Sunday, February 28, 2010

28th February 2010 - Who's made a mark this week?

Today on 'who's made a mark this week', I'm celebrating getting work into the exhibitions of national art societies. Specifically:
Not Quite White
7.5" x 11.5", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

If you're a friend/follower of this blog and have success at a national level please let me know so I can highlight this in 'who's made a mark this week?

Art Blogs

Drawing and sketching
  • Yesterday was the 26th International Sketchcrawl Day and you can see the results in the Sketchcrawl Forum. I didn't participate having been out sketching on both Thursday and Friday. Here are some posts about the day:
A view of Leadenhall Market
pen and sepia ink in a Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Coloured Pencils and Pastels
  • Oldenbrooke continues with his reviews of Artists in Pastel. I just wish more of them had a blog!
  • Gayle Mason (Fur in the Paint) is using oil pastels - and look what a difference a change of background colour makes in Background Change on Maine Coon!
  • see the art society section for news about the UKCPS's call for entries for their exhibitions in 2010
Painters and Painting
  • Tracey Helgeson has been busy with Vermont, Plan D her project to produce giveaway small square panels concerned with colour. A truly awesome project and result! She has a new blog for selling these small works Tracey Helgeson (Tracey's surname always takes me back to philosophy days in Cambridge and I ALWAYS have to check the spelling. Those who also did philosophy will know why!)
  • Times Online: Banksy woz' ere is about the new Banksy film. Banksy made it on to the cover of the Sunday Times today as well
Art Business and Marketing
  • On Monday I wrote about Selling Art Online and Site Traffic which was an overview of the charts for site traffic for different art gallery websites where people sell their art online. I noted that some of them seemed to have less traffic than this blog!
  • One of the sites I highlighted was Boundless Gallery. Today I note that Dan at Empty Easel is announcing that Boundless Gallery is closing and will explain all tomorrow in his Selling Art Online post (I also note that there's no announcement on the Boundless Gallery website!)
Big news, folks. . . In a truly sad turn of events,, a well-known online art gallery, will be closing its doors this week. Tomorrow I’ll explain the details of the situation as I know it
The First session of "Shut Up Already...I'll Look at Your Art!" took place Feb. 24th 2010 at Winkleman Galley N.Y., NY. A participating project of #class, artists Jenifer Dalton's and William Powhida's exhibition in the form of a think tank at Winkleman Gallery.

Art and the Economy / Art Collectors

Art Competitions and Art Societies

Art Exhibitions and art fairs

Art Education / workshops / Tips and techniques

The workshops are completely accessible - working on the premise that no skills or drawing experience are needed to make strong and exciting work.
Tips and techniques
My advice is to never pay for paint outs. They should be paying you. All costs can be underwritten by sponsors. Never care about awards at paint outs. I discourage awards because we are there to make a living and enjoy the event. Paint outs should be sales oriented. For a good paint out, all artists are professionals and should not be concerned with winning awards. Awards create a competitive atmosphere which is unnecessary.

Art Studios

Art Supplies

Book reviews



There have been several high-profile instances of photographic infringement. Sherrie Levine, who challenged the very nature of photographic originality by shooting the works of Walker Evans for her 1981 work "After Walker Evans," was forced to turn over that series to the Evans estate. Jeff Koons has had mixed results in court defending his own appropriation of photographic images.

Opinion Poll


  • I continued with my theme of the PC vs the Mac this week - see PC vs Mac update: questions about the iMac - and got featured in their Analysis/Commentary/Editorial/Opinion section of the daily headline Mac news site as a result. Thanks to the 300+ people who came and read my post! Thanks also to the very many people who have been giving me advice on what to do - I've been listening carefully to you all.
  • Creative Review highlighted the fact that Photoshop had its 20th birthday this year - see Photoshop is 20
  • Alyice Edrich has written about How To Set Up StatCounter On an Art Blog on Empty Easel. Nice to see all the screenshots.

The Web: networking, blogging, webware and website

  • As of 11 February 2010, 3.2 was launched. This works on Windows, Mac and Linux is now available for download. It's already been downloaded by over 4.6million people. New features are described in detail on this website. has been nominated in the Reader's Choice Awards 2010. The key point about this news is that it's hit the market ahead of Office 2010 and for those of us looking at what software we need if changing computers this is a very relevant consideration! Here's a review on The Register - Office 2010 offers support for ODF files (ie open office standard files). The beta version of Office 2010 will expire in October 2010.
Monday is the day that application notifications will finally be removed from the Facebook platform.

and finally........

