This week I passed an important blogging milestone. On Tuesday moring I was greeted with the message that my wordpress site had passed 100,000 all-times views!
My husband, Séamas, set up this wordpress site for me over seven years ago. When I took it over full-time in 2015, I had 91 followers, now I have just over 800! Views for my site have steadily been growing but 2020-21 was a bumper year.
Breaking my leg last year provoked the most comments by far!
I would like to say a great big thank you to every one who visited my website, bought my work, read my blogs and left comments!
It seems that I like animals almost as much as I like Art. Turns out that Wayne (Barnes) of Tofino Photography is my chattiest follower. He certainly makes me laugh! He takes wonderful photographs of the incredible wildlife of Western Canada – eagles, bears, wolves, orcas and humming birds! Take a look here.
Thank you to everyone who has visited my website and blog. Whether you have just stopped by to look at my paintings, read my blogs but especially those who “like”, comment and buy my work. Without you I could not continue to make art.
I had been a professional artist for four years before I realized that I had been missing a really big trick. I wasn’t cultivating my mailing list. I had a small collection of email addresses that my website provided kindly collected for me, but I didn’t really do much with them. I didn’t do anything at all, in fact.
This was a serious mistake. I was avoiding working out how to use an automated mailing list provider because I had hadn’t had the time or energy to immerse myself into finding out about aspects of social media, which was to me “new” technology. Don’t laugh. I wasn’t until quite recently that I “got” Pinterest or Instagram.
Now, younger people are probably shaking their heads at this. My niece famously said that the mini ipad I had on loan from the school I was working for at the time was wasted on me. She was probably right. I didn’t have the time. I was either preparing lessons, marking or painting. In 2016 I left teaching and I dedicated a lot of time to finding out how online stuff worked (not just facebook and twitter). It took a lot of effort but it was worth it.
This was vital for taking control of my own marketing and developing long-term and (importantly) direct relationship with collectors. Online galleries may bring you one-off sales, but they don’t seem to be terribly good growing repeat customers. Yet, I knew from experience that relationships & friendships, I had developed via Facebook and Twiter, and increasingly on Instagram, encouraged art collectors to support my work on a regular basis.
How many times have you had someone tell you that they “love your work but can’t buy it right now?” The mailing list is a way in which you can keep those potential collectors in touch with what you are doing. Some collectors start off with small paintings and come back and buy larger ones. It’s also about trust. If fans get to know you through your work and your stories they will become emotionally invested in your continuing success. People buy from those they trust. Most importantly, for you, it is your list. It doesn’t belong to the online gallery, Facebook or Instagram.
Where to start? Collect names and email addresses – at craft-fairs, exhibitions, from people who have bought your work in the past. You do need their explicit permission to email them or else you are breaking EU GDPR anti-spam laws.
Sign up for online marketing platform – I use Mailchimp.com (it’s free for mailing list under 2,000 names). I find not find it easy to work out how to use it but I watch a lot of Youtube videos and read articles on Pinterest and I got there in the end. There are also others to choose from such as Aweber.com and Tinyletter.com. These sites also provide pop up/sign up forms that you can link to your website or blog.
It’s not about the hard sell. Subscribers want to hear your latest news, the inside story on life as an artist. I have to remind myself that not everyone uses facebook, twitter and instagram or follow my blog and my newsletters are often a summary of the sort of content that is published on those platforms. A fair bit of content is similar to what I blog about, but not exactly the same.
As with social media – be consistent. Send out your newsletter regularly, whether that means twice a year or twice a month.
Ideas for content
Exhibitions (setting up, behind the scenes, opening night)
Photos of paintings in collectors’ homes
Work-in-Progress photographs (the “sneak peek”)
Remind people of your story “about me”, how I came to be an artist
New products – e.g. prints, greeting cards, tea-towels, online courses, ebooks
Encourage subscribers to follow you on other platforms
Inspirations – such as other artists or locations that inspire you
Revisit old work
Encourage subscribers to follow you on other platforms (as the content is not identical on Instagram or facebook).
Failures and challenges (hard though it can be to admit these, people like to see you overcome minor difficulties, you are human after all).
Review of Art products
Business tips for artists (quite a few artists sign up to artist’s newsletters)
Finally, remember not to put in too much. It’s not a newspaper. You want collectors to visit your website. It also needs to be visually appealing (canva.com is useful for this), have a consistent brand feel to you. You also need to proof-read it carefully!
This part two of photo-essay on great artists who have either painted their pets, or other people’s pets as a way of proving that pets are a proper subject for serious artists.
