Commissioning Art

How to buy art….
…or how to commission a piece of art.Hog Parade 2017

Now don’t go running for the hills, it really isn’t that scary.

So why would you consider commissioning a piece of art and more importantly, is it going to break the bank?
Well let’s get the money bit out of the way before we start.
Commissioning art does not have to be expensive.  Honestly.  It doesn’t.

An artist will most definitely work to produce work to your budget, as long as you are not expecting someone like Tracy Emin to produce a piece for £150.00, but by being realistic about what you want and who you want to produce the work for you, everyone should be happy.

So how and why would you approach an artist to commission some art?

The easiest way is by looking at artists’ work in galleries or at an art exhibitions or art fair.  When you find someone whose work you really love it is then a question of getting in touch with them.
Galleries will want you to deal with an artist through them, that is after all how they make their money, selling artists artwork.
I am in danger here of upsetting all the gallery owners by being so open about how they operate but, most galleries take anything from 30-70% of the price on the artwork, leaving the artist to either inflate their prices so that what’s left is what they are happy with or leaving them with a very small profit margin.

If you visit an artist at big art shows, they will not have had to pay commission, but they will have paid a huge amount for the exhibition stand. The artist needs to consider all these costs when pricing their work.
Even your local art exhibitions charge the artist for taking part in the shows, with a hanging fee, and then take commission on sales at their exhibitions.

This means that having once found your favourite artist, if you approach them outside of an exhibition, there could be a deal to be made on price simply because there is no commission element. But don’t expect it, they might be tied into a contract with a gallery which prevents it.

Jess the cow

To find an artist whose work you like, visiting them at home is a great way to go. Every year, here in the UK, most counties and some towns organise ‘Open Studio’ or ‘Open House’ artist events where you can visit an artist in their working environment and see a larger selection of their work.

So why should you commission work?

If you see a piece of work and you fall in love with it, you are likely to want to buy it, so go for it. But if you love someone’s style and you want something more personal then, having work which is tailor-made for you and your family means that no one else will have a piece like yours.

There are a couple of caveats I need to throw in here.

Not all artists will agree to take on commission work.  Why?  Because coming up with work which meets the expectations of the client is stressful.  Really stressful.  Most artists will want to put your happiness with the finished artwork ahead of their own ego.  They will spend far more energy on getting it right and at the end of the day you may not like it.


You will have to agree on the price up-front but be aware, if you keep making changes to the piece as it goes along, you could be charged extra at the end.  You need to be clear about what you want, and you need to agree to the number of changes included in the price and finally there needs to be an agreement about what happens if you don’t like the finished piece. Some artists will just refund you all your money, they don’t want the hassle and you may buy something else. But for some artists, if they have had to buy in products specially or if the piece is very personal to you and no one else would want it, you will lose your deposit.

Often an artist will ask for an amount/deposit upfront which will cover the cost of buying in the materials needed for your finished piece.  The balance of the agreed amount would be paid on collection.

With all the above to consider, this may give you a better idea as to why some artists simply don’t want to work like this.

Eastenders on Acid 2

But don’t be put off.  If you love an artist’s style of work, the chances of things going wrong are rare, being aware and making the agreements up-front saves everyone from upset.

You also have to remember that the artist owns the copyright to all the work they produce.  If you want to own the copyright, so that an artist can’t use images of your artwork as prints, then a conversation will need to be had about purchasing that copyright. Warning, it wont be cheap.

The tide is definitely turning in the art-world.  I have likened it to wine. Back in the 70’s and 80’s the average person in the street drank Blue Nun, Liebfraumilch or Mateus Rosé. We were not very knowledge about wine back then and we drank what was available in stores.  Now we have an incredible range of wines available, we are far more discerning and comfortable selecting wine in a restaurant or from our chosen supplier.

Art is going thought a similar phase.  We have shows on TV, ‘Sky Arts portrait/landscape artist of the year’, BBC’s ‘The Big Painting Challenge’ and the latest BBC program,  ‘Home is where the Art is’ where three artists compete to win a commission piece from a homeowner. Well worth watching if you are still feeling frighten about commissioning work.

On a personal note, I have taken on a number of commissions over the past five years. Mainly for charities but a couple for clients who like to collect my work.  I do not share photos of commissioned works without the consent of the client. That is just my policy. The images in this post are all commissions I have done, and the clients are very happy for me to share provided I do not share their names.

So, my advice to you, find an artist you like, contact them about a commission and hopefully you will have a bespoke piece of work that you can enjoy for decades to come. It really isn’t that scary.

