Sunday, 4 September 2016

Art Scams (Part Three) - Salons, Art Fairs and Gallery Websites - and the good guys!

As you can tell by the blog entry title this isn't the first time I've written about this.  The first two concentrated on mainly email scams related to two types of ways to rip off artists - fake purchases from from people, and vanity publishers and galleries who want you to give them lots of money to show your work. The first is a straightforward scam, along the same lines as the nice man from Nigeria who wants you to look after all of his inheritance in your bank account - if you can just send details... The second appeals to the less well-known or amateur artist's ego. A chance to show your work without the risk of rejection - all for a "small" fee (usually a few hundred euros or more). Unfortunately nothing ever sells, and you don't get better noticed in the publication. That's because the gallery has absolutely no interest in selling your work because they make their money straight from the artists' payments, the publisher only cares about your payment and hardly prints any copies (those that they do they are happy to sell to artists for 20$ a copy!) and no one in the art world goes to those galleries or reads those publications anyway because they soon become well known as the vanity scams that they are. In fact, being involved can damage your reputation - at least that's what I have read.

So this time I am concentrating on a couple of other more subtle scams. First, Salons and Art Fairs. Generally these are the same thing, our at least in recent years that's what they have become. I am sure there are many organisers of these events would leap up and down with outrage at being called a scam, but for unrepresented artists, the way they work is little difference to how a vanity gallery works. To put it simply, an art fair (or salon in France) works like any other large exhibition/trade show you may have seen in an exhibition or hall, whether it's the Ideal Home Exhibition, the Motor Show or something exciting about Health and Safety. Everyone exhibiting at these events, whatever it is about, pays for the space where they show their thing: whether it's paintings, Ford Capris (I'm old), books or whatever. It's a trade show. There is no quality control, anyone can hire a space. This made sense when it was galleries who hired the space (like at Frieze), but many of the Art Fairs now make most of their living (I was going to say "small art fairs" but it's not true any more) from individual artists - who hire a space for 3 or 4 days for several hundred (or more) euros (plus programme costs, plus furniture, lighting etc) in the hope that a visiting gallery will like their work. Salons in France work the same way, with the rider that some artists have organised themselves cooperatively to share space, and some manage to get grants to help pay their costs. All in all though, it's brutal, and it's a rip off. The only people really making money out of these events are the organisers - and believe me, they are raking it in.

Then there are gallery websites. By that I mean websites whereby artists upload their work and sell their paintings via the web. By no means are all of these a rip off. In fact many of them are brilliant! The ones that are brilliant work hard to sell artists' work by publicising their site, the ones that are brilliant don't charge artists, they take a commission (like a proper gallery), the ones that are brilliant advise and support and communicate well with artists. I have written separately about this before, and listed my favourites - I'll do so again with a shorter list of my favourites at the end of this post. There are, however, some bad boys: websites that charge artists for uploading and websites that demand artists sign away their copyright to works uploaded. All these are people ripping off artists: the brilliant websites prove they don't need to do this, by simply NOT doing that and by actually selling work!

There are also some websites that just are no good - websites that demand you change the shape of your work to fit into their standard sizes, websites that are so primitive it takes a week to upload a file, and websites that simply never sell anything.

Like many artists, I'm sick of people who try to rip me off, whatever way they choose, but I would like to congratulate the few BRILLIANT gallery websites by listing them here:

Turning Art

This is a pretty small list compared to the last time I did this, partly because some of the ones I used to use no longer exist, and partly because some of the others have proved to be a waste of time - I get no sales and little or no contact/referrals from them. But if you use another site with great success, please let me know by using the "comment" form below.


Sunday, 28 August 2016

New stuff

So I've got some new stuff to show off. Some things I have been working on for a while and gone back to time and time again until I'm happy enough to put them to one side and say "finished" - or "finished enough so I'm not going to fiddle with them any more". Three paintings that have little in common, but here they are - in no particular order:

Luca Brassi he sleeps with the fishes
60cm x 60cm mixed media on canvas

"Luca Brassi he sleeps with the fishes" is an abstract picture, I guess inspired by a combination of things: the fact I'm in or working with water all the time, my normal habit of listening to music - Catatonia if you don't know ("I am the mob") plus, obviously, The Godfather. A pretty good combination of things I think.

115cm x 163cm, Mixed Media on Canvas
For one reason or another I have spent a lot of time in and around the Pyrenees this summer. Also, we can see them on clear days from our house. Although what we normally see is "The Canigou", this isn't it! It;'s weird looking at the little digital reproduction above - which I think looks like a small drawing on paper - whilst just a metre behind me sits the monster-sized painting!

Big Bill Hayward
650x60 Oil on canvas

Last but not least is the portrait on the right of "Big Bill" Hayward, a leading light in the Wobblies many years ago in the US. I am fascinated by left wing political history in the US - so much of it has become obscured and untacked about. Whilst the CIA were doing really shit things after the first world war until - well, still, probably - they have hidden a lot of that history and at the same time driven the history of socialism in the USA underground.  If you are interested in Big Bill, on this occasion Wikipedia is pretty good:

Friday, 8 April 2016


For the last couple of months I have been listening to the brilliant "Revolutions" podcasts, by Mike Duncan. You can find out more on his website here. The story of the French revolution is so much more complicated than I ever learned at school, and he tells the story so well over 55 half-hour podcasts. Just amazing. So bloody. So bloody amazing. It's depressing that something that was originally so well-intentioned, so (I guess) noble, deteriorated into a blood-soaked orgy of power-seeking. This bloody revolution shaped the country I live in, and have lived in now for nearly nine years. The French are proud of their revolutionary heritage - and how they feel that it's the people of France who have shaped the country for last couple of hundred years or so. But so many people were killed, and so many men tried to use the situation for their own ends - to advance and increase their power. And so many of them died, were executed, guillotined or in pointless civil war. So here's my newest painting. It was going to be called "Bread and the Constitution of 1793", but the painting changed, and turned instead into a reflection of the bloodiness of it all. So here it is, simply called "Revolution".
Revolution - Mixed Media on Canvas, 91x71cm

Monday, 7 September 2015

Slippery People - which way is up?