This isn't very arty oriented but you might be interested in Microsoft's attitiude to the privacy of your information An In-Depth Look at Microsoft's Spy Guide on ReadWriteWeb. I'm just wondering what the courts in various countries would have to say about this. So often practices shift because people think they can get away with something in the USA - without taking time out to recognise the international issues.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where do you start when making art? (MAM Poll RESULTS)

The February Making A Mark Poll looked at Where do you start when making art? The headline results show that:
  • 57% are influenced by life and what they see around them
  • 43% work from their own ideas and concepts
  • 38% are stimulated by their own reference photos - rather than those taken by other people
  • nobody seems to want to take account of current trends or whatever seems to sell!!!
  • 134 respondents had an average of 2.42 options which influenced where they started when making art.
Commentary on the poll results

The results are ordered in the chart according to popularity as is this commentary.

Life and what I see around me: Since artists gave up creating paintings about history, myths and religion, the stimulus for a great deal of art in the last 130 years or so has been life and what we see around us on a day to day basis. Over a half (57%) of people who responded to the poll chose this as one of their main influences. 77 responses accounted for around a quarter of all responses.

My ideas and concepts: 43% of people chose their own ideas and concepts as major influences on their art. Normally we associate this notion with art which is trying to convey a message or comment of some kind. I had intended this to be what my shorthand meant to other people but now wonder whether this was the case. The reason I say this is I was quite surprised by the level of the response to this option as a lot of the representational art I see does not suggest to me that there is an idea or concept (ie a message) behind it. Of course there might be and I'm just being too literal and not getting the message that the art is trying to convey!

My reference photos: 38% said that their own reference photos generated artwork (compared to just 13% who used other people's reference photos). It was pleasing to see more emphasis placed on working from material that the artist had generated. The inherent problems associated with photosgraphs can be overcome more easily if they are used by the person who remembers what the original image looked like in real life.

My imagination: 35% said they used their imagination when creating art. It was good to see this more creative aspect coming to the fore. Obviously 'using your imagination' is quite a wide term and could in fact mean anything from a full blown fantasy artwork to changing the colours seen in reference material to moving objects around and/or omitting items like street signs because they don't look good in our artwork!

My sketches and my photos: It was interesting to see that most people who used sketches supplemented their sketches with reference photos. A third of artists responding used their own sketches and photos but only 10% of artists worked from just their sketches. There's no right or wrong answer here. There are good reasons for either practice. Speaking personally I find a reference photo much more helpful if I have a sketch or drawing from life. I use reference photos to check the accuracy of relative proportions and sketches for design, atmosphere and colour.

Paintings by past masters: Just 10% of artists identified paintings by past masters as influential and this option attracted just 4% of the total responses. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? All I know is that the more I study art history and painters that have gone before is that an awful lot of past masters studied the artists who were past masters in their lifetimes.

Maybe more artists would find it helpful if they allocated more time to study more artists from the past to see what they can learn? I know I'm finding it incredibly helpful and yesterday could be found sketching landscapes in the National Gallery - two Cezannes and one by Rubens!

Commissions: 4% of artists identified commissions as one of the main reasons they make art. This suggests to me that the proportion of those artists working to commission is a bit lower than I was expecting. On the other hand it maybe that even artists working to commission regrad as commissions as the 'day job' and responded to the on the basis of the art they choose to create. I'd love to hear what you think on this topic.

Current trends/whatever seems to sell: There is one response which I found very surprising. NOBODY identified current trends and whatever seems to sell as a reason to make art. I don't expect it to be the main reason to make art

However I simply don't believe it. I know a lot of artists want to sell art. I know that a lot of artists keep a 'weather' eye on how trends are changing in the marketplace, what is selling and what remains unsold. For some artists it's critical to making money to live on. In every business, keeping an eye on the market is absolutely essential to being able to sell product to customers - and at a very basic level art is no different - unless you have an independent income and/or choose to make the art you want to make in the time you have left over from doing the job which makes the money you live on.

So what was going on here? Why did NOBODY acknowledge this as a factor they take account of when making art. This was a multiple choice poll and there was no limit on how many options people chose.

Alternatively, could somebody please explain to me what the 'painting a day' small works phenomena was all about? ;)

More Making A Mark Opinion Polls

You can find more Making A Mark Polls
A new Making A Mark Poll will be posted on Monday 1st March. I've got a day left to work out what it's going to be about!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Two works in the Society of Botanical Artists Exhibition

Not Quite White
7.5" x 11.5", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Two of my works have been accepted for hanging in the 25th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists.

Two Iris and Three Buds
10" x 8", coloured pencils on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Last year I also had two works hung. Both my work had a similar colour scheme and they looked good together so I decided to try for a similar effect this year and drew white flowers - a peony (see Not Quite White above) and Two Iris and Three Buds. I don't think I used a single white coloured pencil for either of them!

