This painting is about my personal truth.
A truth, for me, that is based in science. It follows an evolutionary journey that enables us to precisely define who we are as human beings.
Our biology; our history; even our morality.
Inevitably, I believe the light that shines from scientific awareness leads us to question the fundamentals of the world’s religions, basic untruths that seek to avert our eyes from the truth.
The major theme of the painting is evolutionary tree of life.
‘The Truth’ honors the legacy of many great men such as Eratosthenes, Charles Darwin, Leonardo Da Vinci, Edwin Hubble, Isaac Newton, Leonardo Fibonacci, Kenneth Miller, Frank Drake and Stephen Hawking.
‘The Truth’ dissects the origins of the world’s foremost religions by interpreting ancient astrological traditions passed down from Egyptians pharaohs.
It examines the transitional evidence of fossils and sedimentary layers.
It respects the clarity provided by genomes and mitochondrial DNA.
It embraces the Hubble space telescope for the light that it shines on distant galaxies.
Let us talk for a moment about ancient Egyptian traditions and astrology.
Historians refer to the Egyptians “Book of the Dead” with origins that go back some 1800 years before Christ, as being the precursor of the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments.
Purportedly, Moses, (a prophet of God in Judaism, Islam and Christianity) received the Ten Commandments from God on Mt Sinai, centuries after the writings in the “Book of the Dead”.
Yet, these Ten Commandments bear an uncanny resemblance, in their phrasing and nature, to twelve specific behaviours, ancient Egyptians were required to deny before proceeding through the underworld.
In ancient Egyptian times, agriculture was governed by the role of the sun.
The Winter Solstice, December 21, was the day when the Sun was the lowest in the southern sky. It remained motionless in the sky for 3 days.
It rose again and headed back along the horizon on the 25th of December. Gods SUN had risen and was reborn. At this point the ancients considered that the sun had actually died. In fact, the great orb would remain standing still for three days neither moving north or south. Then, it was noticed, that on the third day, the sun would begin moving northward again. So it was, “the resurrection” after three days of death, was the sign (from the sun) that people could plant their fields again.
December 25th was subsequently the date chosen as the traditional date for followers of many different religions to celebrate the “rebirth” of the sun. Numerous pre-Christian religions honored their gods’ birth or rebirth on or about that day. Today it is the date Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Much of Christian symbolism was derived from astrological beliefs that stem back to Egyptology. What’s the insignia for Christ?’ It’s Pisces the fish, symbolic of the fact that Christ was purportedly born into the astrological period of Pisces.
When Moses came down from Mt. Sion (meaning Sun Mountain) and he saw the people worshipping the “Golden Calf”, he got mad at them. All of this was metaphorical as, during that time, the period of Taurus (the golden calf) was waning and Aries was rising during the vernal equinox.
Astrology also explains why the Jews blew the rams horn after they received the Ten Commandments because it was the dawning of the new astrological period wherein the ram symbolised the sign of Aries.
There is ample evidence that Islam incorporated syncretically from other religions, particularly Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. Christianity appears to have emerged from Christian/pagan syncretism with many Jewish and Greek symbols and traditions re-incorporated into a Christian context. Even Judaism can be seen to have arisen out of the pre-existing monotheism that was briefly imposed upon Egypt.
Yet even in ancient times men of science did exist. 350 years before Christ was born, Eratosthenes, an astronomer, geographer, philosopher and mathematician, came to the realization that the Earth was round.
His scientific experiment began with a man pacing the actual walk from Syene (where at noon on June 21 vertical sticks cast no shadows) to Alexandria. The distance was 800 kilometers. He then positioned a rod in each place and he found that the two rods at the same period of time in each different place caste different angle shadows. He reasoned the suns rays are parallel when they reach earth but the greater the curvature of earth, the greater the difference in shadow lengths. From those different angles he determined the distance between Alexandria and Syene had to be 7 degrees along the surface of the earth, approximately one fiftieth of three and an sixty degrees. He multiplied the 800 kilometers by 50 and reasoned that the circumference of the earth must be 40,000 kilometers around the planet. That is the exact distance around the Earth.
