Monday, July 25, 2016

Top Tips for the Travelling Artist

It's summer and artists are travelling with their art media - after they've had a good long hard think about what to take and how to pack it. Then - very often - they have another think!

Facebook is awash at present with photos of the complete sketching kits - prior to packing - being taken by urban sketchers to Manchester for the 2016 International Symposium of Urban Sketchers

I thought I'd remind people of two posts I've published on this blog in 2011

Charvin Oil Paints photographed in Green and Stone on the Kings Road Chelsea.

I did mean to do two more posts about top tips about travelling with watercolours and coloured pencils - and must get round to finishing this short series five years later!

Do you have any top tips for travelling with art media?

Revisiting top posts

I was away last week and am planning on having a quiet week (drawing) this week so may well revisit more blog posts of merit from the past in the near future

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

UPDATE #2: Fabriano Paper - a meeting and conclusions

We have progress in matters related to Fabriano Paper! This will come as good news to all the botanical artists around the world who favour their watercolour paper as being the absolute best for their very precise and highly controlled botanical paintings in watercolour or coloured pencils.

This post summarises the key points from the meeting yesterday to discuss recent changes to Fabriano watercolour paper between a number of leading (and disappointed) botanical artists and representatives of Fabriano at the offices of the paper wholesaler and distributor RK Burt & Co. My role was joint organiser and recorder of what happened.

Overall the meeting was very positive and productive. While it didn't provide any immediate answers it has provided good quality information for making progress to resolve the issues relating to the recent changes that artists have identified and reported.

Blind testing watercolour paper at yesterday's meeting between artists and Fabriano at RK Burt
Note: Those who have been following matters related to the changes in specific Fabriano Watercolour Papers will have read my previous posts:

The meeting with Fabriano 

The purpose of the meeting yesterday was to try and understand better why so many artists have been experiencing problems with the hot press papers (Artistico and Classico) produced by Fabriano Artistico.

After pursuing the issue earlier in the year (see above), the Marketing Manager offered to meet up with artists who have been having problems.

Clifford Burt, Manager of RK Burt and I organised the meeting so that both artists and Fabriano could explore the different perspectives on papermaking and the issues encountered by artists. We would all like to thank RK Burt and Company for hosting the meeting at their offices at RK Burt at 57-61 Union St, London SE1 1SG

Those attending the meeting were:
  • Giuseppe Prezioso - Head of Marketing for Fabriano (School products, Art and Paper)
  • Chiara Mediolo - Marketing Director, Fabriano
  • Clifford Burt, Manager, R.K. Burt and Company (UK wholesale distributor for Fabriano)
  • Professional Botanical Artists:
  • Coloured Pencil Artists
I'd personally like to thank all the people who travelled a long distance and for very many hours to get to the meeting. The effort I think was very worthwhile.

The agenda for the day was as follows.

Introduction to papermaking

In the morning Clifford Burt provided an introduction to:
  • how watercolour paper is made and why/how problems can arise (I'll be doing a separate blog post about this) 
  • why 90% of problems are generally found to be self-inflicted by painters due to how they handle/soak etc.

As a result the artists attending had a much better understanding of:
  • cylinder mould paper production and 
  • why no two paper production runs will ever be the same 
  • plus how to avoid damaging paper  (see my past blog post How to avoid contamination of watercolour paper).
  • how to spot damage invisible to the naked eye.

The changes at Fabriano

Giuseppe Prezioso then explained the Fabriano perspective and
  • the place of the art papers within the total portfolio of the company 
  • the recent changes at Fabriano and the quality tests they run
The company has a very wide portfolio of products and clients in terms of production and merchandising. There are vast differences between the tonnage of art paper they produce and the tonnage of other types of paper. This makes for a more robust firm which isn't going to disappear if problems occur in terms of supplies or the marketplace!

The key issue that artists need to understand - in terms of how long it will take to address the problem - is that productivity and profitability is affected by how long a paper run is.  For art papers which only produce a small tonnage in relative terms a paper run might only be done once a year.

Key points:

  • Fabriano want to try and identify the specific factors which are making a difference to the paper and the smoothness and quality of the surface and causing the issues identified by artists. 
  • They also need to know which factors in terms of paper characteristics are most important to artists (see below)
  • There are three cylinder mould machines which can make the fine art watercolour paper and the money paper they produce. However the differences in tonnage produced for the different types of paper is immense. The cost of changing over from one to another are significant in terms of downtime and efficiency and means that the paper runs for art paper are basically done once every 12-18 months.
  • Consequently it may take up to 18 months or so to get new paper into the retailers - assuming that Fabriano can test and identify what factors have changed the surface and performance of the paper.
  • They are doing a major test at the end of July.  In effect they will now reverse engineer and work out how to reproduce the previous surface with a view to creating a new paper run. This test run will now be informed by:
    • the samples brought and shown to Fabriano with respect to the problems.
    • the blind testing samples (left with Fabriano to take away)

Other information about the paper:

