Thursday, June 10, 2010

Well finally I sit down to blog again.....
I'm going to start talking about the different types of "artists"....
Firstly - The Sunday Afternooner... (not sure if there's such a word but it will do!)

This individual is usally old, retired and belongs to a local art club or has had a few "lessons". They cheerfully pretend they know what they're doing and proudly present new works to friends and family - usually with afternoon tea and homemade scones. The works are at best a dismal shambles of fumbled flowers usually and are always watercolours! Why? Somehow the believe that watercolours are easy to paint with! Wrong!
Watercolours are probably one of the hardest mediums to use correctly - that is why your paintings (if you are one of these "artists") are a mess.

Occasionally you come across a rare one... I did once. Once in 18 yrs in the business I've finally met an old gent in his 70's who had the most wonderful collection of artworks (watercolours) that were of a highly professional standard. Stunning! He had sadly never exhibited. I passed on a name of a dealer and I sincerely hope he tries to sell some before he falls over never to get up! The shock of selling might do that to him anyway - so on second thoughts......

Oh and by the way - for those that teach these people... don't teach them all the trash that you do - their pictures all look the same and look badly executed which only reflects upon you as a teacher! It amazes me how you charge so much for so little good.

[For those that are serious about learning how to paint then try first learning how light works. Yes - you are not painting objects you are painting light! There are some great books, sadly not available to the open public as far as I'm aware, that can be ordered thru architects. Yes I said architects. Great books on draftsmanship and perspectives. They teach how light works properly not as you are taught at school! I have never yet found a school that teaches that correctly either. I had one art teacher look at my notes briefly and ask for a copy of my notes - I declined. I may do a posting on that someday. Why is he teaching when he doesn't know? Anyway....]

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wet weather

Well finally got back to blog but not for long :(
Bad weather a heap of other things means beans and no time...
300mm of water in just over 24 hrs keeps the floods looking great.
But I'm still around - been busy on a new series of work.

Meanwhile I will get around soon to posting more pics.

Friday, April 9, 2010

site under construction

Well its been a crazy few weeks and nothing much has happened.
Had a few husbands and wives disagree over a painting or two. One wants it and the other doesn't! I hate that! They stand there arguing over your work, go away empty handed and you have no food on your plate..... what's happening to the world? Just buy it and tell her you love her!!!

Anyway enough of this.

My mate had a show recently of his cartoon style pop art work. Great fun and light hearted show. Great effort mate keep it up! (If you're reading this...). But, here's something I noticed - the following two days he was quiet and not his normal self at all. Yes he had the post show blues.... Most of us get them (I think).

Don't give up! The thing is I've had shows where I've sold nothing - that was depressing and I've had shows that sold out... apart from 1 painting out of 32 so I destroyed it for failing me. That's another story.
You hear all sorts of stories and art is full of rubbish to be honest. Some of you may know a guy who paints in New Zealand and is/was practically revered for his abstract modern images (and no it's not dear RH!). He's highly sold as one of the top selling artists - yet I heard he struggles to sell 10% of his work. Hmmm, puts a slightly different picture to it all. I've also heard that another revered artist is meant to have his paintings sold at $600k - I also heard that it was stitched up in an auction house for publicity between 2 friends in on it and that he struggles to sell his works for $15k to $30k. I've also heard that one of NZ's best selling female artists went to U.K. with her work and the gallery wouldn't hang it because they said the work was trash.

So the point I'm making is - there's a lot of talk, a lot of rubbish. Fame is fake, whether it be in your local township or in your country or worldwide.

So paint because you want to.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dealers and Prints

Here we go on another can of worms!

We have artist 'x' who paints say 2 or 3 paintings a month. So a reasonably high turn over of work. He'll probably be a middle ground artist selling his works in the $1000 to $7,500 bracket. Over the course of a year he may sell 50 - 70% of those in say 2 galleries. He comes home with $1800 on average from a $3000 painting. Then the tax man and costs take his income down to probably around $750 from that painting. Now don't foget he's publicly doing well - he's selling 30 pics per year! Yet he comes home with an income of $22,500. Yet publicly he's doing well and being pumped into the odd paper here as local hero, etc etc etc. Yet he can't feed his kids.