Doddy Hare

Sorolla or Bonnard, who is your favourite artists and why?

I get asked all the time, who is your favourite artist, who influences your work.

I have always said that I don’t have favourites in anything.

And I don’t.

I don’t have a favourite colour, pen, paint brush, flower, food, drink, tree, friend, child even, you get the picture and I have always chosen not to single out any one item as a favourite. But I do have things I favour. So, I favour raspberries over rhubarb, I favour some artists over others and I favour bright colours over dark, or do I?

I am however excited to add Sorolla to my collection of artists I favour.

sorolla 1Joaquin Sorolla: Sorolla and Fashion – Pallant Bookshop

I was persuaded to join a friend in visiting the Sorolla exhibition at the National Gallery, London. I will happily admit I had never heard of the man and doubted that it would be worth going.
So much so, that I persuaded my friend that we should visit the Bonnard exhibition at the Tate Modern afterwards, as I wanted to finish the day on a high, so to speak.

Well I couldn’t have been more wrong, the Sorolla was so good that Bonnard almost paled in comparison, which was wrong of me, as he is such a brilliant artist. In fact, they are both great, but the two, I believe, should not be viewed on the same day, or if they are, you need to be aware of the differences.

Sorolla is all about light which he uses in such a way as to make you feel as if you are there on a hot sunny day in Spain. Bonnard is all about the use of colour, the subtle use of colour against colour.
As the viewer you need to consider this before you go and see them both. Think about what you personally are attracted to.
It helps to be aware of what it is about art that you enjoy most before you visit so that you understand what you are going to be looking at, that way I think you will enjoy both exhibitions to the full.


They call him the Spanish master of light and they couldn’t be more accurate. From the moment we stepped into the first room this mans work just shone off the walls.
The painting of his daughter Elena in a yellow dress with the light on her face, fingers and dress are beautifully captured. Also, in the first room are other portraits, one is of his son, as well as a self-portrait, all of which use light brilliantly and, something which I love in portraiture is that all their eyes follow you around the room.

Not all of his work is beautiful, some of it is very troubling, the sick crippled children on the beach and the woman accused of killing her child, have really stuck with me as emotional and/or unhappy pieces, but the most notable point is, these sad images have stuck with me. To produce work which insights so much emotion is without doubt the sign of a master.

For me the fishermen bringing home the catch is the most intriguing piece and one that I could have sat and viewed for hours. Every little detail of sun and shade is produced with mastery. The piece is huge so if anything were out of place it would show up, but everything is spot on.

sorolla 2Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923) – Exhibition – Museo Nacional del Prado

Bonnard is clearly a master too, French, and living at the same time as Sorrola, his work is very understated in comparison but is made beautiful through his ingenious use of subtle colours and his depictions of the mundane; some of which he worked on for years. He would make notes about a scene and the colours from it, occasionally taking photographs but mainly working from memory produced in his studio. There he worked on numerous canvases simultaneously, tacking them to the walls of his small studio so that he had more freedom to express his work without giving boundaries to work within.

bonnard 1
The C C Land Exhibition: Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory

Bonnard painted landscapes, urban scenes, portraits and intimate domestic scenes. The colours the backgrounds and painting style typically took precedence over the subject.

These often-complex scenes are narrative but also autobiographical.

Apart from being a painter he was also an illustrator and a printmaker. He was also the founding member of the Post-Impressionist group of avant-garde painters ‘Les Nabis’ and he was a leading figure in the transition from impressionism to modernism.


bonnard 2 Coffee’, Pierre Bonnard, 1915| Tate

In conclusion, I would advice anyone interested in art to visit both exhibitions. Armed with the knowledge that they are very different and with a little appreciation for what your own tastes are, you will, I think enjoy both exhibitions far more.

Neither is better than the other, both are brilliant in their own way. But if you love gentle pictures with subtle clever use of colour, see the Sorolla first.

If you love light and portraiture which feels real and direct visit Bonnard first.

That way you will enjoy both but finish your day on a high and probably enjoy both more.

The interesting thing for me is that I love colour. I had thought that I would enjoy the Bonnard far more than the Sorolla. I now realise that whilst I still love colour, I also really love the use of light and dark along side the colour. Both exhibitions have helped me see my art in a different way and I can see a new direction for me to take in my work. Exciting times for me and I could not favour one over the other.

If you visit one or both of these exhibitions, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Do please contact me through my website or directly via email at

Please note, all photographs have been copied from the internet. I have attempted to get permission to use them and as yet have not been contacted.

My understanding of the copy-write rules is that where I am promoting the work to the benefit of the owners, I am not in breach of any rules. No doubt if my understanding of that rule/law is wrong, someone will tell me and if needs be I will remove said images.

