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There are many reasons why we buy art. As veteran art dealers, we have encountered most of them.
The following anecdotes are very typical and illustrate the overwhelmingly strongest motivation to buy art.
We recently had a customer who bought a print called "A Pastoral Visit". It was an early 20th century scene of a pastor at the dining table of a family he had visited. The customer was drawn to it, she said, because as a child she had the same experience as that depicted in the work, where the pastor would visit after church. Her mother would serve him first and would feed him the best cuts and the biggest portions while she and her siblings would look on in consternation, wondering if there was going to be any left over for them! As she told the story, it was as if she were taken back in time.
Indeed, many of us buy art for nostalgic reasons. The picture takes us back in time or reminds us of experiences we have lived.
Many customers buy pictures of family and children because the images mirror their own family structure or reflect their own values of family. Many of us have bought pictures of basketball players for a friend or relative whose passion is basketball; or a print of a ballet dancer for that precious little daughter who is taking ballet lessons. On a lighthearted note, we can't tell you how many times we have seen women light up at Annie Lee's famous "Blue Monday" print, proclaiming, "that's me!"
The biggest reason we are drawn to a work of art and make the decision to purchase it is because it makes a connection with our own life.
That in part explains why so much of the art on the market are realistic images that refer to literal experience. There is a big demand for them and the artists who create them help us to make those connections.

At the other end of the spectrum are those artists who have turned to some form or other of abstraction, attempting to express or interpret certain ideas, qualities, feelings or mood. Often they work in highly personal styles, emphasizing self expression and individual identity. This has created amazing diversity but sometimes quite a job for the viewer to "get it". Generally, the more technically skilled and creative the artist is, the better he or she will be able to communicate those abstract notions to a wider audience.
This simplified description applies to much of what is today termed "Modern Art".
While some may dismiss it, this school of art has been embraced by the art establishment and many mainstream artists such as Jackson Pollock, Frank Stella and Romare Bearden, to name just a few, have become acknowledged modern masters utilizing this mode of artistic expression.
Our involvement in this type of art can be just as intense as that with realistic art. It can be cerebral, thought provoking, interesting, visually appealing, sensually pleasing, or any number of intangibles that elevate us and enhance our well-being.

In between these two extreme points are a number of styles, traditions and schools of thought about art. And there are as many reasons for buying art.

An increasing number of us are exploring ways of integrating art into our home and office decor.
When we buy art to decorate, decisions are generally guided more by the eye. Our connection with the subject matter is less important than considerations of color, texture and size. Today's art market offers a growing selection of art that could be considered purely decorative. This type of art tends to correspond with prevailing trends in decor and changes with the trends.
When we buy art to decorate we get a chance to be artists of a sort, to use our own unique artistic sense to choose artwork and to creatively place it within our homes or offices.

There are fewer of us who fall into the category of "collectors". Broadly speaking, collectors are people who are building up a long term holding of works of art. Some collectors will accumulate the work of one or several individual artists whose careers they are following, while others collect many artists' work. Most collectors are very much concerned with value and some collect with profit in mind.
While there is the perception that art collecting is something only the wealthy do, many of us who have struggled to buy original art with some consistency for pleasure and enlightenment can lay some legitimate claims to being collectors.

The bottom line is that whether we buy art to mirror our lives, to express our identity, to enhance our quality of life, to decorate our homes, or for the pride and profit of collecting art, most of us buy art because we like art.
And when faced with the question from customers about which artists or what artwork to buy, our response has consistently been, "Buy what you like".
It is one of the most subjective things you will do. You alone know what motivation is strongest in you and you are the one who will have a personal relationship with the artwork. Let your investment be in pure and simple enjoyment!.


Whether you are a casual buyer of art, buying to decorate, or building a collection, it is important that you understand what you are buying and know if you are getting value for your money.
This section describes the most common art products on the market and gives you some sense of their relative value. It is followed by a glossary of art terms.


Two broad categories of art on the market are: ORIGINAL art and REPRODUCTION. We will talk first about ORIGINAL ART. When we talk about original art we could be talking, for example, about an oil painting on canvas, an acrylic painting on canvas or paper, a mixed media painting on board, a pastel or charcoal drawing, a collage, sculpture, ceramic, etching, woodcut, linocut, serigraph, lithograph, or any of a number of media that involves the creation of a work of art by hand. The term, "by hand" more essentially defines original art than does the term "one of a kind". Forms of printmaking such as serigraphy, lithography and etching make it possible to produce multiple impressions of the same work. But because each print is produced by hand, they are indeed authentic originals. It is possible, then, to have a one-of-a-kind original or multiple originals.

