A Rough Guide to EBay Art

My time in the parallel universe that is EBay is not all spent at the coal face of my abysmal customer service, lack of knowledge about sleeves and failure to type in the correct shoe size. Which is good, otherwise I would be incredibly depressed.

Most of the time I deal with lovely buyers who sound charming, and who behave beautifully, even when I have made an almighty cock up.

The rest of the time I am scurrying about looking at art.

You know it is my new obsession.

There is some stunning art for sale, truly stunning.

And then there is the rest.

You know that thing that inevitably happens when you spend enough time in an art gallery? That thing where someone either of your acquaintance or just in your general environs says: ‘Bloody Nora! Call that bloody art? I could do better than that myself! It’s a mug’s game…etc’

Well EBay art sales are there to prove to you that no matter how much you think you can do better yourself, you generally can’t.

There are some eye wateringly bad examples of home crafted art out there. Here is the Katyboo guide to EBay art.

Outsider Art is a genuine thing. It mostly refers to artists who were perhaps shunned by their peers, or ignored by the art world, or who simply toiled away in silence producing great quantities of art which people are only now discovering. Usually after the artist has died of consumption in a gutter somewhere, unloved and unrecognised. Now everyone says what a tortured genius they were, blah blah.

EBay ‘Outsider Art’ is anything done by anyone, anywhere in any medium. I could get Oscar to wipe his ketchup stained hands on a bit of A4 paper and sell it on EBay as Outsider Art. This is the bar. Don’t buy it unless you love it and can live with it for a very long time is my considered opinion. You stand more chance of winning the lottery than buying a piece of Outsider Art on EBay that will make you rich.

There are the people who say: ‘Call that art! I could do better myself!’ and then take to EBay to prove they can. These are usually the squiggles of biro on a scrunched up piece of A4 lined paper that are listed for £100 and called things like: ‘Tortured feelinz (sic)’. These are the people who hope someone will buy their work to prove them right so they can go down the pub and talk about what a bloody rip off Tracey Emin is because you can sell any old shite as art these days. Funnily enough I have never seen a single piece of art like this actually sell.

There are the people who are selling their children’s art. I am not sure whether this is because they are simply being kind to their children, or because they genuinely think that their child’s rendition of Buzz Lightyear being put through a mincing machine whilst being strafed by a Lancaster bomber is the work of a child prodigy and they are hoping that Jay Jopling is going to snap them up.

Then there is the erotic art. Dear Lord God above. Save me from badly rendered erotic art. It is enough to make your eyes bleed acid. Erotic art is a huge market on EBay in any medium you care to mention. You can get terrible oil paintings, terrible drawings, terrible sculptures. You could fill a small county with all the bad erotica available on EBay. I have seen so many improbable pairs of tits in the last few days I can never look a fried egg in the face again. And the mind boggles as to why anyone would want an eight foot oil painting of a woman with a balding foof the size of your face looming at you over the mantelpiece every morning.

Dogs are another massive market for bad art. You can have terrible oil paintings of sausage dogs that look like they have been stitched up by Victor Frankenstein. You can have Yorkshire Terriers rendered in charcoal that look like someone has just broken some awful news to them. You can have foil etched pictures of German Shepherds with unfeasible legs, gambolling into the distance. You can have groups of chihuahuas sitting forlornly on a wall. Whither kittens in brandy glasses say I? Have they gone out of fashion? Must it always be about the dogs?

Celebrity pictures are rife on EBay. Sketches of Elvis in the jumpsuit years, looking annoyed that someone has done yet another tasteless picture of him to hang over the loo, and which will inevitably end up in a car boot sale in about eighteen months time. Where is the dignity in death Elvis? Or life for that matter?

How many pictures of One Direction would you like? I can wallpaper our entire house in nasty drawings of Harry Styles, as long as I don’t mind that his eyes wander off in different directions.

My favourite celebrity pictures are at the extreme end of the artistic spectrum. I found several bad renderings of Marge Simpson in various erotic poses last night. Why would anyone have erotic fantasies about Marge Simpson? And then want to capture them in the medium of paint, and then think that there are enough other people out there in the world who also have erotic fantasies about Marge Simpson to make them saleable? It is a rum old world.

Of all the things I found last night though, the pinnacle was a picture of Stewie (the evil baby from the Family Guy cartoon), clamped to the head of Adolph Hitler.