Meet the Artist – Shirley Ann

Please introduce yourself.

Shirley Ann:  I’m Shirley Ann – my other name is Aphrodite – I believe that I am Aphrodite’s envoy to the world at the present time – but we’ll get to that later, and I live in Southern California with my husband and my son Cupid!

shirley ann 1

And what is your background?

Shirley Ann:  I have a very varied background.  I studied French, Arabic, Economics and International Relations as my initial Bachelors and Masters, because at the time I was lined-up to become a diplomat, following in the footsteps of my father; however, when I finished my studies, I decided to become a designer instead. I thought to myself, well I do come from a long line of dressmakers on my mother’s side, actually, although my mother made her own clothes and for me, she had no ambition to become a dressmaker, so I guess it just ran in my blood. I taught myself with guidance from my aunties and created a business where I designed clothes and accessories, gowns, wedding gowns, weddings, fabulous parties and events, also interiors and so much more.

How did your father feel about your choice of career?

Shirley Ann:   At first, he was livid!!! But once I became successful, he was very proud of me.

And how did you become an artist?

Shirley Ann:  I’ve been an artist all my life, I just never focused on painting, it was more of design. After marrying, moving to California, and having becoming a mother, I wanted to do something I could do without leaving my son in someone else’s care, something I could do at home by myself, this is how I came to art.

shirely ann 4

Which media do you prefer to work in, and why?

 Shirley Ann:  I started with Watercolours, and in the last year I’ve moved on to Oils, but I love the texture of Acrylics. Every medium has its purpose, but Watercolours are my ‘go-to’ – I even have a set in my bedroom in case I’m inspired to paint in the middle of the night!

What does your work aim to say?

Shirley Ann:  My work is all about Beauty, Femininity, Romance – my love letter to life. I want a woman to dream of being the most beautiful woman in the room when she sees my Fashion Illustrations! Every time I paint roses, for example, I hope my love for them will be transferred to whoever is viewing the painting. When I look back at when I was running my company, designing and arranging weddings, it was all about beauty and romance too, but it felt fleeting. I think of all the effort for that went into a six- or eight-hour event!!! Over a year of planning just for a few hours!!!  Now with art I hope I’m creating something beautiful that will last forever, and I try to convey that feeling and intention.

shirley ann 2

Who are your greatest influencers in your art?

Shirley Ann:  Definitely Georgia O’Keefe because of the scale and intention of her flowers, in her words, she painted flowers the way she did because “Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” This inspires me because I LOVE flowers and I feel the same way! But I have to be honest, I’m more influenced by Fashion and Haute Couture; the opulence of it all! Which I love! At the end of the day I’m still a dressmaker at heart. I see all designers as artists, my favorite being Christian Dior, because of his love for women..

How do you navigate the art world? I suppose it’s through fashion?

Shirley Ann: I think so, although I don’t think I’ve figured out how do it. Although I consider myself an artist now and not a designer, I still don’t think I’m part of the art world yet and that’s the paradox.

shirley ann 3

How do you seek out opportunities?

Shirley Ann: I don’t seek out opportunities enough and that probably explains why I don’t feel like I’m a part of the art world yet. I plan to participate in Saatchi’s Other Art Fair in Los Angeles in September. I do show my work, my processes, my studio, but to small audiences. Recently I was invited to teach art classes at Michael’s.

shirely ann 5

So have you cultivated collectors?

Shirley Ann:   Surprisingly I have – through Social Media. I have one particular collector in Norway – I came across her and loved her home, and she responded by following me and loved and bought my art over and over again. That has been the typical process.

How do you price your work?

Shirley Ann:  Simply by size. ‘Basic’ work I calculate the area and multiply by a factor of two, ‘special’ pieces that have taken more effort by a factor of three or four.


Which current art trends are you following?

Shirley Ann:  None! I don’t follow trends.

Where career-wise are you heading?

 Shirley Ann: I intend to get into more galleries, I intend to teach more, and to go commercial – for example with one of my collections, Fleur La Belle, I plan to produce tea sets, vases, stationery etc. Not mass-market but high-end. Each category of my art has its own pathway.

Shirley Ann

You’ve previously told me that you want to run retreats; tell me more.

Shirley Ann:  I want to invite people into my world – I get the most reactions on Social Media when I’m showing my process in my studio; the music, the candles, the roses and rose petals when I’m painting. People seem to be fascinated by that and so and on my retreats I want to share that experience, teach and inspire others to create beautiful art in beautiful and romantic destinations too!