The exhibition will be held at Central Hall, Westminster, across the road from Westminster Abbey, between 16th and 25th April with the Private View on the 15th April.

If anybody else has got work into the exhibition and will not be able to attend, do please let me know and I'll try and find it and take a photo of it when I'm doing the photos for my review of the exhibition on this blog.

My apologies for the dreadful quality of these photographs of the framed works - just before they were packed up for the trip into town and the submission. I have only one position in my home where I can photograph work in natural daylight without a reflection and the light is not great and I don't use flash! Believe it or not the mat is the same colour for both!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

PC vs Mac update: questions about the iMac

Due to your comments, I've been looking seriously at owning an Apple Mac. Yesterday I played with an Apple iMac - a 27" iMac to be precise. I'm now an iMac convert - the graphics are stunning!

I greatly appreciate all the help I got from the good people at the the Apple Store and John Lewis Store at Bluewater for both being patient with me as I tried out different aspects.

Specifically I was very impressed with the way the Apple store has ALL its machines linked up to the Internet so you can check out how different aspects work. So much more effectve in showing you how machines complete real day to day tasks. I was looking at this blog in no time at all!

Below you can find:
  • my comments on aspects I've tested out and my conclusions to date
  • my techie questions which I'm going to get addressed in an appointment with one of the Apple tech guys next week. Watch this space - this may result in me coming home with an iMac!
The iMac - this is it.
The only things missing are
(1) the power cable
(2) ethernet cable to my modem router
and (3) the USB cable to my printer!

Conclusions to date

Reflection issues with glossy screen: I'd forgotten to take my photo file of photos with me. However the iMacs in the Apple store are linked up to the Internet and consequently I was able to access and run slideshows of some of my Flickr sets as a test for aspects of the screen fidelity.

Can I recommend my Flickr set of Tours market for anybody wanting to test the full gamut of colours and the level of crispness possible with the HD screens on an iMac in an Apple store!

In addition, the full 27-inch, 2560-by-1440 display and 1000:1 contrast ratio in iphotos, imovies and the ability to calibrate the screen left me very impressed. It was the definition on the meercats in the desert which won me over!

The glossy screen and glare/reflection issue: Although the light in the Apple Store is very even it is also very bright and I was picking up reflections on the screen. This is one of my bugbear issues which I decided needed a thorough test through actual use of a machine. I had a long play in the Apple Store and then went over to the second floor of John Lewis where the lighting is much better. There I found that after a bit I stopped noticing any glare or reflection - just like people had told me last week!

The 27" screen flickering problem: I'm aware of the problem the 27" iMacs had when first produced and I do know they've fixed it and I'm guessing will be making very sure they don't have any more problems after 'the fix'. I now just need to make sure that the screen works first time out of the box.

Energy efficiency and reduction of power and heat: I'm also becoming more and more impressed with what I'm learning about the way Apple is focusing on energy efficiency. Quite apart from saving my electricity bills, this is what is going to reduce heat/fan problems for heavy duty users like me.

Mac keyboard: I'm still not really sure about the Apple iMac keyboard. I liked the keyboard action but found it cramped. I don't quite understand the point of having a very small keyboard if you've got a very large screen! Jury still out on that one and it's being added to my techie question list below

Mac mouse: I loved stroking my wireless magic mouse which is very responsive. I didn't realise it also swiped so I'm looking forward to that. I think it's going to be OK with my tenosynovitis in my index finger which is the prime consideration - but so long as iMac can use wireless optical mice of the microsoft variety that will be fine as a back-up

Audio: This is not a priority for me - but it was very good (no reverberation on the base for example) and the controls gave a good level of control over volume.

My techie questions
I think the big question now boils down (probably) to Which iMac? This is the compare the iMac page on their store website.

I've still got some techie questions to pin down - and if you're interested do continue reading as this is my note of issues for the tech guy at Apple. I'll aso be investigating these online and trying to find sites which provide good advice and information.

Please let me know if you know any good reference sites.

Might a
Mac mini and a 24" screen be a better option?

This was a suggestion by one of the Apple staff. Probably not as the 24" screen is the old screen and is not HD - but I'm going to check that one out - particularly the Mac Mini server option (tech spec) - however I suspect my new found aversion to nvidia graphics (the reason for the death of my Sony Vaio) might be enough to deter me from that option.

Which processor?
Should I choose the all singing all dancing Intel quad core i5 (+ £256 for top end iMac which also includes faster graphics processor) - and do I want to pay that much? Or is the the standard 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo OK ? This page gives an indication of performance differences. There's also the option of the faster 3.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (+£163). I may well stick to the standard config. I need to investigate all of this further - with respect to power/heat/energy efficiency.

Which graphics card?

I know I'd definitely go for an ATI Radeon card and that's because I now won't touch Nvidia Graphics cards after what I learned about their fraudulent behaviour last week.

