Thursday, June 20, 2019

RIP Charles Reid (1937 - 2019)

The extraordinary and incomparable watercolour painter and art instructor Charles Reid died on 1st June 2019.

I'm sure all of us who were fans of him all have our own memories of "our connections" with Charles Reid - even if we never ever met him.

These are mine.....

When I first got interested in art again - as a much-needed creative diversion from number-crunching (after the long slog through my first degree at Cambridge and then the exams for my accountancy qualification) -  one of the very first painting instructors who appealed to me was Charles Reid.

I'd spend hours in the art shops salivating over the watercolour paints and then spent what seemed like forever sat in the book section pouring over the latest brilliant art instruction book from Watson Guptill in the USA - trying to decide what I could afford to buy - paints or books or paint and books - and it was invariably the latter.

One of the artist/authors I loved best of all was Charles Reid. He just connected like no other art instructor at that time.

I never became a good watercolour painter, preferring dry media to wet, but my eyes were opened to art-making while reading his books.

I absolutely loved his washy way of watercolour painting which had sensational colours and glazes and blurs and mixes on the page. I bemoan endlessly the fact I so very rarely see paintings by a master painter who celebrated the attributes of watercolour in exhibitions of watercolour painting today.

I was awe-struck by the fact he left his watercolours drip down the page and was totally unphased by it. He left his graphite sketch included in the final work - for all to see. Surely this was breaking the laws of "proper painting"?

In time I came to see him very much as the contemporary successor to John Singer Sargent.

Somebody who always painted from what he could see and was always concerned with the effect he was trying to achieve.

recent images on his Instagram account - with that very memorable self-portrait in the middle
Who remembers the:
  • continuous line drawing?
  • the "big blur"?
  • the emphasis on seeing shapes and values as they presented themselves - and not as your brain tried to tell you they were?
  • highlighting the value of the backlit subject?
  • even more emphasis on the importance of edges - and "the lost and found"?
  • the focus on mixing interesting darks - on the palette and on the page - and the avoidance of black
  • and always always always - looking for connections and relationships within your subject - in line, mass, colour and tone... ?
What I liked about him was this teaching (in his books) was always very informal - and at the same time very thoughtful and considered - a bit like his paintings.

However, for me the most important thing was that his instruction wasn't about watercolour painting and 'how to paint' at all.

When I went to pull some of my Charles Reid books off my bookshelves I was amazed to find that absolutely none of them were in the watercolour section!  In fact I'd say I was panicking at that point!!!

They were of course elsewhere - on my composition and design shelves - and sitting with the other books in related subject matter.

That's because he was about so much more than about how to paint in watercolours or oil.

Below you can see the covers of just three of my books. I guess the most recent editions now have different covers.

I can't find my copy of Painting what you want to see (right) - but that's also a great book

I'd like to pay tribute to what he taught me by encouraging you to seek out these books if you've not read them previously - and have a good read - and then start applying his tips in your practice.

I rarely see them in bookshops anymore - more's the pity - but you can still find them all online.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Review: New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2019

Last Thursday, I attended the Private View of the New English Art Club's Annual Exhibition 2019 - however the PV was so well attended and the galleries so packed that I was unable to get an impression of the artwork as a whole. I could see paintings - but couldn't stand back from many or see the whole - and how it "hung together".

photograph taken from the end of the main gallery, during the speeches at 6pm
So I decided to make a return visit - not being aware that I would be suffering the equivalent of "exhibition jetlag" by the weekend! (It's been very, very busy for three weeks!) So I went back again yesterday, with a fresh eye, and this is my review of the exhibition.

