Category Archives: Art

Magazines – a love story

I am a magazine subscriber.  I look forward to the magazines dropping through my letterbox on a monthly basis.  I notice when they do not arrive, I fret when they are late, and in one case, where the publication is intermittent I check back for updates.


This may appear a little old-fashioned, but to me it makes perfect sense, the tactile nature of a magazine in print makes it more than mere content.  Being a Digital Marketer these days I read the online versions and I use Flipboard and other apps to feed me news, but in some cases a physical magazine is just what is needed.  I Have an emotional engagement that is not just about content with magazines.

A question you may have in your minds is: why on earth is Paul rattling on about magazines?

A fair point.  I recently gave some of my collection away;  As regular readers of my blog will know I have many passions in my life, my family, Rugby League (my beloved Workington Town RLFC) and art.  Art has been a long-time passion and interest, I love learning about art just as much as I do looking at it.

Splitting time between my two homes meant it was sensible to rationalise my collection.  I gave away my Tate, Contemporary, and Modern Painters magazines, carefully curated over the last 15 years.

This was a positive decision I donated them to my local college, South Staffs College in Lichfield, as a resource for their Arts Students and they were very grateful – I hope the students have found them helpful.

I have hung on to my Art Review magazine collection though, its was too much to give that away – it’s nearly 20 years of my life !

So when my latest issue of Tate magazine arrived at the weekend I rediscovered the joy of receiving a new magazine, topical, beautifully printed as all art magazines are … it reminded me of the power of print.  My kindle and iPad are awesome tools, but a mug of coffee and  magazine with soothing jazz on in the background really eases away the stress and strains of a busy day.

I think I need to remember this in my day job, we are about to embark upon an intense period of press advertising, largely in magazines, so the care and craft we need to put into these ads should reflect how people feel about a magazine that occupies a place in their home.

I think that is a crucial point, a magazine lives in many rooms, its eminently transportable and Magazine publishers who are successful do, I believe, recognise that privileged position.  Thinking about what I have written rationally for a moment, I have allowed those magazines to live on in my home, and so the advertising within them, for many years… now that is some decay curve !

I might be a modern Digital Marketer, I might take my kindle on holidays instead of a book, but I will continue to subscribe to magazines !  It is interesting that magazine circulation stats are now amalgamated; Digital and Print.  I hope that means that print’s stock rises again, it has never waned for me.

I currently subscribe to:
Art Review
Tate Etc
Ammo ( – that’s illustration not guns!!)
Marketing Week

I Buy:
Amateur Photographer
Print Isn’t Dead
Rugby League Express

07 June 2015


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Biz Stone says creativity is a renewable resource

Biz Stone the co-founder of Twitter spoke last thursday at the LSE.

I was fortunate enough to attend with two colleagues. Carl and Holly agree this was joyous, inspiring two-hour master class in storytelling with relevance beyond just Twitter.

The story of Biz’s creative approach to business is truly inspiring. He is both a very nice guy and acutely self-aware; a rare and powerful combination. I picked up a copy of his new book “Things a little bird told me” on the day and I’m looking forward to reading it immensely. I just need to finish a book on Social media and customer service first!


There were many memorable soundbites from Biz, but the one I liked best is “Creativity is a renewable resource”.

I strongly agree with this sentiment.

In my day job creativity is crucial , we are trying to do things differently, to change the paradigm for the good of our members and our business, so I have to apply my creativity in no small order.

I have always viewed my creative thoughts as in need of a boost every now and again. My two tips for anyone in the same position are :

  1. know yourself and, or,
  2. find something completely inspirational that works for you, that inspires you to greatness.

I know myself well enough these days, at my age, I should, and I know that I am more creative early on in the day.  I am an early starter and work late, so I try to assess creative briefs and treatments first thing in the morning, when I am free of interruptions and can stick my iPod on and listen to some soothing Jazz while I think and develop my ideas. With a big mug of builders tea I might add!!

That is not always possible though, so over the years I have made a point of letting my team know when I like to do this work, the current team, like my old teams have soon got into the habit of leaving me hard copies to review in the morning … the joy of being a reflector I guess. The key to success here is agreeing with the team timelines that work for everyone.

So what have I done about external inspiration?

Firstly I try to get out of the office, it’s too easy to sit inside with a sandwich and brood – the result for me is diminished focus on creativity and increased focus on email – not the desired outcome.

