Working hard at relaunching my almost 21 year old website!
The old ryepress.com site was cluttered and blocky; designed, as many were back in the late 90s with a rather, old fashioned sort of magazine layout, It took me a while to appreciate the way in which the internet was changing how people digested media. At first I was aghast when people copied my images and saved them to the new “social media”, and took great pains to degrade the quality, limit the size of the pictures and generally discourage everyone from downloading… anything.
I am now, , however, a convert. Embarrassed by the fuzzy, pixelated , low resolution pictures that have been released (I think some just got bored and escaped) to the world, I have decided (in so far as broadband speed and storage allow) to upload much higher quality files to better represent the detail in my pictures – still not good enough to print off at any re-sellable size (I hope), but much better ambassadors for the originals.
So please feel free to share , re-blog, postbook, tweetagram, whatever – accreditation would be appreciated, though!
Its my birthday next week; Sooo… When I’m 64 I will be looking back at the Tapestry of my Life, the occasional Walk on the Wild side, theinevitable struggle to earn Money, and the brief brushes with Fame. I suppose I am now technically an Old man, but consider myself still very much Young at Heart and still have The Long and Winding Road to travel before climbing that Stairway to heaven to The End.
When I’m 64
Time has treated My Generation well, we have experienced hundreds of Changes that All the Young Dudes take for granted – they won’t be Pretty Things, Forever Young and As Time Goes By they’ll realise The Times They are a Changing.
And as I approach my Golden Years, I will concentrate on Staying Alive and relax, safe in the knowledge I am Still Crazy After All These Years
At some point everyone who has ever painted or drawn a picture will ask the question “How do you go about selling your art?” You know your pictures are good, your family and friends tell you they are – and you start to wonder whether you could sell the odd painting, drawing or photograph, maybe even supplement your pocket money, salary, pension or welfare. From there it is but a small step to imagining you are earning a living from art and, maybe, perhaps, even eventually becoming a famous artist! Probably one of the best films for any artist is the comedy “The Rebel” with Tony Hancock. Tackling every artistic cliché in the book, and cutting artist, public, and galleries down to size. he struggles through the gamut of disdain and admiration that every artist will experience in his attempts to be eventually be “discovered”
So how does one go about selling pictures and and ultimately making a living from being an artist?
Selling your art in galleries
As musicians have to perform so artists have to exhibit, and the misconception is that this has to be through a gallery. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. Galleries work on different systems and levels but have one thing in common: they all exist to make money! The majority of galleries are not owned or run by artists, may know little about art, and will not hesitate to shatter your delusions of genius at the first opportunity. Art is a business and at the higher end dealers and gallery owners are not dissimilar to stockbrokers (or indeed, dare I say it: pimps!). They have a list of clients and collectors whom they jealously cultivate. They only take work that they know they can sell. The most prestigious galleries will collect a “stable” of artists, often straight out of art school. This they will slowly build until it can be harvested most profitably. Many of these artists will receive an allowance; contracting to provide enough work for a series of exhibitions from which they will receive none of the proceeds but might just propel some of them to the next level.
The backing of a top gallery can in turn ramp up the price of a fashionable artist’s paintings almost regardless of the artistic merit of the work involved. Approaching one of these galleries with a tatty portfolio of grotty little daubs is not advised for those with low self esteem!
Selling your art; Group or solo
Group or solo exhibitions in rented galleries or venues only really work if the gallery has a decent mailing list or regular flow of visitors. By the time rental, commission of around 25%, cost of transportation and hanging, postage and the inevitable private view are taken into account the artist will probably be out of pocket. Can look good on a CV though.
