Friday, April 29, 2016

How to protect your art online

My fifth article for in the series of "Cost effective ideas for artists" is all about how to protect your art online.

It emphasises all the things you can and should do to protect your art online at no expense to you - other than time spent on sensible measures and responses.

You can find this article on page 66 (the page facing the inside back page) - of The Artist Magazine. This one is in the June 2016 edition.  Other articles are on the same page in previous editions - and the series continues until October!

This article provides an overview and summary for artists of :
  • Facts about copyright
  • How to prevent problems with copyright infringement
  • How to find infringements online
  • What to do if you art is copied in terms of:
    • best use of your time
    • ways to approach those who copy
    • how to get a very fast response and get your art taken down without any expense or resorting to lawyers.
The one page article provides a really useful checklist for filing in case you have any problems. You can then get it out if and when you want to avoid problems or resolve issues!

For those wanting to look in more depth at copyright issues you can find more information on in the Copyright section of my website Art Business Info.
This site provides a reference about copyright, trademarks and brands for artists. Specifically:
You can buy 'The Artist' at all good newsagents in the UK. However you can also subscribe and read it online as a digital magazine.

There's lots of other great content of interest to many artists!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How to avoid contamination of watercolour paper

This post is about 
  • how it's essential to avoid contamination of watercolour paper
  • how to make sure you are painting on watercolour paper free of contaminants.
I had a very interesting talk on the telephone this afternoon with Clifford Burt, the Managing Director of RK Burt who told me how contamination is the most frequent reason why watercolour paper causes problems for a watercolour painter.  It prompted me to do some more research and to write this blog post.

One of the interesting conclusions from my research is that I found very little is said in watercolour instruction books about the importance of avoiding contamination of your paper - and some said precisely nothing!

RK Burt Offices at 57-61 Union Street, London SE1 1SG
[Note: RK Burt have been paper suppliers since 1892 and are currently the largest wholesaler of fine art paper in the UK. They were responsible for introducing fine art papers by European suppliers into the UK.]

How can you contaminate watercolour paper?

There are four main ways in which watercolour paper can become contaminated.
  1. YOU can accidentally or negligently contaminate a paper. This is the MOST FREQUENT source of contamination - often due to ignorance or thoughtlessness.
  2. The RETAILER who sells you the paper can be careless in how it is stored and/or allow people with contaminated hands to touch the paper
  3. The ATMOSPHERE contains contaminants - and the paper needs to be protected from these
  4. A MANUFACTURER can accidentally contaminate a paper

How you can avoid contaminating watercolour paper

How YOU handle a paper is really important. 

"more than 90% of all complaints from artists about sizing problems with watercolour papers are due to contamination"
Clifford Burt: How to choose art papers: part three – additives | Artists & Illustrators

It is ESSENTIAL that your hands and ALL the ways in which you process your paper are free from contaminants and in particular detergent. That's because paper is made of constituents which have chemical components that can react with other substances which you introduce.

Easy ways to contaminate watercolour paper

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Artists and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Too many artists suffer from repetitive strain injuries (RSI). In addition, too many artists know too little about:
  • how to avoid RSI
  • how best to deal with RSI
Too often, health and safety issues for artists relate purely to hazards associated with art materials. In my opinion, there is far too little focus on the hazards that certain working practices can have on your anatomy.

This post looks at what is RSI, why artists gets it; how to make it worse and how to make life more tolerable if you get it - and hopefully recover from it.

At the end there are some references to other websites where artists talk about the impact of RSI.

What is RSI?

RSI stands for repetitive strain injury.

RSI is an umbrella term for a range of muscular skeletal disorders rather than a condition.  It's a general term used to describe a related set of problems associated with a variety of very specific injuries or disorders affecting muscles and/or tendons and/or other soft tissue which have very specific names.
  • Type 1 RSI relates to a specific disorder which a doctor can diagnose. These have recognised treatments.
  • Type 2 RSI is a more generalised disorder where diagnosis in terms of a specific condition is more difficult.

RSI for Artists generally afflicts some part of the arm - the fingers, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulders - and can also affect the neck and/or upper back.