So what do I do when I go out? Well these are my tips, a city guide if you like that works for me, with a little about why…

I was fortunate to work on the Headrow initially and then Lovell Park Road … a short step to the Henry Moore Institute or City Art Gallery from The Headrow – I love the sculptures: the hard work aligned to pure creativity always inspires. Lovell Park Road was equally easy … a wander to the end of the car park to look at the concrete (no laughing, you all know me by now and you do know that  I like a bit of concrete) in this instance its the form … the regular patterns in the underpass on the ring road, the scale and importance the solidity has. Well it works for me !!


Two or three sources of inspiration in this old industrial town. The architecture in Calderdale is wicked, really underrated and looking up, above the tatty modern shop fronts, will give you a turn of the century treat. The fabulous little Dean Clough Mill art gallery … a maze of corridors and little rooms on different floors that force you to turn your mind to what you are looking at, you get lost in the art. My favourite place though is the Piece Hall, it reeks of Industry and socialist aspirations. If a Brass Band is playing even better : the full Brassed Off experience is much underrated. Brassed off remains one of my favourite films by the way.

Harveys of Halifax your_pics_halifax_piece_hall_mike_glover_02_400x296

No contest – a trip to the sea front, and a look down at the road. Ok, that’s odd I know, but the Isle of Man was an Intern Camp for non-British Nationals during WWII and outside of the Sefton Hotel you can still see the remaining holes where the wooden fence posts were rammed into the ground. That just puts everything into context, the creativity exhibited by those interned was wonderful and is always an inspiration, mind the horse-drawn trams though, the stopping distance is not as controlled as a car!

Not my favourite city, I will admit, but two things always inspired me – the CIS tower on Miller street where I worked – a wonderful, great big modernist box of a building. But if regularity didn’t work I went to the Chinese Art Centre in the Northern Quarter. Green tea and some truly challenging art. The people were amongst the loveliest gallery staff I have ever met too.

CIS tower showing plinth

The Victorian Palm House at the Royal Botanical gardens – a real hidden treasure. An art gallery in the gardens, a park opposite with some excellent street art on the buildings and two Rugby Clubs within a mile – who wouldn’t be inspired


A shot hop from where I worked was the Glasgow School of Art – the whole building was just so beautiful, I hope the recent fire has not damaged it too much. Below that was the Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA). A great place to eat, drink and check out some challenging modern art. The show Angel Camp: First Songs by Emanuelle Antille (Aug 2004) remains my favourite art show ever.


It has to be the cathedral in the town where I currently work … A huge Gothic 3 spired masterpiece – I love walking around it.

These are not all the places I have worked, who knows if you ask I may share even more, but these are my personal places of inspiration, I know you will have your own, if you can, add a comment or two on what inspires your creative mind.


23 June 2014

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Rain, art, customer service, a new camera and a bit of exploring

It was a rainy Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago.  I was in my two bed flat, with off-road parking which is walking distance to my work (please check my post on that experience !) thinking what to do.

I had finished all my chores about the place and was on my own for a change, it was a chance to explore, try new things, go on an adventure !

Well, not quite, I decided to go and explore a new, to me at least art gallery, in Walsall – which frankly is pretty predictable, art is one of my passions and so it’s nice to post about that rather than marketing for a change. I admit at this point that whilst I think I ‘live on the edge’ it may be that the edge is quite broad !

I was really surprised how close it was to Lichfield and by the time I arrived it had even stopped raining.  So far so good … I was exploring new territories, Livingstone like (ok humour me), I have only ever been to Walsall once before to watch Derby County (the finest team in European Football) play a second leg, away, Freight Rover trophy match in the depths of a very snowy winter some number of years ago, so this was indeed an adventure… albeit guided by Sat Nav, and a map, and a smartphone … risk averse you might say!

The New Art Gallery Walsall is lovely, just at the end of the canal and the shopping centre… quite a modernist surprise.


I was especially keen to see the current Richard Long Prints exhibition.  I have been an admirer of his gentle, landscape based art for some time, I find it very peaceful and calming.  It combines the landscape, words, photography and interventions quite exquisitely.

His website is a wonderfully still place that I visit quite often … check it out here.

The current print exhibition is lovely with some older prints I had not seen before and a wonderful, full wall, in situ original piece that I loved;


I took a sneaky snap – I hope Richard does not mind – I only took one and only for this blog post.

