We’re all dead in the water! Galleries are closing, art shows are cancelled and by most measures the art business is dead.
Those were the sentiments the day COVID-19 triggered world wide shut down and closures. I felt it like any other artist, after all, showing art in person is how art moves from artist to client, that tactile experience that assures and coddles art lovers into making the purchase.
If we zip backwards in time a few years I can recall when the whole concept of selling art online was more obscure than selling almost anything else online. It was a bizarre concept that any art lover would laugh at. Imagine spending any money at all on a purchase that you cannot see and even feel before you buy? So true was that feeling in the art world because art always has been a very tactile personal experience sort of thing.
The world has changed in many previously unthinkable ways, not the least of which has been the world of art. I like to compare it to how you used to buy your coffee and donuts every morning. You pulled off the road, parked your car and went into your fav spot where you looked over the fresh baked goods, smelled the aroma of the fresh coffee. The whole stop took ten minutes and you were off to work. Now you zip through a drive thru and order from a lit sign! No aroma!
Where buying coffee in the morning is much like art, these days we have become so accustomed to the tech way that we don’t even think about it. That familiarity and comfort made us totally at home with a very un-tactile purchase flow.
Shoot ahead now to COVID-19 and the massive closures. I noted right out of the gate that the businesses who stood to survive most were the ones who had adapted to the drive thru method and conditioned their client base to that total trust experience. Thanks to them I also noted that art sales seem not to stop with gallery and show closures, rather, it accelerated! Art buyers were already completely at home with the trust based purchase experience and they stepped up to the plate on mass.
Welcome to the modern age. Art via courier service, the new normal.
The last refuge
I’m overtaken by two emotions when I’m in the midst of the great north.
The first is the awe that all of us experience, the greatness of this land that we are so blessed to live on. In Canada there is no city so large that a quick escape north cannot be fulfilled in less than one hours drive. Blessed we are when we can head off in almost any direction, east, west and north and we are free. Free of noise, free of traffic, in fact, even the frequency of neighbors in many places is farther than you can throw a stone or even a short walk. If you drive two hours things improve even more but if you venture beyond three hours drive, you can be truly remotely alone, if you so chose.
The second emotion that gnaws at my very soul is the forfeiting of that precious land in favor of housing developments. The shorelines being bought up by cottagers with no spaces left for general access to the water, inch by inch, property by property is disappearing into private hands
I think of the local politicians whose job it is to oversee the planning and distribution of the lands, motivated by the ever increasingly insatiable demand for tax revenue brought by expansive property development with no regard whatsoever for the preservation of the land and the access that should be partitioned and reserved for the general public.
My heart cries for my children and the next generation who will not enjoy what I enjoy. My heart cries for those who will not experience the great fresh breathtaking beauty of the lakes without the interruption of docks and motorboats. It’s not the owners faults, they only purchase what is made available. The responsibility lies with those whose job it is to plan and allocate.
My heart cries.
While my heart cries, my brush paints. In my own small way I am able to take back the land. In my own small way I am able to remove the structures, the roads, and silence the speedboats and jet skis.
In my own small way I am able to return it to its original beauty and that small way becomes more and more precious with every passing day.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. That awful Monday when they showed up. Those people in black suites, hair made perfect, shoes particularly shiny and not a stitch out of place. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives, you only need to be over the age of thirty, and that milestone is a mere dot in my rear view mirror now, to have known the day when all your fears are realized in that one sentence they speak. All of your associates gathered around the bosses office and the words, those proverbial words that all sound scripted right out of the Human Resources Handbook:
“We want you all to know what a valuable asset you each have been to this organization over the many years…”
In the seconds that followed you could hear it beginning, grown men and women realizing they were loosing their jobs. In that office most were forty somethings but many were in their fifties. Preparing for retirement but not quite ready. There were single mothers, grand fathers, grandmothers looking after grandchildren, many career back office banking officers whose intentions were to work till 65 and then retire. But such was no longer their future. Not only theirs, but mine.
I was one of them, 12 years with the big bank on Bay St. The life, the hustle and bustle of life in the community, it really was an electric place to work.
Let’s back up a bit, lets recap just a wee little bit. You have to know that even though I was a banker, and before that in Retail management, the thread that ruled my heart was art. I went home every night and loved my family over dinner and dishes afterwards and then made my way to my studio where I painted almost every night. Though I never forgave myself for all the time I spent away from them, precious time that can never be regained, I have many times been assured by my now grown children that they understood, everyone turned out just great, thank you very much.
The undercurrent was always my art and doing a better painting today then the one I did yesterday. When the internet came along, and that was a story all by itself, it just became the driver to paint more and share more.
I still recall how in the months that led up to that fateful Monday at the bank, tensions between my career at the bank and my busier and busier art aspirations were coming to ahead. Something had to give, but what? Would I leave a secure job, with three kids, mortgage, two cars in the driveway (no white picket fence but close enough). I prayed sincerely one night, Dear God, if I am to leave the bank it will have to be by your hand. It will have to be in a way that I did not bring about myself, and that I had no choice in the matter.
