Friday, October 31, 2014

Video: 2014 Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists

The 51st Annual Exhibition (2014) of the Society of Wildlife Artists opened this week and can be seen at the Mall Galleries - in all three galleries - until Sunday 9th November

The exhibition includes, paintings, drawings, fine art prints and sculpture by wildlife artists

A View of the Exhibition


This is a video of the exhibition taken at the end of the afternoon preview and as the evening event was getting underway hence rather a lot of people around and why I didn't do a very slow pan.



Workshops, Talks, Demonstrations and Events


There's a VERY extensive list of Talks, Demonstrations and Events being held during the exhibition.  All of them are held at the Mall Galleries and you can get full details from this website page plus information on how to book for any which still have spare places.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reflections on the RHS Botanical Art Show Autumn 2014

The Botanical Artists selected by the RHS to exhibit at their Autumn Botanical Art Show 2014
- from Bath, Cornwall and Lincolnshire (England)Midlothian (Scotland)Powys (Wales),
and Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, South Africa and the USA (Maine and Florida)

More from the artists and photographers whose work was submitted and selected for last week's Royal Horticultural Society Exhibitions of Botanical Art and Botanical Photography - with a view to winning those all important RHS Medals!

RHS Botanical Photography

I viewed the Botanical Photography first (displayed on the Mezzanine level in the Lawrence Hall for anybody who missed it).  This is always exhibited at one of the RHS exhibitions in October - usually the Autumnal colours rather than the Harvest themed.

Four Gold Medals were won as follows.

GOLD MEDAL: Kobaimo - Japanese Endemic Fritillaria by Laurence Hill 
It's not really bendy - it's just my camera trying to get it all in!
Laurence Hill has an extremely unusual display of Kobaimo - Japanese Endemic Fritillaria. It was very impressive both in terms of scholarship and techniques.

His display played tribute to:

  • shashin - which relates to how images were created as prints and the incredible importance of demonstrating authenticity - of having handled the plant
  • Iinuma Yokusai - a Honzu-Gaku (Herbal doctors) of the late-Edo period who was responsible for the publication of the first botanical book in Japan - the Somoku-dzusetsu (an iconography of herbaceous and woody plants of Japan)
His photographs are printed on rice paper and the format adopted is that of the old wood block prints of plants.
Two of the exhibits in Kobaimo - Japanese Endemic Fritillaria by Laurence Hill 


Laurance has also developed a website - Fritillaria Icones - which serves as a photographic botanical database for all all Fritillaria species. Its purpose is to help with identification, research and conservation of Fritillaria.
RHS Botanical Photography - The Art of Plants by Nigel Chapman
GOLD MEDAL WINNER: The Art of Plants by Nigel Chapman
Nigel Chapman is a regular exhibitor at the show and has won many Gold Medals  (see my previous post about him RHS Gold Medal winning Botanical Photography in 2012). Nigel and I are both interested in photographing patterns in the same sorts of plants which makes viewing his display a very interesting experience for me. You can see his former exhibits at the RHS on his website

RHS Botanical Photography - Past Perfect by Polina Plotnikova GM
GOLD MEDAL WINNER: Past Perfect by Polina Plotnikova
Polina Plotnikova is a Russian born UK-based photographer who now lives in the London Borough of Bromley.  This is the page relating to Polina's previous submissions to this October RHS exhibition.

The fourth Gold Medal was won by Plants (in this instance "Lichens on Flint") by J Cassidy Photography (Cambridgeshire).

RHS Botanical Art

This is a commentary on other interesting aspects of the Botanical Art Show

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Painting Canada 2 - Emily Carr at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

From the Forest to the Sea, Emily Carr in British Columbia opens to the public at Dulwich Picture Gallery on Saturday 1st November 2014.

From the Forest to the Sea, Emily Carr in British Columbia - at the Dulwich Picture Gallery
This is my video interview with Ian Desjardin, Director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery and Co-Curator (with Sarah Milroy) of a new exhibition about the famous Canadian artist, Emily Carr (1871-1945).




A blog post about my visit to this exhibition and images of paintings you can see in the exhibition follows shortly.

Link: Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven - Review (2012 exhibition)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Three RHS Gold Medals for Botanical Art and a video interview

This week three artists won RHS Gold Medals for their Botanical Art at the Royal Horticultural Society's Shades of Autumn Show in the Lindley Hall in London.

Denise Ramsay (Hong Kong / France) - Papaver orientale - Oriental Poppy.


Papaver Orientale - A Brilliant Life Series by Denise Ramsay GM
Denise Ramsay GM with the first three paintings in her series of six paintings of the Papaver Orientale
A Brilliant Life - Faded Glory by Denise Ramsay GM
A Brilliant Life - Faded Glory by Denise Ramsay GM
Papaver orientale ‘Brilliant’ - Scale 1:3
Watercolour on paper 640gsm, 2014 
71 cm x 67 cm (28" x 26 1/2") 
(Collection: Dr Shirley Sherwood)
Denise Ramsay was a first time RHS exhibitor - and sold her first painting to Dr Shirley Sherwood at the show. This was before she also sold the rest of her series to Dr Sherwood after the show!