The Premiere for the exhibiting artist. At your first private view expect some measure of success! Around a third of the people you invite will turn up – most, if not all of these, will be friends, family and colleagues. In some cases someone will buy something. Copious amounts of (artist supplied) cheap wine will be consumed, nibbles will be trodden into the carpet and glasses will be broken. The rest of the exhibition will be a complete anti-climax as the general public, who don’t know you, are indifferent to your work and won’t be getting any free wine, stay away in their droves. And for subsequent exhibitions It only gets worse as PV fatique sets in and friends, family and colleagues tire of the novelty of your artistic endeavours and rediscover their TV sets.
EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES.
Most people, to quote the well known phrase; “know nothing about art but know what they like”. Unfortunately, when it comes to art very few people have the confidence to rely entirely on their own judgement; and so what they actually like can very easily be moulded by what they perceive to be the superior knowledge of gallery owners. All people are extremely wary of looking foolish – and buying the wrong piece of art can be as agonising to the art buyer as buying the wrong trainers is to a peer pressured teenager. The gallery system gives the public the cultural safety net of knowledgeable advice delivered in a reassuringly highbrow environment and at a satisfyingly painful price.. If a Picasso painting were to turn up at a local boot fare at a tiny percentage of its real value nobody would touch it with a barge pole – a Picasso forgery on the other hand, underwritten by the learned opinion of experts, would be snapped up! The approval of a major gallery can make or break an artist, sometimes both in, short order. At the lower end of the scale there are many galleries (many simply glorified gift shops) that will accept a few pieces of work on “sale or return” but usually at a rate of commission that ranges from 40% to 50% or even 60%. The artist is still responsible for framing etc and has little control of how or where the work is displayed.
THE EGGS FACTOR
Selling your art at open exhibitions and competitions is supposedly another opportunity to leapfrog the art school to gallery scramble. The concept is simple. Your artwork is better than anyone else’s: You get accepted, win an award, do not pass GO and collect instant fame or at least gain a few brownie points on your CV. These exhibitions usually have an entry fee, and then, if you get in, a hanging fee, and then, if you sell, commission at around 33%. Most are situated in big towns and so may well involve considerable time and cost transporting work, attending the private view, etc, and of course you still have to get the work back if it doesn’t sell. VAT is added to the commission and generally speaking the best strategy is to enter limited edition prints which will spawn red dots like a plague if you are lucky. The granddaddy of these beauty contests is the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Unfortunately, the model from which many a provincial art society takes its lead.
A far more amenable way to enter the arena with your potential masterpieces is the local art society. These have a loyal and hardworking following, are organised with military precision and have a modest subscription, There is probably not a corner of Britain that isn’t covered by at least two of these societies! All have an annual exhibition, which unfortunately usually straddles the same bank holiday in August – causing some problems for the serial exhibitionist. Commission is usually a modest 20% and sales and standards are surprisingly high.
FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS IN A SEA OF INDIFFERENCE
A different approach to selling your art from expecting the public to come to see you is to stalk them in their natural habitat. In the same way a trawler chases shoals of fish the artist can cast a net over the smaller waters of such venues as wine bars, restaurants, hotel lounges, or even train stations. A surprisingly large number of these venues have wall space begging to be used, have neither the time or inclination to buy or organise work to display, and are indeed grateful when asked. They are however, businesses and aggressively selling your pictures or massaging your ego are not their priorities. As long as you are professional, your work well presented and you do not impede the real business of the venue you can expect to pay a nominal 10% – 25% commission, get a free meal or drink or two, and probably sell a couple of pieces of work. Most of these venues actively encourage a small private view although at this point you might find it hard to press gang your PV weary mailing list and may be lucky to achieve an attendance in double figures! Presentation and organisation is the most important criteria for the artist in these exhibitions – it may sound like heresy but the quality of the work is almost irrelevant!
FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTENT!
In a large cosmopolitan city it is possible to build up a circuit of venues and have exhibitions running concurrently all year round – 15/20 pieces of work – 4 weeks per exhibition. Unless you are particularly prolific the only way of doing this comfortably is with a large portfolio of limited edition prints. For the public this will also build up the perception that you are a successful artist as they may come across your work in several different venues during the year and will slowly become familiar with your style.