Yet centuries later, there was still religious dogma in Europe during the Medieval Ages that maintained the earth was flat and it worked to stifle scientific process and undermine the search for truth.
There are other scientific truths that have their origins in early civilizations.
The Golden Mean (or ratio) is an irrational mathematical constant, approximately 1.6180339887 that has been adopted by many artists and architects in the proportions of their works and studied by many mathematicians for its unique and widespread properties. This is a universal number, which many believe is a design basic of Egyptian Pyramids and attributable to the dimensions of the Greek Parthenon. It is also a universal number, which has been shown to be applicable to all living creatures, plants, animals and birds…even whales and humans.
In the 12th century Leonardo Fibonacci was a sophisticated mathematician famous for applying practical mathematics to challenges. It led him to develop the famous Fibonacci sequence in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. This sequence has proved extremely fruitful and appears in many different areas of mathematics and science.
Ironically, the mathematics of the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci sequence are intimately interconnected. However, Fibonacci’s work in number theory was almost wholly ignored and virtually unknown during the reign of the Church in the Middle Ages.
I want to talk about my beginnings. It is true that I attended a Catholic Boys school, but my questions, which would eventually lead to my atheism, began as early as the age of ten.
When I was confronted with the Bible’s rendition of the great flood, and the story that water covered the world, I simply could not accept that this was the case when Mt. Everest stood at 29,028’ Ft. high.
Later, my studies revealed that 300 million years of sedimentary layers in the Grand Canyon highlighted layer after layer of a vast evolutionary process. The transitional fossil record proved that living creatures developed over time. It was inconceivable that God created the fish and the birds and the trees on separate days.
Personally, I think that Charles Darwin is probably the most influential human being that has ever existed because he told us our place within the universe and this planet and that we do not need a God in any sense to be who we are.
We have come along way since the Origin of the Species in 1859. If he were alive today Darwin would be astonished.
Palaeontologists have uncovered evidence in the Arctic of the Tiktaalik, which takes us back some 370 million years. The fossilised proof of an intermediary form between fish and amphibians. The “fins” have basic wrist bones and simple fingers, which were, actually weight bearing and enabled the species to adapt and develop out of the oxygen poor shallow water habitats of its time. They have also proved Darwin’s theory that whales, fish like on the outside, were actually mammals. Today we have the fossils of whales with legs.
Moreover, we now have DNA sequencing technology. We recognize 3 billion base pairs of the human genome. Even more interesting to scientists studying evolution is the variation in the human mitochondrial genome, which has led to the postulation of a recent common ancestor for all humans on the maternal line of descent.
When I look to the heavens it is not God I am thankful for but Edwin Hubble, and others like him, who brought us the advent of modern cosmology and the means to visually access 150 billion galaxies and the 400 billion stars that exist in our galaxy alone.
I believe we are rapidly reaching the point in our evolution of consciousness where we need to become more aware and more accountable. It is no longer appropriate to say I believe because I have read the truth in a holy book. We need to see the truth, through the evidence.
The truth is that our morality as a species is innate in us. It was not handed down to us in tablets on Mt Sinai. We have learnt over hundreds of thousands of years to assist each other on an evolutionary scale to survive in a very hostile primordial existence.
The truths of evolution, along with many other scientific truths, are so engrossingly fascinating and beautiful.
The time has come to recognize this truth and to unite as one.
It is becomingly increasingly clear that the world’s biodiversity is imperilled on a scale unmatched for millions of years. As forests are cleared, oceans acidified, diseases spread, and the atmosphere warmed, many species face serious threats to their survival.
Yet throughout the world today millions of young minds are being poisoned against a scientific education. In many instances 50% of the population, the female percentage, are being denied any education at all. Did Eve really have us thrown out of the garden?
