Independence Day, Warhol, & Black Friday

Happy American Independence Day from the UK!

To celebrate Independence Day, three new pieces are on a limited time promotion. Each offer significant savings over Fine Art America's normal pricing, and all are printed on museum quality stretched canvas. This is a limited time offer, only 10 of each are available at these special prices and the offer ends as soon as all 10 of each are sold, or on the 9th July 2015.

All orders are fulfilled by Fine Art America, and come with a 30-day Money Back Guarantee. The quality of Fine Art America's prints is beyond doubt some of the best I have seen. Colours are vivid, and various edging options are available. This is the perfect time to pick up one of these offers, after the 9th July, prices return to normal.

Resting Tiger is one of my newest works. Measuring 40x30 inches, this piece will look stunning in any space. Created over 40+ hours, this digital work is one of my favourites. You can buy it here.

Resting Tiger
Resting Tiger

The second offer this week is "Love of Liberty" and is printed on a 36x24 inch museum quality stretched canvas. The composition of this piece took in excess of 30-hours, digitally created using the Procreate App on the iPad, before refining further in Photoshop. The image quality is excellent, and it will be a focal piece of any space. You can buy it here.

This weeks final offer is one of my all time favourites, and is the first in a series of planned works featuring National Flags. Flag was created over 24+ hours. This piece is rarely included in limited time promotions. The work comes on a magnificent 40x30 inch museum quality stretched canvas, and will provide the focal point of any room. You can buy it here.



Heat in the UK threatens to buckle its rail network
Heat in the UK threatens to buckle its rail network

What a strange week. Usually by Wednesday I usually have the skeleton of Saturday's blog all written and just waiting for me to add the latest updates. This week has been crazy mad. By Wednesday, I had completed my day job hours for the week, packing in 37-hours by the time I took a breather, and now as I write this I am on a train to London to put in another 15-hour day! By Friday at 5pm GMT, I had achieved a paltry 80-hours. This has left little time for me to create, in fact none whatsoever. I've been writing this post for days, but I think it's all turned out well in the end.

The heat in the UK has meant that train tracks are at risk of buckling, and for the life of me I can't understand why other countries that have temperatures that make the UK mini heatwave look like winter, don't all have the same problems. Maybe they do? I'm not a rail enthusiast, so I have no idea. In the UK, a train can get delayed because a few wet leaves have fallen on the line. I have been on a delayed train because the driver didn't turn up. Regular readers will know I am not a huge fan of Britains rail network.

Despite the madness, I have kept up with some art and technology news, so at least I have something other than the UK's weather and rail network to update you on. Perhaps the most bizarre thing I came across was a story with deep, dark, overtones. The question, would you pay $450,000 for a mediocre at best painting, from a man who Winston Churchill called "the mainspring of evil", a man so detested that even the mention of his name chills everyone to the bone?

Well, $450,000 is the price someone paid recently for a batch of paintings by Adolf Hitler, former student turned genocidal dictator with a penchant for project managing pure evil. This sale is rightly raising eyebrows and questions around the ethics of the auction houses who sell contentious art.

The batch of paintings was purchased from the Weidler Auction House in Nuremberg, Germany and included 14 items that ranged from ornate watercolours of German castles, to pictures of flowers. It certainly wasn't the quality of the works that commanded such a high price, but the fact that they had been created by this most evil artist.

The sale of Hitler's art is just the latest example of auction houses who have sold stolen works, works that have been put on the market despite the works creators wishes, or co-opted. Earlier in 2015, a New Jersey auction house pulled pieces of art created by Japanese-Americans who were held in World War II internment camps, protesting its commercial sale, over the purpose of using the art for educational purposes.

Who knows if Hitler wanted his work auctioned, he was arrogant enough at the time to suggest that he probably would have, and probably in the hope that the proceeds would have gone to his cause. The fact the man led a mass genocide should make us think just how much people should be spending or profiting from his work. Wouldn't it have been better to perhaps use the money raised to do something to honour the fallen? Or would it have just been better to strike a match, and walk away?

Not too long ago I wrote about the practice of deaccessioning art from museums. The practice of selling art to make up for budget shortfalls. (You can read my earlier post here). But the sale of this heinous man’s art is perhaps the most ethically perilous of all. This is a man remember, who was not only evil to the core, but a man who also failed twice to get a place in art school. Not because of his psychopathic nature, but because in all honesty, he really was bad at drawing. This was also a man who's Reich forbade and confiscated Jewish and "degenerate" art.

Some historians have suggested that his hatred of Jewish people was a result of his inability to fulfil his dreams. Other historians note that his fanatical acts of persuasion and violence are evidence of his artistic leanings. It seems rather clear that Hitler employed artistic tendencies, hypnotic oratory, moving spectacle, and elegant design, not just to gain power, but to wield it in the here and now.