Her series of six paintings - A Brilliant Life - of Papaver Orientale is extraordinarily impressive. Her paintings are so well constructed and have enormous impact. They paintings almost appear as if they are 3D.

Prior to completing her suite of work she had studied, via distance learning, for the Society of Botanical Artist's Diploma in Botanical Illustration and gained a Distinction.

I've been doing video interviews with artists for a while - but I think  my video interview with Denise Ramsay  is a first when it comes to botanical artists. In the video (below and on YouTube) she explains:
  • how she came to enter the show
  • how she chose her plant and theme
  • her preparation prior to painting
  • how she painted specific parts of the poppy


Laura Silburn (Cornwall, England) - Aristolochias of British Botanic Gardens. 


I first met Laura Silburn in April 2013 when she won her first Gold Medal for Varieties of Hardy Geranium that have received the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Laura is a Fellow of the Eden Project Florilegium Society and after her first Gold Medal she started to painted Aristolochias for the Society. She loved painting them so much she started looking for some more and started to contact other Botanic Gardens in Cambridge and Oxford.

Aristolochias of British Botanic Gardens by Laura Silburn GM
Laura Silburn GM with three of her watercolour paintings of Aristolochias of British Botanic Gardens
Laura is viewing her two paintings which were purchased by Dr Shirley Sherwood
Aristolochias use a pollination trap mechanism in order to use insects to pollinate their flowers. They have evolved weird and wonderful flowers in order to do this. Often mimicking carrion, they look bizarre, some say sinister, but I find them captivating.
Laura Silburn
Check out an article by Laura in the September 2014 edition of The Plantsman - Painting Hardy Geraniums (pdf file) is available to read online or download from the RHS website. In this she explains her working practices and how she develops her artwork from measurements, drawings of how the plant is constructed, sketches and thumbnails and colour samples to the finished painting.

extract from ‘Painting Hardy Geraniums’ by Laura Silburn GM
Laura Silburn's article about how botanical art is composed and executed
in the September 2014 edition of The Plantsman
Iris Sibirica by Ruth Kirkby GM
Iris Sibirica (sold) by Ruth Kirkby GM

Ruth Kirkby (Powys, Wales)  - Iris sibirica - Siberian Iris.  


Ruth has exhibited with the RHS previously, winning silver medals on both occasions.

However she has only been painting botanical art for four years and is mostly self-taught.

Her display was very 'quiet' compared to some of the others but very impressive for all that.

Yet More "Top Tips" for winning an RHS Gold Medal!


Regular readers will know that over the past few years, I've asked all the RHS Gold Medallists (exhibiting in London) over the past few years for tips and techniques with respect to both the creation of their exhibit and its presentation.

Here are a few more.  You can find links to previous "top tips" from the Gold Medallists at previous exhibitions listed at the end.

TIP: Think about the scope to be innovative and contemporary

One of the comments I heard from a few exhibitors is that Judges are encouraging innovation and looking for high standards of contemporary botanical art.  I guess I've got this one labelled as "The Rory McEwen Factor" - how can you advance the art of botanical art?

For example, I think Denise's series is an excellent example of how to tell the botanical story of a plant over six paintings rather than showing all the elements of its life in one painting.

TIP: Have a Project in Mind and take your time

Working out what plants or species to tackle and then how to approach it is probably one of the most challenging parts of the process of creating an RHS Exhibit. Don't under-estimate the amount of time needed to think this through prior to making a choice.

In general two years are required for a submission. You need a complete life cycle - and the plants need to "perform" re flowering and fruiting.  It's possible to do it in one cycle but two years makes it easier to maximise your chances of the best possible result.

Gold Medal winners emphasised that there's a lot of preparatory work involved in putting a submission together. In Laura's opinion, by the time you sit down to start the paintings you're probably already halfway through the project in terms of the hours of work for the entire project.
There's no point in having perfect brushstrokes if composition is no good or you're not showing the parts of the plant which matters.

TIP: Check out National Collections and Botanic Gardens local to you

Finding quality plants can be a challenge.  Two great sources are Botanic Gardens and National Plant Collections - used by two of the Gold Medallists at this show.

Laura Silburn found that the Botanic Gardens she approached had friendly Botanists who helped her get to know the range of plants

All of the Irises in Ruth's exhibit came from the same place - Aulden Farm which hosts the National Collection of Siberian Irises.  The farm in Herefordshire is very close to where Ruth lives in Powys - just across the border in Wales. This made it much easier to come and go to collect specimens. Ruth emphasised that the specimens she has painted are a small proportion of those available.

Why not check out whether you have any National Collections of Plants located close to where you live?