So he thinks to himself 'what can I do that can generate more income with little more work?' - cos he's working like mad to create 3 new works each month at a high quality. So he has this brain wave of producing some prints of his work.

The dealer then isnt happy because the wealthy collectors who sit back talking to them complain that the 'value' of the original work is going to drop and they devalue the work. Don't foget the artist is still at home stressed out to the hilt trying to create new ideas whilst not being able to feed his family.

So the dealer tells the artist - 'No we don't want you to make prints - if you do you're not going to be in our gallery any more, because it devalues your work.' So the artist has a dilema.

How does a print devalue an original? I have never yet seen this happen in reality. I've heard a lot of dealers say it does - but never seen an artists work go cheaper or disappear because of a print. In fact all the artists who have produced them in large quantities I've seen go from strength to strength.
So can anyone tell me where the 'reality' of devaluation comes from?

So an artist could produce a print and sell for say $50 profit with a street value of about $250 with a simple frame. That with a 1000 prints sold (10 images with a run of 100 of each) means his income is now at a respectable $50k - 75k. Why is this a problem for most dealers? Can any dealers or collectors prove to me, and any other confused artists, how and why it devalues?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Grumpy Artists

Hey just want to say at this point - don't think I'm a grumpy artist just stirring pots of luchious paint. I have friends who are art dealers in various places around the globe and I have good relationships with dealers in general (just a few are on my wrong side but I am not particularly talking about them anyway!).

What about the poverty stricken artist fantasy? Is the post on 'Dealers and Prints' just a bigger part of the fantasy idea? What do I mean?

Well I have a theory that most people like a little mystery about the artist. They like the idea of some cold, poor manic artist beavering away in a large spacious studio producing master pieces amongst the greatest of mahem and poverty - and there by believeing that their single purchase of a painting has somehow redeemed the artist from the edge of starvation. Or have I got that wrong?

From what I see people LOVE the concept of an artist and they too would love to paint. They make all the 'right' comments (and lets face it guys and girls most of what they save is tiresome) but frankly they want us artists kept in poverty. Why do I say this? Well apart from comments try going to a bank and getting a mortgage with a totally honest display of accounts etc.... (I am in now way here saying go dishonestly!) but try it and you'll know exactly what I mean. The banks generally have a list of 'low risk, medium risk and high risk' jobs. Artists aren't even on the list in the U.K. when my wife and I went for a mortgage. So you don't get one. It's like ballet - some love to watch it and will pay a small fortune to watch it - yet do they think of the bleeding feet or the semi crippled dancers as they are older?

I had an interesting conversation with two bankers who were giving me grief because I had no money in the bank to pay my bills - I hasten to add I was over due payment (over a month overdue) of $25,000 from a dealer. I was at the time earning more money than the two bankers arguing with me that I couldn't have an overdraft until the cheque came in. What ended up was they forced me (literally) to have a loan which they then transferred onto my mortgage of $6000. They made off this little transaction a hefty amount in interest over 25 yrs as the mortgage was locked down for a few yrs and the fees to put money back in to pay off were not worth looking at. A few months later I had about $75,000 in the account and they were ringing me up asking to invest and calling me 'sir'. I politely told them where to go.

Why is it though 99.9% of people want to have artwork on their walls or want a gallery in their locality when they treat artist as they do? Is it because if we are truly 'successful' in art then it shatters their fantasy?

In all of these posts I am trying to let you 'new' artists know that your ride thru life as an artist is not easy. If you still want to be an artist at the end of reading all my posts you may make it relatively well - :)
You need to be somewhat 'pig headed' as I call it, 'determined' is another word. You also will need some tolerant friends, preferably rich enough to bail you out occasionaly. Whatever happens though.... don't stop painting!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010


Over the years I have observed many artists starting out trying to go straight into abstraction. A word of caution! Most (and I say most not all) artists will miserably fail at abstraction if they cannot draw or paint in the first instance. So I do recommend to all artists to learn some traditional basics at least before venturing out.

