Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2015 - Call for entries

Yet another art competition on television!  This time it's Sky Arts' Landscape Artist of the Year 2015.

It's very definitely worth a look for the career minded and/or aspiring landscape artist who doesn't mind painting in public or even on television!

Home Page on the competition's website
Here's what you need to do if you fancy painting landscapes on television. The information has been pulled together from a number of sites online. Comments from me about the process are in italics

Deadline for entries 

We'll start with the important fact in their call for entries!

  • 12pm (midday) on Friday 20th March 2015


The prize is a £10,000 commission for The National Trust. This makes this competition definitely worth a second look!

Who can enter

People who are
  • resident in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Islands for one year or longer on 2nd February 2015?
  • landscape painters - that's because you have to submit two landscape paintings with your application!
  • a minimum of 16 years of age. If you are aged under 18, parental consent is required.

You are NOT eligible to apply if you won a heat or the overall competition for the Portrait Artist of the Year run by Sky Arts.

Note that if you have previously applied for Portrait Artist of the Year I'd guess that it's very likely that they will review what their decision was about you last time you applied.

Note also that this is a competition with a significant prize and I'd expect there to be stiff competition from professional landscape artists. There again, it's potentially high stakes for professional artists if they're not seen to be good enough to progress. I'd expect there to be a lot of entries from those artists making their own breaks into professional art. This one is too good an opportunity to miss.

What sort of landscape art is allowed?

  • any drawing or painting media. All of these media get a tick box on the form - Watercolour, Oil Paints, Pencil, Charcoal, Pastel, Acrylic, Alkyds, Mixed Media (including collage) "Other"
  • digital media is NOT allowed - hence photography, video, sculpture or any form of digital media are NOT eligible for entry

How to enter

  • Read the terms and conditions (LOTS of small print). Then read them again. Then read them again before you upload your entry.  I cannot emphasise too much how easy it is to miss or misunderstand an important point - and you'll be kicking yourself if you do!
  • Read the Frequently Asked Questions about the application process. This is a very helpful document - do read twice!
  • Complete and submit the online application form. Applications by post are not accepted.
  • Upload a passport style photo of yourself (maximum size of 500 kb).
  • Upload photographs of your art. Images should be in a jpeg format and as close to 1MB as possible with a minimum file size of 800KB. My advice would be to find the balance between pixel size and resolution used which provides the best presentation of your landscape art on screen.  Bear in mind the screening is very likely to be done using a digital screen (I'm checking this). I don't expect that they will be printing these out.
    1. A low resolution jpeg image of a complete landscape painting produced in the last five years. The artwork must not exceed 48"x 36" (1220 x 914 mm)
    2. Low resolution jpegs of up to two further works of art by yourself (one photo per artwork). At least one MUST be a landscape. 
    3. You do need to ensure that these are images where you can also provide a high resolution image if asked for one. My recommendation would be to start with the high resolution image in TIFF and then save it into a NEW jpeg FILE and ONLY after that adjust for pixel size and dimensions until you've got the best possible image of the artwork. In other words do not mess with the high res image! Also don't digitally 'enhance' your artwork or you'll find you're one of the ones going home early or marked down as a 'chancer'!
Note that the website provides advice on how to photograph your artwork - although I think I can improve on their advice for how to shrink a photo!

Only one entry can be submitted per person - by the individual artist. Entries on behalf of another person will NOT be accepted. (It just wastes their time if entries come on behalf of people who simply don't want to be televised.)

What does it cost to enter?

There is no entry fee - however....

In the event you are selected, you will be expected to pay for getting yourself and your landscapes to and from the location of your heat, and for any hotel and subsistence costs. The semi-finalists and finalists will have necessary travel, hotel and subsistence costs paid during their subsequent landscape tasks and at the final.

Locations and dates for painting heats

The locations and dates for this painting competition are listed below. The Links in the dates are to the Facebook Pages for these events. Looks like the artists are going to have an audience!

There is no guarantee which heat you will be allocated to.

Artists invited to a heat will be asked to produce an artwork depicting a landscape view within six hours.
you will be given up to six hours to complete your work of art, and all landscapes will be judged at the end of one day, whether they are considered complete or not by the artist. However, the landscape you submitted in the application process will also be taken into consideration during the judging process at the end of the day.
I've been talking to the producers and I'm going to try and get to one of the heats to report on the process.

