Home Is Where The Art Is

If you are an artist, a lover of art then I hope that I can inspire you to do what you love.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Man With A Turban Walks Into The Gallery........

Jim Hunter

A man with a turban on walks into the gallery..........what does he say?

No it's not a joke, this actually happened.

'I am the worlds best fortune teller, let me please tell you your fortune' is what he said.

I said 'No Thanks'. He shrugged and left, who knew the Worlds Best Fortune Teller was alive and well and pounding the streets of Swanage being rejected at an alarming rate. And I think that I have a difficult job.

Backseat blog, that's what it has become. The truth is that so many people are still reading the previous posts I have used the breathing space to get some much needed work done. But I know how people worry that it is call coming to an end. Fear not, I'll be back boring you on a regular basis before you know it.

Just a reminder that I am a one woman show. Every single business responsibility stops at my door. It is  keeping me well and truly on my toes. Maybe I should install a foot spa under my desk?

I have no real big informative blog for you today just going to keep you informed of all the latest gallery developments.

Debbie Lee will be giving a talk at the gallery tomorrow at 11.00, it will be followed by a storytelling workshop. Please do come along as it should be a great way to spend a few hours. The best thing is it is FREE!

I have just got off the phone to Jan Dagley who is exhibiting here at the beginning of August. She has decided to have an art sale, an eclectic mix of her back catalogue as part of her exhibition. One wall will be full of works for under £150. I strongly urge you to add this to your list of exhibitions to come and see in August.

I have had a sneaky peek at the new work by Jim Hunter. I have to tell you it is magnificent. I can't believe that it has all been produced in the last 12 months (ish).
The work is light and bright and bold. Come and see it for yourself on Saturday at 6.00.

I am getting a sign on the Sandbanks Ferry. I hope that it will bring many new visitors through the door. I have to say that I am 'over' designing this week. It has been very full on, and it means that there is an awful lot of computer staring. Yawn!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Commercial Artist or Fine Artist? You Decide.

Why doesn't anybody buy my paintings of children being beheaded and chased by Demons of the Underworld in this quaint gallery in a seaside town?

I think that's as good a question as any. Can you be a commercial artist and a fine artist? What exactly is the difference?

One produces work specifically to sell, one produces work they hope will sell to someone, somewhere at some point. Is that the difference?
One works with a specific audience in mind, the other works because they are driven to do it. Is that the difference?

What are the driving forces behind the work? Money? Passion? Necessity? I know that I am deliberately asking and not answering lots of questions. These are questions that I am asked really often.

Can you be true to your artistic self whilst pursuing commercial gain? Do you have to sell out? Should you develop an alter ego whose work you tout that caters for a more commercial market?

The thing is we all have to eat, pay mortgages, rent, bills etc. What is more important to you, being recognised as a mover and a shaker in the art world? Or regurgitating several variations on a theme that conform to an accessible aesthetic and a regular income? That is not undersell the latter because the skill involved in that particular formula is not to be sniffed at.
Can you do both?

These are all questions that I think should be up for discussion. People get disappointed when they don't sell much work at an exhibition (understandably so I hasten to add). I have been there and done that. But let me bring you back to the opening line of this particular blog. Would you want that picture in your lounge if it did in fact exist? I'm not so sure, but is there an audience for that kind of art? Of course there is. But this brings us back to an earlier blog, do your homework and find where you think your potential best audience might be. I would possibly suggest a 'Weirdo Convention' for that particular image.

Artists have asked me in the past what I thought they could paint that would sell. You can imagine that I have absolutely no response to this. I think that I may have mentioned before that I feel that we respond to art subconsciously as well as consciously. I believe people engage with the passion, enthusiasm behind the work. That must count for something.

Does this mean that artists have to make decision? The jury is out as far as I am concerned. Personally, I make art that I feel driven to make and I hope that people like it enough to buy it. Which they have and do. Do I make a living from it? NO! But I do however make a living from art so I feel that I am very lucky to do so.

I am posing all of these question in the hope of starting some discussions about this as I think it could be useful and informative. Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

How Do You Price Your Work?

What is the value of your art work? This is such a contentious area because it is reliant on so many factors.
The first thing I think that needs to happen is as an artist you have to be honest with yourself. I understand that there is an attachment that forms between an artist and his/her work. You wouldn't willingly sell your children (on a good day). But that is how it can feel, something that you have slaved over now must be given a price tag. It is a necessary evil, this is where the honesty comes in. Ask yourself the following:

  • You say that a painting (for example) was two years in the making. In real terms how much time did you actually spend?
  • Did you produce other works in between?
  • Did you spend 8 hours a day for 104 weeks on this piece of art?
  • Does the work reflect that amount of input?
  • Do you really expect to earn the equivalent of a wage from a painting?
Ok, I know there was something a little facetious about some of those questions but you do need to be honest. Here are some more for you, these all factor in the pricing of work.
  1. Where have you exhibited before (especially in London)?
  2. Have you sold work before in a professional gallery?
  3. Are you a full time artist?
  4. Where did you train?
These all factor in how to price your work. It is a rare thing that someone will spend £1000's on the work of an amateur artist. It does happen but not that often.

