Art Thieves, Vagabonds and ne’er-do-wells, How do we Catch ’em and Stop ’em?

pete_davies_bed
That’s not Tracey Emin’s bed, it’s mine!

Where’s the money gone?

I think you will agree with me when I say that most artists get a very small return on the effort they invest in creating their art work, and that most of us put our artwork out there on the net, in the hope that someone, somewhere will take a bite.

But we all know that this means taking a big risk. Whether like me you are a painter creating, abstract art, wall prints, canvas prints or photography art, by putting our hard work on the web we our making our artwork vulnerable to any predators who might copy our photographs or paintings and use them without our authorisation. So how can we stop this?

Well it turns out that there is someone who can help us.

Here’s the deal

There is a new program called Pixsy. The company who makes the software claim that it will track down images, (paintings, photos) that have been used without the author’s permission.

How does it work?

What you as an artist do is send your pictures to Pixsy and they will compare them with images throughout the web and report back to you. What Pixsy says is this:

‘We use reverse image search to scour the web and will let you know when we discover matches for your photos. If a use is unauthorized, you can just click “Submit case” and we’ll help you seek compensation’.

Pixys say they will do the work, catch the thieves, and you will get paid.

How much money do you want?

Artists’ provide a service, the service receives a payment and then often a repeat payment. But how much payment does an artist require for the same piece of work?

So do I get royalties?queen_england_elizabeth_ii

Artists’ receive things called royalties, payments on items they have produced which are given to them every time that item is used.Not many other businesses receive such privileged treatment which is lucky really. Imagine if every time you turned your bath tap on your plummer demanded a fresh payment on the grounds that once again you were making use of his handiwork. Nightmare!

You never give me your money

Whether an artist gets paid a reasonable wage for his efforts at times feels like a lottery. And for the lucky few, it pays like one too. For a lot of artists whether they succeed or not is often a matter of timing mixed with good luck. As  John Lennon said, ‘we (the Beatles) were just a band who got very big, that’s all’. Who knows if John Lennon hadn’t bumped into Paul McCartney at the garden fete of St Peter’s Church, Woolton, all those years ago, there might never have been any Beatles.

pete_davies_art_beatles_letter
John’s letter to Paul

Time you got lucky

So how much does luck play a part in your success? Does an artist just get lucky, waking up one day to find that his valueless paintings have suddenly become extremely valuable?  Van Gogh sold few paintings in his lifetime usually exchanging them for food and painting supplies. No internet website for him, then. In 190 one of his paintings sold for $82,500,000, just imagine how many baguettes and bouteilles de vin you could get with that …

Money for nothing

Back in 1952 John Cage wrote a piece of music called 4’33” or to give it its full title,  ‘4 minutes 33 seconds’. I haven’t actually heard it but I believe it consists of 4 minutes 33 seconds of silence. I’m pretty sure I also wrote a similar piece and still have the tapes to prove it. I’m hoping that Pixsy can compare the two and let me know which one is his and which one is mine.

Money in the bank or money in a Banksy?

So should artists’ be paid royalties? Or is art simply overvalued? And if so where does that value come from?  Our choices when purchasing art is often based on whether or not the artist is well known and therefore a worthwhile investment (These days you get less return in the bank  than you do investing in a Banksy). Decorative art, which is what I am now pursuing, is often valued on nothing more than whether the painting’s colour matches the home owners colour scheme (do you have it in blue?) One gallery even told me that the most popular seller is the painting that can fit snuggly into the space above a 75″ plasma TV.

What’s in it for me?

When an artist creates a work he gathers the things around him and processes them through his mind. What comes out the other end we either emotionally invest in or we don’t. The artist’s work can be considered unique simply because it has been processed by his or her brain and given their individual slant. Artistic interpretation occurs in visual arts and also in music. So if the world ends tomorrow, what will be precious to you? will you make a beeline for your loved ones or your collection of Elton John CDs? ( And talking of which, on my first instructional art video my music was added as an afterthought, click here to see what I did on YouTube!)

The bottom line

Ars longa vita brevis or, life is short art is long, nowadays refers to ‘how time limits our accomplishments in life’. Whether our originality as artists has any intrinsic worth and will outlive us none of us know. It is usually a matter of chance whether we make a living by receiving royalties or not, but why not leave it to  Pixsy and let them fix that for us.

However as artists whether or not we get our just deserts is not a valid reason for giving up. Who knows? Perhaps one day  our paintings will speak out for us long after we have gone.