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo had many pets and they frequently appeared in her biographical portraits. In the case of her deer she identified so closely with the creature she painted herself as a hunted deer.
Salvatore Dali had some strange pets and he used them for publicity (hence the anteater in Paris) as much as anything else. I don’t think he cared much for cats (see the amazing photo below) however, some dogs did feature in his surrealist paintings.
I was going to say that fellow Spaniard, Pablo Picasso, clearly did not like cats, either.
However, I suspect, Like many cat owners, he was ambivalent about cats’ hunting skill and their drive to kill, even when they are well fed. Perhaps that was why he was fascinated by a cat’s encounter with a lobster, which he painted several times. However, a number of much less vicious cats, kittens in fact, also appear in his paintings.
If we look at the photographic evidence it seems clear that Picasso clearly liked both cats and dogs. His absolute favourite dog was a Dachshund called, Lump. “Lump had an absolutely pampered life there. Picasso once said, ‘Lump, he’s not a dog, he’s not a little man, he’s somebody else.’ Picasso had many dogs, but Lump was the only one he took in his arms.”
And pampered Lump clearly was. He died ten days before Picasso, on 29 March 1973.
Ammerican pop artist, Andy Warhol was also a fan of dachshunds.
British painter David Hockney is also a massive fan of the short-legged pooches.
British painter, Lucien Freud was famously fond of dogs especially his pair of whippets whom he often painted.
American artist Andrew Wyeth painted a number of beautifully atmospheric paintings of his Labrador-type dog.
Time for some cat lovers, I think. Less well known, is the British artist Ruskin Spear who painted many wonderful pictures of his cats.
Bridgeman; (c) Somerset County Museums Service; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Another, lesser known British artist, Beryl Cook, painted some fabulously plump cats to go with her full-of-life people.
More cats and a lobster, only this time the lobster is outnumbered.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is another cat lover. He lives with about 40 of them in his Beijing home.
Swedish artist Benjamin Björklund paints very beautiful and atmospheric portraits of both humans and animals. He is interested in the emotional states of his subjects, whether they are his members or (his Great Dane), his pet rabbits, mice, rats, and guinea pigs, as well as the wild animals outside.
I’ll end with Jeff Koons. The American artist is known for working with popular culture subjects, and he has also used as dogs as subject matter in his work. “Balloon Dog (Orange)” sold for $58.4 million at Christie’s. ” Possibly, his reproductions of banal objects such as balloon dogs should prove that animals are an uncool subject matter?
And yet “Puppy” his installation of flower-filled a giant West Highland Terrier is pretty awesome. I think that it honestly doesn’t matter what you paint, cats, dogs, cows or people but how you approach your subject that matters.
I woke up a bit earlier than I usually do this morning. It was just before dawn. The night was no longer inky black but had a bluish tinge to it. The light has been changing ever since. Now it is mauve. It will lighten until the light is pinkish, then finally white. Throughout the course of the winter I have been used to waking in the dark and waiting for the sun to rise. No so much recently. The days are lengthening noticeably. Instead of night arriving unexpected at 4 o’clock it now holds off about tea time. This gradual lengthening of the day has a natural rhythm and logic.
The sudden arrival of British Summer Time (BST) or Daylight Saving Time (DST) when the clocks are turned forward an hour in late March does not. It feels like we are catapulted into the summer with more light than we know what to do with. I find it odd that I am sad at the arrival of BST because all that extra daylight means I can paint for longer. I should be happy. I am happy but the abrupt lengthening of the day feels wrong. The “loss” of an hour is also tiring. It’s much worse in the autumn. Instead of easing into winter we are hurled into the darkness. Others feel this way too.
The EU is debating this right now. There have been calls for the European Commission to launch a “full evaluation” of the current system and come up with new plans, if necessary. In Europe, currently, EU law sets a common date in spring and autumn on which clocks must be put forward and back by one hour in all 28 member states. Supporters of the DST say it saves energy and reduces traffic accidents but critics argue it can cause long-term health problems and studies have generally failed to show significant energy savings associated with the shift.
They hate it in Finland. More than 70,000 Fins (out of 5.5 million) signed a petition asking the state to give up the practice. French MEP Karima Delli argued that moving clocks forward to summer time left people tired and led to increased accidents”Studies that show an increase in road accidents or sleep trouble during the time change must be taken seriously”, the French MEP said, adding that estimated energy savings were “not conclusive”. Belgian lawmaker Hilde Vautmans, however, said that changing daylight saving could mean either losing an hour of daylight every day for seven months in summer or sending children to school in the dark for five months over winter.
