The Artist Reset

About that sponge - Time for a reset…

The artist reset...

I regularly write a new article for members of our four wonderful art groups on Facebook. The Artists Exchange, The Artist Hangout, The Artists Directory, and The Artists Lounge. This week, we take a look at a few ideas that might just be worth a glance if you are thinking about diversifying your art practice to keep the studio lights on or to just to develop more as an artist and we also learn about an amazing sponge because the lockdown is taking its toll.

Happy Easter...

Before we begin, I just want to wish all of you who celebrate Easter my very best wishes and I hope you all find something positive over the long weekend. For many, this will be a difficult time not being so close to loved ones and especially difficult for those who have lost loved ones and friends. Easter has always been a time of hope and I hope that all of you are able to make the best of it in whatever way you can and that you all stay safe and well.

Rock star art, Mark Taylor, Fine Art America,
Rock Star by Mark Taylor

Another Long Year…

Last week was another long year and the world changed infinitely more, just as it has been doing every week for the past few months. But there is one thing that is beginning to stand out above everything else and that is the resolve of people all over the world in coming together to get this horrible period in time. We are all hopeful of a new normal while not quite knowing what a new normal will even be or when we will see it. That I think is a true test of everyone’s faith.

I finally got back to the day job this week and whilst I’m classed as a key worker, I’m lucky to have the privilege of being able to work from home for the most part and after a couple of months nursing kidney stones I was kind of looking forward to getting back into the world, at least virtually.  

As soon as I got back into the swing of things which took me about an hour, I had my new temporary normal delivered via a text message from the government service that pings out national updates. I had been identified as being extremely vulnerable and must remain at home for 12-weeks, to not go outside the front door and only open the windows. Oh my, that kind of message is up there alongside Reagans quote of, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.

Honestly, I have never thought of myself as anywhere near vulnerable and now the stones are finally sorted I can manage the Crohn’s Disease just as I have done for more than thirty-years of having it. When I’m not in a flare I feel fitter than I did when I was a teenager apart from having a ropey back caused by a couple of slipped discs which get inflamed by my bad life choices in buying the wrong mattress every time I change it. I so need to get a new mattress and then I might be an entirely new man, but that’s going to have to wait, I can only open a window and the mattress shop is closed.

So I guess my new temporary normal will need to last until someone medically qualified agrees with the half of my brain that tells me that I am okay to venture out for essentials or, as I will dutifully and compliantly do,  I will just have to confine myself to the laptop for three months and hope that Disney Plus release the remaining episodes of the Mandalorian earlier. We get one new episode delivered every week here in the UK and it is painfully slow and tedious, a bit like my back is when I wake up in the morning. Slipped discs, not a fan, they’re up there with kidney stones but I still don’t think I’m vulnerable but I am annoyed that we have to wait.

Other than that, it is what it is and there’s no place like home I guess. I really don’t fancy picking up anything that would make either my situation worse or someone else’s. Thankfully I have my art and a range of streaming services so I got this but do expect my art to become incrementally weirder as I slowly turn a little more stir crazy, you have been warned!

Anyway, enough about me, you can still buy my art from my Pixels store right here, and I will be eternally grateful, but this week is really about supporting you. After all, tomorrow is another day and by the way, as it is Easter I have hidden some Easter eggs in this post, lines from films. You know, to help you pass some of that extra time you still don’t have because y’all are still too busy painting. I have also included some of the cut-outs I have been posting on my Facebook page, they're healthier than a chocolate egg and Happy Easter!

easter egg, cut out easter decoration, craft template,
Be careful with the scissors!

Everyone deals with things differently. There will be some who will find the current crisis an opportunity to learn new skills and develop their creative muscle and others who don’t have the privilege of turning the crisis into something productive or the privilege to find fun things to keep them occupied. The entire world is going through a collective and shared experience and everyone will be dealing with it differently.

There are no right ways or wrong ways, just as much as there ever are in art. You don’t have to seize the moment and spend every moment of every day developing yourself or your art, or learning about anything new, you don’t have to be working on the next side-hustle, you don’t have to feel guilty that you don’t feel like creating, you can simply deal with what’s going on in any way you want so long as you are safe and well but if you are focusing your efforts on your art then I hope you are working on becoming even more excellent than you already are.