Keep the faith

Here’s a poem to reflect upon something valuable which none of us should give up on and that is the value of life itself. And I hope no one ‘reverse images’ my use of this poem and claims loads of cash from me for printing it:

The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.
Edward Thomas, In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)

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North-Sea Diver Swaps Oil for Oil Paintings – But Still Showcases His Life Offshore

Pete_Davies_Art_Jamie_Wilson_North_Sea_Captain

Press & Journal Article by Neil Drysdale.

Pete Davies is somebody who has switched from oil to oils without being left on the canvas. As a former North Sea diver, this is a fellow who grew accustomed to making a deep impact in the energy industry.
However, following an unconventional career change, Pete is showcasing a record of his life offshore by exhibiting his paintings at next month’s Aberdeen Art Fair.
This event is now in its sixth year and is being staged for the first time at the city’s iconic Beach Ballroom.
His works offer a unique perspective on the often challenging conditions in which he and his colleagues used to operate. But they also depict the wild beauty of the coastal landscapes which he inhabited.
Pete originally studied art at Eastbourne College of Art in the 1970s, but hung up his brushes and palette to begin life as a diver.
Yet, last year, encouraged by his wife, Helen, he started painting again, with almost instantaneous success when his work was shortlisted for The Royal Society of Oil Painters, The Columbia Threadneedle Prize and The New English Art Club.
In advance of the AAF, which will be his first major exhibition, Pete Davies explained the reason for his initial decision to become an artisan and not an artist after his graduation.
He said: “When I started out all those years ago, I had a young family and I needed a steady well-paid job.
“Diving fitted the bill. I was young and keen and life offshore was very exciting. Like everyone else at the time, I assumed that I only needed to work for about five years, then I could retire rich!”
Predictably, it wasn’t as straightforward as that. But finally, a little matter of 33 years later and still in the North Sea sector, he adjudged the time was right to pick up the paint brush again and record the lives of his offshore confreres.
He added: “I want to ensure the story and personalities of the characters who work offshore aren’t forgotten and that their memory survives all of us. I’m very excited to be appearing at the Aberdeen Art Fair. No other place is more appropriate for showing my offshore paintings. You could say I’ve moved from oil to oils!”

The AAF has quickly established itself as a perfect event for both galleries and artists, with prices of original contemporary work ranging from £50 to £10,000.
Visitors to the festival can anticipate enjoying works by a variety of household names, celebrities, local, national and international talent, emerging artists and an abundance of award winners.
The Aberdeen Art Fair’s official charity partner is The ARCHIE Foundation with a silent auction and raffle being staged during the event and all proceeds going to the charity.
In which light, Pete will be offering a rare look into life under the water and raising funds in the process. You can follow Pete Davies’ progress by visiting www.petedaviesart.co.uk

Art is Easy, But There Are 3 Things You will Definitely Need …

Life, the world, the universe … What do we know about them? We humans tend to be planners. We look into the future and make decisions, not always based on solid experience but often on hunches, ideas or dreams.  If it works out, we congratulate ourselves for being so smart, if it doesn’t, then we blame ourselves or often others for being so stupid as to ever think that scheme would work in the first place. Luck, attitude and confidence play a large part in our success, but then life comes along and interferes and we are back to square one. Looking back you can see where you went wrong, it’s obvious, isn’t it? So if you happened to own a time machine, would you go back and do it differently? This is what happened to me …

September 1972

Art College was a kind of gap year while I got my band together ready to hit the big time. What could possibly go wrong? OK so the gap year was more like five months but I was in a hurry to head to London where fame and fortune awaited, or so I thought …

February 2015

Leap forward 43 years. Well fame and fortune didn’t meet me in London or if it did, it was so different that I just didn’t recognise it. Life flew by, I got a job, grew up a bit and got older too. That’s when my hands got achy which in turn made guitar playing a bit more awkward. And that’s when I happened on some luck, I noticed 3 easels standing in an old corner of an out building where we live.

Painting begins

March

I produce some oil paintings of my wife Helen, a self-portrait and a couple more.

Helen Reading
Helen Reading

Helen seems genuinely surprised at how good my paintings are so brimming with confidence I pronounce myself a genius and spend any spare moment I have studying the glazing techniques of Vermeer and figuring out what scumbling and glazing are all about. Who needs a guitar when you are master of the paint brush?

April

Painting continues in between bouts of work in the North Sea. However I am not put off. I see this as an opportunity to draw and paint a record of the people and locations I know offshore.

And luck? Well I’m lucky that I didn’t start painting earlier. Paints, brushes and canvas are not cheap and I think I would have soon gone broke. Painting in a bedsit is OK at 21, but would I change it? Yes, I would! Now I’m older I appreciate more space. There are plenty of rooms in our house so obviously I choose the one nearest the kettle which also happens to be right near the kitchen table, perfect!