Serious collectors who spend serious money will want an artists pedigree if they are paying out large sums for the work.

Here's how I price my work, I'll answer the questions 1- 4 to help contextualise it for you. I have exhibited in London, I have sold quite a lot of work in galleries (excluding and including mine if that makes sense). I'm 3/4 time artist and I trained at Loughborough for my degree and Camberwell for my M.A.

I actually start with the frame, I need to make that money back first and foremost. I then think about the time it took to produce the work. I have an idea of how much I would like to be paid per hour, around £25, then I do the maths. I should add here that pieces seldom take me longer than a day, if they do I charge accordingly. If the number is too big at the end I rationalise how much I can actually live with  selling it for. I do factor in my experience as a financial number too, it's hard to explain that but I do.
So that's how I do it. 

Things to remember, keep your pricing consistent. There is a huge temptation by artists to have prices that move all over the place. I know this is often done to counteract gallery commission. But you must factor that in when costing your work in the first place. If someone buys a piece from you at one gallery and it's £300 and then 6 months later they see very similar work of yours else where for £150 they will not be happy. Quite rightly so, it is up to you to price your work correctly.

Lastly, you may enjoy living with your entire back catalogue under your bed, in the loft, in the garage or cluttering up your studio. But does that give you the impetus and money to make new work? I doubt it, price your work to sell, be fair to both yourself and the potential buyer.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

How To Select Work For An Exhibition

Firstly, I would like to thank the powers that be for continuing to bless my days off with dreadful weather. What I really need most is to spend even more time inside, as 5 days out of 7 is clearly not enough.

On to the next topic for discussion, selecting work for exhibiting. There are quite a few things to think about and it does depend on where you are lucky enough to get an exhibit.


The most important thing to bear in mind is the fact that unless the exhibition is called a retrospective the work should always be as new as possible. That is not to say that if you know that the area you are showing in, no one has previously seen your work then a small selection of older work can contextualise where you are now creatively. If the gallery owner is curating your exhibition I'm sure that they would find it useful to know dates of when things were produced. What you don't want is them selecting an entire body of work that is 10 years old. 

If you are a regular exhibitor in a town, then the onus is well and truly upon you to ensure that gallery visitors aren't seeing the same thing in a different gallery up and down the High Street. It is better to show less and have new work on offer when you do. Another fact worth remembering, quite often people who visit galleries, will visit most galleries in a town as they are genuinely interested in art.

Another thing to consider is varying the scale and price range of the works you exhibit. Be mindful of the fact that there is a recession and there is a definite comfort zone of spending. That is not to say that you shouldn't ask the right money for your work. Just be aware. I would also recommend having at least one wow factor piece. This could be a large scale piece that you are particularly pleased with, just because people may not buy a very big image that's not to say that you shouldn't show one. 

N.F.S - Not For Sale are a gallery owners least favourite 3 words. I do not like to have work in the gallery that isn't for sale. A word to the wise, think of a price that you could bear to be parted from it for. Then price it accordingly. Or just select another piece in it's place.

If the gallery that you are showing in has windows, these are your first point of sales. Whatever goes in the windows will help to entice people inside so give the images you use here some very careful consideration.

Group shows are such a great way of getting your work seen that it definitely will help your artistic journey on its way. Selecting work for these should really follow the same rules. Keep it as fresh and new as possible. Have business cards available with your website and contact details on. As a gallery owner I am constantly visiting shows and picking up cards. On quiet days I trawl through artists websites looking at their work. If I think their work might fit an exhibition I'm planning I contact them.

An overall comment would be adopt a certain amount of uniformity of framing. If you only have three images in a show it would look better if all three frames are the same style/colour. Unless the frame is an integral part of the work then it's uniqueness might be crucial.

Lastly, do not invite potential buyers to exhibitions of work that they have already seen. This is a rookie mistake, but you will definitely not win any fans by making them travel to exhibitions that for the most part they have previously seen. 

I hope that this helps.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Why Keep A Sketchbook? Continued

I have spent so many hours writing my blog and delivering tutorials etc. But this old chestnut keeps popping up. There is a fear and trepidation about committing things regularly in a sketchbook. Fear of ruining said book. Does it matter if you ruin it? Does it matter if your first page is rubbish? Who is your sketchbook for?

