Being Artly – A guide to become the Artist you want

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan from Free Digital Images

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan from Free Digital Images

You want to study art, you like the concept, the creativeness, the idea of exploring with others, the notion of taking a journey through your mind and creating anew… you know your parents and some friends may be against it preferring you take a more common path, but nay, you are beckoned by the romance of paint, the structure of materials, the bohemian lifestyle etc and nothing will stop you.

In your pursuit of becoming “Artly’ or the artist you want to be, perhaps you want to make sure that what and who you are is loaded with integrity, humility, ability and energy, not just “passion” and an interest in being part of the art scene, thinking that the parties and “cavorting” with like minded people will somehow make you some fabulous artist, or the Muse of some fabulous Artist.

I can’t prove to you that doing any of these things will ensure you become a successful Artist, an A grade student or any other measure or Artistic success, but years of observing Exhibitions, Art Students, chatting to Gallery Directors and interviewing Artists in has given me some insights.

Take a look online and do your own research and find articles on Artists talking about what it takes to be a success and you will find a mixed bag of incredible advice and ideas on striding forward. Not all of the information and advice will you be able act on but learn well the ways of success to ensure you give yourself the best chance of moving towards your goal.

Let’s get started with a list of pointers.

Get busy – It’s one thing to have a creative idea, and another thing entirely to bring it to life, think then make, build your skills and abilities by doing things and making mistakes, learn how to handle the materials you want to work with, eventually the mistakes will become less, your ability to create things should improve.

Explore creativity – My experience has been that not a lot of Art teachers teach how to be creative, it can however be learnt. Make it a thing worth your learning so you don’t have to put up with creative blocks and can keep producing and exploring with little fuss.

Likers and haters – Social media will have probably taught you there are both, the same with art, some viewers will be haters due to jealousy, some will be lovers because they believe it is the thing to do, “Oh I love your work” is an ego boosting validation of what you do but that can be fairly hollow, friends and family who cannot articulate the details of why they love your work may have good intentions but may lack a deeper ability to tell you why, explore the ‘why’ question often.

Beware of the stereotype – At art school one of the Lecturers referred to Van Gough as the Artists Artist, selling little, seemingly driven by his art, lived a passionate life etc. take a look at the art people you come across is it really  necessary to have purple hair, radical makeup, wild ideas and party like a demon to make you an artist? of course not… nor do you need to struggle and give up on living normally (making money etc) to find the roots to your creative endeavours. I figure there is a time for being eccentric and a time for not being eccentric (which may or may not include purple hair…)

Keep going – People can give up when things get tough, people lose sight of their goals, people do all manner of things when the ‘chips are down’. Persistence helps, goal setting may help, working through rather than giving up may lead to fresh insights and may lead to more positive productive outcomes. One of my Art Teachers used to say “It’s the plodders that get by” so plod, and put one foot in front of the other.

Try stuff – Just because you choose to paint does not mean you can’t make sculptures or any other form of art. the same with styles, give things a go, I figure it’s all about exploring, reinventing, testing and pushing boundaries. Try new things, if you are a realist, try abstract, try collage, try drawing, who says we have to have a ‘body of work’ that is consistent and shows progression. This may again be part of the stereotype that could be holding a lot of people back.

Ask – There are heaps of people who are more than willing to assist you, ask for information. Artists, Gallery Directors, other Students, Teachers, Art Store staff, Framing businesses, and the list goes on. I have had people contact Artists I have interviewed on this site directly and have a chat about details of their work and I don’t know of any of the artists who have knocked back the chance to have a chat. You can learn a lot from engaging with all these people and more. The amount of brilliant knowledge out there is immense, the more you ask the more you can learn. Keep asking, keep searching. Finding out what will make you the sort of Artist you want to be comes from exploring and chatting to learn more, do more and be more.

Become an overnight sensation – If you know anyone who has become an ‘overnight sensation’, look hard,  you will soon find they were probably a hard worker, chugging away in the background for many years before they were discovered or made a breakthrough that put them on the world’s stage as an overnight sensation. If they look sensational and young they probably started out earlier than you.

There is crap you have to deal with – Creating Artist statements that people may not read, rejection from Galleries, rejection from grant applications, rejection from those who may love you dearly, things you try that don’t work, sitting in a gallery and watching how many people don’t turn up. This list could get endless, but know that crap happens and you have to deal with it. Breathe in breathe out and repeat, get tough and move on, if the crap starts to define you it may lead to difficulties later on.

That’s my list, like it… let me know by adding a comment, don’t like it… do the same! 🙂

Regards, Steve Gray

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

Abstract Art

Getting a ‘handle’ on Abstract Art is not easy, to give you some form of introduction I had this video put together as a visual starting point for you to explore.

Abstract Art – Fast and slow

A rough History of Art

This video is just over 3 minutes long. perhaps it’s a useful starting point to give an overview of the history of art. Ok so it’s humourous in places, but the intent is there.

Why do we do Visual Art?

For those who wonder about why people do ART, you can now take a look at this short video and then add comments below.

Regards Steve Gray


Blood in sink

Image courtesy of Simon Howden

Deakin University Geelong has a gradaute exhibition on at the moment, (Oct 2013) I went to have a look today and thought some of the works were worthy of mention. I figured I would be able to link you to images online, but no I can’t find any.

I know I should have taken my own pictures, I had my smart phone with me, but I didn’t.

So the bright young things that were there today all busy ‘manning the door’ can smile all they like, it seems as if apart from the email invite I got to the opening, there is little else to let people know it’s on.

It’s at the top of the stairs on level three of Costa Hall, enter from Gherignhap Street.

I can see the Lecturers etc pondering if it’s okay to let the students have an exhibition, I get the thinking around this but who will really care if they make it or not, or if the exhibition is a flop (how would that be measured anyway?)

I wanted to tell the world about a few pieces a few “Artists” but alas I can not. I could go back and get the details. Nope I won’t do that. I could send them an email and have them provide me with details, nope that’s not on my agenda either. The fact I had a small window of oportunity to view the show in the first place was amazing for me.