Last time I wrote one of these articles I wrote about finding an anchor of normal, how we should look for normality in every place we can. My point really was that right now we should be celebrating normal in the same way that we celebrate a win. A few months ago I think we could all agree that there was no single way to describe everyone’s normal. Normal was a little bit uninteresting and dull, or normal was beautiful or difficult or a real challenge, or it was epic and great, no one person really ever had the same kind of normal. We each had a version of normal that we dealt with in different ways. Today we find ourselves all craving a pleasant, even a little dull kind of normal rather than everything else that is going on. However, you chose to deal with getting through these dark days, the important thing is that whatever else you are doing you are also doubling down on looking after you.

I am trying desperately to seek out anchors of normal, a familiar book, a familiar food, having a grump about the latest paper cut that appeared on my thumb, the things that we took for granted not that long ago now seem precariously balanced on a knife-edge.

Maybe we should start posting hashtag normal along with an everyday non-Covid related post to remind us that the world will eventually find its feet once again. Little anchors of normal that we can all relate to rather than the huge icebergs of doom and fake that seem to be filling up social media timelines. I think in the future we artists will probably reflect on this time as artists have always reflected on world-changing events, I think now is just a little too soon for some of that artistic reflection, but maybe not all if it has the right message and is sensitive.

I think at the moment the newness of the crisis is very much at the forefront of people’s minds and it is inevitable that conversations are geared towards everything that is going wrong in the world. We are starting to see works of art that are beginning to document the times, some of it welcome and relevant, some of it not so much. As artists, I think we do have a responsibility to be sensitive to the moment if that’s the direction we currently want to take. 

It’s understandable, I am as shocked and upset by all of this as much as anyone is, but wouldn’t it be nice to see some positive stuff out on social media too? There is some, there’s just nowhere near enough and while it is hard to be positive at the moment, I really do think we need to step up and try. I wouldn’t mind seeing the occasional hashtag normal post letting me know what to watch next on Netflix, or the strange stuff people find themselves doing as they wander around the house taking in a breath of fresh room but most of all I find myself looking for anchors of normal and a little escape.

I think my own hashtag normal moment that might seem crazy to some people is the moment I realised I had fallen in love with a sponge. Okay, it’s not just any sponge, and bear in mind that I am a grown-ass fifty-year-old male here, but this sponge is quite remarkable. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I’ll tell you about it a little later.

Art has a huge role to play in this crisis. Whilst buying a new work might not be quite so high on everyone’s priority list right now, there are still some deliveries being made and there are thankfully still some people supporting local and independent artists, and I especially want to thank those who have purchased my work over the past few weeks and for supporting me as they always do, but life is undoubtedly tough for many.

Sales aside, everyone will continue to appreciate art just as much and if not more than they always did. We’ll always have Paris and we’ll always have art. Art can be an escape for the artist but it can also be an escape from everything else that is going on for the viewer, art can really be an anchor of normal in these uncertain times.

As artists, I really do think that we have a responsibility to provide that escape, and if nothing else, for some, this hard reset that the world is going through might help them develop their passion for the arts even more.

For those who do find it easier to use their enforced free-time to develop as artists there are plenty of things that you can do that will give you the edge when things do begin to turn into whatever that new normal ends up looking like. Whether it is learning about the business of art or developing a totally new niche and direction as an artist, many will have at least a little more time to reflect on their practice and use the opportunity to work towards a mastery of what they do and maybe just maybe find a few ways of keeping a little cash flowing through the doors until the light shines through once again, and it will.

craft template, easter decoration, homemade, diy craft,
I will be creating some more of these very soon! 

Reinvent and Reset…

I have spoken to a lot of artist and non-artist friends over the past couple of weeks. Many of them have been affected by closures of galleries and shows and some who never really had an online strategy before this crisis are now having to embrace all things digital. Right now is a time where creativity really does have to stretch beyond the canvas and we have to use that creativity to adapt more quickly than ever. Now is also a time when you don’t need permission to diversify, survive, or thrive, no matter what the gatekeepers to the art world have made you believe in the past. All you need to be is excellent as my good friend Joshua would say.