Finally we come to the media by which we are communicating! Artists have been pinning their hopes on the internet for the last 20 years as the means of marketing art to the whole world. Individual artist’s web sites have proliferated and art directories and online galleries have been swamped with what, lets face it, is a dismal representation of all forms of visual art. While artists may complain about the arbitrary and often baffling decisions of selection panels and the ignominy of collecting work with a big friendly chalk X on the back, can this indiscriminate wallpapering of the planet with amateur art be progress? On the positive side the internet and especially image searches do throw up art unexpectedly, which is in conclusion, my answer to the initial question: how do I sell my art? Display it where people are not looking for art! A picture discovered whilst you were looking for something else is one you will always enjoy!
The 1980s. Having left college in 1982 I found my self basically unemployed, living in a squat in Kings Cross with a 2.2 Arts degree that had given me a great foundation in almost every form of graphics and media, but that was no match for the more specialised skills of those graduates emerging from The big art schools. I had done film, photography, video, sound, typography, graphic design and a bit of almost every different form of printing.
Thatcher had been in power for a couple of years, but so far the benefits system was relatively easy on graduates – I went swimming for free in the council pool up the Caledonian Road, flashing my UB40 like an American Express card, and took full use of a scheme by which I could join any evening or part time class for £1. Piecing together my own art course I joined etching, life drawing and history of art classes at Working Men’s College in Camden, screen printing at the Mary Ward Centre and lithography at the City Lit. Technically you couldn’t do more than a limited number of hours a day, but I managed to squeeze in extra afternoons screen printing and when I became a voluntary etching teacher could often use the press out of hours.
The history of art course sent me off in all sorts of directions and I found myself particularly drawn to Mondrian, De Stijl and threw in a bit of Russian constructivism and the English vorticists for good luck.
Channel 4 had started in 1982 and its blocky flatly coloured logo seemed to start a trend in graphic design across the country ending up in the greys, and pastel colours that would become the look of the 1980s
In 1983 after several months attempting rather unsuccessful forays into the bric a brac markets of Camden, trundling our brightly painted pushchair and tea chest through the back streets of Mornington Crescent at ungodly hours of the morning every weekend, Felicity (my partner at the time) hit on the idea of collaborating to screen print postcards using the same deep turquoise as the cloth we covered our stall with, and the same colour we had mixed up to paint our tea chest. This with the addition of some vivid orange, red and yellow shapes would become our brand and would identify our stall full of overpriced crap from everybody else’s!
I screen printed several hundred of them and to our surprise people started buying them instead of our objet d’art. We sat down with felt tip pens and spent all night producing dozens of designs which we edited down into 8 designs each which I screen printed and which we named NAFF Cards. These in turn paid for a slowly expanding screen printing studio (The bedroom of my Kings cross flat) which at its peak boasted four 30in x 40in fine mesh screens, which could be clamped to hinges onto the top of an A0 plan chest , a drying rack (a chain stretched from corner to corner threaded with picture wire and bulldog clips) capable of drying 100 A1 prints at a time, and an old 1950 kitchen larder which held several dozen mixed pots of Sericol ink in old cleaned out Whiskas cans sealed with tinfoil and marked with a dab of the resident colour.
We started building on our halves of the postcard designs to produce large screen printed posters and limited edition prints using up to 18 colours – Felicity tended toward more organic Matisse like shapes, I went sharp and angular. Arrow of God had started out as a painting, but became much cleaner and sharper as a screen print. The title was borrowed from the Chinua Achebe book of the same name (an “A’level set book) and in turn was a key picture in the exhibition “Things Fall Apart” ( the poem by WB Yeats who was also on the “A’level reading list, and again a Chinua Achebe book)
Forgive me WordPress, for I have sinned. It is 4 years since my last blog…. its been a pretty odd 4 years, but isn’t that what life’s all about – “my life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue”?.