RSI Symptoms include:
  • intense pain
  • dull aching or tenderness
  • stiffness
  • throbbing
  • burning
  • tingling 
  • numbness
  • swelling
  • weakness / reduced dexterity
  • cramp
  • inability to grip or lift

Dealing with the intensity of the symptoms can make people very tired.

My particular version of RSI is called tenosynovitis - see NHS page on Tendonitis and other tendon injuries. It runs from the index finger of my right (drawing) hand across the back of my hand, across my wrist, around the back of my forearm into my elbow and then up my arm. I have a semi-permanent swelling on the back of my hand below the index finger knuckle which is where the injury is particularly bad.

The practical impact is:
  • I can't grip anything in my right hand either tightly or for too long. 
  • I can only draw using certain techniques eg hatching is very easy; drawing small changes in line very precisely is not
  • I can't use my right hand continuously for too long - I need to take lots of short breaks
  • I must use a soft keyboard. I'm completely unable to use a keyboard which has any vibration as I'm in agony very quickly if I do.
  • Sometimes I have to wear a brace which maintains my palm and wrist in one position - but allows me to flex my fingers
My new wrist splint - the last one was very well used!
On the whole I need this less now as I'm much better at protecting myself
(Note: I'm not going to try and describe all the conditions in this post - however I am going to link to decent websites which do provide more authoritative information)

Other common RSI or RSI related conditions

I've referenced the relevant NHS information site which provides an introduction and information about causes, symptoms and treatment
  • Bursitis / Tennis elbow: The sac of fluid around a joint is injured due to a spain or irritated due to overuse /repetitive strain. This leads to swelling. See NHS Choices - Bursitis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:  This is where the Median Nerve which passes through the wrist becomes irritated. Symptoms include tingling, numbness and pain of the thumb and/or index finger, middle finger or third finger. Dexterity becomes reduced. See NHS Choices: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Dupuytren's contracture: This condition causes the hand to close - with fingers being towards the palm of your hand See  NHS - Dupuytren's Contracture
  • Ganglion - a fluid-filled lump or nodule can be caused by repetitive strain. They often develop on the wrist. See NHS - Ganglion cyst
  • Epicondylitis – inflammation of the area where bone and tendon join, such as the elbow. It causes pain and tenderness on the outside of your elbow and pain when twisting or lifting or bending. See NHS - Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Shoulder Pain eg Rotator Cuff disorder (which I experienced recently) - Normal movement is reduced and painful. Inability to lift or twist the arm. See NHS - Shoulder pain
Other conditions which can also be related or affected include:
  • Osteoarthritis - the most common form of arthritis which often affects the small joints of the hand. Symptoms include joint pain or tenderness. There is no cure but you can reduce its impact and treat symptoms. See NHS - Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis - an auto immune disease which damages tendons, cartilage and bone. Symptoms involve throbbing, stiffness and pain. See NHS Rheumatoid arthritis

How do artists get repetitive strain injury?

Artists get RSI for the same sorts of reasons that other people with vocational activities get RSI.

The most common reasons for RSI injuries are:
  • repetitive strain - overuse of the muscles / tendons in a way which is continued
  • poor posture and/or holding the same posture for too long without a break
  • working for too long without a break
  • poor and/or cold working working environment
  • use of tools which require force or can cause a strain
  • vibration of tools held or used
Basically if you exhibit bad posture and keep using the same muscle groups over and over again, day after day for long periods
  • sooner or later you will find that you start to get aches and pains; 
  • those aches and pains will in due course become more painful; 
  • if the tendons or tissue becomes inflamed and/or if the nerve(s) become involved you will experience intense pain;
  • if you continue and don't take appropriate action you may experience paralysis and/or a total inability to perform normal functions.
The other most common reason is that artists don't get enough education in why certain working practices make them a "sitting duck" for RSI.

You may also be predisposed (like me) to problems if you have a connective tissue disorder.

How do artists make RSI worse?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

No sketching allowed? Really?

I'm beginning to find it more than a little tedious that some sketchers are turning into the drawing equivalent of the cyclists who always run the red lights - as if the rules of the road are for everybody else but not for them.