The current plan is that:
  • The semi-final will be held on Wednesday 10th June
  • the second artwork to be produced for the Final will be created and filmed at the world famous landscape garden at Stourhead, near Mere, Wiltshire, BA12 6QF on Sunday 12th July 2015


The expert judges returning for this series are:
  • Tai Shan Schierenberg painter. I'd always thought of Tai Shan as being a portrait artist but his website indicates he's painted more than a few landscapes too.
  • Kathleen Soriano, former Director of Exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts and now an Independent Curator and Art Historian Twitter @KclSoriano
  • Kate Bryan, a former Director of The Fine Art Society and now Director of the London art fair Art15 Twitter @KateJBryan
Personally speaking I think I prefer the bias of the BBC Painting Challenge towards having judges who are primarily well known for being painters as well as curators and teachers.

How does the judging process work?

Landscapes will be judged on technical ability, originality and potential.

The shortlist of artists for the heats works as follows
The judges view the digital images on a screen on a high res screen by number - so they have no knowledge of whom the entry is from. To date we have filmed the process so it is completely transparent.
You'll find out whether or joy made the shortlist by or shortly after Thursday 2nd April.

At the end of each heat the Judges listed above will choose who goes forward into the next round as a semi-finalist. The semi-finalists will then compete for one of three places in the final.

Those reaching the final will produce two artworks and have 6 hours to produce one of their final landscapes.

One overall winner, the Landscape Artist of the Year, will be announced at a date and location to be confirmed in September.
If You are chosen as the Winner, You must be available between the Final Date and 30th September 2015 to produce the Winner's Prize Artwork on exact dates to be determined by the Producer.


Joan Bakewell and Frank Skinner continue to be the presenters.

Joan appears to be a tad bothered by the new competition from the BBC! I didn't have her down as somebody who would mind a bit of healthy competition. :)

Links to relevant websites

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

So what did you think of The Big Painting Challenge?

So who watched the BBC's The Big Painting Challenge and what did you think? 

Did you guess who would be going home?  I must confess I did!

This post provides
  • a few comments on the Landscape episode shown last Sunday 
  • PLUS more information about what is coming up in future weeks - and what the challenges are each week
  • PLUS a link to the "How to guide" for each week's episode
  • images from the programme

Also just to let you know I've been invited by WH Smith to write a supportive tips post for their blog as they intend to support the series by posting helpful articles for those inspired to draw, sketch and paint by the programme!

The group of painters lined up to paint Alnwick Castle 'plein air

What do we think of the challenges?

Each of the challenges was exactly that - a very real challenge. Each had a strict time limit and some imposed the art medium which had to be used. In my opinion, they very definitely need to be a challenge otherwise you might as well have a routine art competition and choose the best artist to give a prize to on the basis of the artwork presented for scrutiny - with the artist having total control over media, style and time used for the artwork.

They're following the classic format:
  • "Signature Challenge - show us what you can do" (3 hours painting time) - painting in acrylics using reference photos and sketches). I felt sorry for those who had never painted in acrylics before. Although I think if I was selected for a programme like this I think I might have given the media I wasn't familiar with a whirl before the cameras started!
  • "Quick draw technical challenge" (drawing a spire of delphiniums in 30 minutes using coloured pencils). I was surprised how many people had never drawn a flower. Here the "tips" clip about "how to draw flowers". It was an exercise which rapidly revealed who could draw and who couldn't.  Some participants didn't rate coloured pencils however my personal take on it was that the exercise revealed just how versatile they are in terms of people having different styles. 
Let's not mince words, this is horrendous! (Anthea - contestant)
  • "the showstopper" - all the artists had 3 hours to paint 'Hogwarts' (Alnwick Castle in Northumberland) from across the river. Again I found it surprising how many people had never ever been outside to paint a view before.  I was half expecting a repeat of 'Watercolour Challenge' and in some ways it was very similar.
Lining up for the big picture challenge

What do we think of the contestants?

