Triggers' Broom & New Originals. How One Piece of Artwork Can Become 20.

When does one piece of artwork become many?  Have you you ever sold your prize painting then made more of them, using the same title, same colours and using the same paint on the same sized canvas?  Well, good.  Like many artists before us, there is absolutely no harm or shame in harnessing the strength of a popular piece of work.  Build on that piece of work and make more if you wish - this is your choice.

I've had many conversations that go a bit like this:

"I'd like to buy your painting of 'Pure Music'* please".   "I'm sorry, that particular one is sold, but I could make you another to commission?" (painted especially for you) "Thank you very much, yes please" and so on.  

This week I've been thinking about periods of my life when I have quite literally lived off one painting, painted many times over, which I sold and shipped to clients all over the world.  'Pure Music' ( further down this post) is a painting of a lady of ample measure, happily ensconced in her own world whilst playing the piano.   I made this original work in the mid 90's and from the earliest version, it seemed to strike a chord with my clients and they loved it's joviality. I wasn't making Limited Edition Prints of any of my portfolio at the time, just painting one after another as they sold.  Each work I made was an original painting, made by my own fair hand.  To date I think I may have sold 20 or 30 'Pure Music's, each one signed, dated and titled.

For those of us of a certain age, Triggers' Broom comes to mind here and this week I haven't been able to stop thinking about that scene from Only Fools and Horses; makes me giggle every time I think of it.

Triggers' Broom is a scene in the wonderfully British comedy Only Fools and Horses which was big in the 80's & early 90's.    Like most Brits, I loved it and we watched it weekly  - it brought so much sunshine into our lives.  Only Fools & Horses was a boom of a show.  One character Trigger, a road sweeper by trade, brought us a simpler view of life.  Trigger was a little like Winnie The Pooh (Pooh Bear) in his delivery of the obvious but, of course, his simple delivery hid deep and earnest thoughts at the same time.  For those that don't remember the scene, here's a little reminder and the actual film clip itself.

In this classic scene, Trigger claims that he's had his road sweeper's broom for 20 years. But then he adds that the broom has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles. 

"How can it be the same bloody broom then?" asks Sid the café owner. Trigger produces a picture of him and his broom and asks: "what more proof do you need?" 

Genius.  One broom, 17 heads and 14 different handles yet it's still Triggers' Broom.  There are all sorts of wonderful philosophical theories to this and if you google 'Trigger's Broom' you'll find them.  For me, this whole scene makes me think of 'Pure Music' and the collection of paintings I made over the years.

There is an interesting article here by  ArtBusiness which talks about why it's beneficial for artists to work in a 'Series of' rather than what the writer calls 'Onesies' . Alongside 'Pure Music' I made other paintings which ran along the same theme of music and women playing them, immersed in what they were doing.  All the paintings did well but 'Pure Music' was the winner by far in terms of sales.

It's absolutely ok to sell your work as you go, then rework it if you need to.  These days I don't have to, whereas in those early days I did. Reworking & building on successful paintings can offer you:

  • practise at perfecting your painting
  • further understanding of why your painting is successful - all that gorgeous feedback from your clients
  • enhanced opportunities for your painting to be seen
  • Much needed and deserved income.

Today, I might number them or mark them somehow to tell the story of the collection.

The only thing that I might do now, if and when I rework paintings to commission, is to number them.  All those years ago with 'Pure Music' I had no idea it would be as successful as it was so, although each painting was signed, titled and dated, they weren't numbered in any way.  Today, I would be inclined to make it obvious that this work is part of a series.  Still, absolutely, an original piece of work, but one of a few.  This will not devalue your work - it'll actually enhance it because it's one of a story; you can use that to encourage your purchaser.   I would suggest just adding it in to the conversation " ah yes, this painting is doing really well in... I sold one a little like it in.... etc, etc". You will be increasing their confidence in you as an artist by doing so, not putting them off.  If you are uncomfortable with it, don't mention it at all but still go ahead and number your work somewhere - on the back of the work is fine too.

So, thank you Trigger for offering us your wonderful insights.  I've really enjoyed re-watching scenes from the series that still make me laugh until it hurts.  

Much love, Sam   

'Pure Music' (now) is a limited edition print of which I have 20 left, if not less.  I hope you enjoy x

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