The exhibition was wonderful and I will post more about the permanent collection when I explore it in more detail over time.

The absolute delight of the exhibition was however almost bettered by the customer service I received, the front of house team were a delight, universally, and I spoke to three or four people about art, the rain and working in the gallery.  One interesting connection was that everyone I spoke to loved the textural changes in the building, rich hard wooden floors, smooth painted concrete and then beautiful exposed concrete beams and floors showing the ribs and bones of the building.  I find art gallery staff generally pleasant, but some are overly vociferous, some have their heads in books, but at this gallery they were as keen to chat about art as I was. I really enjoyed their company.


After a coffee I set out to explore, armed with my new camera (a Fuji film x100s) – I treated myself a few weeks ago … It reminds me of an old rangefinder in many ways and I clearly need to practice more to get the best out of it.  I will keep today’s efforts between me and Photoshop I think, but I really enjoyed playing.  The enclosed are snaps from my iPhone, tweaked in Snapseed – I loved the graffiti around the gallery, an art form I often come back to.

BmO82oTIUAAhy16.jpg-large 10258622_10152802079259552_9038780225272857987_n 10154020_10152802079179552_8499999256169907208_n

All in all I would recommend a visit to the gallery, and please say hello to the team, you will be rewarded with a pleasant conversation and a real enthusiasm for art.  Take your camera with you too, and hope for a day with better weather than when I went !

12 May 2014

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Double the fun at the DMA

Which is your DMA?

In work mine is the Direct Marketing Association in the UK.

But my passion is art, so to me it’s also the Dallas Museum of Art, ok, I live near Norwich so it’s an academic interest!


The connection goes beyond the initials DMA though. I’m a marketer, you know that, you know I love, and live, data in my day job – especially if you are a regular reader of my blog.

I sit on the Data Governance board in the company where I work.

The last business book I read was “In data we trust” by Bjorn Blöching. A good read I might add.

You get the picture …

I think the DIrect Marketing Association do a great job in the UK in promoting the positive use of data in direct marketing – they are a voice of reason in so many ways when the tabloids and Middle Britain get upset about the ‘secrecy’ of data and when the ‘big brother’ words are thrown about.

I believe that data is becoming ( in fact already has become) a new currency which means that in order for businesses to ask for, and receive, useful data there needs to be clear value and a clear transaction. My CEO said recently in regard to an only slightly disconnected topic, “imagine if we did that without asking” a good thought to hold in this regard as he didn’t mean it in a good way !

So why am I posting about the Dallas Museum of Art in this context. Simply because they are treating data as a currency really clearly, really openly and getting their members/customers to embrace that fact.

Exactly a year ago today the Dallas Museum of Art made 2 significant moves, bold ones; they stopped charging admission and created a membership scheme called DMA Friends. Check out the scheme from this link.

The numbers tell a story;

  • Admission fees were only a relatively small percentage of annual revenue – 2.5% in fact
  •  In 9 months 33,000 friends were recruited
  •  $9m of philanthropic donations have been received to support the programme since it’s launch

It works really simply – visitors get ‘greeted’ on entry and directed to a bank of iPads. There they are asked for some data about themselves and to become a member of the DMA Friends scheme. The key data is a mobile phone number, email address and zip code. The mobile number proxies as a member number – which is a really clever idea I thought ! Crucially the system is completely based on opt in.

And the transaction? Or currency? …

… Ok its points, not rocket science I grant you, but they build up into experiences such as free admission to paid exhibitions, sleep-overs in the museum ( very groovy) etc. So a combination of random acts of kindness – which I like: see my last post – which you cannot buy, and things that generate repeat visits like discounts off big exhibitions. More visits = more purchases in the shop, more visits to the restaurant and so on – clear simple economic pay off.

It’s really straightforward and is a very clear trade-off for the member and the DMA.

The museum has been very clear that it will use the data it collects and I like the fact that on the anniversary it plans to publish the anonymised data learning it has from the past 12 months. Amongst it’s trailed plans are a desire to advertise the museum in zip codes in which it under-indexes. There is a clear parallel learning here for other industries. If you have an objective, in this case to have broad appeal, collect and then use data that supports that objective. Simples as the Meerkats might say.

The software it uses is being made available free to other museums and galleries and that is a measure of its success as a transactional tool I think.

