Next week it’s the 16th St Gemma’s Hospice Leeds Art & Photography Exhibition & Sale 2016 in Leeds, and I’m contributing to this great cause by exhibiting 8 images (below) all of which are available to buy on the day.
The event will be held at The Grammar School at Leeds in Alwoodley. A percentage of the sale price from each piece of art goes towards the vital work of St Gemma’s Hospice. As always, there will be work from a wide range of artists across the city, with something to suit every budget.The exhibition runs from 27th-30th October and costs £3 per person to enter.
“I don’t get it” snorted the women passing our Artsmix stall last Saturday. “It’s a boat and a house, I don’t get it!”. “It’s art” I said. “It’s autistic” she replied. “I don’t get it” she repeated to her friends shaking her head as she walked off, “it’s just a boat and a house” and that, I suppose, was me told.
But I love this image. I love the colours and contrast in the stone. I love the symmetry of the picture juxtaposed with the irregularity of the stonework. I love the tones in the boat. I love the sense of age and decay and mood. I love the sense of place and time, and times past. I love the gradual reclaiming of human habitation and activity by nature. I love that in a 100, 200, 500 and 1000 years, the essence of the scene will remain the same, but the man made objects will erode, whilst nature exerts her ultimate authority.
So who’s right, me with my over analysis and poetic pretensions, or the lady with her no nonsense, straight forwardness? Well I guess we both are. Art is subjective after all!
It’s no exaggeration to say that the last two Artsmix markets have been my all time worst
in terms of sales with only 3 pictures sold. Even those ever dependable East Coast shots of Staithes and Whitby have stalled, and a desperate attempt at supermarket style BOGOF offers failed to generate any interest whatsoever. What’s more, as my sales have fallen off a cliff, Anthony’s
sales have soared helped by some wonderful shots of Lake district sun rises (see link below). Add to that, the records clearly show that all my attempts to improve the product -mounting, backing, packaging, signing – have made absolutely no difference to sales or profit. Mmmm…
Why? Well who knows. There’s no discernible pattern and every hypothesis is immediately disproven. Right now it just seems like sheer luck; the pure randomness of the right person rocking up and connecting with the right image. If this magic happens then
bingo, and every other factor, including price, pales into insignificance.
So only one thing to do then, find some ways to improve my luck!
And the lack of sales did give me time to play with my iPhone camera panorama mode!
While I work on this luck thing I guess it can do no harm to bring a couple of new pictures to the Market, variety is, after all, the spice of life, and so I’ve printed and framed up a couple of images from our recent trip to the Isle of Harris. Let’s hope that a shopper’s coach outing from the Outer Hebrides, armed with pockets full of hard cash, happens to be in Leeds on Saturday!
What Difference Does a Design Make?
If you’re reading this post now, and you’ve visited the site before, you may have noticed a few changes. Though the content is largely the same the site is based on different theme; the blog and collections, which before were separate sites, have been brought together into one; and the categories and tags have been rationalised. Perhaps the biggest difference is that instead of presenting the last blog post in full, the home page presents a list of posts with a snippet and featured image.
Has all this effort been worthwhile? Well the numbers tell the story with the average visitor to view ratio leaping up from 2.5 to 6.5 over the last four days! And the variety of images clicked on has widened significantly, so people are taking more time to look at more stuff. Whether this will be sustained it’s too early to say, but so far the re-design is looking good.
It was a beautiful sunny day at Saturday’s Leeds Artsmix Market. Hope’s were high with a position next to the fudge stall guaranteeing a constant stream of traffic, and sure enough fudge of every possible flavour was soon being devoured by the hungry and happy Leodises.
But as the morning wore on, and the crowds at the award winning fudge stall grew, at our photography stall just an inch away, all was silent, not one sale, not even a hint of one.
And then, at about 1pm, the inevitable sugar rush from all that fudge eating hit, and for 40 minutes there was a sudden splurge of interest, conversation, and selling; from nothing to the promise of an excellent day.
It couldn’t last, a sugar rush never can. As abruptly as the selling started it ended, and rather than spending money at the stall the Leodises instead ate their food and drank their wine in the sun, before finishing off the day eating even more fudge.
I myself had a mix of clotted cream and orange & white chocolate flavours, and sampled the salted caramel; all excellent, but the clotted cream fudge was just something else.
Every Artsmix market comes with the near miss of a sale, and as each sale is a precious gift capable of turning a so so day into a glorious one, the near miss is an emotional event. yesterday proved no exception.
Near miss number one was a New Yorker with a month to kill in Leeds on the hunt for an image of Salisbury Cathedral. His father had been stationed in the city for a time during the Vietnam War, very happy to be away from the front line, and though the New Yorker was too young to remember I guess the fondness of the time and place had rubbed off.
Two years ago we’d stayed just a two minute stroll away from the Cathedral and took the opportunity to take some night time shots. I’ll be sure to print one and bring it to the next market just in case a second New Yorker rocks up.