What tips do you have to encourage young artists?

Shirley Ann: Simply to paint non-stop and not settle on any style too early; that will suppress their creativity. The more you paint, you’ll start to see common threads developing and you’ll find your style. But to paint and paint and paint and paint!!! And enjoy the process.

Where can we see your work?

Shirley Ann:  At this time my work is mostly on Instagram. (Links below)

What else would you like to convey to your audience?

Shirley Ann:  To find something to fall in love with everyday! To be surrounded by beauty, always. And to continuously “court” life and ourselves! In the words of Oscar Wilde, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”




How to explore ‘mark making’ and get great results.

To the uninitiated ‘mark making’ sounds a bit pretentious, but I am not sure what else you could call it without making it sound childish and lacking in skill.

The art of making marks to represent the world around us and how we respond to that world, has been going on for thousands of years.

cave photoPhoto source Wikipedia


Think caveman drawings. Man has been recording his environment in this pictorial way ever since, but the ‘modern’ form of ‘mark making’ is often not, these days, pictorial.
Today, ‘mark making’ tends to be rather more a response to how we see, feel, think, hear or react to the world about us.
There are lots of amazing artists out there marking a career out of their form of ‘mark making’ but I thought it might be fun to talk you through having a go yourself.

So, what do you need?

Below you will see some items I have gathered together to get started but anything you find, beg borrow and steal (only if it won’t get you into trouble) can be used.



drawing stuff

The best way to start is to have a liquid and a stick of some kind. Some thin paint or ink and a twig could easily be your starting point.
And then just see what different kind of marks you can make using the stick and the paint. You can drag it, bounce it, roll it and so to make marks you could do with a pencil. A twig will hold the paint in a different way to a pen or pencil, so the outcome becomes unpredictable. This in turn allows you to make marks which you wouldn’t normally make.
Once you have exhausted the stick, try something else you wouldn’t normally think of drawing with. A flower head, a toilet roll with elastic bands around it, a sponge or a ball, roll it or bounce it around the paper, what marks do you find you enjoy making the most.

And then try adding colour.


Most people when they first try this start with Indian ink and a variety of items to make those marks. And some people never move from these items, but, as you know, I love colour and there are so many ways colour can be brought into this simple but fun way of making art for yourself.


So, the next thing is to introduce colour. My preference is ink, but I also use acrylic paint. You can add the colour to the original drawings you produced, or you can start afresh with the colour and see what else you can create.

It is playtime, you are not trying to produce a masterpiece, you are exploring what differences you can produce using unusual scribes.

You could take the hair from your hairbrush and twist it tight, wrap some tap around it to make a handle and see what marks you can make with that. Corrugated cardboard, cellophane, lollypop sticks, leaves, grasses, makeup sponges, feathers, straws, the list of possibilities is endless.

Having enjoyed making these marks where do you go next.

Firstly, keep all of the experiments because they form a library of marks for you to refer to when making your art. Then when you are painting rocks, for instance, and you are looking for texture, refer to your marks and see which ones would work best. And the same can be applied to anything you are creating. Different marks, textures and tones along with the colour, composition, space and form all need to be considered when making your art.

sketch book page


If you hop over to my Instagram or Facebook feeds you can see how starting points like this one above, progress in my concertina sketchbooks. or


I love making these books, I love teaching other people how to get started and then keep going with these books. They are such great fun, you do not need to have had any previous art experience as was proved by a group of ladies who joined me for a 70th birthday party celebration.

One lady was convinced that she couldn’t draw a straight line but the work she produced was beautiful.

The picture below shows the work that all the ladies produced in the class. It was such a great day.

sketch books

Aren’t they fantastic?

I am so proud of them all.

To find out about the classes I teach and to see how my sketch books finish up, please do click on the photo below and it will take you to my website where you can see so much more.

Also if you want to see what make sketchbooks feed into, you can visit my website and see how those marks are used by me to make my larger pieces. or 

Visit my website at



I start preparing my blog posts on Tuesdays.  That way there is time to get my thoughts onto paper, share them with my long-suffering husband who proof reads them, re-read and make more changes and then set them up, usually on Friday evening, to be published for you to read on Sunday evening.

This week I had planned to write something completely different but whilst on a group support call with my artist friends in the USA and Hungary, we started talking about what makes us want to get up every day and make art.  What is the driving force, why do we feel so compelled and how did our life journey bring us to this point in our art? For me it is most definitely colour.


All of us have stories of difficulty in one way or another.  Life would be pretty boring if nothing went wrong.  There would be no experiences from which to learn.  Some of my past struggles are evident if you read between the lines on my About Page on my website

Personally, I don’t have time for any of the negative stuff anymore, what I spend my time thinking about now is making art using colour.