We can generally expect to pay premium price for an original work. The artist spends many years learning and honing his craft as well as building a career and a reputation, often at great sacrifice. All of that plus the creative energy and time spent creating the particular work factor into the value and the price of the work. The biggest determining factor, however, is the reknown of the artist. There are certain "blue chip" artists such as Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, and so on, whose original work is out of the reach of most of us. There are 'mid-career' or emerging artists on solid career paths whose original work may still be within our reach, if we are in the collecting mode.

There are many "generic" type of oil paintings on the market that are very inexpensive. They are often the work of unknown artists or so-called 'starving artists', many working under assumed names. There has been the emergence recently of certain multi-level art marketing operations that specialize in mass produced oil paintings and canvas transfers that resemble oil paintings. Some of these paintings are recreations of, or variations on, existing works by well known Black artists painted in an assembly-line type situation by hourly paid artists as far away as Asia. These are priced purely as a product and you can expect to pay anywhere from - (depending on framing) for one of them. They are fine for decorating but they will not hold any value over and above what was paid for them and they will not appreciate in value.


In terms of a definition, we could say original prints are nearly identical multiple originals of a specific image or work of art. The process of creating prints by hand is a very painstaking and laborious one, and one which requires specialized training. Each print is individually hand pulled from a plate, block, stone or screen which was created by, or under the direction of, the artist.
The easiest way to understanding the basis of fine art printmaking is to recall a childhood pastime. Most of us have cut a potato in half and carved an image unto its surface. We then dipped that surface in ink or watercolors and pressed it against paper, leaving a reversed impression of the carving. The point of potato printing is much the same as the more technically complicated printmaking. Most fine art original prints are done in very limited editions and each one is signed by the artist (usually in pencil, because it is more permanent than ink). Also handwritten on each original print is the number of prints in the edition, together with the sequence number of that particular print.
The most popular forms of original prints are lithograph, serigraph, etching, woodcut, engraving and aquatint. Each of these is done with a different technique and each has a special identifiable quality.

What should you expect to pay? The price of an original hand-pulled print by an emerging artist will average around . A newly released edition by a more established artist will run between $1,000 to ,000, and you can expect to pay anywhere from ,000 to ,000 for an original print by a major artist such as Romare Bearden.


The lithographic process is based on the chemical principle that oil (or grease) does not mix with water. The design is drawn with a greasy crayon, or brushed with a greasy ink, directly onto the smooth-grained surface of a stone or metal plate. The plate is then dampened with water, and inked. The ink clings only to the greasy crayon marks. When a sheet of paper is pressed against the stone or plate, the ink on the greasy parts is transferred onto the paper, thus forming the image.

A serigraph is produced by screen printing. The process has been popularly known as silkscreen printing because screens were first made of silk. Today, however, screens can be made of paper, metal, or plastics. The screen is tightly stretched across a frame. The design is made by blocking out the entire screen, except for the area to be printed.
Paper is placed under the screen, ink is then pressed over the screen through the open or unblocked areas onto the paper below, thereby creating the original art image. Whenever a serigraph is printed in more than one color, a separate screen must be made for each color. Each color is applied separately through a screen blocked out to allow the color to fall only where wanted on the design.

A metal plate is coated with an acid-resisting material called the "ground". The artist draws his design on the plate with a sharp needle which removes the ground wherever the needle touches it. When the plate is put in an acid bath, the exposed parts are etched (or eaten away). This produces sunken lines that receive or hold the ink for printing. The plate is wiped clean, leaving the ink in the sunken area. The plate, in contact with dampened paper, is passed through a roller press. This forces paper into the sunken areas to receive the ink, thereby forming the art image on the paper.

Woodcuts (and Linocuts)
This is the oldest known printing method. The design is drawn on a flat block of smooth hardwood. Then the surface around the lines or areas of the design is chiselled away, leaving the design in high relief. The block is inked and the paper is placed under it and rubbed, transferring the image to the paper. A separate block is used for each color. A linocut is made the same way except that linoleum is substituted for wood.

