Technology Sense Check for Artists and Art Buyers

Technology Sense Check for Artists and Art Buyers

technology Sense Check for Artists and art buyers

New tech we probably don’t need… and the art we probably do

I thought we would talk about something different this week, and it only occurred to me when I considered for 30-seconds treating myself to the new iPhone X. At the 31-second mark, I decided that no I shouldn’t, my 7 is less than two months old and really, how much are they asking for it?

That glass is class so now you can smash not only the screen but also the back, and if your IT department are really strict about changing your password every 90-days that means you will need to factor in three-monthly visits to a cosmetic surgeon to change your face. That can be expensive and I hear it can smart a bit too.

I do love it, it feels so nice, and iOS 11 is just wow. But do I really need another new phone? No. Anyway I sell on print on demand so that means I would need to save up about a million 15th of the months’ worth of commissions anyway.

Would I have one if Apple gave it to me, you bet I would and I would wrap it in a blanket and talk to it, oh, I do that with Siri anyway. No phone is worth a thousand bucks. But that won’t stop people buying them in fact I think it will be Apple’s biggest seller yet.

For that money I can keep my seven and buy a new iPad Pro and a new Apple Pencil and have some change left over for an Apple Watch (second generation prices are coming down rapidly and I always have my iPhone with me so the cellular isn’t a sell). Then I could paint with both hands and double my production. Or I could save that thousand bucks and eat, or do life 1.0 stuff. 

Technology is everywhere and whilst I am the original day one adopter of anything that connects to power or the internet and 99.9% of my work involves using technology, I finally figured out that I don’t have to have the latest and apparently greatest technology at all.

My Cintiq graphics tablet gathers dust only rarely seeing the light of day, my Amazon Echo is used as a weather station and to play a few grooves streaming from my phone, but even as a weather station I can ask Alexa to let me know if it is going to rain and the answer is always no. Yet outside Irma-grade weather means that no one in their right mind would venture out of the door. Would you like me to turn the heating down Alexa asks?

That Internet of Things smart fridge was a total waste of money. I was sold on the idea of never again running out of Cheddar cheese, except they forgot to tell me that the option for the fridge to reorder the cheese would come in a future update, but that was three years ago and no update has yet arrived. I frequently run out and have to make an emergency visit to the supermarket. I refuse to order it through Amazon Prime Now because Alexa will make Adnan drive from Birmingham in this horrible weather to deliver it. The fridge failed to download food what a rip off.

We are always promised so much and only sometimes do we actually get anything remotely similar to the promise. 

Here’s the thing with my art. I purchased a new PC and a Mac around 12-months ago. Neither were on the lower end of the scale in terms of price, and neither were they basic models. The PC came with 64 GB RAM which is a phenomenal amount and in theory should see me through a few years of use, but it came with one of those new-fangled solid state drives so that everything loads really fast. It does but the size of the drive was 120 GB which is essentially little more than an operating system and a few updates, let alone Adobe and a million projects. So out came the wallet again, and of course I was upsold because some SSD’s have a very limited life expectancy, perhaps around the same as a house fly being chased with a fly swatter and a can of Raid insect killer as a backup.

Then because life is too short to safely remove a USB the PC freezes and I decide that pressing every key twice as hard at least seven times might thaw it from its frozen state and suddenly the phrase press any key to continue appears on a blue screen, but for the life of me I cannot find the “any key” button on this wireless light up keyboard. Perhaps “any key” is a combination of keys so I lean on the keyboard. That doesn’t work either so I call tech support.

Press one if you wish to upgrade, press two if you wish to purchase a subscription, press three if you wish to reset your password again, press four for a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve your quality of life. For anything else, please hang up.

Four sounds like it could take too long so I opt for three and then get transferred to two and have to explain the problem all over again before getting transferred to one and buying some dongle which I need to safely remove when it has done its job, and then I forget to press the pound or hash sign and have to go through a 15-minute survey to tell them what a bunch of tools they have been but the voice recognition turns the word tools into the phrase, “the process was a fabulous experience”.

technology irony satire

Technology isn’t as good as it used to be. We are told it is better, bigger, brighter, faster, but how will I know that the iPhone X is faster when it takes the same time to dial a number on it as it does on the iPhone 7, and neither are quite as fast at dialling as the Nokia I had back in 2001 which only needed charging every three years and always had a five bar signal.

