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.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Why Is Art So Scary? Galleries Are For You, Yes You!

I know that once again I have manage to be absent from my own blog. In my defence I have been working really hard making changes to ensure that the gallery can survive. I didn't think that I could employ many other changes but apparently I can.

I need to widen the appeal of the gallery. I have heard people say they find it scary to walk through the door. I need to somehow fight that fear. I have started to leave the door open even though it makes me freezing cold. Removing the barrier between, my heating bill will soar but will my profits?
I am not convinced. Most of the people who read this blog probably will walk quite happily walk into a gallery.
If you do not then why not? I really need to know.

Is it an assumption that the gallery owner will somehow give you the hard sell?

Is it because you don't feel qualified?

Do think you will be obliged to buy if you walk through the door?

I fully understand that people may well not like what is on display. That's just life. But when you watch people totally positively interacting with the window displays then fail to cross the threshold. You do have to wonder why.

Have they had their art fix at the window?

Was there enough to inform but not to continue to look inside?

Would it be more effective to black the windows out so that you have no choice but to walk in of the street? I am having blinds fitted.

I have spoken about the qualifications necessary to appreciate art fully. The other important fact to remember is that most galleries are FREE!


That is all that is required and in all honesty I maintain that it is as valid to dislike a piece of art as it is to like it. The most important thing is to experience it.

I actually think that knowing a lot about art can actually build a barrier to simply enjoying art. It messes with your gut reactions. You pose intellectual questions about the work and the artist. When really the most honest response is 'I like that'. You can dissect why at your leisure.

'Is it the post modern interpretation of slavery through image and text? Leaving the viewer to decide whether they are included in the narrative or not.'

I just made that up, but I have read so much stuff like this and it is no wonder people think galleries are just for Guardian readers. They are not, they are for anyone who can see, and in some instances, touch and hear.

I am fairly certain that no artist caught up in the act of creation is musing silently that he/she hopes that her audience will be educated to degree level, and knows how important the Futurists influence was to their piece.

Generally, the only hope is that you make it and that some one will like it. Whoever they are, from where ever they are from.

So galleries are for you and everyone that you know. Show them your support and walk in and take a look around. You do not have to buy, you don't even have to converse if you don't want to.

I'll leave you with this thought behind everything we own there was/is an artist. Without art there would be no design. Without design there would be practically nothing. Think about it.
Art is more important than you realise.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Word Works Opening Event Saturday 29th March from 3.00 - 5.00

When did Wednesday become the new Monday! I had to hit the ground running today otherwise I would have been swallowed whole by the monster that is my 'To Do' List. It was all made considerably less straightforward as I had no internet first thing.

I hate how horribly reliant I am on it, for sorting my entire life out. I can have several 'virtual' breakdowns a day when it fails to behave itself.

I have had lots of last minute entries to the Words Works Open and I am pleased to announce that the entries so far have been of a very high standard. I always worry about whether or not enough people will enter but it seems that I should just chill out and allow things to happen at their own pace. As this involves waiting for artists to get their acts together a self induced coma might be more appropriate.

The gallery is making small waves in big places and it is nice to know that people much further South and North have it popping up on their Artdar! Can I use that newly made up word? too late I already have.

I had an unexpected day out of the gallery yesterday. It was one of the first times in the history of the gallery that my outside the gallery life impacted on my inside the gallery life.
I usually suffer from the exact opposite. The weekly shopping trip is hijacked to buy provisions for Private Views. Conversations interrupted by my phone pinging the arrival of a work email, that of course I can't ignore.
My days off spent visiting artists at home, I think you get the picture.

In case you were in any doubt, of course my absence caused such concern that I had several messages blinking at me on my answer machine. Voicemails on my work mobile and several emails. So I am back at work today and my phone hasn't rung and I have not received one email.

There is a law and I think it is known in certain circles as 'The Law of Sod'. It is nice however to be missed.

Tomorrow I will mostly be making books for the show next week. Wow, I've left that late. Must be an artist or something.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Can You Smell The Fear?

Cuttlefish - Sharon James

After sitting here for three minutes staring into space and thinking what can I talk about in todays blog.