I will continue to like and admire the DMA in regard to my direct marketing …both of them !

I am indebted to and Modern Painters magazine for the fascinating insight into the Dallas Museum of Art initiative. It has certainly made me think about how simple openness and clarity can assist in asking members to trade some rich data about themselves.

21 January 2014
PS: The Dallas museum is a lovely concrete building as well, always a bonus for me !

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Yorkshire take over !

Yorkshire. A massive County and a state of mind maybe after the 2012 London Olympics. A county that fires connections as soon as you mention it; Cricket, The Moors and Bronte sisters (without hats of course), Great Castles and Abbeys, The Steel of Sheffield, the grand coasts around Whitby and Scarborough, a great cultural scene with the Hepworth, YSP, York itself – all set to a stirring brass band soundtrack – and one of the great cities of the UK in Leeds at its centre.

The advertising of Yorkshire as a destination has a great call to action ‘Have a brilliant Yorkshire’.

Fair enough, I have lived in Yorkshire and loved it.

My Blog and this post though, are concerned with Marketing, and not of Yorkshire itself, but Financial Services.

I have posted before about the heritage of Yorkshire Building Societies, and Insurers and Banks abound in the County.

Three new TV campaigns borne out of Yorkshire are worth mentioning for their diversity and their aim, and that fact that all aired within a week of each other in May this year;

Yorkshire Bank are back on TV with a sweeping TV execution. This is a rare event in itself.

Let’s look at the facts: Founded in 1859 In Halifax, now a trading name of Clydesdale Bank which in turn is a subsidiary of National Australia Bank Group. Not the most promising structure from which to start a heritage play. But for Bankers building trust is the biggest game in town. You have to give it a go, or do you? (see First Direct later)

The TV ad is a minute of well crafted TV, scene by scene it hits you with resonance’s:

  • Fishing – Trawlers and the magnificent Yorkshire Coast – Whitby to Hull
  • Agriculture – calling to mind the vast moors and farming at the heart of the Dales
  • Modernity – to capture the hearts of the city dwellers of Leeds, Bradford & Hull
  • Steelworkers and a furnace – to warm the hearts of South Yorkshire’s finest
  • The boxing looks a clear play on the Olympic tradition and a subliminal reference to Nicola Adams/Billy Elliott
  • The NHS – perhaps a reference to the world famous Jimmy’s, but it’s a big employer regardless in such a large county

Clever ! Very clever in fact.

But the strap-line is horribly confusing – “We care about here” – in the context of examining the ad in detail it works, but even their own website (unusually clear and coherent for Financial Services) muddies the water – if you have to think what it means it may not be working. The clear idea is to target Yorkshire based folk – and it may well resonate with that audience, I fear for its reach though. Still, its nice to see them back !

One thing to note is clever use of photography on the website too – Humber bridge, Scarborough coast perhaps – nice colour palette too.


Yorkshire Building Society

They have extended their TV exposure and are continuing with their heritage focused advertising, but bringing in a rational trust argument alongside the emotional references. That end play is all about Mortgages, seasonally quite apt.

The Ad over labours the engagement metaphor, but I like it. The voiceover being earthy and Northern fits well. There are two points worthy of pulling out: emphasising the words “fair’ & “built” (on trust) works really well. Coupled with a measured tone you get the sense of a business on your side – Mutuals should be ! and one that is not jumping on a bandwagon. The more I listen to this “Built on Trust Campaign” the more I like it.

The Steve Reich like metronomic quality of the soundtrack drives the ad along to a nice CTA “Search Yorkshire Mortgages” … a clear invitation to the rest of us to bid on that term of course ! (sorry!)

First Direct – yes, they are Northern – based in Leeds.

Well their new TV and social media executions demonstrates a very different approach.

All I will say here is that is demonstrates consistency. You will either love or loathe it. It’s either quirky and original or pretentious twaddle. My observations:

  • It gives stand out if you persevere with the ad to find out its a banking ad
  • It is brand consistent – B&W, quirky (remember the Vic and Bob ads)
  • It plays well into an area First Direct obviously see as at the future – Social Media – the unexpected tweet is the latest in a line of attempts to leverage that channel

I know how good their service is, but recently they have been in the same zone of buying business with £100 incentives as many others have done, clearly a follow me strategy. This campaign, though is back to a strategy that clearly says .. Well we can go here and play amongst Meerkats … can you, other banks? No? I thought not.