Near miss number two was a mother and daughter combo. The mum, a keen photographer, was taken with an image of Saltburn Pier but wanted a bigger version. The daughter, spotting an opportunity to buy a secret gift, cut an animated figure behind as she mimed the international signal for “do you have an email address“.
But, as we all know, it’s tough to outwit a mum, and so after much secret signalling mum took control of both the situation and the business card. They left to that often heard shopping refrain “You’re so hard to buy for, and when I do find something …” .
At each market I have a favourite sale. Last time around is was Open Doorway in Andalusia. This week it was Bow, an abstract shot of MS Lofoten from our journey up the Norwegian coastline.
Though I love the shot I printed it with no real expectation of a sale; classic shots of Staithes and Whitby being the bread and butter that pay the Market rent. So it was a total pleasure to chat to the lady from Birmingham (I think) about the image, and just fantastic when she returned after 10 minutes to buy the picture.
A week in numbers
Saturday’s seven sales meant that I’ve now racked up over fifty sales and a thousand pounds in turnover. Since I’ve spent almost double that on materials, equipment and set up costs, any thought of profit is consigned to the distant future, but, the idea that the general public of Leeds have liked 50 odd of my photographs enough to be prepared to pay, and more importantly live with in their homes, is reward in itself.
Last Saturday was my first Leeds Artsmix Market of the year, and the first I’ve done without my photography side kick Anthony Shaughnessy. In the past Anthony has done all of the leg work and made my life incredibly easy.
At my first market, less than a year ago, I just rocked up with two plastic carrier bags full of prints. This time, as I headed into Leeds, I had a car full of browsers, prints, stands, crates, boxes, easels; everything I needed to be self-sufficient, however what was really playing on my mind was the idea of manning the stall on my own.
Which brings me onto the main reason for doing the Artsmix Market. It isn’t just to sell photographs (this is a secondary purpose). The real aim is to force me to face up to an inherent shyness, commonly labelled social anxiety, that I’ve struggled with all my adult life. For me it’s a condition I can handle easily when with friends and family. They give me a confidence (sometimes bordering on arrogance) that outweighs the shyness, and provide something to hide behind, to the point that people who’ve known me for years wouldn’t guess there’s a problem. On my own, with my protection gone, alone in the spotlight, it’s a different matter and a real fear, something akin to stage fright. And it seems random in nature; so that it’s hard to know who’s going to turn up, the shy me, or the confident me. It’s probably one of the reasons I took up photography,
to hide behind the lens instead of being out in front. So as well as a car full of stuff you can imagine I also had a head full of stuff to deal with until Polly was due to arrive at 2pm.
But the Artsmix Market is wonderful therapy. There’s really no time for the fear to settle in as I set up the stall; talk to fellow stallholders; and people start to browse though the pictures, asking questions about the place, and the cameras, and the techniques.
And the variety of people who rock up is amazing: from down and outs, to punks, to transvestites, to students, to new couples, to old couples, to professional go-getters, to fellow photographers. Writing this brings to mind Bowie’s Five Years – “all the fat skinny people, and all the tall short people, and all the somebody people, and all the nobody people, I never knew there were so many people” – and I wonder how someone can have such insight at the age he wrote that song.
And as I see these people I realise that many of them are just like me, a little shy, a little too nervous to open a conversion, a little less confident when they’re on their own, and that as the stall holder it’s up to me to help them, and to start to engage, and as I do any anxiety drifts away so that when Polly arrives I’m chatting to strangers without a care in the world.
This truly is retail therapy in its best sense!
But back to the secondary business of selling photographs,
I was so pleased that a couple bought a picture of Hamnoy, Lofoten (they took an age to decide), as I had grave doubts that any Lofoten pictures would sell in West Yorkshire … and that an older couple bought a picture of a doorway in Andalusia
that I love but thought no one would buy … and that a lady recognised Lofoten and told me of her trip up the Norwegian coast … and that someone took an old favourite of Aysgarth falls, Perfect Wave, that’s more abstract and artistic than the stuff that usually sells … and that a guy, who looked down and out, spent a good 15 minutes studying every one of the 6 x 4 photographs I give away free as business cards, and took 3 of his favourites … and of course the East Coast shots of Whitby and Staithes proved as popular as ever!
Artsmix truly is art for all the people! So I’ll be back on the Saturday, 7th May, and I’m looking forward to it already!
On Saturday 9th April I’ll be manning a stall at the first Artsmix Market of the year in Leeds, Yorkshire, UK, The World.
For the first time I’ll be flying solo, my normal sidekick fellow photographer Anthony Shaughnessy (https://anthonyshaughnessy.wordpress.com) being otherwise engaged, which leaves me with the shivers (of excitement) and shakes (of apprehension).
For this Artsmix I’ve gone all out; a whole revamp of the stall, new acrylic framing and of course new images, some from my recent trip to Lofoten.
It will be interesting to see how the Lofoten pictures fare. If there’s a lesson from the Artsmix experience it’s that local images, ones people can connect to on a personal level, are the ones that sell, and unfortunately Lofoten is not very local at all! Still I love the mountains and it’s my stall, so bring it on.
