About Next Year - An Artists Holiday Message

About Next Year…

cover image for about next year blog post
About Next Year...

In a change to our regular programming, this week, we take a look back at the year that has just passed (do we really have to?) and we look tentatively forward to a new year that’s waiting around the corner. We also take a look at what we might need to focus a little more on in 2021, some emerging art trends, and we ask the question, why do people insist that you put the camera on every time you have a video conference?

This too shall pass… Most likely, like a kidney stone…

As the days of this year drift slowly towards a brand new year, I don’t think there is anyone in the world who would disagree with my hope that when 2020 turns 21, that it doesn’t discover alcohol. I absolutely know that 2020 for me, has been much like Her Majesty The Queen’s year in 1992, an Annus Horribilis as she called it, which is apparently Latin, for a right old muster cluck of a year.

Have to say, it hasn’t been a great year, not only have a lot of galleries and museums been forced to close, sadly, some of them permanently, the art world seems to have taken a blunt force trauma to the heart with so many of the world’s finest art institutions having to deaccession parts of their collections in order to survive. It’s something that is usually done to increase the size of an overall collection and deaccessioning to shore up operating costs is widely seen as a no, no, often coming with sanctions, when the finance raised, is used for anything other than enhancing a collection. It’s always sad to see this kind of thing happening, but these truly are unprecedented times.

Talking of unprecedented times and on a slightly less ominous note, another pitfall of a pandemic year it seems is that everyone has discovered the video conference. A tool that most of us who already prefer to stay indoors painting and doing our own arty things, have been using for years. We can only stand back and say, aww bless, as we witness the wonderment of this alchemy on the faces of people who once thought working from home was the easiest of easy gigs.

Working from home has never been an easy gig, well, it’s not if you’re doing it right or have it completely wrong, and Maureen from HR, eventually, and not before too long, that commute from the bedroom to the kitchen is going to feel like rush hour on the London Underground’s district and circle line. For my friends overseas, this is a line on the London Underground where the actual railway tracks don’t even care if you get to your next destination and they certainly don’t care when.

That working from home commute becomes even worse at around 6am when there’s already a queue of people lined up on your laptop screen who share your inability to sleep, all of them competing for your attention, and that my friends, can begin to grind after a week, let alone after a year.  Some mornings it’s like the zombie apocalypse on that screen. Believe me when I say, I have seen things I can never unsee on video conferences, or I thought I had until recently. This lockdown conference craziness has to date, been well and truly on another level of crazy.

I woke up exercise quote
I really was full of hope...

The day job office Christmas party was a virtual event this year and the first office Christmas party I haven’t been able to avoid for the past 21-years, but alas, technology is no match for a dodgy broadband connection and 21-years of avoiding these things is pretty good going by all accounts. The song, Merry Christmas Everyone, was speeding up and slowing down like a crackhead looking for a lighter. Seven other unlucky colleagues who had also forgotten to pre-arrange meetings for the same time also had to turn up, it was truly a blast which lasted for the longest 45-minutes of my life, ever, and not helped by the mandated requirement of having to wear a Santa hat. Dear God, I remember thinking at 22-minutes in, is this really how it ends, and why am I the only one wearing pants?

Do I think that 2021 will be any better, well, I would love to say that it just can’t be any worse, but 2020 started off with me giving birth to twin-kidney stones and then it all went downhill in ways that none of us other than Bill Gates could have predicted. I honestly have no idea if 2021 will be better, I wish I could offer some hope right about here, but I’m no Tony Robbins, nor do I have a crystal ball and neither am I an epidemiologist. I get queasy phoning the doctor’s office up to make an appointment with the receptionist.

What I do know, is that we should all be pulling together rather than pulling apart, and we should also stop shaming people who don’t want to put their cameras on when they have joined the umpteenth video conference of the day. Some days it can feel like you’re living in a virtual goldfish bowl.

The biggest question I have though, is just why are people so judgy about other people’s home décor choices? Look, none of this stuff really matters, you don’t have to live with those curtains, do you?

There seems to be no real sense of social etiquette on these things anymore. It was fine when we work from home types were fewer in number, we understood that the struggle was real and we respected each other enough not to let each other know exactly what time we planned the next toilet trip.

