The ups and downs in art

You love being creative, exploring ideas, making, trying, and exploring some more.

Over the years, I realised this process was harder than it looked, but this only happened by being able to look back over various experiences and chatting with other artists.

In reality the process is more like… have an idea, create, fail, rethink, hate it, love it, scrap it! Then you start to worry if this is the right thing to do… Before you know it you are off thinking about more creative ideas to explore and make things happen.

Many other artists I have come across have similar experiences with the ups and the downs. I guess the process is what it is and as creative people we come to terms with the hassles and fight through, but for new creative people like art students if you are unaware of this process you could give up too soon.

Battle the tough decisions, plod on, fight with your inner demons but most of all know that tough challenges probably last just as long as good times… In the end your creative explorations will benefit from your ability to develop a tough skin and being able to hang in when the going gets rough.


Steve Gray

The Gallery Challenge

Commercial Art galleries are a curious device, over many years I have been to many looking at exhibitions, checking out all manner of works from wild and outrageous avant garde project type shows, to demure decorative works.

Over time some galleries have faded into obscurity, the victim of tough economic times, or simply due to retirement of the directors. All along though they have had to deal with varying challenges.

One of these challenges as I see it is the changing face of gallery promotion and the face to face visitors.

About 25-30 years ago I started dropping in to see what each gallery in Melbourne had to offer. These days I don’t get to them as often as I might prefer but that’s a combination of my own personal situation and time challenges. Back in the ‘early days’ it would be quite common to find a bunch of people doing a ‘gallery crawl’, dropping in to the same galleries as each other. At times there would be a friendly swap of information about what they had seen that I had not etc.

These days I have noticed a lack of people dropping in to visit.

While this may be a product of the internet age where people can see so many artworks online from all over the world, I feel the viewer is missing out on the total experience to be had getting face to face with artworks.

As I walked around the galleries today there were sculptures on a large scale that needed to be seen and indeed experienced in 3D to get the full effect. Other works pinned to a wall in one gallery showed a delightful contrast in the texture against the smooth wall behind the work. Vivid colourful works in another space again challenged me with the details, vibrancy and scale. At every turn there was a great reason to check out the works live, rather than from an online image.

But there’s more to the challenge. The Global Financial Crisis of a few years back has left its mark, with people pulling in the purse strings the galleries have often had to rethink how they go about ‘doing what they do’.

In basic terms the gallery acts as a ‘portal’ for the artist to present and sell their work to the world, it’s a commercial venture in the main, with the main driver being $$ (no cash no business) then comes the concept of presenting the artworks as a philosophical statement of some kind.

What happened in the past was galleries would have 3-4 week shows of an individual or a group show of artworks connected in some way, over the summer period there would be a slow down in gallery visitors as visitors flocked to outdoor activities, this often meant a group show of works from the gallery’s stock room. Then back to the usual round of shows for the next year.

Now there seems to be a trend to do things a bit differently, some galleries are choosing to cut back on their mail outs, preferring to email invites (makes sense) BUT the mail out of luscious catalogues seems to have ceased… now let’s face facts, emails often don’t get opened but quickly sent to the trash, whereas the catalogue and or postcard were more challenging to ignore.

Another aspect which has altered is the broader run of group shows ‘curated’ works by the gallery with the aim of presenting a mix of works to the viewer. I find this somewhat challenging.

Call me old school but I often liked seeing a full solo show, where the visual concept has been given a run for its money, the critics can have a field day and the gallery has to hope it has a sell out on its hands.

Yes I realise the gallery Directors are in business, and they will hopefully make suitable decisions about the most effective way to promote the artists in their stable. Yes I also realise that in a down market those who are new or for some other reason vulnerable to quieter market forces will go out of business if they don’t make solid commercial decisions.

I could then jump in and suggest that galleries team up and create a cluster of art spaces so viewers can see a few in one spot (saw this done in Sydney a few years back in a warehouse setting, seemed to work well for the viewers at least.) Then there was Albert street in Richmond which had about six galleries in the street to choose from. Parking was (and still is an issue) but it seemed to be a mutually beneficial situation, rents went way up for some so they moved or packed up, some wanted to rationalise or alter what they were doing and so moved on our out.

Enough of my information sharing the point I want to make is that the gallery experience needs people dropping in to make it work, it seems there needs to be a change in the way galleries present themselves promotionally and entice people to visit, I think it’s time to innovate or we may well see more galleries disappear off the radar.


Steve Gray

Key Framing Points

Image courtesy of stock images from

Image courtesy of stock images from

There are many things to take into account when framing artworks, the following points should give you some solid ideas about what to consider in the process if you want the item to hang on the wall for a reasonable length of time.

Always frame and mount the picture to make it look fabulous – People often get the picture mounted and framed to match their decor, however only do this if the picture looks fabulous as well. Generally a plain finish is good as it supports the image by not standing out, letting the image be the centre of attention.

Always use a card mat board never paper – Make sure the mat board is acid free. After all you want  your picture to last a long time, so do it right, do it once, why a board instead of paper, the board serves the purpose of keeping the image away from the glass, if you use paper even a slight warp in the image could cause it to touch the glass, the challenge with that is the image can adhere to glass over time.

The proportions should make the picture look good – Often a narrow border will make the image look strange rather than support it in a visually suitable way. Err on the side of generous rather than narrow. Then select a colour or texture for the mat that suits the image. The same goes for the frame.

Use the right tape – In the mounting process the use of archival tape is important, if you use masking tape to hold an image in place the chances are it will lose its adhesive qualities fast, ending up in the picture falling free from the mount. The aim is to have the image hang from the mount by tape hinges, this minimises any effect the tape may have on the material the image is on. Tape is also used to seal up the back of the frame, your framer should also use an acid free one for this purpose.

Limited edition prints – Avoid asking your framer to cut the print size down to fit a frame or to reduce the mat size because of cost, this can detract from the prints value. Often Limited edition prints will have been done on a cotton rag paper and may have a deckled edge, a printers impression (called a chop), these are all things which should be preserved to maintain the value of the piece.

Under glass – Many artworks are framed under glass, this provides protection, physically and chemically as well as some degree of UV stabilisation. Often the only thing not framed under glass is a canvas painting. If you think you can do it cheaply by not using glass think again.

How important is acid free framing? – The work you are getting framed holds some value for you, perhaps the look, $$ value, or it’s been done by an Artist you admire. Either way you want it to last, acid free framing means you want the piece to last. Acid in the framing materials (like those used to manufacture paper and std card) can effect the piece, causing it to discolour and become brittle.

That’s my list for now.


Steve Gray