There are no words.

Sleeve trouble

As we know, I am attempting to declutter my house and pay my bills by selling my life on EBay.

I was very cautious about this to begin with. I have ventured into the choppy seas of EBay several times before in my life, and usually, after a short time, left, throwing my hands in the air with disgust.

Firstly, it never was a very easy interface for the seller. It used to take weeks to list anything and I had great admiration for those people who had thousands of listings, as I imagined them feverishly tapping away through the night, getting RSI and cursing, because the pictures they were trying to upload took four thousand years to appear, and then arrived sideways or upside down.

And were pictures of their own thumb.

This has now been largely rectified by the EBay App, which is mostly a thing of beauty and a joy forever, except that it is not entirely glitch free, and should you, for example, want to send someone an invoice, you still have to do it through the desk top. However, apart from that it is a wonder and a revelation.

Secondly, it is the most bizarre environment which seems to lure in people whose sole purpose in life is to make you want to shut your head in a door repeatedly for several hours, because that would be the easy option.

Not everyone you understand, just a persistent minority, who, if you sell enough, come to haunt your waking dreams as you dread the next ‘you’ve got mail’ message pinging its way into your inbox.

Most people are wonderful, and even when there are problems, which there are when you combine my own self confessed idiocy with Royal Mail’s idiocy and the vagaries of the universe in general, they can be simply sorted to the benefit of everyone.

I think some people however, are less interested in what they are buying and more interested in a subtle form of cyber terrorism.

Here are a few examples:

The person who sent me six messages about a Jaeger sweater which was on for the princely sum of £4. They demanded to know everything about it from which sheep it came from to what exact shade of grey it was. The final straw was their insistence on knowing whether the sleeves were full length or 3/4 length. I got my tape measure out. I measured the sleeves. I sent the exact measurements and a note to say it was long sleeved on me in a very polite e-mail, considering that this sweater had now been unfolded more times than something on a shelf in Benetton. I received another e-mail which said: ‘But you STILL aren’t telling me whether the sleeves are 3/4 length or full length.’ To which I replied: ‘It depends how long your arms are.’ Because by then I didn’t know what else to say and was really, really hoping she didn’t buy it, because if someone is that much of a pain beforehand, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be problems every step of the way. She didn’t bid. Huzzah.

Then there are the people who want to buy something from you, and insist that you give them every possible postage permutation under the sun before they will consider bidding. In the old days this was reasonably ok as you would weigh your item and the packing materials, add them together and figure things out from there. These days, the dimensions of your parcel are taken into account when it comes to cost. So you actually have to wrap the thing properly, which is fine if the person bids, because it saves you the bother later, but not fine if they don’t bid, or if someone else e-mails you to ask you how long the arms are, and you have to rip your packaging asunder to get your tape measure out. I currently have someone who wants to buy an item that, at the moment is 99p and has had me parcel up the item to find out the most economical way to send it to North America. My heart sinks with these items. It costs about £3 more to send something airmail which arrives in five days, as opposed to shipping which can take up to sixty days. It’s not so much the tiny cost difference that frustrates me. It is the fact that it has 55 more days to get lost than it does by air, which is a terrifying prospect.

Then there are the people who are just greedy. These are the people who buy something off of you for a steal, and believe me, it’s always a steal. Then they try to chisel you down on price because: ‘you said the sleeves were 27 inches and they’re 28 inches.’ They usually finish their mail with a line like: ‘I’m just letting you know so that you can decide how to proceed.’ which means ‘give me more of a discount’. If you offer them a full refund if they send the item back they will generally refuse, because they actually really like what they have, but they just need to hammer you a little bit more.

There are the people who have a problem with the item but don’t actually tell you they have a problem with the item until they give you positive feedback which isn’t positive feedback. This has happened twice to me. Both times it has been: ‘Lovely item but I wish I had known X before I bought it.’ This chaps my ass because all of my items are on for a full seven days, and there is an email system that allows you to ask questions. And if a person is unhappy with an item they have won, they can tell you about it and ask you to sort it out before they give feedback. Generally it is something they have failed to either read in the description or failed to ask, and they feel bad that they didn’t do this and know it isn’t your fault, so it is a kind of passive aggressive barracking that is utterly pointless.

