Dan Fone, Post 3 – The Vicious Circles

By in Events & Review


A circle. Now I'm uploading it, it looks quite restful. Reminds me of the sea
A vicious circle. Now I'm uploading it, it looks quite restful. Reminds me of the sea

It’s been a while since my last post and the reason for that is the increasing pace of my Digital Arts MA. We’ll be putting up the final show in pretty much exactly one month. This raises one of the main problems we all face as artists. Time. There’s never enough of it. That’s reason one of why this post is called ‘The Vicious Circle’. I’m no expert on time management but one piece of advice I keep on hearing is that you should get the rubbish stuff in your day done first. I’m not a fan of that approach as it means I spend all of my time doing rubbish stuff. Disaster! So balance is required. As I say, I’m no expert on time management at all. Any hard earned wisdom here would be gratefully received, by myself and no doubt a few others.

The MA finishes in July and I’ll be let loose on the outside world for real. I’ve been thinking about art on an abstract and intellectual level for a long time and very soon I will have to think about art at the business and presentation end. I don’t think I can recall meeting one artist who has really relished this element of being an artist. One thing I’m waking up to is the clear fact that I need to be able to market myself.

Expanding on a theme I took up last post, this has led me to think more about the photographs I should be taking in order to sell. I’m really looking at using my photography as a complement to my more conceptual art and writing, using it to supplement my income and also get insights in to the nuts and bolts of the art scene on a more general level. This means I don’t mind taking photographs for the sake of selling, so long as I don’t actively dislike them. My heart and brain’s need for excitement and/or verbosity is covered in other areas. I can approach my photography relatively coldly, if it will help me to sell pictures.

I start pondering this, though. For one, is there a danger of chasing my tail, trying to figure out what will sell and, as a result, making work that doesn’t quite feel authentic? And also, I want to make photographs because I love taking photographs, not because I want to satisfy market criteria. This is an age-old issue for artists isn’t it? We all like to eat and have a roof over our heads and we’d all like to reach those ends doing something we love. At what point does that something we love become a chore? So we’re coming back to another kind of vicious circle. How are we going to shake the pesky little critter off?

The really basic questions I have to ask are: Am I selling for collectors or am I selling to people who want something to hang in their houses? What kind of art would I want to buy and why? One thing I learned at the Affordable Art Fair was that the most obvious ingredient of work that sells really well is that it’s pretty direct. There’s a clarity about it.

Thinking about it, I’m much more interested in making pictures for people who saw something in it that they wanted to spend a bit of quality time with. The whole art collectors scene doesn’t excite me. Looking further in to that, I need to ask some questions about what kind of work people want to put in their homes, and why. I could probably do a phd researching that question though! Is there a sweet spot where all of this dovetails?

One photographer I like a lot is a guy called Dave Beckerman. He has a section on his website dedicated to customer favourites. Looking at these is quite helpful. It’s inspiring and will no doubt help me next time I’m out taking pictures. My earlier point about clarity seems to stand up, too. Most of those photographs have really clear reference points and seem to know exactly what they’re about. Some of them are successful because they tell stories about the movements of people without having any people in them. Some of them simply have great geometry. This is quite a useful exercise, I think. I’d like to make a suggestion. If anyone knows of any similar pages (even on your own sites), could you please paste the link into the comments section below. It would be great to get a little overview of work that generally sells well, or what is currently in vogue.

Beyond that, I have questions. What do you think sells? Is there a formula? Or should we make the work we dream of making? Is there a middle road? I gather some of you are already on this roundabout of ‘making work to sell to enable one to make work…’ and have commented about it (Thanks! Comments are always good) How is that? Is it doable and do you have any tips?

About The Author


I have a Masters in Digital Arts I’ve cycled (very slowly) through the Alps. It would have been a lot easier without the 20kg of luggage. Maybe next time I’ll just take my toothbrush and a pair of pants. I’m hard of hearing and wear two hearing aids. It’s not really that big a deal though. I listen to a lot of music. Most of it is either drones, bleeps or sounds like things being kicked down a spiral staircase. Did I mention I’m hard of hearing? I love both high and low culture. I’m generally not that bothered about the three for two table in Waterstones though. I think the journalists are right when they say Middlemarch is the greatest novel written in English.

2 comments for “Dan Fone, Post 3 – The Vicious Circles

Sarah McIntyre

June 1, 2009 at 12:22 pm

For me, I think it’s best when I make art that makes ME happy. And then other people seem to like it. The trick is finding people who will also spend money, not always easy. So I usually end up doing commissioned artwork for the money and I try to do at least one sketchbook item a day that’s just for me, so I don’t get stale. This is often the stuff that gets me the commissions, so it is a bit of a circular pattern.

So I guess the challenges, for me, are
1. finding people with similar aesthetic taste to me who will commission work
2. finding avenues of selling my own personal work (involves networking)
3. making sure I don’t get so overwhelmed with commission work that I neglect personal work
4. making sure I don’t spend so much time on personal work that I don’t earn enough money
5. taking time to get out and about so I’ll have something to say with my work and be aware of what’s out there; not holing up with my computer and desk all the time.

Helen Nock

June 8, 2009 at 9:58 am

Morning Dan,
Your circle metaphor hasn’t got a viscious bone in it! More spontaneous and fluid. I was going to add more Zen but praps that’s pushing it. Thinking about what art sells I think Wendy’s ‘get real’ just about sums it up in relation to art as commodities to grace a private, public or corporate space. Something attractive and accessible and maybe a talking point too. When I’m in a direct selling situation potential buyers like to know as much as possible about the work particularly as my work is slow to produce and therefore not often readily affordable. Buyers like to have a more personal understanding of their investment and be able to talk about it to others. I like Dave Beckermans’ work too. I reckon it hits all the buttons, a commercial line of good quality work that doesn’t snuff out the credibility of more intangible creative pursuits for less mainstream investors. I’ve been looking at Alan Bamberger’s art business site. Some interesting discussions on marketing art and what and how to sell. It’s interesting in terms of the current climate and persuading artists there’s no shame in selling cheap right now in order to survive. It’s a fun read with some interesting suggestions and insights to the realities of selling to laymen from whom we get the briskest trade. On a cautionary note, I’m not sure whether this is tough love or spin on behalf of the broker end of the pot ! http://www.artbusiness.com/osord.html
Anyway, I’ve gone off track……I really like Sarah’s tips. Making note to myself to be more pithy and clear about how I go about my daily round. I really enjoyed your notes on theory too – love the analogy with play rather than rule.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Just for Artists

Join thousands of artists who
subscribe to The Artists Newsletter.

Send me Free Art & Money Guide

Just wanted to say what a fantastic support/info system you run. I've just read the newsletter regarding image copyright law and it's very informative... thanks!"

- Michele Wallington