Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Reduce the pain- know your market. 

Here’s the conundrum, artists produce an amazing amount of work every year, but only a small amount is ever purchased. Of course, some of that art is not intended for sale, but a vast amount is. What’s going wrong? Why are so many artists out of tune with what people want to buy? Obviously, we don’t want to see art produced to a ‘marketing’ formula, but all that creative energy should be getting some reward. 

We even see art being offered at a price that’s below the cost of the materials used to create it. Something is out of balance here. Imagine if the vast majority of books written were never read, but that’s what’s happening with art. I guess the immediate reaction is that all art should come from the artist’s imagination, be totally original and not be driven by market demand. However there are successful artists out there, some earning significant amounts of money from their art; and they do seem to be aware of their market and yet still produce highly original work. 

Maybe people don’t ‘appreciate’ the range of art on offer, and the hard work the artist has put in to create it? Although all artist want to be appreciated for their work, I think it’s more a case of artists not being aware of what role art plays in all our lives today. We’re not talking about art in public galleries, where its role is clearly defined, it’s the art in people’s homes or places of work where the real market is. It’s the art that people choose to live with, to see and enjoy every day, and, unlike in the fifties and sixties, they don’t all want the same (green lady) pictures. They want art they can be proud of owning, whether it’s originals or prints, and they want to ‘refresh’ their collection as and when their circumstances and locations change. Yes, we have to accept that art for most people can be as much a ‘disposable item’ as their sofa or carpet. But the good news is they will buy more art during their lifetime than previous generations did.

So, how does an artist find out what type/style of art people want? Ask them is the obvious answer. Speak to your local gallery and they’ll soon tell you what doesn’t sell. In fact, finding out what doesn’t sell is probably the most important bit of research any artist can do. But be aware that what doesn’t sell in one area/country might prove popular in another. It’s understandable that artists don’t want external pressures when creating an artwork, but if you hope to sell it you do need to be reasonably confident that someone might like to buy it. Another interesting aspect of ‘knowing your market’ is how big to make your art. Only people in big houses have the wall space for big art, there’s even a practical aspect to defining your market!

So, like it or not, if you want to earn money from your art, you have the same pressures as the car designer, fashion house or wallpaper producer. If the public don’t see a value in your ‘product’ they won’t buy it.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Is it right to paint over a giclée print?

In America they call them ‘enhanced prints’, but there is a growing interest in the UK for embellishing giclée prints of art or photography. This seems to have started with artists wanting to put back the metallic colours that the current Giglee Print machines can’t reproduce, and it has gone on from there. Before you try it you need to be aware of two things; 1) giclée inks are water-based and therefore will ‘run’ if they get wet, 2) the surface of giclée papers and canvas have a coating to take the inks and this can ‘lift’ if it gets wet. This coating can also be affected by other applications and treatments.


The answer is to seal the surface of the print with a protective layer before you start applying other materials. The type of protective layer depends on the what you intend to overpaint with. Whilst the protective layer can seal the water-based inks, it needs to be receptive to the overpaint materials. You also have to consider the effect you are looking for, different protective layers can be totally transparent, tinted, diffused, or textured. The best bet is to get a piece of printed material to experiment on to find the desired effect. A good reference source is a book called ‘Digital Art Studio’ ISBN 0-8230-1342-1, although its quite old now (2002), it does cover most things you might want to do to a giclée print.


Monday, 17 October 2016

Why some websites don’t look good on smartphones.

To understand the problem we have to go back in time. In the days when you could only view websites on a desktop computer, the ‘window’ size was fairly predictable, so was the resolution - 72dpi. The advent of smartphones and tablets caused some issues, but these were generally solved by giving websites three standard formats; desktop, tablet and mobile. That was all fine until the screen sizes within each format began to grow, so much that there is no longer any ‘standard screen sizes’. Also, people began using their mobile devices more than their desktops. So, although you can still see websites, the size of the content or buttons are too small to be effective. You can of course ‘zoom in’ but that looses you the overall context of the page - you can press the ‘buy’ button, but no longer see the image of what you had just bought!
The answer is to make your website re-configure itself to suit the viewing platform. It’s called making it ‘Responsive’. The idea is that the content can be re-sized, re-configured and edited to suit the individual platform/screen. For example, you might be happy to read a screen full of text on a desktop, but that same text on a smartphone will seem to scroll down forever. Its the same with pictures, an image scaled down proportionately to show on a smartphone might become ‘unreadable’  on the 
screen, its the same with text. So, with ‘responsive’ websites some content is allowed to re-scale and some is ‘fixed’ at different screen sizes. It all gets a bit complicated during the design of a website, but if you want every visitor to have a good experience, the work is essential. Because of the massive increase in the number of people using their smartphones for searching online, some web designers have started to design for the smartphone first and then scale/reconfigure the content up for the other format/screen sizes. Unfortunately, this might result in websites being more functional than entertaining in future, but it does seem to be the way things are going.

So, if you want your website to be valid and give your visitors a rewarding experience, make sure its ‘responsive’. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Why is fine art paper so expensive?