I have chosen FEAR. Why fear? Because it is such a barrier to production especially in the creative industries.

What is it that we fear when we procrastinate about getting 'started'? The fear of mistakes? Our expectations being to high?

The blank canvas, the first page in a sketchbook or the first line of a novel. All scary places to be but why?
I have often talked to my students about this and they say they don't want to make a mistake, and more importantly that someone will see it and pull them up about it.

How many poets write hundreds of poems that nobody ever reads? How many painters paint pictures that are destined never to be seen?

What if I am not good enough? What if the thing I do is not good enough? Does it matter? Isn't it true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? No matter how good you are at anything there will always be someone somewhere that won't like it. Fact, so let's get rid of that as an excuse. It's just a truth that not everyone will like what you do. For every hater there's someone who will love it.

If that person is you, then therein lies the problem. I spend hours just telling people that the fact that they do anything at all is an act of extreme bravery. Especially when they put themselves and their work in the public domain. It has been said many times before that we are our own worst critics and why it has been said is because it true.

How do you re engage with the joy that you felt when you were making marks on paper as a child with no one telling you that it was wrong or bad? (In my case it was often both as it was drawn on wallpaper and inside cupboards in felt tip).
I really have to work hard to get people to fall
in love again with the joy of mark making. Why? Because they want it to be perfect.

Salvador Dali famously said 'Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it.' He was right, and I think this is definitely something that stops people starting. That is not say that to want to improve should be neglected. More importantly it's about having realistic expectations about what 'improvement' actually means.

I have taught someone who has been learning to play the piano for years, I asked are you any good at it? They said 'No, not really but I really enjoy it'. I think that is the attitude that needs to be adopted.

We may never reach the heady heights of The Tate or a solo show in Cork Street. I think as long as we enjoy what we are doing and don't let fear of failure or producing something less than perfect stand in the way of enjoying making art. We will all be more fulfilled as creative people.

It is hard to be creative and lay your soul bare. I think one of the best experiences I had was being at a Private View of a show I was in but no one knew who I was. I was able to stand there and listen to what people thought of my work. I was fortunate as they said nice things, but what they saw in my work was fairly far removed from my creative intent. Which just proves that no matter what we think we are saying via our art there is so much room for multiple other interpretations.

I am very relieved that we are all different aren't you?

Some further reading should you be interested.



Thursday, 13 March 2014

What Do You Call A Group Of Artists?

There are many new reasons to get involved in the art scene locally in Dorset. There are plenty of new initiatives and there are studios popping up and there are new artists forums.
Despite my worry about apathy and artists being reluctant to engage I have spoken to an artist from a different area that has a thriving artist community. They meet regularly and also collaborate to put on exhibitions together.

It can happen! What are they doing right? I want to know their secret as I would love to be part of an artist community.
There are so many art groups locally that for such a small place it is ridiculous. The Life Drawing Group, The Watercolour Group, The Art Club, The Art Society, Purbeck Arts Club, The Purbeck Collective, Purbeck Arts Weeks, Dorset Arts Weeks to name but a few.

I apologise now if I missed any groups out, in fact I am fairly certain that I have. Why is it quite so disjointed? Is it amateurs vs professionals? No! I know that it isn't. Traditional vs Contemporary? Nope not that either. Old vs young? Not sure that means much either. Whatever it is, it seems that rather than embracing our differences they are used to form numerous splinter groups.

I dream of a world when the only concern of the enthusiastic novice, the gifted amateur,  or the established professional were united in the single cause of putting art under the noses of anyone willing to look at it. Imagine what could be learned if artists from different backgrounds spread their combined wealth of experience with each other. If there was a meaningful way for young people to get more involved with the local art scene.
That was a bit tongue in cheek but the truth is that we are in danger of having a very watered down experience of the local art scene unnecessarily so.

One of the biggest truths that I learnt as a teacher was that I learned as much from students as they learned from me. Did they teach me about art? Yes, in a way they did. Their uncluttered and more naive approach allowed me to appreciate art in a completely different and more honest way, that was not reliant on my knowledge of art history.