Three watercolour paintings of Aristolochias of British Botanic Gardens by Laura Silburn GM
Three more watercolour paintings of Aristolochias of British Botanic Gardens by Laura Silburn GM

TIP: Keep the same external dimensions

Ruth Kirkby's paintings were all one panel. Interestingly she kept the external dimensions identical for all paintings - and then varied the internal dimensions. There are some very subtle differences in margins - however the same external size for the six smaller paintings gives them a much better unity and better presentation across the exhibit as a whole.

I recommend that you always think about the overall presentation and the size of the painting and how it will be matted BEFORE you start to paint.

Iris Sibirica by Ruth Kirkby GM
Ruth Kirkby with her exhibition of seven watercolour paintings of Iris Sibirica (Siberian Iris)

TIP: Paint more than you need

Ruth had painted ten paintings and was able to bring the best seven to the show. If you have the time and you are dedicated to pursuing a particular species it's great if you can select the best of those you have painted to take to the RHS Show.

TIP: Think about your pricing

Artists can sell their artwork at this exhibition. Ruth's smaller works were selling well - and in part that was probably because of the price. Pricing for art varies around the country and naturally varies between different sizes.  Do some research about prices typically paid top notch botanical art sells for in London - or enjoy giving botanical art collectors a bargain!

TIP: Find a good Tutor

A lot of botanical artists are self-taught. At least two of the Gold Medallists at this show have had the benefit of being taught by tutors who are themselves RHS Gold Medal winners and who can recognise whether their student has reached the standard of work which merits applying for a place in an RHS Botanical art Exhibition.  Both Denise and Ruth were encouraged by their tutors to make a submission.

More Top Tips for winning an RHS Gold Medal 

Top Tips

Interviews with RHS Gold Medallists

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Grayson Perry - Who Are You? - on TV and at the NPG

The fruits of Grayson Perry's recent collaborative efforts about Who Are You? are being revealed this week in terms of
  • a series of programmes about identity on Channel 4 and
  • an exhibition of associated new artwork and portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery which opens on Saturday.  
Grayson Perry is one of my favourite contemporary artists - not least because he's an artist who demonstrably exercises his brain cells on a regular basis! I'm beginning to think of him as a bit of an Artist Anthropologist! He's certainly a major chronicler of contemporary life and culture as well as issues related to identity.

Grayson Perry CBE, RA
(Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery)
I must confess I very much like this new way of bringing art to the public - a structured project about matters of interest relating to contemporary life, an exhibition and an associated television programme - plus a book.

It makes art-making much more accessible in terms of the concepts behind it as well as the actual process of making the art and seeing the end result.

Grayson Perry: Who Are You? - the exhibition (sponsored by Coutts) - opens at the National Portrait Gallery on 25 October 2014 and runs until 15 March 2015. It includes 14 portraits relating to the people who participated in the Channel 4 television series of programmes about identity. You can find it across is across Floor One of the Gallery’s permanent collection displays. Admission free.

Grayson Perry: Who Are You? - the television series - started tonight on Channel 4. This follows Perry as he spends time with people who are at a crossroads or crisis in their own identity, and makes works that try to capture each of them in a single, revealing image.
  • Episode 1 - Individuals (Wednesday 22 October, 10pm, Channel 4). The four individuals who feauture in the programme are 
    • ex Minister Chris Huhne - before and after prison 
    • Rylan Clarke, during a period of consolidation of his celebrity

    • Kayleigh Khosravi - a 27 year old Muslim convert living in Ashford Kent with her four children
    • a young female-to-male transsexual Alex
Some of Grayson Perry's sitters have become miniatures, some large tapestries, some statues and, of course, some are ceramic pots.

The portrait of disgraced politician Chris Huhne is a vase decorated with a repeating pattern of motifs such as his face, his personalised number plate and a speed camera. The ceramic pot was purposefully smashed by Perry and then repaired using the Japanese kintsugi technique, where the cracks are repaired using lacquer resin dusted or mixed with gold.

In the National Portrait Gallery:
  • The Huhne Vase is displayed opposite portraits of Gladstone and Disraeli 
  • nearby The Earl of Essex, a Hilliard-inspired miniature of X-Factor contestant Rylan Clark (in porcelain, digital transfer, electro-formed metal and acrylic), is displayed in a showcase between the Gallery’s cabinet portraits of novelists George Eliot and Wilkie Collins.
The Ashford Hijab, 2014 - as seen in tonight's programme
Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London 
© Grayson Perry
The Ashford Hijab, a silk screenprint, shows Muslim convert Kayleigh Khosravi and her children on the path from what Grayson Perry describes as ‘the temple of consumerism’ of the Ashford Designer Outlet Centre to the focal point of her Muslim faith at Mecca.