By the way, have you ever noticed how paint brushes roll around and make splodges when they hit the floor? Has no one invented a square sided paint brush? And another thing, how does paint get on walls, door handles and carpets? Surely this will always remain one of life’s mysteries. But the odd thing is, paint actually appears to be following my progress through the house! A bit weird, don’t you think? Anyway, after an enlightening chat with my wife I move from the kitchen to the Sun Room. That turns out to be a misnomer as it’s freezing so I move to a spare bedroom and set myself up there.

Setback

May

I submit a picture of three North Sea Oil workers to a maritime art exhibition. A nautical theme is requested and my picture is rejected. It might be because I didn’t include a boat, but I’m not sure.

Pete Davies North Sea Oil Portraits
Pete Davies North Sea Oil Portraits.

June

I am asked if I do commissions. I’m flattered but explain that I am working on increasing my portfolio and don’t yet have the time.

July

The pipeline inspection work in the North Sea is complete and I return home to concentrate on painting full time for the whole of August.

Disaster!

September

Helen calls the Maritime Museum in Aberdeen and points them in the direction of my offshore paintings. The Curator rings back and says he would like to put them in an exhibition but it won’t be for a while.

I finish a landscape of the Sussex Downs which I’m very pleased with, I reckon it’s my best so far. It’s a large painting and I decide the best way to photograph it for my website is in daylight, so I take the painting and the easel into the garden.

West Sussex Downs before the accident
West Sussex Downs before the accident

I prop up my painting and stand back. There is a slight flutter as the wind catches the corner. As it lurches forward I dive towards it. Relief! I grab it and hold it firmly in both hands. Nice catch! What I haven’t noticed is that the easel is also hurtling towards me. There is a ripping sound and I look on in disbelief as the easel tears a 2 feet long horizontal gash in the canvas.

But surely I can turn this misfortune round? I decide this is my opportunity to take my painting to a local art gallery on the pretence that I need advice on getting it fixed. I twiddle the picture around in front of the gallery owner in an attempt to dazzle her, but she appears unaffected. I return home and hunt in the kitchen draw for  the scissors.

Good News!

I’m in luck again. A still-life painting of a dining table covered in glasses which I submitted to the Royal Institute of Oil Painters is pre-selected.

My Royal Institute of Oil Painters submission
My Royal Institute of Oil Painters submission

So I go to London. I’m cautious in case it gets damaged so I take it by train and taxi.

National Portrait and National Gallery

I drop my painting off and decide to spend the rest of the day at the National Portrait and National Gallery. I haven’t been for 40 years and it’s a bit of an eye opener. I now have a good idea of Holbein’s technique for painting material. It seems to me that the faint shadows are produced by glazing but the darker ones are added afterwards. I try to find the Vermeer but the gallery is closed due to industrial action. However the Impressionist gallery is open. It’s interesting looking at Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres as I didn’t realise that the whole picture is scumbled from top to bottom. I think I’ll try this myself when I get home.

First Commission!

October

I am offered another commission. I now have 27 paintings completed so after a bit of umming and ahhing and another gentle word from Helen, I decide to do it. The portrait is of Katherine in her wedding dress. The dress is a real challenge, and I paint it one layer at a time. It takes a few weeks to complete and after 6 different layers I am pleased with the results. I decide to advertise for more.

A last minute job puts me back in the North sea with limited internet or phone contact. It’s a bit of a set back but also an opportunity to catch up on my blogging. (To be continued).

Do You Want to Know The Real Meaning of Art? Just Ask a Bunch of 10 Year Olds

 

A group of 10 year olds were asked to explain the meaning of 6 the most famous art works of all time. Here’s what they said:

Claude Monet [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Monet – Water Lillies and Japanese Bridge
  • The artist is trying to say that normal gardens can be right but just need a bit of work
  • A motorway for fish
  • A rather slimy pond
Leonardo da Vinci - The Last Supper
Leonardo da Vinci – The Last Supper
  • Jesus is at a party where people are drinking and making bad decisions and he is sorting them out
  • It looks like God is having a feast with friends
  • Jesus is having a picnic
Van Gogh - Starry Night
Van Gogh – Starry Night
  • Bethlehem with a tree tower in the galaxy
  • You can see anything how you want to, you just have to imagine
  • The Gods have come out in the night
Monet - Cathedral de Rouen
Monet – Cathedral de Rouen
  • It is saying that the ruler of the planet must live here
  • Looks like a church made of triangles.
El Greco - Toledo
El Greco – Toledo
  • A magical land is in trouble and it is sad
  • To say that people are not equal makes the Gods angry
  • It’s astronomy night, my lad.
Rembrandt- The nightwatch
Rembrandt- The nightwatch
  • Fighting in Tudor times with Tinkerbell
  • There was a war but there was a tea afterwards
  • People fight over girls

For information on up and coming events plus new art work, follow me at Pete Davies Art!

