Monday, February 20, 2017

Interviews with RHS Botanical Art Gold Medallists - from the UK and Europe

At the end of this week, the RHS Botanical Art Show 2017 opens in London in the RHS Lindley Hall.

This post contains interviews with five artists who won RHS Gold Medals for their botanical art in 2016.

I've been writing about the RHS Botanical Art Shows on this blog since 2007. In future, all my reviews about the RHS Botanical Art Shows and interviews with the artists will be on the blog on my dedicated website Botanical Art and Artists. (This has grown traffic fast and now gets two-thirds of the traffic that Making A Mark gets. Also, Alexa's 'similar sites' tool now ranks it as the top website in the world for botanical art!)

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Interviews with RHS Botanical Art Gold Medallists in 2016

Now for the explanation behind this post!

In 2016, there were 13 Gold Medallists and I had to really rethink my normal strategy of including all the interviews with Gold Medallists in one blog post.

After the show, I wrote a number of blog posts about:
Then added their photos and mini-bios to my website pages about Botanical Artists in the UK and Europe and Asia and Australia and Africa....

....and completely FORGOT (I was pooped!) to write up the interviews with the five artists winning Gold Medals who lived in Italy, the Netherlands and the UK! Whoops!

So one year later here it is!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review: The Big Painting Challenge - Episode 2 (Landscapes)

The Big Painting Challenge was out of the studio and down in Hastings for Episode 2 Landscapes, aka as The Big Battle of Painting Hastings.

This is about:
  • what happened next - when the contestants tackled plein air painting
  • the learning points in relation to what mentors advised
  • the learning points in terms of what contestants did
Readers will recall this series of programmes is all about how to Learn, Improve and Grow as an artist.

Review of the landscape paintings after the big painting challenge

The First Challenge

The first test is another Perspective Challenge - they're painting the Pier!
  • this time their challenge involved working outdoors and plein air painting from observation (which always comes as a bit of a shock to those who've never tried it before!)
  • It involves rendering the straight lines and diminishing perspective of Hastings' newly refurbished pier.
The challenges are identified as being about 
  • scale, 
  • perspective and 
  • proportion.
I took one look at the view and dropped my jaw. It's not an easy subject even for experienced painters.

Hastings Pier from the promenade a big plastic tent

The BBC and the judges forgot to identify for viewers that the real challenge was painting plein air!

I really don't know how people can get involved in programmes like this without it occurring to them that it might be a good idea to give themselves a bit of a head start by getting some practice in by trying to paint plein air.

As it happens the weather conditions would have challenged even those with experience.

It was wet and rainy and blustery passed off by one of the tutors as being "a little bit of wind and rain" when clearly even the camera crew were more than a bit challenged by the weather! I wrote down "HORRENDOUS CHALLENGE!"
"Painting plein air has thrown everyone out of their comfort zone - even the camera crew"
The paint appeared to be running off the canvas. I can only conclude they'd been supplied with media which mixed with the amount of moisture in the atmosphere caused the paint to diffuse and disappear. I've actually never seen anything like it.  At one point I wrote down
All their paintings are washing away!
Presumably retiring to a seafront cafe and painting from the window (the perennial sketcher solution) was not an option?

The mentors gave prompts about eyelines and perspective and proportion with reminders to measure size, shapes and angles - and generally indicated that they were looking for a bit of determination to deal with the elements.

Personally I found myself being rather surprised to hear one of the mentors telling one of the painters that he needed to make sure that buildings get lighter as they go away from you - without any explanation as to why.  Clearly the concept of "aerial perspective" didn't make it on to the perspective teaching script - or the idea that this doesn't just apply to buildings.

Angela Watson emerged as a bit of star for this part of the programme. Not only was she very used to it being rainy at the seaside (the only time she ever visited was when the weather was too bad to do anything on the farm) but she also got stuck in and found a unique solution to dealing with the way her paint kept dripping down the canvas. She turned the canvas sideways so the drips then ran horizontally across the canvas. Plus she produced a painting which all three judges like a lot!  I think she's going to do well despite only painting for a year.

Angela gets to grips with her streaks

The Second Big Painting Challenge - Landscapes

The next day, the contestants encounter and experience that well known phenomenon of painting plein air in the UK - four seasons in one day!
  • The location for the day is the pier (did the producers know this is always the most blustery place at the seaside?) and 
  • the challenge is to paint the landscape, architecture and beachfront of Hastings. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How to create a bubble wrap envelope for your framed artwork

I spotted a very useful set of instructions today for two different ways of creating a bubble wrap envelope for your artwork when transporting it to an exhibition.

Last week I had fun and games sat in the National Dining Rooms at the National Gallery last week taking custody of a painting and creating a bubble wrap envelope for it so I could take it home on the tube. All done over the knives and forks and napkins! (Next blog post: "How to make yourself the centre of attention!"). Incidentally, I used the second method!

