Is it safe to buy art online?

Perhaps you’re a new art collector. You don’t know where to start, or maybe you don’t live in an artsy area, and galleries are sparse. Where do you go to buy art? Of course, there’s art on the internet.

Or, Let’s say you’re a seasoned collector. You go to all the galleries. You shop the art fairs. You’ve adorned your walls with local art for years. Maybe you want to consider something else. Maybe you’re looking for a Southwest scene, but you live in the upper Midwest. Again, there’s art on the internet.

Either way, you may wonder:

Is it safe to buy art online?

Short answer: Yes.

There are dozens of online art galleries, each with thousands of artists to chose from, at several different price points. Sites like Saatchi, Artfinder, and Etsy safely offer work from thousands of artists. Sites such as these have been trusted for many years.

There are also independent artists, like me, who have worked to build, market, and maintain their own small online gallery sites. These artists paint as much as they can, then try to get their work out into the world. These sites are most likely perfectly safe as well.

Still, one must be careful. How do you know for sure if you’re dealing with a legitimate, serious artist?

First of all, art is hard to sell online. In the short term, it’s not a lucrative business. It’s highly doubtful that you’d be dealing with a scammer. It just isn’t a good, fast way to rip anyone off.

There’s still the matter of trust. Can you trust the person behind the artist website?

An active, real artist will have a presence beyond their art site. They will likely be active in other organizations. For instance, an artist friend of mine is the president of the Lake Superior Art Association, the main visual art organizations in my area. I’ve been part of groups and projects as well. Artists who are active in their community can very likely be trusted online.

art fair, tent at art on the rocks
John French displays at Art on the Rocks in Marquette, MI

You may be able to find that the artist in question shows in exhibits, art fairs, and galleries. Check the artist’s biography or “About” page. It should list some off the events they’ve been part of. You can usually verify this information for yourself. Art fair organizers often keep online lists of participating exhibitors well after the event has passed. Galleries have artist rosters posted on their websites (if they have a website).

I mentioned galleries. Let’s discuss that briefly.

Brick and Mortar Gallery vs Online Gallery

I will always encourage you to shop locally. If you have access to a local gallery with local artists, please spend your time and money there.

moonshine exterior

If you’re a new collector, just go out and see what you like. Don’t be intimidated because you don’t know much about art. A good gallery will help educate you. If a gallery is snobby with you, leave that negative place and spend your time and money elsewhere.

You may live in a place where the galleries are out of your price range. That’s understandable! Most people living in Santa Fe can’t buy art from many of the galleries there. There will be places where “almost famous” artist will sell at more affordable prices. Seek out smaller galleries, pop-up art shows, or art fairs.

That being said, there still may be reasons for you to shop online. So let’s get into it a little more.

Photographs of the Art Online

A professional art site will have good photos.

One time, a long time ago, a lady bought one of my paintings that she saw online. After she received the painting in the mail, she told me she was shocked, because it was so blue. She loved it anyway, so she kept it.

Why was she shocked? I looked at the photo she had seen, and sure enough, it had an orange tint to it. I hadn’t corrected the colors carefully enough before I posted it.

I got lucky. She could have asked for a refund.


That experience taught me to be more careful when photographing my work. I try to be sure the colors match, the photo is in focus, and there is no glare.

Even so, there may be slight variations between what you see on the screen, and what you get on your wall. This is why a return policy is important.

Return Policy

An online gallery, big or small, should have a fair return policy. If there isn’t one spelled out, ask for one.

What do I mean by “fair” return policy? If you, as a customer, order a painting, but it doesn’t look as good as the photo, you should have your money easily refunded.

On the flipside, if you buy a painting online, but decide you don’t want it after a week, that isn’t fair to the artist.

Payment Processing

Once you’ve found a piece that you love, how do you pay for it? It can be scary putting your credit card information out on the internet.

buy now

I have a PayPal button on my paintings, and I know many other artists do as well. PayPal is well known, has a good reputation, is easily used even without an account, and is safe for buyers and sellers. The seller never even sees your credit card number!

Not everyone will want to use PayPal. Artists should offer other payment options. I have a comment form attached to my online art posts. The form can be used to start a conversation about buying the painting. I can process a credit card payment via Square, or I’ll often accept a check. I try to make it easy for someone to purchase my work.

In closing…

Buying art online is generally safe. Beware of sellers with little or no presence in real life, or a seller who wants your credit card information, or one who seems pushy or sleazy. There are many good ones out there, and I’m sure you’ll be pleased.

Happy shopping!

Marquette Art Week is Coming

art, oil paintings, wall art by Michigan Artist John French

The residents in and around Marquette, MI  love their artists. That goes for visual arts, performing arts, and music.

marquette symphony violin painting by john french
John French Painting on a violin. This was a fund raiser for the Marquette Symphony Orchestra

As a board member of the Marquette Symphony Orchestra, I saw the excitement and pride that the community felt about its regional orchestra. The concerts were well attended and the organization was well supported.

Summertime in Marquette brings a flurry of activity. We try to pack six months of summer activities into three months of summer. It’s easy to find something to do on any given weekend. This includes visual art exhibits, fine art fairs, and gallery shows.