Hitler will always be known for the mass slaughter of innocent Jews, but it simply doesn’t explain why on earth a collector would pay this much for his work.

Etsy, a platform I have considered exploring in the past, is a recognised home to crocheted items, deep picture frames, homemade quilts and some handmade jewellery. But if you feel a touch of Harry Potter inspiration and wish to purchase a magic potion, buy some bad luck from a witch to cast over your ex, then you are out of luck.

The popular craft site has banned the sale of spells and other magical devices that one would associate with in Potter speak, the dark arts. When eBay banned the sale of similar goods in 2012, many proprietors ran towards the Etsy platform to continue selling their wares. At times, Etsy felt like a digital walk down Diagon Alley.

Not only has the site changed its rules about "metaphysical" services, but it is also closing down stores. The previous rules were that a vendor could sell hexes and spells, just so long as they made it clear that there were no guaranteed results, or could produce something tangible. According to some sellers, Etsy isn’t even issuing a warning before stores are closed.

I am sure there was probably a large market for this stuff of possibly hokum, although I am edging my bets as to if it really worked, in the hope that a hex isn’t applied to my sales of art on the print on demand sites. I should be safe, because before I read the articles online about the issue, I hadn’t quite realised just how big this market was. It seems wholesale suppliers of witchcraft and wizardry are quite upset about the situation. I just hope that the Hex that has surely been applied to Etsy, doesn’t have a wider reaching impact.


News from the valley, that relatively unknown social network called Facebook have been tinkering under the hood again. This time by tweaking their news feed algorithm so that stories that users read for longer, but don’t necessarily share, like, or comment on, will show up higher in the news feeds.

The app will now watch for when people spend significantly more time on a particular story in their news feed, than the majority of other stories they look at, but don’t necessarily read. The stories which people spend time reading will then move up in the rankings and be displayed to a wider audience. According to Facebook, it is an attempt to promote things that don’t necessarily get shared.

The algorithm that chooses what shows up in a Facebook timeline has historically relied on liking, commenting and sharing content, among a few other factors. Research showed that users were seeing meaningful stories on their site, but didn’t necessarily feel they could either comment, like or share the post.

What this will mean in practice is that if you are sharing relevant content, it should matter less if people who have read it, like, comment or share, as long as it reaches people who stop and look, then the post should appear as a higher priority in the news feed.

I often see that some of my posts on Facebook have reached XX number of people, but much wider distribution is rare. Occasionally I see posts with a fair number of likes, but it then really still only reaches the people who actually like or follow you. This new system might actually be a good thing. I know myself that I sometimes spend a few minutes longer reading some posts, but I don’t always feel like I want to leave a comment, or I feel that my friends will have seen it too. For once, Facebook may be taking steps to get some of their broken elements right. With all of the current competition for social media platforms, the sooner the better. I am a firm believer that social media in its current form is limited, and one day the social media bubble will burst, unless they can start getting things right. I think this latest change is a positive step.


Consumer Drones can be lethal in the wrong hands

A man suspected of piloting a drone that somehow knocked down a woman in the U.S. has handed himself in following the drone incident. The woman was allegedly hit on the head after the drone had crashed into a building and fell on her. Police are investigating the incident which happened at Seattle’s recent Gay Pride event. Witnesses described the drone pilot as an unshaven white male in his 20s, wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses, cut off shorts. He also reportedly had a noticeable tattoo of a woman somewhere on his body.

This is just one incident of a number which are currently being investigated, where people have been injured by a consumer drone. Injuries have included persons being injured by crashing drones, or have been cut by the rotor blades. According to Seattle’s Police blog. You can read the Seattle PD blog here.

According to Seattle police's blog, the injured woman's boyfriend caught her as she fell to the ground. One of her friends handed the damaged drone to police, along with photographs of the man they believed was piloting it. A man later contacted the police.

Drone use is becoming increasingly popular amongst photographers, with some wedding photographers branching out and offering a bird’s eye view of the wedding. I have been using some small drones for the last couple of years, and I now have a total of four in my fleet. But I am surprised that in the UK at least, there is very little in the way of training that is available for civilian ground pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles. Each time I have purchased a new one, not once have I been asked for identification, or what the purpose is for purchasing them.

With so many small consumer drones on the market, and available online through Amazon, eBay and a number of other online and physical sources, I am surprised that we don’t see many more accidents. I learned to fly my drones in an open area away from lots of people. In fact, I still spend more time learning to fly the things than I do actually putting them to use. I at least have some knowledge of aviation from a past life, but I do see a wide range of people from all walks of life using these unmanned vehicles on a Sunday afternoon.