Have you ever thought to yourself, I would love to paint this or that subject and then go back to painting whatever you usually paint because you don’t want to appear to be inconsistent? Allegedly those are the rules in art, aren’t they? We have to conform to expectations, stay within a box, and the truth is, no, you really don’t and especially now.

How do you diversify though? It would be challenging enough in normal times but changing how you do things and what you do in the middle of a pandemic might still bring with it another set of challenges, least of all those challenges and barriers we place on ourselves. As artists, we do seem to have an uncanny knack of doing that and like everything we do, we tend to do it really well.

We have been told by the gatekeepers to the art world for centuries that consistency in art is key, an artist shalt remain in a niche, an artist shalt remain in a style and subject box, and to a point, if the world was still as normal as it was a couple of months ago I would still only partly agree where the artist might have a contract. For independents, for me, there has always been little point in following those same rules because those rules are not where my own market is at.

Some consistency is essential, but surviving and thriving are more essential at the moment and not just financially, but for our mental well-being too and that latter bit is the bit that the gatekeepers forget.

If you have gallery representation and you are known for a particular style, subject or medium, then you might be much more constrained by what you do, you are most likely under some sort of contract to perform, or create and woe betide any artist who steps out. That’s the right thing in a gallery, they know who their market is and the good ones work really hard for their artists. The thing is that every artist has a moment when they think that even though they are not represented by a gallery they have to follow those very same rules too. The rules aren’t ever set by the gatekeepers, they are set by you and your own market.

I have never come across a contract yet that says you can’t continue to develop as an artist or experiment to build a mastery of your art, the sensible galleries would even encourage it even if they wouldn’t want you or them to sell it. As for those artist who follow those rules but don’t have to, I have never stumbled across those rules etched in some biblical stone and the majority of working artists do not work in a gallery space so there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to continue to work in the confines of a contractual box if you haven’t got a contract unless that’s exactly what your market want.

Times aren’t normal right now, the gatekeepers have fled to the hills and the pod bay doors are well and truly open Hal. The biggest challenge you have now is the challenge of giving yourself permission to break those unwritten rules and go ahead and create a whole new art movement if that is what you want to do. This is the time where you can work on your legacy and how exciting is that?

As independents we can change and adapt, we can be as creative as we want to be, or we can stay the same just as we always really could. It’s just a real shame that it takes something like a pandemic to make some artists realise that they don’t have to sit in those boxes forever, you can come out now and experiment. It’s fine, it always was. 

You don’t have to give up what you have always done or stop creating what you have always created, but now is the time if ever there was one that you can be more creative in your approach to your art and become more creative at managing the business side of your passion. It is totally fine to art for art’s sake, and you know what, it has always been fine to art for art’s sake. Only you can give yourself permission to wander out of your safe space. These are the very spaces that will ultimately stop you growing and developing as an artist so in fact, they’re not very safe at all.

The next iteration of the art world is going to be different, it always is when there is a reset. This isn’t the art world’s first rodeo with a crisis and it likely won’t be the last. Art history has taught us that change has been a constant throughout and for centuries artists have adapted and changed the way they do things and the way and the what they create, look at Pollock. Whatever the new normal turns out to be, I have a strong feeling that it will look very different when it comes to art. For one, we might all just come to appreciate it even more.

We are already seeing a glimpse of how the art world will change in the future. Galleries and artists are doing more in the virtual space from online exhibitions to virtual gallery and museum tours, everybody is doing things differently and some of that different will stick around even after this battle has been won.

Galleries and artists are going to have to adapt to this change and not just in the short-term. Digital skills are going to be increasingly essential as an artist whether you work with traditional mediums or not. While we have no idea where this road will lead we can be reasonably sure that we’re not in Kansas anymore.

iornament app, crafting, template, Mark Taylor,
These are created using iOrnament Pro and iOrnament Crafter - available for iPadOS and worth a download!

Diversifying your portfolio…

Diversifying your portfolio is something I have written about a few times, I have always felt that a diverse portfolio makes you more agile to change. That took me a few years to learn and it became even more apparent back in 2008 when we saw a financial crisis that wiped out the markets overnight. This agility and diversification is what has helped me over the past three and a half decades of doodling.