I admire any amateur artist prepared to put themselves in front of several million armchair critics - good luck to all of them Facebook commentator
Probably one of the things that most people felt when watching the episode is how brave the participants must be to put their painting up for scrutiny. In particular, when it became very clear that some of the subjects, media and settings were very unfamiliar to at least some of the contestants.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

116th Annual Exhibition of The Pastel Society

The 2015 Annual Exhibition of The Pastel Society opens to the public today at the Mall Galleries where it continues - with demonstrations, events and workshops - on a daily basis (10am -5pm) until 7 March (closes 3pm on the final day)

President Cheryl Culver and a strong wall of pastels 
by Sarah Bee, Norma Stephenson. Cheryl Culver and Roger Dellar
You can view an online catalogue - which includes work by members of the society.

Below you will find:
  • a record of the prizewinners
  • my commentary on the exhibition - and the hang
  • a note of the various events - demonstrations, workshops and an art event evening - taking place in the Galleries during the exhibition.


The Pastel Society are to be congratulated on having so many sponsors of their exhibition and their prizes.

You can see a list of the prizewinners on the website. However that will disappear in time and I'm reproducing the names of prizewinners - with links to their websites (in their names) - below together with photos of the artwork and the artists taken at yesterday's Private View.

I was particularly struck by how many of the prizes went to people coming through the Open Entry rather than by senior members of the Society. I don't think it was a reflection on the differences in the work between those who are established members and those who are aspiring artists. However if it was a strategic decision by the PA Council then I welcome it. Prizes are so much more important for those starting out and trying to become more established as an artist.

Alfred Teddy Smith and Zsuzsi Roboz Award for a Young Artist

Oh to be under 35 again!

The £5,000 Zsuzsi Roboz Prize - for artists aged 35 and under - is new for 2015. The award is a bequest in memory of Zsuzsi Roboz, who was a distinguished member of the Pastel Society and is in the name of her and husband.

The size of the Prize attracted a number of entries which were selected for the exhibition. In general these entries were much more diverse than work submitted by members - which is a point which members might want to ponder on....

The inaugural prize of £5,000 was won by a portrait - unsurprising given the practice of Zsuzsi Roboz. Mike Clapton specialises in charcoal photo-realistic large scale portraiture (see his winning portrait below). This was his very first exhibition!  (His day job involves working in marketing). You can see from studying his other charcoal drawings on his website that this charcoal drawing is far from being a 'one-off'.  I'm not a huge fan of "big heads" drawings but this is a very good one - I noticed it straight away when entering the North Gallery.

Winner of the Inaugural £5,000 Alfred Teddy Smith and Zsuzsi Roboz Award for Young Artists
Mike Clapton with his compressed charcoal drawing 'Take Care'

Another "Young Artist" who did well was Jenny Smith who won the £1,000 Arts Club Charitable Trust Award  with her charcoal drawing of Sequoia

Winner of the £1,000 Arts Club Charitable Trust Award
Sequioa by Jenny Smith charcoal £890

The Caran d'Ache Award

Caran d'Ache are sponsors of the exhibition and this year celebrate their 100th Anniversary.
Michael Norman won their award for Dusk at Turf Locks. My personal preference was for the artwork top left which captures the greens associated with heathland and conifers very well.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Who's made a mark on art #263

The major news this week for me is that I've been invited by Sally Bulgin, Editor of The Artist, to become one of their regular correspondents for the magazine and write articles from time to time. The invitation to discuss the possibility came out of the blue and was a very pleasant surprise. Last week I met with Sally and we're now discussing possible topics.

This is your chance to make suggestions about things you'd like to see me writing about!

For those who don't live in the UK, 'The Artist' is the longest established art magazine in the UK - and one of the most popular, it's stocked by all the major newsagents.  It's been around for a very long time and is both practical in content and informative about what's going on the art world. (Not to be confused with 'The Artist's Magazine' in the USA - but they are similar!)

The new website and another new website!

Botanical Art and Artists

The first of my new websites for my information sites continues to progress. My aim is to have it launched in time for the RHS Botanical Art Show at the end of this week.  The domain address, when it's published will be

Art Business - for Artists

I've also started a second one!  This one will include content from my 'resources for artists' art business information sites. These have been well and truly clobbered by HubPages due to their "no more than two links to one domain" rule.