It's a quarter of a year since I wrote anything in this blog. Since then it's been a good summer. I came off the drugs bit by bit and had a good holiday, followed by a lazy summer in Bize. My painting has stalled. As a result of the back and as a result of lack of courage. I want to get on with the oil/portrait series that has been underway for a while now, but around me are a stack of unfinished canvases. The only thing I've finished in the last few months is this one:
Slippery People
Acrylic on Canvas
Definitely not a portrait. I called it Duck Theory at first. (That's how it appears on my website.) And I can remember why I called it that, but don't think that was a good reason. I now prefer the alternative title "Slippery People" - another Talking Heads title. I've done a few of them over the years. I don't like pictures without titles. "Untitled 14" annoys the crap out of me, as do pretentious bollocks titles people attach to abstracts: "The darkness of the southern wind". All abstracts relate to SOMETHING. A title might give a clue or mislead, but it makes an interesting talking point. Using son lyrics/titles for me at least honestly reflects something about process - I always paint to music. And songs and rhythm influence what I paint - movement, colour.... Also, I now think it may be better this way up, landscape rather than portrait - which is how it was originally. But what the hell, if you buy it you can hang it any way you like and call it whatever you like. You pays your money...

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Getting Better, Back Pain is Strictly for the Birds

I had my back operated on exactly a month ago, and have slowly been reducing the pain meds. Straight after it was awful, and in addition to the drugs I had a nurse coming every day for 10 days giving me cortisone shots in my arse. Things are getting better now, and I am walking around (mainly with a stick to help me not fall over). In the last few days I have stopped taking the diazepam - it was pretty ok at the beginning being off my head with drugs whilst avoiding the pain, but the time came to finish - I wanted my brain back. I'd like to start painting but, my "studio" - space on top floor - is unusable because whilst I was lying flat on my back downstairs we had insulation put in, and all my stuff has been moved around. I unfortunately need help moving things around to let me paint again - unless I want to end up back in hospital. My wife has promised to help, but she's a busy lady.

In the meantime all I can show you is some crazy drugged up bird drawings I did on my iPad whilst lying on the sofa - the last one, as you can see was when I was at my most drugged up:

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Art Scams and Silly Emails

I've written about this before, and there are some relayed resources about art scams on the internet for example: http://www.artscams.com,, and scams range from people trying to "Buy" works of art that seem to involve you repaying them for their "Overpaid" postage, to people trying to sell you space on their gallery walls for ridiculous amounts of money, or pages in their books or their non-existent "consultancy" support.

But I have to say the most inexplicable and stupid email I've received today was this:

On 22 Mar 2015, at 14:59, derek thomas <> wrote:

Hi,Am Derek Thomas, i will like to place an order from your store for my daughter wedding gift,but i will be glad if you can list some of the artwork you have for sale with the prices,also my only method of payment is by Bank Check.So, i will be glad if you can email me for more details like the names and the prices you have for sale,once again my only payment method is by Bank Check for serious seller.      Waiting for your reply.        Thank          D.Thomas

I'm quite happy to give his email address - because I tried it and it doesn't work, which is off, because this prevented me from sending him my latest list/email telling him to fuck himself, and to add the most bizarre fact - the email address appeared not to be addressed to me at all but to: "john@powe******".

I don't know who he is but I wonder if he got an email too? I haven't included his full email address above because I assume that he, too, is an innocent victim.

Given the amount of pain killing drugs I am currently on I'd say I imagined the whole thing if I didn't have the email in front of me. Ah well. A picture:

Just a quick update, I have now received an email from someone with a similar bad scam:

Greetings .Am Sally Michael,Am interested in buying artworks from your esteemed organization for my new apartment and you still have for sale and i will be glad if you can Send me recent art work you have for sale with the asking prices,also my method of payment is by (BANK CHECK) as means of payment.Kindly email me some of the artwork you have in stock with the name and prices now.Looking forward to an early response.Regards,Sally Michael

I have emailed he to ask if she is related to Derek Thomas...

Friday, 20 March 2015


I am doomed, you are doomed. 

Let me be clear, you are doomed because I have learned how to do blog entries straight from my phone. Which will mean, I would guess, more frequent blogging, but shorter entries in general. Well to be fair I haven't written too many essays recently any way.

I am doom because of my back. I "put my back out" a month or so ago. Lugging wood for our lovely house- warming wood burner. Except it turns out the damage is a little bit more severe (understatement). Four slipped disc plus one herniated disc sticking out 14 mm straight into the nerve in my back. I'd borrow the model the doctor showed me if I could to illustrate this but there you go. In all it means while I await surgery I am taking a vast quantity of necessary pain killers and am thus mostly smashed. My painting series of oil portraits is on hold as I have the concentration level of a goldfish, but am tring to splash a few bits of non sense de on canvas and silly ipad drawings. also watching an incredible quantity of shit TV. 

Worst of all I have spent the last 3 months organising my dad's memorial - which takes place next Wednesday. And I won't be there. As my doctor said yesterday, I am stuck in Bize-Minervois for the next few months. There are worse places to be be,  current morning diet below.