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Unique Mother's Day Gift - No More Flowers and Chocolate

With Mother’s Day approaching fast, it’s time to begin thinking about how best to express how much Mommy Dearest means to us. If you’re like most, Mother’s Day has become a routine that consists of a greeting card, a bouquet of flowers, and a phone call to say "I love you". And though mom surely loves the sentiment, perhaps 2005 should be a year when you put a bit more creativity into your gift idea. How about giving the gift of art? Several businesses across the country create one-of-a-kind, stylish, and sentimental works of art from customers’ photographs, often for a price less than what you’d pay for a mass-produced department store print. Here are just a few examples: What mom wouldn’t want pictures of her kids? Have a baby picture or a photo of siblings playing made into an oil painting; Have a picture of mom from when she was younger made into a stunning watercolor portrait; Have a pastel or charcoal sketch made form a photo of the family on vacation; Have an ink drawing made of mom’s house and garden; Feeling bold? Have a close-up shot of mom’s face made into an Andy Warhol style pop art. The process couldn’t be simpler.

You place an order from the company’s website. Typically you can choose from various styles of artwork and even provide special instructions just as you would if you were buying expensive commissioned artwork. Then you send the company your photograph(s). You can upload or email a digital photo, or you can send printed photos by mail. Within a matter of days, a custom work of art will be created from your photograph.

Some sites allow you to view a proof of your artwork online so you can request changes. Once you are satisfied, the artwork will be shipped to you. Prices and quality vary, so be sure to compare once you know what you would like. Some of the companies below (ezPortrait and myDaVinci) offer artwork that is created completely by hand (typically by using low-cost yet qualified artists who live in other countries), while the others utilize primarily digital technology. Although all of the companies below offer artwork done in an "oil painting" style, many offer far more variety. Check out the unique contemporary styles like "Modern Outline" and "Ghost" that Pictoart offers. Photowow offers a couple fun "Comic" options. These more abstract and whimsical styles provide an artistic alternative to the standard impressionistic oil painting and may look more at home in modern décors. Some customers like to play a role in selecting colors and composition for the final artwork. All of the services below will be happy to take into account any special requests, so you can be sure the finished work of art will complement mom’s sofa fabric.

In addition, with the exception of Canvas on Demand, all the services provide a digital proofing process that allows customers to preview the artwork and request changes before the final artwork is shipped. Prices will depend on whether the art is created on paper or stretched canvas, which style is chosen, and how large the final work is. It seemed that all of the services reviewed use professional quality materials, including acid-free paper and archival-quality giclée printing processes. Be sure you fully understand the guarantee and return policy before placing an order. Being able to view a digital proof before your order is shipped provides quite a bit of peace of mind that what Mom gets will be something she loves. However, it’s good to know that you can get a refund if you aren’t completely satisfied once the art arrives at your door. While both Canvas on Demand and Pictoart provide full 30-day money back guarantees (minus S&H), myDaVinci will only provide store credit. Photowow states that it will provide a full refund if you return your item within 10 days of receipt, but another page on their site also indicates that the "design" portion of their fee is not refundable. Both ezPortrait and Photosyrup had unclear or nonexistent policies regarding customer options for refunds once the proof is approved and the product is shipped. If you’re worried, be sure to ask before placing an order.

Here is a summary of six popular services that create artwork from photos (listed in alphabetical order): Canvas on Demand www.canvasondemand.com Products: Framed and unframed stretched canvas; 8"x10" up to 24"x36" Styles of Artwork: Oil Painting Turnaround Time: 4-5 days to completion Online Proof: No Guarantee: 30 day 100% refund (minus S&H) Prices: $60 to $200; additional fees for adding brush stokes and retouching; $15-25 for S&H Baseline Price*: $193 + $25 S&H Comments: Limited product choices, straightforward ordering process (some order form and shopping cart errors encountered) Overall Rating**: 3 out of 5 ezPortrait www.ezportrait.com Products: Unframed stretched canvas and art paper; 12"x16" up to 24"x36" Styles of Artwork: Oil Painting & Pastel/Charcoal Turnaround Time: 12-14 days to proof completion Online Proof: A digital photo is emailed to customer for approval Guarantee: Refund if customer is not happy with online proof Prices: $200 to $400 for portraits with one person; additional fees for additional people; free standard shipping; $30 priority shipping Baseline Price: $400 + $30 S&H Comments: These works are done completely by hand, simple ordering process, specializes in portraits Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 myDaVinci www.mydavinci.com Products: Framed and unframed stretched canvas and artist paper; 8"x10" up to 36"x48" Styles of Artwork: Over 20 styles including: Oil Painting, Watercolor, Pencil, Pop, Caricatures, Etching Turnaround Time: 14-21 days (depending on style chosen) Online Proof: Yes, but may cost extra for some products Guarantee: 30 day 100% refund for store credit only Prices: $50 to $600 for portraits with one person; additional fees for additional people; free standard shipping on some products Baseline Price: $500 + $18 S&H Comments: Many works are done completely by hand, many styles to choose from, ordering process and prices vary by artwork style making it more difficult to determine price or compare options Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Photosyrup www.photosyrup.com Products: Unframed stretched canvas and artist paper; 12"x12" up to 24"x36" Styles of Artwork: Pop, Oil Painting, Collage Turnaround Time: 5-10 days to proof completion Online Proof: A digital photo is emailed to customer for approval Guarantee: No policy provided Prices: $120 to $215 for portraits with one person; additional fees for additional people Baseline Price: $200 + $9 S&H (standard shipping) Comments: Must create account before placing an order, no clear refund policy, shipping fees not listed until order fully entered Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Photowow www.photowow.

com Products: Framed and unframed stretched canvas and artist paper; 11"x14" up to 48"x60"; additional products like mugs, pillows, shirts, etc. Styles of Artwork: Over 20 styles including: Pop, Collage, Oil Painting, Comic, Watercolor Turnaround Time: 7 days to proof completion Online Proof: A digital proof is viewable on their website for customer approval Guarantee: 10 day 100% refund; however, order cancellation fees may apply Prices: $140 to $550; additional fees for additional people for some styles; fees for design, print, and canvas stretching Baseline Price: $389 + $34 S&H Comments: Many styles to choose from, straightforward ordering process, fees for additional options cause prices to increase quickly Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Pictoart www.pictoart.com Products: Framed and unframed stretched canvas and artist paper; 4"x6" up to 30"x60" Styles of Artwork: 14 styles including Pop, Oil, Watercolor, Etching, Cutout, Ghost, Sketch Turnaround Time: 3 days to proof completion Online Proof: A digital proof is viewable on their website for customer approval Guarantee: 30 day 100% refund (minus S&H) Prices: $50 to $370; no additional fees for multiple people or different styles; $8 to $40 for S&H Baseline Price: $369 + $39 S&H Comments: Many styles to choose from, straightforward ordering process; clear pricing for all products and shipping Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 This year, rather than sending mom a bouquet of flowers, how about sending her a beautiful painting of flowers from her garden! So round up a few great photos and give the gift of art. Not only will it make her wall look good, it’ll make you look good too. * For effective comparison, a baseline product was chosen that all six services offer: A 24"x36" unframed work of a single subject done in an "oil painting" style and created on stretched canvas. USPS Priority shipping (or equivalent) was chosen. ** Ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 = poor, 3 = fair, 5 = excellent. ZZZZZZ .


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