I am, I freely admit, a bit of a lazy sod. On my alternative home planet of Procrastia, as supreme ruler Ennui VIII I enjoy all the luxuries of a benign despot from my sumptuous palace in the Capital Inertia, occasionally issuing rambling proclamations in the native language Apathy ( …a language with very few verbs).
Meanwhile in the real world. I gave up the gallery, we moved from the flat above into a gorgeously spacious house on the seafront with stacks of pictures against every wall and an etching press in the basement. For a short time I helped out at another artist’s gallery and exhibited work in return… and then his roof burnt off and the house filled up with even more piles of prints, this time a bit waterlogged and smelling of bonfire.
I sold prints from the doorway of a not yet opened shop in George street, scattered a few prints around other venues, got back briefly into the open mic circuit, wrote some new lyrics, started swimming again and had an exhibition or two in local bars. However things were starting to get a bit tight..
Although I have always managed to keep my head above water when times get a little rough I have always had the option of ducking for the cover of a “proper job” when I needed to, and so I started looking around for something to tide me over until the waves of austerity had subsided.
I immersed myself in online CVs and job applications and filled in countless computer generated forms for computer generated jobs looking for 20 year olds with 25 years experience and a passion for this, a ambition for that and able to work in a team to achieve targets in a timely manner.
I had more luck with the Playstation where my ominously warlike avatar could leap around throwing fiery hammers and mowing down aforementioned 20 year olds with exploding bullets freed from the exertion of me having to lift my 60 year old body off the sofa.
To be fair I did start going for increasingly long walks, getting to know parts of the area I wasn’t even aware existed and managed to shed a fair amount of weight. Eventually I started to get some dribs and drabs of work through an agency and did a bit of modelling for art groups.
The agency work was all factory work, which, as I had only ever done office work was a bit of an eye opener! The factories were almost invariably, unbelievably spartan establishments, cluttered with almost steampunk machinery and with working conditions barely changed from Lowry’s day; 12 hour shifts (sometimes nights) with one 45min lunch break (which wasn’t paid) and a 4 mile walk either there or home depending of which shift it was. All for minimum wage,… and in bloody heavy safety boots!
Eeee… T’were ‘ard…
Some of the work was interesting, most of it was anything but. The best part was the people. There was almost always a core group of Eastern Europeans; Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Poles, Ukrainian and Rumanians. The common language was Russian, out of convenience rather than affection! I picked up a smattering of Russian from two Latvians in two separate jobs , one of whom brought me up to speed on the subtle usages of various insults and swear words in return for a reciprocal trade in English profanities!
One good habit I had got into while walking and sitting on delayed trains was listening to audio books and after going through the usual page turners I turned my attention to non-fiction and hoovered my way through biographies, history books and even a series of lectures on economics to learning a little more about Russian history – Napoleon’s invasion, The Revolution and for the first time read War and Peace (or listened to someone read it to me).
I also discovered what that Pet shop boys song line was about!
“From lake Geneva to the Finland station”
Anyway the next crop of school leavers turned up at the agency the next October and I, and a couple of other Old boys were “let go”, shortly afterward my PC gasped its last and my giclee printer dribbled its last drop – so back to filling in job applications on a tiny phone screen, slaughtering the minions of darkness with my shouting hammers, learning Russian and listening to Audible.
I now have a nice little job a stones throw away with a great bunch of guys my own age for just about enough hours to get keep me going, The art embers are rekindling, I have a new PC and am walking again – and I can even listen to audio books and courses at work!
Still to have move some of those stacks of pictures though….
Which as anyone who has had the misfortune to study Latin at school will be aware means table. This is the story of a table: (mensae). So Mensa Mensae Mensam….
A few days ago a friend was sorting out the garage and decided to get rid of a kitchen table, a heavy sturdy table with a tiled surface.