When we finally upgrade we are left disappointed. There are times when an upgrade feels like a downgrade. The materials are often cheaper (but they are lighter and look nicer right), and for this extra nicety we pay a premium and then we are told we need a subscription if we plan on ever using it. 

The old one did everything but this new upgraded model requires it to be fed with actual money just to come out of stand-by mode. Need a remote with that sir? The old remote won’t work at all with this because it is six-months newer, I can sell you the upgraded version for £100 though, and you will get all of the features you had with your previously free remote. 

Of course the old one wasn’t free, it was included in the cost of the appliance but now the cost of the appliance has doubled and you are telling me that I need to also buy a remote control. Yes sir, and to get the most of it we can offer you a subscription too so that when the batteries are running out about seven minutes after being freshly installed, you will get a notification on your phone with a link to buy overpriced replacement batteries which by the way you can’t just buy anywhere else. 

It’s much better, oh and it changes channels 70% faster too with the multi-function button that takes three extra key presses to activate than it did on the old one. After three minutes of faffing around the channel does indeed change, but I don’t think it was 70% quicker at all. 

I’m in, I am sold on the idea that it is better until I realise that those batteries are just as expensive as printer ink and a bottle of really nice Prosecco and then they take five weeks to turn up. It’s all just too new for the shops to stock this kind of tech, but you know in time they will stock them. Except no they won’t because this is one of those tech fails that I was stupid enough to buy and no one else was.

I don’t need to spend the extra two-hundred bucks on the limited edition version because I will be the only one who is daft enough to ever buy one of these things.

It is all very exhausting. Some days I wake up feeling not very worky at all. Instead of focussing I tinker with that new genealogy app, and you know what I discovered? It’s not the size of the tree that matters, just the quality of the nuts hanging off it.

Finally you will come to realise that you don’t need new all of the time. I just wonder how many gadget drawers exist which are chock full of old format cables and abandoned tech. I have at least three within reaching distance and an attic full of every kind of everything which I am sure will one day bring down the house with its weight. 

Sometimes I will have a clear out. Occasionally I will upload a photo to that eBay thing and shake my head in disbelief whenever someone bids on something that truly should be of no use to anyone and then a bidding war breaks out. It seems that eBay has confirmed what scientists haven’t been able to ever confirm, and this is that everything in the world is made up from three elements, atoms, protons, and morons. 

Sometimes I will donate things to the art department of the local school because teaching art is the only occupation that requires you to steal things from home and bring them into work. 

Then there are the times when I decide to wake up extraordinarily early on a Sunday morning and decide on a whim to go out and do a car boot sale. For those unfamiliar with the term car boot sale, you fill your car with useless stuff and drive onto a muddy field at six in the morning where a zombie like herd will crowd around with faces pushed against the windows. Turning up to a car boot sale can be terrifying, almost like a scene from the Walking Dead only scarier. 

You push your way out of the car and open up the boot (we wear trunks in the UK but I believe my American friends call a boot a trunk) and slide out the wobbly makeshift wooden table, taking at least three of these zombie-like bargain hunters out in the process. 

You dig around for the float tin which contains a hundred penny pieces for change because if you say that something costs a pound, you will be haggled down to 99p. At 10am you still can’t find the packed lunch you prepared at 4am, and if you go to the  portable toilet you will come back with more junk than you bought with you in the first place and an odour that will take some serious scrubbing to remove. 

Still not having found the packed lunch you call in at Mc D’s on the way home and spend any profit you will have made on three Mc Chicken Sandwiches and a cup of fizzy chemical because you damn well earned it. 

The rest of the profit will go into the savings pot for the new piece of technology you absolutely need, but which usually gets eaten up by the unexpected gas bill because that smart meter the gas supplier installed didn’t save you anything at all. Why are my bills now three times higher? 

I love my phone because my friends live inside it

So how do you save money on anything?

There is only one real way to save money on technology and that is to not buy it at all. That’s impossible unless you plan on living off the grid, but what you can do is not be so quick off the mark in adopting it. You can save money on other stuff too, you just have to know when to buy it.

Day one adopters of technology and I include myself here are the guinea pigs who fund discounts further down the line and iron out the kinks for those with some sense. They are also the first ones to get burned fingers when the battery explodes or the device fails to take off. 

