Thursday, February 21, 2019

Review: Episode 2 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2019

This week's episode of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 has sparked a bit of a controversy online - of which more anon. 

Suffice to say that yet again the judges' judgement has been called into question by the British viewing public! But I think I have an answer as to what happened.....


A view of two of the sets for the sitters and painters in Episode 2

As usual what you'll find below is:
  • a list of the professional and amateur artists participating in Episode 2 of the series
  • my commentary on themes which I spotted
  • who got shortlisted
  • who won the Heat and goes through to the Semi-Finals.
More about the competition and the judges in my first blog post - listed at the end.

In summary the series works like this:
  • Episodes 1 - 6 - Heats filmed at the Wallace Collection where the public can also watch.
  • Episode 7 - Six Heat Winners meet for the Semi-Final
  • Episode 8 - The Final at the National Portrait Gallery culminating in the announcement of the winner
  • Episode 9 - A programme about "the artist of the year journey" and painting the commission.
Life is being made "interesting" for me every week because I'm alway sat at the beginning of every episode waiting for one of the finalists to appear - because I know what they look like and how they paint - because I was at the final of this series at the NPG in June last year!

You can view a Heat in person in the series which will be broadcast next year if you get yourself along to the BRAND NEW VENUE at Battersea Arts Centre from 2nd-12th April 2019 (not including the weekend). Doors will open to the public at 10am.

The Artists, Self-portraits and Sitters



PLEASE NOTE - as always:
  • a link to the artist's website is embedded in their name - click the link to see more of their artwork
  • Links to their social media accounts are also provided if sent to me in advance and/or I can find them online. Mainly because of them not getting proper credits in the programme!
  • a link to the speeded up time lapse video of each artist working on their portrait follows the social media links 
  • see the end of this post re how to contact me re. any errors of spelling or links ASAP
This episode we have 3 professional artists and 6 amateur artists.

Who made it to the shortlist of three?


The Professional Artists


  • Lindsey Gallacher (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - video - graduated (2000) with a First Class Hons. degree from Edinburgh College of Art in Jewellery and Silversmithing. She has a workshop in Swanson street, Thurso, Caithness (in Scotland). She's been creating contemporary jewellery and other forms of Art for 18 years. She describes herself as "a Caithness stone jewellery and scratch artist" but also confesses to being a total novice when it comes to using scratchboard for portraits. You can see more of her scratch art on her website.
  • Fatima Pantojer (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - video - From Spain but now based in Hampshire. Freelance Fine Artist specialising in: live portraiture, illustration and sculptures. She also teaches
  • Hannah Shergold (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - video - Ex Army helicopter pilot (she used to fly a Lynx). Wild Card winner of those artists invited to paint portraits from a screen at last year's final. Graduated  from Cambridge University in 2006 having studied pre-clinical Veterinary Medicine and changed tack to establish herself as a highly respected bronze sculptor. 2009, she joined the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Army Air Corps. 

The Amateur Artists


  • Lucy Li Chenhui (Facebook | Instagram) - video - Was an A Level student at Westminster School, UK at the time of the Final. Now studying Economics and management at St Hugh's College, University of Oxford. Founder of Oxford University Art Club. Art Renewal Centre 13th Salon Finalist. Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Prize Exhibition Artist
  • Aisling Coughlan - video - born in Dublin in 1962, and gained a degree in psychology before taking up part time study at The National College of Art and Design in Dublin. A a figurative artist and works with primarily in acrylic and watercolour She exhibits in Ireland.  This is a link to her blog post about the experience of taking part and being filmed for this episode
  • Rodney Kingston (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - video - studied foundation art and design at Wimbledon School of Art and a graphic design degree at Camberwell College of Arts. He has worked full-time on weekly print publications since 2006. Participated in Landscape Artist of the Year 2017. He's written a blog post about the self-portrait he painted for his entry to the exhibition
  • Rachel Spain - video - Lives in East London and on a sabbatical from her financial services career in the City of London. Absolutely no sign of her art anywhere on the internet.
  • Beth Sparks [Instagram] - video -  Lives in Bedfordshire and works in London as an Office Manager. Foundation Art & Design at the University of Northampton. 
  • Boris Takam (Facebook | Instagram) - video - electrical and electronic engineering student at Manchester University

The Self Portrait Review


The self-portraits on the wall had a variation this heat. That's because the heat included Hannah Shergold who had been awarded a place on the strength of the portrait she produced in the final last year - while sat in a side room looking at a screen.