I am left to ponder though.

I could pose more questions, I could look deeper to see if there is more to find on the web, but no, a quick internet search should be ebough to be able to find the info. So another exhibition by emerging ‘Artists’ goes by and a select few will have the pleasure of seeing what’s on offer.

I could tell you about the skateboard Art, the actively operating scuplutre with trees and words, or the big graphite drawings of landscape, or even the large ‘jar and plaster’ piece but no I will have to withhold on all that and invite you to find out for yourself, somehow…


The Notion of Art

At times I struggle to come to terms with art, what it is or perhaps what it is not.

In the first sense there are so many genres of art to consider from people who ‘dabble’ in paint and pastel on the weekend to those who conceptualize and possibly create, to all sorts in between.marilyn1

Perhaps there is something fundamental about the whole notion of art that we fail to teach people about how to explore the genres and respect each for what it does for the person and its possible wider cultural context. From technical execution to conceptual creation and validation, which is ‘right’ is probably not a suitable response from an ethical perspective and showing respect for the person’s input and creation of an artwork.

What makes something what it is, is perhaps more a question for philosophers, the perception of reality, the notion of meaning, the use of the sum total of our experiences, values and beliefs for how people formulate their responses to questions about objects which may or may not have cultural significance.

Is that a measure of art, it’s cultural significance? Perhaps that’s too open, too broad. Perhaps there is another quality to measure art by that has nothing to do with culture. I am left to wonder if there is anything non cultural. Take a standard definition of culture, “patterns of behaviour” as a basic guideline, now try and explore the notion of no pattern. In our existentialist world all we do can be linked to some form of pattern.

Did I just create the answer to my question? Therefore perhaps everything is of cultural significance, but to what degree it is significant is another thing.

Did I just open up the concept that all things are therefore valid but the depth of validity will depend on the viewer and how they process the information provided based on their values, beliefs and experiences? Possibly.

In looking at what has been explored here I guess we can start to ponder how people get to learn what they learn and push boundaries around the value of that learning.

Have you learnt about art through some cultural dialogue, have you learnt enough to cause you to be respectful of others positions on art and what they may create? Have you learnt to conceptually process information and come to some notion of right or wrong about something not being art?


Editions – For Printmaking and Art Photography

In Printmaking and Art Photography there has been a long standing tradition to “edition” the prints. There is a good reason for this which shows up in the history of printmaking and is carried on into more modern processes like photography.

Back in history, etching and other printmaking processes were one way an image could be distributed to the masses, people could see scenes drawn by Artists and Illustrators from other parts of the world for instance and thus a simple post card was born. Often these would be grouped together to form a range of scenes e.g. of a city. This was long before Photography.

Along the way Artists needed to have some measure of control over the number of prints made, as the image on a metal plate can wear down and quality lost. To ensure the integrity of their name and the quality of the image they would edition the ‘good prints’. If an assistant wanted to create more prints to sell on the ‘side’ the print would not have had the number and signature from the Artist.

Another point to add is the print often takes a number of runs through the press before the plate fully reveals the full image. The Artist should then select the best set of prints from a printing run to ensure the edition is equal in image quality. All other prints can then be discarded.

In the process the prints are numbered and signed. If their are 25 prints that were equal in final quality, then the edition would be 25 so each print is then assigned a number, ideally in the order they were printed. Therefore 1/25 – 2/25 and so forth.

In the process of printing there can be an initial ‘top quality’ print which sets the standard by which the other prints are compared to to check they match this quality. this print is then call the  “Bon å tirer” which is French for “Good to Print”. Often the initials bat are used where the edition number would go at the bottom of the print on the left hand side and can be signed as well to show they have approved it.

The Artist can also create other prints in the Edition one example is an Artists Proof, often a print the Artist keeps for their own collection, or sometimes given to an Assistant or the Publisher. This is signified as A/P in place of the number on the bottom left of the print.

The notion of creating an edition has also been used in Photography as a negative or digital image can be reproduced multiple times, to ensure the value of the finished art work using an editioning process ensure the investor/collector is assured no other ‘copies’ will be created, therefore maintaining the value of the work.

Printing studios or Publishing houses can also add a ‘chop’ to the final edition, this is an embossed symbol of the printers ‘mark’. This can add to the validity of the quality of the printed edition.

Successful Artists…

A recent survey of practicing Visual Artists gave some interesting results, the sort of information you need to know to be ahead of the game in Art

The question was posed as “What are the top things you need to succeed in Art?”  Some of you would probably think of a top level Education from the right institution, nope that didn’t rate, how about the ability to sell? Nope not that one either, how about a big stash of cash… nope. business skills nah not that either. Here’s the list.

Further down the list came these.

A great list of things to know. So how will you go about building your skills in each of these areas to ensure you are doing all you can to be a successful Visual Artist?

Gallery Dreaming

I was a little surprised at the gallery staff for not acknowledging me as I walked in and out of their Galleries in the USA. A far cry from being acknowledged MOST times while doing the same thing in Australian galleries, I think it’s good customer service..

At first I through it was rude, and then I considered they might have always been this way and we just do things different ‘down-under’ then my thoughts turned to economic reality. If they have been doing it tough due to the global financial meltdown then they probably would be focussing on the top level investors, rather than the possibility of a walk in retail sale or in my case a walk in viewer only.

I have heard the galleries there have got ‘serious’ about the way things happen, if you want to purchase a piece from a high end gallery you had better make sure you are ‘worthy’ of having the piece, it’s no longer enough to be able to afford it but you need to show you are going to add value to the mix. Somehow you need to show you are a Visual Arts zealot, willing and able to promote Visual Art, Not going to JUST hang the piece on the wall at home or in an office where the general public never gets to see or appreciate the works.

With so much high level thinking and posturing about the guardianship/ownership of Art works, it’s no wonder the galleries showed little acknowledgement of my presence. In fact I should be pleased they let me in at all, perhaps they will one day develop a scanning device which will only let in those who meet exacting standards of “Artistic merit”.