Original prints offer an affordable way to get our feet wet in starting to collect art. Printmaking is an artistic medium equal to any other and the relatively low cost of original prints enables most people of moderate means to own and cherish genuine works of art.

Browse our selection of original prints on and our fine art web site


Reproductions constitute the second broad category of art on the market. A work will usually fall into one of the two categories: original or reproduction.
A reproduction is a duplication of an original work of art. Most reproductions are created using a commercial printing process known as offset lithography (hence the term "offset print" sometimes to describe them). Although we loosely use the word "print" to refer to any work on paper, it is important, as we have seen, to make the distinction between original print and offset print, and more importantly, to know the difference. The difference in terms of price can be a few hundred dollars.
Offset prints are collectible mainly for their aesthetic value and the meaning and pleasure they bring to the buyer. They are inexpensive to produce and the printing process lends itself to large editions (that is, the total number of prints produced). Typically the artist will produce anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 each time, with the possibility of future reprints. These are known in the business as "open edition" prints.

The advantages of open edition prints are many. They are the least expensive art medium. They enable us to enjoy a wide variety of art, from masters to local artists, at prices we all can afford. We can bring art into our children's lives for a very small investment. They offer us many decorating options and we can change our wall hangings when we get tired of them at no great cost.


A poster is a reproduction of original artwork. What makes the reproduction a poster is the inclusion of copy (writing) as an essential part of the design. Posters were historically used to adsvertise, publicize, or commemorate something, for example, an exhibition. Artists sometimes utilize this art form to link their name to their work and to promote their name.

The average price of a full size offset print or poster is to . Larger prints and prints signed by the artist can fetch up to .


Artists sometimes make the decision to limit the number of reproductions they print of a work. This decision is usually a marketing decision and may come in part from the desire to create a premium product and satisfy the buyer's demand for an uncommon and exclusive product. The artist is also able to charge more for these prints. This sub-category of offset prints is referred to as "limited edition" or "signed and numbered" prints.
Once the decision to limit the edition (that is, total number printed), each print is individually numbered and signed by the artist. Sometimes the artist or publisher will issue a "Certificate of Authenticity" to accompany each print, attesting to the authenticity of the numbering and the signature.
There is a big market for limited edition offset prints because they offer the satisfaction of being among a relatively small number of people who will own that print - one numbered and signed by the artist!
Limited edition offset prints generally start at around but average about . Prices may be related to the size of the edition as well as the demand for the particular artist's work. An artist who is "hot" may command to for his print when it is first released and increase the price as the available prints dwindle. Once the artist sells all the available prints to his distribution outlets (galleries, dealers), market forces and sellers can set the price as high as people are willing to pay.

We usually caution our customers against over-paying for limited edition reproductions because the idea of appreciation in the reproduction segment of the matket is largely illusionary and they tend not to hold their value on the resale, or secondary, market. Another consideration is their longevity. Limited edition offset prints, unlike original prints, are generally not produced on quality paper that would ensure the physical preservation of the work. Besides, for the asking price of some of these 'in demand' limited edition reproductions, we may be able to acquire an original print by an established artist or a painting by a promising young artist.


below are some of the common terms in general use in the field of prints.

Acid-free Paper: Paper product in which the acidic content of the fibers used to form the paper has been neutralized. It is the acid content in regular paper that over time causes yellowing and brittling. This more expensive paper is sometimes used in printing limited edition prints.

Artist's Proof: A print outside of the regular numbered edition but printed at the same time, or after the regular edition from the plate or screens, without changes. Usually about 10% of the edition total is reserved as Artist's Proof. These prints are identified by one of the following markings: 'Artist's Proof' (or A.P.); 'H.C.' for the French Hors de Commerce, literally, 'Out of Trade'. H.C.'s were usually used for entering shows, exhibits, etc. and as samples. Today, however, since people have begun to acquire and collect them, these prints now generally find their way to the market through regular channels and are sold at a premium.

Cancelled Plate: After an edition is printed, the plate is frequently scratched or otherwise defaced in order to prevent further printings.

Certificate of Authenticity: A piece of paper which sometimes accompany limited edition prints. It may contain information such as the printing process used, the edition size, the year of printing, the title, the artist's name and it is sometimes signed by the publisher or the artist.

