Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Review: Derwent Art Prize 2014 Exhibition

The Derwent Art Prize 2014 celebrates pencil art and its current exhibition at the Mall Galleries is very successful at demonstrating the range of artwork and approaches to making art that can be seen in contemporary pencil art today.

This post has:
  • a video of my walk round the Derwent Art Prize 2014 exhibition - to give you a feel for what it it looks like
  • some general observations about the exhibition
  • the artworks which caught my eye - including those that I would have had on my short list for prizewinners

Video - a walk round the Derwent Art Prize exhibition


There are some incredibly impressive artworks in coloured pencil. If you want to see what can be achieved with coloured pencils then this is the exhibition to come and see.  This exhibition also clearly highlighted for me how much more impressive coloured pencil works are when artists don't constrain the size of their pieces.  Three of the four pieces were very much bigger than those typically seen in exhibitions of coloured pencil art.  Time for coloured pencil artists to have a think about size as well as technique!

The pieces worth remaking upon for me were as follows

"After Dinner" (coloured pencil) by Tegan Iversen
an Australian artist, currently studying for a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Drawing)
at the Victorian College of the Arts. This is a huge drawing with large marks.
"Vitality" (coloured pencil) by French artist Isabelle Cridlig (or 'big blue' as I kept calling it.)
the image on the left in this panoramic shot
A lot of people were assuming this one had won prior to the announcement.
Virtually everybody I spoke to liked it

This is what 'Vitality' looked like close up - lots of shapes which suggested people
 - or some other sort of life - swimming
As good an argument as many for the need to see - and judge - a work in person

a close up of part of Patsy Whiting's coloured pencil piece which won Third Prize
Note the texture and the delicacy of the treatment of both light and colour.
Extreme right: The Cloud (coloured pencil) by Meghan Hyckie
Meaghan is a Canadian ex pat.
Her artwork was very amorphous - as all good clouds should be - and full of mark-making
There were some impressive series. I gather the process of submission works in such a way that the artworks cannot become separated and hence the judges can see all works together.

There were three series which stood out for me
The drawings are entitled 'A Fall of Ordinariness and Light' and visualise the ‘progression’ of the buildings’ imminent demise, symbolising the fall of social ideals of progress.
A Fall of Ordinariness and Light' by Jessie Brennan
graphite on paper ( drawn as if on crumpled paper)
This major housing development which is due for demolition stands yards from the Town Hall
in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and I know something of the 
fight that surrounded the redevelopment. of Robin Hood Gardens.
It will in part be replaced by private housing for sale.
Anybody who has travelled onto the Isle of Dogs via Poplar will know it well.
Jessie has caught the whole ethos associated with this property and its demise
This is drawing as social comment - using an approach and format which echoes its message
What I also found interesting about Jessie's work is that this built upon a series of four drawings in last year's exhibition - which were small and documented the architecture and features of life lived on a council estate.  Drawing the substance of everyday life for a lot of people always has a lot to recommend it.

The lesson from the series I saw in this exhibition is that if you are going to submit more than one drawing, it's better to make it part of a series.

Interestingly I found the more detailed representational drawings in the exhibition did not "call to me" unless they had interest within the picture or a story about them.

Technical precision on its own did not have an impact.

These four drawings were much more interesting

A corner of the North Gallery
Works in the exhibition included a variety of pencil media - graphite, charcoal, coloured pencils, pastels. Some were combined with other media with some fascinating results eg embroidery and coloured pencils and encaustic and graphite on a wooden panel.

I think it's a great pity there are no 3D works in this year's show unlike last year which demonstrated very clearly that drawing in pencils is not limited to a 2D format. The decision not to include any seemed to me to be a retrograde step - there again, maybe the ones submitted were not deemed worthy by the Judges.  It did seem very odd since I gather one of the aims of the judges was to try and show the range of ways in which pencils can be used to create art.

I do think there needs to be a review of what is meant by "pencil".  If pastel sticks and charcoal sticks are agreed to be pencils then so be it - that's fine. However it did strike me that some of the works didn't actually have a close relationship with a pencil!

The exhibition is generally speaking a well hung show. There's a sense of those works having a relationship one to the other being given the space they need.

A contrast between the very professional and
a presentation which has scope for improvement
 - shame, because the drawing is excellent!
A number of works in the exhibition were not framed - including the winner of the overall prize. I checked the terms and conditions and this was not a mandatory requirement. While it certainly encourages entries from international artists it did strike me that if you compared the exhibition in the North Gallery (Derwent Art) with the one in the West gallery (Sunday Times Watercolour exhibition) then I know which one looked more professional and worthy of a competition with a significant money prize.