I am a Man, a small patinated brass portrait of young female-to-male transsexual Alex. This has echoes of the Kensington Gardens statue of Peter Pan and is in the style of some of Perry’s favourite sculptures, the Benin bronzes of West Africa. It is displayed close to The Line of Departure, a tapestry in the style of an Afghan rug which shows three wounded war veterans, in a room surrounded by the Gallery’s portraits of Baden Powell, Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole and soldiers Lord Kitchener and Frederick Barnaby
  •  Idealised Heterosexual Couple, 2013 
    Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London 
    © Grayson Perry
    Episode 2 - Modern Families
     (Wednesday 29 October, 10pm, Channel 4) explores the idea of family today and how it has changed radically from the conventional notion of Mum and Dad and 2.4 kids.
Three glazed pots depict 
  • Modern Family, Jack and John, white male parents who have adopted mixed race Shea; 
  • Memory Jar showing Alzheimer’s disease sufferer Christopher Devas and his wife Veronica and 
  • Idealised Heterosexual Couple, divorcees who live apart but whose family is brought together through its love of ballroom dancing classes, meaning father Colin sees more of his daughters that many a live-in father. 
Jesus Army Money Box, 2013
Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London
© Grayson Perry
    Episode 3 will tackle groups
    • Jesus Army Money Box, a glazed ceramic reliquary in the form of a mediaeval style
    • Chasse, a small enamelled chest containing a holy relic, depicts a Christian group that works with homeless people.
    These are articles about the project which have appeared in recent days - plus one of his other ventures - editing the New Statesman. They are by no means all uncritical.

    A new book - Playing to the Gallery

    The Channel 4 series and display coincide with the publication of Grayson Perry’s new book Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to be Understood published in the autumn by Penguin.

    I was sent a preview copy and it's an excellent and thought provoking read

    A House in Essex



    In the meantime, his other major project A House in Essex - a house designed by Perry which has been constructed to tell the story of a mythical Essex woman called Julie - is nearing completion and will soon be available to rent!

    There are various articles about this:
    but I saved the best to last ;)

    Who is Grayson Perry?

    Winner of the 2003 Turner prize, Grayson Perry is one of Britain's best-known contemporary artists. He works with traditional media; ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry and is interested in how each historic category of object accrues over time’s intellectual and emotional baggage.

    Perry is a great chronicler of contemporary life, drawing viewers in with beauty, wit, affecting sentiment and nostalgia as well as fear and anger. His hard-hitting and exquisitely crafted works reference his own childhood and life as a transvestite while also engaging with wider social issues from class and politics to sex and religion.

    Grayson Perry has had major solo exhibitions nationally and internationally including the critically acclaimed Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum. His monumental suite of tapestries The Vanity of Small Differences, which were inspired by his BAFTA winning Channel 4 series: In the Best Possible Taste, are currently on a national and international tour led by the Arts Council Collection and British Council. In June 2013 Perry was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. Grayson Perry is represented by Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014

    A brand new RHS Show for Botanical Art


    The Royal Horticultural Society have just published their schedule of shows and dates for 2015 and their is a first - a dedicated Botanical Art Show at a totally different time to the usual one.

    We've only once had the major Botanical Art Show at the same time as the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists so it's a pity they are not at the same time. However I guess it's the orchids that get "first dibs" on those April dates.  At least RHS members will no longer have to pay to visit a show (as always happened when it was combined with the Orchid Show) instead of free entry with membership as per usual.

    I've asked the RHS via their Facebook Page for the schedule of which other shows will also be showing botanical art. If I don't get it via that route I'll pull out my members number and ask via another route.

    In the meantime - 27-28 February are dates for the diaries of all Botanical Art fans!

    If you'd rather see botanical art vying for RHS Medals at an earlier date, get down to the Horticultural Halls right now.  There are 12 botanical artists exhibiting at the RHS London Shades of Autumn Show today and tomorrow - including


    I'll be visiting tomorrow and will be doing a review of the artwork on show.

    You can also see botanical art by Anna Mason at a solo exhibition in the Glasshouse Gallery at RHS Wisley. Anna will be demonstrating her techniques in the Glasshouse Gallery next weekend 1 – 2 Nov (11am - 4pm) and signing copies of her books at 2pm each day.

    Botanical art in November issues of Artist Magazines


    Check out the botanical art in current editions of popular art magazines in the UK




    Friday, October 17, 2014

    Review: Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers Annual Exhibition 2014

    Earlier this week I visited the 2014 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of  Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers at the Mall Galleries in London.  

    The exhibition continues until Sunday 26th October 2014 in the North Gallery of the Mall Galleries. Admission is free.  There are also free daily demonstrations by members in the Gallery - see my listing for the remaining days below

    A comprehensive catalogue for the exhibition which comes with a signed endorsement from the Prince of Wales who is a Patron of this Royal ArtSociety!

    Annual Exhibition 2014 in the North Gallery

    Magnifying glasses are available in the exhibition to view the art
    As usual the standard of the exhibition is high with many excellent examples of miniature art as well as some stunning innovations. It's also good to see awards going to new exhibitors who are not members.

    The standard of display is also excellent with special stands lined with black velvet onto which the paintings are pinned. Plus lots of magnifying glasses are available. These are essential equipment if you ever want to sell miniature art.