Key points are:
  • 385 paintings, prints and drawings in the exhibition by members and (to be counted) artists selected from the open entry. Of these 
    • 300 were by 82 members, 
    • 8 were by 6 members of other FBA societies and 
    • 77 were by 66 artists via the open entry
    • more about metrics at the end
  • Sales look reasonably good. I counted 43 sales (11%) yesterday - with a few members selling more than one painting.
Melissa Scott-Miller (paintings in the centre) is selling well - surprise surprise! ;) 
  • The President of NEAC stated very clearly at the opening of the exhibition that this is emphatically NOT an open exhibition. It's an annual exhibition by members and the vast majority of artwork is by members and although lots want to exhibit and be members only a very few are chosen each year. There is space for a small numbers of other artists to exhibit alongside members and candidates. More commentary on this below.
  • It's a patchy exhibition - some parts and some artists excel while others are nondescript. I will explain below...
  • It's sad to see so many paintings by very senior members who are well past their best. 
  • Most is quite traditional ("impressionistic") and there's very little that is very contemporary - in terms of subject matter, media and style.  That might well be something to do with the ratio of members to open work and the average age of members....
The New English Art Club Annual Exhibition is a chance to experience the very best in figurative, observational and painterly work in the UK.

It showcases paintings, drawings and prints from its elected members alongside work by emerging artists whose ethos reflects its own: informed by the visual world and personal interpretation; and underpinned by drawing. Mall Galleries Introduction
  • Some of the artists selected via the Open have been "emerging" for very many years(!) and are respected members of other FBA Societies. It doesn't leave much room for genuinely new art by genuinely new artists. I think the rationale behind the exhibition needs a rethink as to scope.
The exhibition continues across all three galleries at the Mall Galleries until 22nd June 2019. 

You can also see all the works online by scrolling down this page on the Mall Galleries website. Note that if you click the link it takes you to a page where you can express an interest in purchasing a work (and the Mall Galleries operates the Own Art Scheme meaning you can pay over 10 months)

NEAC 2019 - Main Gallery
Main Gallery - near end wall
NEAC 2019 - Main Gallery near the Cafe
NEAC 2019 - Threadneedle Space
NEAC 2019 - North Gallery and the monochrome walls
The New English Art Club (NEAC) was founded in London in 1886 as an exhibiting society by artists influenced by impressionism and whose work was rejected by the conservative Royal Academy.....Initially avant-garde, the NEAC quickly became increasingly conservative.....It still exists, now preserving the impressionist tradition.New English Art Club | Tate

The Open Exhibition

If the NEAC Annual Exhibition is NOT an open exhibition then the Mall Galleries needs urgently to change the heading on its website to say "Open Exhibitions and NEAC" - and to rethink its Terms and Conditions.  If Open means it is only "open to other artists" then it's essential that the artists submitting via the Open Entry need a better definition of what chances of success they can expect
6.1 Our open submission exhibitions are open to artists in the UK, EU, and outside the EU. FBA Terms and Conditions
otherwise it will get in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority with respect to what is advertised and what is delivered.  I recommend a read of the following and in particular the sections on misleading communications.
UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) is the rule book for non-broadcast advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing communications (marketing communications).
Maybe the issue is that which I have referenced previously - that there is no open, transparent and explicit statement of "what is an open exhibition" and clarity about what those who enter can expect about the number of works which will be accepted via the open entry (i.e. are they wasting their entry fees?)

We need much better feedback for those who enter - for every exhibition - as to:
  • how many artists entered
  • how many artworks were entered
  • how many artworks were selected by how many artists 
  • average number of open artworks hung per artist from the open entry
Artists (including other FBA artists) can then make an intelligent decision about whether to enter and if so, how many artworks to enter.

For more on this topic see my commentary and charts about on Exhibition Metrics at the end.

The Selection and the Hang

When I'm visiting an exhibition I always ask people I meet what they think of the exhibition and get their views before they know mine. So in offering some views below I take comfort from the fact that I know I was not alone.....

Monday, June 17, 2019

F&W Media Bankruptcy Protection UPDATE re SALES of Artist Network, Wet Canvas & North Light Books

An update for those who have had, in the past, a connection with Wet Canvas.  
SALES of assets have taken place.

