Art and Life in a Bleak World

The Arts – not just painted art, but the whole range – music, dance, drama, poetry as well as painting, sculpture, installation, are visible fruits of creativity. Engagement in
collective community groups to stimulate their production or to discuss them
brings about collective involvement, and of course the shared experience
of being an audience to good production is itself uplifting as we are social animals.

If it is the case that the purpose of life should be the pursuit of pleasure and happiness in a world where peace and democracy are supreme, then it is important for this to begin
in a community setting: ‘The creative community’.

And, as we live in the Global Age - that community will be multi-dimensional, to include virtual friends in faraway timezones as well as like-minded people in the village.

I detest the media, and actively avoid what they call ‘The News’ - those stories have been carefully selected by someone whose main aim is to attract a bigger audience and capture more viewers, and understandably, bad news is most effective for that. We can choose what we put our minds to, and while it may be extreme to ignore The News, at least we should all strive to maintain a balance - look at stuff that will be uplifting, get out into the sunshine, enjoy the natural world, talk to happy people…..

……BUY SOME ART!!

                                                    And then - what to buy?
My advice (and others will have other opinions)  - use your own judgement.
Would you listen to music that you didn’t really like just because it is trending? - Maybe once, but then you would seek out something that gave you pleasure.
Same with art, except much more so, because whatever art you buy this year will probably still be with you in ten years time! People change their cars  and sofas much more often than their art - which takes me off along another path - changing fashions ….. None of us want our home to look the same as our granny’s, right? We upgrade the decor, change the carpet, make little alterations to maintain a sense that this is a cared-for place where modern people live …… and yet - those pictures - the same ones that have been there forever!
BUT - if you look carefully at one of the paintings on this site, or on any other arty-site, can you really tell when it was painted?

Is art the only timeless object in your interior decor? You can listen to music and give a pretty good guess about when it was first created, but, maybe with the exception of highly stylised work (Picasso, Matisse, Riley, Warhol and so on) you need to be a bit of an expert to look at a painting and place it within the right decade of it’s origin.

The megabucks are more often spent on works that have been around for a long long time, and any ‘old’ art still has a place among viewers. Indeed one of the attractions of buying an original oil painting is the prospect that one day it could be worth more than you pay for it.

Which means that my friends in the framing business are key - how you present your new artwork on your walls depends on its frame as much or maybe even more than the content of the picture itself! 
Some people argue that the artist’s choice of frame is part of the creation and should be respected - that if you buy a painting, you should keep it in the original frame. And - having bought a painting, who want to then have to spend even more time searching the infinite variety of frames to find one that is most favourable to present that picture in the setting of your choice?

Others cheerfully take on that quest, wanting to curate the look of their home (or office) down to that detail.

My view?
Each to their own.  Both approaches are valid. Making your own statement with your independent choice of frame could easily be best for you if that is how you want to do it, but equally, buying a painting in a frame and keeping the whole creation together often works well.
Some people buy a painting purely and simply because the picture appeals to them, they take it home and find somewhere nice to hang it.
Others are carefully working their interior design and seek a painting of a specific shape, size and theme that will complement its place.
Does your pleasure come from ‘curating’ your look, or from the pleasure of the impulse?

The next, and probably longer lasting pleasure from a painting, comes from chatting about it - when we were children there was a nice landscape painting at home. It now hangs  on my sister’s wall, and only  recently, we were discussing it again at length. How many years later? 



Art as Investment

Stories abound of huge price-tags following great art. The question arises - ‘How do I get some of that?’

So this is a comment on that scenario from the artist’s point of view.

I follow all sorts of sources on news in the art world as I like to see what is going on. I also visit a lot of places where artists are trying to sell their work and I think I am in a reasonable position to compare and contrast - what is ‘it’ that makes this painting worth millions, while that one doesn’t sell at all?

The intrinsic quality of the painting itself is a kind of ‘entry-level’ standard - it must look like the real thing. But there are literally thousands of such paintings available from online galleries, some on eBay for $1, and (as with so much) some that look to be of high quality produced in China, and some that are seriously good available from Art Fairs ….. but it is highly doubtful if any of those will command significant prices at any time in the future.

The artist’s NAME is the ‘brand’.
And some names command big money - Banksy, on a trip to New York, put little sketches up for sale for a few dollars, knowing that the lucky buyers - if they wanted to cash in - could sell them for a lot more.

One of my subjects at university was economics, albeit at the most basic level, but I can recall various graphs which set out the principles of pricing, called  supply and demand curves. As I recall, if you start with a level field of various very similar products, manufactured to similar standards of quality and having similar standards of functionality, why is it that people will pay more for some than for others?

- It is all about consumer confidence in the brand.

The car market is the easiest example today - there are cars made in far-away countries which probably use many of the same component parts as the so-called ‘western’ makes, and which certainly have as many if not more bells and whistles than those competitors, and yet we will only pay a fraction of the price for them ….. because we have more confidence in our chosen brand.

Of course an art investment has an even longer life than a new car - if you sink a load of your money into a painting, when do you expect any kind of return?

But here we have to jump, because cars and paintings are - for most people - entirely different markets, with different factors influencing the buying decision.

Most people buy their art firstly because they like the work and can envisage it decorating their place for years ahead, and so for them, any potential growth in value is almost a bonus …. except (back to the car story) - we like to feel good about the vehicle sitting outside the house / we like to feel good about the painting on the wall.

It’s a funny business keeping up appearances, but we all do it.

And with the art on your wall, you will feel better if you can tell your guests something about it, which will include something about the artist.