Anyway - here's the link to the instructions - which have ace diagrams - which could do with being a tad bigger but are perfectly readable

Bubble Wrap Envelope Instructions - New England Society of Botanical Artists

On my home with painting wrapped securely - on my way to the tube
Here's my bubble wrap sandwich - complete with big red buses and lions in Trafalgar square in the background.  It has string tied around it to prevent it coming undone.

I also recommend string bags for carrying packages which are securely packed.

They offer absolutely no protection whatsoever but will change shape for just about any package.

Plus you have no extra weight or substance to carry on your way to the pick-up or going home after the drop-off.

Nor do you have any problems getting a  string bag into e.g. galleries or restaurants (as compared to a suitcase).

Interestingly I walked out of the National Gallery with a picture - and nobody stopped me!

QUESTION: What's your favoured method for transporting artwork when you don't have access to a car.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I'm in the spotlight!

Vuelio recently rated my blog as one of the 10 top art blogs in the UK and has now also done a blog post about me.


As it says
In this spotlight, Katherine chats to us about how she measures the success of her blog, how she likes to work with PRs, and how she uses social media to promote the content on her blog.

Blogger Spotlight Katherine Tyrrell Making A Mark

I'm really not at all used to having two "much larger than I would normally use" photos of myself in a blog post. You can have too much of a good thing! ;)

Can I go back to blogging in my PJs now?

See also Making A Mark is a Top 10 Art Blog in the UK 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: The Big Painting Challenge - Episode 1

I'm going to be doing a review of each episode of BBC's second series of The Big Painting Challenge.  I did this last time with the first series and tried to focus on learning points from what I observed. The aim of my blog posts will be to try and draw out the themes of the episode and identify the things I noticed.
The aim of the series is to help the artists - and by implication the watching audience at home -
  • Learn
  • Improve and
  • Grow as an artist.
I'll also be introducing comments from social media - although frankly I think maybe this programme appeals to an audience that doesn't tweet!  They were certainly very quiet last night.

First episode, first explanation of what happens next!

First Impressions

My first impressions were favourable. They've certainly addressed a number of niggles associated with the last series
  • the artists are allowed to use whatever media they choose - and can bring their own media and kit from home. That gets round some of the nonsense of the last series which was to do with people having to get to grips with an entirely new medium in pretty short order
  • there's more instruction and guidance. This series is going to very obviously have a much higher educational component delivered by the two mentors. There seems to be some sort of conscious effort to replicate the atelier system with a view to 
    • encouraging contestants
    • coaching the artists in fundamental skills - which also provides a more direct benefit to any amateur artists watching
    • pushing them out of their comfort zones in order to realise their inner artist and true potential. (I think it actually takes quite a lot longer than this - but the idea is on the right lines!)
  • the programme is being much more explicit about the criteria that would be used to judge each challenge - this can only be a good thing as that also provides a basis for the audience to develop their ability to make judgements according to those criteria. However judging by last night they could have done with a big card with the criteria stated on it somewhere prominent within each room where the artists were painting!
  • They've changed the format for the challenges. Using the classic three different challenges format as used for the other challenge programmes meant that the last challenge always got squeezed for time. This time the format seems to be:
    • signature challenge
    • mentor tips and techniques session 
    • the painting equivalent of the "showstopper" which now seems to have much more time
  • The artists seem a good mix.  This is their profiles page on the BBC website. There are variable levels of experience and formal art education and tend towards the serious amateur who'd like to do better and the 'just out of art school'. 
    • There appears to be no scope for the series to be won by somebody who had been a professional artist who had become a stay at home Dad as happened rather predictably last time. 
    • I'm not quite sure why television needs to have such an overwhelming obsession with "interesting back stories". It always leaves me thinking that people get chosen for their back story rather than their enthusiasm for art and skill and competence. 
    • One of the contestants, Ruaridh Lever-Hogg is deaf - he has a "voice" who reads his signing and who we never see (which I rather like). He made the very interesting point that losing one of your faculties means the others become more enhanced.  
    • Others have a different perspective about the mix of artists - wanting to see the best of those who applied.
  • I like the introduction of "The Public Gallery" which enables one artist to get a 'pass' to the next round. 
  • They've borrowed the warehouse overlooking the Thames at Wapping - as used by The Great British Sewing Bee.  That should help keep costs under control in contrast to the last programme where every episode was located at a different site around the country

    The First Still Life Challenge

    Quite why this programme insists on having such an odd assortment of totally unrelated objects as a still life is beyond me. It would have been good to see a more considered approach to the objects which could have still offered a challenge in relation to size, shape, colour, texture etc.
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