 

A Quick Fix Guaranteed To Improve Your Painting

Ok so you finish your painting and that’s an achievement in itself. But is it finished or have you a tendency to just add one more finishing touch?

I know I do. I say to myself, ‘right, that’s it, finished, definitely finished.’ And as I’m saying it I find myself just adding a little dab of paint here and there, and then a bit more until I find I’ve messed up what I just had and have to start again. Sound familiar? I’m sure it does.

Then what happens? A few days later you look at your painting and something doesn’t look right. It seems flat and one-dimensional. It doesn’t jump out and grab your attention. It’s just not striking enough. So how can you improve that? How can you make your painting stand out and be noticed?

Well look no further, here’s a sure-fire proven method used by painters such as Holbein, Stanley Spencer and Winslow Homer, to name a few.

If you are painting a landscape add some cloud shadow. OK so it may not have been there on the day you started painting but you are the artist, you can change the canvas to suit yourself. Imagine there was a big cloud overhead and a large shadow has been cast across maybe one-third of the field you have just painted.

Winslow Homer. The Fog Warning
Winslow Homer. The Fog Warning

Look at Winslow Homer’s The Fog Warning or Stanley Spencer’s view of Cookham where if you look at the right hand corner of the painting and you will see exactly what I mean. You may be unsure about painting a layer of burnt umber or ultramarine over your bright green field but be adventurous, give it a go and I’m sure you will be pleased with the results. One tip though is to dilute the paint with a glazing medium, that we you will still be able to retain the form and original colour underneath.

The same applies to a portrait. Maybe there wasn’t a light shining on the day you painted but add your own shadow and suddenly you will see how you have given your character depth made them real. This may seem obvious but I don’t think it is.

What I don’t mean is, there’s a tree, there’s the sun add a shadow. I’m thinking of something a little more subtle that the observer of your painting might not at first notice. Take a look at Holbein’s painting of Jane Seymour and better still, Christina of Denmark. See the shadow on the right and on the left? Both are pretty much identical and both give a 3D quality to the painting that tends to turn the sitter towards you. Have a look at the Merchant Georg Gisze too. There is an almost identical use of shadow by Holbein. It’s the same thing.

North Sea  Anchor crew
Pete Davies Art. North Sea – Struggling With the Anchor Brake

I used the same effect on my picture of the two offshore deck crew struggling with the anchor brake.

I put the shadow in to add drama and to emphasise the huge chains which overshadow the characters. I’m also using the same effect on a painting of Sebastian and Harlem Eubank.

Boxers Harlem & Sebastian Eubank
Pete Davies Art. Boxers Harlem & Sebastian Eubank

Not quite finished yet but you get the idea. Next time you are painting try it yourself, then put your paint brush down and reap the rewards!

Artspan Sits Down with Painter Pete Davies

Five Questions for Pete Davies

First published in 2015.

 


1. I love your story of rediscovering art after a decades-long hiatus. Did art play a part in your life in the interim? Did you visit museums or read art books?

I didn’t make a point of visiting galleries, museums or reading art books. Painting hadn’t played a part in my life during the time I worked offshore in the North Sea and any artistic abilities I had I guided into other creative forms of expression once I returned home, such as guitar playing, gardening and cooking. 

I’ve always thought certain people look at the world with a painterly eye, whether or not they actually paint. Is this true of you?

I don’t think that’s particularly true for me although I’ve always tried to express my artistic feelings in some way or another but not always through paint.

Do you feel as though you had years’ worth of paintings stored in your head, or did it all feel new to you?

Painting does feel like a new and refreshing medium for expression. Once I started I realised straight away that I had a lot of catching up to do in order to put together a portfolio of work. So far I have completed 23 paintings.

2. You say your only prior experience as a painter was a painting when you were twenty, which I take to mean that you don’t have any formal education. Can you describe your method?


The first painting I completed was in 1974; I found oils very difficult and had no idea how to manage them.  Prior to that I was considered to be a good artist at school and when I left I took up a Foundation Course at Eastbourne Art College. However I only lasted about 6 months; at that time in my life I wanted to play the guitar and was a very poor art student. In terms of painting and drawing I learnt nothing worth remembering during those 6 months and I’d forgotten all about that part of my life until February 2015 when I decided to teach myself to paint. 

shes-a-doll-reduced
She’s a Doll – Pete Davies Art

Are there particular artists, living or dead, who inspired you?

