Thursday, 16 February 2012

Soft Pastels: What's your favourite make? (2011 results)

Opinion Poll 2011:  What is your favourite make of soft pastel?
Source: Pastels - Resources for Artists
Which was your favourite brand of soft pastels in 2011? 

On the right you can see the chart which presents the results of my opinion poll which asked this question in a year long poll held in 2011 on my Pastels - Resources for Artists website.

Favourite Soft Pastel - Poll Results

The top five soft pastels favoured by the 258 people voting in the poll in 2011 are as follows.  (The figures in brackets underneath are the results from the polls held in 2010 and 2006-2009 respectively)

Unison - 22.1% 
(21.9%, 19.6%)

Sennelier - 14.7% 
(13.3%, 15.9%)

Talens Rembrandt 11.2%
(9.4%, 9.4%)

Schminke - 6.6% 
(15.2%, 11.7%)

Terry Ludwig 6.6% 
(6.1%, 13.5%)

(Links are to the manufacturers websites)

As last year the results mean that it's same top five again - and again it's a slightly different order
  • Unison remained way out in front of all other brands and even grew its market share.  
  • Sennelier, Talens Rembrandt and Terry Ludwig all saw small increases in their popularity.
  • The major loser was Schminke with a dramatic drop in its popularity
It's interesting to also note that PanPastels have done well for a new product - recording just 0.8% in 2010, they've now grown to 2.7%.

Art Spectrum Pastels also saw a similar increase from 0.8% in 2010 to 3.1% in 2011.

Just in case anybody thinks there is any sort of European bias going on here, both this blog and my pastel resources site get at least half their visitors from the USA and a good representation from Australasia as well!

258 people responded to the poll in 2011 compared to the 361 voting in the 2010 Poll.  However given the numbers responding, and the generally consistent pattern of responses it's reasonably certain that this poll indicates the pattern of overall preferences although minor changes year on year might be to do with sample size.

I'm guessing here but I think it's very likely that maybe the lower number of respondents reflects fewer people buying pastels in the current economic climate.  That's because my pastels website has remained as popular as ever (with much increased traffic!)

Previous poll results

This follows on from the two previous polls I've held on my website Pastels - Resources for Artists. You can find their results reported in:

Unison Pastels

If you want to know more about Unison Soft Pastels try consulting my resource site below

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Makingamark's Top Ten Fine Art Books in January 2012

Find out about the the Top Ten Fine Art Books sold in January 2012 - and which new art books were published.  You can see more about:
Below you can find notes about:
  • changes in where I post about the best and newest art books each month
  • changes in the marketplaces for book publishing and book retail
  • changes in the categories of best and top rated books
Changes to postings about my book listings

Over on Making A Mark, I've highlighted the fact I'm planning a new project on that blog which will focus on the production of books by artists or those working in the art field.

As a result I'm switching the regular monthly posts about art books to Making A Mark Reviews - and this is the first.

Changes in the marketplace

The book market continues to change.  It's very evident that it's now absolutely impossible to ignore the power of Amazon which seems to have ambitions way beyond its present set-up.

Morris Rosenthal has been writing the Self-Publishing 2.0 blog since 2005.  He indicates in Marketplace Sellers Provide 2011 Profit For Amazon (3 January) three important conclusions.  I've provided sub-heads for my readers

#1  Who's the biggest bookseller
 Amazon is now the biggest book retailer, both in North America and overseas,
That's partly because a lot of their business is now done via third party book retailers.

#2  What type of book sells most?
on January 2nd, 2012, the top 20,000 paid Kindle eBooks were outselling the top 20,000 paper books by a wide margin
It's no wonder that the book publishers are pricing their ebooks at a level far in excess of what they cost to produce ie with bigger margins to the publishers.  It would be interesting to know if those margins are being shared with the authors - although I suspect not.  My guess is they're mopping up the cost of the bottom falling out of the printed book market.  However there is a sting over which they have no control........