Zip forward now, remember those HR people in black suites? Did I mention the big stack of white envelopes they had in hand? As I stood there hearing those words that when paraphrased meant only one thing: Your job with the bank is toast! I heard grown women and men sobbing. I even saw one older man holding the arm of the HR officer begging for his job back. In those dark seconds, actually literally around the twenty first or twenty second second it hit me…I was now a full time artist! Shock gave way to joy, fear gave way to assurance, it happened in just a way that I had no choice whatsoever. Immediately I went from stunned to comforter. I began reaching out to associates and hugging, holding, supporting them as they processed the news.
The next chapter of this story we’ll leave for the book, working on that, but I want to say it has been 11 years now since that fateful day. While there have been low moments, I can say truly say I have no regrets. In fact, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I thank God every day for being my provider, my sustenance and strength. This writing today comes from a place when I realize many are facing uncertain futures as a result of COVID-19 directives and workplace closures. I encourage you to be brave, look inside yourselves for the thing that drives you. Seek your own passions and drill down deep to make them your new life. Here is my best advice for you who wonder about all the competition and the many obstacles in your way:
Your best work is what rises to the top, always pursue a better result then the one you achieved yesterday.
Trust God, seek him, he will provide for you.
Canadian Landscape Artist, writer, art publisher, founder of www.robertmcaffee.com, Canada on Canvas, Sell Your Art, Ontario landscape art for sale and other social media art groups.
Comments and questions encouraged.
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To say that 2020 was quite a year would be quite the understatement, for this artist it came with some completely surprising changes to the business of art.
For the last eleven years entire concept of ordering anything online has been a concept that was embraced tentatively, but as anyone working at Amazon can tell you, things advanced very nicely. Today you can purchase anything online and companies have made great strides implementing policies and methods that assure safe and secure delivery of your anticipated new thing. Art has been no exception.
With changes happening at lightening pace, a test of trust would be put to the ultimate test, COVID-19. Suddenly while stores and businesses in general were forced to close, the online world became the only way to get what you wanted and shopping online exploded.
I recall when the first lockdown went into place, all of my 2020 art shows, art festivals, gallery shows, and art workshops came to a screeching halt! I was pretty sure it was over for at least the year. Then, as if almost overnight my inbox activity began to increase, requests for my paintings shifted from the real world to the cyber world. Fortunately I was ready. www.robertmcaffee.com was well populated with a great selection of original art in all sizes and Canada wide landscapes.
These changes forced the metamorphous of how I do what I do on all online platforms both on social media and on the website. Simplification became the word of the day and robertmcaffee.com became that more and more every day as paintings of all sizes sold off. To assist the visitor I have opted to remove all of the sold content and move them to the Sold Pages, anyone can browse for pleasure if they wish, however for those who are seeking purchases of my available work, the available pages have become much simpler and easy to navigate, and collectors have been taking advantage of it enthusiastically!
As always, at this time of year I am deeply thankful and appreciative of the wonderful support that comes from the many who add my art to their collections almost daily throughout the year. Regardless of the ravages of the pandemic, I am grateful and thankful to no end for the many ways Robert McAffee Art continues to thrive and go out into all corners of the earth, even without the assistance of art shows, art galleries, art agents, the traditional art avenues. It’s been an amazing time and I thank God from the bottom of my heart, and every purchaser who sought out my work even with the limits of the online process.
As I continue to devote myself to daily travel, sketching and painting, I am thrilled to present you with my very best work. I invite you to take a few minutes and tour www.robertmcAffee.com. I invite your suggestions and comments anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was in my early twenties when I began working at the largest Canadian photo retailer, Blacks Photo Corp. Over 500 stores across Canada and beginning ventures into the United States. We were on the cutting edge of photographic services and the delivery of the retail experience. Our Stores were the most modern with complete corporate makeovers every five years. While pay was bottom of the economy, Black Photo was a fun place to work. Much of my current practices in marketing my art came from those fourteen years with the corporation. One of the most crucial benefits I gained from those years was not what was done right but what was done wrong, or shall we say, poo poo'd by the industry in general.
It was a beautiful sunny day when the monthly visit from the Nikon representatives arrived with the usual bag of goodies. New products and incentives for which we all eagerly awaited ever single time. This time there was something totally different in the bag, something none of us could ever have foreseen. A new little pocket sized camera that had no film! In fact all it had was a little plastic card that slipped into the side and then out when the digital images were to be viewed on a desktop computer. I won't bore you with the fact that very few people actually had desktop computers in those days but that was also a point to consider, the world was changing right before our very eyes.
I will never forget the looks on all of us salesman and saleswomen faces as we watch this demonstration, we all laughed it off as completely silly. Who would give up their precious Kodachrome film for grainy digital images? We had no foresight whatsoever on that day. The rest, as they say, is history. Little did we realize that we too were history, or about to be.
That experience laid deep in my soul as the years past and I saw how one major misstep can lead to any companies demise. So also for your common variety of artists.
For quite some time leading up to this 2020 year we have seen the creeping, the sneaking up on us of a new way to sell art. We all see it, but only a few are really embracing it fully. Perhaps we are afraid of it or perhaps we are just poo pooing it like many did the digital entry of photography. The fact remains that buying art online is here and it is here to stay.
