Meet the Artist(s)

Here is the usual small number of pitiful photos of the Meet the Artist session yesterday with Angie Lewin.

Despite being on what felt like the hottest day in a decade, it was pretty busy – great to meet such lovely people….


Oh dear, matching tops – we must remember to consult on our wardrobes next time.
Thank goodness I made a last minute change from jeans to white trousers, otherwise it would have been really embarrassing…..

Angie discussing Brenda Hartill‘s collographs with some visitors. That’s one of life’s great pleasures, discussing another artist’s methods – how did she do that?

And that’s it – I’m off to the Royal Academy Summer Show for Varnishing Day soon and I really must remember to take lots of photos….

The RA Summer Show – Like It or Loath It?

Each year, I really enjoy reading the reviews of the RA Summer Exhibition – there’s nothing like it for polarizing opinion amongst the art critics. Here are a few from last year’s show (2011).
Jonathan Jones in the Guardian says this:
‘I have a modest proposal to put to the Royal Academy. Every summer, there is a strange imbalance in its galleries. The vast salons on the main floor are given over to the RA summer exhibition. Superannuated sculptors, paltry painters and a ragtag of would-be titans have their day, for months. The public comes, for its sins. Critics try to find the good in it, and retch and redden in the courtyard, disgusted by this rite of mediocrity’. 
And again:
‘in future, the Royal Academy should cram its entire summer exhibition into the Sackler Galleries. They must admit the truth: there is barely enough worthwhile art in the summer exhibition to fill this cramped attic space. They could either select the handful of moderately good works and hang them – it would be a nice, spacious little exhibit – or just leave everything stacked and heaped around the floor, and let people sort it through as if at a jumble sale.’ 
Do you get the impression he’s not too keen? Read the whole article here
A review by Brian Sewell in the London Evening Standard takes the traditional view:
‘If the Academy has ever demonstrated anything in its Summer Exhibitions, it is that when large works and small are crowded together the “rhetoric of the small” is based on logic, judgment, purpose and clarity, while the large depend on size for their effect – an old trick of art in the service of tyrannical politics. Were I a collector I’d go first to the Small Weston Room (known to my generation as the Small South Room) and look with a keen eye at the paintings crowded there.’
 ‘I have always felt sorry for the handful of skilled professional print makers exhibiting in the Academy, swamped by the bagatelles of amateurs and filthy rich painter-Academicians who, at the peak of their game, need neither the notice nor the cash.’ 
See the whole article here 
And Alistair Sooke takes a reasonable view in the Telegraph (imagine!): 
“Today, suspicion persists that it remains a safe haven for traditional painters who take the “common-sense” view that a picture of a tree must resemble a tree. Yet it strikes me that denigrating the Summer Exhibition is a peculiarly self-flagellating British trait. Nobody could claim that it is cool, or cutting edge. But it is the largest open-submission contemporary art exhibition in the world: this year, the hanging committee vetted more than 12,000 entries from 27 countries.”
See the rest here
I guess we can all make up our own minds in a few days – it opens on the 4th June…..


Meet the Artist (Me) This Sunday

‘Meet the Artist’ sessions are held at Bankside Gallery throughout the duration of the Annual Exhibition of the RE (Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers).
Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 1-4, there will be an RE member present at the gallery, ready to talk about their work. Admission is free and no booking is required – just turn up. There is a complete list of artists here.
I will be there this Sunday (29th May) and I’m always up for a chat about printmaking and my own work, of course. So if anyone feels like a trip up to the smoke, I’d be very happy to see you. Mostly it’s just tourists, mildly puzzled as to why I’m sitting there, and of course there’s always someone who’s come in out of the rain….
As an added attraction, Angie Lewin will also be there – normally there’s a crowd three deep around her table and one person at mine (possibly because they can’t get close enough to Angie.)
All this and some wonderful prints to see at the exhibition  – well, you can’t ask for more than that, can you?

FAQ’s on a Printmaker’s Working Life…

I’m often asked to answer a set of questions by art students, as part of their studies I guess, and as these were particularly interesting ones, I thought I’d share them here. A cheap and cheerful post, that’s what I like…

What are your motives for the subject matter you work with?
I just like to record the world around me but I’m drawn to the idea of the journey, of being in between places.

