Quality Materials = Quality Artwork

I realise that what I am about to write may be seen as contentious, but feel it is an important thing to discuss as it is becoming more obvious that up and coming and new artists are buying into the fact that they don’t need to buy quality art supplies, yet want to sell their work for high prices.

The quality of the materials you use is a direct reflection of how you view your work, and in turn how you view the people buying your work.”

When you walk into a gallery and museum you are faced with works of art that are centuries old, yet the colours remain strong and almost as bright as the day they were painted. Why? The artist saw the need to preserve their name through history by using the best quality pigments and surfaces they had available to them. Some colour pigments are shipped thousands of miles because artists want them for their lightfastness and durability. The price of purchasing such pigments reflects this, as does the price of the final piece of artwork.

In my role of working with artists, giving advice and providing exhibition space, I am seeing more and more emerging artists refuse to pay the high prices for the quality materials, and instead opting for what can only be described as ‘bargain price’ art supplies that are intended only for children or art students from stores who have no knowledge or experience in what they are selling.

Now you could easily say ‘but Barry you own an art shop, you would say this’, however owning an art shop comes with huge responsibilities to our customers, and provide a wide range of art supplies covering a wide range of price points for different purposes. However, I feel it rather ill mannered to expect a prospective client to pay a high price for a piece of art seen as an investment, when it has been created using inferior materials from a bargain bookshop, and which may not endure longer than a year or two. The price of artwork must reflect the cost of materials used, and the client made aware of how long the artwork may last without fading due to the materials used. The onus is on the artist to understand the materials they are using, how long they will last, and what their lightfastness is. 

I am certainly not against the buying of lower quality materials as they are perfect to help student artists learn their craft and can be a fantastic way to discover new things. In fact, I tell my students to just buy the best that they can afford. Buying the best quality materials that you can afford at the time is certainly something I have been a strong advocate of, but here I am talking about work in galleries and at art shows. Even in the art classes I teach, I use artists’ quality materials on the whole, and those pieces get sold for just £5 as workshop sketches – they have served their purpose for the class I taught, and I would just like them to be enjoyed. That is £5 for an original painting painted using high quality materials, which will last longer than some pieces of ‘high end’ art on the walls of some galleries.

Now there is nothing inherently wrong with an artist using low quality materials to produce artwork – maybe there are certain colours that look great for what they do, which is great. Here my advice would be to keep the original and get high quality prints made of it. That way you know that the prints are guaranteed to last 70-100 years, and don’t have the embarrassment of the client returning your artwork X years down the line because it has started to fade. 

When we shop for food items, we have been trained to look at what that food may contain: allergens, E numbers, salt or sugar content and alike, so really then as artists we should be looking at the materials we buy to make our living from in the same way. I have been mainly talking about the paint used, but the support used is also dependent on being quality enough to endure. Certain cheap papers may fade or even degrade, which in turn will affect how the colours on it will alter. The quality of the items used in creating a piece of art is crucial to how long that piece of work will last. It is incumbent on the artist not to knowingly sell work as an ‘investment’ to a client, whilst painting with inferior materials. Trying to pass off something for something that is of a higher quality is illegal. You wouldn’t dream of passing off a Fiat 500 as a Ferrari, but even that is visually obvious. In art, it is not obvious to the untrained eye what is has been painted with, so more reason to be accurate in how it is sold. 

If you want your art to be sold as an investment, or be something that will keep your name going long after you have left this mortal coil, then you really do need to examine the materials you use, and ensure the best quality materials will command the best quality prices, and will 

Eight Years of The Artery!

It’s amazing to think that we opened the door of The Artery for the first time eight years ago. What began as a dream to give Banbury a proper shop dedicated to art, turned into far more than I had imagined. Back then we sold just art supplies and had just one art class per week. All I kept hearing was how much of a ‘cultural desert’ Banbury was, but this didn’t fit with the many and varied artists that called into the shop on a daily basis, so I set out to change it. Even if you are not into painting or drawing so aren’t a specific customer of ours, the chances are you may have seen or benefited from the many things we have set up and created in the area. I am so proud of what we have been able to achieve in what is a fairly short amount of time, and can’t wait to get my teeth into the next eight years!