Art Galleries (esp. commercial spaces) have long fascinated me with their various approaches to showcasing art, how they select and or reject Artists, how they support and nurture them. So to see the USA approach should not have surprised me so much as caused me to realise Art Galleries are still fascinating places to observe and connect with.

Why Do You Do It? (Make Art That Is)

Why do you do it (make art that is)

There are many reasons for making art, so what one or two fit for you?

Whatever your reason/s do  you do it for the right reasons or other?

How do artists know…

These and I guess many other questions float in the heads of Artists, I know some of these do in mine. Is it good to have so many doubts floating, so many queries bubbling, so much angst, annoyance and pain. Well I guess it sorts out the ‘wheat from the chaff’ as they say and in the end if you have created works which may have significance to you then others will see the genuine you in the works. Those close to you who know the process will (hopefully) appreciate the ‘struggle’ and the life journey Artists are on and be supportive. 🙂

I have long been an advocate for Art Students (and Artists for that matter) doing lots of work and focusing more on quantity than quality (to a degree and depending on what medium they are working in etc.) so they can work fast through issues and not get bogged down in the ‘is it ok’ scenario.

Recently I have been working on a big bunch of paintings and have now accumulated over 40 works in a few months, each one put aside and not looked at as the catalyst for a new work bubbles to the surface and off I go. That one is put away and I move on again, and again.

At one point I counted them up and started to take photographs… nah too hard. Ideally they would be hung and photographed in situ to make the whole thing easier. It’s a ‘catch 22’ how do I show people without the photo’s (the old days of dragging works from gallery to gallery is surely over…)

So as you can see readers my questions posed at the start are a solid part of my reality and if I am not careful I would end up ‘looping’ (not loopy! Well not yet anyway…) this is a process where your brain ways “Yeah go for  it, make art” while a short time later “I can’t do this… it’s not valid” and then “Yeah go for it!” and so the cycle continues.

Welcome to the Visual Artists lot in life, a struggle of immense proportions at times.

What is art?

This art stuff… What is it anyway?

Don’t you love it when people ask, and you decide to show them, you take them to a gallery and end up with a sore head. Or if you are a student and you think you have it all figured out, think again. Visual Art is many things to many people and I figured I would weigh in with some starting points to consider, so next time someone quizzes you about what art is… throw this at them!

Visual Art may be…

Art seems to be more about a person making objects as part of an ongoing process than it is about creating things of beauty, it will certainly challenge us and as a part of our cultural fabric it becomes a device which can lead us into fresh territory to explore the real and abstract in ways we may feel unsure about.

Don’t expect Art to soothe your soul, it may in fact disrupt your soul, interrupt your rational thinking and aggravate you to no end.

Perhaps “Art” is therefore more about moving or adjusting people intellectually and or emotionally more than it is about notions of Aesthetic sensibility…

Lets combine what art is with some of the benefits or features it may provide.

Visual Art –

Combine this information with this article, and you might just develop a solid starting point to appreciating what this ‘art thing’ explores.

There, now  you know what art is! 🙂

Consider taking this list with you to an art gallery and inviting the good staff there to indicate which of these descriptors best fit to the works on display… you might cause a stir, now wouldn’t that be fun! 🙂 Perhaps you could become a conceptual artist in the process, who would know?

Visual Art and Community Connectedness

Visual Art plays an interesting role in the community and if you ask practically any Artist they will probably agree, yet to the wider community you may have a challenge on your hands trying to convince them of that. The challenge is multi-fold, getting enough people involved and engaged in exploring it (viewers) and enough Artists to create and exhibit to the wider community, then follow that with selling the benefits to the sponsors and supporters of these sorts of initiatives.

Community based art initiatives show up in some interesting places. Pop up galleries, public murals (and graffiti), online galleries, through to organizations engaging the wider community by supporting Art activities in the community where there are a hundred and one ways  the community can get connected to Contemporary Visual Art.

Be it a school offering to connect Visual Artists with their students (Artist in Residence programs) or in a shorter term burst (an exhibition in the school by Contemporary Visual Artists from the wider community). Or community festivals where Contemporary Visual Artists have the opportunity to connect with the community

Perhaps it’s a series of community therapy sessions for communities which have been through massive group trauma (bush-fires or floods). Or even a simple exhibition as part of a fete or another community event.

Whatever the community connection, the aim is to cause some level of communication to take place, perhaps to instil a notion of community pride, an acknowledgement of the role Contemporary Visual Arts can play or a cultural connection at a personal or group level.

All of this is fine as a concept, but the task then becomes to figure out ways to make that communication effective and find ways to connect in ways which will be of value to both parties, the Artists and the wider community.

How then do Contemporary Visual Artists communicate their visions, their concepts and ideas to an audience which may be indifferent to having objects presented to them which can confront or at the least tackle their own ideas of what’s suitable to look at and make sense of.

I often think there are people to blame (perhaps Art Teachers) for not providing students with suitable knowledge to go forth in the community and appreciate what they see (if even to a small degree.) However I could say the same of high level Science and Maths as just a minor starting point examples.

Should we therefore stop connecting to the wider community even though we have excuses to do so? Should we stop creating Contemporary Visual Art for the community because ‘they might not understand’?

Perhaps the answer lies in seeing youngsters in an Art Gallery being given a cultural ‘shot in the arm’ by well meaning parents. The child’s wonderment and eager viewing through innocent eyes should be the catalyst by which we start measuring the value of things, and having the opportunity to explore that which is visually intriguing and getting fresh views on the world as we know it.

Perhaps the answer lies in Art being for Art sake and the Artists playing Hermit and hiding away, buried in a maze of self consciousness and avoiding connecting in any way.

Whatever the answer I hope the notion of connectedness to the wider community becomes a topic of exploration, so you can test constantly explore the value of Contemporary Visual Art and push it’s meaning/s (or not) due to the community being given wider exposure than might normally be the case.

