He said: “I did a new print of Michael Caine recently and sent it to five collectors asking them to make me an offer. I sold it to the highest bidder.
“A lot of my collectors are on WhatsApp and I just get a painting or something I’m doing in the studio and I ping it to them.” He said he had also sold works through direct messages on Twitter and added: “They don’t have to go anywhere — they just look at the screen and know what I’m about.”
Of changes to the art market, he said: “Online is the future without a doubt. Static galleries are a thing of a past and they are slowly going to disappear.”
Townley, whose works can fetch up to half a million pounds, still works with four galleries worldwide but says he sells the majority of his work himself.
“I could be with 1,000 galleries but none is going to be able to reach [the number of] people who are reading my Instagram,” he said.
The rise of social media has seen major names such as Christie’s move online for sales. However, the auction house only took £165.6 million online last year — compared with total sales of £5.1 billion. Its top online-only lot was a Rolex Submariner 6538, which went for £230,826 in October.