It also makes me wonder if the Amazon drone experiment ever really takes off, just what public liability insurance they will need. But it also makes me question if I should extend my public liability insurance to cover the use of a drone. Maybe it should be a prerequisite of ownership, but for the time being at least, it seems that the skies will be full of unmanned and untrained, albeit small, aircraft. I won’t even start on the privacy implications.. That’s a whole new post!


Black Friday
Black Friday 2015 is set to be even bigger

Am I too early to be discussing the forthcoming Black Friday events due to take place this fall? Probably not. Retailers are gearing themselves up for another frantic weekend of spend, months before the event. Some made a start immediately after Cyber Monday in 2014.

Black Friday is the huge American shopping event that has swept the world. Last time around, websites crashed, sales records were smashed, and shoppers sometimes violently scooped up deals on technology and clothing. In some countries it was the biggest weekend ever for online shopping.

Black Friday this year is on November 27th, with Cyber-Monday on November 30th. Last year, Adobe crunched the numbers and reported that on Black Friday in 2014, consumers spent a record-breaking $2.4 billion, up 24% from 2013. Those figures really are staggering. It’s almost like paying a national debt of a small country (except Greece maybe), but to put that amount in context, just a paltry $1 billion (that’s $1,000,000,000) would buy you a home like Jack Dorsey’s in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighbourhood ($10m), a boat like Paul Allen’s Tatoosh ($160m), a Dassault Falcon 7X aircraft ($40m), Oklahoma City Thunder Basket Ball Team ($475m), a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO ($35m), take a group of friends on vacation for a 25 day Intrav Private Jet Tour around the world ($5m), buy Craig McCaw’s James Island ($75m) and give away another $350m to your friends. Friends by the way, must include me.

Here in the UK, shoppers spent £810m ($1.2 Billion) last year. John Lewis a popular UK retailer celebrated its biggest sales week of all time, and moved one Nutribullet food processor every second. Meanwhile, over at Walmart-owned ASDA, their stores moved 8000 TV’s before I was awake, and made 130 sales every second throughout the day.

The numbers were so big that websites fell over like Victorian ladies on a hot day, with HP, Best Buy, Currys, Tesco, Argos, Boots and Game's websites all requiring smelling salts. In some instances, online retailers had to introduce a queuing system, with some people having to wait for over an hour in some cases to join in the online frenzy.

The chaos for this year is being prepared even as I type this in the first few days of July. Black Friday is still a while away, but you can dare bet that the retail economy will generate some big bucks again this year, and whatever retailers do with their online offers, you can almost guarantee that traffic will be high, and Netflix streaming will suffer as a result.

Black Friday isn’t confined to the online realm, it was originally conceived as a unit mover for high street retailers, allowing them to move a lot of stock at a time when most people in the U.S have some time off for Thanksgiving. The pre-Christmas retail landscape changed in 2014, many retailers such as Amazon had thought and planned for the event, but some high street stores hadn’t planned so well, and came late to the party when they realised that virtually no traffic or footfall would be bestowed upon their doors if they didn’t turn up with the bargains that people wanted. Some retailers used Black Friday as a cover to move stock that was unsold, and others purchased stock especially for Black Friday.

One of the most interesting questions about Black Friday is whether it created new demand or just brought forward people's Christmas shopping by a few weeks.

The answer appears to be the latter - Verdict Retail found "no evidence that it stimulated demand" - and some retailers' panicky discounting was tantamount to shooting themselves in the foot.

Essentially, the Black Friday frenzy moved a lot of stock, but that stock was less profitable than usual. But what are the predictions for this year? I would imagine that Apple will be moving stock to make way for new models, and the rest of the electronics industry will be gearing up. Toys will as always be top of the Christmas lists, but I think fashion retailers will see an upsurge too.

It’s my hope that we’ll see some offers in the art world, but it is also my hope that artists don’t suffer as a result. All year round, print on demand sells artists work, and for once I hope that the reductions aren’t taken from the artists small commissions. It’s a big hope, but one thing is certain, Black Friday will be big business for everyone.


This Week At The Auctions

Here’s a quick roundup of some of Christie’s activity this week:




London - Christie’s Post War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction achieved £95,646,500 / $ 150,069,359 / €134,287,686, with sell-through rates of 87% by lot and 88% by value. Bidders from 34 countries across three continents showed high energy for works by some of the most exciting contemporary artists alongside classics of the category. The evening established records including Chris Ofili’s ground breaking Holy Virgin Mary (£2,882,500), alongside Malcolm Morley (£1,202,500), R.H Quaytman (£578,500), Jeff Elrod (£218,500), Brent Wadden (£122,500) and The Chapman Brothers (£422,500).