I was surprised that the USA also uses DST. I assumed that with so many time zones, nine, that they would not have wanted the added complication of DST. It was introduced during the Second World War and most mainland states areas still have DST except Arizona (although the Navajo have DST on tribal lands). Many studies have been done in the US that show the negative effects of the biannual shift to DST. Losing that hour’s sleep in spring affects health; strokes and heart attacks are more likely, there are more traffic accidents and it affects relationships, tiredness causes more arguments.
Interestingly, one big country has tried life without DST. In 2011 Russia (who have on less than 11 time zones in their massive country) first tried clocks on year-round summer time but that proved unpopular then in 2014 switched to permanent winter time or “standard time”. Russian MPs said permanent summer time had created stress and health problems, especially in northern Russia where mornings would remain darker for longer during the harsh winter months. However, I have yet to discover whether the return to permanent “winter time” is popular with the Russian people.
So if I want to avoid this biannual lurch forward and back in the day, I can move to Russia, Arizona or one of the other 70 countries that don’t bother with it including Japan, India, and China.
This eclectic group of female artists were pretty much unknown to me before I wrote this post and were all suggested by fellow bloggers and facebook followers. They are an interesting mix of rebels and non-conformists, many (but not all) of whom have become icons of modern feminism. Many of these artists were extremely versatile and often worked outside the main-stream. They were all revolutionary. Some simply because they were independent women with artistic careers, others because of the nature of the art they produced. They were inventive and inspired.
Artemisia Gentileschi, is the spiritual grandmother of all female artists. She was an Italian Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation following that of Caravaggio. She was the eldest child of the Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi. Artemisia was introduced to painting in her father’s workshop, showing much more talent than her brothers, who worked alongside her. She painted many pictures of strong and suffering women from myths and the Bible – victims, suicides, warriors. In an era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community or patrons, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence. In the 1970s there was renewed interest in her when feminist art historian Linda Nochlin published an article titled “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Today she is regarded as one of the most progressive and expressive painters of her generation.
Moving forward a couple of centuries, we have an artist who gave up painting on her marriage. Edma Morisot, was the elder sister of Berthe, whom was in my first list of female artists (deceased). Edma and Berthe were both encouraged by their mother, arranged for them to study with the neoclassical painter Geoffroy Alphonse Chocane in 1857. Chocane tried to warm their mother against such training “With natures like those of your daughters my teaching will not confer the meagre talent of genteel accomplishment, they will become painters. Do you have any
idea what that means? In your milieu of the grande bourgeoisie it would be a revolution.” The sisters also studied with the painter Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, who taught them to paint en plein air. Edma had some success as an artists as her works were accepted to the annual Salon, in 1864, 1865, 1866, 1867, and 1868. Sadly, for Art, Edma married a naval officer, moved to Cherbourg and gave up all artistic activity. This inspired her sister Berthe to stay single to pursue her artistic career. However, she did eventually marry, but continued her career after marriage.
Margaret W. Tarrant, was an English illustrator, and children’s author, specializing in depictions of fairy-like children and religious subjects. She was the daughter of an artist, Percy Tarrant, and she began her career at the age of 20, and painted and published into the early 1950s. She was known for her very popular children’s books, postcards, calendars, and print reproductions. On first impression, her sweet pictures may not seem revolutionary but she was a career woman who traveled to Palestine in 1936, a politically volatile region, in the days before package holidays.
Kaethe Kollwitz, was a German artist, who worked with painting, printmaking (including etching, lithography and woodcuts) and sculpture. Her most famous art cycles, including The Weavers and The Peasant War, depict the effects of poverty, hunger, and war on the working class. Despite the realism of her early works, her art is now more closely associated with Expressionism. Kollwitz was the first woman elected to the Prussian Academy of Arts.
Louise Nevelson, was Born in Ukraine and emigrated with her family to the United States in the early 20th century. She learned English at school but she spoke Yiddish at home. She experimented with early conceptual art using found objects, and dabbled in painting and printing before dedicating her lifework to sculpture. Usually created out of wood, her sculptures appear puzzle-like, with multiple intricately cut pieces placed into wall sculptures or independently standing pieces, often 3-D. Her work is seen in major collections in museums and corporations. Nevelson remains one of the most important figures in 20th-century American sculpture.
Barbara Hepworth, was a British sculptor, who was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1903. She was a leading figure in the international art scene throughout a career spanning five decades. Her work exemplifies Modernism and in particular modern sculpture. She was one of the few female artists of her generation to achieve international prominence. From 1939 onwards she was based in St Ives in Cornwall.