Marquette celebrates the arts with Art Week. Beginning on June 24, Marquette will be sent into an art-euphoria with music, performance, and of course fine art. More information about Art Week is here:

Art Week’s premier fine art event is the Art Stroll in downtown Marquette on Thursday, June 28. Downtown Marquette will be transformed into a huge outdoor gallery or art fair. Businesses partner with artists and stay open late to art lovers.

Marquette frame shop with oil paintings by John french
My work at Art of Framing for the 2017 Art Stroll

For the third year in a row, I’ve teamed up with Art of Framing on Washington Street. I’ll be showing my latest work, presented in Stacie Duwalt’s gorgeous frames. I’m thinking of having a painting demonstration out on the sidewalk, if the weather is nice.



For more information on the Art Stroll, follow this link:

Closing out Art Week will be the Fresh Coast Plein Aire (sic) Festival, on June 29th and 30th. The correct spelling of the term is plein air.  A small army of artists from around the region will plant their easels around the city and paint outside. I participated in this event last year, and it was a lot of fun.

plein air oil painting in marquette, MI
John French painting at Marquette’s Lower Harbor for the 2017 Fresh Coast Plein Aire Festival

I have a new plein air set up I’m anxious to try, along with a system of painting quickly but tight. I’m hoping to have my ideas perfected by the time Art Week happens.

There will be a reception and awards ceremony on Saturday the 30th. I urge you to support these artists by attending the reception, and consider purchasing a piece of original art.


I hope to see you at one or more of these Art Week events!

Challenge 8 by John French

Ghost Ranch Chamisa

Here is my finished painting, entitled “Ghost Ranch Chamisa”. This is an 11″h by 14″w oil.

Please scroll down to my previous blog entry to see how this painting progressed.

Let's Paint New Mexico!

Ghost Ranch Chamisa.jpg

Ghost Ranch Chamisa

11X14 Oil on canvas


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Upcoming Painting: Ghost Ranch

Progress of a new painting.

This painting is being done for the Let’s Paint New Mexico artist group that I belong to. The painting is based on, and inspired by, a photo taken near Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.

You may remember that Ghost Ranch is the near mythical area near Abiquiú, NM, and was the home, studio, and muse of Georgia O’Keeffe.

This painting will be completed soon, and available to purchase. Please check back, or join my email list for updates.

The first step is to study the reference photo. I ask myself what draws me to the photo. What should I focus on? What should I omit? What can I improve? How do I make this my own?

ghost ranch progress1

I ponder these questions while I block in the composition and color scheme with thin paint. The colors are “local” colors; that is the base color without highlight or shadow. These colors will be enhanced as I develop the piece.

Early on, I decided that the sky was far too boring. New Mexico skies are majestic, and often dramatic. I wanted more energy and excitement in this sky.

ghost ranch progress2

I remember that Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt painted mighty and dramatic skies, so I looked at some of their work. I was especially drawn to Bierstadt’s violently painted storms tearing through exaggerated Rocky Mountains. I drew inspiration from these paintings to create a more exciting sky.


It’s time to work on the mountains and rock formations. In the reference photo, you see that some of the light is shining onto the spires in the landscape like a spotlight, highlighting those amazing formations.

ghost ranch progress3

I wanted to keep that impression of grandeur of the lighting. To help create the glow, I made shadow by painting the mountain top dark. Then I had to lighten the cloud behind it to create contrast. The dark colors in the mountain abruptly transitions into the brightness on the cliffs and spires.

ghost ranch progress4

Then I moved on the the mid-foreground spires, cliffs, and hills. I developed these areas, adding the highlights, and sculpting the rocks with shadow.

These stone formations popped so much, that I realized I lost much of the drama in the sky.  So I darkened the outer edges, intensifying the mood and enhancing the spotlight effect I was working for.

ghost ranch progress5

All that’s left is the foreground. This has taken me some time because there is a lot of nice things happening in the foreground. I’m taking my time on the golden chamisa and other wildflowers.

As I  said earlier, this painting will be done soon. I hope you’ll watch for the update!

Am I the John French you’re looking for?

Michigan artist John French, contact

So you think you have a John French painting or print?

From time to time, I get a Facebook message or an email from someone asking if I’m the artist of a certain painting they have. Sometimes there’s a description of the piece, other times there’s a photo.

Perhaps they inherited the piece, or found it in an attic. These people usually want to know the value of their painting or print. Sometimes they simply want a story about it.

Almost always, I am NOT the John French they’re looking for.

I’m really too young in my career for my work to be inherited, or found in an attic or other storage. My clientele is more recent, and usually younger.

There is a much older artist named John French from Texas. I’m not even sure if he’s still alive.  He was prolific enough that there seems to be people all over the south who have his art in their collections.

I was born in New Mexico, and I live in Michigan. I never lived in Texas.

So, do you have a painting from me, or the older John French? Well, first, look at the signature. Then, look at the heading of my website. My logo is my signature, and it’s been almost the same since 1988.

Then, look at my art. Please, really look at it. 

See the differences? He painted a lot of historical, wildlife, and cowboy paintings. I hardly ever include figures or animals in my paintings.
He was very meticulous, detailed and tight. My style is more bright, chromatic, sometimes loose.
For more information, check his bio here:
The galleries I’ve linked to can probably help you way better than I can.
The (slightly) younger John french