    As usual this is an art society which understands well the needs of its collectors. It provides a special private view for those art collectors who have purchased work at previous exhibitions and this had been held earlier in the day. Several works already sported red spots - and more were purchased while I reviewed the exhibition.

    Awards and Commendations


    Tuesday, October 14, 2014

    Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists - Review (Part 1)

    These are some views of the 2014 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists.

    I visited two exhibitions at the Mall Galleries yesterday. The RSMA was having its Private View which, oddly enough, I never find an ideal time to view an exhibition - because of all the people!

    RSMA 69th Annual Exhibition 2014 - Private View at the Mall Galleries this afternoon
    So I had a general look round at what looks to me like a very well presented exhibition of excellent paintings - but I didn't have time to have a really detailed look at paintings.

    I will be going back for an end of exhibition and  "who did well (prizes/sales)?" review (Part 2) towards the middle/end of next week after a short trip I need to make which takes me out of London.

    The subject matter of the paintings is defined as follows
    The subject matter must be essentially marine in nature, relating in some way to tidal waters of the world; topographical, historical, still life, and figure painting are all welcomed. Most media are acceptable, including oils, watercolour, acrylics, pastels, drawings, prints and sculpture.

    Anyway - here's the exhibition as per the panoramic feature on my new iPhone. I discovered yesterday that this takes better pics in artificial light than my camera!

    You can see these bigger if you right click and open in a new tab.











    Demonstrations and workshops


    These are the artists doing demonstrations during the course of the exhibition plus a tour of the exhibition
    • Friday 17th Oct, afternoon - Fred Beckett (oil) and Ben Mowll (watercolour) working in the gallery (free with admission)
    • Saturday 18th Oct - President's Tour, 11.00am (free with admission).
    • Sunday 19th Oct, afternoon - John Lines (oil) working in the gallery (free with admission).
    • Tuesday 21st Oct, morning - Lorraine Abraham (drawing) and Alan Runagall (watercolour) working in the gallery (free with admission).
    • Thursday 23rd Oct, afternoon - Keith Noble (watercolour) working in the gallery (free with admission).
    • Friday 24th, afternoon - Colin Allbrook (watercolour) working in the gallery (free with admission).

    You can find out about the workshops on this page of the RSMA website

    Thinking of exhibiting next year?



    Registration & Digital Submission (for pre-selection) to the 2015 RSMA Open Exhibition: Please note that from 2015 ALL work must be submitted on-line in the first instance. On-line submission dates below.
    • On-line Submission opens: 6th April 2015, 12 noon.
    • On-line submission closes: 10th July, 12 noon.
    • Log-in for results: 17th July, from 12 noon

    Previous 'Making A Mark' Reviews of the annual exhibition of the RSMA

    Monday, October 13, 2014

    More videos by the creator of 500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art

    Lady with an Ermine
    Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani
    by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

    500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art was uploaded to YouTube in April 2007.

    You've probably seen it before.

    However I'm guessing you're like me and think this is one of those wonderful compilations - which you never bore of taking one more look at.

    Which possibly explains how come it has now achieved over 14 million views on YouTube.

    However this post includes another couple of interesting things about this video and its compiler Philip Scott Johnson

    How did you do with guessing the portraits?

    This is the sort of video which prompts you to try and see how many portraits - or at least artists you can get while watching it.

    So you may have seen the video - but have you seen the list of works complete with titles of portrait and names of artists?

    If not I suggest you watch again (see below) - and then click this link to the listing produced by Boni of the Original Art used in 500 Years of Women in Western Art. According to her website Boni is an instructor at the Soldier Development Center on Fort Bragg.



    Has Philip Scott Johnson produced any other videos?

    I bet you wondered - I know I did!

    So I went looking for more Philip Scott Johnson videos - and found some.  It also appears that he works in Reinsurance and lives in St Louis, Missouri.

    Nicole Caulfield shares an ebook about portraits in coloured pencils

    Nicole Caulfield's ebook - Dramatic Portraits in colored pencil
    My long time coloured pencils buddy Nicole Caulfield has been working on a book about portraits for some time.

    However since she started the book she has moved with her family from the east coast to the west coast of the USA, bought a new house, started a new full time job as an elementary teacher and runs an art stall at the Portland Saturday Market in Old Town, Portland, Oregon every weekend during Spring and Summer. Phew!

    Nicole is now making "Dramatic Portraits in colored pencil" available for FREE - as a downloadable ebook.  This is the link to where you can find it on her website - just click Free Ebook!
    I wrote a book a while back..... on how I do portraits with colored pencil on sanded paper. I was going to try and sell the book to a publisher... then I decided to make it into an ebook and try to sell it... but now my circumstances have changed and that won't be happening. I would have to redo the examples because the images are not good enough quality since I processed them through Microsoft Word (duh) and I just don't have the time with my new job. So long story short I am giving it away for free for anyone who would like to read it. This was about a year of my life, lol, so it kills me that it has been sitting on my hard drive waiting for a virus to lose it! The link is on my website. http://www.art2.gallery/zen-series
    Her book is not finished (it includes images but lacks words at the end and is unedited) but it does have a HUGE amount of good content - much of which is applicable to anybody doing portraits.  In fact I'd go as far as saying there's much more content then you typically find in any number of books which have been dumbed down for the strictly hobby market.  Hardly surprising as Nicole is an artist who has been winning prizes and selling her art for years.