Sitting here in our dedicated and custom classroom typing at the laptop, to which our camera and smartboard are attached to, I can’t help but see the great strides we have made in making learning art accessible. We now run a wide programme of nearly forty fully
tutored art classes every month covering traditional craft, drawing, watercolour, acrylic, oil, and gouache panting, calligraphy, and art history; which is one of the broadest curricula in the area. Not only that, we have lessons almost every single day of the week, all year round, including evenings too, and our student base is so varied in terms of age and skill sets, it really is quite staggering now I sit down to pull all of this information together!

Our shop has also grown in this time, although the actual square footage has shrank since we opened in our first premises in Church Lane. We now carry such a wide range of art supplies with quality brands, after making the decision not to sell anything that we wouldn’t be happy to use ourselves professionally. We pride ourselves on being the only dedicated independent art shop in the area, and have a great amount of pride in what we do. 

We absolutely love helping and encouraging people to appreciate and learn the wonderful world of art. But we are far more than ‘just an art shop’, so here are a few of the things we have achieved and created…

(i) Banbury ArtFest – working closely with Banbury Town Council, we created Banbury’s answer to Art In Action. Banbury ArtFest was born two years ago and has grown from strength to strength, starting with a marquee of just twenty artists last year, to nearly forty this year. A marquee full of people making, doing, painting, and potting. It really is a sight to behold. We are so proud to have the
support of the town council, and for them allowing us to have our event as part of The Banbury and District Show each June.

© Modern Parlance Photos

(ii) Church Lane Gallery – this was created by our close working relationship with Cherwell District Council’s Town Coordinators. We so wanted to test the viability of a gallery in Banbury, so using their pop up shop scheme, we began a month long trial…which turned into two months, then four months, then by the sixth
month, we had so much interest in it from other artists wanting to join, we created Banbury Artists Cooperative. The gallery is now looking forward to its third year, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have set this in motion.

(iii) Banbury Art Academy – I was chairman of Banbury & District Art Society for five years, seeing it through to its momentous seventieth anniversary, but sadly dwindling membership saw this iconic institution have to close down. Determined to keep the embers burning, I set up the Art Academy here at the
shop which basically follows the same programme of monthly demonstrations as the Art Society to keep people inspired by art.

(iv) The Margaret Whitehouse Memorial Fund – Losing my mother over two years ago was heart breaking, but knowing how much she loved working here at the shop, and enjoyed art and teaching it at times, we set up the fund to help underprivileged young adults learn art. I want them to be given the opportunities I never had because of growing up in a poor household. So any adult aged 18-25
who is on means tested benefits can apply to join one of our art classes every week for six months – for free. We even supply them with the materials to use.

(v) Banbury Artist of the Year – this is our most recent creation. Four categories: Professional, Amateur, Young, and Junior, all compete for the public vote in a month long exhibition, and the chance to win a £0 voucher for art supplies here in the shop.

Outside of the shop, we have been the main driving force of Banbury Old Town Association and planning the annual Old Town Party, and many other initiatives to improve Banbury Town Centre. As a business 2016 saw us head to London to take part in the Great British High Street Awards, where we were one of the top three shops in the country for our use of Twitter. Then 2017 saw us in the finals of the Retail category in the Cherwell Business Awards.

It hasn’t always been plain sailing, and we have faced many challenges and struggles; but we all love what we do so much that we can’t see ourselves doing anything else! Thank you so
much for all of your support over the last eight years; we exist because of you. Thank you for supporting our little shop instead of large retail giants of the internet. We really and truly do appreciate every single sale. We are proud and pleased to have done so much, and cannot wait to see what direction 2019 leads us in.