Visual Art holds a place (although sometimes tenuous) in the psyche of a culturally aware community. I believe we should look to any opportunity to see it, meet with it, tackle whatever it might be it is aiming to communicate (or not) and take in its cultural significance so we as individuals and as a nation can sense some level of connection to Contemporary Visual Arts and what it has to offer.

Community Connections – Cultural Diversions

Visual Arts is a cultural endeavour people either seem to either love or loathe and that can be an interesting conundrum when it comes to community wide cultural development.

Visual Art can be a therapeutic device to assist in a healing process, as a way of communicating and exploring personal and wider cultural concepts. Therefore it can play a strategic role in connecting individuals, organisations and groups to the cultural fabric of the community.

There are possibly a few challenges to overcome for it to stand out as a ‘device’ the community can readily take on.

On so many levels the community can benefit from Visual Art as it can allow connections and exploration to take place. But the challenge seems to be making the wider community aware of its value.

To appreciate the wider benefits of Visual Art this link can give us a range of starting points to take into account.

How do we cause people to appreciate and value Contemporary Visual Art and investigate it as a viable device to connect and explore with?

These are starting points to getting the ball rolling, but surely there are many more? Are there any resources you know of you can recommend? Please add them by making a few notes in the comments.

The role of Visual Arts

Visual Arts has a role to play in encouraging us to search through the “fragments and bigger pieces” of our world and to piece them together in ways which allow us to explore, describe, contemplate, manipulate and bring them alive.

There is some form of social or emotional responsibility to ensure people have access to the Visual Arts. Through its exposure they can discover  forms of expression and exploration, which might one day assist people to define who and or what we are and or add to our cultural depth.

Being a Visual Artist is no easy path to take, with so much trial and error, stances, notions and stories to tell. Some will gain solace in pursuing its lofty ideals while others may struggle and be left drained by it’s challenging demeanour.

The role of Visual Arts should be clear, as a necessary device for the creator which defines and allows us to explore. As well as a status device and thing of aesthetic pleasure for the viewer.

Let’s value our Visual Artists and praise their work as a vital part of our society’s health and wellbeing.


Untitled Steve Gray 2010

Talking about art Part 4.

Straight talk.

The Artist in talking about their work may have the opportunity to tell a larger group at an opening about the works being presented, or on a one to one basis as people ask questions. In this article I wanted to follow on from the previous article in Part 3, which, was more sales focussed. lets talk turkey as they say and give the audience what they want, the real you.


For many people talking about something as personal as their Art works can be daunting, intimidating and generally stressful, while for others it’s as easy as falling off a log.

Those who find it easy, may well have a different degree of confidence about the way they present information, perhaps they have been experienced in public speaking, or theatre work, being on stage in a band or some such. Whatever the experience is they seem to be able to get on with it with ease.

One approach to the situation is looking at the works and saying to your self.

There are a lot more options than this of course but hopefully you get the idea. The real power in creating a series of responses to these and other questions is getting and building your confidence to handle all comers. If you don’t do this you may find the following questions and or statements might stray into your thoughts…

Note how all of these are thoughts which will probably not serve the Artist well, in fact they can lead to a downward spiral and negative thought processes which can be harmful. It may take practice to pursue the positive questions and statements but it’s a stronger stance to work from.

Many Artists have said “Having an exhibition is like nailing  your heart to the wall”, so be prepared to handle the emotional roller coaster which presents itself, or you might find you are the one whose heart bleeds from a nail hole!

Talking about Art Part 3.

Leading on from Part 2 in this series. If you are an artist and are being quizzed about your work there is possibly an ulterior motive hidden behind the request from a viewer for more information. It may be they want to buy a piece (nice thought!) or want to follow your career to see if you will still have the strength of “Artistic conviction” you may have now, in a few years time.


Or they might simply be an art lover who may not want to buy, but admire your work for its real intrinsic value.

If you are out to sell your work, you need to be careful not to “Talk past the sale” and watch out for tricks they may want to use like “If I buy it after the show, can I get it cheaper and not have to pay the gallery’s commission?” Hmm nice try buddy! Forget it, althoughh it may sound like a win-win the gallery misses out. Let the gallery represent you, that’s what they do, or if you have hired the space and this seems like a good idea to save you paying out more money, think again. You might put  yourself into a poor bargaining position later on with no other prospects about to make an offer.

If you are more interested in discussing the value of the work from a story, metaphoric or visual language perspective, then the the discussion can be quite different. It’s a chance to “bare your soul” and let the world catch a glimpse of the “inner you”, what caused you to make the work/s, why you explored the subject the way  you did, or perhaps what you were aiming to communicate to the viewer.

Treat the exercise like it’s a chance to vent and be at ease with what you have produced and you will probably have a great time doing so.

Here’s the link to the next article in this series…

Talking about Art Part 2.

Following on from Part 1 in this short series of Talking about Art. Lets tackle the topic of an Artist talking about their own work, and not from a sales perspective at this stage.


Let’s paint a picture of a person asking the artist about their work.

Does the Artist become coy and reserved saying little other than “Oh I don’t know I think the work speaks for itself really…” Or do they do their best to “wax lyrical” about the work and perhaps give an brief insight, or perhaps go too far and risk boring the viewer with too much information.

I would hope the middle ground could prevail, so the viewer who has asked the question can say “I got enough information to satisfy my interest” and then be able to walk away content with the knowledge they received.

Getting the balance right comes down to being able to “read” the viewer and figure out what sort of information they really want, and you can do this by asking a few questions. “Tell me about your work…” Might seem like a great starting point, but for the Artist it should not be the only cue to jump in and tell all. It should only be the start to “What would you like to know specifically?”

From here the viewer might say “I want to know about the inspiration for the work.” (it could be an easy smoke screen question to get you talking on a deeper level too). So you might ask, “My inspiration for the series or this piece in particular?” This way you will be able to provide an answer which best fits to their needs.