    For those of us who have admired Nicole's coloured pencil artwork for years, you can find out exactly HOW she does it!

    Nicole has been very generous in the past on art forums and her own blog in sharing her approach to working with coloured pencils on abrasive surfaces and providing a step by step insight into how she develops her work. However, unless you've taken a workshop with her, this is the first time she's given us a clear description of exactly how she develops her artwork in general and portraits in particular. There is also a lot of excellent instruction about techniques for using coloured pencils - especially for those who like working on or want to try an abrasive surface such as the one she favours - Fisher 400.

    You can find the Table of Contents below.
    INTRODUCTION CHAPTER 1: SUPPLIES
    Paper
    Pencils
    Other Supplies
    CHAPTER 2: PHOTOGRAPHY
    Photography Supplies Lighting
    Photography Tips
    CHAPTER 3: DRAWING THE HEAD
    Making a Line Drawing Proportions
    Shape Vs. Form
    Planes
    CHAPTER 4: THE 2-STEP COLORED PENCIL TECHNIQUE
    Phase 1 The Tinted Underpainting
    Phase 2 The Glaze Phase
    Exercise A Portrait from Start to Finish
    CHAPTER 5: EYES
    3-D Guide
    The Shape of the Eye
    Isolating Values
    Eyes from Different Angles Eye Colors
    Special Considerations
    Exercise- Eyes
    CHAPTER 6: THE NOSE
    CHAPTER 7: THE MOUTH
    CHAPTER 8: HAIR
    CHAPTER 9: FOLLOW ALONG EXAMPLES 

    Thursday, October 09, 2014

    A new gmail phishing scam

    I was targeted today by a new gmail update phishing scam - or at least it's new to me.
    • I'm going to reproduce the email I was sent below 
    • PLUS the links to the Google pages which can help you understand the scam and report it to Google

    This is the email (in blue). I've highlighted the email header in full (and deleted my gmail address!).

    Wednesday, October 08, 2014

    A new £15,000 prize for portrait painting

    The Royal Society of Portrait Painters have announced a new £15,000 prize for portrait painting. You have just three months to paint a submission!
    • The prize will be called "Conversations". 
    • The intention is that it focuses on portraits involving more than one person.
    £15,000 for the best work interpreting the theme of a conversation piece, including two or more figures.
    • It's sponsored by 7IM, an investment management business.
    I'm absolutely cockahoop! I'm very keen on the introduction of a significant prize which recognises the skill required to create an effective portrait involving more than one person.

    To this end I've been lobbying quietly behind the scenes with "people who matter" for the last 2-3 years to try and make this happen. To say I'm pleased is very much an understatement!

    My rationale was that very many of the great paintings of the past involved groups of people and yet, when you view portrait paintings today, too often they are portraits of individuals. It's as if everybody lived in a world on their own and interaction never took place or wasn't important.

    I also believe that this is a particularly important form of portrait painting as a significant number of private commissions for portraits involve more than one person. Hence creating interesting and effective portraits of multiple figures ought to be a skill acquired by every practising professional portrait painter.

    I think those artists who may well edge ahead in this competition will be those who ponder on how interaction in contemporary life might best be represented in their portrait paintings for this prize. The sort of painter who reflects on how we talk with one another today and who bring the conversation piece paintings of artists like Zoffany bang up to date.

    "Conversations" - Call for Entries


    Who can enter

    Any artist over the age of 18 years of age. There is no limitation on where the artist lives or works.

    What can you enter

    The new prize aims to inspire new paintings which depict and encourage interaction. This is defined as
    the winning work (will be) a scene of two or more figures interacting, with each other and/or with the viewer
    Another word for this might be "a conversation piece" however there are different ways of interpreting what this might mean in today's society.

    The sponsors commented
    “We are very pleased to be supporting the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and sponsoring The ‘Conversations’ Prize. The team at 7IM and the RP artists both have a huge interest in people’s conversations. From conversations we get to understand people, what drives them and what makes them happy; artists use this insight to express their understanding in a way that connects with the viewer; we use that insight to make sure we manage our clients’ capital to meet their needs..” Conversations are at the heart of everything we do, with our clients and for our clients, so it seems very fitting to be sponsoring this prize.”
    Justin Urquhart Stewart, 7IM
    Note that (drawings? and ) paintings can be in any media but should not be bigger than 2.4m along the longest dimension

    Timeline


    How to enter

    • Entry is via registration and the submission of a digital file at registrationmallgalleries.org.uk
    • Overseas artists should make a point of reading the note about how VAT operates in relation to artists domiciled outside the UK
    • For full terms and conditions, click here.