The rest varied in size a lot as per normal.

The ones which appealed to me were
  • the watercolour on Aquabord by Rachel Spain - staring straight at the viewer
  • the "puritan Amish" style scratchbord portrait by Lindsey Gallagher - staring straight out at the viewer (at this point I'm wondering whether Ampersand ought to get a mention) 
  • Fatima Pantojer's energetic colourful and well drawn self-portrait - staring straight at the viewer
  • Rodney Kingston's stare over this should - straight at the viewer
It's not coincidental that they are staring straight at the viewer - I'm seeing much more of the face and upper torso as a result.


The Sitters


The sitters were very well behaved and "good heads" as well as "good eggs". They were in alphabetical order
  • David Gandy - model
  • Anne Reid - actress
  • Ashley Walters - British rapper and actor (he listed to meditation tapes!)
I'm finding the different art theme each week to be extremely tedious - and it's only week 2. That's the limit of my comments on this "innovation" for this series - other than to ask whether the programme makers are seriously trying to distract the artists?

Discussions and Observations


My comments this week can be viewed as the foundations for my comments later on - when we get to judging and selection. See if you can read between the lines and interpret the code. I'm actually not being very opaque....

Unusual styles and media


I'm convinced that those submitting self-portraits which
  • either use approaches to portraiture which are very unusual
  • and/or use media which is very unusual or not often used for portraiture
are much more likely to get selected for the Heats. That is an official TIP from me.

Imagine for example if every artist painted traditionally in watercolour or acrylic or oil how bored we would get.  There seems to be a conscious effort by the programme makers to promote diversity in portraiture so people can appreciate the very many different ways of creating a portrait.

This of course means that sometimes you get people using media which they are not necessarily very familiar with. Or they switch media once they've got into the Heat and ignore the fact that it was the use of a specific sort of media which got them there.

Bottom line, from my perspective, I've not no objection whatsoever to the Judges seeking to vary what type of artists produce artwork each week.

However we need to recognise that this can mean that we've got a lot of good painters of a certain sort - and they will only pick one of them.  So if your portrait painting looks quite a lot like other people's portrait painting you might want to reflect on that.

Heads versus hands


Speaking personally, as somebody who comments a lot on portraiture competitions and exhibitions, I don't call anybody a portrait artist if they can't paint most of the torso - INCLUDING HANDS.

My definition of "can't paint hands" is that they have every opportunity to do so but choose not to.

Kate commented to the effect that if done properly hands needs as much time and attention as the head. I totally agree. I'd go further and say that badly painted hands undermine the entire portrait.

They are, if you like, the third leg of the trio of anatomical elements that can cause palpitations amongst portrait artists - eyes, mouth and hands.

That's not to say I'm expecting hands to be painted in the Heat given the ridiculously short time they have. However I do expect to be able to see competence in that respect BEFORE the Final
  • either in the self-portrait sent as an entry (pure speculation on my part - but I bet there's not a lot of good paintings of hands turned away)
  • or the Heat Portrait 
  • or the Semi-Final Portrait
  • or the Commission before the Final portrait
and if you win and you still haven't painted hands I still won't call you a portrait artist!

So there - now you know where I stand on hands! :)
Which is important given comments below....

Brutally accurate vs flattery


Should a portrait artist paint what they see - or should they flatter their sitter?

It's an eternal question and one which which is a challenge for every portrait artist. It's also a  question that needs to be asked and answered before any artist starts a portrait.

Problematic sitters


There was passing reference to the fact certain sitters can pose problems for artists
  • the very good-looking sitter can be distracting - and perfection is very difficult to convey well
  • the older person has skin which sags and a skin colour which is different to a younger person. If you've not painted an older person before, the features which are characteristic of an older person may well not be present in your portrait.


Decision Time


Sitters choose portrait to take home



The sitters chose as follows
  • Ashley Walters chose the macro head portrait by Hannah Shergold
  • Anne Reid chose the painting by Rodney Kingston - because it portrayed her as a strong woman
  • David Gandy chose the charcoal and pastel portrait by Fatimer Pantojer
I recognise me in this - it's my facial expression - David Gandy

"I've just created a portrait of David Gandy and now he tells me why he likes it!"