I think my preference is for the ATI Radeon HD 4670 with 256MB of GDDR3 memory (tech spec/review) because this card has an emphasis on being quiet and energy efficient - and I don't need gaming power! I've also found out that the GGDR3 memory is also more energy efficient. I checked out the visual results on the 27" HD screen and was very impressed. I'm currently using an ATI Radeon HD 4650 with 512MB of dedicated memory with an old screen and I saw detail on this photo of one of Monet's nympheas which I didn't know was htere! I've got a better camera than I thought I had!

The 27-inch iMac with dual-core processor has options for one of the following:
  • ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics processor with 256MB of GDDR3 memory
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics processor with 512MB of GDDR3 memory (+ £123)
The question is whether it is worth it to upgrade to the ATI Radeon HD 4850 with 512MB of GDDR3 memory and what does that do to heat and energy efficiency - still got to check that one out.

27" versus 21" imac?
The ATI Radeon HD 4670 is available on both. The 21.5" would be easier to accomodate and not as heavy. The 27" is stunning and would let me easily have two screens up and running in parallel at the same time. However is the 21" more efficient?

500MB or a 1TB hard drive?

I thought this was an issue but I now realise that the 500MB hard drive only comes with the Essentially this boils down to whether I want a 21.5" screen or a 27" as both 27" screens automatically come with a terabyte hard drive.

Partition or dual run?
I know that I can run Windows on a Mac. The question is how!

I'm intending to have the machine set up so that it can run Windows as well. The question is whether to:
  • partition using Bootcamp so that I need to hard boot each time to access the Mac side or Windows (see Boot Camp: Booting into Windows). This seems to suggest that gaming and auto ca optiuons should be run using bootcamp as they need 100% of system resources
Boot Camp is now a built-in feature of Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard and requires a Mac with Intel processor.

Virtualization—how does that work?

Virtualization uses software to emulate PC hardware and create a "virtual machine" running alongside the Mac operating system, giving instant access to any desired Windows applications. Today, Windows is the most common "virtual machine" on the Mac, but you can also use virtualization to run Linux and other operating systems.
Either way I'm going to need to buy a proper copy of Windows 7. But I could then load my Microsoft Office and PC Elements 7 on the Windows side and continue using them.

I think I'm sure I can wait to decide until after I've got my new imac and can partition or upload dual run software at any time. However I tend to like to get set up issues sorted asap when I get a new machine.

My questions include:
  • Which is best - partition using bootcamp or dual run? (I'm going to be checking this out on the internet before talking to the tech guy). I'm not a gamer but I don't like slow applications.
  • Do people have difficulty setting up Windows 7 on an Apple?
  • If I'm having trouble getting Windows 7 setup will Apple provide support?
  • If using boot camp, how does it work in terms of accessing files on the windows side?
  • Can I load my other Windows software - and how does that work with dual running?
Security software for Windows: Several questions:
  • How do I load Kaspersky Anti Virus on a dual running iMac?
  • Can I load my Kaspesky Internet Security 10 to address the security issues of Windows? How do the different configurations of a partitioned drive as opposed to dual running impact on secrurity software?
If opting for dual run, which is the best dual run software?There seem to be two software products which allow it to dual run

  • Parallels Desktop 5.0 English (Mac) (£59.95) lets you run Windows programs seamlessly on your iMac, without rebooting. With full support for Snow Leopard and Windows 7.
  • VMware Fusion 3 (£69.95) lets you run the most demanding Mac and Windows applications side-by-side at maximum speeds without rebooting.
General consensus seems to be that such software slows the machine down - but is that just the Windows side and were these comments coming from people using Vista or Windows 7?

So far I've found this article from MacTech (Edition 26): Head-to-Head: Parallels Desktop for Mac vs. VMware Fusion (I do wish techie guys would learn how to date their techie articles!)
Both VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop for Mac are excellent products, and both allow you to run Windows XP and Windows 7 quite well (except for graphics in VMware Fusion under 7). In the end, your decision as to which product you should take into account what's most important to you: speed, footprint, graphics capabilities, features, user interface, OS you want to run, and more all come into play......

Here's how things look in general terms for each of the test suites that we ran:

Figure 23: Chart: Performance Winner in Each Test Suite
From MacTech: Head-to-Head: Parallels Desktop for Mac vs. VMware Fusion
I think that gives a pretty clear direction as to software - but what do you think?

Will an Apple iMac work with a Microsoft media keyboard without a problem?

Key question for me as keyboards are critical for my tenosynovitis.

Do I want to configure my own iMac and if so what would I make different?