  • the change made in the machines for the new contract for money paper and its requirements are very small and should NOT make a difference to the art papers produced ( more will be explained in the post about papermaking )
  • Artistico paper is made from cotton lintners.  These are fine, silky, very short fibres which cling to the seeds of the cotton plant after ginning. They are needed to help create a smooth paper with strength, durability and permanence. 
  • problems with supplies of cotton linters influence papermaking in a major way (eg the 2010 flooding in Pakistan and the drought in the southern states of the USA). Fabriano decided to limit the colours they produce on the basis of the supplies which are most consistent.
  • the paper in the pads is exactly the same as the paper in sheets (the pads are made up by R.K.Burt)

Samples review and blind testing

After lunch we started to look at issues to do with different types of paper.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 - Selected Artists

The judges for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition (STWC) have selected the artwork and artists for the exhibition which will be held at the Mall Galleries between 19-24th September.

The Winner is announced in advance of the exhibition opening - in the Culture section of the Sunday Times magazine.
The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition aims to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the medium of watercolour
Eligible media includes:
  • any water-based media
  • this includes acrylic, inks and gouache (note it does NOT state that watersoluble oil paint is acceptable!)
Two points are emphasised in the rules
Artists should note that whilst any water-based mediums are acceptable, this competition aims to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the genre of watercolour painting.
The judges will therefore be looking for work that makes the most imaginative or otherwise impressive use of a water based medium in this respect.
The 2016 judging panel included:

Selected Artists

75 paintings were selected for the exhibition. Below are the names of the selected artists.

There are several artists who have had two works selected. These are Jacqueline Abel, Bob Aldous, Lucy Austin, Louise De La Hey, Kate Hunt, Chloe Le Tissier, Robert Offord and Jenny Ross.
  • Links in their names are to their websites. Facebook Pages are also highlighted where found.
  • I've provided a tiny bio where I have access to information - some of which comes from past posts on this blog (eg selected artist in another art competition). STWC indicates previous years selected for this competition.

  • Jacqueline Abel - previously selected for the Threadneedle Prize in 2012 and 2013
  • Bob Aldous - works in a wide variety of media
  • Roger Allen - based in Derbyshire and paints the Derbyshire landscape. Works in oil and watercolour using a traditional technique of overlaid washes in watercolour. His work can currently be seen at the Derbyshire Open Exhibition at the Buxton Art Gallery.
  • Lucy Austin - Lives and works in Bristol at Mivart Studios. Draws in watercolour and has previously exhibited such drawings at The Jerwood Drawing Prize (2007, 2008 & 2010) and RA Summer Exhibition
Black Braces (Study) by Raymond Bentley
  • Raymond Bentley - an award-winning watercolourist and oil painter from the North of England. Comes from Stoke on Trent and current lives in Saltburn-on-Sea in Cleveland. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Georgia O'Keeffe at Tate Modern - a review of the exhibition reviews

The Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition - which includes the most expensive painting by a woman sold at auction - opened at Tate Modern last week.
Tate Modern presents the largest retrospective of modernist painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) ever to be shown outside of America. Tate
I'm a huge fan of her work but have not been to see it yet. So I thought I'd do a round-up of:
  • the reviews to see what the general conclusions are so far.  I'm actually amazed at the number of so-called serious art journals etc who have ignored this exhibition
  • all my previous blog posts about Georgia O'Keeffe - following an intensive study of her work - which are listed at the end of this post.
The exhibition is on until 30 October 2016 and is open daily 10.00 – 18.00 and until 22.00 on Friday and Saturday. For more information about the Tate or the exhibition For public information call +44 (0)20 7887 8888, visit, follow @tate #Tate2016

Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 1932 by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
(Oil paint on canvas 48 x 40 inches) 
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas, USA
Photography by Edward C. Robison III
© 2016 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum/DACS, London
This is said to be "the most expensive painting by a woman"
- it sold at Sotheby's for $44.4 million in 2014

Media response

I've included a quotation from each review which attempts to indicate the tenor of the review.  I've put the RECOMMENDED reads first.

Watch out for the tired old cliches about female anatomy used by some.
When people read erotic symbols in my paintings, they’re really talking about their own affairs,she said.

UK Media

The major retrospective of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work that opened this week at Tate Modern in London is a rare opportunity for British viewers to engage with this revered American artist.
This blockbuster retrospective seeks to show there is more to Georgia O’Keeffe than anodyne prints, signature aprons and sexual stereotypes – but her own gorgeous, awkward art compounds the cliches
after such a long wait for a British retrospective, this one is peculiarly disappointing, not least because it is padded out with numerous photographs and flaccid paintings.
In the art world, women are simply worth less. And not just financially. Throughout art history women have consistently been ignored. But modernism would be an entirely different beast without O’Keeffe.
  • Culture Whisper - Georgia O'Keeffe, Tate Modern - awards 4* and asks where are all the flowers and then  points out that they are but a small part of her total output.
Revelatory it certainly is for those who thought O’Keeffe was either brazenly or innocently preoccupied with painting sexually suggestive flowers: they make up less than 5% of O’Keeffe’s artistic output.