Remember the Philips CDi? A CD player which could not only play CD’s, but Video CD’s and games too. The video CD’s came on two or three CD’s and were supposed to be almost as good as VHS. This was the future and the best part of a thousand pounds sterling later the technology was a bust and I went back to Betamax. During those dark days I would say to everyone it was super cool, this is the future, but the reality was that I wasn’t trying to convince anyone else that they should buy one, I was trying to convince myself that I hadn’t blown my life savings on such a piece of hit. With a capital “S”.

Give new tech time to ferment and for the bugs to be ironed out, and for the prices to drop. I picked up my iPhone 7 two months before the “8” was due to be released, and I got more memory, and more data than even I can use, and unlimited calls and texts and calls from abroad with unlimited Netflix streaming for less than a third of the price I would have paid for the “8” and complete with a two-year warranty and it now costs less per month than my old one did, but it still only makes the same calls that my old Nokia made back in 2001. Now breathe. 

Don’t buy a dud…

How much are they asking for a replacement charging cable? It doesn’t even feel half that expensive, look if I pull it out of the charging port by the cable it breaks!

Don’t pull anything out of anything by the cable, pull the chunky bit of it instead it’s less likely to cause damage. I hear you when you say those bargain Silk Road knock offs are just as good but in my experience they’re not always a bargain. 

The original replacement cables are overpriced but if your tech is under warranty and you use something that carries no tangible guarantee or doesn’t ship with the pre-requisite chip, and it then damages the phone or any of your other tech and then that warranty is out of the window. 

How will they know? There is a chip in many of those cables which tell the phone you are being cheap and the phone refuses to charge. Sometimes the chips get updated by the original technology supplier and only the original ones will work. Yes it is a conspiracy but we have fed it too long for it to stop now. This is how things will be from here on in so suck it up.

What you can do is to look for officially certified cables and you will find them for about half the price of the original and long enough to actually be useful. They’re not as cheap as the knock off, but they are slightly less likely to cause some kind of explosion. 

Take care of the stuff you do have…

When I picked up my iPhone 7 I sold my iPhone 6 for nearly £200. There was a difference of £90 between physical stores in the same street, and online I would have received just £85 for it. You really have got to do your homework.

But quality is the key, my six had been wrapped in a tiny blanket (leather case) for two years and I spent a few pounds on a real glass screen protector which really worked. When I took into the store the gentleman behind the counter said it was the best example he had seen in a long time. Of course it was, I cared for that thing as one would care for a small child or a pet dog.

Time it right…

My Cintiq graphics tablet was so very nearly the next model up until my local retailer decided to get rid of the old stock before the new model arrived. 

I had been looking at this particular model for the best part of a year when the new version was announced. The trade-off between the old and the new versions just wasn’t going to be worth submitting an additional business case to the wife, so the older version it was and a saving of 30% was the result which even my wife was mildly pleased about, although she didn’t show it terribly well. 

January it seems is the best time to treat yourself to a new TV. New models appear post-January and honestly the differences between the old and new versions are often purely cosmetic.  January is also great for cameras, just before new models release in February. 

February is a good time to pick up a bargain if you are looking for homewares and furniture, and it’s also a good time to start promoting a discount on those throw cushions that you can create through print on demand sites. If you are in the market for fresh flowers, February 15th is without question the best day to buy whatever flowers are left in the shop after the last minute rush from forgetful spouses the evening before. Chocolates are on sale too and Easter is approaching rapidly. You don’t want a chocolate egg, here have this chocolate flavoured rose instead little Johnny. 

March is the time to buy a new set of luggage cases. The new ones will be springing up and the old styles will be heavily discounted. Now it makes absolutely no sense to me at all to spend a fortune on a suitcase. The airline will either lose it or break it anyway.

April is when the flowers start to bloom and there is a touch of spring freshness in the air, and a moderate amount of posturing by retailers to get you back into the habit of gardening. Boy do they have their work cut out. 

This my friends is the time to buy gardening supplies, not like me. No, I waited until the summer to completely  re-landscape the garden and it’s still not complete. I’m waiting for October now so that I can bag a few more end of season bargains and finish it off before my wife ranks it as just another DIY hashtag epic fail. 

May is well May. Not much happens in May except that home décor makes a return as retailers start making room for their summer collections. Mattresses happen in May too, so that bad decision you made ten years ago which has never given you a good night’s sleep can be rectified. 