Judges choose shortlist of three



The Judges chose  the following - listed here in alphabetical order:
  • Lindsey Gallagher
  • Rodney Kingston
  • Fatima Pantojer
They described them as
Three completely different and complete works
It wouldn't have been my shortlist - although Fatima would very definitely be on it.

Self portrait and portrait of Ashley Walters by Lindsey Gallagher
Self portrait and portrait of Anne Reid by Rodney Kingston
Self Portrait and Portrait of David Gandy by Fatima Pantojer
I can however see how, when looking at two portraits together, that the portraits by Rodney and Lindsey had some appeal. In both instances, we're looking at a clear and consistent style

These are the pics of the self-portrait and heat portrait together

Things the Judges liked:

  • portraits which are distinctive and speak of the artist and their style
  • the thinking behind a colour palette
  • the bold use of colour - indicating the artist is not afraid of experiments
  • not pixelating the colour too much
  • portraits where bits were right - even when other bits were wrong
  • being impressed by artists who are expert in their use of media

Things the Judges were less keen on portraits where:

  • the artist was unable to sustain promising beginnings
  • the artist failed to get a likeness ( by which I mean you can make errors in drawing and proportion and yet the subject can still be totally recognizable )
  • the artist spends too much time on "extraneous stuff" and fails to get the basics right eg draughtsmanship and likeness (i.e. style over substance does not win)

Things the public were less keen on

  • The Judges Shortlist - which omitted Hannah Shergold

Ashley Walters admires his portrait by Hannah Shergold - before choosing to take it home
It was an obvious choice for me - and it would be Hannah's - Ashley Walters
There was a mini Twitter viral storm in relation to the omission of Hannah Shergold from the shortlist - and I have to say I agree with them.

I even did a mini poll on my Facebook page and the conclusion, after 163 votes were cast (although some were made in error where people clicked before reading) was that 83% thought Hannah should have been included in the shortlist.

For me, she was the only person of all the artists who managed to combine the background and the portrait in a way which created a unity but made a clear statement about what was the background and which face was the real subject.  (Not that I would recommend any of the artists to include the wholly irrelevant backgrounds!)

I also think she was the ONLY person in her group who got a really good likeness of Ashley (irrespective of her bold use of colours) - and it was also the portrait he chose for himself. There was something about "the look" of it and the way he held his head. In part that was because she gridded up her support using an iPad - and consequently her proportions were pretty much spot on. That said it was only part of the head i.e. side profile

The key to understanding the shortlist is this exchange during the Judges final decision-making
When we pit those two against one another each are we confident that is the one that we want to put forward of that sort of style. (Kathleen Soriano)
If I could only have of those two I'd definitely have that one (Kate Bryan)
They were talking about the portrait by Fatima and the portrait by Hannah - and the reason I know this is because of the size of the supports and the fact that you can see the colouration of the background colour even from the back of the support.  So I think Hannah was a very near miss for the shortlist - and she definitely got considered for it

More importantly, what this tells us is that the Judges seem to be making a conscious effort NOT to put forward two similar artists from each Heat. They are trying to continue to promote diversity in approach and style - and media where possible. 

This suggests that if there are (say) five paintings at the end of a Heat which "meet the standard" for a shortlist, then you can be pretty certain if three look similar then only one of those will make it the shortlist

Which rather suggests that if you spot somebody who is similar to you painting in your Heat, you need to make sure that your two portraits are the best portraits if they get lined up next to one another.

It also suggests that you can give yourself a really good head start by submitting the very best possible self-portrait you can do.

I can understand what the Judges are doing and have some sympathy for it. I know for certain that if Fatima had not been in that Heat then Hannah's portrait would have definitely been on the shortlist and she may well have won.  However I agree with the Judges that Fatima's pair of portraits were better - and I explain why below.


Episode 2 Winner


Yet again I will remind readers that the decision is arrived at after reviewing both the initial portrait - and the portrait done in the Heat i.e. the decision is NOT made on the basis of the Heat Portrait alone.