Why such an extreme statement you may say?

Sketching in Art Galleries and Museums

Well the fact is that
  1. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen mass confusion and diatribes about what a "no sketching' sign actually means.
  2. Yet again somebody has seen fit to be alarmist in a newspaper! (See Oliver Wainwright's article in The Guardian - 'No sketching': V&A signs betray everything the museum stands for).  
  3. Yet again we have seen guerilla sketchers on the warpath.
The article has one of the most sensational summaries I've heard in a long time.
No visit should be complete without tripping over a skinny-jeaned student clutching a sketchbook. This draconian diktat denies visitors their art education
I'll give Oliver Wainwright the benefit of the doubt and assume it was written by some sub-editor whose pay is determined by the traffic he generates for articles.  Draconian diktat indeed!

So at this point it seems relevant to post my sketches done in the Victoria and Albert Museum of
My sketch of Constable's "Boatbuilding near Flatford Mill"
11" x 16", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Spinning Around in Gold Hot Pants
from the "Kylie Minogue: Image of a pop star" exhibition
at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2007
Note: My pen and ink sketch is of Kylie's infamous gold lame hotpants from the Spinning Around Video which revealed rather a lot and achieved iconic status as a result. They have been on display - in their very own perspex box - at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I popped in and did a sketch on a recent visit when I went to see the exhibition of her clothes (amazing!).

The Victoria and Albert Museum Policy on sketching

This is a quotation from the Victoria and Albert Museum website (my underlining)
Photography and sketching
Photography and sketching are permitted throughout most of the Museum, except in our temporary exhibition spaces.
and a policy statement Guidelines for Using the Galleries (which, as it happens, is inaccessible on the V&A's new website - you have to know it exists to find it!) which clearly states
"10. Sketching is not allowed in exhibitions"
So that's about 95+% of the area of the museum and its contents which can be both photographed and sketched! The ONLY areas which are off limits are the temporary exhibitions.

Let me repeat that for all those who scan read and miss the point completely


As the article recognises - but way beyond the point at which the scan readers will have switched off....
The V&A has been quick to point out that sketching is still welcomed in the rest of the museum, and that the rule only applies to temporary exhibitions
The article makes the point that the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A in 2012 was the breaking point when it came to sketching in exhibitions.

Long queues or sketching?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Review: SBA Exhibition 2016 - Shape, Pattern and Structure

In this review of the 2016 annual exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists (SBA) I'm going to focus on the various art media used for artwork submitted and accepted into the 2016 exhibition.

Sandra Armitage, President of the SBA, with her watercolour paintings
View of the centre of the exhibition
First a number of points of interest relating to the exhibition itself.
  • I found I had a lot of difficulty this year in recognising people's work (unless they were doing 'more of the same'). It seems that the theme of 'Shape, Pattern and Structure' really made some people think and they tried drawing and painting new (for them) plants and flowers. Personally I enjoyed people flexing their artistic muscles and doing new things. However I have a lot of empathy for those that didn't meet the challenge. I suspect the image of your chosen subject is in the same place as mine - in your head!
  • Next it's worth noting that fewer works were hung this year while the standard of quality work was definitely maintained. In part I understand that more larger works were submitted. What I noticed were more smaller works as well. I think maybe the differential entrance fee - depending on size is tending to produce works at the extremes rather than in the middle!
  • However - one thought to ponder on. I went out for lunch recently with Anne-Marie Evans who spoke with conviction about the need for botanical artists to emphasise form as well as accuracy in draughtsmanship and skills in painting.  It's a characteristic of the expert artist. You can't get a 3D feel for a plant unless you can see it and to see it you have to acknowledge in your head that it is there and then seek to work at ways to create 3D through 2D. Ever since the lunch I've found I've been looking at botanical artwork with new eyes - and I have to say she is right! There are some works in the exhibition which are beautifully painted but which lack the form they need and which is clearly evident in the best work. "Is it 3D?" is one of those notes that it's very easy to pin up in your studio and reference on a regular basis!
Not all artwork is conventional or traditional botanical art!

Paintings in different media


The exhibition includes some excellent paintings in watercolour.
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