Perhaps an Artist might do well to practice a few scenarios so they can provide information which can fit to a range of starting points. Consider a bunch of questions you might be asked and then figure out how to respond to those.

There. that’s a bunch of starting points, how you deal with each is up to you, however the major factor is presenting confidently so the person you are speaking too can feel you are not wishy washy or unable to talk in terms they want to hear.

There are lots of resources on reading personality types, talking other peoples language (so to speak) and ways to engage them. The important thing about all that is finding ways to make them see your point of view by talking their language in a way which appeals to them.

Have a think about how you might respond to these questions and bring together your language skills in a way which, you can feel confident with the results.

Here’s the link to the next article in this series…

Talking about Art Part 1.

I’m sure there are many Lecturers and Art Teachers who find it quite a challenge to get their students to talk about art. Mostly I guess students might think Art is a “visual” medium and trying to put things into an auditory or written language may well seem foreign to them. This article can be of value to students and artists alike wanting to get a stronger grip on the task of talking about art, especially for students in VCE Studio Arts.

talk art

Artists on the other hand can either find themselves buried in a swathe of “pontificating” about their work, or lost in thought, unable to articulate the visual medium. So what to do?

For the Artists, some are the type who can seemingly sell ice to Eskimos, so they can handle themselves verbally and build a solid persuasive story around their works. Others prefer to let the work speak for itself or to let a Gallerist chat to prospects and collectors about the Art.

What do you say about your works? Maybe it’s a loaded question, as I guess it depends on what you want to communicate. If it’s a regular collector of  your works that’s one thing, but a new person unaware of who you are, or your style of work etc then that’s another. Then take into account a student trying to make sense of evaluating an artwork of any kind.

There are frameworks for exploring the analysis of works, and ways of researching the Artist and their possible intent. It comes down to “What’s it all about…”

I can see it will be a big topic to handle so let’s leave this starting point as is, a point to ponder from… and break down the issue into a  smaller bunch of articles.

Heres the link to the next one…

Buyers of Art

Lets try and create some starting points about who buys art and why… I’m not saying this is a definitive list by the way, but a way of understanding the buyers basic motivations. There will be much more to this and for the artist wanting to sell their work they may well find the following information useful in connecting with buyers. Feel free to add comments tot he article so I can add more information or details as required if you have another view or three.


Buyer profiles:

I like it – Colours, lines, shapes, tones, subject matter, scale, composition, price,. Any and or all of these (and maybe a few others) become the motivation for buying a piece, this is usually supported by a justification “It will look good where I want to put it.” Mostly it’s about decoration or showing something they believe is beautiful. Long term value as an appreciating artwork, negligible. “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like…”

I like the artist – They probably like the artworks created by the artist, the style etc as well as the person… Perhaps they have not met the artist but have been told about them by a gallery. “You really should look at the work of..” These buyers often connect with the person, then the art, they will then have a story to tell, “We met this artist and wow!) They are not so interested in the longer term value of the work, perhaps wishing it’s value may rise as well as having decoration value. “We met the Artist at the gallery, got to see their studio later on and now we know more about them and their inspiration, we really like the work too!” – “The Artist is a good friend of ours and we love their work as well as them, great to have one of their works in our collection.”

I like the price – An art work is purchased above a certain amount, the gallery is renown for having works which are above a certain value, the buyer knows that, the buyers friends know it too. so to have one from “X Gallery” becomes a status symbol. No mention of the price is made and any interest in the artist is often cursory. This can happen at any level in the art field from decorative works, through to contemporary art and prices though to many thousands of dollars. They say they are informed by the gallery the value of the artists work will rise, but who knows… “The gallery has taught me a lot about this Artist and their work…”

Secondary market buyers – “I like works already with some value to them, the artist is often better known, has a track record of success in some way and their works are valued by others enough to make it to the secondary market.” Auctions of artworks are usually the way these buyers get the works. They could be building an investment portfolio and are linking their budget to the works and the propensity for the art to appreciate in value. “I put into action my knowledge of the Artist and art-world, coupled with information from the catalogue and other sources.”

Institutional – These are Gallerists and Curators buying for larger organistations. They may be looking for works of significance from certain art eras, works and or artists whose value may have had critical acclaim, or their works may hold some deeper cultural or contemporary interest, providing some measure of value, perhaps as an investment and as a culturally valuable piece. “We buy works of broader cultural value first and foremost, the fact many of these may appreciate in financial value is often secondary but a nice bonus.”

Patrons – “We buy works by specific artists sometimes and also because we like the works and or we like the concepts communicated.” Call them rich, eccentric or whatever, these people are great patrons of the arts, often holding large collections revered by the art community at higher levels. It could be a show of status but often in a more demure manner. “We love following the work of Artist X, but we also buy others too, we don’t flaunt the collection to others we just love to support the wider cultural fabric of society.”

Investors – “We want works, which will appreciate in value, yes we buy what we like too so if we get ‘stuck with it’ we can live with it.” Using a broad range of information to make (hopefully) effective buying decisions to collect works which will provide a financial return. Coupling knowledge of works, academic information and investment trends for the works to make informed decisions. The works can be sourced from the primary or secondary markets and sold at auction later on. “It’s an investment first and foremost.”

Copyright © Steve Gray 2010+

Videos – Contemporary Artists

Here are some video links to Contemporary Artists at work. Generally I aim for short sharp videos, which are easy to watch and not just selling you on their website etc. Come back from time to time, I hope to add more.

Del Kathryn Barton – Painter

Diane Savona – Textile Artist

How much is the art in the window?

The Pricing Game
Pricing Secrets Artists Need To Embrace

A message from art publisher Eric Rhoads

Let’s play a couple of games….

Imagine for a moment that you’re fairly wealthy. Not billionaire wealthy, but wealthy enough that you don’t need to think twice about going out and paying cash for a new $80,000 Lexus.

Most artists price themselves too low because they can’t relate to wealth, so it’s important to imagine yourself with wealth for this exercise. Are you there yet?