How much Artists Network sold for
- and the relative status of "Crafts" and "Art" should anybody be in any doubt


The Debtors continue to operate their businesses and manage their properties as debtors in possession pursuant to sections 1107 and 1108 of the Bankruptcy Code. The Debtors have filed a motion seeking joint administration of the Chapter 11 Cases pursuant to Rule 1015(b) of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. 
  • On 7th June the CEO announced that the Books Division had been sold and that the Random House/Penguin bid had been selected as the winning bid and was due to be ratified in court last Monday (June 10th)
  • On 13th June, an auction was held in Wilmington and the Communities Division was sold in separate lots. 
  • On 17th June (today), documents were filed, which seem to me to say that the sales are approved subject to certain conditions. (but bear in mind I'm ignorant of USA bankruptcy law) 
It remains to be seen what will happen to the art books, art magazines and communities and forums relating to artists - and the royalties due to authors.

Below are more details about the sale of the two divisions - and how come my name ended up in the Court documents!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

BP Portrait Award 2019: Artists with their paintings

If your portrait gets selected for the BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, you can expect the following might happen
  • your portrait will be seen by over 200,000 people visiting the exhibition - and more around the UK over the next 12 months
  • your CV will be very much enhanced by selection for this prestigious exhibition - which very much helps when trying to interest other galleries in your work
  • your website will get enquiries for portrait commissions - (assuming you have one and it provides decent information about commissions!)
  • you get photographed with your painting for this blog post!
What follows is my annual post about Artists with their Paintings

BP Portrait Award Exhibition - Porter Gallery at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Artists with their Paintings

You saw photographs of the prizewinners with their paintings in my previous post Charlie Shaffer wins BP Portrait Award 2019

The purpose of this post is to provide
  • an insight into the age, education and experience of the artist and something of the story behind the painting. Not all artists are experienced and/or professional - a number are enthusiastic amateurs, others are starting out on their careers and some have been working as portrait painters for some time.
  • an idea of the size of portraits selected for the exhibition - by including the portrait painter next to their painting (where feasible)!
The artists included below are those who 
  • attended the Press View 
  • AND I managed to spot and ask them to be photographed with their paintings. (Artlist Labels are very helpful!). It therefore excludes those who were unable to make the trip.

In a way it's a representation of all the 2,537 artists from 84 countries around the world who submitted work for the show and the 20 UK artists and 24 International Artists who whose work was selected for the exhibition

The artists are organised by the country where they live at present - although that is not always the country where they were born

The narrative below includes LARGE PICS - but you have to 
  • click the pic to see the large version - to see the larger version
  • click the link below the narrative - to go to the artist's website. 
Details of where you can see the exhibition are at the end of the post - together with the same post in previous years (2015-2018)

Click the images to see a LARGER VERSION

UK - England

Rumination © Frances Bell
Frances Bell RP SWA is a full time professional portrait and landscape painter. In 2018 she was elected to membership of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2018. Born in Cambridge in 1983, and raised in Suffolk, she is now based in Northumberland.  She studied portraiture at the Charles. H. Cecil Studios in 2001 for 3 years, and then taught sporadically at the Charles Cecil studios for a further 7 summers. She has exhibited widely and internationally and won a number of prizes. Her work has been seen in numerous group exhibitions including those of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (2005–18) and the Society of Women Artists (2018). She was previously selected for the BP Portrait Award in 2012.  In 2019, one of her paintings was awarded a Certificate of Excellence from the Portrait Society of America in this years International competition.

The portrait is of the artist’s friend, Edd, who has sat for her on previous occasions and seemed to be a good choice for a life-size portrait. Bell was keen to capture a period of intense thought, and Edd’s recently cut hair and full beard suggested a philosophical air to her.