Leonora Carrington, was an English-born Mexican artist, surrealist painter, and novelist. She lived most of her adult life in Mexico City, and was one of the last surviving participants in the Surrealist movement of the 1930s. She came from a wealthy family but did not take well to rules, being expelled twice from two different schools. Although her father opposed her career as an artist, her mother encouraged her. Leonora Carrington was also a founding member of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Mexico during the 1970s.
Helen Frankenthaler, was an American abstract expressionist painter. She was a major contributor to the history of postwar American painting. Frankenthaler began exhibiting her large-scale abstract expressionist paintings in contemporary museums and galleries in the early 1950s. She was included in the 1964 Post-Painterly Abstraction exhibition curated by Clement Greenberg that introduced a newer generation of abstract painting that came to be known as Color Field. Born in Manhattan, she was influenced by Greenberg, Hans Hofmann, and Jackson Pollock’s paintings.
Niki de Saint Phalle – was a French-American sculptor, painter, and filmmaker. She was one of the few women artists widely known for monumental sculpture. Her idiosyncratic style has been called “outsider art”; she had no formal training in art, but associated freely with many other contemporary artists, writers, and composers. (taken from Tate website)
Alice Neel – I kept coming across the paintings of Alice Neel when I was looking at my lists of living artists. Her works seemed so fresh I found it hard to believe that she had died almost 40 years ago. She was an American visual artist, who was known for her portraits depicting friends, family, lovers, poets, artists and strangers. Her paintings have an expressionistic use of line and colour, psychological acumen, and emotional intensity. Neel was called “one of the greatest portrait artists of the 20th century” by Barry Walker, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which organized a retrospective of her work in 2010. (taken from Tate website)
Dominican Boys on 108th Street 1955 Alice Neel 1900-1984 Presented by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of Hartley and Richard Neel, the artist’s sons 2004 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T11922
Finally, I will finish with a very revolutionary artist, Louise Bourgeois. She was a French-American artist. Best known for her large-scale sculpture and installation art, Bourgeois was also a prolific painter and printmaker. Louise Bourgeois’s work, which spanned most of the twentieth century, was heavily influenced by traumatic psychological events from her childhood, particularly her father’s infidelity. Bourgeois’s often brooding and sexually explicit subject matter and her focus on three-dimensional form were rare for women artists at the time. Her influence on other artists since the 1970s looms large, but is manifested most strongly in feminist-inspired body art and in the development of installation art.
The world of online galleries is full of brilliant work by talented artists so I have put together 10 affordable gems that I have spotted recently. This selection is from Artfinder but many of these artists are also on Saatchi Art and many also have their own websites. They are all worth checking out.
Know how to make an artist happy? Give them art supplies. Stuff to play with. Great Art (whom I buy the majority of my wonderful linen canvases and paints from) sent me a lovely surprise this morning. They sent me an “art box” and a Seasons Greetings card. I am absolutely delighted. The two artists in this house will be fighting over the contents, however, those chocolates are mine! Thank you Great Art!
I am an arm-chair revolutionary. I shout at the TV and radio and lot and disagree with a lot that is going on in UK politics at the moment. However, in the UK, that’s no big deal. Its quite normal, in fact. However, in most countries around the world, free speech is a luxury and political comment or protest can be extremely dangerous for artists and their families. Badiucao (巴丢草) is a Chinese political cartoonist, who lives in self-imposed exile in Australia. The young artist, like Banksy, hides his identity with a pseudonym. Badiucao is an alias and he also hides his face by wearing a mask at public exhibitions of his work in Australia and the West. The reason for this secrecy is that his work is very provocative and much of it champions human rights causes. In China having strong opinions can land you in prison or at best under house arrest. I was ignorant of his existence until I heard him being interviewed on the radio (BBC World Service) last week.
He built his reputation on social media, though he pulled out of Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, when it began to be heavily censored, and now ranges energetically across platforms, including performance art space and galleries. This year he painted, in Melbourne, in Hosier Lane, a double full-length portrait of Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo, with his wife Liu Xia, just before the human rights activist died in prison on July 13. Liu Xia is currently under house arrest.
Badiucao uses satire and pop culture references to get his point across. He often manipulates archetypal images from Communist Party propaganda to make subversive political statements. His work has been used by Amnesty International, Freedom House, BBC, CNN and China Digital Times; and has been exhibited around the world. Although he lives most of his life outside of China, he says that means he has a better understanding of events inside China because he has full access to uncensored media and the internet.
His cartooning technique also borrows from printmaking, he says, and from an older generation of Chinese propaganda. He favours black and red: “China’s complexion … iron and blood”.