Have you remained faithful to your original narrative and ideas or have you adapted them towards a more commercial slant?
I think that in an ideal world, you would just produce what you felt like at any given time but unfortunately if you want to make a living, you have to learn to be flexible and adapt.
If you want to be taken on by commercial galleries, and that’s where a lot of potential buyers will see your work, then you have to be able to sell for them. It’s not too difficult getting galleries to accept a couple of paintings for a group show, say, but if they don’t sell those paintings, they won’t ask you again. They have bills to pay too.
Of course, you can always make your art in your free time and have another unrelated job that pays the bills. Personally I never wanted a regular job and, other than a few stints temping in offices, I’ve never had one.
I guess I have adapted to what sells in order to keep the money coming in – but in moderation. You have to be pretty bloody-minded about your work to keep slogging away year after year in a freezing cold studio and anyway, people aren’t stupid. They pick up if you’re just going through the motions – passion about your subject always shines through.

Was linocut your first medium, or did you investigate other ways that would be sympathetic to your work?
I have a degree in painting and half of my practice is still painting. When you’re starting out, getting a foot in the door is easier if you have prints to offer a gallery at first. Like any other retail business, they have to justify the space they let you have and a few prints in a browser is less of a risk to them when you are still unknown than a big spot on the wall.

Do you work to a rigid timetable of production, as in ‘so many pieces per year’ or is it more fluid?
No timetable as such, but for instance, if I have a solo show coming up, that might mean supplying the gallery with forty framed pieces, in addition to which I will have other commitments. I have to have a timetable in my head (if only to reassure myself that I will be able to do what I’ve agreed to).

Has it been ‘easy’ to reach the position you are in now?
Not really – unless you’re prepared to work exceptionally hard, you won’t get anywhere. It’s a very competitive field and there are so many other talented artists waiting to step into your shoes, if you let them…

Would you recommend it to an art student?
Yes, it’s a great life – but if money matters a lot to you, then probably not – you never make enough to relax.

Have galleries been a vital part of your career?
Yes, I don’t sell through my website – I haven’t got the time – and so I’m more than happy to let the galleries do all that for me (in exchange for the commission, obviously). Lots of people I know do sell very successfully through their websites but the downside is that they don’t have good long-lasting relationships with galleries (who are in effect being undercut by the artist selling direct).
It seems to be difficult to keep the momentum going if you don’t show in the ‘real’ world from time to time. Hiring a gallery is an option but it is time consuming and expensive. I prefer to send off work to galleries and let them take the strain.
Does your web site work as an effective tool for sales and publicity?
It’s very effective as a publicity tool and it’s so much easier to send a link to your website than lugging around a portfolio. Also you can reach much further afield (world-wide even!) than would have ever been possible before.
And NO details of course, but can it be considered as a ‘living’ for you?
Yes, I make a reasonable living but I work long hours and I can’t rely on the same amount of money (or any, occasionally) going into my bank account every month.
So there you have it – and if there’s anyone still left reading after all that – are there any questions that were missed out?

Current Exhibitions

The Royal Society of Painter Printmakers’ Annual Exhibition has started at Bankside Gallery in London. It’s on for another three weeks, until Saturday 9th June. This show is always worth seeing, especially if you’re interested in printmaking, as there is a huge variety of techniques and styles on display. All the work is for sale at really competitive prices.
During the exhibition, I will be taking part in a Meet the Artist session (with Angie Lewin) on Sunday 27th May – more on this later…

And it’s the last week for the London Calling show at Cambridge Contemporary Art– ends on Sunday 20th May. Lots of London themed work from the likes of Paul Catherall, Frank Kiely and me too, obviously. Drop in if you’re in the area…

This is a linocut called Midnight Cowboy, available framed only from Cambridge Contemporary Art.

New Media Journey Part Two

I have to say that I well and truly exhausted my meagre writing skills last month, in my definitive research into the more posts = more readers theory. See here for an explanation (of sorts.)
I know that eleven posts in April doesn’t sound a lot but if you compare that to the five I managed to write in March, the measly two in February and the slightly less pathetic four in January, it’s more than double my usual output. Combine that with all the extra tweeting and facebooking I did during the month and no wonder my nerves are shot to pieces…
So, yes my stats have gone up massively, but from an exceedingly low start point, and to be honest, I’m slightly wondering why did I bother?


So I’ve decided to mull it over for a while and in the meantime, I’m hard at work, making a new linocut – a companion piece to my last one, Up with the Larks, seen below (34 x 33cms). I can see a new passion coming on for dark stairwells, long shadows and floods of light…..