I’ve also invested in an Epson SC P800 so I can print A2 size, in other words big! And with the roller attachment that means very, very, big panoramics. I’ll write more about the printer as I learn how to use it …
… but for now it’s just worked perfectly straight out of the box!
So now with 6 days to go, it’s going to take a couple of evenings of mounting and wrapping, and we’ll be ready to go.
Rifling through past images to print for our last Leeds Artsmix market before Christmas I came across two photos of Lochan na h-Achliase, taken over five years ago with my trusty Nikon D700. I must have shot them to stitch together into a panoramic, but it’s taken me until now get around to it. Still, better late than never!
It’s 6:30pm on Saturday evening. We – myself and fellow photographer Anthony Shaughnessy (http://www.anthonyshaughnessy.co.uk) – start to dismantle our stall at the Leeds Artsmix Market (http://www.artsmix.co.uk/events.php). As we pack we discuss the events of the day. We’re both smiling! Anthony had his best return to date; I’ve sold six images – six more than I expected! …And its a real buzz. As we part we’re in agreement to return next month, but as a novice I know I’ve much to learn and improve. Driving home I reflect on the day, associating each of the six images sold with a lesson learned. 1) Selling took real engagement. Discussing the subject: where it was shot; how it was shot; what equipment was used; it’s backstory; how you’d frame it; why the customer was drawn to it; all created a context where ownership of the image passed from the photographer to the customer. Passive inaction just didn’t hack it, and I think that’s true whether selling in person or over the internet (note to self that I need to completely redesign my website!). The funny thing was that even if I didn’t end up with a sale I still enjoyed the conversation! 2) Different customers have different tastes. Anthony’s portfolio was largely composed of natural landscapes, mine were more stylised. At first we mixed the images but gradually began to separate them out. Customers generally migrated to one style or the other, with surprisingly little cross over between the two! Next time out we’ll set out our display with cohesive collections from the start. 3) Take a broad range of images. You can’t second guess what the market wants! I pitched up with a limited collection and multiple copies. Anthony took a far wider variety. Each image I sold was different and I missed at least two selling opportunities simply because I didn’t have a wider selection at hand. Anthony’s biggest sale was an image of St Ives, 400 miles away in Cornwall! 4) Price depends on context. An image may be worth a couple of hundred in a high end exhibition with a captured audience, but at an Artsmix market in Leeds targeting random passers by? Be prepared to experiment with prices and to haggle, but don’t undersell your work. I dropped my prices in the morning but I honestly don’t know whether this made any real difference to what I sold. 5) Presentation is key. Making the image look special through: professional mounting; framing; subject and shooting information; creating an individual handcrafted look; all add to the experience, value and price. Compared to Anthony’s presentation mine lacked that handcrafted touch! And as our mantra became “a chance to own a unique, handprinted artwork” my packaging looked more and more like I’d picked them up at Ikea that morning! 6) Have the courage to stick to your artistic convictions. An immediate, almost panic, reaction to the days events was to widen my portfolio with more natural landscapes; the style than Anthony had sold. With two distinct customer types why not broaden my appeal and sell to both? That night I hunted through hundreds of images to build a collection of UK landscapes … but, but, but … all the time I had a niggle; though ok in themselves they were no longer what I wanted to publish or sell. The day had re-enforced where I’d evolved to as a photographer; what my style had become; and that’s what I’ll stick to!
Stepping out from behind the anonymity of the internet to deal face-to-face with the public – listening to their comments and insights; discussing camera choices and techniques; understanding their inspirations – proved to be a rewarding and enjoyable experience … and our fellow stall holders were a great bunch: all creative; all skilled artists; all making a living through what they enjoyed; all true entrepreneurs; and all pretty chilled, helpful and supportive. So the final killer lesson is not to hide your talent under a bushel; instead get your artwork out into the open air. Give it a go, I guarantee you won’t regret it!
Last week has been full on printing, mounting and wrapping prints, for the Artsmix (http://www.artsmix.co.uk) market in Leeds, next weekend. This is a frightening first for me! No more hiding behind the internet; instead, out their, exposed, before the great, paying, Yorkshire public. Selecting images was difficult; standard print sizes ruled out favourite square format & panoramics; old favourites bit the dust; local work took precedence over shots from further afield; attempting to build a diverse, interesting range; … and how the heck do you price them? The true test will come not through likes, favourites and comments, but through the kerching of the cash till. If I make enough for a pint of beer by the end of day I’ll be happy.
All prints were produced using an Epson R3000 A3+ printer, using Epson pigment inks & Epson premium gloss and semi-gloss paper. After struggling with an HP A3+ printer, and using external labs, the Epson R3000 has been a revelation. The right colours, tones and exposure, just pop straight out of the printheads onto the paper with little adjustment and no real calibration. Fantastic! The R3000 has now been replaced by the SC-P600, but that would have to be a hell of a printer to justify an upgrade.