Then there are the people who have a genuine grievance but whose response is completely disproportionate to the problem. I have a current case where I sold a lady a pair of shoes which I accidentally sold as a size 5 rather than the size 4 they were. This was because I am a size 5 and they fit me perfectly so I typed in the size in error. My fault entirely. I totally take responsibility. I received five messages from her this morning waiting in my in box. FIVE. You would think I had taken her first born child, ripped his throat out and turned his head into a flower pot. I have emailed her with my profuse apologies, taken full responsibility, asked her to send the shoes back and told her I will give her a full refund and pay for her return postage as the error was entirely mine.

I haven’t heard a word from her since.

I am waiting curiously to see how many responses will eventually turn up.

And we still don’t know whether the sleeves are full or three quarter length.

Bastards

The boy and I went swimming again yesterday evening. He decided that he would much rather swim than go to the park, and as we didn’t have time to do both, swimming won.

We went at around dinner time. I thought I had been cunning and that, like with lunch time the day before, the pool would be empty.

We were not quite so lucky this time.

It was not heaving, but it was busy, and we could only use the larger of the two pools. This was unfortunate because:

Oscar had an attack of the colly wobbles about not being able to put his feet down except in the very shallow end. I pointed out to him that when you were swimming you didn’t put your feet down anyway, so it would not make any difference how deep the pool was. Apparently I was wrong. He spent large parts of the time we were there, when I managed to forcibly drag him from the shallow end, with his arms and legs wrapped round me like a limpet. Not ideal.

The shallow end would not have been a problem to stay in, had it not been for the fact that that was where everyone else seemed to want to stay too. It was full of giggling girls drifting about ‘not swimming’ but managing to get in everyone else’s way, teenage boys doing hand stands for the edification of all of their friends, and middle aged women who can’t swim, bobbing about trying to keep their hair dry whilst pretending to get fit. i.e. everything I hate about swimming in a public baths.

I couldn’t rush off and swim without the boy as I didn’t want him to drown and/or be kidnapped by a nefarious looking stranger, so I spent the best part of an hour freezing my tits off standing in luke warm wee diluted water.

I was not entirely thrilled.

We got home to find that ants, who seemed to have had a busy winter building a giant nest under the front door, have decided on anschluss and had annexed the porch.

Urgh. I hate ants.

Scurrying inside to get the ant powder etc, I turned on the kitchen light only to have one of the bulbs explode into a million tiny pieces all over the kitchen.

Huzzah!

Oscar nearly wet his pants. I said a few choice words, and had to spend several minutes fumbling about in the insides of the fuse boxes switching things.

Then spent the rest of the evening evicting ants and chasing minuscule pieces of glass round and round.

By the time I’d finished I was absolutely shattered.

I was slumped in front of the computer at midnight, thinking dark thoughts about going to bed when Jason rang.

He said: ‘I had a nightmare. I hope I didn’t wake you.’

I mumbled: ‘No. It’s all good. What nightmare?’

He said: ‘I dreamed I was at home and the front door bell rang…’

At that moment, the front door bell rang.

I nearly wet my pants.

It was Jason. He had snuck home a day early and not told me.

I was torn between battering him over the head with a bit of two by four for scaring the living snot out of me, and hugging him.

I hugged him.

It was a close run thing.

Sleepless gibbering

I should be in bed, dear reader.

I’ve had two nights of appalling sleep. One because my husband will insist on getting up at three in the morning on a Monday to leave me for his other wife who lives in Berlin – or work, as he calls it, and one because I needed to spend half the night crouched on the lavatory trying to put a positive spin on things by attempting to read my book in between wrenching stomach pains and thinking ‘Well, at least I’m awake enough to finish this chapter.’

Bastards. All of them.

To whom I am referring I do not really know. I am just in a shaking my fist at the world kind of mood.

And why am I not asleep now?

Well, that is my own fault.

Andrea came over earlier to borrow my Sat Nav, and instead of drinking chamomile tea and sniffing Horlicks, even though we were both absolutely battered, we drank an entire cafetiere of espresso strength coffee between us, and washed it down with many fine biscuits.

Now I am feeling a bit mental. Too mental to read.

Who could have predicted that?

Bastards.

I don’t really have anything to say. Which is pretty normal actually for this blog I suppose. It’s just something to do with my hands until my brain gets tired enough to stop shouting at me: ‘GO TO SLEEP…NO…STAY AWAKE…STAY ASLEEP…NO…GO AWAKE…WHAT? WHAT? EH? ARGH!’