Most of my recent calls have been mostly someone shouting “can you hear me” which I’m beginning to think is just Theresa Caputo, TVs, Long Island Medium making an appearance, and then someone will inevitably say, no, you go ahead, and there’s a verbal bun fight for five minutes before a strange crunch sound emits from someone who hasn’t shared their photo, nor do they have their camera on much to everyone else’s disgust. 

It’s also obvious who it is, it’s the only person who managed to figure out where the recent update had moved the unmute button to, the rest of us had already finished talking by the time we found it. Don’t know about you, but I don’t always want to repeat myself after talking to a muted microphone for 15 minutes, I’m going to need that breath if I ever get to be 80.

Preparing artwork
In between all of this, I've had lots and lots of art to prepare, notice the hologram!

Conference calls this year have ranged from the sublime moments of a co-workers partner running across the lounge butt naked while the call was being recorded, to a bizarre call about environmental best practice which went something like, so what do you actually know about trees then? And receiving the answer; I can tell the age of a Christmas Tree by counting the number of duct-taped rings around the box.

But what I really don’t get, is that whenever I am forced to share a chair with my two four-legged office co-workers, Boo-Boo and Bear, everybody cheers. It’s like what I have to say is suddenly lost on everyone and my two dogs seem to be holding my day job colleagues together, rather than my immense skills, leadership and insight, which I stayed awake all night preparing. I even re-read the Art of War to be especially in the zone only to be upended by two Shih Tzus with an attitude problem and incredibly cute faces that mean they often get mistaken for Ewok’s.

bear the dog dressed up for winter
Dude... I know it's cold outside but seriously... I look like your grandad...

Boo Boo my dog dressed for Winter
I am not going outside dressed like this... I refuse hooman... please take pity on me... donate to my Go Fund Me and Save me from this hat...

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been somewhat character building. We have seen the best of people and the worst of humanity, we have seen selflessness and selfishness. 2020 has changed everything. We have seen the rise of online creeping more and more into every aspect of our lives, not just through all of those video conference calls, and we have seen our art markets change dramatically from the markets that existed just a year ago, and people, well, people have changed too. I think we all have.

What 2020 hasn’t changed is the resolve of artists around the world who have been expressing their creativity even more creatively.  But, here’s the clincher, once everyone else starts doing the same thing, that fresh expression of creativity can quickly grow stale. The new, new, has to be reinvented time and time again, new is only new until it’s old.

No one knows for sure when we might get back to seeing some level of normality in our lives, whether or not the old normal will be replaced with some new version of normal, or whether or not the promises of functional vaccines will have much effect, especially if most of the population decide not to get them, I hope they do, and I for one have already rolled my sleeves up in anticipation of getting a shot of hope.

Bring it on, jab me wherever you need to, I’m doing it not just for me, but because it’s the right thing to do, we all need to come together with this, this is bigger than any one of us and besides, I’m not worried about the government using it as a cover to track me, the most interesting thing I seem to do these days is wait in a socially distanced line at the Aldi, I’m just really not that important.

Let’s just get this done and try and move on, because if I have to sit through another year of an average of twenty-seven point three video conferences a day for the next three hundred and sixty-five days, I honestly don’t think I will be able to take it.

Chase Industrial Artwork by Mark Taylor
Framed, and ready to ship. This has been keeping me so busy lately, this piece even made the news!

The cracks are well and truly beginning to appear, to the extent that I have now started to sit perfectly still to make out my screen has frozen, and others are confusing work video conferences with Facebook and  beginning to share their real opinions. Just this week, someone said, next slide please when a meme rolled onto the screen and Gloria went into a dialogue about the benefits of being a vegan, how it was wrong to put Turkey’s through the stress of Christmas and what began as a serious meeting around the principles of web content accessibility guidelines turned into a full-on debate about the medicinal and healing properties of turmeric.  I had no idea just how many almost-doctors there are out there, all they need to do now is to start and finish the final seven years of med school and get their PhD’s signed off. They’re so close, rootin for ya, you almost doctors.

So, I don’t know about you but I am going to make sure 2021 counts for the right reasons. Of course, that’s assuming that 2020 hasn’t got any more surprises left, and I’m not holding out here, there very well could be because this is, after all, 2020 and as far as track records go, it hasn’t got the best one.

The Stand Out Moments…

What has stood out throughout this year have been those moments of true humanity. The braveness of health workers around the world who continue to put their own lives on the line day after day, the truckers who have kept nations fed and kept us in toilet roll, often going unfed when they found truck stops closed and drive-throughs refusing to take an order because they couldn’t squeeze their trucks under a barrier.