Indeed the Derwent Art Prize exhibition had an interesting mix of very professional with corners which had an air of final degree show about them - which, while I was writing that, actually seemed very unfair to the proper presentation of a lot of work seen in final degree shows!

It also seemed somewhat ludicrous to have drawings with a significant value held up by bulldog clips!

If the sponsors wish for the exhibition to continue to gain status I recommend that they insist on all 2D works being framed.

There are framers in London who will frame works for exhibitions (i.e. frame on loan) and this is a suitable option for overseas entrants.

Bottom line it just seems unfair to me that people living in the UK should go to the trouble and expense of getting their work framed and shipped down to London when these aren't expenses which need to be deducted from (say) the individual winning the £6,000 first prize!

For those looking to submit work in the future, in terms of frames you can see from the video that they are VERY neutral - mainly black, white, grey, bleached wood or natural light woods. In other words the standard London exhibition frame!

Finally - I'd love to give you links to the details of the works of the artists shown in this post - but the exhibition website is still not working!

Derwent Art Prize - Links to previous blog posts



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Derwent Prize Exhibition 2014 - Other prizewinners

Further to yesterday's post Derwent Art Prize 2014 - ineligible drawing wins first prize?,  the other prizewinners are detailed below - with photographs of the winners where I have them and my comments.

Derwent Art Prize 2014: People gathering for the announcement of who had won the prizes

Second Prize

Second Prize ( £3,500 ):  ‘Hörnan’ (coloured pencils) by Brian Morris.  Brian was born in Australia but currently lives in Sweden and he was telling me about the fact his attendance at last night's preview went down to the wire as he had to get a visa!

I looked up Hörnan and it means 'corner'
“It is a self-portrait which describes my feelings of living in the modern world.”Brian Morris

Second Prize winner Brian Morris and his two coloured pencil drawings
‘Hörnan’ which won second prize is on the left.

Third Prize / UKCPS Award

Patsy Whiting won both the Third Prize (£1,000) and the UK Coloured Pencil Society Award for Excellence (£250) with her coloured pencil drawing with the curious title of 'Garden garage marriage’.

Patsy comes from Loughborough in the Midlands. She seems to specialise in figurative and floral subjects lit with chiaroscuro lighting and sells her figurative drawings as fast as she can create them. I've no doubt in my mind that this will one of those sold in the exhibition.

Interestingly the image of her work on the website loses its background and a lot of people commented how much more they could see in the work in the gallery - and that's a good comment - it's more interesting!

Patsy Whiting with her prizewinning work - "Garden garage marriage" (£2,450)
- we were trying to find an angle to avoid reflections!
coloured pencils on black Colourfix paper
Those of us who have worked on Art Spectrum Colourfix before are not in the least bit surprised to find out that's the support which Patsy produces her work on. She applies her coloured pencils so it allows parts of the support to show through which adds a very textured feel to her immaculate control of both tonal values and colour palette.
Recent work depicts moody, dark, still life, in a realistic style. The work is created using soft coloured pencil on black pastel paper and though technically a drawing, looks like a painting. Roses are a favourite subject at the moment, for the sculptural quality of the form. I like to contrast them with battered, mechanical or man-made forms.

Her work has a flavour of the flower and plant drawings of Paul Emsley who works in pastels. I discovered that Patsy, like me, is a big admirer of Paul's work. I wish I could be half as good as either of them when I try to do the same thing! However I haven't tried flowers on colourfix for a long time - but Patsy has prompted me to get out my stock and have another go.

I know that UKCPS are inviting Patsy to exhibit them at their next Annual Exhibition so hopefully there will be another opportunity to see her work within the next year.

Now to the other awards!

The Young Artist Award - for artists aged 25 or under

I'm a big fan of the artwork which won this award - even though it's awkward to look at. Natasha-Anne Aplin comes from the North East and is working towards a fine art degree at Sunderland University (just graduated?).

The drawings in Devolution Series are of a child who appears to have the habits and features of a 'rougher'  and much older man ( piercings, tattos, smokes and drinks etc). First you see the faces and are riveted by these - if you don't want to look away. The series creates a curious "look at me/look away now!" tension. Then you ponder the format and, finally, you spot that at the top of the drawing are the pale drawings in crayon - done by a child

I wrote down in my notes 'there's a vivid contrast between the image of the child and the images made by the child.'. It's very clever - and I'm not in the least bit surprised it won a prize.