Whilst the gatekeepers have shouted loudly that offering your work on a print will cheapen it, the reality is that it might if you are in that gallery space and known for a particular niche, or your market tell in which case you should probably listen, but not every artist is in that particular space, not every artist is 100% sure of who their market is. The art world is many things and many markets and there are no rules that say as an independent you can only be in one. Those rules might mean a bit more in some markets but unless you are in those markets it is so much better to thrive than simply survive.

Diversifying is scary, for some it will work and for others, it might not. Some of the decision to diversify depends on the promises you previously made to your buyers and collectors before all of this latest crazy happened. If you sold limited editions you can’t just go ahead and create a few more but you can make some different editions. Past promises and responsibilities to your market remain as important today as they did yesterday but that doesn’t at all mean you can’t diversify more creatively or differently whichever market you are in.

Now is the time to become creative away from the canvas too. Thinking about how the world has changed and what role art will continue to play in the months and maybe even years ahead will certainly help you to shape your thinking around how you can diversify. People are spending time at home and currently, for the most part, goods can still be ordered online for home delivery although there may be some delays as critical goods and services are being rightly prioritised and some international orders are facing an indefinite delay.
The buyers are still there, it’s just that they might not be buying as frequently as they did, but be confident that they will return so long as you don’t give up, you should never give up, your dream didn’t change overnight, only the world did.

Sometimes we just need a little inspiration to think outside that box and hopefully my ramblings below will jolt your imagination a little more. Now it is important to know that I haven’t carried out anything like research for this list of ideas, but I do have some experience because this latest glitch isn’t my first rodeo either. As I said earlier I was around in 2008 and plenty of times before that when the world went south. I really have no idea if these will work for you but I do think it’s important that we all throw a little something out there to help our fellow creatives, and as always, if you have any ideas, please do throw them into the comment pot at the bottom of the article!

artist quotes, funny quotes for artists, Mark Taylor,
Top Tips for dealing with a lockdown...

Digital Diversification…

Digital downloads take away the delivery pressures and the headache of fulfilling physical orders. The downside to this is that the options to offer this service efficiently are limited apart from using a platform such as Etsy. The other downside is that you have no control over how the work is printed out so if quality outputs are your thing, all you can do is to provide some advice and guidance.

If you found that coming up with a pricing strategy was difficult for your physical work you will need to think about any digital download pricing strategy just as much, the good news is it should be a whole heap easier because there are plenty of precedents already set within the digital download space. There is a general expectation that digital is cheaper due to there being no base materials involved from you, but you do have to also factor in things like listing and hosting fees and in some cases, the extra time you might need to support people to get the best out of their print outs and of course, your experience and skill still need to be factored in.

Digital isn’t always a cheaper option, you might want to offer limited editions where you only make a limited number of downloads available, although there really is no simple way to police what others might then go on to do with the file, but you could legitimately add a premium if you plan on deleting the file and offering a guarantee that no more prints will ever come from you. Equally, you might want to consider limiting your downloads only to some specific pieces of work which is what I tend to do when I deal with direct digital orders. I make around 25% of my work available as a digital download and I have been thinking for a while that I should maybe do more.

I have to say that I wish Fine Art America and Pixels would enable an option to create digital downloads. I know that would make a huge difference for a lot of artists during the next few months or however long this will last, and especially as deliveries can be more miss than hit at the moment. I see why they don’t do this in normal times, their platform would be flooded with downloadable art, but here we are clambering through some not quite so normal times. I would happily allow them to take a decent cut, it’s important that we support each other and we support the services we use every day. 

Sending files via email or dropbox isn’t necessarily the best way to transmit your work and neither of those options have in-built mechanisms to receive payment or to provide an easy way of tracking downloads and offering licences for use. I call these trust options, relying on the integrity of people to throw a coin or two into the honesty pot and hoping that they will do the right thing and not steal or resell the work. They are however a start if you want to test the water with a few chosen pieces but I would be minded to only go fully in with this route when you do have a better way of controlling the downloads and tracking them. As I said, Etsy is probably the best option for now but there are a small number of others too and if you have a website with e-commerce functionality then it might be possible to create a download option from there giving you much more control without the additional listing costs. 