The answer used to be some could .. Remember Cahoot and Smile. Those days are gone. For me only Triodos Bank and First Direct are operating a differentiated approach to their marketing in Banking terms.

So in summary … we may need to start adding Advertising to the things we associate with Yorkshire pretty soon.

Let me know what you think of these three different ads …


02 June 2013




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Art or Advertising?

I have always assumed that advertising would have a long and positive association with art, but until recently I never really thought about this beyond the natural assumption that ‘creative types’ must be artists by default.  I have, after all, seen some beautifully drawn/painted ‘scamps’ in my time as a client-side marketer.

I spent time in Sheffield recently at the rather quaint Graves Art Gallery.  A council run art gallery with strange opening times and those wonderful polished wooden floors you only get in council run art galleries and museums. Parquet flooring supreme!  I am only gently teasing, it, like Sheffield as a city, often surprises and the recent Leonard Beaumont exhibition was quite engrossing.

What has this got to do with advertising and marketing I hear you ask?  Well my favourite book of 2012 (apart from a rather brilliant read on my favourite building – the concrete UEA in Norwich) was a rather scholarly read on the history of Sainsbury’s packaging (Own Label: Sainsbury’s Design Studio by Trunk & King).  The connection is that Leonard Beaumont, apart from being a fine print maker, was responsible for a large part of Sainsbury’s enduring brand identity.

Beaumont was born in Sheffield in 1891 so he witnessed a sea change in advertising and design in his long life, he passed away in 1986.  At 16 he had his first job in art/advertising – working in the art department at The Sheffield Daily Telegraph.  He served in WW1 but by the 1920s and through the 1930s he began to create some etchings and dry points that attracted the attention of the Royal Academy.  It is his Linocuts I really like from the same period.  They show a close affinity with Vorticism and the quality of the linocuts on display were exceptional, sharp and clean with punches of vibrant colour.  Unexpectedly, really interesting.

Grinders, 1932 (linocut) By Leonard Beaumont

Grinders, 1932 (linocut) By Leonard Beaumont

I love finding new work or new artists like this – I spent nearly two hours in what was a shortish exhibition.  A great show.

To hell with tin hats (1929) Linocut by LeonardBeaumont

To hell with tin hats (1929) Linocut by LeonardBeaumont

His work for Sainsbury’s from the 1950s and beyond was part of what must have been a brilliant era for packaging – where cardboard dominated and required design to work hard compared today’s modern world of ‘see through’ packaging.  His use of a single clean font – Albertus – hung everything together alongside muted colours and simple design. Quite beautiful work in my opinion.

Egg Box 1955 Sainsbury's designed by Leonard Beaumont

Egg Box 1955 Sainsbury’s designed by Leonard Beaumont

It prompted me to think about the work of other artists, perhaps better known, in marketing/advertising.  The list below was actually quite hard to come up with (let me know if I have missed any obvious ones !) …

Cameos/Brand spokespersons

  • David Bailey in the Olympus TV Ads
  • Andy Warhol in the Polaroid TV Ads
  • Salvador Dali in Alka seltzer TV Ads

Packaging design

  • Leonard Beaumont – Sainsbury’s
  • Sol le Witt – Nina Ricci

Creative Directors

  • Damien Hurst – TNT movies
  • Norman Rockwell in the US for Jello and Orange Crush
  • David La Chappelle directed Ads for Sky TVs Mad Dogs series
  • Terry Gilliam (the Python who is an illustrator and cartoonist) directed ads for MTV
  • Chris Cunningham was an artist on Judge Dredd comics before becoming a respected video artist and then directed ads for Orange and Gucci

It’s a shorter list than I expected.  In fact the most obvious current correlation of artists to advertising is diametrically opposed to their involvement as positive creators:

Banksy has been vocal in his opposition to the whole concept of advertising, and vocal means visual art in his case.

Banksy Cow !

Banksy Cow !

Fischelli and Weiss briefly threatened to sue Honda for plagiarism over the ‘Cog’ advert, which may have been inspired by their installation “The ways things go”.  No action was ever taken.

Andy Warhol using advertising as art. Brillo, Campbell’s Soup etc. to debunk the myth of creativity – one of many theories I would point out!