June is heavenly for DIY. The weather is getting warmer, but someone needs to let Alexa know, and Father’s Day offers on power tools pop up so you can fail at DIY with a discount. This is also the time when you can sign up to send your money to the gym because let’s face it, you ain’t ever going to go are you?

July is the time when everyone starts leaving the country in the hope that whilst they are away they will win the lottery and will never have to return from sun kissed sand, frozen cocktails and super cheap sangria. 

While the cool kids are away you can grab a bargain, because those who are outdoors enjoying the sunshine will be missing out on jewellery bargains. Oh how I would give up two-weeks at Disney World for a gold plated bracelet. Allegedly this is the time for your body to shine and sparkle with jewellery that wasn’t sold on Mother’s Day.

August is a weird one because it is the only time I can find flip-flops in my size and they are usually a bit cheaper. I don’t wear flip-flops though, too much sand between the toes and wearing white sports socks with them is not a cool look. 

August is also the time when the festivals have ended and camping equipment appears to be discounted. So not only can you go camping just as the weather is starting to turn colder, you can wear last season’s flip-flop fashions too. 

September is when you can pick up the best bargains for new computer equipment, just immediately after the children start back to school and you have already paid out on outdated tech. There is a gap here prior to new models being released and the need to shift old stock quickly. Better still though, wait for Black Friday because that is when you might see the best of the best bargains.

Sure they will be out of date by a few weeks, but by next week they would be out of date again anyway. The savings can be enough to upgrade the paltry hard drive to the same one that the newer models have, and you could pick up a bargain on video cards which are perfect for creating digital art and still have change for a Happy Meal, maybe with extra fries too. 

November, or more specifically November 1st is when you will find the best ever bargains on chocolates and sweets. Right after Halloween. Last year I returned from working away in London with 75 packets of spooky ghoul shaped chocolates for £2. Yesterday they would have cost me over a hundred pounds. That my friends is the bargain of the century and it made a lot of locals happy and also no one I know has ever eaten chocolate since which has saved me even more. 

November and December, well this is the best time to buy the art from an independent artist. Forget Art Basel and all the others, independent artists are where the smart money is in the world of art. 

Here’s a little tip if you want a unique piece of original art or a limited edition print that doesn’t come with limited edition print prices. 

Artists who sell through print on demand often do not sell huge volumes of their work. Whenever a limited edition print run is sold there could be a thousand prints in the series, and works from the most well-known artists are going to come at a price. I know because I have sold them. 

With artists who sell through print on demand sites what you are getting is a piece of original work or a print that will likely never have achieved the volume of sales that the more well-known and expensive artists have achieved, or at least yet. That’s the key here. These beautiful works from independent artists certainly never reach the sales levels of the generic clip art available from the big box stores either. Why do you want the same art as your neighbour?

The quality will be so much better than some of the more generic work from well-known chain stores, it just hasn’t been picked up at Basel or any of the myriad of other art events yet. And also some fashionista, celebrity, or critic hasn’t seen it and said “wowser’s darling you really need to hang this piece on your gallery wall”, yet.

Independent artists are essentially a bunch of artists who have passion, and they have dreams, and they have talent. They are persistent too, which makes it so much more likely that one day their work will get picked up and someone will say, “OMG who did this”? 

That is the “yet” moment when the unknown independent artist comes out of the abyss of the print on demand search engine, and that’s when they stop selling on print on demand because their new high-end gallery asks them to become exclusive. That’s when there are no more bargains, and that’s when you wish you really had invested in the right thing when you had the chance. 

Art lasts longer than technology, it rarely if ever dates as quickly, and its value can go up. So instead of spending all that money on an upgrade that is really a downgrade, think about buying some art from an independent visual artist, oh and our customer experience is so much better too.

Best of all, these are bargains you can grab every day of every month of every year. Don’t pick from the first page of results, go to the middle and last pages because that is where the best secrets are, and that my friends is where you will find the exclusives that will cheer up your life way more than any gadget ever can. Oh just one more thing, you and the artist will both then have enough money for that other stuff like food too!


Mark A. Taylor is a British artist and blogger who specialises in abstract and landscape work and also produces art to be used within TV and film, and book covers. You can see and purchase Mark’s artwork on a wide range of print mediums and other products right here.  and you can follow Mark on Facebook here

Mark Taylor artist beechhouse media


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