Stock images are another option although I have never been a huge fan of going down this route. I do make my work available for licencing through my Pixels store but licensing has never been a major contributor to my bottom line, maybe because I don’t market the option enough. The issue for me is that the stock-image markets are flooded with low-cost works and in some cases, the images are free to download and come with personal and commercial use licences. I’m not entirely sure how you can even begin to compete with that at scale unless you use it as some kind of loss leader.

diy easter decorations, crafting for easter, crafting,
The Blue Egg 

Pick up a book…

While people are at home with time on their hands I think that it is highly likely that a few frustrated authors are finally getting around to jotting down some words onto paper or a screen. There is apparently a book within each and every one of us so I guess that’s also an option for some. Personally, I started writing two books but kind of gave up for a while to focus instead on book covers. Maybe one day, I still have a publisher in the wings willing to take a gamble on me.

The old adage of not judging a book by its cover doesn’t always ring true, book covers play a major role in selling books and it is a service I have had some success in providing over the years, it was one of the ways I diversified back in 2008. There’s a heap of stuff to learn about things like bleed edges and print processes, it’s a dry subject but you can make it fun with some a lot of imagination, and you also need to get to grips with things like ISBN code dimensions and the legal use of fonts in a commercial environment. Once you take the plunge to learn how to create book covers the results can be fruitful and you really do come across some interesting characters but be warned, not all of them are in the books.

Competition to create book covers is really tough and by that, I mean, wow that’s a hard gig kind of tough. This I think is due to the sheer number of generic covers available that many first-time authors quickly head towards perhaps not realising that the same cover appears on thirty different books. The thing is, these generic covers are cheap and for some authors, a PowerPoint slide with a touch of comic sans seems to suffice after writing a masterpiece for the past twenty years. Words deserve more than Comic Sans, my friends.

For new authors these generic covers are really cheap so that’s a definite selling point especially for those authors who don’t immediately have any budget to hand over to an artist so I totally get why generics and templates are attractive. Canva and Microsoft Publisher has made the process easier, with Canva you can get great results the downside is that unless you really think about what your book needs there is a risk that the book will still look generic if templates are used.

There might be an opportunity for some artists to create some low-cost options without the bells and whistles of revisions or alternative covers for different markets. My average book cover commission usually entails the creation of at least three or four variations of the cover to suit different markets with each one carefully researched for the target demographic, sometimes that research has to be carried out professionally and there is usually a significant cost involved in doing that too. E-book covers might seem a lot easier than physical covers but I can tell you they’re not, there are way more books in the digital library than there are in the bookshop.

One word of advice though, something I have come across a few times in the past is that you might be asked to check any text provided, and in a couple of cases, I have even been asked to proofread the entire book and edit it as part of the job. Those tasks are not within the role of the artist unless you are also a copy editor and you add a premium. As an artist, all you need is a clearly defined brief and to have a contract written that outlines any future use of the work, timelines, and something that outlines and agrees  any additional costs for things like the use of specific commercial fonts and it is always a good idea to read the book pre-publication so you can get a feel of firstly whatever is in it, and secondly, whether or not you still want the gig.

My advice to any author is to get at least some budget together for a cover and get one created professionally that makes you stand out against the other bazillion books in the store, or at least spend some quality time thinking about what you want to create for the cover. The cover is after all, what invites the reader to read the book if they are just browsing across a shelf.

Creating a bespoke book cover takes time, the costs of production are significantly higher than a generically made one with which you can recover the costs over a longer period of time and repeat sales. It is some artists a worthy side-venture with a high possibility of repeat business if the book goes on to do well.

diy decorations, craft templates, symmetry, art, Mark Taylor,
You can add a string to hang these up or add sand or stones to act as a paperweight!

Not just prints…

It’s not just art prints that are suited to digital downloads at times like this. There is a growing need for signage in commercial premises that need to redirect customers or provide instruction, I picked a couple of these little jobs up this week, and digital downloads for typographic pieces are always popular. At one time I sold a frame complete with one interchangeable art download each month for twelve months and the subscriber could always choose from a rotating selection of works which were either typographic pieces or landscapes.