But back to the subject of investment in art - there are firms which specialise in providing ‘investment art’. Much of their material is detailed info about the artist, setting out the story as to why this person’s work is likely to grow in value in the years ahead - this is designed to give the buyers those stories to drop in to the folks who admire the piece on the wall.
Many of the examples, the success stories that those organisations use, relate to people who bought a painting (or other artwork) before the artist hit the big time, and show that what was bought for hundreds now sells for thousands.

As an aside here, this is where I show some anger - why do people pay more for a fairly ordinary piece of art because it is painted by someone who once was a famous rock star / football player / ….. ? - and I answer my own question, just because the new owner can say ’ Oh yes, that was painted by …x.’

Another angle - wandering around galleries, I noticed that many include a note of the birth year of any living artist. It took a while, but eventually I realised that this is more about my supply and demand curves - once a person is dead, they will not produce any more art and so it is possible that demand will outstrip supply and hence the price will rise!

My observation on that theory is that it is also possible that the person’s name and brand will die with them, and the painting will be worthless. Just look into junk shops or flea markets and you will always find some art which somebody once paid for.
There are, of course, some likely winners - remember the old story - ‘the rich get richer’?

If you can afford to buy something by someone who is already established as a ‘star’ (painter, not guitarist!), it is likely that their work will appreciate - but - the warning - investments can go down - fashion in this market is just as fickle as any other. Will the ‘cutting edge’ artists of today be more popular in 20 years time?

Works by someone in demand today might not last. Just look at what was top of the pops thirty years ago.
So - two ways to go about it - (1) Go to the absolute limit of what you can afford and buy an original artwork by someone who is clearly in demand, or (2) choose a painting that you really really like and enjoy it while you can.




Buying Art - Interior design, investment, or both?

On buying artwork …..


The whole business of buying a picture is distinctly different to that of choosing furniture, curtains or any other aspect of decorating your home (or ‘interior design’ if that is where you are!)
Why?

Because there is an ever-present underlying belief that somehow that picture on the wall will, one day, be worth a fortune.
In the back of our minds is the tale of the cafe owner in the south of France who accepted pictures in payment for the tab of his regular client, Vincent van Gogh.
I suspect that there are probably quite a number of us artists who work at producing art with the same faint hope niggling away - one day this painting will be recognised for its true worth.

Even though we all know, when we are cold and business-like, that these hopes and beliefs are very improbable, millions of people still buy lottery tickets when they know the chances of winning are 14 million to one against.
There is a pleasure about holding that ticket until the draw is finished, hoping that maybe this will be my week, and that same pleasure can add to our enjoyment of an original painting that we have chosen.
This is clearly not true of the big department stores’ sections labelled “Art” where there are factory-produced prints of nice pictures being sold in between the curtains and the wallpaper. This stuff will have absolutely no value as soon as you take it out of the shop - but, to be fair, I grew up with Monet’s poppy fields on the wall - a valueless print, but still a good representation of a Monet.

We ‘spend’ money on carpets, furniture and curtains, but we ‘invest’ in art, and we probably spend a lot more on those other aspects than we invest in the art. But we buy a new car much more often than we change the artwork on the walls (some of us buy a new HOUSE more often than we change the artwork), so choosing wisely is important.

In one of my exhibitions, a lady came in and said she was looking to buy a large oil painting … I tried to remain calm and professional and suggested she take a look around. She did that, then returned to gaze at one, and called me over. We chatted about it, me trying hard not to be the second-hand car salesman, but she was a definite prospect, until….. “No, it won’t go with my carpet.”
It has taken me some time to come round to the realisation that she was right and that leads to Rule 1 in this Guide - the artwork on your walls has to fit with the look you are creating in the room.

I believe that you must enjoy looking at the piece. If it is going to be with you for years and years, you must gain pleasure from gazing at it.

From my point of view, of someone creating and selling art, this is the cold business rationale for why some art sells while some doesn’t.
But - as I say above, the art market is not cold and rational - there is the ‘lottery ticket’ idea which flows from fashion - some artists are ‘hot’.
There are thousands of people producing original art creating a market which offers original work of good quality covering every imaginable subject. The technical quality of most of that is excellent, and yet - some sells for £100, some for £10,000.
There is an enormous iceberg-shaped distribution graph, with thousands of us striving away at the bottom, selling work for whatever someone is willing to pay for it. At the other end, there are those whose every scribble is snapped up and auctioned for huge sums.
The middle zone of this distribution is busy and competitive, Curators and Gallerists use their skill to judge what will be hot and gamble their careers on choosing which artists, or which styles will sell next year.
Many artists are critical of the role these people play, but I respect them - if they are to survive, or thrive, in their business, they have to have a track record of success. Even though they rely on the commission they make on every sale, their view is (generally) longer-term - they want you to come back and develop as a ‘collector’, which you will not do if they sell you rubbish.
But - this does mean there is a tendency to be followers rather than leaders. They can see what styles are popular, what is selling at the Art Fairs they attend. This might be a good thing from your point of view - less risk?


I have two paintings dating from the 19th century which I have held onto for many many years. I have taken them for valuation at least twice, in different cities, many years apart, and they are worth nothing. 
The simple fact is that I derive pleasure from looking at them - these are not ‘investments’. Nobody has heard of the artist, s/he is not listed in any reference books.

And that is the point - an ‘investment’ in art is actually based on the name of the artist.
There are thousands of us who are ‘emerging’, but what marks out the few, the very few, who will not only emerge but will be known far beyond our lifetime?
If you find the answer to that, then those are the ones to buy as investments!






A little watercolour: Beacons Sunrise

And the other end of the day

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