Chinese Cloth © Bridget Cox

Bridget Cox - b. 1951. A practising artist currently living in Cumbria. Trained at the Carlisle College of Art and Design and graduated with BA (Hons) degree in fine art (painting) from the University of Ulster, Belfast. Her work has been seen in solo exhibitions at Tullie House Museum and Gallery, Carlisle; Queen’s University, Belfast and the Clifden Arts Festival, Co. Galway, Ireland. Her paintings are in private and public collections in the UK, Ireland and France and are listed on the Art UK website.
Her portrait titled ‘Chinese Cloth’ is of the artist's friend. Hilary Linton of Brampton. She has sat for the artist on a number of occasions. This has allowed Cox to shift her emphasis from the depiction of the external to the internal life. The complex tones were augmented by Cox who says:
‘I chose the wearing of the hat to emphasise the shape of Hillary’s head and for the interplay of colour and texture within the image.

Saturday, June 15, 2019


My apologies to those waiting for further blog posts about the BP Portrait Award 2019.

Unfortunately I've got website issues which need addressing sooner rather than later
PLUS I'm a tad pooped from a week involving one Awards ceremony, three Private or Press views for three different exhibitions - on successive days - and a lengthy visit to the Hospital for tests. All of which also seemed to involve rain!

So normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Further posts will cover:
  • Artists with their Paintings
  • A 20 minute very articulate video interview with Charlie Shaffer, winner of the BP Portrait Award 2019 First Prize
  • A review of the exhibition
Below is a nice pic of the  BP Portrait/Travel Award prizewinners minus the First Prizewinner
Left to right:
  • Massimiliano Pironti - 3rd prize (Italy)
  • Emma Hopkins - Young Artist (UK);
  • Carl-Martin Sandvold - 2nd prize (Norway);
  • Manu Kaur Saluja - BP Travel Award (USA)
Massimiliano's portrait of his grandmother is in the background

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Charlie Shaffer wins BP Portrait Award 2019

Charlie Schaffer has won the prestigious first prize in the BP Portrait Award 2019 for Imara in her Winter Coat, a portrait of his close friend.
Charlie Shaffer with his portrait and award for first prize in the BP Portrait Award 2019
Imara in her Winter Coat

(1200mm x 900mm, oil on canvas)

BP Portrait Award - First Prize: Charlie Shaffer

He received the £35,000 cheque for first prize last night from Sandi Toksvig, the guest presenter, at the Awards Ceremony for the BP Portrait Award 2019 at the National Portrait Gallery, London.  He won £35,000 and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion, worth £7,000 (to be agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist)

The portrait can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery from Thursday 13 June when the BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition opens to the public. Admission to the exhibition is free.

Charlie Shaffer with (left) Bob Dudley CEO of BP, Sandi Toksvig and right Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Chair of the Judges and Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London

His portrait beat 2,538 submissions from 84 countries.

The portrait: His model is an English Literature student who he met after moving permanently to Brighton. Sittings for the portrait took place over four months. The whole point about the winter coat is that she needed to wear something really warm to cope with sitting in his studio’s cold conditions.

Schaffer set out to paint only Imara’s face, but subsequently added the coat after being inspired by Titian’s Portrait of Girolamo Fracastoro in the National Gallery, London, with its pyramidal composition and the subject’s similar attire.

Why the judges liked it:
  • admired the mannerist style of this portrait
  • considered it had a strong sense of a living presence
‘the skilful depiction of a combination of several different textures including faux-fur, hair and skin are revealed by prolonged looking and together these produce an image that is traditional, but clearly contemporary.’
About Charlie Shaffer: Born in London in 1992, Schaffer studied at Central Saint Martins and then the University of Brighton where he graduated in 2014 with a degree in Fine Art. He has also won the Brian Botting Prize ‘for an outstanding representation of the human figure’ three times.

This is the first time he has been selected for the BP Portrait Award exhibition. Schaffer’s practice is mainly concerned with the act of painting, and how the process that allows the painter and sitter to spend time with one another forms unique and intense relationships.

Charlie looked a tad shellshocked while accepting his award and didn't really smile until he met back up with his partner - when he relaxed!