Most artists view their sketchbooks as a highly personal almost sacred object. It is! I show people mine during tutorials and I explain that some of what I write is pure nonsense. But it's my nonsense. Free thinking/writing/drawing is when I come up with some of my best ideas. Try it, it does really work.

I also know that the backs of envelopes and random pieces of paper etc can serve the same purpose. How do you keep track of them? A sketchbook keeps it all in one place and there is something to be said for knowing when you did what.

When I was teaching I had an almost daily battle with students about the use of their sketchbooks. They would say 'But Sharon, I already have an idea that I want to do'. Before anyone thinks well what do you expect from 16 year olds, I would just like to remind you that I have taught on Art Foundation and Degrees.

The conversations followed an all too familiar path;

Have you researched your idea?
Have you developed it in your sketchbook?
What do you think you starting point should be?
What materials do you think you're going to need?

Those questions were usually met with shrugs, 'I dunnos' and 'I can see it in my head'. My evil twin teacher wanted to encourage them to go right ahead. Just make, paint or construct whatever it is. Then I could revel in their imminent failure. Don't panic I never did that. No, I made them go away and develop the idea and work out the best way to do it, in their sketchbooks.
They invariably hated me for making them go away and come up with better, viable ideas until they made the final piece.

So why keep a sketchbook? Because it's good for you. It allows to play around with ideas that you never have to show anyone. You can explore themes and media through drawing etc. Yes, it is true that sometimes your first idea is the best idea....but what harm does it do to work out the practicalities.

Some Sketchbook Do's and and Don'ts.

  1. Don't be too precious, you are allowed to make a mess and use your worst handwriting.
  2. Do keep at least one sketchbook on the go at all times.
  3. Don't confuse a sketchbook with a scrapbook. Sticking in inspirational images when appropriate is fine.
  4. Do put the occasional date on drawings it helps when you look back through to know what happened when.
  5. Don't have too many on the go at the same time. It is strangely demotivating. If you worry about filling a sketchbook start at the back and front. One side for drawing, the other for ideas.
  6. Do experiment widely with mark making and different media, push yourself, abandon your creative safety net. Allow new things to happen.
  7. Don't tear pages out. (That was my mantra for 12 years). Why? Because if you force yourself to try and save it something good might happen. If nothing else it will be a reminder of how not to do something.
  8. Do use words, they can be as inspirational as images. They can also inspire images. Poetry is often within the creative remit of artists.

It is definitely one of your art muscles that needs a regular work out. There is something very satisfying about filling an entire sketchbook. The key thing to remember is that you do not have to show anybody.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

New Exhibition, New Requests.

Debbie Lee

If you knew how busy I have been you will understand the lack of blog. I have had some really good feedback about the blogs I've been writing of late. I may have raised the bar, I just hope that I can keep up the good work.

The new Debbie Lee exhibition is up and is already getting some really nice comments. It could not be more different to Brians' exhibition. It will never cease to amaze me, the breadth of work that I get to curate at the gallery. If you would like to see a few selected pictures from this exhibition then just have a look at the website.

I just want to give people another opportunity to get people to like the gallery Facebook page. I intend to add lots of interactive media to it. Video tutorials, links to art films, links to art websites and also several opportunities to get involved in art projects in the South West. Just follow the link and just click on 'like'. Don't worry it won't replace my blog it will be updated with new info daily.


If there any of you out there who are reviewers on Tripadvisor I would really appreciate some new reviews. I am currently ranked 7th out of 12 attractions in Swanage and all it takes is a few more positive reviews to improve my rankings.


Monday, 10 June 2013

You know how I love to be busy, well that's what you are when you take a show down and put one up in 24 hours.
I have to say that it is very rewarding knowing that you have been so productive. But the truth be told I am absolutely shattered.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

How Do You Look?

An away day and the thunder it boomed and the rain it fell. Rubbish, and now I am back the sun is shining. Woe is me!

I have been sharing the insider knowledge recently and it would seem that many of you found it useful. Today, I want to tackle looking and seeing.

When you see a beautiful landscape, sunset or flower..

Do you....

  • Take a photograph?
  • Think about what it is you like about what you are looking at?
  • Have words fill your head to describe what you are seeing?
  • Think I want to capture this moment in paint?
  • React emotionally and revel in the moment and allow yourself just to be moved by the beauty?
That'll do for now. 

If you take a photograph, what do you intend to do with it? Will you leave it on your memory card/phone and look at it at a later date and the memories of that exact moment will come flooding back?
What do you do with the thoughts about what you have seen. Keep them in your head?
What do you do with the words? Do you write them down?
Do you get out your paints and capture the image there and then?
Or do you add the experience to your mental diary and possibly never think about it again?