While we continue to teach that unquestioning faith is virtuous we ignore the vital scientific questions related to widespread extinctions and the reorganisation of entire ecosystems.
The truth is, all species on earth today share the same lineage, we reside in the same garden.
The universe beckons. The truth is out there. Are we capable of uniting our collective conscience to embrace our dreams and hopes in science? Or are we doomed to divide down fundamentalist lines by tossing out evidence and reason?
This is probably one of the things that is most confusing for up-and-coming Artists, and even on occasions for those that have been in the industry for a while.
You have to be realistic in your approach to pricing work and take into account a number of factors that affect the end price of what you create.
You must also be able to assess your Art world qualifications, the time you have been in the business, and yes I do say business, as what Artists don’t understand is that the majority of people that invest or purchase your work are generally going to be left-brained people, the ones that went out and made business as part of the creed for life.
Do you think you are as good as Picasso or Dali and if so, do you think you are going to get prices in the millions? Not a chance, so be realistic with your pricing.
One of the things that prevent an Artist from looking at their work objectively is their ego. Some people in the Art world have got some ginormous egos.
I’m sure you have come across the precious ones at some stage in your wanderings through the Art world. I have met many of them and fortunately it enabled me to look at myself over time, and helped me realize that as much as people pat you on the back on occasions due to your ability, in the end, I am only as good as the next picture I paint. The publicity that comes from my life and my work all has to be put into perspective in the end.
These false expectations some Artists have can be extremely detrimental to their work in the end and regardless of any style of Art, none of us can stand and judge another’s work. This can alienate an Artist from the potential to learn and exchange ideas and also send those that would be interested in collecting your work rapidly in the opposite direction.
I think a great place to start is to look at the pricing of work in as many galleries as you can, ask the gallery owners why this particular Artist gets the prices they do, and for heaven’s sake, don’t tell them you are an Artist. You simply won’t get the time of day from them then, as they are acutely aware that the majority of Artists can’t afford most things on their walls. A little sneaky I know, but will serve you well in the end.
Many Artists make the mistake of equating dollar values with emotional and physiological factors, how you have poured your soul into a piece and how this painting will change the way the world sees itself.
Placing personal values on the price of a piece will by no means ever guarantee you will sell the piece and galleries and buyers will look at your pricing very critically in the end with the understanding that you do not have a realistic approach to your work in the commercial arena.
There will be some pieces that an Artist will feel particularly close to and if these pieces are priced too high in an exhibition it will make it difficult to sell other work around it. Leave them at home unless you are willing to judge the price of them the same as you would your other work.
Consistency in pricing is a cornerstone of successful selling.
There are a number of things that need to be factored in when coming to a realistic price of one’s work, not all are essential, but most will need to be considered when pricing your work.
Do you have a degree of some sort? This is always a tricky and sticky subject, not just to buyers but also for Artists, as many Artists do not have degrees behind their names. In saying that, you absolutely do not need a degree to become a successful Artist by any means. In fact most of the really talented and successful Artists in the world do not have any degrees what so ever. I know a number of them across the Planet. In saying this, education of any type is a wonderful gift you can bestow on yourself, so any chance you do get to learn make sure you soak it up as much as possible.
Old man time:
I have been painting for thirty years and I reckon I still have another few decades before my apprenticeship is over. I remember an Artist from the states that had been drawing like a 7-year-old child his whole career, 60 years. His work really does look like a kid did it, but the fact that he had been doing it for so long placed enormous value on his work. So whether you like it or not this is one of those careers that only a very few get noticed at a young age.
Awards and Prizes:
Always nice to know that after entering your work in a competition, that a complete stranger would come along and award you a first or second place. The Art world looks very kindly on people winning awards and I must admit, particularly in this country. It can enable you to fast track your career very quickly and put you in the public light to enable your prices to climb.
Not always essential, but something that will help your public persona.