The three shortlisted artists with their Heat Portraits

The Judges decided that the Heat Winner was Fatima Pantojer

The Heat Winner - Fatima Pantojer
Like last week there was a lot of support for another artist on Twitter. (much more so than last time)

However - as I indicate above - I think the reason Hannah's portrait of Ashley wasn't on the shortlist was because Fatima's portrait of David was.

Bottom line- in a straight run-off between the two portraits, Fatima's won for me every time because:
  • she eyeballed the draughtsmanship - rather than using an ipad and photo to give her pointers for structure and tones
  • it was a more complete portrait - including his hands (which were good)
  • it was a more complete face - being head-on rather than a side profile
  • it demonstrated a bold use of colour - and had a much wider palette than Hannah's (although both were equally well judged)
  • despite nearly bringing the kitchen sink with her in terms of media options, Fatima persevered with the use of dry media (charcoal and then soft pastels) she started with and built on her good start rather than losing the both likeness and the impact and energy of her colour and mark-making as she progressed the portrait.
A close-up of the David Gandy portrait - and Fatima's pastel technique
This is how she painted it in pastels. For the record, I could certainly spot Unisons and and a few other brands. See what you can spot!


Fatima Pantoja from Storyvault Films on Vimeo.

How to contact me


If I've made a mistake about your website or social media listings, I'm very happy to change them if you contact me. You can do this either via the email on this contact page or via the post about this episode on my Making A Mark Facebook Page

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More Learning Points re. Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year


PLUS below are my blog posts from last year which contains lots of learning points about painting in this competition for those aspiring to compete this year.

Learning Points re the 2019 competition


Learning Points re the 2018 Competition


Below are my PREVIOUS blog posts about the 2018 competition and my reviews of the heats, semi-finals and final - in which I comment on specific aspects for aspiring future contestants!

How to enter PAOTY 2020 and how to watch if you don't have Sky


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Call for Entries: Society of Women Artists Annual Exhibition 2019

The Society of Women Artists (SWA) published its brand new website today - just prior to the start of the digital submissions to its 2019 Annual Exhibition

The website is a huge improvement and continues the upward trajectory of the SWA's performance in recent years.  The History section in particular has been well researched and is very interesting.

The society holds various exhibitions throughout the year, culminating in the annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. The exhibition consists of works by members and non-members, which are selected by a panel from an open call for entries.



The 158th Open Annual Exhibition will this year be held in the Main and North Galleries of the Mall galleries.

Last year there were 448 artworks - paintings and drawings in all media, fine art prints and ceramics, sculpture & 3D works - across all three galleries - so I'd expect fewer works hung this year.

Dates are as follows
  • Preview Evening: 24th September (by invitation)
  • Exhibition Opens: Tuesday 24th Sep at 4.00 
  • Private View: 25th September, 10am to 8pm - the 158th Exhibition will be officially opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent on Wednesday, 25th September at 11am.  
  • Exhibition Closes: Sunday 29th September 
  • Hours: 10am to 5pm daily, closing at 1.00 on Sunday 29th September
Entry is digital and the Deadline for Online Entries for the 2019 Annual Open Exhibition of the Society of Women Artists is Noon on 20th June 2019.

A total of 15 prizes will be awarded at the 2019 Exhibition - and some involve some generous sponsorship (see below)

In this post you can find:
  • who is eligible to enter
  • what types of artwork are eligible
  • how to enter - with key dates
  • details of the exhibition
  • details of the prizes

Monday, February 18, 2019

11 tips for how to get 1 million website visitors quickly

One of the reasons I don't write every day for Making A Mark is because I've got other websites to look after. One of these - Botanical Art and Artists - celebrated one million visitors sometime earlier today!

As I developed the site, I applied all the things I learned while developing Making A Mark.

Consequently, it made one million visitors MUCH faster than Making A Mark!

This is about what I learned and what I did to help develop an ever increasing number of monthly visitors
A chart of one million visitors by every month of its life
Note the upward trajectory - when you start to see an upward trend, you can keep that going up

In terms of traffic
  • Year 1 (2015): 24,007 - but that's only for 8 month as it started in April - averages 3,000 visitors a month
  • Year 2 (2016): 116,773 - an average just under 10k per month
  • Year 3 (2017): 243,838 - an average of just over 20K per month
  • Year 4 (2018): 392,459 - an average of nearly 33k per month
  • Year 5 (2019): January 2019 - 47k 
That means it's a site worth visiting, telling people about and coming back to - if you happen to be interested in botanical art!