But, let’s also not forget the artists around the world who have shown their own resolve in continuing to create works that inspire hope, that’s incredibly important at times like this, we all need a little hope, a little beauty, a little distraction, and let’s not forget how incredibly important it is to have a period of time such as this, documented and chronicled so that future generations can learn.

This is exactly the role that artists have played throughout history and I want to thank every artist for managing to keep the world beautiful despite the ugly shadows that we have all been living under for a year now. There are no borders, the world really is one in its plight.

signed artwork by Mark Taylor
The sign of an artwork touched by my hands... it will always have a unique holographic serial number and will be signed on the back, and sometimes on the front too. The certificates will also have the serial number printed on them and placed into a documentation pack tied in a ribbon! This is how every directly purchased print get shipped out of the door.

What about next year…

Just to be absolutely clear here, some of the changes we have seen over the past twelve months, are never going to change back to the way things were. The convenient stuff will stay, sadly, I know that absolutely means that the video conference won’t disappear and no one needs a crystal ball to determine that. Most of these changes have been inevitable for a while, 2020 just decided to accelerate them with some being accelerated by as much as a decade.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom for the art world, some galleries who have embraced the disruption of digital has done really well, they’ve managed to find new audiences, others really have struggled. Who can say where the markets will be this time next year, but without a shadow of doubt, as artists, our approaches to the way we run our businesses will have to change.

Think Local…

What has been more noticeable this year has been the emergence of the big corporations capitalising on what I have been calling, faux-local. I’ve really been noticing that some of the big supermarkets running local marketing campaigns that feel bespoke to the area they’re being run in, but essentially, it’s all smoke and mirrors, the same campaign is run in every other area but with name changes on the marketing material that is intended to make local audiences feel seen.

It’s a tactic the big brands have been using for years but there is something that big brands just can’t do in quite the same way that a small business can, they can’t offer that truly local service that you would get with a genuine and authentic small business, and that’s where the focus will need to be in 2021.

Local markets have always been incredibly important, they’ve also been notoriously difficult to crack when we live in a connected age that makes it’s easier to have a global presence than a local one. More than that, the ultimate prize is to not have to rely on third party services to move your work onto the walls of buyers, instead, you should be striving to build a direct relationship with your buyers so that they remain your buyers, you really don’t need to be borrowing them from someone else.

This is ultimately how you will transition from having buyers to having a collector base, and that’s the true prize for any artist, collectors are essentially the art world equivalent to a vaccine that will shield you from galleries being shuttered.  

There is plenty more that we need to be focussed on over the coming year, and when it comes to art, as people and markets change, so do their tastes in art. Looking forward is also about picking up on the clues, what will the economy look like for your current buyers, are they just as likely to buy your work, or will you need to adapt what you do or find new markets?

Will you need to diversify and look toward other subjects or artistic styles, all bets are off right about now and throughout art history, artists have chopped and changed what they do. It’s also about what people are still buying? These are questions that have to be asked, but there is one thing that will make sure your business starts the year off on the right footing, and that is, you need to be asking better questions than you ever did before.

bear my dog with bunny ears
It's not Easter yet is it hooman?

Ask Better Questions…

There’s no value in asking questions like, how do I sell more art, without asking those better questions first. Who will buy my art, how much will they pay, where do they hang out, how do I connect with them, what do they really want, these are the better questions that will give you a much better answer to the question of how do I sell more art, and if you have the answer to these questions then you probably won’t need to ask about how you sell more art.

2021 is also the year that you have to absolutely become laser focussed on having the foundations for the business of art firmly in place. The email list you promised to set up, the website you promised yourself you would build or get built, and taking the time to better understand exactly who your market really is can save a heap of work and pain down the line.

Boo Boo my dog smiling
I am just so adorable, this is how I suck you in... smile for the camera!

Use all of the tools you already have…

Updating your artist bio and your artist statement, both incredibly important if you are thinking about applying for any of the arts grants that come up from time to time, and maybe it is finally, time to get around to updating that portfolio and applying some “considered curation” to it rather than using it to display your lifetimes work, and why do you only have one portfolio too? There’s no rule that says you can’t have multiple portfolios that resonate with different audiences.