My friends said that the only time they ever see me so animated is when I am talking about the three wonderful men in my life (of course) or my art, but they had never seen me talk about playing with colour.

blog 23 feb 4

My studio is full of colours.  I play with oils, acrylics, watercolour (although I am not very good with it, yet) inks, pens, pastels both oil and chalk, wax, silk and fabric dyes.  Such a lot to get messy with.

For my oils and watercolours, I tend to use Holbein, which I bought from Dick Blick’s in the USA but can also be purchased in the UK through Jacksons.  I love how buttery they are, and the colours are incredible.  For Acrylics I use Liquitex Heavy Bodied and the Interactives Range which are fabulous.

cow for blog

For my printmaking I use Akua Intaglio and System 3 for screen-printing, just add print medium and you are good to go.  For Lino-prints and Collagraphs prints I use Intaglio Printmakers Etching Inks, Caligo Safewash.
When playing with inks I use, Schmincke Aero color, which is used for airbrushing, Liquitex and FW inks.
Pen and Ink pieces are made with the above and with Posca Pens – Yummy colours.


Pastels I tend to stick to just Sennelier and Sennelier’s own paper too, the colours are vibrant and the paper is designed to work with the pastels so why make my life more difficult?


Silk painting/fabric dyes I use Jacquard products plus Quick colour Microwave dyes which produce sheets of kitchen paper covered in dye which I then iron and use in printmaking or mixed media pieces.

Finally, Encaustic Wax.  I use cheap wax crayons designed for children and oil paints to get the colours I want for experimenting, but when making a piece I use R&F encaustic sticks because the pigment and the vibrancy of colours are simply the best.
So that’s what I use but that is just the products.
My love affair is with the colour of these amazing products.

If you have been following me on FB or IG you will see my daily posts, so you know that I use colour.

What it is that makes me want to do more, play with colour every day, why am I so drawn to it?

Put simply I feel like a kid in a candy store.  Putting colours next to each other, over each other, under each other, you never know what you are going to get.  Every time the outcome is different. Sometimes it doesn’t work but when it does, it is so exciting, I have been known to squeal with delight.

screen prt

I draw hugely from nature.  I follow divers in FB and IG as well as keeping fish myself.  I also follow photographers who take photos of birds and I spend far too much time watching the birds which visit out garden, I collect their feathers and keep them near my working spaces. I love placing colours next to each other to see them vibrate making work look as if it is out of focus because the colours play tricks on your eyes.

I follow other artists who use bright colours in their work and take inspiration from their use of colour placement.  There is always something new and fascinating to see.


I have littered this blog with photos of work that I have made using the bright bold colours which make me smile and I hope that you enjoy looking at how I have used colour.

Please visit my website to see more of my work at: or follow me on IG at I post there every day as well as on Facebook at








How to Guide to Framing your Artwork, originals and prints.

If you visit my website and sign up for my newsletter, you will automatically receive my free Guide to Buying Art.  You can get yours too by clicking here.

As a result of this guide, I have had a couple of conversations with people about framing artwork they have bought unframed, so thought I would share my thoughts on framing too.picture-frames-on-wall-black-photo-frames-for-wall-frames-on-wall-black-photo-frame-on-wall-vector-graphic-photo-wall-collage-picture-frames-templates

So, you have been to an art fair, exhibition, gallery or simply found a piece of art which you love.  If you are reading this it is likely that your beautiful purchase is wrapped in cellophane, it’s all very exciting, but what now?

You could take it to your local framers, there are plenty around, and most can give you great advice on what to do.  But be warned.  They are not all great.  Some are likely to just push you towards having the highest priced frame with the most expensive non-reflective glass, with little thought for your home, so ask around before going down this route.

If you are local to me, I have a couple of local framers who I highly recommend and a couple I wouldn’t.

Another option is to frame it yourself.  There are lots of stores around which sell frames but please do not use a frame that you don’t love.  Why? Well, you have just spent good money on your art piece so why cheapen it by putting something you love into a rubbish frame.

So, what should you consider?
If you are framing originals or prints on paper, first you will need to get matting for your artwork and that matting needs to be acid-free to avoid damaging your beautiful artwork.  Don’t skip this, as matting your artwork provides a margin between the artwork and the frame which is calming and allows the work to really shine.  That said, some people prefer not to use matting or mount, and, in the end, you have to be happy with the final look, so you decide what works best for you and your home.  Works on paper generally need to be protected with glass and here you need to consider where you are going to be hanging the work before you get it framed.  If it is going to be in a fairly sunny position you will need to consider glass with UV protection to stop the work from fading.

