Fine art made easy

Frank Lind, Surfer, circa 1999, oil on canvas.

The art world can be mysterious. If you learn a little bit about the various media and materials used, you can take some of the mystery out of collecting art. On my channel many of the questions I field are about fine art values, media, framing, and the history of art. Here are some easy art terms to aid the novice:

Oil: Paint made with natural oils (linseed, walnut, etc.) used as a binder with the color or pigment. Oil paint can be applied onto canvas, paper, wood panel, or linen support.

Acrylic: A synthetic (not natural) pigment which dries faster than oil paint and binds the resin with the color or pigment. While oil paintings are most traditional and one of the oldest methods used by studio artists, acrylic has become widely accepted by collectors of 20th Century paintings and contemporary artists. Acrylic paint enjoyed widespread use in the late 1900s and continues to be used today by artists internationally.

Tempera: An age-old water-based paint using egg yolks as a binding agent. American master, Andrew Wyeth was best known for reviving this Renaissance technique during the 1900s. Tempera paint dates back to the Renaissance period (1400s) and beforehand. It was commonly applied to wooden panels and board and later on canvas and linen supports too. Oil paints were introduced in the early 1500s and were used with impressive results by the Northern European artists of the time.

Watercolor: Similar to gouache, however, without the addition of gum. Water is mixed with ground color or pigment. The result is a lighter weight surface texture on paper. Watercolors and gouaches are difficult to master and attract many artists and collectors. The delicacy with which these compositions are executed remain of interest to many collectors in various subjects. Watercolor and gouache are among the most difficult techniques to successfully master.

Gouache: Similar to watercolor, however, with the addition of gum and water to the ground color or pigment. The result is a heavier surface texture on paper.

When it comes to collecting works of art, the material or medium matters but it is not the only aspect which will impact market interest, collectability, and appraised value. A watercolor can be just as costly and as sought after as an oil on canvas depending on the work’s artist, age, condition, subject matter, quality, and other factors. Whatever medium you collect, be sure to review artist’s credentials, sales records, condition, exhibition record or museum status and subject matter as you build your fine art collection.Dr. Lori Verderame is the award-winning Ph.D. antiques appraiser on History channel’s #1 hit show about the world’s oldest treasure hunt, The Curse of Oak Island. Visit and watch for selling tips and appraisals.