Think about social media as a tool, it should be complementary to your business but it can never really be the entirety of what your business model is predicated on. Social media itself is simply too fragile to invest everything into, and by that I mean, there is a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability that means you shouldn’t be basing your entire business model on its use. Absolutely, you should be using it as a tool to reach your people, assuming of course that they’re there, and it is a vital cog in the communications strategy wheel, it’s where you build relationships and that means you really don’t have to comment on everyone else’s relationships!

Don’t sweat the wrong numbers…

Everything we do as artists is really a numbers game, but you shouldn’t get too beaten up about some of the numbers. Some numbers are critically important in the art business, but there are two sets of numbers that will almost guarantee eventual sales, the number of eyes you get on your work, and the number of great relationships you can build. The focus has to be on the right numbers, is it better to have a hundred followers who never engage or ten collectors who buy one in ten of the works you create?

Get really good at spotting the trends…

Monitor the major design websites, look around at what’s selling on the print on demand sites, visit the furniture and home décor box stores and study what people are buying, and take note of emerging colour trends from websites such as Adobe’s pallet based website, Colour.Adobe, and Pantone to pick up on the hot colour pallets that are already being identified for next year.

I’ve been ramping up my own research over the past couple of months and my predictions so far are pointing towards big gains for those who are adding elements of retro nostalgia to their work, retro-futurism, and not surprisingly, the world needs a little more colour, so there really does seem to be an uptick in psychedelic artworks that nod back to the freedoms of the 1960s and 1970s.

My personal prediction for 2021 is that we will see more socially conscious art buyers emerge and that will carry through in the artworks that people will be seeking out, and with galleries and museums not being open and accessible, I think people will be looking towards more painterly fine art fusion pieces in 2021.

A perfect day artwork by Mark Taylor
A Perfect Day by Mark Taylor and available from my Pixels and Fine Art America Stores!

Nature will once again be a staple, I have been seeing this through sales of my own work recently, and I think the way we communicate will once again change next year with more emphasis on things like podcasts, and I just have a hunch that podcasts might even begin to have way more relevancy than video outside of the standard streaming platforms such as Netflix and YouTube. Have microphone, am on it, bear with, more news soon!

Wishing you all a happy merry whatever…

There is no denying that 2021 will probably be just as tough as 2020, the world needs time to heal from what we have all collectively been going through, but the buyers are still out there, people are still buying art, and besides, when has the business of art ever been easy?

Hopefully, next year, my back will have been sorted out so I can spend more time focussing on my work and on bringing you articles on this blog. I am so conscious I have been slow to update as often as I really want to, but this back problem has been something that really has knocked me into the stratosphere of having to learn to cope with something that’s unlikely to get fixed in the way I would ideally want it to be fixed.

Is what it is, as they say, I have some physical therapy booked in for the new year, and a really great and a supportive medical team who have pulled me back from the edge more than once this year, I truly do thank each and every one of them for that, and thanks to all of you who have reached out and kept me going. And thank you too for coming back to this website week after week, I will keep doing this as long as you keep doing that!

So all that’s left to say is first, if you are a celebrity, please stop breaking the rules, because those rules apply to you as much as anyone else. My newsfeed has been filled recently with celebrities having to apologise, but only after they had been caught out for not socially distancing or just being socially irresponsible, and Tom Cruise, you are a legend for saying what we have all been thinking.

But, more importantly, as artists, I sincerely believe that we individually and collectively have the resolve we need to get through this and carry on creating beautiful things, no matter how 2021 turns out. I believe in each and every one of you more than I have ever believed in artists at any time before. You are all doing remarkable things, brightening up what has to be one of the darkest years of our lifetimes. Whilst I might not get to comment, love, like, and wow, every social post, know that sometimes, I have been finding it hard to focus on anything with this gnarly back, but those posts really have given me and so many others so much inspiration over the past couple of months.

So with that, I hope that you all have a safe and healthy time over the next couple of weeks, and that you will all come back in the New Year, refreshed and eager to create your own legacies, some beautiful work, a million dreams, and a steely determination to not just survive whatever the art world throws at us, but to thrive in an art world that has definitely changed. You got this.

Best Wishes and Happy Creating!


About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in the leafy landlocked shire of Staffordshire, England. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com   and you can purchase my new works, special and limited editions directly. You can also view my portfolio website at https://beechhousemedia.com

If you are on Facebook, you can give me a follow right here,  https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia  You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at https://pinterest.com/beechhousemedia

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

Any donations received are used to ensure I can continue writing independently for independent artists, and to make sure I can keep the pay walls at bay!


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