The website now has a global audience from every continent except Antarctica and is way out in front in terms of ranking on the first page of Google for a lot of very relevant search queries.


What helps make your website successful


Botanical Art and Artists Home Page
Below is a list of things I know I did and which I think helped make my website succeed - and quickly

1. Make your website very focused 


The more niche your topic the more likely you are to attract visitors who want to find out more about it. By the same token if your art relates to an area which provides lots of competition, you're going to have to work harder to make your website stand out.

Your site needs to niche enough to lose lots of competition and big enough to provide enough content to get lots of traffic.

Traffic is important - because traffic begets traffic (i.e. people tell their friends).

Once the traffic numbers start to climb you can keep them climbing if you keep doing the right things.

2. Make every webpage very specific - make it a niche within a niche


Being very specific as to the topic of your page really helps a lot with attracting visitors.

Think about when you are shopping for something online.
  • Do you really start with a really generic term like "cars" or "paintings" or "watercolours"?
  • Or do you get much more specific as to what you want eg "landscape watercolour paintings of the highlands of Scotland"
so, for example:

  • "Watercolour paintings" = 51.3 million results
  • "landscape "watercolour paintings" of "Scottish Highlands" " = 29,800 results

3. Make every title very specific in terms of its topic


The search engines use WORDS to search and EACH page needs a title which explains precisely what it's about.

No need to be coy or clever or too general - unless you don't want any traffic!

Make it very relevant to the content and illuminating enough to get people to open a link. Note the title of this blog post! :)

4. Provide a short summary of what each page contains at the top.


If the title of the page interests then the meta description needs to close the deal and get them to click the link

I still find it very worthwhile to write a meta description of each page (in the SEO section) - as this is what Google et al use when they list a page on your website (as opposed to your website). This is really easy to do if you use websiteware which gives you access to the SEO info for your whole site and each page

If I get stuck I use the Google SERP Snippet Optimization Tool which really helps with keeping focused. Aim for about 120-130 characters.

It's also a good idea to make sure that you
  • write a short summary of what each page contains at the top of each webpage 
  • AND make sure that this correlates with what the meta description says!

5. Make navigation very easy


People will never travel from one page to another unless you make navigation clearly signposted and really easy - and that includes when they get to the bottom of the page

The trunk test for websites is the notion that somebody can pop you in the boot (trunk) of a car and drive you out to the middle of nowhere - and you'd be able to find your way home.  However those that provide poor navigation or no indications of how to get back to the HOME PAGE will leave you forever in the limbo land desert.

6. Have a plan for how your website will develop


Complete the important bits first - and then develop your website over time - and keep developing it (or reworking it) - because Google hates a stale site!
  • Think about ways to expand your content. 
  • Lots of snippets can be more useful to your site then one all encompassing "all in one breath" quarterly update. Think about it - do you ever read newsletter updates all the way to the end

7. Use statistics to guide development


Statistics can be really useful in terms of making best use of your time. I've often had my presumptions challenged in a major way by statistics about traffic and what people want to see

I use Google Analytics and Statcounter and the stats from my webware provider. They all count in different ways.

It's the overall trends which really matter. You need to know:
  • which pages are very popular - and why 
  • which pages do not get traffic - and then work out why.
PS I don't believe social media numbers and that's because there are few ways of triangulating them. I think they tend to be haphazard at best given the number of tweaks per year the owners give their algorithms!

I do believe my website stats - because they make sense once you factor in the different ways they count.

8. People look at images and read words - but really they scan both!


Length of stay is an important factor in ranking websites - so you need to provide them with something which makes people want to open more pages and look and read more about you and your work

If you don't give them enough images to look at or words to read then they'll depart fairly fast.
  • make the images too small - they'll leave quickly
  • make the image files too big - they'll never open your page as it'll be too slow to load
  • if you have too many images showing on one page at a time the website may slow right down
You need to find ways of making images very easy to access, look good and yet not slow down your website. Personally speaking, I tend to aim for around about 100KB per image file but that's partly because I often have a lot of images on a page.