This is the one where I've not even started to think but there are somehelpful pages on the website.
I've always been inclined to bung is as much Ram as possible. I've currently got 4 GB DDR2-SDRAM and the imac I think I will get has got 4GB (two 2GB SO-DIMMs) of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - but could go up to 16GB. It will cost me £163 to upgrade to 8GB

The rest of the queries relate to the queries identified above.

How much new software do I need to buy and where's the best discount?

I think I need to buy:
I could buy:
  • PC Elements 8 for Mac (£75.95 from Apple Store or £) There is no Elements 7 for Mac. This isn't strictly speaking an extra costs since I don't own version 8 anyway. However I'm concerned about review comments about the lack of printer options.
  • Office 2008 for Mac - Home & Student (£109.05)
However Microsoft Office 10 is out in June 2010 - so my inclination is to wait until then and then buy whichever seems most appropriate.

Apple Store or John Lewis or Amazon - and what about the guarantee and after service?

Still not sure on that one. Except that
  • the price on Amazon UK is MORE than the price from an Apple store or Apple online or John Lewis!
  • John Lewis is out of stock online and only has one in stock
There's no price difference on the model I think I'm interested in and I'm not sure price would factor into this one. My prime consideration is after service. This is me with my pessimistic hat on - supposing something goes wrong. John Lewis offer a two year guarantee - but they have to send it away to be fixed. I know I will buy The AppleCare Protection Plan for the imac to get three year cover with Apple - and Apple will fix it for me on the spot in store if they can. I'm going to get both to give me their best pitch and see what I get!

Independent Reviews

[Update] Just found some independent reviews
What do you think?

As always, I'm inviting comments, views and advice from you all. You were so fantastic in commenting on the series of posts last week that I was telling the Manager in the Apple Store all about you! Even he was impressed by my chart of your recommendations!

So what do you think?
Note: For those who missed the posts last week this is the story so far!
  • PC vs Mac for artists - explaining the reason for the exercise and inviting views - which attracted 50+ comments
  • PCs versus Apple Mac - for artists (Part 2) - in which I tried so summarise what people were saying in the first post and I created a chart of recommendations - and which also got a lot of comments
  • Decision time: pros and cons of PC vs Mac for artists - in which I explained my own particular set-up and key considerations - and then applied these to analysis of what I'd found out to date (not all of which is on this blog. I've been looking at websites for a long time)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In praise of older art books - used and low cost

Why buy second hand art books? Here's a few reasons:
  • you can buy books you'd NEVER see on the art bookshelves of a book shop
  • you can buy classic art books which are no longer in print. I'm currently eyeing up the various prices being charged for different editions of Kenneth Clark's Landscape into Art.
  • you can buy art books which can tell you about art processes or facts from the past. I'm currently reading a book on pastel techniques which provides very detailed descriptions of the methods adopted by famous pastel artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Information which I've never read in a modern book about pastels.
  • you can buy rare and much prized/very difficult to find art books which are classed as 'used'; however it's more than likely you'll be paying a premium for these over the price it cost when new
  • they typically cost less than new art books even at Amazon prices! Many cost much less than they did new!
  • many are better produced in terms of binding and print quality (although the use of mono plates in older books is common). You can often buy a well produced hard back for the cost of a contemporary paperback.
  • buy from a reputable dealer and you can secure a art book which is 'as new'
  • older books were published when publishers were not so obsessed with keeping the mass market happy. Many used art books adopt a much more intelligent tone and do not attempt to 'dumb down' for the mass market
  • rare second hand art books are like antiques - much nicer than the new modern version of the same thing!
If you want to 'try before you buy' see if you can locate a library which has a good stock of art books.

I'm currently working my way through the shelves of the Barbican Library which has many very good books. Out of my first haul of eight books I've ordered four!

Turner Sketches (hardback 1977)
(ordered from Trumpington Fine Books
via Amazon for £9 + £2.75 P&P
following a visit to the Barbican Library)


Some tips from my foray into the second hand book market in the UK.

