Jennifer Ferreira CA(SA), BBdgArts, BCompt (Hons), Masters in Finance (in progress), is a Consultant at Origin Properties.
Oil on canvas paintings are generally the most highly valued and the reason is mostly tradition and partly higher input costs. Oils comprise pigments mixed with an oily substance, often linseed oil, and became the standard during the Renaissance due to their advantages over tempera paints. These include greater durability with brilliant colours and flexibility of drying times. Oils can take a long time to dry! They may be dry to touch after two weeks and good to varnish only six to twelve months later, but this also benefits the painter who can paint slowly, altering the painting or blending colours as he or she wishes. The level of technical skill required is high and perhaps level of patience even more so. When you stand in front of an impressive oil painting you should also consider the cost to the artist in pure material expenses. A medium sized oil painting on canvas can cost R 3000 to produce before framing. Something to consider next time you're bargaining at Art in the Park!
Acrylics are water-based paints that have been developed over the past fifty years. Theoretically there is little reason for the lower perceived value of acrylics. Despite the traditionalists' preference for oils, acrylics actually offer many advantages over oils. These include fast drying times (for the painters that like to work fast), technically simpler to use, versatility and a huge range of colours, and potentially better stability over the long-term than oils, which tend to crack and yellow with age.
Watercolour painting is possibly the most underrated medium. It's a highly technical skill, which requires precise decisions around type of paper used, brushes, palette and even the quality of the water used. However, despite this, entry level equipment is relatively inexpensive, which possibly affects perceived value. And even beginner watercolour paintings can be attractive, although the work of a skilled watercolourist can be simply superb.
Continuing the descent in perceived value, next are found all manner of drawings, etchings, woodcuts and linocuts. The values of these will be very dependant on the particular artist. Drawings may be done using pencil, pen and ink, pastels, charcoal, chalk and crayons. Etchings, woodcuts and linocuts are all examples of printmaking technology, with etching usually producing much finer lines than the other two. Etching is another very traditional art form, which flourished during the Renaissance, where the artist ‘scratches' out the image in an acid-resistant coating on a metal base. Once the artist has completed the image, the metal is washed in acid which ‘bites' away at the exposed metal, leaving a reverse image, which is then printed. Linocuts are the modern equivalent of woodcuts and use the same basic material as trendy-again linoleum flooring. The image is cut or carved out of the sheet of wood or lino, and relief printed onto the paper. These are often then hand coloured. After use by such famous names as Picasso, Matisse and Escher, the linocut is today a recognised art medium.
Left off our scale of perceived value are Sculpture and Photography, which are art forms with unique characteristics affecting value. Limited-run prints or reproductions should also be mentioned, as these are often an economical method of purchasing a well-known artist whose original works are priced above the budget.
The work of the great South African artist Gregoire Boonzaier shows how material differences can affect value. Boonzaier worked in a variety of media, ranging from oils to drawings, watercolours to linocuts. His oil paintings fetch up to R500,000 while a watercolour can be had for under R100,000 and a drawing even less. Lastly, a hand-coloured, signed linocut will set you back less than a few thousand Rand. However the great man was quite content with this, hoping that this accessibility would encourage “young art enthusiasts to begin their own collections”. asa