Edition: The total number of prints made of a specific image.

Hand Signing and Numbering: Signing and numbering is a relatively modern practice. It is usually one way the artist authenticates a limited edition print. The most common method used today is to record on the left side of the print the size of the edition and the number of the particular print. For example, 11/150 means that there were 150 prints in the edition of which this number is 11. The signature usually appears at the right margin of the print.

Remarque: A small personalized drawing with the artist's initials usually near the pencilled signature in the margin of the print.


You may decide on custom framing for your print or you may elect to do your own framing. Unless you have some framing skills, custom framing is generally a better option than buying a frame and doing it yourself.
An experienced framer will be able to offer a wide range of frame choices and framing options and will be able to guide you in combining the right elements. A professionally framed print will generally look better and last longer.

Some tips on beating the high cost of custom framing

Try do-it-yourself framing if the print you purchased is inexpensive, already matted, and is a standard size. You can buy standard size frames in art supply and home decor stores. Popular custom sizes are: 11x14, 16x20, 18x24, 24x30 and 24x36.
A discount or wholesale framer will offer the best framing deals.
Try one of the framing franchises in the mall or a "Garden Ridge" store when they have a sale on custom framing.
Take more than one print to your framer when you go and negotiate a quantity discount.


Choosing a Frame

In choosing the framing for any work there are some important principles to bear in mind.

The type of framing selected for a work should be compatible with, and dependent upon, the work itself, not with the surrounding decoration of a room. If the artwork goes well in a room and the frame goes well with the artwork, then the frame will go well with the room.

The frame should never be more important than the picture it surrounds. When you look at a framed picture, the art should attract your attention before the frame does. Remember, the art is the star of the show. The frame should complement the subject matter, tonal value and size of the picture.

Consider these points when selecting framing for your art:
Consider first the color scheme of the art. Frame colors don't necessarily have to match color in the art the way we expect mats to match, but they should blend with the overall coloration of the art. Determine if the art has more warm or cool colors. For example, a picture that is predominantly light blue and lavender may look great with a silver frame. A picture of an orange and yellow sunset, however, lends itself more to gold.
If the art is bold, a bold frame color generally is best. These bold colors include the primary hues as well as bright gold, lustrous black and rich wood tones.
Art with strongly contrasting colors - like red, white, black and yellow - can handle a frame that contrasts with the art. However, when the artwork colors are subtle - white, cream and peach colors, for example, - an 'unsubtle' frame choice can be distracting. Likewise, if art has a muted color scheme, the frame finish should be muted, too. Muted frame finishes include pastels, gray shades and pale gold. If the colors in the art are subtle, a bold frame color would command attention and detract from the softness of the art. Frame mouldings in gold, silver and wood tones often are seen as neutrals and can go with almost anything.

Consider next the style, subject, and era of the art.
Choose frame colors and style that best suit what the art is.
For example, a classically rendered biblical painting suggests a "period" frame or a slightly ornate frame, probably gold or silver (depending on the dominant color scheme of the painting), but definitely not a colorful frame.
A print of folk or country art may suggest a wood frame with a rustic or distressed finish.
A print of a clown will lend itself to a more colorful presentation.
A contemporary print or abstract art or photography may require a simply treated, plain wood frame.

Study the art to determine the most appropriate finish.

Another consideration in selecting your frame is the choice of the mat.
A frame color may look great if the frame is all that surrounds the art, but it may become a poor choice when it's combined with the mat you've selected. Pay attention to the overall design to ensure a cohesive presentation that transitions well from the art outward.

As you select your frame moulding, keep in mind the appropriateness of the moulding scale. By scale we mean the width and depth of the moulding profile. A moulding that is too narrow can make the frame look skimpy, while a frame that is too wide can overwhelm the art it surrounds. Most of us are accostumed to using wide frames for large pictures. We also might use wide frames for small pieces that have bold colors, shapes or textures. Try to maintain a sense of balance between the print and the frame width.

Although we always hammer the point that art should be framed primarily to enhance itself and not to match the decor of the room in which it will be displayed, we cannot ignore that framed art is also an accent that can bring a room to life. While your framing should not necessarily blend in with everything else in the room, you should tie it in to the overall effect the decor evokes.