I have some questions. How do you become a better artist?  What are the benefits of being part of an art group? Do you want to do more than just be a member of a group?

I just want to get to the bottom of why there are quite so many groups who all ultimately have the same aim? I would like to see more cross pollination and less exclusivity.

But ultimately what do I know? I just ask a lot of questions that mostly no one answers. Have no fear I will continue to ask them.

On another note, entries are coming in thick and fast for the Words Work Exhibition it is still not too late to get involved. Just get in touch.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Closed For Business!

I am not closing down but I have spent my day off researching trends in spending of all 'classes'. It would seem that my potential clients are being the hardest hit. The whole concept of 'disposable income' has taken a battering. People are being increasingly cautious about exactly what they do with their money.

In several reports I have read that the people who are reliant on the creative industries are in dire straights. With freelance work virtually drying up, contracts not being renewed etc. It has always been true that most artists/writers etc have had to have some source of alternative income to help fund their artistic endeavours. I read just last week that famous writers are not getting the financial support in terms advances on their book deals anymore. No longer can they just focus all their energies on their craft.

To what end?

How do creative people survive in this current climate?

I am constantly thinking about how I can earn extra cash, I say 'extra' as if that means I need to supplement my already healthy income. There are some things that I cannot avoid like the monthly bills and the outlay involved in putting on exhibitions. People are always saying I do not charge enough but the truth is that if the artists can't afford to pay it then what?

I have also been told that I under value what I offer as workshops. Do you think you are more likely to pay £75 than £50 because there is more of an expectation of quality at £75 than at £50? I really would appreciate your feedback. I think offering good value for money is key. For every satisfied customer they will tell others and then hopefully more people will come.

One of life's difficult truths is that I could probably make more money if I closed the gallery and leased the premises out. The question is 'Is money my driving force?'. The answer is no.
I also know that in an average month I might see under 10 local artists in the gallery.

If they aren't using the gallery (I obviously mean to look not to buy) I am not sure how I can encourage others. How do you interest the disinterested?
I appreciate that there will be things that interest you more than others and I do expect people to be discerning. But and there is a big but. Being interested in what is going on around you is surely as important as seeing as retrospective of work by some long since dead artist?

Independent galleries are closing down all over the country I know because I have seen them. I have also spoken to one time gallery owners and the general feedback has been that it wasn't just that sales were not being made. Watching a door that never opens + poor sales + increasing overheads = one closed down gallery.

To maintain a professional exhibiting space is hard. It is very tempting to water down the space by providing more commercial items for sale. I understand why this has happened in other galleries but I am going to have to pull out all the stops to prevent it becoming a necessity for my gallery.

I have also been researching what is happening globally and it would seem that the Australians and the Americans are reporting their sadness as many galleries are closing down in both places. Us Brits seem less concerned that galleries are disappearing from our towns and cities. I should mention that there is a list of artists who have protested about the cutting of the national Arts budget. But do they support small independent galleries? I think you all know the answer to that.

Does an independent gallery have a place in modern society? Should galleries all apply for charitable status?

Feel free to chip in with your views.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Got An Exhibition? What To Do Next

The unwritten rules about what to do next are like a closely guarded secret. Those who know it do not necessarily share it with others.


It is NEVER to early to start telling people about your exhibition. Yes you could argue that they could forget to soon in advance but with todays 'free' social media and smart phones that is nigh on impossible. Create an event and invite all of your friends, family etc. But more importantly your contacts from the industry. They will be grateful for the advance notice, if they are anything like me I am invited to lots of PVs and openings and unless I am creative with my diary can attend only a few. The sooner I/they know the more likely it is that they will try to attend.

In yesterdays blog I said do your homework the same is true about promotion. If you know 10 galleries that are selling work that is similar to yours. For instance abstract paintings then make sure they get an invite.
N.B If that gallery is in Glasgow there is a good chance that they won't make it. But if you have your website and contact details on they may just take a look at your website. Which could lead to something?

