Layaway Days: Art collecting on a Budget
I first contacted Mark Thompson approximately three years ago, after his work was featured on the ‘Artist a Day’ website. His black and white paintings depicted a noir, Victorian/Gothic architectural style, which I was drawn to. I immediately reached out and contacted him about a possible purchase. When I contacted Mark I told him my budget and asked if anything was for sale, in my price range. He got back to me and was willing to produce a smaller piece, at my price point. Not all artists will do this for collectors. Some artists that you reach out to may never respond or may say ‘no’. As a collector, that happens and it’s okay that it does.
Mark Thompson is a classically trained, award-winning, British artist. He is a talented painter and photographer and if you follow him on Instagram, you may see the adventures of his dog Benjamin. Mark, his wife, and Benjamin, currently reside in Sweden. Mark is one of my favorite artists and I’m happy to call him a friend.
This interview spawned an idea for a future post. Mark makes a good point, when he stated that affordable art is a relative term. I think it’s important to discuss this issue, but will do so next week. Until then, enjoy my interview with Mark Thompson.
LD: Have you found social media has introduced new collectors to your work and art collecting in general?
MT: At this stage it’s almost impossible to say… I make a comparatively small amount of work, concentrating on unique pieces rather than editions, so there isn’t a great deal available at any one time to be spread around via the various platforms. That said, social media, being a relatively new phenomena can be a bit of an untamed beast. The randomness with which one particular image can spread far and wide, yet the next remain unseen, is almost impossible to create a strategy for. The usefulness of each social media platform has also changed for me. Facebook and Tumblr were the main stay for some time, but I’m now more often approached via Instagram. I do still find however that even if collectors come into contact with my work via social media, they still either purchase through a gallery, be it online or physical, or come at me through my website. I suspect it somewhat depends on the kind of work being made and its accessibility to a wide audience.
LD: Do you have any advice for new art collectors or individuals who are contemplating entering the hobby?
MT: Probably the most useful bit of advice I can offer is to collect with your eyes rather than your ears. The hype and excitement that is always present in the marketing of the art world, can be a bit of a smoke screen. So much gets lost or slips under the radar. It’s also worth thinking about what you’re aiming to gain through creating a collection; are you decorating a space, acquiring with an eye to the future, etc. With so many online showcases for art, one can get over-saturated by images very quickly, so take your time to consider a work
LD: Why is it important to make your art affordable to individuals from all backgrounds?
MT: Making ones work affordable to everyone from all backgrounds can be a bit of a thorny issue for artists. As an artist progresses in their career, the time to make work / reasonably value that work / have it seen by the widest number of people ratio, needs to be re-examined on a fairly regular basis. Making work that is classified as ‘affordable’ is also such a relative term - affordable to whom? Can an artist make work inexpensive enough for all and yet be able to maintain a life as an artist? It’s something we all struggle with - it’s a frustrating moment after all when one is struggling to pay one’s studio rent and a collector is angling for an ever cheaper price. Ultimately it’s down to respect. The collector and artist need to respect each other, the work, and it’s long term future enough to be fair with each other.
LD: Has moving to Sweden from the UK, influenced your work?
MT: Moving to Sweden had a huge impact on my work, but in unexpected ways. I assumed that being in amongst the 18th and 19th century architecture of Gothenburg would simply solidify my practice, furthering my interest in exploring urban memory. This proved to be both right and wrong at the same time. Initially what happened was a rekindling of my connection to landscape, but that was quickly accompanied by the decision to move inside the buildings I’d previously approached from the outside. Exteriors became interiors, and the challenges of painting deepened. Another major change was in the materials I chose. After some twenty-five years of working on canvas, I began working on gessoed wood panels. The surfaces possible on such a rigid structure felt more suitable to the changing subject matter.
LD: What can we expect from Mark Thompson, in the future?
MT: The next couple of years are booked up with exhibitions, one of which is in London. It’s a space that held my first solo show out of college, so returning to it twenty years later may well give me an opportunity to reflect on my evolution over that time. I feel like I’ve just started with these interior paintings, so I’m keen to explore this onwards direction; make them larger and more enveloping, give the paint more work to do… That’s the joy of looking forward - I’m excited to see which way it will go without having the burden of specific expectations. I do love to keep busy though, so no doubt I’ll be pushing in all directions at once.