    Entry fee

    Entry fees vary according to the age of the artist:
    • Submission fee £15 per work 
    • or £10 for artists aged 35 or under

    Exhibition

    The new prize will form an important part of the suite of prizes linked to the prestigious annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. All the shortlisted works will be exhibited alongside the works selected for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London in April 2015.
    “We hope to attract some very interesting works, offering artists the challenges of a complex piece.”
    Robin Lee-Hall

    Tuesday, October 07, 2014

    An important US Tax Court Ruling for all US artists

    This is about a particularly important tax ruling in the USA. It affects in particular all artists who are also teachers. Most particularly it affects all those who earn more from their teaching than they do from their art.

    This is a judgement to file away in your tax files!

    The "Hobby Loss" Rule: Section 183 – Activities not engaged in for profit


    The "Hobby Loss" rule is explained precisely in an IRS document Is Your Hobby a For-Profit Endeavor? FS-2008-23, June 2008
    Is your hobby really an activity engaged in for profit?
    In general, taxpayers may deduct ordinary and necessary expenses for conducting a trade or business or for the production of income. Trade or business activities and activities engaged in for the production of income are activities engaged in for profit.
    and 
    An activity is presumed for profit if it makes a profit in at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year
    The basic principle is that you must be actively engaged in seeking to make a profit to be treated as somebody who can claim business expenses.

    The tests used to assess whether or not an activity might be deemed to be a hobby are as follows
    1. Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
    2. Do you depend on income from the activity?
    3. If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond your control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
    4. Have you changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
    5. Do you have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
    6. Have you made a profit in similar activities in the past?
    7. Does the activity make a profit in some years?
    8. Do you expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?
    This is a useful checklist for all those planning to claim business expenses for their artistic practice  on their tax returns.

    Susan Crile, Petitioner v.Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Respondent

    US Tax Court Building
    The United States Tax Court has ruled that an artist who is a teacher is not a hobby artist.

    The contention of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was that the artist was not really an artist so much as somebody who practiced art as a requirement of her job. Thus her claim to business expenses for her artistic practice should really have been filed as unreimbursed employee expenses.

    First, he contends that petitioner’s activity as an artist is “an activity not engaged in for profit” within the meaning of section 183 and hence that she cannot claim deductions in excess of the income she derived from that activity.

    This falls within the notion that hobby artists are not allowed to claim business expenses if they don't try to sell their work and don't make a profit.  In other words business expenses can only really be claimed by those who can demonstrate that they run a business and act in a business-like way.

    The contention of the IRS was that the artist had underpaid tax because her main occupation was as an art teacher and not an artist - and that her art was practiced purely because it was a job requirement.

    That's when we learn that the artist in question - a New York painter and printmaker called Susan Crile can be summarised as follows:
    • a painter and printmaker who has been exhibiting since 1971
    • an artist who has work in the collections of a large number of museums - including the Metropolitan Museum of Art
    • an artist who has received two awards from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 
    • a Professor of Studio Art at Hunter College, CUNY, New York, NY
    • an artist who earned an average annual income from her art of around $16,000 between 1971 and 2013
    Fortunately, the Tax Court saw sense and ruled that she could indeed claim business expenses for her artistic practice which has been sustained over a period of many years and predates her current employment position as a Professor of Art!

    The important rulings by the Tax Court are that
    • the separation of Crile's activities as a Professor of Art and a practising artist was NOT an artificial distinction. 
    • the right for a practising artist to claim an income tax deduction on expenses related to status as a professional artist is not jeopardised by low sales or any other full time employment (which in this case happened to be teaching).
    However it did NOT indicate that an artist who perennially makes losses would not be treated as a hobby artist - that's a different issue.

    As indicated in the New York Times article
    Judge Albert G. Lauber of the tax court ruled Thursday that Ms. Crile had “met her burden of proving that in carrying on her activity as an artist, she had an actual and honest objective of making a profit” and therefore under tax law should be considered a professional artist.
    This is the transcript of the hearing.

    Here are some articles about the case. They make a good job of summarising the situation so I don't propose to go into more detail in this blog post

    Monday, October 06, 2014

    Do artists ever retire?

    I'd be retired now if I hadn't already retired early. Having a BIG birthday makes me want to reflect on how I want my retirement to be.

    Plus I've been looking around at what has already been said about artists and retirement

    I thought it might be helpful for me to do a bit of research and also write down my conclusions so far.

    There's also an invitation at the end - at the end of the section on "Do artists retire?" which invites you to comment.

    My retirement


    A new perspective on being older.
    Note I've only got the odd grey hair
    and not a lot of wrinkles in this selfie from
    the 72nd floor of The Shard.
    Can I really be this old?
    I had a splendid birthday on my BIG Birthday Day Out.

    We started at Tate Britain with the new exhibition about Turner - Late Turner - Paintings Set free.