#3  How important are free ebooks?
In the middle of the range for the top 1,000 Kindle books, it appears that free eBooks “outsell” paid eBooks by a ratio of more than 5:1 .
Free is fine so long as it is also good quality.  Free which is dross only serves to downgrade the listings and submerge the better quality books so they never surface in the Amazon listings.

What I need right now are listings that separate out the free ebooks from the paid or very low priced ebooks.  This is possible on Amazon UK but not

Changes to the Amazon listings continues to present challenges with respect to how to make sense of that site's listings.  As I see it there are three problems

Art swamped by music/entertainment:  Changing the category on to include music and entertainment has done art books no favours whatsoever.  A lot of books which gained a good profile by being included in the top 100 art books now have no chance of getting on the list

The Amazon charts favour new books:  Amazon's focus is sales and they obviously think that the emphasis needs to be on new books.  However rankings which favour latest sales are worthless within the context of the bigger picture.  My analysis of the available data in the past suggests that there are some art books which continue to sell well for a very long time - as well as selling much better than new books.  However it's now far more difficult to identify these due to the way books are now listed.

Which I guess makes my listings a bit more important than I anticipated they might become when I started.

Self-publishing:  The Amazon charts are beginning to become swamped by author driven books - which might be good but for the fact that they are of extremely variable quality - and not necessarily written by the author! I cannot over-emphasise how much complete and utter dross now inhabits the listings!

Those that are being priced very cheaply seem to sell well. That doesn't mean to say they're any good or that they will sell well in the longer term. Some are complete rubbish - take a look inside this one. However cheap and free books seem to be successful at submerging books which deserve to do well - but now find it much more difficult to get into the lists. That just spells more and more problems for the traditional printed book produced by the traditional publisher.

New formats: The charts are also being swamped by the production of old books in new formats. There is no new book only a new format.

In general I'm finding that the Amazon.UK listings are lot less adulterated than the listings, plus they enable me to screen out the free Kindle books. I anticipate that my listings for 2012 might well draw more heavily on the UK pages than hitherto. The listings for January 2012 certainly have a more mid-Atlantic flavour.

Best and Top Rated Books

You can see the Top Ten art books in January 2012 in Makingamark's Top 10 Fine Art Books

I've changed the categories of best and top rated books.  For 2012 they will be:
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Artists
  • Art History
  • Art business

Drawing:  The major story of January 2012 is the way The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World has topped both the drawing and painting charts but since it can only top one in my charts, I've gone for drawing.  It also rides high in art history charts but how it justifies that is beyond me!

Painting: James Gurney's Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter continues to be the top rated painting book.  However finding the best seller (given that the urban sketching book could only be top in one category) proved to be a tad more difficult.  In the end I selected a book which was doing well in charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Artists: Having changed the categories because I was finding books about an artist were straying into painting and art history, I then find that January is not awash with popular or top rated books about individual artists.  There's many more fantasy artists and photographers getting good ratings compared to books about fine artists.

Art History:  I've retired the Hare.  I can't cope with the idea of yet another variation on this theme.  I am BORED with a very small hare with an amber eye.  Interestingly I think people are now buying it because people have bought it and it's a best seller - because when you look at the "wished for" books it's not quite so high!

The Louvre: All the Paintings now becomes the top rated art book in recent times.  I think however it's a book which is ultimately destined for the shelves of libraries.

Art Business:  This section has been home to a curious turn of events.  A new art business book has stormed the rankings for one month only.  Last month's top rated book now languishes at #78 in the best selling art business books - and there have been no more reviews.  I've been thinking why this might be and the only explanation I can come up with is that the glowing reviews did not translate to sales.  I have to say I'm always very wary of books which suddenly have a vast number of 5 star reviews - it never seems quite real to me - unless the individual has a strong and well known track record.

New Art Books

Check out The Best NEW Art Books in January 2012.

It's getting really difficult picking out good new art books is the main conclusion this month.  It's been getting progressively worse each month but it seems to have gone up a notch this month.  The main problem is wading through the books which I won't include in my listings.

However there are LOTS of new drawing and painting books published in January 2012 - some in ebook format for the first time.

I've also updated for
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