You can even create digital packs for things like patterns and templates, or you could offer downloadable colour palettes, Instagram highlight story icons which are essentially transparent PNG files,  or you could offer things like photo overlays, digital frames, texture images, or clip art. These are assets that could be sold alongside your usual brand or as a way to get your own brand and work out to a wider audience and they might just move people towards aspiring to own one of your original works when times begin to get better.
People are working at home but they are also working out at home too. Yoga mats and t-shirts might be useful to some folk and never has the world taken quite so many isolation selfies with thousand buck phones half protected in a generic ten-buck phone case. My eye is always drawn to a phone case first when it comes to mirror selfies, they say so much about a person and they’re usually the forgotten elements of a selfie that let the entire photo down.

Top tip here, if you want to be an influencer then you might just want to think about the message your phone case sends if you are taking the selfie in front of a mirror. I have really seen some crazy stuff over the years including an influencer who was recommending a meat product using a phone case with the slogan 100% Vegan written across it. You see how picky I am about my shoes and those only go on my feet, well, I’m like that with a phone case!

The point here is that you don’t have to diversify everything you do, you are an independent which means that you can independently make the choices that are right for you and your art. You can diversify to add value to your audience, you can even encourage people to purchase more art at least if not now, eventually even if they are buying it differently.
Keeping in touch with your audience is something you always have to do as an artist and making sure that the audience knows that you are still thinking of them will go a long way when things finally return to whatever that new normal will be. Providing things like free colouring pages or a piece of art they can print at home, those are really nice touches that show you care. You could offer a small 7x5 print for the cost of shipping together with an offer on buying larger prints, again, this is a nice touch that really doesn’t have to cost a lot to do and something that people will appreciate.

This isn’t something that devalues art and I know a few artists who have done this and then been slated by other artists for sending out free work. I never recommend free in the truest sense of free, free doesn’t pay the bills or the art supplies, but free has always had a place in marketing 101. These are tools that are used in the marketing of any given widget every single day and there are absolutely no rules to say that a clever marketing campaign shouldn’t be used in selling art. Even galleries hand out artworks, something the galleries on-board cruise ships do all the time, but when they do they also expect you to turn up at the on-board auction in a playbook borrowed in part from the timeshare business. It’s marketing and business, and not necessarily free. There is a distinct difference between taking on free work and choosing to use free work in a marketing campaign.

But let’s also not forget that right now is not just about the sale. People remember you more when you do good things and doing good things is just a good thing to do anyway. Now is the time to pay it forward and there are plenty of opportunities to make someone really happy and yes, there might be a longer-term benefit for you too. There are opportunities to support essential workers such as those working in frontline health care services and those manning the grocery stores, there will be people dealing with all sorts of horrible at the moment and who might appreciate a gesture of thanks from a piece of art. I am certainly happy to waive my artist commission on Pixels to any health care or frontline worker right now if they get in touch so I can send them a code, it’s a really small thing that I can do but wouldn’t it be great if the print on demand services did something like this too and discounted some of those base costs for all of our heroes.

adrift under a neon sky, landscape art, Mark Taylor,
Adrift Under A Neon Sky - Mark Taylor - Available from

Extending your knowledge…

It’s always good to pick up fresh ideas and new skills and many of us will be turning to social media for inspiration, practical advice and hints and tips. The thing to remember is that there are generally no right or wrong ways with art so any advice you do get might be different depending on the source. The best way of learning something new is to get a broad range of input from as many different sources as you can. That’s something I have said many times on this website, the hints and tips I share might work for you but I would be mortified to think that anyone wouldn’t be casting their nets a little wider to make sure they are getting the widest and best range of advice and experience to pull from, I have a few Facebook friends who offer artist advice and I would live and die by their words. Whenever I need an answer I usually head to my own network first and if they don’t have the answers I will do some research, often on the lesser-known social networks.

The Social Networks…

When we think of social media we tend to think of the big players like Facebook and Twitter but there are other social networks that appeal more to some people and especially when the topics being covered are a little more niche.

Facebook is a great platform but it’s really not the best platform for every niche subject, it’s real focus has always been around keeping people connected, a social platform in its truest sense and I think, way too abused by a tiny minority at times. This is where alternative platforms such as Reddit and Quora begin to play a role. They tend to cover those slightly more niche subjects and the audiences on those platforms are often very different from the audiences on more mainstream networks, they tend to be very much focussed only on their respective niche.