9. Write about what you know


Two things people want to know about
  • who you are
  • how you make your art
You are at least as important as your art online - people want to know about you and to know about your art. Show them your expertise and write about it.

Tell people about how you make your art. Seriously - it will make your website different from most! I linger longest on those websites where artists make their expertise accessible and informative. Show them images of your tools and materials and of you making art.

Write in a relaxed and friendly way. Don't be stilted - except when you're providing instructions and need to be precise.

10. Refresh and update a website regularly (use a blog)


Google really likes websites which are refreshed on a regular basis.
  • that means make sure everything is bang up to date 
  • check all pages on which you include items with date and make sure you update them as soon as an event is over. 
One of the excellent ways of doing this is to have a blog - and write regular blog posts. Remember they don't always need to be about your art - it can be about other art that interests you.

Use social media to drive people to your website - whatever works for you and your customers / clients.

11. Do link to relevant other websites - and encourage them to link back


So long as your links are seen as related in the eyes of Google, linking out is not a bad thing.

I should maybe point out that I have several thousand links out on the pages of my Botanical Art and Artists website - but they are all grouped in VERY SPECIFIC CLUSTERS i.e. pages. For example
Being a resource is in fact seen by Google as "a very good thing" - so be helpful!

So if you consider yourself an expert at your particular form of art, it does you no harm to share and show off your expertise. Tell them about exhibitions you've enjoyed or galleries / suppliers / framers who have been helpful.

It'll certainly make your website different to all those that have the identikit artists website I have to look at from time to time.

You can read more about Websites for Artists on my other website Art Business Info. for Artists 
including

Friday, February 15, 2019

Why Watercolour on Google Arts and Culture beats Watercolour World

There's a new website called Watercolour World which purports to be making images of watercolours around the world accessible to all.
The Watercolour World (TWW) is a registered charity that is creating a digital database of all pre-1900 documentary watercolours in the western tradition. 
The About Us page on Watercolour World

It forgets to mention in a prominent way - although it's there in the terms and conditions - that this is a "look but don't touch" website.

That's because those involved with the project invariably make images of artwork available under an "all rights reserved" banner - despite the fact that the artwork has been out of copyright for very many years. The copyright in this instance relates to creating a digital copy of the work. 

A few - such as the British Museum - make their images available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence - which means they can be accessed by students and others learning about art for their school or college projects.

It's also funded by a Foundation which has absolutely no cogent information on the Internet and no track record in terms of history of doing similar projects.

One wonders who did the due diligence in the organisations that are co-operating. They certainly don't know how to look up records at the Charity Commission.

It's said to be operating under a similar model of operation to Art UK.  Now I'm a fan of Art UK and one wonders why the watercolour exercise couldn't have joined it.

  • It took over the project to put all the oil paintings online. 
  • It's also developed a nice sideline in selling prints of the artwork. 

I wonder how long before the same happens to the watercolours........

Statistics on the watercolour World website - indicating where most paintings are coming from

I'm not convinced that this is the right way to make watercolours more accessible to all. 

It strikes me that what we have potentially have here is

  • a gigantic exercise in commoditization of the country's art collection - without any external accountability to those that actually own the artwork i.e. the country's taxpayers It's a way of putting less taxpayer's money into museums and art collections because of the income earned from sales - which is only generated if the artwork can be all over mugs and mousemats.
  • plus a marketing exercise for manufacturers of digital scanners
Extract from the Art UK website - showing how digitised art is being made available as aprons and tea towels


It is in any case entirely pointless. I absolutely guarantee that before very long those who are completely besotted with Pinterest will be pinning away and losing the link to the original site - and ergo the copyright statement!

More to the point, all those who also love selling prints online will have snaffled them and be selling them all over the place. Such individuals have never yet read copyright notices and I see no reason why they should start now.

The thing is if all artworks which were out of copyright were made available online and accessible to all then the market for snaffling them would simply disappear.