Once you've decided on a title it pays to have a good look round at the prices being charged by different booksellers. There can be very large variations - which are (I think) only sometimes dependent on the quality of the book.
  • Amazon is a good place to start. A lot of smaller niche dealers are selling their books via Amazon as well as via their own websites. It's a good way of finding out about the decent second hand booksellers
  • AbeBooks is a global marketplace listing over 100 million new, used, rare and out-of-print books offered by more than 13, 500 independent booksellers. It has various country based domains. It was acquired by Amazon at the end of 2008 ('nobbling' the opposition). So it looks independent but isn't really. It has a rating system based on cancelled orders and returns. Their search system works better on ISBN numbers than titles. Like Amazon, it's good for introducing you to booksellers who are reliable
  • [Update]Alibris - Tracy Hall reminded me of one I forgot include. There's also which is alibris in the USA
I've found some out of print books there which I couldn't find anywhere else.
Tracy Hall
  • Bibilion is another front end directory of booksellers - but it comes up on a search for 'second hand art books'
  • Biblio has a range of rare art books with a decent range of subcategories. It has a nice feature where you can find booksellers local to your area. However I found the pricing on one book to be completely ludicrous.
  • [Update] Honor Martinez recommends Bookfinder. I'm searching for the same book (Landscape into Art by Kenneth Clark) in each Directory and this one came up with a particularly and a good quality listing which was clean looking and well organised.
  • [Update] Martin Stankewitz recommends - this is the English version which is called Choosebooks. Two of its categories are 'art' and 'graphics'
I use which is kind of central antiquarian platform in Germany. Has also an english spoken menu. Highly recommended!
Martin Stankewitz
The feedback systems used by some directories of booksellers means that you can pick and choose how much risk you want to take with the description given. I check out each seller before I place an order. My experience is that top rated sellers give very accurate descriptions of the books they have for sale. Personally I'm a sucker for a carefully crafted description! I invariably do not buy from those who only provide a very cursory description.

Do keep a note of the description and do check the book against the description. I had one seller come back to me and say that actually the book that was being sold was not as per the description. I cancelled the order and found the same book elsewhere.

It's worth keeping a note of those sellers who deliver a top notch book which is well packed for a good price. You may want to provide feedback and/or order from them again.

Once you've learned which are the reputable independent booksellers, if you buy direct from them then Amazon or AbeBooks don't get to take a cut of the price paid and the price may be lower.

Used Book descriptions

There is a recognised standard for used book descriptions. Below I've quoted the standard as set by the Independent Online Booksellers Association. I've been buying very good and near fine and to be honest I've seen books being sold as new on shelves in bookstores which have been in worse condition!
These IOBA Book Condition Definitions are used to describe both the book and the dust jacket, if applicable. Thus the word “book” may be replaced by “dust jacket” in the following definitions:

AS NEW; FINE; MINT: Without faults or defects.

NEAR FINE: a book approaching FINE (or AS NEW or MINT) but with a couple of very minor defects or faults, which must be noted.

[NOTE: From here on, there may be "+ (Plus)" or "- (Minus)" in a grade, which will mean that it is above the grade noted but not quite to the next higher grade for "+", and that it is below the grade noted but not quite to the next lower grade for "-", i.e., Very Good + (or Plus)/Very Good - (or Minus). Which means the book is better than Very Good and the dust jacket grade is less than Very Good.]

VERY GOOD: A book showing some signs of wear. Any defects or faults must be noted.

GOOD: The average used book that is totally complete (as issued) and intact. Any defects must be noted.

FAIR: A worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title page, etc. Any defects or faults must be noted.

POOR or READING COPY: A book that is sufficiently worn that its only merit is the complete text, which must be legible. Any missing maps or plates must be noted. May be soiled, scuffed, stained, or spotted, and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.

EX-LIBRARY: Must always be designated as such no matter what the condition of the book.

BOOK CLUB: Must always be noted as such no matter what the condition of the book.

BINDING COPY: A book in which the text block, including illustrations, is complete but the binding is lacking, or in such poor condition it is beyond realistic restoration efforts.

REMAINDER MARKS, BOOKPLATES, PREVIOUS OWNER'S NAME: These are faults and must always be noted, if they apply.

IOBA Book Condition Definitions
Below is the AbeBooks version. It's best to check each seller's site to see how the define the terms they use. It's worth noting that Amazon does NOT provide a glossary of terms for the used books sold on its site!
Book Condition

Condition of a book is usually in the form of VG/VG, Fine/Good, VG/--, etc. The first part is the condition of the book; the second is the condition of the dust jacket. If a "/--" is present, it usually means that the dust jacket is not present.

As New - To be used only when the book is in the same immaculate condition to which it was published. There can be no defects, no missing pages, no library stamps, etc., and the dust jacket (if it was issued with one) must be perfect, without any tears.

Fine (F or FN) - Approaches the condition of As New, but without being crisp. For the use of the term Fine, there must also be no defects, etc., and if the jacket has a small tear, or other defect, or looks worn, this should be noted.

Very Good (VG) - Describes a book that does show some small signs of wear - but no tears - on either binding or paper. Any defects must be noted.

Good (G) - Describes the average used worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects must be noted.

Fair - Worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, jacket (if any), etc., may also be worn. All defects must be noted.

Poor - Describes a book that is sufficiently worn, to the point that its only merit is as a Reading Copy because it does have the complete text, which must be legible. Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. This copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.

These terms may be arbitrary, but whatever terms are employed, they may be useless or misleading unless both buyer and seller agree on what they mean in actually describing the book.

