Sell. Redo. Discard.
I’ve been hauling paintings out from cupboards and deciding which ones to sell, which to keep and which to discard.
Some of the paintings were done quite some years ago and many are truly awful, and fit only to be discarded or painted over. In those days I didn’t use the best materials and so some are impossible to recycle. But some I actually still like. I started painting seriously again back in 2012 after a long break and it’s interesting to see the different styles and subject matters. I had always thought it was a disjointed progression but now see how all those hundreds of paintings/sketches/scrawls have lead directly to what I’m doing today. Nothing is ever wasted.
These are all from around 2012/2014
There’s been a lot of sketching this year and I haven’t even been anywhere.
In days of yore, when we’d not even heard of the phrase ‘social distancing’, I would go out, ‘sans mask’ and draw stuff, all over the place. But this year, it’s mainly been local places and just plain ‘imaginative’ work. I’ve loved filling little ‘field note’ sized books as well as A5s.
There was even a day when boats were drawn and Guinness drunk. And Old Lady Teabag patiently waited.
As a long time fan of the artist John Piper, I'm on a mission to draw the places he painted. When I say 'mission', I'm dramatising of course and in these current times, there's no dashing off anywhere, let alone across country to draw a church. Happily however, several places are in my neck of the woods and Covehithe ruin is one of them. It's a massive ruined church, with a small church built inside it, on the very edge of the fast eroding Suffolk coast. It's spectacular.
If you're interested in John Piper, there's an episode of the South Bank Show on YouTube, early 80s where he draws this very place, so I was pleased to stand in his footsteps and sketch. The sky was immensely obliging that day, too and put on quite a show.
Back before the strangest year that ever there was took hold, my friend and I used to regularly meet in London for a day of art (and food) gluttony. She would travel up from the south and me down from the east and we’d meet at the Millenium Bridge, hit the galleries, visit landmarks and interesting buildings, do tours, and walk our feet off. But the very first thing we would do over coffee is exchange our ‘art challenge’. Each time we met, we’d set a challenge to be completed at home and brought along the next time. The challenges were usually connected to something we’d seen that day and in an unusual medium and they were always out of our comfort zones and that was the point. It’s easy to show up every day and do what you do (actually it’s not that easy but that’s a subject for another day) but these challenges forced thinking and research.
We’ve done many challenges over the years. We’ve made tiny books featuring ‘sounds of our life’. We’ve made envelope art after seeing an envelope exhibition. We’ve made art in the style of Hodgkins, Hockney and Piper to name a few after devouring their shows. We’ve made art from plastic, cardboard, newspaper, scraps. You name it. My friend once embedded an old mobile phone in a flip flop. It worked too.
During lockdown and since, we’ve continued the challenges online, picking themes, some topical, some frivolous and with a variety of mediums. Why? It keeps you on your toes. It makes you think around a subject. It's a change from normal practice. There’s no pressure and no judgement. No winners. No sales. Just good old fashioned creating.
Going to galleries is the best thing ever. There is an absolute thrill in standing up close and personal to a painting you've only seen in digital form. Sometimes, just sometimes, there's a niggle of disappointment and most times that has proved to be due to a disparity of colour. The trend, particularly recently, has been to ramp up colour edits to unrealistic proportions. But most times it's like - woo - let me get closer and smell that paint, savour that texture and absorb the wonder. However there are two things that make buying from a gallery tricky:
1) They're closed at the time of writing this (although socially distanced browsing may return in the near future)
2) Prices. There's no getting away from the fact that galleries are Pricey McPricey due to commissions and overheads.
Now this is fine if money is a-plenty and I DO want galleries to thrive but the alternative is to buy directly from the artist and as art fairs and open studios are also closed at the moment, that means online.
Art, like anything else can be bought online with confidence if you
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
KNOW WHO YOU'RE BUYING FROM
KNOW HOW TO MEASURE
Most people know what they like when they see it, so browse, browse and browse some more. There's nothing wrong with wanting something to match your decor and the word 'taste' should be banished to the bin. Ain't no such thing. If you see something that makes you happy and gives you all the feels you desire, that's good enough. Then, check who you're buying from. Is there plenty of information about them online? LIKE. KNOW. TRUST. This is a well-used phrase when it comes to buying and selling. Know who you're dealing with, either through word of mouth, reputation or a bit of research.
And then MEASURE. Make sure you know exactly the dimensions of the piece you have your eye on. Check and double check whether the seller has listed it in cm or inches. If there's one major pitfall to buying online, its size. Whereas the camera unfairly adds pounds to us, it often diminishes or distorts the scale of a painting. Then check COLOUR. If possible, look at the painting on different devices, not just your phone or monitor. If necessary, ask questions. Ask for close up images, extra images. Artists are happy to help and if you ever come across one who's not, take your hard earned dosh elsewhere pronto! Also, check the cost of shipping. Shipping costs for paintings can be expensive if the piece is large or if you're in another country.
I must add that the same goes for buying prints and always be aware of the difference between Giclee prints and photo prints, open ended prints and limited edition prints (a term often abused and confused) but this is a subject for another post. For now, take care and enjoy art!
To test this blog out, let's start with a photo of my constant studio companion. She accompanies me on sketching trips, she snoozes while I paint and wakes up when the biscuits appear at tea break time. She's a harsh critic but never unkind. Her name is Teabag and she is 17.