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.