AbeBooks - Statement of Book Condition descriptions


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In praise of older art books - free and digital

As anybody who reads this blog or any of my other blogs will know I like books! After all who needs to make choices about colour schemes or wallpapers when you can have book shelves and art lining your walls instead!

Seriously, I've come very late in the day to the notion of buying used books on the internet. I've also only just started to investigate the digital books which are available to read for free (or download as a file) on the Internet.

However I'd like to announce that I'm now convinced that there is huge value to be gained from investigating the books which you won't find in your local book store or on the current directory of publications of your favourite art book publisher.
  • Today I'm going to write about digital art books on the internet
  • Tomorrow I'm going to highlight some tips about buying used books online
Digital books

Go To Project Gutenberg

Older Books - recent posts

I've posted this week and last about two old books which are out of print but which are availabke to read for free on the Internet or which can be downloaded in various file formats
What I'm finding characterises these books is that they are NOT dumbed down for beginners.

Instead they assume they are going to be read by people who want to learn all they can about how to draw and paint. They're long on text and have fewer images than many modern art instruction books which is not to say they don't have any at all. They're just NOT advocating or following a spoon-feeding step by step approach to art instruction.

More to the point, some of these books explain aspects of technique which often get skipped over in modern art instruction books.

If you're interested in approaches to art instruction used in the past you'll find these books absorbing. If you want to know more about the media approaches used in the past you won't mind digging around in these to find the 'gold nuggets' which they contain

Contemporary art e-books

As an aside, although not older books, it's worth highlighting that more and more artists are publishing their contributions to art instruction as e-books.

Deborah Secor is also pioneering a new way of publishing a book online via a blog called Landscape Painting in Pastels - which was featured on my art of the landscape blog yesterday in Art Instruction: Landscape Painting in Pastels

How to find and access the older art book - free digital and online

Obviously you need to be online. You also need to be predisposed to reading online whether on a computer or a bit of kit which reads e-books as there is no point in printing these books out! You also need to like searching through directories and files because there's not a out there as yet.

Books I'm searching for are essentially in the public domain and their copyright has expired or a contemporary auuthor has chosen to exercise a form of copyright which permits free distribution for educaitonal use.

I'm still working my way through which sites provide a digital directory of books which exist - and how to buy them online (which is irrelvant to the free digital book for downloading) and those sites which genuinely provide access to digital books. There's also a bunch of sites which are about providing directories for digital libraries of ebooks which are not very accessible. Then there's the ones which look like they're going to be about books but which turn out to be trying to be like mini specialised search engines !

Places which definitely contain art books which have been digitalised are as follows:
  • Google Books. This contains information about virtually all current books in publication and a lot of books which are out of print. Some of the books in its database are very old. You can view books which have been digitalised in one of three ways Limited preview and full view; full view only; and Public domain only. You can often read bits. Lerss often you can read the full book. They also have a section on Classics (with free EPUB downloads) but this isn't easy to search. I recommend using the advanced seach facility to find books which may be interesting. Bear in mind this works pretty much like a library or book store where something sounds about right and then is really boring when you begin to look in more detail. Plus it's always worth investigating some tenuous links to your interests as these can sometimes throw up really good results. So basically a bookworm predisposition to seaching in libraries will help a great deal. I've gone down a number of blind allies trying to get my search terms right!
  • Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books, or eBooks. Its structure is not great for searching so again you have to get your detective hat out to track down good books.
Wikibooks is supposed to be creating open content textbooks. It has a visual arts section and an Art History section - but neither are well developed as yet. This project gives the impression of being a bit confused at the moment and doesn't sdeem have much to offer in terms of digital books for download.

Future posts

I'm going to continue to search the internet and try and find digital art books which can be read in their entirety online. I'd be very interested to know your perspective on them.

Tomorrow I'm going to write some more about the value of older books - bought second hand!

The Art of the Landscape

Monday, February 22, 2010

Selling Art Online and Site Traffic

Have you ever heard the following quotation?
Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.
Being able to identify and highlight what makes the difference when you're trying to do anything really pays off long term.

One of the very famous management 'laws' is the Pareto Principle - otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. This relates to the notion that most things in life are not distributed evenly.
Knowing what really makes a difference
The balance between inputs and outputs is rarely proportional. If you want to maximise revenue, it pays to look at the 20% of what you produce that brings in 80% of the revenue.

(The Pareto principle).
The Pareto Principle suggest that 20% of the online galleries will sell 80% of the art - but is that true. Take a look at the statistics below and note the differences in site traffic. I'd ask you to note that this blog actually gets more visitors than some of the sites listed!