Jake and Dinos Chapman’s long-standing obsession with ridiculing capitalism, and their continued use of MacDonald’s and other brands to illustrate this.

mcd jake and dinos

So while I can easily find lots of examples of Artists poking hard at advertising with a stick at the moment, this represents a swing from the 50s, 60s and 70s when the opposite was probably more common.  An interesting societal and cultural shift I think.  I will leave the last word to Banksy …

Banksy on Advertising

Banksy on Advertising


09 March 2013

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Customer perspective

During the Christmas / New Year break I went on a road trip to some of my favourite places.

My mini cultural tour took in The Hepworth in Wakefield, The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, MIMA in Middlesbrough, Baltic Mill in Newcastle/Gateshead and then on to Edinburgh.

I managed to see some exciting and interesting art shows on my personal cultural Olympiad.  Highlights were Jim Shaw at Baltic Mill, Liliane Lijn and Jannis Kounellis – two brilliant and surprising shows at MIMA, Jitka Hanzola’s photographs at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh and the Peploe show at the Gallery of Modern art also in Edinburgh (I do like a Scottish Colourist every now and again).

But the two stand out shows I saw were the “Hospital Drawings” by Barbara Hepworth at the Hepworth in Wakefield and the John Bellany retrospective “A passion for life” at the National Gallery in Edinburgh.

The surprising thing for me was the complete contrast in the NHS inspired series of paintings by each artist.

Looking at Hepworth first, I should declare now she is one of my favourite artists, she completed a series of paintings born out of both her socialist roots and as a homage to the surgeons who operated on her child.  The stark fact remains that had the NHS not been created just before the operation the cost would have been immense and possibly beyond the purse of Hepworth and her husband Ben Nicholson.  Indeed Nicholson made public his gratitude on this point.  The NHS is, in my view, the proudest achievement of the United Kingdom, but I digress.

The works are masterly, engrossing, and quite astonishingly different to what I expected.  They are drawings focused almost exclusively on the eyes and hands of the surgeons and nurses.  The smooth and simple approach is a mirror to her sculpture but the patient and the surroundings are ethereal and indistinct.

Barbara Hepworth: The Hospital Drawings

Hepworth, as the external observer, has captured the skill and the intensity quite brilliantly, the eyes hold the paintings together, the surgical masks making the fine painting in this area especially impressive.

hepworth hosp pic

The yellowish pigments give an almost sunny feel to many of the paintings that lifts them, needed as the surgeons and nurses are almost always looking down to the space where you know a patient lies.  The surprising thing for me is the lack of focus on the patient, the remoteness of the imagery.  Therein lies the contrast with John Bellany…

John Bellany has had an exciting life I think its fair to say.  It has not been without its ups and downs, but he remains a powerful exponent of his art.  Sometimes I find his work hard to read and hard to engage with, but I was taken aback by the paintings and drawings he made as a patient in hospital.

The show opens with this most unusual series of works.  Bellany needed a liver transplant in 1988, it was a tricky operation, he had been quite unwell even after giving up alcohol.  Professor Sir Roy Calne agreed to operate however, at Addenbrookes Hospital, in Cambridge.

addenbrookes hospital

The operation was a tremendous success, and, almost unable to believe he was still alive, Bellany asked for a pen and paper immediately. He started painting and drawing on almost anything he could get hold off and you get the sense this was his way of proving to himself he was alive and that he would not waste his remaining time.

Like Hepworth he drew the doctors and nurses who were caring for him, but unlike Hepworth he had the customer perspective. He was painting his personal and very real experience and I think the paintings are more powerful for that reason. The draughtsmanship is not of the quality of Hepworth, after all he was recovering from life threatening surgery, but it carries greater impact for me.

The portraits are packed with emotional punch, they are not especially visceral but they grip you. Bellany stares out at you the viewer of his recovery.  Like Hepworth the eyes are crucial , but there are no down turned views from Bellany.

After the initial surprise I found the works peaceful and almost sunny, they share a palette with Hepworth in Bellanys use of orange and yellow making the works glow in the background. I especially like “self-portrait 23 May 1988” and the almost reverential “My hand 15 May 1988”.

self portrait addenbrokes my hand 15 may

Why compare the two? after all more than 40 years separates their production and the two artist could not be more different.

Well what I like is that both artists had the same thankfulness for the NHS and both paid homage to the professionals who cared for them.  But more than that I think it is a helpful, if a little unusual, illustration of the power of customer insight.