This will be shortly before I explode.

I was going to put some stuff on EBay this evening. I like to keep my hand in. I failed singularly and now I am too tired, and know that if I did list anything it would be a miracle if anyone would buy anything, seeing as how the items would finish at roughly midnight, and who the hell stays up to bid on stuff that late? And what I would list would mostly be unsearchable because I would start to randomly drivel on about stuff that has no earthly thing to do with what I am trying to sell.

Apart from that, it was a splendid plan.

I shall bugger off and pin stuff on Pinterest until I go cross eyed and dribble into the keyboard.

Adieu.

Me and my boy

For the last two days, as I have said, it has just been me and the boy doing our thang. Well actually doing his thang while I fit mine around his.

I mentioned the last time we had a day together what a simple soul he is to please, and how lovely it is to spend time with him because of that. I have been looking forward to our few days together, and he has not disappointed me.

Yesterday we went treasure hunting at an antique fair with granny and granddad in the morning. The boy loves a bit of treasure hunting, but this did bore him a little. Quite late on in proceedings he tugged my sleeve and whispered quietly in my ear: ‘Mama. Car boot sales are better for children. This is too posh.’ I agree. I have promised to take him to a car boot sale very soon. He was mollified with a bag of snacks yesterday morning as we wandered about, and munched his way steadily through the morning, going back to Granny’s for beans on toast (one of his favourite meals), while I went to the inevitable post office queue of doom.

In the afternoon, in the hope that we could find boy friendly treasure, we hit a couple of charity shops and he came away with a bottle of bubbles and a Monopoly game, much to his delight. He spent most of the rest of the afternoon roaming up and down the garden on his scooter, to which we have fitted a small box that allows him to make laser and siren sounds (the neighbours love us), blowing bubbles while the cat followed him about in rapt fascination.

We had risotto for tea, which, as regular readers will know is his absolute, all time favourite. So much a favourite that he had three huge helpings in quick succession.

Then we spent the evening playing Monopoly. It turns out that Monopoly now is just as dull as it was thirty years ago. Nothing has redeemed it. Nothing. I even had a glass of wine whilst playing but it just made me sleepy, which is fatal, as Monopoly for several hours will do that to you anyway. Thankfully, after about ninety years he got bored and we were allowed to move on to bed time stories instead, which is much more my thing.

I remember playing games of Monopoly in the summer holidays with my brother that went on for days and days. We used to hide the Monopoly board under the rug in the bedroom and just drag it out to start the next round. We eventually developed our own, highly controversial set of rules for it as time passed by.

This is what growing up in the country in the Seventies will do to you.

Take crack instead, that’s my advice. It’s probably better for you in the short term.

Monopoly took its revenge in the night, when something I ate clearly disagreed with me and I spent much of the night in a re-enactment of last week’s birthday joy. I can only think it was a dodgy prawn in the risotto, as we ate the same things as each other all day and he was as right as ninepence. I just thank my lucky stars that it was me and not him who was struck down.

This morning our plan was go to swimming. We didn’t make it. I spent the morning catching up on paperwork and making sure that my stomach wasn’t going to render me embarrassed of Leicester in the swimming pool. He spent it glued to his X Box.

By lunch time I was pretty sure I was going to be fine and we set off for the pool. When I was a child my gran taught me to swim, and she used to take me at least once a week, either to Wigston baths, near where she lived, or Aylestone baths, which is near where I live. I have no idea why we went to both. Anyway, I have not been to Aylestone baths, or Aylestone Leisure centre as it is now known, since I was about five years old.

It turns out that despite a swanky new re-design on the outside, the pool is still the same, and I am pretty sure the changing rooms are as well, mainly because when I got in there I walked into one of the cubicles, had a weird sense of deja vu, and burst into tears, much to Oscar’s consternation.

Despite this hiccup, we had a lovely time. Because we were there at lunch time, the pool was virtually empty, and as we left, after about an hour, it was just beginning to fill up. I hate swimming in crowded pools, so I made a note that lunch times are an excellent time to swim. Oscar had a great time, and I feel we will be going back quite a bit, although at £6.60 for the two of us, I shall be looking at a membership if this turns out to be the case.

After swimming we were starving, and went and had a late lunch at a cafe up the road, before buying cakes to bring home for tea.