Now imagine that you go to the flea market on a Saturday. There is a guy at the flea market selling what he claims is a brand-new Mercedes for $13,000. Would you consider it, even for a moment?

No? Why not?

Because something smells rotten. First, we all know you can’t buy a new Mercedes for $13,000. Second, would you buy a new Mercedes at the flea market from someone you don’t know? Even at a full Mercedes price? Probably not. Your brain won’t let you buy when a sale doesn’t pass the smell test.

Next game.

You’re still wealthy. Now imagine that you walk into a very stylish blue chip art gallery in Manhattan. You see two paintings you love equally. One painting is $65,000 and the other one is $2,500. You can only buy one. You can afford either. Which will you buy?

Why did you pick the $65,000 painting? There must be a reason.

The reason is that your smell test tells you there must be something wrong with the $2,500 painting. If I like them both equally, why aren’t they both expensive? Your brain tells you it must be better because it’s more expensive, since it’s from a quality source.

Our last game.

You’re still wealthy, and you see a screaming commercial on television for an art sale at the Holiday Inn. Though you know it’s going to be schlock art, you go for amusement, and maybe to pick up something cheap to hang in the basement. Most of the paintings are $125 framed. One painting is $50,000. Would you buy the $50,000 painting?

Why not? The price doesn’t match the environment. You’re probably thinking it’s a fraud from a company that will be on the road with your money by midnight. It doesn’t pass the smell test.

The Psychology of Price and Environment
In game one, your brain told you the price for a new Mercedes was too low. It also told you that it’s probably stolen, because lots of things at a flea market might be stolen. Any time your brain faces something that doesn’t equate, it rejects it to protect you. If you had seen a new $13,000 Mercedes at a credible dealer, you still would have asked yourself, “What’s wrong with it?” But you would probably trust the dealer and their reasoning a little more, because of the trusted environment.

More artworks don’t sell because they are priced too low, and are not priced for environment.

Wait, Eric. How can this be true? People always want a bargain. So a lower price is always better than a higher price, right?


Case in point? I’m more likely to pay $80,000 for a new Lexus than the same model at $40,000. The discount is too deep, so something must be wrong. It must have been wrecked. Yet a price of, say, $68,000 seems like a legitimate discount. My “BS Meter” tells me something is wrong when the discount is too deep.

A Famous Painter’s Story
I swore I wouldn’t use this man’s name, but he is a household name among living painters today. One day at lunch I asked, “How did you get your prices so high?”

“Eric, in the 1950s I had a painting sit in a gallery for two years unsold. It was a great little painting. I was young, but my work was already very strong. I wasn’t very confident, so it had a $1,000 price on it. So after two years I pulled it out and put it in another gallery. I figured what the heck, and I put a price of $3,000 on it. It sat for a year unsold so I moved it to another gallery and put a price of $6,000 on it. A year later it still hadn’t sold. Out of frustration, I sent it to another gallery, put an $18,000 price on it, and it sold within three weeks.”

True story.

When you pick up this painter’s Rembrandt-like works, they look like they should sell for a lot of money. If you’re a person with taste and money, there must be something wrong with a painting that’s too cheap. A price of a painting must feel right. If it’s too cheap or too expensive, it won’t sell. Which is why my artist friend’s painting didn’t sell at the first two prices.

Environment Impacts Price
Why can a 5th Avenue boutique with a name brand get $10,000 for an item you can buy in the garment district for $500? It’s all about the strength of the environment (which equates to a strong brand to trust). It’s a combination of neighborhood, quality decor, and reputation (which is brand and trust).

It’s not unusual to see someone walk into a beautifully decorated gallery and drop $200,000. That same person may walk down the street and feel reluctant to spend $5,000 in a shabby gallery. That’s why Lexus dealers and blue chip New York art galleries spend a fortune decorating their showrooms. Environment commands higher prices.

I know a New York dealer in an elegant setting, with French marble stairways and beautiful fabric walls. They can command a considerably higher price for a painting because of their reputation, which has been built on environment and brand trust. Even telling a knowing friend you bought a painting from that gallery sends a signal that you must have spent a fortune. That’s important in some circles.

Frames Are Like Environment
One dealer friend told me he had a $14,000 painting that sat unsold for a year. Before sending it back to the artist, he put the painting in a $5,000 frame and put a $40,000 price on it. It sold within a week. He increased his profit with the quality of the frame.

Quality art buyers often judge an artwork by its frame. If it’s in a low-quality frame, how good can the painting really be? High-quality frames make a huge difference in perception and the ability to get a high price. It’s why there are frame dealers who create million-dollar custom frames and can’t keep them in stock.

What does this mean to you, the artist?

1. It’s a lot easier to make a living on high prices. You don’t have to produce as much work.

2. Most prices set by artists are rooted in their own insecurity.

3. Your gallery partner has to have their mind wrapped around your pricing. If they don’t believe they can sell it, they won’t. Make sure you have a gallery willing to ask high prices.

4. Some galleries won’t even consider representing you if your prices are too low. Why bother? It’s too hard to make money on inexpensive paintings.

5. Yes, price matters in a bad economy more than it normally would. BUT in a bad economy there are more wealthy buyers than lower-end buyers. Wealthy people usually want quality, and, to them, price equates with quality.

6. Your prices cannot be inconsistent. You cannot have low prices in one gallery and high in another or online. Be consistent.

7. Pricing takes guts and the right environment.

Should You Raise Your Prices?
I cannot tell you to raise your prices. Most (not all) the artists I know could be getting 100%-500% higher prices without much resistance. Yes, your work has to be quality, but most of the artists I know are underselling themselves because they fear what will happen if they increase their prices. Are you worth it? It’s worth strong consideration.

Eric Rhoads


Art Investors and Collectors, what do they want?

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

Scott Adams

I did some thinking about this topic today, and then followed it with some research via the web and coupled this with my own experience as well as what I was “taught” at Art School.

I think we should take this type of material into account when we decide, the “business of Visual Art” is important to us and we wish to encourage Investors and Collectors to purchase our works. These two groups would have to be the main target markets Artists would aim for.