Art is, by definition of the word, something that is trained and is a skill that is learnt and developed. So learn it! Someone once said to me ".... to be 'top' you must T.O.P. Train , observe and practice..." I would go one step further and say, T.O.P.P. - Technique, Observe, Practice and have PASSION about what you draw or paint! If you observe good musicians or public speakers or anyone in fact that excels at what they do they have mastered those four aspects.

In this blog I'm hoping to help with some of that. I cannot pass on my passion of art - but it may rub off...
I am going to set up some basic things on Light Observation and Perspectives and a Business Mind to help those starting out.

For those interested more in the materials I use etc it's fairly simple. I use quality. See Materials below. I don't believe in short cutting. This I know goes against the culture of New Zealanders who have the  'She'll be right...' attitude or the 'string and wire make do' survival kit mentality. So many times I've walked into a gallery and seen what would have been a great piece of art or creative idea only to be hugely disappointed to find the workmanship or materials to be completely sub-standard.

For example: whatever you as an artist experiment with in your studio - is completely your business and is irrelevant to what happens outside. But, as you walk out of your studio into the public sector please don't give the public rubbish! Use acid free papers and boards! Use linen on your stretchers if you are charging $3000 or more for a painting. Don't use warehouse canvas and expect to get more than $150 for your work, (prices here are guidelnes but you get my drift). If you're using board to paint on don't use MDF/custom board - use hardboard or something stable not full of chemicals. If it is thin board make sure it doesnt warp, same for art stretchers - if they do throw them out or burn them in your log burner but don't, please don't, give them to a dealer to try and sell them. You only bring the gallery down in quality and yourself. What self respect can a tradesperson have if they work with inferior goods and are sloppy about their job? You are no different. You are offering a product to the public that has your name on it!
If you say 'But, my artwork isnt that good to charge high enough prices to cover the materials...' all I can then say is, don't paint to sell your work. Go back to T.O.P.P. anything under $3,000 is cheap in the artworld. This doesn't mean its not good quality, rather it simply means usually it's a smaller piece of work.

So price accordingly, and observe other prices in a good gallery. Don't look at your local cafe art as a guide. Go to a properly run and operated gallery. Don't think I'm blaming you artists completely - I believe having lived in England for some time and come back home to NZ that it is also as much a dealer problem as an artist problem. The dealers (if you are reading this....) need to learn to say to artists 'Thankyou for your efforts, the idea is good but your art or materials are not up to scratch for a professional gallery...' This happens in many U.K. galleries until you bring your quality upto scratch. Artists - don't see this as a bad thing! It's not - it's a good thing because it forces you to work harder and improve in your art, making you a better artist!

I don't profess to be an expert but just an artist with a lot of passion about the subject and someone who has had a measure of success.

The key to it all is enjoy it and work hard....
Watch this space....... :)

Untitled No. 002 (sold)

Friday, March 26, 2010


o.k. first off I'm going to tell you briefly about my materials and where I source them from. There are a number of real cool books that tell you about artists in America who buy bulk and go straight to wholesale to purchase etc - well that may be alright in America but most of the time you'll come across a large wall of impossibilities if you try half of that here in NZ.

I'll start with stretchers. I use canadian cedar stretchers - hand made to order. Two companies in NZ make them as far as I'm aware - Picpac in Auckland and City Art in Christchurch. Picpac have proven a bit cheaper even getting them to ship them to me (and I live in the South Island) but can't fault City Art.
Cedar stretchers are light and strong. I've never known one to warp - period.

