Good to hear from you Mr. Ayres,
This is indeed a tricky point. The classic rule is that paint on canvas (acrylic, oil, oil stick etc.) is more valuable than any work on paper, including those with paint, watercolor, pencil or pen. That’s why often you’ll find works on paper that have been “laid on canvas”, which, in theory, makes it more valuable, because if it’s “on canvas” it’s a painting…though it’s not really. In these instances I ask the question: was it glued on canvas by the artist? or by a dealer who wanted to up the price? That’s a question you’ll need to answer for yourself before you buy . As far as the “new rules” of today, now we have artists making “paintings” screened on metal, or on fiberglass etc… so the classic “on canvas” rule doesn’t always apply. So to sum it up, almost anything hung on a wall can be loosely termed a “painting”, as long as its not on paper. A “painting” is always worth more, regardless of what it’s painted on… though works on paper have a traditional place in artistic practice, some are great, and are loved by many collectors.
Some artists, like Jean-Michel Basquiat, are often at their best on paper – so still it’s a case-specific decision, meaning that a great work on paper is better than a mediocre painting. Personally, I always try to buy a painting, unless I just can’t get one, in which case I’ll occasionally settle for a work on paper. Last summer I bought a great work on paper by Salvador Dali, it’s fantastic, he’s got an amazing touch on paper.