If your new artwork is on canvas, there are a couple of options depending on the canvas.  A thin canvas can be framed with a canvas surround, like matting, between the canvas and the frame. Wider frames probably don’t need this and with a thick wrapped canvas or box canvas, it is probably best mounted into a floater frame.

frames 3

frames 1

Buying frames.
These days you can get frames from all manner of different outlets, supermarkets tend to have some great quality small frames, home decorating stores generally have a good larger range, so take a look in IKEA, B&Q, and Department stores not forgetting also to check out antique shops, second hand shops and charity shops. [For my American followers I am talking about Meijer’s, Walmart, Home Depot, Macy’s, vintage, thrift and resale stores].  Second hand/charity stores have an abundance of frames, usually with horrible prints in, but simply remove the work and replace with your artwork instead.


Style of frame.
The style of the frame needs to fit in with the style of your home.  It’s likely that the style of your home will probably be similar to the style of paintings you enjoy.  Modern colourful artworks tend to look best with simple monotone frames with as little fuss as possible so as not to take away from the art.  The likelihood is that if you like modern art, the style of your house will tend to be modern too.

If on the other hand your home is classical with patterns walls and Chintz fabrics, then beautiful old-style gold frames, which are works of art in their own right, will sit better in your home.  You can often find these beautiful frames in charity, second hand or antique shops.

At the end of the day, the work is going to be on your wall for some time, so you need to think as much about the framing almost as much as you do about the art itself.

Don’t forget that if you want my free Guide to Buying Art you can get yours by clicking here.



The above images have been borrowed from varies websites on the internet. I cannot remember which ones now as I copied lots before deciding which ones would best illustrate my thoughts. I have not asked for permission to reproduce these images but I do hope that anyone reading my blog will be encouraged to look for your images and use the frames to display their work. If you would like me to removed the images please contact me at and I will removed them immediately. 

Why join an art group and what to expect?

It doesn’t really matter where you are on your art journey but being a part of some kind of art group is really valuable.

But why?

You know that saying ‘no man is an island’?  Well, that really applies when making art.  If you only have yourself as a reference, then you won’t grow. How can you if all you have is what immediately surrounds you?
Visiting galleries and exhibitions is clearly a great way to find inspiration and expose yourself to other artists’ work but being part of a group will help you even more.

As a beginner, by joining a local art group you will start to see how others approach a subject, which in turn can open you up to try new techniques and improve the work you make.
Even if you have been making beautiful artwork and are really skilled in your approach, you can still learn from watching others make mistakes or work using a different approach.  The most successful artists have a support group around them.

If you take a look at my website you can read my story about how I came to be an artist, so I won’t go into it here, but having started my ‘full on’ art practise over a decade ago now, I have really understood the importance of having other artists around me.

I lived in the USA for six years and during that time I joined two art leagues, (called art groups in the UK), I formed two support groups and I took lots of art classes and taught a few too.
The two support groups were the most important to my journey.  Through them both I learnt to look objectively are other people’s work and give my thoughts on it in a non-confrontational or very supportive way.  More importantly for me was that I learned to be on the receiving end of those ‘crit’ sessions where I learnt how to take the advice, use it, or not, and without getting upset.  Generally other artists want to help you improve.
I did have a bit of a shock when I moved back to the UK and went to study art at university, the ‘crit’ sessions were designed to break you down and the tutors seemed to glow with pride when they had managed to make you cry.  Says more about them than it ever did about the students.

Back in the real world I took classes with people whose work I like, and I used the classes to make connections with other artists.  Once involved in this world you start to find out which art groups are worth joining and which are not – you get a feel for what would suit you – and what you how you like to work.

It is important to understand that wherever you are in your journey, what I am sharing here applies to you.  It is also important to understand that not all groups are the right group for you, just as not all teachers are the right teacher for you.  If you feel unhappy, negatively judged or just miserable after attending a class or group session, stop.  Don’t do it anymore.  It won’t help you improve and could make you give up all together.  So be prepared to work at finding the right fit.

Personally, I belong to two local art groups and I am on the board for one of them.  Both have artists visit and teach their techniques, both have ‘crit’ sessions and fortunately for me, both are really caring friendly groups with which to be involved.
I also belong to a local support group where five of us meet up once a month to talk about what we are doing, any difficulties we are facing and to share news about art shows to take part in, as well as arranging our own group show.