When you compare the price of an A4 sheet of fine art paper with a sheet of regular copy paper, the fine art paper is significantly more expensive. Why should this be? Surely they’re both just paper?
The answer lies in the weight, materials and longevity. Fine art papers are much heavier (thicker) than ordinary paper, but it’s the longevity that really counts. Fine art papers are designed to last, to not discolour or loose their stability over time. They’re produced to stringent ‘archival’ standards. They’re also made from cotton and not cellulose pulp, which needs acids to break it down during processing. The cost of the basic material is vastly different and so is the manufacturing process.
Copy paper, or any everyday paper, is made at high-speed in massive volumes. It’s fibre structure has to be capable of being run through very fast printing and processing machines under high tension. Fine art papers need very different qualities and are produced to a much higher standard that requires a consistent surface texture, accurate colour and overall stability. For painting, they must be able to take a wide range of applications, from watercolour paints through to oils and spirit-based inks. They mustn’t distort or warp under the applications and need to be durable enough to take many layers of application and workings. 
For fine art printing the paper requires a special ‘inkjet’ coating to take the giclée printing ink. Again, the surface needs to be accurate in its colour and consistency.

Fine art paper can be ‘on display’ for many years, so the ‘archival’ quality is essential to keep it pristine. The best papers are made in Germany or the USA, but there are some paper mills in the UK producing adequate papers. There are also many variations in the types of fine art paper available. Papers with different textures, colours and composition. Many people will only work with one type of paper, much in the way they’ll only use one brand of brushes or paint. Fortunately, there’s a wide range of papers available to allow for individual tastes and styles.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Where’s the best place to sell art?

The easy answer is where there’s a market for it, but that doesn’t really help. Finding that ‘market’ has always been the challenge for artists. Even Van Gough found it hard to sell his work to his brother, who was an art dealer! Finding the right market for your work often means looking outside the area you live in. Whilst, your ‘local’ Gallery might claim to ‘support local artists’, its sales you need, not just ‘support’. Interestingly, you and your art often hold more appeal if you’re not ‘local’. That’s because it makes your ‘story’ more intriguing/interesting to potential buyers. And people like a good story to go with their art, something to tell their friends when they show off their new art purchase.

Looking outside your local market can be quite a challenge, but it can also prove to be very worthwhile. Here’s some extreme examples. I once worked a consultant to the creative sector in Wales. In doing so, I was able to help quite a few artists find new markets for their work. A very good figurative artist was having problems finding any market for his work in the UK. So he was encouraged to try Germany and then had great success. Another artist, who produced large abstracts, found it impossible to get more than £600.00 for his originals locally, but an introduction (though a Government scheme) to a Gallery in New York now sees his work selling at $40k plus! Closer to home, there are artists in Scotland selling well in London, just as artists from Berkshire selling their work in Ireland. One artist that we’ve been printing for over the last ten years, finds the biggest market for her Suffolk scenes is outside Suffolk. Makes sense really. 

It also appears that the best prices can be achieved outside your local market - ‘local’ art doesn’t seem to hold the same value proposition. One of the framers in our own town sells ‘local watercolour originals’ at not much more than the cost of the materials and frame!  Crazy!


So, to answer the opening question of where’s the best place to sell art, you have to step out the box and introduce your work, and yourself, to new markets. Find new places and new buying publics. Van Gough would be amazed if he knew the best price for his work was actually achieved in New York!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Limited Editions of a Limited Edition?

An interesting puzzle came in a recent phone call. Etchers normally produce a short run of prints from their work and often one of them comes out much better than the rest. These prints are all produced by hand, you roller the ink onto your etching plate and then lay sheet of paper over it and apply the pressure. Each print is from a ‘Limited Edition’. So, what happens if you take the best one and have it giclée printed as another type of ‘Limited Edition’? This challenges the whole concept of ‘Limited Editions’. There’s no law governing ‘Limited Editions’, other that the contract you enter into with a buyer when you say you are selling him say ‘No 5’ of a ‘Limited Edition’ of 50. The buyer would have good reason to sue you if he found you’d sold another ‘No 5’ or if the Edition was expanded to 500. But what if there were two number ‘5’s, one was an original etching print, the other was the fifth giclée print copy from that original print. It would be good to know what the lawyers thought of this?

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

High-resolution scanning is essential in creating the best prints.

The way an artwork is ‘captured’ for printing directly affects how good and faithful your fine art reproductions will look. If you don’t get it right, your prints can appear ‘soft’, lack detail and not show the full range of tones you used in creating the work. To the public they will just look ‘flat’ when compared to the original. This lack of impact could well loose you a sale.

To achieve a quality scan, one with all the definition, colour and tone detail, we scan at a much higher resolution than we're able to print. The reason is that a normal 8bit scan can only capture 256 shades of grey, which are the basis of all other colour tones. When you paint, you have every colour and tone at your disposal. By scanning and mastering at the higher resolution of 48bit we capture thousands of shades, in fact it’s a continuous range from black to white - with no ‘steps’. This is vital in reproducing the subtle differences you create when painting a picture. So, if you want the best possible reproductions of your work, make sure it’s scanned and mastered to the highest resolution before printing.