Winner of the Young Artist Award (£500)
Devolution series by Natasha-Anne Aplin

People's Choice award

Day-Z with her London Riots drawing
(Pencil, ink and coloured pencil)
There were two awards - of £700 each - one for the entries in the exhibition and one for all the entries. This gave a chance for an artist who wasn't selected to win a prize.

  • Day-z won the People’s Choice Award of £700 in the exhibition 
  • János Hegyes won the People’s Choice Award of £700 from all the entries.
Day-z is a London based artist who graduated in Fine Art from Central St Martin’s and is actually called Anastasia.

She uses the traditional concept of
anthropomorphic drawings to reflect and provide social comment.

She told me that her drawing reflected the herd mentality of some of the people who engaged in the looting of shops during the riots.

and finally.....

A Special Commendation is awarded to Katarzyna Wiesiolek  from Rewal in Poland for her charcoal drawing entitled ‘Immanence V’ (bottom left below) She has won major scholarships and participated in important drawing competitions prior to this one.

Her work was certainly one which caught my eye - although my preference was the series as a whole.

Special commendation for Katarzyna Wiesiolek
bottom right: Imminence 5 (charcoal)
She was one of those I thought might win a prize when I reviewed the exhibition prior to the private view

Next up is the review of the exhibition as a whole - and I'll highlight some favourites of mine. However first I need to process a video!

The exhibition continues at the Mall Galleries until 5pm on Saturday 20th September

Monday, September 15, 2014

Derwent Art Prize 2014 - ineligible drawing wins first prize?

I have two beliefs about art competitions.
  • The first is that if you put your work into an art competition with a significant money prize, then you are putting your work up for critique. I therefore feel able to comment on artwork in major art competitions in a way which I might not for normal open exhibitions.
  • The second is that the work entered should be original and the artist should be able to assert copyright over their artwork. In other words the work should not be a derivative image.
Put simply - I have no time for people who copy other people's photographs.  There are far too many brilliant artists who create excellent original images to bother with those who copy the images selected and executed by others.

This evening I am very sad that the Derwent Art Prize 2014 has been won by somebody who has
  • copied a photograph taken by another person.
  • [update] submitted a work which was NOT completed in the last three years (based on the evidence from his website) 
  • both of the above render it ineligible for the competition according to the rules of competition
I am particularly sad because
  • the competition got off to a really great start last year with a truly original drawing in pencil winning the Derwent Art Prize 2013; and 
  • there is some really outstanding work in this year's exhibition at the Mall Galleries - which I shall review tomorrow, when I will also highlight the other prizewinners.

Copyright and Originality

Below is the correspondence I had with the organisers, Parker Harris, after an artist contacted me with information about one of the drawings which had been selected.

This is my email dated 30th July 2014.
Dear Derwent Art Prize

An image which appears on your gallery for all works submitted in the Derwent Art Prize competition appears to be breaching copyright and has been reported to me.

I'm somewhat well known within the online art community for highlighting breaches of copyright in relation to competitions hence people tend to tell me rather than the organisers. This very often happens because the person raising the query is also an entrant in the same competition.

I highlight images which breach competition rules merely because it's so unfair to other entrants when images are selected which are either not original and/or breach copyright. My purpose is to encourage people to read the rules and to learn what they can and cannot do - and that sometimes includes the selection panel when they appear to be ignorant of the rules of the competition they are judging.

I'm absolutely not in the business of creating any embarrassment for competition organisers. My preference is to ask the competition organisers for their comments first - with respect to use of a copyright image - before commenting on my blog. I'd also add that the nature of the response tends to influence whether and/or how I comment.

Please would you comment on the eligibility of:
the two photographs which have been copied by Brian Fay are included as part of the publicity material released by the Monument Men Foundation. Click the link to publicity material on this page and you will see the original (The images are also available on a number of other sites including the BBC and Pinterest Boards which have highlighted these publicity photos)

Does Brian Fay have permission of the US Government and/or the Board of Trustees of the Monuments Men Foundation to copy and reproduce these official photographs?

Is the Derwent Art Prize saying it's OK to
  • copy photographs which are still within copyright that are found on the internet? 
  • make copies of works despite the fact that the Derwent Art Prize rules make it clear that copies of works are ineligible? 
What do you propose to do about these selected images?

If the Derwent Art Prize prefers not to comment, please note I will be commenting on the similarity of images which are in plain view on the Internet and reviewing these within the context of the competition rules.