The highest price achieved on the evening was £12,178,500 for Francis Bacon’s Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne and George Dyer. Bidding was particularly active for collection from Museum of Old and New Art, achieving £4,630,000 and The Jacobs Collection achieving £6,993,000, with demonstrable enthusiasm for artists including Jean Dubuffet, Richard Hamilton and Morris Louis. Overall the auction showed further evidence of the momentum in market that has been witnessed over a record-breaking season of sales for Christie’s across Europe and the US, with strong results not only in New York but also Amsterdam, Milan and Paris.

Edmond Francey, Head of Department for Post War and Contemporary Art, London, commented: ‘Tonight we saw the culmination of a historic season for Christie’s. The depth and breadth of activity was seen by the broad geography of not only bidders and material. This was an example of Christie’s doing what it does best, with consistent results in comparison to last year. The 100 percent sell-through rates on the Jacobs and MONA collections demonstrated the desirability of fresh material.’

The much-anticipated sale of Chris Ofili’s Holy Virgin Mary, saw a record price of £ 2,882,500 for a generation-defining work. First exhibited at the generation-defining exhibition ‘Sensation’ in London and New York, the work became a focal point for the widespread attention the exhibition received throughout the international media landscape and dates from a moment that saw Ofili propelled to international fame.

The auction was led by the two works by Francis Bacon: Two Men in a Field, (1971), which sold for £10,722,500, and Study for the Head of Isabel Rawsthorne and George Dyer (1967) which realised £12,178,500. The first a rare landscape within the oeuvre of Bacon the work was painted for his career-defining retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1971, the second a snapshot of two of the most intimate relationships of his life, his lover Dyer and life-long confidant Rawsthorne. Bacon’s first ever diptych, Study for the Head of Isabel Rawsthorne and George Dyer is a glimpse into the artist’s inner circle via his most powerful means: the 14 x 12 inch portrait.

Katharine Arnold, Head of the Evening sale added: ‘It was a great result for the best of contemporary and 100 percent sold Jacobs collection. The highlight of my evening was the Chris Ofili selling at a world record level and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.’

Further noteworthy sales included:

Yves Klein’s Fire Painting Peinture de feu couleur sans titre, (FC 27), (1962) realised a price of £5,906,500, foregrounding the creative potential of destruction the work is one for the largest of his explosive series of fire paintings that were executed the year of his untimely death.

Sigmar Polke’s Mondlandschaft mit Schilf (Moonlit landscape with reeds) (1969) has not been seen in public since the mid 1970s. Realised in 1969, the year of the moon landings, this moonscape realised £3,890,500.

Morris Louis, Number 35 (1962) from the Jacobs Collection saw huge competition in the room and on the phones to reach a figure of £1,538,500, more than three times the low estimate for the work.

Malcolm Morley’s SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam (1966) is one of the earliest example of the much-admired super-realism that would become the hallmark of his career. Previously part of the Saatchi Collection, the work made a record price of £1,202,500.


Sale results from Sotheby’s are no less significant and here is a quick rundown of activity. The July 2015 Contemporary Art Evening Auction realised £130.4m ($204.7m / €183.9m), Sotheby’s highest-ever total for a sale of Contemporary Art in Europe. Warhol’s only hand-painted one-dollar bill painting sold for £20.9 million, the highest price for any work sold in London this week. Two newly discovered self-portraits by Francis Bacon led a strong British offering, including works by other School of London artists such as Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, David Hockney and R. B. Kitaj.


Warhol Dollar Bill
Warhol Dollar Bill

When Andy Warhol was looking for a way to make his name in the New York art world in the early 1960s, he asked friends for suggestions about what to paint.

"Finally," he said, "one lady friend asked the right question: ‘Well, what do you love most?' That's how I started painting money."

The Pop artist's first hand-painted dollar bill canvas, One Dollar Bill (Silver Certificate), from 1962, was the biggest price fetched so far for a contemporary artwork at a busy week of sales there. Christie's sold $150.1 million's worth of art on Tuesday, with records set for Chris Ofili, R.H. Quaytman and four other artists; a Phillips sale netted $28.6 million and set a record for an Ai Weiwei work on Monday.

I am still working on a couple of Warhol inspired pieces. Not too much left still to do, but I hadn't quite realised just how big a job they would be. I'm hoping that they will be completed at some point this weekend, but apparently, I have to also mow the grass.

So that’s today’s roundup, more tomorrow. I am working on a feature blog which looks at artists who have been struggling to make sales this year on print on demand. If you have been selling through print on demand sites such as Zazzle, and Fine Art America and you want some additional exposure, please feel free to get in touch.

All I need is a small bio, a link to your work and why you would like to be featured. If you can also select your favourite piece and why, that would be great. Feel free to drop me a line through my email address below, or use the contact form to connect with me. In the meantime, go and get artsy!











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