Monday, August 24, 2009

Encounter at Dusk - Red Fox

I spotted this fox out of the corner of my eye as Sandi and I drove back to our camp at Yardie Creek after a late afternoon outing to photograph kangaroos and euros. The light had faded to the extent that we’d given up on 'roo photos for the day, but I decided that as I don’t often encounter foxes I should take my chances with the camera regardless of the poor light. Of course, zoom lens or no zoom lens, this was never going to be as easy as winding down the car window and clicking away while he posed obligingly.

Sandi pulled onto the shoulder of the road and, seeking to emulate a dashing and much younger David Attenborough, I leapt out of the passenger's seat dramatically (I've always wanted to do that!) and took off after Reynard as he turned in the direction of the nearby escarpment. I must say, he didn’t seem too concerned at the sight of an unfit, middle-aged Two Legs pursuing him with a camera and he trotted off sedately, safe in the knowledge that I’d only ever head him off in my dreams. Even in the dim light I’m sure I detected a grin on his face as I stumbled over the rock-strewn slopes. The degree of difficulty was enhanced by the fact that in the increasing gloom I wasn’t game to take my eyes off him in case he melted into the rocks and shrubbery for good.

My meagre reward for risking life and limb was three or four not-very-good photographs, the last of which features his rear end as he finally grew tired of our little game and disappeared over a ridge of rock, leaving me out of breath and grinning stupidly below.

Where the resulting painting is concerned, I began it with doubts in my ability to portray the scene successfully given the state of the light at the time and a poor reference photo. However, with the encouragement and guidance of e-friend and fellow blogger Dean Richards, I've exaggerated the contrast a little and will try to suggest a last glimmer of sunlight so that the fox - and the viewing public - are not left entirely in the dark.

My rationale for not featuring the fox more prominently has to do with the circumstances under which I spotted him; he allowed me a glimpse at best, which is often my experience with the animals I encounter. In that context then, the painting reflects this reality and reinforces the fact that we don't always find wildlife when and where we expect to.

With luck I'll complete this painting tomorrow. As a final step, I'll adjust tonal values - hopefully without losing the sense that the setting is at dusk.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Web Site Launch

Although its galleries are sparsely populated at present, I'm pleased to announce that I finally have a web presence. Please enter my web site and take a look around. Don't forget to wipe your feet, and DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!

Over the coming days I'll review the content and will no doubt edit some of the text with a view to optimising my site's placement by the various search engines. I'll also add my return policy and insert some additional scripts so I can analyse site traffic using Google Analytics, a free and very useful tool. Google Adwords is a "pay-per-click" service also worthy of consideration; I know it's yielded huge increases in site traffic for my other business web site.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Art and Bill Gates

"I am picking up a lot of unease from artists about going with commercial galleries, myself included. I think the internet and blogosphere is the direction a lot of artists are going..."

I received this interesting comment from April Jarocka a couple of days ago and, with my own web site on the launch pad, I'm prompted to outline my thoughts concerning galleries and the less traditional, web-based method of presenting and marketing my art.

In doing so, I accept that I'm unqualified in any practical sense to offer an opinion on the effectiveness of the internet as a marketing tool, or whether it can successfully replace the more traditional gallery outlets. If nothing else though, it might be an interesting and timely exercise to record my thoughts so I can reflect later on how well thought out (or how naive and foolish) they turn out to have been!

My last foray into art as a part-time commercial venture was around 15 years ago. Apart from some local art shows, I sold through a couple of city framing retailers masquerading as galleries and enjoyed a good relationship with them. I had no prior expectations of them and they managed to sell most of the work I presented them with relatively quickly, relying only on passing trade. When it came to framing my work, which was usually Conte or acrylic on paper, I felt it was worth the added expense of a double matte and, together with glass and mouldings, the final cost was far from trivial. I was happy to accept the galleries' advice when it came to setting prices and was elated enough just making a sale. In fact, my prices were such that with gallery commissions and the aforementioned framing costs taken into account, it might have been more lucrative flipping burgers.

Fast forward to 2009 and the ground rules have changed markedly; as April points out, the internet is the new paradigm. Add in a sprinkling of suspicion and a dash of cynicism which inevitably comes with age and experience, and I find the gallery option much less appealing than it once appeared. In my mind, pricing my art realistically remains a black art and I would almost certainly accept the advice of the gallery, as I have in the past. However, with the world economy still shaky, I wonder if their need to turn over stock and generate cash flow would outweigh any desire they might otherwise have had to put my interests up there with their own. Harking back to those intimidating framing costs, the issue of dead money tied up on gallery walls is a further disincentive.

If you’re reading this, you already know the power of the internet. Political and geographical boundaries are rendered (mostly) irrelevant and our target audience extends to the far reaches of the globe. With a potential market such as this, I’m opting to sell my work online, unmounted and unframed, which removes one of the objections I have to selling through galleries and greatly simplifies shipping. The other advantage of a web-based shop front is the opportunity to offer originals and limited-edition prints from a single point of sale in an effort to cater to all budgets. My belief that signed and numbered prints are a hugely attractive marketing option again stems from the computer age and is reinforced by my experience as a software developer. How successful would Bill Gates have become if his team of developers had created Microsoft Office, or any of his other products, and the code and copyright had then been sold to a single purchaser? Likewise, I don't think I should limit myself to selling original paintings and drawings through a gallery when my digital imaging company of choice also offers a “print-on-demand” service and are happy to run off single prints as and when required.

I doubt that anyone questions the wisdom of marketing via the internet, however, it would be great if those of you with practical experience could chime in and offer up your thoughts on the relevance of galleries in the big picture, and the extent to which they've played a role in your success.


Friday, August 7, 2009

The Road to Mastery

Gravity Feed - Avon River
Graphite and Conte on toned paper

I'm coming to place tremendous value on feedback offered by fellow artists who have seen my work on this blog. As I don't exhibit my work and have not reached the point at which I'm offering it for sale, it's my only source of constructive criticism and is therefore of enormous value. A couple of people have even been generous enough to email me privately with a detailed and honest assessment of my recent work and have suggested ways in which they feel my paintings could be improved. Often, they've clarified what I vaguely suspected in my own mind, but sometimes their insights have been more revealing. Either way, their comments offer me a way forward.

On that note, I liked an anonymous quote I read recently which relates to our progression towards mastery - if such a thing exists. I wonder how many of us will arrive at the final destination?
  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence
If you're reading this, the chances are we're on the same journey of artistic discovery. I know which level I'm at - do you know where you sit on the scale? If you're not fortunate enough to be undertaking formal studies, where do you go to seek a candid assessment of your latest painting or drawing? What practical measures are you putting in place to address your shortcomings in order to improve your art? Whose standards are you striving to meet anyway - fellow artists, the art-buying public, your teacher, art critics or purely your own? As an artist, what defines success in your eyes?