Selecting the right frame for your print is only the first step. Now we get technical and look at the other steps involved.


Matting is recommended in framing most prints. Technically speaking a mat ia a protective housing for works of art on paper. It comprises of a multi-ply paper board that overlays the artwork with a window cut out of it that allows the art to be seen. The primary function of a mat is a practical one. It protects the print by separating the print from the glass. If there is condensation, the print might stick to the inside of the glass if they are touching. But a mat has a decorative quality too, adding dimension, color, texture and shape that greatly enhances the artwork. Indeed, matting has become an art in itself.
Choose matting that complement the picture. The rule of thumb is to choose a mat color that picks up on the a color in the art. Sometimes it is best to avoid picking up on the dominant color since the preponderance of that color may overwhelm.
A single mat may suffice in most cases, but adding a second mat (double matting) can add depth to the framing and allow the addition of a second color.
For artwork where the background is white, try a dark colored mat. For a print with dark tones, try lightening it up with a light mat. Experiment!


Dry mounting or any other form of permanent bonding is recommended for prints that do not require matting, such as posters or for prints on thin flimsy paper. Dry mounting or permanent mounting will prevent buckling or warping of your framed print over time. The print will hold its form permanently.
Note: Original prints or limited edition prints should never be permanently mounted as they will lose some of their value.

Fitting and Backing

A custom frame is a neatly sealed "package". It has been designed so that every part fits perfectly, so that nothing is loose. Fitting involves cleaning the glass to perfection, without dust or foggy areas. It involves securing materials behind the artwork so that it doesn't rattle within the frame. It involves placing a protective "dust cover" on the back. To do this correctly may take considerable time. Fitting is a very important - although hidden - part of custom framing.

Now that you've taken home your beautifully framed print, the final word is about hanging and caring for your framed art.

Hanging Art

Use frame hangers to hang your framed print. They will do the least damage to your wall and they are designed to safely hold up framed art. Be sure that the hanger will bear the weight of the particular framed print.
If the frame to be hanged is large and heavy, use two hangers spaced about 6" apart and distribute the weight evenly.
Avoid hanging artwork too high or too low. Art should be placed at a level where it is comfortable to see.


Professional conservation framing is recommended for all limited edition and original prints (as well as for any other valuable paper items that you wish to preserve, such as certificates, letters etc.)
Conservation framing is a specialized type of framing which utilizes the highest grades of materials and forms of non-permanent mounting that preserve and will not alter the original properties of the artwork.
When paper comes in contact with regular matboards and backing, it will, in time, become stained with the acids present in the board. A professional framer will cut a mat from acid-free matboard. Your framer will also make hinges with acid-free material so that the artwork "floats free" on top of an acid-free backing. The matting and mounting are the two most important elements in conservation framing but there are others that make up the total "conservation package".
It is costly but it brings a special blend of craftsmanship, skill and patience which will bring out the best in your artwork and you will have the reassurance of having the finest quality conservation material to protect your 'investment'.

There are special considerations when framing limited edition or original work. The objective should be to preserve the artwork in its original condition.>br>

1. Always handle prints with clean hands as natural body oils can do permanent damage to fine art paper

2. Always use two hands to lift paper so the edges do not get crimped or dented.

3. Never touch or drag anything across the image. A thumb print or scratch will leave a permanent mark that can't be repaired.

4. If you are storing your print unframed for a long period of time, store it between acid-free papers and in some type of folder.

5. Do not store print near heat or next to a radiator. Keep it in a dry, clean environment.

6. Never cut the margins of the print or fold the edges of the paper.

7. Do not permanently mount the print. Acid-free hinges should be used to secure the print against acid-free backing material.

8. Glass or another form of transparent sheeting should be used to protect the face of the artwork from dust, moisture and insects. The artwork should not touch the surface of the glass, however, since moisture condensation inside could stain the artwork or cause mold growth. Separate the artwork from glass by an acid-free mat or some other form of separation.

9. A dust cover attached to the back of the frame is necessary to protect the print from polution and insects and to keep it clean. Kraft paper provides a suitable dust cover.

10. Avoid hanging your valuable print in direct sunshine or over a radiator or frequently used fireplace.

11. Finally, a good idea may be to check your framed print every five years or so. Inspect for light damage, mold growth, insects, loose hinges etc.