The reality of Bellanys first hand experience makes his works much more powerful to me and whilst they may never win an award for composition or draughtsmanship (he was recovering from major surgery remember) they are borne of reality not assumption or observation.

That’s a good lesson for a Marketer I believe.


19 January 2013

Useful links:

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What’s in a name?

Just before I went on holiday, a couple of weeks ago, an innocent looking email landed in my inbox at work.  A colleague was looking for some suggestions for names for some new products the company plans to launch.  At the same time I had asked one of our Advertising Agency partners to look at names for a new mobile App we are planning on launching.   And … I had just been tweeting about how much I liked the creative work from Santander.  The 123 account.  They are doing some interesting marketing using a number of cues to suggest 123 – not least the podium imagery from their sponsorship activity in Formula 1.  They are using a considered naming strategy quite cleverly in my opinion.

The feedback from my colleague, when I responded very quickly with a number of options and potential strategies, as well as names, was that I clearly enjoyed thinking about the names.  She was right, I had.  I am a fan of the old “Ronseal quick drying wood varnish” school of advertising, certainly in financial services terms.  If a customer struggles to understand what you are talking about, almost instantly, they will move on.  This is especially true in such a connected world where the next Google search is only a click away.

I thought little about this exchange until the first day of my holiday when I visited, the rather lovely, old, Abbott Hall Art Gallery in Kendal.

I had been planning the visit for a while, as there was an exhibition on by an artist I have long admired: Hughie O’Donoghue.  The exhibition was showing some new works that I was keen to see.

I have always thought that O’Donoghue has a knack for naming his work in such a way as to invite you in.  By that I mean, some of the works I love of his, like “Last Poems” have always prompted a story in my head.  “Last Poems” always speaks to me of the war poets … the imagery is actually of a stack of Beetroots but its atmospheric lighting always suggests something more sinister to me.  O’ Donoghue named this work, knowingly, to resonate not only with the book the title it is taken from but also to give a cue to the tragedy of war … something that has influenced his work throughout his career.

So to the newer work … it was as translucent and inviting as always, difficult sometimes, but rewarding.  The most impressive for me was “The Changing face of Moo Cow Farm” a composition of ten related drawings, with a gentle wash, shown together, given space to breathe.  I had not seen these before.  The name intrigued me, but whilst I saw this was visibly of a farm I struggled with the language, almost childlike I thought, and I wondered what would make the artist use such a childish name for such peaceful, almost brooding series of paintings – they show a stillness not common in his work in my view, they are really ‘quiet’.

Art differs from my day job – I was trying to be too simplistic, too literal, I needed to think about what this was showing, differently.  I could see it was a peaceful rural view of a farm in differing conditions… but why?

The answer lies again in O’Donoghues references to war and destruction.  These paintings are a commentary on war.  Mouquet (Moo Cow) farm is one mile north of Pozieres in France.  It was the scene in 1916 of a battle, part of the battle of the Somme, my grandfather fought in that Battle.  He may have fought at Mouquet farm, I don’t know.  I do know that the battle lasted from August 5th 1916 until September 26th 1916.  I do know the Battle of the Somme was horrendous; my Grandfather never spoke of his experiences, even to my Father.

Does knowing this change my appreciation of the painting?  Yes … and no … is the unhelpful answer.

No, in that I still enjoy the superficial painting, it is a wonderful gentle series of images, and that is enhanced by what the artist seems, in my opinion to want to show; that despite past atrocities, change for the good, does sometimes come along.

Yes, it enhances my understanding of what the paintings are about – the act of thinking more deeply improves my appreciation of the paintings.  It adds something new, and personal, for me.

So is there a lesson for me as a Marketer about being too simplistic, maybe?  Is there a lesson for me as a Marketer to think about naming strategies with a bit more care and less speed? Yes, I think there is.

The exhibition and this work made me realise it may be too simple to think that ‘it does what it says on the tin’ is the only answer.  In addition it suggests that looking beyond the superficial is, if nothing else, a darned good idea!

The exhibition is on until the 22nd December 2012, I might go again… it’s a lovely gallery space and there is a very interesting exhibition of the work of Kurt Schwitters (who is my favourite artist) in the next room as well.  Oh, and importantly, they do a very nice cup of tea and a cake!  Visit if you can, I recommend it and O’Donoghue as an artist to look at.


25 November 2012

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