Great Big Canvas? No Thanks!
When it comes to buying wall art online, it seems the possibilities are endless. A Google search for “Wall Art” returns 4.2 billion results! Nonetheless, there are a handful of wall art sellers that consistently show up on page one of Google. Great Big Canvas is one of the largest, with an online shop containing over 700,000 images available to be printed on canvas. With a collection including photography, painting and graphic design, Great Big Canvas must have something for everyone…right?
Great Big Canvas Art Business Model
GreatBigCanvas.com is a large seller of canvas wall art. All products are open copyright or licensed from artists and then printed by Great Big Canvas. Although the website touts the wall art as being assembled in the USA, the printing and canvas materials are sourced from overseas. The prints can be packed and shipped to their USA facility inexpensively and then stretched and assembled. Not only does Great Big Canvas sell products directly on their website, they also sell to companies like Walmart, Amazon, Wayfair, Lowes and more to be resold on these retailers’ shelves. Their business model is designed around low cost manufacturing and mass production.
Great Big Canvas Product Quality & Service
Great Big Canvas offers stretched canvas and solid-faced canvas in a variety of presentations such as float mount, framed and ready-to-hang frameless. These canvases are designed to be cost efficient to manufacture with standard printing canvas, soft wood stretcher frames and low-end frames and hardware. Although mass production drives the cost of products down, it also lends itself to lower quality and less attention to detail. Great Big Canvas products fall into this category, as noted by several complaints logged on their Better Business Bureau page. Additionally, several customers mention a poor customer service experience and difficulty in resolving problems with their orders.
Is it worth buying wall art from Great Big Canvas?
Great Big Canvas offers a wide selection of artwork in a very inexpensive format. With prices starting at around $50, there are plenty of options for cheap wall art. Nonetheless, I believe you get what you pay for and at the extreme low-end of the wall art spectrum Great Big Canvas is not a great fit for those looking for uniqueness, superior quality, longevity and the ultimate in presentation and wow-factor. Canvas is a notoriously poor print medium with low fidelity resolution, underwhelming color reproduction and inevitable canvas sag that occurs over time. Ultimately, if you are looking for wall art that can stand the test of time and leave a lasting impression it is best to look elsewhere.
Where to purchase affordable, high quality wall art?
As mentioned above, there are almost an infinite number of wall art sellers online. How do you know which ones offer quality and value? As an artist myself, I also believe it is important to support artists rather than the galleries and middlemen involved. I like to categorize the seller by type, which can oftentimes help separate the best from the rest:
Print on Demand | Mass Produced Posters & Prints
Lumas.com is a print-on-demand art website that offers prints in editions of 75-150. They hand select artists discovered at art fairs and exhibitions, and manage the print production for online sales and in their 24 galleries around the world. This model is a hybrid of art marketplace and print on demand, and they offer signed limited edition forms to go along with their artwork. Although the artists are not producing the work, it is a higher quality model than mass producers such as art.com and Great Big Canvas.
Fine Art America is a huge online wall art seller. They offer millions of products including wall art, tapestries, shower curtains, mugs and more. They mass produce items from licensed imagery and like Great Big Canvas, do not offer high quality work.
Art.com is another huge print on demand art seller. They offer thousands of images and also allow buyers to add frames and matting. With a slightly more curated collection and more attention to detail, art.com offers better value and quality than some of the other mass producers.
Art Marketplaces | Shop Wall Art Online Worldwide
Etsy is one of the best places to find original artwork produced directly by artists. When Etsy launched in 2005 they had specific rules regarding the items being hand produced. Since then they have loosened these restrictions and now there are many shops that sell mass produced items similar to any print-on-demand website such as art.com. Nonetheless, there are still thousands of artists on the site that personally create their paintings, photographs and other wall art for sale.
Amazon launched a competitor division to Etsy in 2015 called Amazon Handmade. This was an attempt to cater to artisans and artists that personally create their artwork by utilizing Amazon’s vast resources and SEO. However, the implementation was flawed from the beginning and offered almost no differentiation from the normal Amazon website. Buyers could not distinguish handmade from regular listings, and the idea has since flopped. Amazon Handmade still exists today, but I do not recommend using it to purchase wall art.
Saatchi is a well known online art gallery specializing in original art from painters and photographers worldwide. With over a million originals and 94,000 artists it is a huge online art gallery resource for wall art and paintings.
Similar to Saatchi, Artfinder.com is an online art marketplace and gallery. Specializing in original artwork direct from artists, artfinder is great for finding quality signed artwork.
Artist Direct | High Quality with No Gallery Overhead
Based on my experience as a professional photographer the best way to buy art today is going direct to the artist. The internet allows artists to create their own websites and offer their products to the public without the overhead and curation restrictions of galleries. A website such as my own is an example of artist direct. Not only do artists get to completely control the development and production of their products, they also cut out the middleman resulting in more savings to artist and the collector.
Final Thoughts from a Pro Photographer
Ultimately when purchasing wall art price range, uniqueness, artist support, quality and customer service all impact the buying decision. If you are simply trying to fill a void on your wall, quality does not matter and you want the cheapest price per square inch, then print on demand websites may be a suitable option. However, if you are after the ultimate in quality and uniqueness, I highly recommend going to artists directly rather than through a reseller or middleman. It can sometimes be difficult to find what you are looking for without going to a gallery or marketplace. In that case, I suggest an art marketplace that still allows you to buy directly with artists with the help of a third-party platform.