Investors and Collectors of Contemporary Visual Art, look to the following pointers to assist them in the purchase of art works which will appreciate in value. By looking at what’s out in the marketplace a new comer to the idea of investing in Visual Art might soon become confused by the quantity of artists, the diversity of styles and media, not to mention decorative works, leisure art and reproductions. My hope is the list below will provide a basis to start from.

Basic Points

Deeper Points

To add to this the collector may have in mind the level of work they want.

There are no absolute guidelines as to which points are better or stronger which a collector or investor might use but these are points for discussion or contemplation at least. Perhaps the big thing about all this is how the Artist communicates all this to the prospective buyer.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+ If you want to see more articles like this as they are published subscribe!

Valuing artworks…

By Robert Bear

Let’s assume you’re an artist and want to sell a painting. How do you set a sales price? This should be a helpful guide to those wanting to know how initial prices of a work are determined.

To start with, you have to consider legitimate expenses: outlay of materials, approximate rate of utilities while producing the work, expenses for research and photography, travel, fees for models, studio space rental, copyright use, framing, storage, etc. These are all things you can document with a paper trail and receipts. Next, you have to consider a wage for your time in production. How much is your time worth and dependent on your skill? Should you reasonably expect to get more if you have a master’s degree in painting, or are a beginner? (It may be interesting to note that most artists in the U.S. do not even make minimum wage on the sales of their work.) Which brings up another issue, how do you recoup your expenses for classes and education or training in art? If you have limited edition signed and numbered reproductions of a painting made, how much should the price of the painting be raised?

These are just some considerations. Some artists simplify this by using a formula, like $6 per square inch plus the cost of framing.

So, you have a price in mind and want to be represented by a gallery. You go to a few galleries and find out their commissions vary from 30 to 50 percent of the sales price. After evaluating gallery requirements and expectations you decide that in order to get the price you had in mind, for example $850, now must become $1,140 with a 40% gallery take included. Other issues involved are not limited to whether or not the gallery can expect to sell it at that price in its market and the galleries’ insurance liabilities and limitations.

Here are some other questions regarding artist’s pricing. Suppose you have some paintings in galleries and try to liquidate some others yourself. From an ethical standpoint, can you sell a similar work for $850 (knowing it would sell easier at that price), or should you charge the same as the gallery, $1,140? Can a similar painting sell for more in a different location of the country? Watercolors typically sell for less than oils of comparable size, therefore, how do you adjust prices? What do you charge in adjustment for a vignette of the same dimensions as a full composition piece? Additionally, suppose you have participated in some juried exhibitions and some of your works have won awards. Do you now raise the prices of these, and if so, how much (I’ve known some who double the price.)?

The artist also sees value in their art as a possible source of residual income. This comes in two forms. One is through royalty payments with the paid use of their copyrighted and licensed materials. The second and more obscure to most, is through percentages of repeated sales of the same art work. This is accomplished in a contract purchase where the artist or their estate is guaranteed a certain amount of the purchase each time the work is bought by a different patron. Both of these require the use of a good attorney that specializes in art sales contracts.

Since I mentioned insurance before, let’s look at value from under that hat. Dollar amounts may reflect differently from the insurer and the insured. What you think a piece is worth may need to be documented with a certified appraiser’s estimate and even appraisers amounts will vary. Another method is to verify a “track record” of sales amounts. An owner of an art purchase will need to show a receipt. Since values of art vary over the years, one should get updated estimates that reflect inflation. On the other hand, an insurer of a gallery may just take a gallery owner’s document on total amounts of consignment contracts.

Suppose you own art and want to donate it to a non-profit organization. Now the federal government has stepped in. If you want to claim an amount for tax purposes you have to verify a claim with a receipt. Unless you are the artist, then it’s a whole other ball game. Uncle Sam now says you can only claim the actual value of the tangible materials that make up the piece. Your time and other expenses are null and void. So, your piece basically becomes worthless, which brings us to the next three berets of value I can relate to under the voice of experience, 1) estate of the deceased, 2) bankruptcy , and 3) loan value.

In the event of settling an estate, unless one has receipts to verify worth, you can expect to get, or list, garage sale prices (GSP). Here you also have the option of using a professional appraiser to assign a value. In the unfortunate case of a bankruptcy, you can expect to keep art listed as “wall coverings” also valued at “garage sale prices”, to sell it at the GSP level, or at minimum, much lower values than your track record of sales. Banks have their own capricious policies in terms of the value of art as collateral. Some won’t accept it, some require a certified appraised estimate, which will be in a range from “X” dollars to “X” dollars and as you can rightly guess, the lower amount will be used. Furthermore, you can expect the bank to allow no more than 75% of that number as collateral value. Some will have their own value of several art pieces (note the plural here) by stating that they will accept the art for a $500 loan, this is, in effect, actually a signature loan and the art has no collateral value.

Take the stance of an investor now. Several years ago “Money” magazine published their best long term investments for 15 and 30 year periods. Ranked at numbers 2 and 3 over these periods was original, contemporary art. If you are looking at long term strategies, then a serious glance at art values is important. As an investor, unless you purchase art at auction, you can generally negotiate a purchase price with a gallery or an artist. This demonstrates there can be a difference between perceived and real value for a work. If you buy art just because you like it, it may not be a monetary investment. Prior to investing in art, you need to consider all of the topics mentioned above in deciding what to look for as “value” in buying art. Two things here that also affect the value of art is the notoriety of artist in combination with market supply and demand.

With all this said, the ultimate monetary value of any art work is only the highest amount at any given time that someone is willing to pay.

Up to now we have taken a cursory look at art in terms of tangible market values. Here are a few non-monetary assessments of art work worth: cultural significance, educational and instructional relevance, historical documentation and study, therapeutic value (which can also be seen as an investment), and aesthetic attachment. Each one of these deserves their own treatise at another time.