American media

O’Keeffe, for her part, found the emphasis on her gender overblown. As early as 1922, she was peeved. “They make me seem like some strange unearthly sort of creature floating in the air—breathing in clouds for nourishment—when the truth is that I like beef steak—and I like it rare.
  • El Paso Times - Georgia O'Keeffe gets big London show - I don't often have cause to quote this one! I liked the openening sentence - the remainder seems to be culled from the press release and previously published material.
Georgia O’Keeffe has come to London, like a bracing American desert wind rippling the River Thames.

More about Georgia O'Keeffe

Back in 2007 I spent a month doing research about the life and work and development of artwork by Georgia O'Keeffe. In part this came from having visited New Mexico and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe ten years ago - in July 2006.

 Travels with a Sketchbook: 22nd July - Santa Fe and Georgia O'Keeffe is about my visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum in Santa Fe. I'd been wanting to go to the museum for a very long time - on the basis that you can't beat seeing art 'up close and personal' as an aid to understanding art - and was not disappointed!

The remainder are blog posts on Making A Mark - starting with the most recent

Friday, July 08, 2016

V&A wins Art Fund's £100,000 Museum of the Year Award 2016

The Art Fund Museum of the Year Award is one which many art museums across the UK yearn to win - not least because it brings with it a £100,000 prize and the accolade which can go on all their marketing to both fans and tourists.

This blog post is about the Award, who won it this year (the V&A) and my commentary on the achievements of the V&A and a major problem which needs to be resolved very fast! Plus at the end blog posts I've written in the past about the whole range of aspects of the V&A

There's a clear purpose behind the criteria used to judge which museum should win - and that primarily focuses on the ability of a museum to engage with its audience and inform and extend understanding of the exhibitions, artifacts and exhibitions.
The judges will present the 2016 Prize to the museum or gallery that has best achieved some or all of the following criteria:
  • Undertaken projects that will provide a lasting legacy or have a transformative effect on the museum.
  • Brought its collections to life for audiences – engaging, inspiring and extending public understanding.
  • Delivered an original audience development, learning or outreach programme.
  • Clearly won the support and enthusiasm of its visitors and users.

The 2016 Winner of the Art Fund Museum of Year Award

The winner for 2016 is the Victoria and Albert Museum ("the V&A") in South Kensington - which characterises itself as the world’s leading museum of art and design.

The exterior of the Victoria and Albert Museum on the Cromwell Road in South Kensington
The other finalists were: the Arnolfini (Bristol), Bethlem Museum of the Mind (London), Jupiter Artland (West Lothian), and York Art Gallery (Yorkshire).

The judges for Museum of the Year 2016 were: 
  • Gus Casely-Hayford, curator and art historian; 
  • Will Gompertz, BBC Arts editor; 
  • Ludmilla Jordanova, professor of History and Visual Culture, Durham University; 
  • Cornelia Parker, artist; 
  • Stephen Deuchar (chair of the panel), director, Art Fund.
I can't say I'm surprised that the V&A won. The way in which the museum has overhauled both its galleries, its collection and the raised its game in terms of attracting huge numbers to its exhibitions made it a natural candidate for this award.

In introducing the prize in the video below, Stephen Deuchar, the Art Fund director and chair of the judges says
"It's all about the power of people to animate collections and institutions"

The V&A sneaked it because it's a global treasure 
Will Gompertz - Museum of the Year 2016 Judge
Highlights of recent times at the V&A have included:
  • the enormous numbers visiting the V&A for the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition (but note my comment below about how easy it is to access the exhibition through the new website
Installation view of 'Romantic Naturalism' gallery, Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A

(c) Victoria and Albert Museum London
The Facade on the Exhibition Road side of the V&A - After the restoration and cleaning

The major failure of the V&A 

If there is one thing I'd criticise the V&A for it's the absolutely appalling implementation of their new website which leaves the public locked out of the massive content on the old website prior to its move to the new website. The only way content can be accessed is by knowing it exists and then searching for it on Google with quite a precise search query.

There are also 301 redirects for past pages meaning that carefully collected and curated links now throw up a "Content no longer available" message - which is just infuriating!

For example:
  • The term "Alexander McQueen" returns no response on the search query on the new website. 
  • The search term "Savage Beauty" also does not exist on the new website
Website Co-ordinators and those responsible for communicating with the public have really got to understand that VIRTUAL ARCHIVES and past documentation are as important as what is going on right now!

Whoever is responsible for this website also needs a massive shake-up!

The importance of the Virtual Museum

An Art Museum these days is a lot more than its structure and contents. Its virtual existence is at least as important in terms of education and promoting the delivery of improved knowledge and understanding.

I'd suggest that in future the Art Fund Museum of the Year judges look at how well a museum delivers online to its audience around the world as well as on the ground to those actually visiting the museum building.

More about the Art Museum of the Year Award

To read more about the Award see the following articles. I've missed out those which were more focused on the stunning frock worn by the Duchess of Cambridge!

Past blog posts about the V&A


Exhibitions & Policies





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