Wow, that's a lot of questions I know. But I am intrigued about peoples processes. What can a painting convey that a photograph doesn't do better? Is transcribing an image from a photograph a technical exercise that shows competence and mastery of a medium? What can your audience bring to the work?

I find that I am more likely to engage in reflection way after the act of actually seeing something. I'm going to call this retrospective reflection. By doing this it allows me to have a more emotional response. The bits that I remember and actually draw, must be the most important aspects of what I have absorbed. This means that often the images I produce are very abstracted. It then feels like I have produced an honest version of whatever it was I had seen. Needless to say that it might be quite a stretch for people to 'get' what I am referring to visually.

I am trying to teach people (via tutorials) about the importance of looking, seeing, recording and reacting. What is it you are trying to say? This is an age old question for all artists but not necessarily that easy to answer. Definitely worth posing it to yourself when producing work. Don't worry if the answer is I want to make something pretty, it's as good a reason as any.

To be continued......

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

How To Approach A Gallery For An Exhibition....Revisited

Oh how I moan about the weather when it is bad, I can't start moaning now that it is good, can I? Well, I won't suffice to say that of it is too sunny the people, they go to the beach. I do not blame them.

I have been sharing some insider info about various things so now here's a bit more. I have to point out at this point that I do not necessarily practice what I preach. I am wearing my gallery owners hat as opposed to my artists hat today.

Ok, first things first, do not abuse the fact that gallery owners are a captive audience as they cannot walk away when they have had enough. It will not help your cause. Begging and pleading will also not work.

  • Do your homework, if you are an abstract artist who paints on 10ft canvases thenI  the local gallery that specialises in local landscapes is probably the wrong venue for you. It is always nice to know that someone has taken the time to see the kind of work that you show and feel that their work would be a welcome addition.
  • A website is fairly crucial, I will always look at someones website but also I will never accept a booking without seeing the work in the flesh. I like to see the commitment of an artist.
  • If you are a technophobe there are lots of ways to ease yourself in gently and it is a really good investment. Many artists run a blog as a website and update it daily with new works or works in progress. The good thing about this is that you can also share this with virtually all social media websites.
  • Presentation of work in general, bits of paper in a carrier bag that have wonderful images on still won't swing the decision in your favour. Be critical of your own work select 10 pieces that best represent you and then think about how to present them to an audience. A word to the wise I love to see a sketchbook. I like knowing how the art came into existence. Not everyone will but I do.
  • If asked whether you think your work is successful (at this point a typical knee jerk response is to go on the defensive). DON'T! Be honest but stand your ground, err on the side of humility. Don't oversell it but communicate that you are proud of your achievements.
  • Enter 'Open' Exhibitions to boost your exhibiting CV. The more you show, the hotter a property you become.
  • Plan to spend no longer than 10 minutes showing work etc. Don't try and get a free tutorial out of it. Ask for advice about other galleries to try and make sure you thank everybody for their time.
  • Get involved with local art events in your area, more opportunities arise from networking with other artists than you would imagine.

I hope that helps in some small way.

Mark Harris' Exhibition is entering its last few days if you haven't seen it then please do come along. I have checked the weather forecast for tomorrow and it promises to be quite nice. A stroll, a hot cuppa and a bit of art appreciation, how can that be a bad way to spend your Saturday? Oooh especially if followed up by fish and chips. Yum!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Did I Mention That Brian Rice Has Exhibited at The Tate!

One of my iPad Drawings

Phew another sale! A bit slow on the sales front, more fool the non buyers. It is not often that you get the opportunity to buy the work of an internationally recognised artist on the High Street in Swanage. With prices that start at £75, what's not to like about that?

I cannot believe that so many days have passed since my last missive. I had a few well earned days off at the weekend. Shirley looked after the gallery for me.

I have had a morning of much productivity. I am not sitting around dwelling and belly button gazing metaphorically speaking. There are many ways that I do that on a daily basis, as my regular readers well know that writing my blog is among my top procrastination activities.
NOT TODAY, I have updated the studio website, added all the Paypal buttons, got rid of some of the courses as I have never had anyone interested in them. I am going to generate some invoice/receipts for my workshops. Everything has had a bit of a spruce up. This is all in preparation of a launch of some description of the studio as its own entity.
Watch this space for special offers, promotions and discounts.

There is always something that can be done to generate more interest and business the shame of it is, they generally involve sitting in front of a computer. The less I do of that the better it is for my sanity.

Yesterday, I took part in the drawing event at Lytchett Minster School. I went and drew a dance troupe rehearsing. Wow, now that is what I call challenging. Capturing movement is hard. I hope that you can come to the exhibition in July of the works produced during the PAW Festival. Mine were produced on an iPad. Definitely a great way to capture the gestural nature of movement. Limited edition prints of my drawings will be available during the exhibition.