I'd also add that, in my experience, these matters are very rarely spotted by only one person.

Katherine Tyrrell
Below is the reply I received from the competition organisers, also dated 30th July 2014.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Derwent Art Prize 2014 - Selected Artists

The exhibition for the Derwent Art Prize 2014 opens on the 15th September at the Mall Galleries and I'm going to the Preview tomorrow  evening at which the prizewinners will be announced. (Thanks to Derwent for the invite!)

The announcement of the Derwent Art Prizewinners in 2013
Mall Galleries | Photo © Katherine Tyrrell
The exhibition includes 79 works in pencil by 61 artists.  Unfortunately the website has taken down ALL the works by selected artists after the deadline for the People's Choice Award so it's not yet possible to review them. Hopefully they'll be putting it back up on Monday.

Selected artists for Derwent Art Prize 2014

This is the list of selected artists for the Derwent Art Prize Exhibition 2014. Links in their names are to their websites (if these can be found)

My general impression is that both the entries and selection have moved up a gear this year. Perhaps because of the nature of the artwork selected for exhibition last year and the work selected for a prize? This is a link to a slideshow of selected artworks in the exhibition

Note that the competition is open to international artists and this year some of the selected artists come from outside the UK.

Gabriela Adach - (no website)

Thomas Adam  - graduated with a BA in Drawing and painting from Edinburgh College of Art; also selected for the Catlin Art Prize 2012 and currently without a working website

Margie Andrew-Reichelt - also selected for the Threadneedle Prize 2013 (no website)

Dennis Angel - an American artist who lives in Las Vegas and is currently a professor of painting and drawing at the College of Southern Nevada. He produces drawings I like in coloured pencil or silverpoint

Claire Anscomb - recently graduated from studying Fine Art at the Winchester School of Art, gaining First Class Honours for her work. Using archival material she recreates them in graphite. In 2013 she was selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibition. This year she has also been selected for the Threadneedle Prize exhibition. This is her Tumblr blog clamscomb

Catherine Anyango - she currently works as a tutor in Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What's the payoff for a degree in art? (Plus a new POLL)

It's coming up the beginning of a new academic term in higher education. So what's the payoff for a degree in art?

Plus a new POLL! - See the side bar for the new poll - Education and art: which route did you take? - for some really silly reason which Polldaddy really needs to sort out, you can only vote if you view the results first!

The poll will run to the end of September.  I'll do a report back on the results at the beginning of October.

Below you can see an infographic about Pathways after a Bachelor's Degree in Visual Arts. These are the nature of the choices people make who achieve some sort of Bachelor's Degree in Visual Arts in terms of what they do next and its financial outcomes over a lifetime. The infographic has been created by the United States Census Bureau. It was based on a census done in 2010 and it was first published in 2012 - so a little out of date.

In a nutshell it asks how much can you expect to earn over a lifetime if you follow different career pathways.

One of the aims of the exercise is to demonstrate that what look like small differences early in your career become magnified over time as the differences in earnings begin to stack up. That, in due course, has a major impact on our economic wellbeing in later years in terms of pensions etc.

Some art graduates go on to higher degrees and some go on to occupations in the visual arts field. The infographic is based on the numbers who have achieved the highest level of degree they finished with. (In other words - those who got an MA or a PhD are not counted in with the BAs)

It suggests that:

  • there is a clear financial payoff for all those who go on to an advanced degree - particularly if it has a professional orientation - or pursue a professional path related to art.
  • art teachers have a mixed picture. Artists do better than elementary art teachers! However if you teach in a secondary school or higher education, on average you do better than full time artists.
  • those who work in design and marketing do best of all those who have careers in areas related to art.
What do you think of the picture it paints?

Personally, I'd like to see more up to date data and I'd also find it very interesting to see the same sort of data for people doing degrees in different countries.

Pathways After a Bachelor's Degree  - Visual Arts image
[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]
Click to see a larger version
Read Creation of the Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates for Field of Degree Brief and Infographics to find out how they calculated the work life earnings for different pathways
Synthetic Work-life Earnings are a way of looking at how small differences in earnings can add up to big differences over an extended period of time. For example making $12 per hour more adds up to $480 per week or $25,000 per year or $1,000,000 in a 40-year work-life. While this way of looking at earnings is very useful one should note that these estimates are based on many assumptions, discussed below, and they should be used for illustration purposes rather than an exact projection of a persons earnings.

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