Quora has been around since 2009 and continues to be a great source of answers, often from a broad section of the community. Anyone can ask a question and anyone can answer, and whilst there are inevitably a few dumb answers given, you can usually work out the most reliable ones. Ask a simple question and you might get a few thousand answers and you will then need to sort out what might be fact and what might be opinion, but ask something a little more specific and the chances are that someone with some deep-rooted knowledge in the subject will provide an answer that is firstly useful and secondly correct.

Billing itself as the front page of the internet, Reddit is another useful platform that is tightly controlled and internet trolls are made to feel very unwelcome which is very welcome on social media. Reddit users really do seem to be a very different bunch of people than you might find on other platforms, and because it is a forum-based service, there are subreddits that are essentially individual topics. Yes, you do kind of need to learn a slightly different language to get the most out of it. One thing I have noticed is that Reddit users do seem to love their acronyms.

As long as you stay within the confines of the sites community standards you can create a subreddit about absolutely anything. Each subreddit is managed by a team of moderators who are volunteers and I have always found that they’re a committed bunch of people who do enforce the rules on the majority of subreddit’s that they manage. Admins are Reddit employees who wield the most power across the site and they also police the moderators. I think it might be the single best method ever found of weeding out the fakeness that we come across so often on other platforms, and it does it without it seemingly violating the concept of free speech, well almost, there’s a little off-topic slightly bizarre stuff to be found if you dig down deep enough but it is still usually polite. 

Back to that alternative language that Reddit users love, OP is original poster, TIL means Today I Learned, AMA is a popular abbreviation which means Ask Me Anything. I have always found the audience to be insightful about the topics they comment on and many are both humorous and engaging. Enjoy a post and you are able to upvote it, or you can purchase Reddit coins to award to the most engaging posters. As with all social platforms though, both Reddit and Quora are where people hang out on the internet so you still need to practice some caution when using the services. Tumblr is another good one too, although I find that a little overly complex at times.

There is another network that I know gets way undervalued but it is one that I get a significant amount of traffic and business from and that is Ello. Ello is The Creators Network, a publishing and collaboration platform connecting and supporting a global community of artists. Founded in 2013 by a collection of artists & designers, Ello re-imagines the future of creative work by providing a contemporary forum and virtual workplace for artists, brands, agencies, publishers, and their fans.

Ello’s Creative Brief technology connects the Ello artist community with brands, agencies, publishers and fans through real-time creative briefs. Working in close collaboration with Ello’s clients they launch brief-driven, on-demand creative projects that activate and engage their global community of 625K artists in 175 countries.

Ello actively reward artists by surfacing them and providing exposure on the platform and it is one of the single best, if not the best creator specific network out there at the moment and refreshingly, the platform is generally spam-free. Think of it as a LinkedIn for creatives and you get a general idea, although it’s a little more than that.

pool party, pinterest, artwork, Mark Taylor,
Pool Party - One of my most popular works!

Diversify your art supplies…

Thankfully, I have been an extreme art supply prepper for years so have, I hope, enough materials to get me through the next few months and because I work primarily in digital, I don’t run quite the same risk of running completely out of canvases. If you are running low on supplies you might want to consider looking at alternative tools and mediums to create your work. As unwelcome as this crisis is if you can use any spare time productively to experiment with alternative mediums it will pay dividends in your everyday work whenever we get back to working more like we did not too long ago.

Gravity is a great alternative to a traditional brush allowing you to create drips and splashes and you can utilise string as a guide. Dinner forks and spatulas, and strips of wood off-cuts allow you to create interesting results as you push, pull and scrape paint over the support. Using a fork to create calligraphy often turns up some interesting results as does flicking paint-soaked string. These are techniques that most artists will already be aware of but again, worth throwing everything out there as a reminder.

Anywhere and everywhere can be an art supply store, you just need to step outside of that box once more. I have always found that innovation is always way more accessible when you don’t have the usual tools to hand.

About that sponge…

silicone sponge, artist tools, Mark Taylor,
Let me introduce you to my Silicone Sponge... 