On-line I belong to a number of support groups.  The first one I joined consists of just three of us.  One lady produces the most exquisite hand-embroidered work and the other produces beautiful bright paintings.  One lady lives in Denmark and the other spends her life travelling between her home in Switzerland and her other home in Italy.  In this group we support each other through the struggles of trying to get our work seen and find people who might be interested in owning one of our pieces.  We meet on average every six weeks.
The next group I joined consists of seven female artists.  We work together to support each other through marketing, advertising and presentation of our work to the outside world.  We have an on-line gallery called ‘gallery7wa’ which you can find on IG and FB if you would like to know more.

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We meet twice each week on-line via Skype or Google hangouts.  Having seven of us checking out the best way to advertise or the newest marketing ideas means that we can gather far more relevant information which we share, hopefully, to improve our on-line presence. The ultimate goal of this group is to help us to find the best way to sell our work on-line.

Recently I joined, but left, a marketing group designed for artists.  I didn’t enjoy turning up on-line each week, the group is based in the USA and there were many ideas which I didn’t feel would work in a European market, so I moved to a UK on-line group which provides that safe haven to discuss how to improve your artwork and how to organise your life around becoming a professional artist.  So, it pays to do your homework.

Now if you are just starting out or only want to make art as a hobby, please don’t be put off.  Everything still applies.  You really do need people around you to bounce-off in order to make stronger artwork and if you can gather a few artist friends around you and meet on a regular basis to discuss your work, ways to improve it, visit exhibitions together and generally support each other through your art, you will make friends for life and have great fun along the way.

The saying ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’ applies to being an artist.  Many people won’t understand you and the work you produce, but by surrounding yourself with a community of like-minded people you will acquire the skills and knowledge from different backgrounds to provide the rich wealth of knowledge needed to support you in your learning.


Meet the Artist – Michele Hoben

The following interview was with Michele a member of the amazing Torpedo Factory Arts Center which is situated in Alexandria VA USA. This old munitions plant was founded into an arts center in 1974 and houses the USA’s largest collection of working artists under one roof with 82 artists in their open studios. They attracts around 500,000 every year and you can view a wide variety of artwork including painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, stained glass, fiber, ceramics and jewellery.


1 Your name? : Michele Hoben
2 Where do you live? : Washington, DC
3 What is your background? : Before becoming a full-time artist, I was a full-time architect (I still maintain my license) as well as a corporate interior designer, curator and watercolor, drawing and composition instructor. My father was an educator and my mother, before marriage, a social worker. Both encouraged my artistic pursuits.
4 How did you learn your craft i.e. college, self-taught and what that entailed? : As a prerequisite to Architecture school, I submitted a portfolio and took University art courses. While obtaining my architectural degree at the University of Michigan, I minored in photography as the School of Art and the College of Architecture and Urban Planning shared a building. As an adult, I continued doing watercolors on my own as well as classes at The Art League and workshops throughout the US and one in Europe. The process of becoming an abstract painter was more self-directed; I wanted to convey more authentic, temporal emotion than pre-planning each painting which tended to be my method with watercolor.
5 Which media do you prefer to work with? : Acrylic and graphite; sometimes collage and crayon d’arche
6 Do you work in multiple media, say which and why? : See above. Why? : Because my first love is drawing.
7 What does your work aim to say? : Currently, my work is less about what I want to say than what I ‘d like the viewer to experience.
8 Does your work comment in any way on current social or political issues? : Yes, but now privately. Previously I was more ‘in your face’. See the attached Elan article.
9 Who are your biggest influences? : So many artists, I could list dozens. Cy Twombley, Richard Diebenkorn, Agnes Martin, etc.
10 How do you navigate the art world? : Still learning; have to incorporate all we’ve been learning through marketing courses.
11 How have you developed your career? : After the initial push to qualify to teach and jury into the Torpedo Factory and a few solo shows, I’ve been complacent.
12 How do you seek out opportunities?  : I haven’t yet other than those I’ve generated but it has been a while. Exception-teaching at the Art League.
13 How do you cultivate a collector base? : It has happened in being housed at the Torpedo Factory. I have two private collectors that each have at least ten of my paintings and one developer who has ten in four of his commercial buildings.
14 How do you price your work? : By the square inch. My pricing hasn’t changed in six years. (After NW’s class, I’ll review!)
15 Which current art world trends are you following? : For my own work, none. I watch what others do to stay current.
16 Do you know where you are heading career-wise? : I think so; do the best work I can and earn a living both painting and teaching. No lofty aims!
17 Do you have any tips for young artists just starting out? : See the world and take risks. Wish I had!
18 Where can people see your art, do you have any exhibitions coming up? : In my studio, on my website, (soon) on Facebook and Instagram. No exhibitions scheduled.
19 Do you have anything else you would like to convey to an audience? : Maybe that I’m not there yet – this is a journey that demands challenging myself to produce work that is an authentic.
20 How can readers find out more about you e.g. FB IG Pinterest etc.? : See #18