Statistical analysis of the traffic generated by websites providing online galleries

The following statistics are from
  • The Unique Visitors metric only counts a person once no matter how many times they visit a site in a given month. Unique Visitors are typically used to determine how popular a site is. (Note: The number of visitors to this blog are also measured as unique visitors)
  • The Compete Rank is based on Unique Visitors and does not consider page views or number of visits made to the site. Rank is often used as a compliment to Unique Visitors to provide a relative metric that shows the significance of a site
All sites are listed alphabetically within their category.

Statistical Caveats

The main message to take away from these statistics is the relative share of traffic that each site generates and how that is changing over the course of the past year. Numbers may be wrong but it's more likely that the general size and shape of the traffic chart is about right - in relative terms.

The main caveat to the statistics and comments shown below is that there is no way of knowing whether or not they are accurate. I do think it's a pity that such websites don't publicise their stats as per any of the more reliable sites such as Google Analytics, Quantcast or (Note: If any website wants to dispute the numbers please leave a link to your published traffic stats.)

There could be a major discrepancy in any of the websites' statistics. That's based on the fact that this blog's statistics on are far from real (but this could be due to this blog being a subdomain of

Insofar as this can be meaningful, I'll provide you with a benchmark for the the statistics you'll see below. This blog has had well in excess of 20,000 unique visitors a month in each of the last three months.

Bear in mind also that the number of visitors at any one time are spread across all the different artists with galleries or pages or stores on the website in question. So the number seeing an individual artist or artisan will be very much lower than the traffic level quoted.

The analysis of sites below are split between:
  • generalist sites - where art if just one category which generates visits
  • sites dedicated to art (and crafts)



Traffic is respectable and continues on an upward trajectory from 284k in Februarty 2009 to 691k in January 2010. However this is a generalist site like eBay and only a small proportion of this will relate to art and the pages of individual artists

35% of traffic arrives via Google and 13% comes from Facebook. 65% of those leaving the site go to ebay


Note that the scale is in MILLIONS of visitors. Bear in mind that the number of visitors at any one time are spread across all the different parts of eBay and the number looking at art by individual artists will be much lower than this

eBay used to be known as an auction site but it's increasingly now known as an online store site. Traffic, apart from the Christmas hike, is essentially static.

Below is the chart for the art category on eBay. Note how the numbers of unique visitors are much lower than those visiting Etsy.



It's unclear whether the issue is recording of traffic or an absoluite decline in traffic. Either way monthly traffic is low and less than the traffic that this blog gets. 40% of the traffic arrives via Google and 40% of it returns to Google - suggesting that it might be stay a few seconds.

Artflock has no data for this site. This generally only happens when traffic is very low.

Boundless Gallery

Monthly traffic is less than this blog and has reduced from 18.7k to 13.8k

27% of visitors come from Google; 10% come from Empty Easel. Google is the destination of 37% leaving the site.

[Update: Boundless Gallery notified member artists by post in February of its intention to close in March 2010]

Discovered Artists

The traffic profile looks good - but look at the numbers.

22% arrive from Facebook and only 5% come from Google - suggesting that the marketing of this site directly or indirectly has not optimised for Google. Compete indicates that it doesn't even rank in Google. 38% leave for Google and 10% go back to Facebook.


Traffic has reduced by a third in the last 12 months.

46%comes from Google and over 12% from other websites suggesting that this website is recognised by the main seach engines in the main browser queries for sites like this.

22% leave to go to Googlewhile 11 next visit blogs.


Note that the scale is in MILLIONS of visitors. Note the steady and significant rise in the number of visitors. At a time when eBay traffic has remained static, Etsy has increased from 3.8 million to 5.5 million - and these are ALL people who are interested in arts and crafts.

Interestingly 22% of visitors come from Facebook, 11% from Google and 5% from Blogs. So if you've got an Etsy Store, have got a blog but don't yet have a presence on Facebook you might want to rethink this!

3% of visitors leave to go to paypal (sale!) 23% go back to Facebook and 12% go to Google.


Traffic is more or less static and while bigger than some it's not significant overall. 16% arrive from Google and 12% from Facebook. Similar figures return to the same destinations.


Two sites get most of the traffic - eBay and etsy. It would be very interesting to know how much of the eBay traffic is actually art oriented.

When the numbers visiting the art category on eBay are extracted, it's very clear that ETSY is in reality the premier site for having an art store. The numbers are way, way beyond those of any other gallery website selling art online - including! It's also the only website where paypal featured as one of the top five destinations of people leaving the site!

I'd hazard a guess that most artists might hope to achieve better traffic via their own blog or a Facebook fan page when you take a look at the site traffic for ALL the artists on a gallery website.

More information

If you want more information about any of these websites please consult my resource sites
Other useful posts on this blog include:

The Art of the Landscape