When I began posting my work on various social media pages back in 2009 the whole idea of buying art online was pretty foreign. Having said that many had already begun to order things like new socks and computer supplies online, but the notion of buying real original art was over the top for most people. It was a real challenge to make clients comfortable with the concept.
That was then, this is now.
Today you can even buy a car online and have it shipped to you. Crazy as it may seem, due to COVID-19 many, to my shock and amazement, have even bought homes with nothing more than a virtual tour before making an offer! I can't fathom doing that but it's a reality today. This brings me to the point: As an artist today it is imperative that we absorb as much as we can in adapting to the modern ways of marketing and selling our art.
A recent article published by CTV News has this headline: "As 2020 retail Closures Accumulate many more expected". https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/as-2020-retail-closures-accumulate-thousands-more-expected-1.4983695 I strongly suggest that any self respecting artist, or business owner would do well to read this article and consider the future as to not do so will be a fatal mistake. I concur completely with Solarina Ho, the author, Businesses like Starbucks and many others have fully begun to embrace the concept of remote purchases. The drive through experience has moved from convenience to full on necessity. The shopping malls and retail street plaza, big box stores are set to become drastically changed going forward as many have been forced to shop online. That has radically changed the landscape of retail operations forever. While some stores will survive it is a known fact that many are seriously questioning their massive leases for their massive square footage locations. Such leases are driving many into chapter eleven restructuring and some into all out bankruptcy.
Did we see it coming? Yes, but did we move fast enough to take advantage of it? I thank God every day for those years I had many moons ago in retailing. That low paying job paid dividends over the course of my lifetime for which www.robertmcaffee.com is fully positioned to and does take advantage of.
Artist, publisher of www.robertmcaffee.com, The Robert Show on Facebook Live, occasional writer/blogger on all things art.
email@example.com to contact.
At the shore, Pine Island 48" x 48" oil on canvas First new large canvas of 2020
Never before has the air we breathe been so precious, the space we use so cherished!
In March we artists were hit with the same news everyone else heard, COVID-19 was on the move and businesses are shutting down. No one could argue the reasons, we all want to be safe, and so we hunkered down into our homes and studios.
For most artists such a practice is normal, being alone is something we seek and have a hard time keeping. Always having interruptions is the plight of the artist space. But today it is different, very different. We are not only allowed to be alone, but are instructed to be alone and stay alone. Who ever would have thought it could be true?
Lest I mislead the reader into believing this is all a joke, no, certainly it is a deadly time unlike any we have ever seen in this generation. The reakity of it for artists is that not only are we alone, but like many businesses today, we face the screeching halt of the business we are in, the art business. April is normally the kick off of the art season. Art shows, workshops and galleries have been gearing up for months for this season. Paintings are dry and ready to show. Then, suddenly…full stop!
May I take this moment to say to you, the reader, I know that many of you are stressed during this time, and rightly so. Income stops, bill payments stop, rent payments stop, gas in the car stops, etc, etc. The longer this crisis goes on the more grim things look. For many of you the idea of purchasing art is understandably impossible. There are those, though, who have the wherewithal to reach out to your favorite artist, review their inventory on websites, social media pages, and step up and contact the artist whose work you love and make purchases. I for one continue to sell and I offer every client who asks the opportunity to keep their purchase bubble wrapped and secure until it is finally safe to deliver or ship. In this way you help the artist to continue to do what they do every day, to produce the art that you love so much and enjoy owning.
During COVID-19 cautionary measures let’s all do our small part to help those in need, lets not do it as a donation, lets do it to acquire and also to help the survival of those artists we love.
For those who have continued to step up and make purchases of my art I thank you from the bottom of my grateful heart. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
Let’s do this together, let’s make it through to the far shore. We will be fine in the end.
Artist, publisher of robertmcaffee.com
Publisher of Sell Your Art on Facebook
Artist for the Algonquin Art Centre.
They twist, they sway, they endure it all. The wind, the rain, the ice, the snow, the waves, you name it, they survive. They do it on the smallest scrawniest roots imaginable, holding on for hundreds of years. There's a story in them, it's about perseverance and making it through rough times. As long as your roots are in tact, you can make it. That's the story behind Robert McAffee Twisty Pines, very much a testament to my very own life.
At Massissauga, Georgian Bay
12" x 36" oil on cradled birch.
Heinzman House 135 Bay Thorn Dr. Thornhill
The Artists Journey
This is my blog page and it is where I get to be the opinionated man that I really am. The views are my own.
I invite your replies and comments, on my virtual welcome mat.
This sketch above became this finished painting below
The Pine Tree Painter.
How did I become known as the Pine Tree Painter? You could say I paint a lot of Pine Trees, that would be true. I paint a lot of other things too, but Pine Trees, Spruce Trees, Birch and others seem to be a continuous string in what i do. I just like the way they stand there like a custodian of the land. or a greeter to nature. So, I continue down the path with the Pine Tree Painter name on my head, It's ok.