Back in February I was intrigued by the glazing techniques of artists such as Vermeer and Holbein, I had never heard about this method of painting and it was a style I was determined to perfect. My painting which was recently pre-selected for the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Open Exhibition in London, was based on this technique. However quite recently I have adopted a more impressionistic style of painting influenced by artists such as Edgar Payne, Frank Henry Mason, Winslow Homer and Henry Herbert La Thangue.

Your paintings seem very accomplished. How did you learn your technique?

I learnt through study. I suppose that my age is an advantage. I’d spent the last 35 years taking exams, usually for offshore work, so studying was not too difficult particularly as art was something I really wanted to do. I knew that in my case I would have a far more mature and professional approach to my art than I’d ever had when I was 18. I taught myself by downloading paintings from the internet, reading and studying the techniques of the artists I liked.

3. You work offshore in the oil business. Does this take you away from home and from your studio for long periods of time? 

Yes it does. As I said previously; I started painting this year and from February to July was away at sea for more than half that time.  However I took some pencils with me which gave me the opportunity to start recording on paper the faces and events of a time which will eventually come to an end.

How does this impact your creative life? Does the sea creatively inspire you?

I think the sea is often inspirational at about 5 in the morning when it is flat calm; then it looks like a primordial soup made of waves of chocolate. Other times it bounces you about so much that all you can think about is hanging on. 

pete-davies-art-shetlands
Leaving the Shetlands

4. Everyone gets a question from the Proust Questionnaire, and here is yours: “What are your favorite qualities in a man?”

I think my favourite qualities in a man are the same as those I would find in a woman; there isn’t a massive difference. These would be empathy, warmth, humour, enthusiasm, strength, kindness and encouragement.

5. Your portraits are so full of life and personality, whether of pets or people. I think this is a function of expression, but also of your use of colour. Do you work from photographs?  When you talk about finding the “actual colour”  is this the exact colour in nature, in your head, or just what’s best for the painting?

I was interested to find that when I saw all my paintings together they were instantly recognisable as being mine. I still have my first painting from the 70s which has the same style and which I will soon add to my website.

pete_davies_art_girl_at_table
My Time

sometimes work from photos, sometimes from drawings, sometimes both. I read an article today stating, ‘the photo is a mechanical translation. Sight is a living process. People tend to think that a photo is visual reality, but it is very different’.

For me this is a mistake. No matter whether we look at a tree or a photograph it is still seen by our eye, translated and processed by our brain. How we see things and relate them to our own individual experience in life is a very personal thing. The trick for the artist is to reverse this and re-interpret the process with the abilities specific to him or her. For me, my purpose is to reveal the world in a pleasurable way to others. When I find a colour I’m looking for, something that maybe only I see, it isn’t always there.

First published in 2015, follow Pete and see what he’s up to now by registering at his website  www.petedaviesart.co.uk

 

Struggling With Cocoa. Whoever Said Dogs Are Easy?

A couple of days ago I started painting a picture from a photo of a friend’s miniature dachshund named Cocoa. Here’s a progress report.

First I copied the picture onto canvas in charcoal, highlighting the light and dark areas. With so many shapes and circles it’s beginning to remind me of painting by numbers!

Pete Davies painting Cocoa
Pete Davies painting Cocoa

Second day and I can’t decide where to start. At first Cocoa’s coat seems to be a variety of different browns, so I think it might be a good idea to paint it tonally using burnt umber and turpentine. So that’s what I do.

The under-painting isn’t working and I start to forget where I am. I realise that Cocoa’s coat is more blue than brown so I apply a mix of ultramarine and zinc white to see what effect this has.

I put down my brush stating that I can’t paint dogs!  The voice of reason (wife) says, ‘You say that every time you start a painting.’ I think that she might just be right, but only just, and press on.

It’s getting late and I fancy a drink so with part of the coat complete I decide to have another go tomorrow.

Third day. Something odd happened during the night, the painting seems to have improved. I’ve noticed this effect before so, encouraged, I press on – despite the hangover.

I continue blocking in then move on to the background to see how different colours work with Cocoa.

The photo was taken on the beach. Cocoa is sitting on the sand and the background is a jetty wall. Painting in the stone mortar creates an impressionist feel which boosts my confidence, I think I can complete this!

It’s getting dark so I’m off to bed. I take the painting upstairs and show Helen. She likes it a lot, particularly the background trees. Still, even voices of reason get it wrong sometimes!

  • To be continued ….