    Interestingly this focuses on the themes, approaches adopted and created after the age of 60.

    However the exhibition starts by pointing out that
    Turner turned 60 in 1835, an age then regarded as marking the onset of senility
    My other half pointed this out to me with a big beam on his face. I giggled.

    However as I wandered through room after room of oil paintings and watercolour paintings and sketchbooks by Turner I began to feel a little overwhelmed by what it is possible to do after 60!

    My current thinking is that I approached my early retirement pretty much as another project in a career that had always involved lots of hard work and some very long hours.

    The perennial comment about this blog has always been one of amazement at how I fit it all in. My traditional riposte has been I'm not that fond of housework! The reality is that it takes a lot of time.

    However my big birthday and my recent health scare means I'm now beginning to think I'd like to slow down a bit and exercise more and take more time out to reflect and ponder. I'd also like to make more art and maybe write some more about art and artists in publications rather than blogs - to my own timetable rather than dictated by a publisher. (I learned a lot when writing my book earlier this year - and writing to somebody else's timetable isn't a process I propose to go through again in a hurry).

    I'd certainly like to spend some time documenting what I've learned in the last few years.

    To that end the current thinking is there will be fewer blog posts in the future although I will certainly keep this blog going, will still visit exhibition and cover art competitions - but I'll also be taking more breaks and spending more time on my art and on reading my art books and writing my own books. Plus more time dedicated to being with "he who must not be bored while I sketch", taking exercise and staying mobile on my awful feet - plus moving home. Library and studio wanted with house attached!

    I certainly no longer feel the need to post every day or even five days a week!

    Do artists ever retire?


    We have numerous examples of famous artists who have continued to paint up until their death.  See if how many painters you can name who were still painting up the end! (Leave your answers below!)

    I've also met many artists whose artwork only started to flourish after they retired on the basis this was the first time they had the time and the space to work in a dedicated way.
    I've also seen some completely dire artwork produced by senior members of art societies who are still allowed to submit their six works as a member irrespective of the fact that it would never be selected if entered via the open selection process. I've also seen some intelligent moves by some art societies to move towards different arrangements for exhibition and selection for its senior members - and how nice they can do this in a way which continues to pay homage to the seniority of their members.

    Articles about artists and retirement


    Here are some articles about artists and retirement - and the notion that they never do - plus commentary from me

    Jonathan Jones of the The Guardian wrote an article about artists and retirement called Real artists never retire – or do they? He comments on:
    • how it can take a lifetime for an artist to learn all the skills
    • having acquired the skills you can then work with total freedom
    • the prevalence of "late styles" amongst artists
    • the fact that some did their most brilliant work in later life

    In this article, Barring fate or death, artists are not the retiring types Allan Massie comments on the reasons why artists often fail to stop unless prevented by a health issue. However one wonders whether he is pandering to the conventional notion that artists never retire and never want to retire.

    The gallerist Edward Winkleman started an interesting open thread back in 2011 on the topic of Retiring as an Artist | Open Thread. He took the Jonathan Jones article as his starting point and comments that while it may be reassuring to have dealings with somebody who has had the time to learn a lot, nobody expects other professionals to keep working past their retirement date.

    The comments he received suggested a very wide variety of perspectives - which certainly suggests that the traditional notion might be true for some but certainly not everybody:
    • people who suggested that artists' later works are often the best they ever produce
    • queries about whether artists can ever afford to retire (fortunately not an issue which applies to me)
    • how a creative activity will always continue when it is aligned with an internal impulse to create
    • a wish that some of the artists who have made it big would retire to give others a chance to sell their work!
    • being an artist can mean you put yourself under horrendous pressure to produce and sell art - it's very tiring!
    • the traditional identity of "the real artist" can be enormously inhibiting to the notion of being able to give up or slow down
    • some artists who have worked really hard for 50 years would like permission to slow down
    • for some artists means not having to produce art to sell and not having to any more exhibitions
    It also includes more than the odd comment which made my hackles rise - so be forewarned if you your main income or pension relates or has related to non-artistic endeavours.

    Alan Bamberger (ArtBusiness.com) has a thread about your art as your pension pot. The Benefits of Saving Art - Someday It'll be Your Retirement Fund...and Maybe More
    Many artists simply use the proceeds from the sales of saved works to support themselves once they slow down or stop making art altogether.
    This highlights how:
    • artists should never get rid of their art
    • art collectors value the work of successful artists - even the early stuff!
    • not everybody wants your latest creations
    • you can't do a retrospective without example of your artwork from across the years
    A debate website has an ongoing debate about Should famous artists ever retire? - 57% say No!

    So what do you think?

    • Should artists retire?
    • Can artists ever retire?
    • Is retirement when you can begin to let go and do what you want to do in terms of creating art?

    and finally......


    Here's an article about a decorator who painted other people's homes all his life - and decided to do something significant after he retired - Retired decorator paints his house to look like the Sistine Chapel... and he even gives his wheelie bin a Renaissance look

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