Charlie Shaffer smiles - with his partner at last night's Awards ceremony

BP Portrait Award - Second Prize: Carl-Martin Sandvold

Friday, June 07, 2019

A Botanical Art Bonaza - in England, Scotland and Ireland

Making A Mark has been quiet for the past week because I've been diligently writing blog posts about juried open botanical art exhibitions opening in England, Scotland and Ireland - at the same time(!) - on my Botanical Art and Artists News blog

Here's a summary - with some pics - of what's going on in London, Edinburgh and Dublin right now!

ENGLAND: Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists (SBA)

the end wall display in the Main Gallery at the Mall Galleries

To date I've written the following posts about "Plantae" the 2019 Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists which is an international exhibition with 431 artworks by c.190 botanical artists

It's on at the Mall Galleries until 1pm on Sunday 9th June - with demonstrations of botanical artwork in coloured pencil (today) and painting on vellum (tomorrow).

It's the SBA's first time at the Mall Galleries. Everybody participating and regular visitors are very impressed with the environment and wonderful lighting and how good the artwork looks. Plus the Manager of the Mall Galleries told me on Tuesday night that he knew it was going to be good but it's actually much better!
Winner of the Joyce Cuming Presentation Plate
The Secret World of Potatoes by Lidiya Doukhnevitch (watercolour £1,500)

Coming up next is
  • a post about those artists who were awarded a Certificate of Botanical Merit - which was judged by Lucy T Smith, who illustrates plants for Kew Gardens.  (These are artists who get judged on science as well as art!)
  • finally, the fourth post will be a review of the exhibition as a whole and a commentary on its move to the Mall Galleries. I've been asking people what they think about the new environment.
Incidentally, the SBA raised the bar considerably by putting their exhibition catalogue online and including images of ALL the artwork in the show.

SCOTLAND: Annual Exhibition of Botanical Images Scotia (BISCOT)

BISCOT is an acronym for "Botanical Images Scotia". It's annual exhibition of contemporary botanical illustration which
  • promotes excellence in botanical painting and illustration.
  • gives both national and international artists an opportunity to exhibit in Edinburgh and presents new and original botanical work.
Each exhibitor creates a display of SIX artworks - and the exhibition is open to and attracts international entrants. In this respect BISCOT is the Scottish equivalent of the RHS Botanical Art Show in London - and is regarded as the top show in Scotland in terms of awards and prestige.

The BISCOT Exhibition is held annually at
  • Gardening Scotland (sponsored by the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society) (31 May - 2 June)
  • the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) - John Hope Gateway (5-20 June 2019)​

Sansanee Deekrajang (Thailand) won a BISCOT Gold Medal and Best in Show for her Exhibit of Tropical Palms

BISCOT Medal Winners 2019 is about those artists who won their medals a week ago at the Annual BISCOT Exhibition at the Gardening Scotland show at the Ingliston Showground in Edinburgh

This week the exhibition transferred to the John Hope Gateway at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) where it continues until the 20th June.

I'll be writing another post about this exhibition as it contains a new category - which is the newly launched RBGE Florilegium (see below)

IRELAND: Annual Botanical and Floral Exhibition at Bloom

Iris “Red Rum”” by Siobhan Larkin
Last week Ireland's premier juried botanical art exhibition, the 7th Annual ​​Exhibition of Botanical and Floral Art in Bloom opened at the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre in Phoenix Park, Dublin - where it remains until the end of June 2019.

Bloom 2019 - Botanical Art Medal Winners is about the award winners in the botanical art side of the Bloom show. Medals for this show are awarded just for one work.

I'm really hoping that at some point Bloom will upgrade to the same type and standard of exhibition as the RHS and BISCOT which both require exhibits of six paintings by each exhibiting artist - and medal judgements are made about the six paintings as a whole.

But maybe that needs to be a different show - linked to and partnered with a Horticultural Society or Botanic Garden. It will almost certainly need to be in a different venue