
  • A 'hand painted' portrait which is actually done by printing a photo onto canvas and then adding a few details with a brush. (The lister forgot to remove the page number from the magazine that the photo was taken from.)
  • A woodblock print which was available in several sizes, so what one was actually buying was a print of a print.
  • An artist who listed California as his location, but then the artwork would be shipped from Singapore.
  • The title said, "original, genuine marble sculpture", which wold imply a one of a kind piece, but you could buy up to 10 copies of it since it was actually made out of bonded marble dust which had been poured into a mold.

So why do artists do this? It comes down to money. One of the problems with eBay is that most buyers want everything for $19.95 or less. But think about it -- a canvas that's 16x20 will cost $12 wholesale in large lots, there's paints and brushes, and then the time to paint it. If the artist is to make any money, then the key is to do the work in the fastest amount of time. So, if he can do one good painting, take a photo of it, have the photo printed onto other canvases, he's cut his time for each saleable canvas in half or fourths or how ever many copies he has printed.

I don't have too much of an issue with this (okay, I do, but we'll talk about it some other day), but what really annoys me is these people try to hide what they are doing from their buyers. In the process, it ruins the whole thing for all artists. For example, if Sally buys a painting that was listed as an 'original' in the title and then discovers is a print-on-canvas, she will be upset. And she will probably never buy another piece of art online again. (I can't blame her!)

Call me old fashioned, but I believe that my word is my bond. I try to make my descriptions as clear as I can. I would rather have a buyer email me after they get the item and say how pleasantly surprised they were, rather than to complain I had misled them.

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