A great source for information on Art exhibitions and prizes is the web site: www.art-prizes.com
A bit like a roller coaster, it just depends on which decade you are in sometimes, as it does seem to change in ten year or so cycles. You are obviously not going to sell a wildlife painting in a mostly contemporary Abstract gallery, so the availability of galleries that can display your work can be limited sometimes, this can also affect pricing as well.
Are you painting in watercolours, oils, acrylics, pastels, pencil, Graphite? All of these mediums are going to have varying prices associated with them.
Of course the oils, probably the highest, due to the longevity and lustre that Oils can have compared to the others. Also what is the piece painted or drawn on as well, you need to factor all of your costs into the final price and expensive materials will obviously demand a higher price for the work as well.
Not something that all Artists do, but when you do, make sure you do it properly. I have seen really good pieces that have had really bad frames around them and have still had unrealistic prices on them.
The presentation of your work is paramount if you expect to sell anything at all. If something looks like it is shoddy and cheap, then that’s exactly what the buyer is going to see as well.
This of course is a formula that I have developed over the years that I feel is a realistic way of looking at my pricing. If you use this you will come to a price that your feelings might not like but your bank account will in the end.
I sold a large piece “The Truth” about two years ago, it was 2m x 5.5 m in size; a big painting for any wall. It sold to a private collector for $65,000.00 a lot of money in any mans terms but one that I justified with some facts.
I have been doing this for thirty years. I think they get now that I’m really serious about this whole Art thing.
How long did it take me to create this piece? All up it was about four months from start to finish. I worked about 8 hours a day on it, about six days a week. Regardless of the emotional message in it, I cannot charge for that, the client mostly doesn’t care too much about that, but just justifying the price.
That came out to 768 hours from building and stretching the canvas to the final signature on the bottom. I have worked out a formula based on my age in the business, prizes won and costs of materials, paint, canvas, frames etc.
Realistically you have to look at this like any other business; you get paid for your work produced not because you are an Artist and consider yourself special. Of course we all know that you are, but to make a living out of this we will leave that out for the moment.
I feel that at my age now and the experience I have had with my career that my hourly value for my work is about $85 an hour.
Remembering that even this price may not be realistic when it comes to the gallery commission on top and for this piece I factored the cost of material into the final price
I think for the first 5 years of your career you should look at $30 an hour
5-10 years $45
10-15 years $55
15-20 years $65 to $70
20 years and up $85 to $100
So if you are in your first 5 years of your career and you have spent 10 hours on a piece of work $30 x 10 hours will give you $300 for time spent, Plus materials say $60 for canvas and paints and a $120 for frame gives you a total of $480.00
Now depending on the commission a gallery takes, let’s say 40%.
$480 divided by 6(60%) equals $80 x 4 for your 40% = $320.00
$480 + $320 = A Gallery price = $800
If your reputation of course begins to increase and you are winning major prizes in your career, say two or more in that 5-year span, and the same for each five years, then I would recommend a 10% increase on top of costs you may come up with. Adding 10% for each five years, 10-15, 20% etc.
Some people say that a 10 to 25% increase each year is something that you would look at, but realistically if you were to do this by the time you got to my age now and after thirty years, your prices would be astronomical.
10% per annum I think is a realistic percentage to aim at.
If you Ad all of those together over time you will come to some prices that should enable you to price your work correctly.
Remember you can always put them up slightly, but it is very difficult to justify dropping your prices to clients that have bought your work in the past when times get tough, slow and steady will keep you in the race and keep you happily painting as well.
Lifted to the Sky
Art by Graeme Stevenson (Axium Art)
Riding the Waves
End of Day
This week’s Colour In Your Life featured artist is Barry Mason.
Barry developed an interest in art in his early school days in Orange, but it wasn’t until he moved to sydney at 16 years of age that art became a career path. Commercial Art and Design took him into areas of promotion, poster design, packaging design, cartooning and a close association with advertising and marketing.
Art: Night & Day - Barry Mason