Dictators and autocrats famously have no sense of humour and can’t stand being laughed at. President Xi Jinping is no different and cartoon images of Chinese leaders are banned in mainland China. One popular image Badiucao uses is that of Winnie the Pooh, whom apparently has more than a passing resemblance to the Chinese President.
He says “It’s not hard to become a political cartoonist from China because there are only five or six others” — the best-known being 44-year-old Wang Liming, who draws under the name Rebel Pepper and also had to leave China. Wang now lives in the US.
His political work has come at great personal cost. Badiucao has recently given up his Chinese citizenship after he gained Australian citizenship as China does not allow its people to hold dual citizenship. Although he’s out of reach of the Chinese authorities he is still very protective of his identity in case the authorities turn their attention to his friends or family in mainland China.
Its hasn’t gotten any easier being a dissident artist. Badiucao was due to have an exhibition in Hong Kong, but it has been called off after threats made by Chinese authorities. His show was part of events examining free speech in Hong Kong since the 2014 pro-democracy “umbrella” protests. Badiucao had also been due to take part in a question and answer session at the opening alongside pro-democracy leader Joshua Wong and members of Russia’s feminist protest band Pussy Riot.
The Hong Kong is a “special administrative region”, and although Hong Kong’s system of government is separate from that of mainland China, it is clearly not immune to threats from Beijing. The cancellation comes as a timely illustration of the claims by pro-democracy activists that Hong Kong’s freedoms are being eroded by mainland China.
The magnificent red brick building at the end of our road used to be called the Rhyddings Hotel but in recent years has recently rebranded itself as “The Rhyddings at Swansea”. I have always admired it’s generously arched windows which look out north and west from the bar and the lounge bar.
Local legend has it that it used to be a coaching house. Presumably, the current building was constructed in the late Victorian period, as it is built from similar red brick to that of the Brynmill Junior School which was built in 1986.
Writer Kingsley Amis (of “Lucky Jim” fame as and father of Martin Amis) later drank here in the late 1940s when it was run by ex-professional footballer Jack Fowler. I was would amazed if Dylan Thomas hadn’t drunk here too but I have yet to come across a reference to him doing so. He is known to have been keen on the Uplands Tavern and the pubs in Mumbles.
For some reason, locals use an Anglicised pronunciation of the name “Rhyddings” (with a hard “d” sound instead of the soft “f” sound that would be used in Welsh pronunciation. Perhaps this is simply a sign that Swansea is a very Anglicised town and sadly, Welsh is not often heard here. Medieval Swansea had an English community and much later the English from Devon and Cornwall came here in the 18th and 19th centuries came to work in the copper and tinplate industries.
The white building on the opposite corner to the Rhyddings is the Park Fish Bar which claims to be the oldest fish and chip shop in Swansea (running since 1974 since you ask). It is unusual to see the road outside The Rhyddings pub empty. There are usually cars parked there. The absence of cars illustrates how the community of Brynmill has been hollowed out by an imbalance of student houses. In many streets in this area, 80%-90% of houses are empty in the summer. It makes for an eerily quiet summer. It’s like a ghost town. It’s very sad.
The imbalance also affects local businesses. Not only because the area is very empty in the summer months but even when they are here students tend not to drink in the local pub or eat chips from the chip shop. They drink at home and order their food from Adsa & Tescos or have takeaways delivered by some poor Deliveroo rider who struggled up the steep Swansea hills to deliver their food. Some do, of course, but Jeff, who used to run the Park Fish Bar, used to tell me tales of the days before the student houses swamped the area when families regularly bought fish, chips, and pizzas from his shop and the queue reached out the door and around the corner. This is a shame as students undoubtedly bring youth and energy to the area but when there is such an imbalance it no longer feels like a healthy and varied community but instead some sort of annexe to the University Campus.
Note: Not to be confused with Rhyddings House, which is at the corner of Bernard Street and St Albans Road. I’ll be coming to that ghost of a house next.
In my last post I decribed visiting the abandoned fishing village of An Port tucked away in a remote corner of the Donegal shoreline (read it here). We were inspired to seek out this very remote spot by American artist Rockwell Kent, who visited and painted the area in the 1920s. I was waiting for […]
An Port has loomed large in my imagination for a long time. It’s very remote and quite difficult to get to. To reach it, you have to drive down a very, very long single track road (it’s about three miles but it feels longer) on the way to Glencolmcille. There are plenty of sheep and […]
Rossbeg (sometimes spelt Rosbeg) is a tiny townland on the west coast of Donegal, just south of Portnua and Nairn. There is a pier and a scattering of houses, some are modern, but many are old cottages, probably used as holiday lets. The day we visited the weather was calm and sunny. It was just perfect.