Collette saw the potential of this as a much better surface on which to use her sewing machine than her present table which has been severely eroded by the cat using each of the legs in turn as a scratching post and has lost a certain degree of structural integrity as a result. The “new” table arrived on Saturday afternoon.
Before we put its legs back on we had to clear space in Collette’s studio which meant moving a variety of items into the kitchen first moving dishes etc off the expanding table, doing the washing up and extending the table.
The new table was duly be-legged and stood up in the middle of the studio. This left relatively little room for manoeuvre and so we started dismantling the plastic shelving in the corner only to discover it was next to the telephone socket and had also developed a complicated relationship with various leads and power cables running from the power socket on the other side of the room, supplying the router, cordless phone base unit and wifi computer printer. This meant moving a chest of drawers ( drawers, which had to be taken out in order) into that corner. This chest (sans drawers) promptly shed one of its castors in protest and required a cork to be wedged underneath it instead ( thankfully we somehow have managed to acquire an abundance of these)
The plastic shelving units started off being stood in the hallway where they teetered under a growing pile of displaced items as the rest of the surfaces in the studio were “systematically” cleared in order to move more furniture around.
A tall cabinet with small flat drawers was tentatively lowered down the rickety stairs into the basement where after the lugging around a couple of heavy table-top etching presses it has settled in with only a minor amount of disruption, one sheet of broken glass and the generation of two bin bags of rubbish.
One plastic shelving unit was eventually dispatched to the first floor where after moving the sofa it conveniently hides the patched hole in the wall left by the builders that came round last week. A second shelving unit has finally found a home in the bedroom (more corks required) after a brief sortie to the basement where it didn’t really gel with its neighbours. The small white table that was its predecessor has made its way down to the hall.
Sunday dawned on a bleak landscape of piled up stuff on most flat surfaces of the house.
The bathroom resisted all attempts at permanent assimilation of refugee furniture whereas the kitchen succumbed. After moving the combination cooker/microwave, decanting several cupboards, and coming perilously close to accidentally defrosting the freezer the final shelving unit managed to sneak in and make itself at home in the corner, where it is happily creaking under the various trays and tins that previously resided in the oven. A quick trip to Argos for two wheelie vegetable racks solved the tricky problem of where to store the provisions for 3 extremely picky cats with widely different tastes and also for the comprehensive biscuit collection that we appear to have acquired.
An evening trip to the off-license replenished our (not exactly dwindling, but you can’t be too sure) supply of corks and a set of heavy-duty castors has been ordered to facilitate the final manoeuvres of the new table.
Surfaces are starting to re-emerge from the debris , and whilst it may be weeks before we can find anything again it is indeed a very nice table!
“Arctic blizzards cause travel chaos for millions”
Translation: a short spell of totally predictable seasonal weather causes the thermometer to dip below 0°, the rail “network” to grind to a halt (as opposed to running like clockwork (literally) the rest of the year), cars to be abandoned by the side of ungritted roads and planes to be diverted to places where snow is not a problem (all of Northern Europe). Of course in Britain we get “the wrong type of snow” – a notorious snow balls quote from one of our transport companies a few years back.
The prime minister will don green wellies and a Barbour jacket and reassure the country that “everything that needs to be done will be done” after Googling those towns and villages suffering the most and discovering they’re nowhere near London and probably didn’t vote for the government.
There will be power cuts, people eating each other on stranded trains, schools closing and hordes of unfettered, behooded little darlings running riot. Snow balls will thrown at passing buses, frostbitten fingers will get stuck down the backs of radiators. Pensioners will fall over and shatter. There will be massive conflagrations as a whole new batch of Brits discover fire, sales of brandy and vodka will soar and a Yeti will be spotted somewhere near Watford. Panic buying of toilet rolls will wipe millions of the stock market.
Not since a head grew legs and ran across the floor in “The Thing” will Britain have experienced such isolation and sheer horror….