Linen. Belgian Claessens Linen is the best. Different grades, coarse, medium, fine, portrait and some varients within those. You can buy raw or primed usually either oil primed or acrylic you get a choice.
Sad to say NZ totally rips you off on this product. Ive seen it range from $75 p/m to $200 p/m here in NZ.
Total con in my view. I can buy a roll of it or by the metre from a London arts supply shop and get it to my door in NZ for a fraction of the price. If anyone is serious about buying a reasonable order of it I'll look into getting a roll sent over and doing a joint effort on it. I worked out I could get it about $500 cheaper (for a roll of 50m) sent to my door from London than buying here in NZ. I would check latest prices and shipping etc, fees etc if you contact us about it.
If any suppliers or shop owners are reading this or more importantly importers - stop ripping us off!
All that said even if you have to pay $100 a metre here in NZ - do it. Linen is beautiful to work with. It lasts (so I've been told by sources in the know) about 100 to 150 yrs before it needs to be relined. Cotton canvas does not last this long and cannot be relined! Below examples of Claesssens Linen, different grains and different primers and one raw.

Note for you artists: If you are selling your work as investment art and you paint on cotton - don't. You're art is not an investment - the time it reaches a peak time for resale is about the time it will start self destructing! [ ok that was a slight exageration but it will not be a true investment as it has no long term life. When I was in England collectors would come in and check the back of your artwork more than the front. I learnt to paint on linen when I was about 20 yrs old and made no money on my art for about 3 years until my prices and quality caught up to the materials - I hear you wonder if it was worth it - yes it was, I ended up with a reputation for quality and I have art in collections all over the globe and made a living out of it full time for about 15 years. Why did I stop full time? That's another post for another time... maybe :) ]

Size and Primers. Schmincke. Studio Art Supplies - Parnell.

Paints. Old Holland oils - reputed to be worlds best. I'd say they are joint first with about 3 companies - all of which you can't get in NZ. Having said that Maimeri, Windsor's top brand (non others) and any other company that makes general good quality paints is fine to use. Pure pigment with oil is what you're looking for - no additives, fillers etc. Old Holland paints came to NZ only in recent years - I'd been plaguing the company to get them over here for 2 years before I got a mail from them telling me they were looking for a distributor. They now have one and we are lucky to have these beauties at our disposal. Some artists complain that they are too dense and aren't as smooth - they only say that because they don't know how to mix paint properly and like to use straight out of the tube which I don't think I've done since I was at primary school. Enough said. You can buy from Drawing Room - Christchurch, Studio Art Supplies, Parnell, Gordon Harris - Christchurch and Auckland.

A note on buying: If you have the spare money to buy bulk this is one area where you can make significant savings. When I painted full time I used to buy about $5,000.00 of paint at the same time in one shot. This kept me going for a long time so don't go opening the tubes or placing them in the sun to dry out - keep them in their boxes in a cool dry place. On $5,000.00 worth of purchase I used to ask around what discount I would be offered. I managed to get 25% off thus I only spent $3,750.00 and spent the rest on stretchers and linen. I tried going to the distributor but that failed even though I reasoned that I was buying more than most of the shops they supplied. So the books on how U.S.A. artists worked doesn't here in NZ :) but you can save some dollars.

Brushes. Simply put - quality and correct brush. Don't use finest sable to place swabs of thick lush oil paint - use Hog. Don't buy cheap brushes the hairs fall out! In fact most brushes are dreadful. Italian, some Spanish, U.S.A. and U.K. brushes are best - you get what you pay for. Don't wash them out with turps either - clean them with oil.

If you're doing fine portrait work on smooth portrait linen then sable can be used on the final layers - first layers use either Hog or good synthetic if a real non brushmark look is required. Below are two examples: Top - Windsor and Newton Hog hair brush - medium quality good all round brushes. Bottom - DaVinci Badger hair brush - quality brush and definitely not cheap - look after it and don't use this sort of brush on initial layers as the coarse 'tooth' of linen and course texture of unsanded primer will strip this brush of hairs very quickly.

K I'm shot - it's midnight I need sleep will carry on later this week.