One act many ripples

Like many I find myself becoming more politically minded as I get older, and in current times it’s tough not to be.

I want to reflect that refreshed awareness in some way in my art. My lack of formal art training, and two decades focused elsewhere, have left me without the visual vocabulary to express such ideas right now. But there’s also something more deeply rooted at work here.

I remember a school art project to create a poster for the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow. I don’t recall the exact nature of the brief, but I chose to create a very graphic silkscreened image of the Olympic Rings, the central upper ring forming the front of a Russian tank’s main gun, leading back and down to a silhouette of the tank itself. I printed a variety of colour options on different coloured papers. It was strong, direct, and very satisfying.

Amongst the other posters of athletes, logos, and others I cannot recall, mine appeared very much out of place. The teachers graded it low, and tried to avoid drawing attention to it, discussing briefly with frowns and clear discomfort. Everything about the way they treated that particular work demonstrated that statements and standing out from the rest was wrong.

That opinion hit this impressionable and insecure 15-year-old at just the wrong moment. Only in this time of reigniting my visual creative work have I understood the lingering inhibiting affect this has had.

Don’t listen to them, kids. When you have something to say visually, say it, loud and clear and proud, and don’t let the naysayers knock you off course.

Featured image: By Derzsi Elekes Andor CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons

Pastels anonymised

I de-labeled all my soft pastels.

Pastels are glorious: intense colour held together with a minimum of binder. Their purity is their super-power but also their flaw.

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The re-organised pastel box – for now…

Quality soft pastels are expensive, and I find myself overly preoccupied by which brand I’m currently scraping across the paper. Brief thoughts wondering how much that sky just cost, clutter thinking and interrupt focus.

Yesterday I did two things: reorganised my studio pastel storage (a regular task, particularly when there are a few new arrivals); tore off all the labels.

Of course it’s not hard to distinguish the make of a pastel once in your fingers. Size, shape, feel, colour intensity all point to its origins. But no labels mean the primary consideration is colour – exactly how it should be.

When time matters

A shiny new motto for me going into the new year: avoid getting into a discussion about time with a prospective buyer.

I’m convinced I lost at least two sales in last month’s open studios weekend as a result of potential buyer weighing price and time a little too closely. Those two exchanges, though not the norm, were both a surprise and a revelation.

The nature of my work often generates the question of how long it took, detailed tonal charcoal drawings in particular. That conversation inevitably leads a buyer to form a value judgement against the price of the work.

In most cases, they have no understanding of the costs involved: VAT and gallery commission (in some cases), framing, storage, additional time in prepping, photographing, online promotion, recording, cataloguing… this list goes on. Once you start talking about such details, they just glaze over. All they can deal with is price vs time.

Total time spent to create a work goes far beyond the physical activity for a single piece.

So how can you avoid these purchase-inhibiting exchanges?

My plan is to remain as vague as possible. After all, any piece that is part of a collection or series may take far more (or less) time than its siblings, for all manner of reasons. If pinned down, I might use phrases such as “works like this can take anywhere from 10-30 hours”. Though I am coming to the conclusion that such exchanges are unlikely to end in a sale if the buyer is focused on a time:money judgement.

Really, the amount of time a work takes to create should be wholly irrelevant.

The new site

If you have been following along for the past few years you may know that my various blogs have come and gone. But such things have been in limbo in recent times. With increasing focus on creating art once again, and relocating to a new studio space in Margate, I felt now was an ideal time to return to talking about what I am up to.

Neil drawing in the studio
Neil drawing in the studio

You can expect work in progress, creative plans and ideas, news, thoughts, a studio journal, and probably a fair bit of creative introspection.

My professional focus since the early 2000s has been anything but artistically focused. That is changing. Over the coming years I plan to rediscover that side of my work, brush the cobwebs from old skills, discover new ones, and gradually shift to art being the primary focus of my professional work. Expect a fair bit of blogging all about those challenges.

Who knows? Maybe my journey, however it unfolds, will help and encourage.