Okay, and yes, I know this might seem like an odd thing to throw out there but I have quite literally fallen in love with a sponge. It really has become my Wilson, except I haven’t named it, and I do own more than one. I think it has to be up there with my Mac Pro and my copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in terms of the best investments I ever made. Anywho, it’s certainly more comfortable than that mattress I got.

In fact, I purchased a multi-pack of these things meaning that I now have a collection of four. They’re not quite like a usual sponge, they don’t work in the same way and they can’t soak liquids up, but for cleaning pretty much anything including paint pallets they do a really good job. I don’t think I have ever been as impressed by a cleaning product in my entire life and I have never felt as good as I am right now at cleaning everything regardless of whether it gets touched, moves or doesn’t move, the entire house has an aroma of bleach and coffee when I’m in the zone. The soft silicone bristles of the sponge which you can actually stroke like the hair on a dog, dig down into the grime to wipe it away so much better than a traditional sponge. I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like it.

It gets better and I know you are already sold on the idea, but yes, there is more to these sponges than you would imagine. Lid stuck on a jar? Wrap one of these babies around it and as if by magic the lid becomes unstuck although a slight gripping pressure also needs to be applied. It even managed to wrangle the lid off a pot of Gesso and a tube of superglue, although slight additional gripping pressure was required to complete the mission more effectively.

But that’s so not the best bit, wait for it, you can wash these beauties under the tap with soap and water and pop them in a microwave for a few seconds and they’re spotlessly clean once again. Still not the best bit, because these things can also take some heat. In fact, I now use one to rest a pan on after removing it from the stove. My wife uses one to rest her hair straighteners on too, but I want it back, my collection of silicone sponges are a family and shouldn’t be apart like this, especially now. 

I noticed a few ads on Facebook appeared recently for these but like everything else I always do my homework, carefully read the reviews, because every penny saved is a penny towards art supplies. So, I found a four-pack on Amazon for less than the price of a three-pack on Facebook. Less than nine bucks and I don’t think I will ever need to buy another sponge again. They also work well on windows and I cleaned my car with one over the weekend and didn’t have to use half of the energy I usually expend trying to get my shiny yellow Italian sports car to sparkle. Okay, it’s a tiny yellow Fiat 500 but boy does it have some poke, downhill with a prevailing wind behind it.

So far I have used them on the car, the windows, to clean paint out of pallets, to create a stipple effect on a canvas, to rest a pan on and provided the use of one to the wife for her hair straighteners and I think now that I am re-reading this bit again, that the lockdown is finally starting to take its toll. I don’t sell the things, I wish I did, but search Google or Amazon for silicone sponges and I am confident you will find the sponges you are looking for if not the droids.
soaring hunter by Mark Taylor, Fine Art America, Pixels, Eagle, hawk,
Soaring Hunter by Mark Taylor - Available now on my Pixels and Fine Art America Stores

Stay safe, stay well, stay inside, save lives…

Life will get better, the art world will recover and yes, it may look a little different and let’s be honest, that might not be an entirely bad thing. Buyers will return just as they have done in the past and there will eventually be some green shoots once more. I have said so many times that being an artist is as much about being patient as anything else and that’s certainly true here.

Be creative in ways you never thought you could be and use the time to test out the waters of something new. Celebrate those anchors of normal and remember that you are not alone in all of this, the entire world stands with you just as you do with it.

If you have any tips to share on reinventing yourself or ideas about new directions artists can take, leave a comment and especially let us know about the most normal stuff you have been up to and how many film quotes you found!

Until next time, stay safe, stay well, remember to wash your hands while singing happy birthday at least twice, and happy creating!

Mark xx

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here:   
 Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contributes to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website and making sure that I can bring you independent writing every time and without any need to sign up to anything! You can also view my portfolio website at

 You can also follow me on Facebook at where you will also find regular free reference photos of interesting subjects and places I visit. You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so at my new Go Fund Me link right here

Any donations received will be used to ensure I can continue writing independently for independent artists as my art sales via Pixels and Fine Art America and donations via Go Fund Me are the only way I monetise this site so I don’t have to fill it with irrelevant ads or ask you to sign up via a paywall!


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