The RWS Open Competition, previously called '21st Century Watercolour', is an annual open painting competition organised by the Royal Watercolour Society. The aim of the competition is to encourage innovation in the use of water-based media on paper and to stimulate fresh approaches to what are considered to be watercolour’s traditional strengths.
copyright various artistsThe standard of artwork accepted is varied and the standard is very high. You can read about two of the previous exhibition in 2007 and 2009 on this blog on these links (I missed the 2008 one due to very bad flu).
- Exhibition review: "21st Century Watercolour" at the Bankside Gallery (2009 exhibition)
- 21st Century Watercolours at Bankside Gallery (2007 exhibition)
However this is, of course, not necessarily a guide for the future as every exhibition depends on the people making up the selection panel.
I was struck by how many of the paintings were representational but also how few were realistic (in the sense of 'tending to look a bit like a photo' / more of a 'traditional approach' to watercolour). This time I got more scientific and did a count! My rough estimate is that of the 192 paintings, 21 were 'realistic' and 19 were realistic-ish making some 20% of the total.The piece on the right by Philip Rundall won the St Cuthbert's Mill 2nd prize last year.
21st Century Watercolours at Bankside Gallery (2007)
St Cuthbert's Mill Award 2nd prize (2009)
Still Life with striped jug
Still Life with striped jug
copyright Philip RundallWhy submit work?
photo Katherine Tyrrell
photo Katherine Tyrrell
A major reason for a number of artists submitting work is to gain the notice of the RWS members - with a view to becoming a member of the society. I've seen a number of future members of the RWS start out as prizewinners in this show. Both this show and the RWS/Sunday Times Watercolour competition are significant ways of getting your work noticed.
That means a work needs to be both representative of your style and way of working AND a strong competition piece. I suggest all artists always refer back to the statement of what the competition is about (see top).
My own personal interpretation of what this means is that a work must:
- bring a new perspective on a traditional subject - either in terms of composition or technique and/or
- demonstrate the artist is exceptionally competent in the use of a water-based medium and/or
- demonstrate that the artist can bring innovation to the world of watercolour painting
The Notice to Artists indicates that prizes worth in excess of £10,000 will be on offer.
What sort of work can be submitted?
Work in all water-based media on paper is eligible. Acrylic or gouache should not be used impasto. The works should have been painted within four years of submission and must be the original work of the artist named on the entry form. The work must be for sale and copyright must be vested in the named artist. There is no restriction on style or subject matter.All paintings must be submitted securely framed and glazed and without any fixings. The following are NOT accepted:
- Glass in any frame of four feet or more in height, or width, for reasons of safety.
- Work in plastic frames, metal frames, clip frames or behind non-reflective glass.
Dates and deadlines
|Submission of paperwork: entry form and payment||Wednesday 13th January|
|Submission of work|
(sending in dates)
|Saturday 13th February 11am - 6pm|
Sunday 14th february 11am - 6pm
(earlier dates for regional pick-up points starting from 6th February)
|Judging||Monday 15th February|
|Collection of Unaccepted works||Tuesday 16th February, 11am-7pm|
|Private View||Tuesday 23rd February, 6pm – 8pm|
|Exhibition of successful entries||Friday 19th February – Thursday 11th March 2010|
|Collection of unsold works||Thursday 11th March, 5pm – 7pm|
Friday 12th March, 11am – 7pm
There are a number of regional collection points listed on the Notice to Artists (via firms which move art ie a fee will be payable) - notably serving Scotland, the North of England and the South West. There are no collection points for the Midlands, East Anglia or South East.
The collection date for work not accepted or unsold is not quite so onerous as indicated for those people who work during the week. It just means you have to pay an extra £5 to retrieve artwork from Art Moves in Chelsea on the following weekend.
Entry forms and rules
You can download the Notice to Artists and Entry Form for the 2010 RWS Open Competition from the RWS website
You can submit up to three works and there is a fee of £10 for each work. However Submission is free to full-time students of recognised art schools and "Watercolour Artist Friends" on completion of the relevant section of the entry form.
The Notice to Artists indicates that Bankside Gallery Friends and RWS Friends in East Anglian are not entitled to a discount and must pay the full entry fee. I don't quite 'get' this last bit as I've been told more than once that RWS Friends and Bankside Gallery Friends are one and the same thing! The RWS website even states
The Royal Watercolour Society currently has two Friends organisations: Bankside Gallery Friends, who are invited to all Bankside Gallery exhibitions, and RWS regional Friends groups, the first of which is the East Anglian Friend of the Royal Watercolour Society (founded in 2006), which is based in Cambridge.There's also nothing on the RWS website which makes any reference to a category of "Watercolour Artist Friends"!
RWS website - Royal Watercolour Society Friends and Patrons
So - if you are a Bankside Gallery Friend of the RWS and want to enter I suggest you reference the above quote on the Friends page of their website amd ask for your discount!