We visited two libraries, fitted in more story telling, bought sweets, looked for treasure, wandered about in the sunshine and generally had a very fine time indeed.

All of which we achieved while he wore his green, pig onesie with great pride. He is definitely an individual when it comes to fashion.

We may have more Monopoly scheduled in this evening, if I cannot find a way to put it off.

Tomorrow his wish is to go to the park, which will be easy to fulfil. I do not know what he plans to wear. I am hoping he will surprise me.

I’m sure he will.

My Friend Kaz, the artist

My friend Kaz is brilliant at everything.

She will probably be all modest and shy and retiring about this claim – but she is lying.

She really is brilliant at most things you care to mention.

My friend Andrea is rather similar, although she is more along the agrarian/science nerd route while Kaz is more arty/history.

These are the friends I shall have on my pub quiz team, along with Caron who is a a mathematical genius and number one medical bod.

Anyway, bored of being ace at archaeology, and making jewellery, and doing things with glass in a furnace that makes it come out all gorgeous, and growing things, and knitting, and crocheting and running, playing the saxophone and the ukulele, and making damson gin – Kaz has turned her hand to painting.

And it turns out that, unsurprisingly to everyone else but herself, she is shit hot at it.

I am not lying. I like art. I have done courses in art appreciation. I go to galleries and do studious pointing and nodding at stuff. A David Hockney painting once actually made me cry with joy. I am that pretentious.

I commissioned one of her paintings for my mum for a Christmas present, as she did a series of pictures of jewelled beetles which my mum fell head over heels in love with, and it is very nice to give someone something as a gift that they have fallen head over heels in love with, and you know they would never buy for themselves.

Her work is pretty eclectic, being rather much of an artistic magpie. She is currently doing a series of photo realist paintings of fruit. I am waiting until she does some cherries and then I’m having it. SNAP.

She has started to advertise her art on a website called Art Finder, a place where you can follow different, independent artists, and buy their work. You have to sign up for the site, but it is free, and unlike other sites that I have signed up for in the past, it doesn’t fill your in box with spam every thirty minutes of every day.

I think, for the quality of her work, the prices on Art Finder are very reasonable, but I understand that should you mail me, whispering that you are a friend of Kaz, she may well be able to do you a deal.

Check out her work on her blog, where she often posts interesting posts about the progress of a particular piece, or the inspiration for a piece, and follow her on Art Finder.

Absent frettlings

The boy and I are alone together for a few days. Jason is in Berlin, the girls are somewhere in Shropshire with their father.

He asked me how much ‘alone time’ he was allowed to give them. He told me it was healthy for them to be able to explore unchaperoned. You can imagine how much I love it when he tells me things like this. Unsolicited parenting advice from people who do not have children send me to the place of red rage, unsolicited parenting advice from absent parents who spend three quarters of the year roaming the globe footloose and fancy free and deign only to see their children when time and tide suits them, and who have done this for the last ten years, send me into orbit.

Then he mentioned a lake, and the vastness of the estate they were staying at.

I did not say what was at the forefront of my mind which was: ‘It is very convenient for children to have alone time, not because it fosters independence, but because it means that adults can have alone time and kid themselves that they are building the leaders of tomorrow, as long as those leaders don’t drown in the lake before they reach voting age.’

I don’t believe I answered anything at all. It makes not one iota of difference what I say. He will have his own way, and if my children drown, unsupervised in a lake while he is snoozing, I shall skewer his liver while he is still alive, and eat it with a fine Chianti and some favva beans.

I am trying not to think about them too hard. It is something I have perfected over the years. This ability to skate over my thoughts about them, and shove them to the back of my mind, only allowing myself to really fret about them at say, three in the morning, when as Fleur Adcock tells us, all the worse things come and haunt us.

I did, however, allow myself to go into mild panic mode when Tilly rang me yesterday lunch time. My immediate thought, given her hatred of the phone and total avoidance policy where it comes to using it, was that perhaps Tallulah had been the one to drown in the lake, and wouldn’t that be a crying shame after all that character building stuff we went through last week.

It turns out that Tilly’s phone is the only one that works where they are staying, and she rang me to tell me when they were coming home.

She also told me that she had been feeding peacocks, and that they were lovely.

I said that I was very glad she was feeding peacocks, and even gladder to know that she was coming home eventually, but I would not be glad if she came home with a peacock.

She sighed.