There will of course be a silver lining. Plumbers will love all the frozen pipes, utility companies will have an excuse to crank up prices, I get to plug one of my snow pictures and above all we Brits get to talk officially about our favourite subject; THE WEATHER!
A strange day. A couple of months back a sizeable chunk of the front of our (rented) house fell into Pelham Place, the wide stretch of pavement that separates us from the busy A259, the beach, the English Channel and ultimately, France.
Yesterday I bought a big bag of freshly caught plaice from the fishermen just along the road from in front of the beach where the fishing boats are landed. (Hastings has the only beach launched fishing fleet in Britain).
Today was the day when an engineer, a surveyor, the landlord, the letting agent, two builders and several blokes who just tagged along for the free tea all turned up and proceeded to cut holes in the walls to try and determine what, if anything, was still holding our 19th Century building up.
All this whilst I beheaded, de-tailed, filleted and breadcrumbed 15 slippery plaice. The kitchen was knee-deep in finely crushed cornflakes (the best breadcrumbs!) and the hallway was full of sawdust.
It turned out the building (built sometime between 1815 and 1825) was originally timber framed, to which an outer layer of bricks had been added, followed by a decorative render.
The town and cities of Britain are full of interesting buildings, thrown together in a completely haphazard manner with virtually no overall plan, sacked by invading armies, burnt down in Great fires, bombed, ripped asunder by property developers and “improved” to fit the fashion of the day. New building are made to look old, Old buildings are made to look new(ish) and nearly every building has a story. A lot of architects in this country appear to have been early pioneers of the Microsoft operating system mode of thought; glue a bit on to what’s already there, add a few rooms, a floor or two and a bit of extra roof, brick up windows and doorways when no longer needed and pray to god the damn thing doesn’t collapse!
Ours was originally built by a master gunner, who having survived defending the Mediterranean from Napoleon’s navy decided to settle in Hastings and become its first coastguard – protecting the great, great, great, grandfathers of the fishermen who caught that bag of Plaice we will be eating for the next month!
So, my blog has finally been launched, a champagne bottle has been ceremoniously smashed on the bow and the empty, inelegant hull has slipped sideways into the water, to a round of applause from the small crowd of onlookers. All it requires now is “fitting out”!
Which to abandon the ship analogy means it needs a bit of layout tweaking and above all some posts!
I have been sifting through a vast pile of subjects all night – they rush me like approaching waves, crash into my brain and swirl about in little half-formed sentences, foam up into the semblance of paragraphs and then recede leaving a few glistening words on the sand.
I could write about etching; I have spent a good 40(ish) years and wasted a couple of tons of copper on this branch of printmaking, Maybe screenprinting? The materials have changed dramatically since I used to print posters in a small squat in Kings Cross whereas I still etch using much the same methods as Rembrandt.
Certainly painting and art although my thoughts on these change by the minute.
Guitar? for a few years I wrote satirical songs and annoyed the loyal pubs and clubs with my “witty” warblings
Or cycling, longbow, archery, swimming, food, computer games, politics, history, economics, films, TV, computers … Life, the universe and everything?
I am essentially a serial obsessive, much to the annoyance of my friends and family and I have no idea where this blog will wander off to!
Having had a website for almost as long as Google, I’ve decided to jump in and embrace the brave new world of blogging. Unfortunately my career has been a little more low profile than that of Google (so far, anyway – but here’s hoping). It seems to me that a blog is a much more immediate form of communication than a website – particularly my website, which is huge and full and consequently something of a nightmare to update. If you’re curious go have a look here http://www.ryepress.com and don’t say I didn’t warn you!
I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to write about disparate stuff, and not to have to limit myself to art. Politics, gaming, cooking, and living off thin air are all hobbyhorses of mine, and be warned, I can talk for England on any of those subjects!
Anyway, am off to cook the dinner now – but I feel great having made a start on the blog! Here’s a pretty, wintry picture of the town where I lived for over ten years and after which my art business is named.