It's tentative title is 'Art Business - for Artists'. This one is probably going to launch incomplete and I'll add in one new topic a week.  That's because there's an awful lot to add and I do want to edit, restructure and reorganise as I add content in.  So please excuse me if I have give regular updates as new topics are added week by week.

I'm organising topics under the headings which run across the top of the screen: art business, communication, copyright, sell art and money & tax.  Here's a provisional screenshot of the home page for 'How to write an Artist Statement'.

Art Basics


  • Have you come across the Da Vinci Initiative? If not you should definitely take a look - especially if you are an art teacher. More about this in a post coming up.
The Da Vinci Initiative, part of a 501C3, nonprofit, educational foundation, is a mission for visual literacy in our contemporary world. With a focus on K-12 public and private schools, the goal of this project is to provide skill-based learning in art education in order to deepen the understanding and applications of the visual language that surrounds us.
  • If you've ever fancied an intensive course in life drawing at a first rate school of art take a look at the two 4 day courses which the Ruskin School of Art are offering this Easter.  The Ruskin Art School is part of Oxford University.
  • Jeanette Barnes won one of the runner-up prizes at  Lynn Painter-Stainers this week with a large drawing in conte crayon. It's always really nice to see one of your old tutors win a prize in a prestigious art competition! I used to take Jeanette Barnes's 'Drawing the Bigger Inner Space' class at what is (now) the Royal Drawing School. She's a great tutor - super enthusiastic about drawing and what people can achieve. I really love her drawings and she also contributed a number of them to my book! I very much recommend you take a look if you want to explore how to develop your drawing - or just like looking at exciting drawings!
Jeanette Barnes and her prize-winning drawing
Canary Wharf Cross Rail Station nearing completion © Jeanette Barnes
Conte Crayon, 100cm x 130cm, £3,500


  • Deborah Paris's blog Field Notes - the blog of The Landscape Atelier has lots of excellent posts which provide a taster for the tuition in her classes. Chroma Trumps Value provides a very nice illustration of an important point.  I much prefer this approach to tempting students to enroll for online classes to those who say they have something available for you to view and you get a link to a subscription page and that's it. I, for one, am much more likely to sign up to learn about something with an artist who shares her expertise for free as well as delivering classes for a subscription.
  • The Pleasure of Sharing provides eight great tips for botanical artists, especially those who use watercolour, being passed on by Jarnie Godwin - and nice to see credits being given to the sources! 
  • If you've got a round-up of "best tips" you'd like to share do please drop a line.

Art Business & Marketing 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Big Painting Challenge starts 22nd February on BBC1

The Big Painting Challenge starts on Sunday at 6pm on BBC1. It's part of the BBC's new initiative to get creative. You will also be able to view it via iPlayer.

What's The Big Painting Challenge?

Ostensibly it's about a nationwide search for the best amateur artist. I wrote about the initial search for participants a year ago in February 2014 - The Great British Paint-Off: BBC1 searches for best amateur artists

It seemed to me at the time that essentially this was going to be
a competitive art series on BBC1 which I guess will be the art equivalent of the The Great British Bake-Off and The Great British Sewing Bee!
In other words, three challenges per programme and somebody voted off each week by the two judges who are experts in their field.

It would appear I guessed about right!

Interestingly the search for people threw up a definition of an amateur artist in the terms and conditions
The competition is not open to anyone who is currently a professional artist, or artists who have already won professionally recognised prizes or awards for their work.4. To qualify as an amateur, individuals should not earn more than 50% of their annual income from their artworks, or be represented by an established gallery. 
The Amateur Artists and Una Stubbs and Richard Bacon (the Mel and Sue of Painting!)
at Alnwick castle

In general, this type of programme seems to be a tad confused as to whether it's a competition to find the best amateur whatever or whether its aims is to make "good television" because it has people with interesting back stories with the programmes then going on to show "the journey" for the individuals. Are they expert amateurs or are we going to see them develop their skills as the series progresses? I'm all for it being a journey so long as nobody actually goes around saying the winner is the best amateur painter in the UK!

After all, not everybody wants to appear on television!

The Episodes

There are six episodes and the first two episodes have been announced. The first - at 6pm on BBC1 on Sunday night - is about Landscape

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