The “value of art” to each person is a rough diamond. Increasing its worth will depend on the skill of the cutter to weld a working philosophical construct of value with practical applications to be employed as a tool to expose its many exquisite faces. Undoubtedly, theoretical physicists will prove a string theory for the universe before there is any global “value of art” recognized throughout all societies and cultures.

Robert E. Bear is a professional educator and national award winning wildlife artist. He has been recognized in Who’s Who In America, Who’s Who In American Education, and National Honor Society Outstanding American Teachers. He has created the Star Poster Program, the game of Gig’l(TM), and the team sport of Bearball(TM). His additional writings and paintings may be viewed at

What is Abstract Art?


By Annette Labedzki

Abstract Art refers to all those works of art, which are carried out in compliance with the principle that Lines, Forms, and Colors have aesthetic value. An Abstract Artist is like a poet arranging compositions and colors, which are devoid of normal subject matter. Abstract Art does not try to imitate or express any external reality and is non-objective.

Abstract Art was introduced into serious art sometime in early Eighteenth Century. It started with a movement called Impressionism, which produced art, which was devoid of any realistic, defined images. Impressionism talked about depicting nature in its truest form. The artists of this art form were mostly interested in capturing changes in light throughout the day, from one season to another. Abstract Art is generally divided into two groups, the Action Painting and the Color Field.

In the Twentieth Century, several other movements such as, Fauvism & Cubism contributed in breaking new grounds. Fauvist used colors in non-realist ways and Cubism brought in the idea of painting an object from more than one standpoint. In addition, Abstract Expressionism, which surfaced in the 1940s, is all about spontaneous, automatic, or subconscious creation. In Abstract Art, the artists express themselves through an aggregation of the emotional strength and self-denial. This expression is coupled with the anti-figurative feels of the European Abstract Doctrine, specified as Futurism, the Bauhaus, and Synthetic Cubism. European Movement was the predecessor of Surrealism. Some of the most famous Cubists were Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. The Leaders of Fauvism were Henri Matisse and André Derain. Two of the most famous examples of Abstract Expressionism were Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock.

Many artists believe that the true work of art is an esoteric, incomprehensible, and mystical creation. Abstract Art distinguishes itself from the artist and acquires an identity of its own with an independent life. In effect, we can say that an Abstract Artwork in itself becomes a living personality having a real existence of being. Abstract Art speaks for itself and points to the social, cultural, and the intellectual hoo-ha of the times.

In the 21st Century, there is a wide array of ideas available for the artists as the new schools of thoughts have emerged, for e.g., Figurative Art, which comprises of Neo-Dada, Fluxus, Conceptual Art, Neo-expressionism, Installation Art, Performance Art, Video Art, and Pop Art. All this has made it hard to distinguish between Figurative Art and Abstract Art, still abstraction remains very much in view.

Annette Labedzki received her BFA at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. She has more than 25 years experience. She is the founder and developer of an online art gallery featuring original art from all over the world. It is a great site for art collectors to buy original art. Is is also a venue for artists to display and sell their art . Artists can join for free and their image upload is unlimited. Please visit the website at

What is art?

While out jogging one afternoon it came to me, an epiphany; ” There is a simple, comprehensive definition of “art”, it’s an acronym for itself”.

The Aesthetic Rendering of Thought.

In order for Art to exist, the following three (3) criteria must be met. First of all, there must be some sensory manifestation (Rendering), fugitive or permanent, which is based upon a creative, intellectual process (Thought) with the intention of a beautiful or pleasurable (Aesthetic or Anti-aesthetic) action, or reaction, in one or more of the senses and/or psyche.

Encircled within this definition are more than the traditional concepts of “art”: painting, sculpture, ceramics, writing, architecture, drama, music, dance, and photography. It’s now easier to understand why cooking can be included as an “art” and more than just a craft.

Robert E. Bear is a professional educator and national award winning wildlife artist. He has been recognized in Who’s Who In America, Who’s Who In American Education, and National Honor Soceity Outstanding American Teachers. He has created the Star Poster Progra, the game of Gig’l(TM), and the team sport of Bearball(TM). His additional writings on art and eduation, as well as, paintings may be seen at

Matrix concept

Coming to terms with the wide array of works and styles in the art world is a challenge at times, this “matrix” MAY provide some useful starting points for us to explore with. Where do you “fit” as an Artist? Using the comments facility at the end of the post, feel free to add information I can use to improve this.

Note it is intended to provide a guide to appreciating various “categories” of art in the market place rather than a device to indicate if a style “better than another”. Perhaps it’s “best” use may be for a beginning investor or collector wanting to appreciate what they are looking at and if it may have a possibility of increasing in value due to critical and or peer review.


This “matrix” has been through several versions starting at No: 7 (the previous 6 were for my eyes only and took a while to gain a format which I felt worked for a wider public audience.) this one is currently version 9.1.


Analytical Frameworks

I have just been introduced to the Visual Art Analytical Frameworks which is a device utilised to analyse artworks for students studying Visual Art at VCE (Australia) levels. This framework device looks at four areas to analyse works buy and it can offer readers of the matrix another way of exploring artworks, I would like to think the two could be utilised together to enable a faster understanding and greater depth of analysis could happen.

1. The Formal Framework – Visual analysis – Technique – Style – Symbolism and metaphor.

2. The Personal Framework – Reflects the artists life – Links to other aspects which may relate to the artists life.

3. The Cultural Framework – The influences of time and place – Connections to contexts and cultural purposes.

4. The Contemporary Framework – Exploring contemporary issues.

If you were to follow these frameworks for analysing artworks I guess it would be possible to negate various aspects of hobby and simple decorative work and find yourself wanting more from an art piece when you realise there is more to be had than just the formal framework. A viewer could do well to use these four points in discussing works with artists and soon be able to asses the merit or otherwise of the artist and their works.

I would love to hear from students, artists and general readers about the four points listed, the matrix and or the whole lot! (check out the comments section at the bottom of the page, its a simple link.)

Copyright © Steve Gray 2011+