When thinking about having a show you MUST budget for advertising. In my experience people do not do this. They think the outlay for the show itself is all they should spend.
There are so many ways to advertise for free on the internet that you should be doing that anyway. Plan to spend at least 10 minutes a day posting in various social networking sites.
Targeted adverts, look at the local art publications for us in the South West it is Evolver. Yes it is pricey but if you have a show planned for the end of the year and you squirrel away £10 a month you will easily be able to afford it. Alternatively, approach the gallery suggest a bigger advert that promotes your show and the gallery and split the costs. I have done this on several occasions, but unless you pay your share I won't do it on your behalf.

Postcards are a great and fairly cheap way of getting your art work under peoples noses. Do your homework but services I have used in the past include Vistaprint, (expensive delivery), Instantprint (£5 delivery on any size order) Overnight Prints (Average Delivery costs). Business cards are also a good idea.

If you are hiring a space then the onus is on you to promote your exhibition. Be creative, be inventive but most importantly be proactive. This is the area which most artists I deal with struggle. Use your friends to help you. Get them to help spread the word, in my experience people are only to happy to share a post or retweet.

I know you think that the work is the most important thing and in some ways it is. But the more important truth is that if people don't know that you are there it doesn't matter how good the work is. The work can be awesome but if no one walks through the gallery door it makes absolutely no difference.
Another truth is that the person that is best qualified to sell your work is you. Try and be at your show and designated times during your exhibition so that people can ask you about it.
Many shows I put on I see the artist at the PV and at collection time and that's it. Get involved, it is up to you. You could arrange to have Q & A or Meet The Artist events.
I would happily support this as long as the artist set the wheels in motion.

A regular occurrence for me is that people want to pay me the minimum hire rate but expect the platinum service.
I suggest you ask yourself the following questions.
1. How good am I at self promotion?
2. How much can I afford to spend?
3. Do I need to just focus on making the work?
4. Would I prefer to just supply promotional images and let the gallery take over promotion?

Depending on what you answered then act accordingly. You know yourself better than anyone if you are an expert at self promotion keep your hard earned cash and do it yourself. If not consider paying someone else to do it for you. If you have a friend you can pay in beer and food even better. You don't know until you ask.

Feel free to share my blog with others.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Planning An Exhibition? Then Read This

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.

I am having an Open Exhibition at the end of the month and I am looking for people to contribute to it.
Get an application form from www.lartishegallery.com

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

How Big Is Too Big?

So my appeal for a 28 hour day failed miserably, subsequently I haven't been able to cram my blog into my average 24 hour day. I do not even know how people manage to do it everyday. Blog that is. When I first opened the gallery somehow I found the time and now I don't seem to.
I wish my busyness was a clear reflection of my income. May be in the next life it will be.

Let's talk about Mark Harris. He put a body of work together that was so impressive and people clearly thought the same. The feedback has all been positive.
The most common comment 'Does he always work so big?'. I can tell you now that his desire is to work bigger. He is true to his art and that means no compromise. The question is do you think that he should work smaller to take in consideration peoples homes and available space?

This is such a contentious issue and it isn't the first time I have come across it. Remember Josh Hollingshead another artist that I really rate. He paints these terrifically big images. They are not destined for someones lounge. I should also inform you that his new work would take up the majority of a wall in my gallery. His desire is to work on an immense scale.

Are these artists cutting off their nose despite their face? Should they live in the real world and start producing bite sized chunks that are easily digestible and hung over the mantlepiece? I welcome your input on this subject.

I am not sure that an artist should minimise his work in order to fit in to someones home. But.....and it is a big fat hairy one. In order to have commercial viability should it be a consideration?
I have to say with regard to Marks work I do not think that the physicality that is apparent in his work could be achieved on a smaller scale. You have to see the sweeping brushstrokes to get the feel for it.

How big is too big? The truth is that our homes are full of the ephemera of our own existence. (Notice how I made clutter sound posh). This being said unless you are lucky to live in a warehouse loft apartment or a 5 bedrooms+ house there's a good chance that you will struggle to do a large image justice.

In my own home I have one wall that has only one image on it and it takes up the whole wall. It is the most perfect wall in the entire house. Everything else has some space but not in the same league.

So I have come to an end, but feel free to give me any feedback as I think this is good subject to debate.