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michele 1

How to get started writing blog posts

My followers will know that I have committed to writing a weekly blog post. Break that down and it is 52 subjects I need to find to write about each year.  Sounds simple enough, until you try it!
Oh, I could write just for the sake of it, but you don’t want that, you need to be engaged and I don’t want to deliver something that doesn’t have some value.  So do please tell me, if there is something in particular you would like to hear my thoughts on.


For now though, I thought I would tell you the little I know about writing blog posts, which are worth reading, after all, that is why you are here.


So – You need a good heading and from what I have learned, it always helps to have a question as part of that heading.  Just think about what you type into Google when you are looking for something you want to find out about.  Why? How? Where? Which? When? What?  Etc. are the kinds of queries you need to use.

Then what to write.  Well it should entertain or inform.  People are not interested in your walk in the park or your visit to the chiropodist unless they have a personal interest in you or the park you walk in or they need help with their feet, but that is a very narrow market and if you want a following these are subjects people are not likely to want to read about through your blog!

Before I started I spoke to other bloggers and I was advised to talk about what I know, tending toward the informing of people.  I readily admit that I am not an expert, but I do know some stuff.  I read all kinds of books, I love to investigate technical data about paint and art products and I talk to lots of people who share their knowledge with me, which I then pass on to you.
If you are excited by a subject, that will come across in your blog and people will want to read it.
I was also advised to keep it chatty.  I am sure you already know that the attention span of the average human is eight seconds, less than a fish which has an attention span of nine seconds!  So, I need to make you want to stay, read all the way through and enjoy what you have read.  You need to do that too.

I know that money can be made from blogging.  How?  Well, by collecting the emails of people, like you, who read my blogs and then using that to contact you, grow an email list and then have you see advertising which is bought by advertising companies.
I don’t do this.  I am not saying that I never will, but not right now,  I don’t do it.
I don’t have enough followers to be interesting to advertisers and really, don’t you have enough advertising bombarding you every day?
I don’t want to add to that.

And honestly, I don’t know how to set it all up.  Thankfully I have children who are absolute wizards at the social media lark, but I am woefully lacking in these skills.  For now, that is to your benefit.



That last thing I was advised to do was make it visually interesting and colourful.  I do this by sharing the artwork I produce and things which interest me.  When making your blog you need to make something which excites you.  Making art really excites me but I also realise that I need to be aware of social media, that unless I have a presence, people who might want to buy my work will not even know that I exist, so I am learning.

Hopefully, if you are still reading this, I am one chapter ahead of you in the book of knowledge, like many school teachers who are also only one chapter ahead of their students.  But I have started the journey and as I continue and learn more, I will happily share with you all.

There are loads of experts you can Google and learn from on the net.  Most of them will give you lots of good, far more in depth and technical details than this.  Info about setting up, publishing and making money from your blog, with lots of tips and very often a course you can sign up for where they will give you all the tools you need to be a seven-figure success, but really, you are just getting going, you are dipping your toe in the water and until you are really ready to commit and it is a big commitment, my basic, no frills, how to get started blog is all that you need for now.

So just start writing, get a catalogue of subjects ready and then worry about setting up website blogs, hashtags, SEO’s etc., etc. later.  Until you know that you can really commit to writing on a monthly, weekly or god forbid, daily basis, then take it in baby steps.  That way you will not waste your money until you are really ready to get going.

You have to learn to enjoy the process of blogging, you need to know that you can commit to it and you will have to find subject which amuse, entertain or educate others whilst keeping you happy and engaged.

As for me, I started in a very ad hoc way posting once a month(ish) and received no engagement until I realised that I could commit to a regular spot.
Publishing regularly is key.  People do look out for you each week and at a specific time. They tend to ignore you if you pop up on a different day to the one they were expecting.

One last very important point. Hashtags. If you don’t have any hashtags attached to your blog, you will vastly reduce the chances of someone finding you. I keep it fairly simple using the subject I am talking about and I only use about 8-10 hashtags. Make sure they are different every post otherwise your post will look like a bot and probably wont get shown at all.

So I hope that I have not put you off, that you will ease yourself into this fun activity and I hope that each week you will find one little gem from me, which will inspire you to come back next week, to find out more about me, my work and how I look at the world.