Watercolour on Google Arts and Culture


I'm a big fan of Wikimedia Commons and the way that very many collections have made their artwork available online there

My personal preference in terms of image quality is Google Arts and Culture which was created by Google's Cultural Institute - see From self-portraits to street art: 1,000 museums at your fingertips

Watercolour on Google Arts and Culture


Take a look at Watercolour on Google Arts and Culture

It accesses many of the same artworks HOWEVER

  • It's a much more sophisticated operation with a better vision of what is possible
  • it's also a superior operation in terms of image quality. It invested in an infinitely superior method of scanning them which enables us all to look very closely at them to see how they were painted. - see the Gigapixels project to zoom into artwork - which is truly stunning and takes my breath away every time I look at an image using the Google technology
  • Plus it can take you to the Museums that house them and using Streetview inside the Museum you can see the artwork on the wall 
  • Plus they provide intelligent commentaries on mini projects.
  • Plus the website is HUGELY more sophisticated.

Now that's a real education!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Review: Episode 1 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2019

I'm going to continue my habit of reviewing the episodes of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 and providing a commentary on each as I did last year (see the end)

This time it's going to be rather more difficult because I already know which artists made the final - because I was there in the large gallery at the National Portrait Gallery where they filmed it back in June last year.



YET AGAIN No name credits for the artists


Before I start I just want to note AGAIN that the people at the core of each programme - the artists - who really make it happen do NOT have any name credit at the end of the programme.  This is just plain WRONG.  Everybody else is completely superfluous without the artists!

It repeats what happened with the broadcast of the first episode of the Arts and Crafts House on BBC - until I said how disrespectful and unprofessional this is of the programme makers (see The Artisans without a credit on Arts and Crafts House)
I'm pretty tired of seeing the various television companies make programmes involving people who have expertise without any credit whatsoever.
They don't need to include their websites and be accused of advertising.
However they do however need to respect them as adult human beings with skills and talents and NAME THEM - with surnames!
.....and then the artists tackled the programme makers about this - and by the second episode they had their "name" credits on the programme!

Like Arts and Crafts House, this programme includes professional artists who are a core part of the programme - not just an invited guest.

I'm just dropping a heavy hint. I so wish I didn't have to!  So artists - it's now up to you.....
  • If the BBC can make the change then so can Sky Arts!  
  • The route to action is via the company making the programme (as they need to change the credits). Portrait Artist of the Year is produced by London and Glasgow-based independent production company Storyvault Films

About Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year


The Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year competition ranks alongside the other prestigious UK Art Competitions covered by this blog.

That's because the artists are competing to win a £10,000 commission to paint Sir Tom Jones (the famous singer and all round British icon) for the Museum of Wales.

For reference - for those interested in being part of this competition in future
There are three well known sitters for each heat.

The portrait paintings are judged by a 'heavyweight panel'. They are the same as for previous series:
  • award-winning portrait painter Tai Shan Schierenberg
  • independent curator and Chair of the Board of the Liverpool Biennial Kathleen Soriano (who also used to be the Head of Exhibitions & Collection at the National Portrait Gallery and Director of Exhibitions at the RA) and
  • British art historian, curator and arts broadcaster Kate Bryan.

The Artists, Self-portraits and Sitters


Those selected for the Heats came from nearly 2,000 applicants.
  • Eight heats and 9 artists per heat means 72 artists were selected 
  • giving a likely success rate of applicants of 3.6%
The set - with Andi Oliver and the yellow wall on the left and Geraldine James and Pointillism on the right

We had major debates about the designation of artists during Landscape Artist of the Year.

It turns out this is entirely down to the self-designation by the artist and is not verified in any way.  Which is why very experienced artists who have sold over the years designate themselves as amateurs if their main income comes from another job. Also why students and new graduates who aspire to be professional artists but have very little experience and even less career success designate themselves as professionals.

However there is no question that the artists are a mix of those with professional level skills while others are less proficient.

The reality at the end of the four hours is that the painting speaks for itself.PLEASE NOTE - as always:
  • a link to the artist's website is embedded in their name - just click the link to see the rest of their artwork (which is why I advise all artists appearing on such shows to make sure their websites have been updated and licked into shape as I will be looking for their websites!)
  • Links to their social media accounts are also provided where I can find them. Mainly because of them not getting proper credits in the programme!
  • I'm very happy to correct any errors of spelling or links ASAP if notified which you can do via the email on this contact page or via the post about this episode on my Making A Mark Facebook Page

The Professional Artists


The four professional artists were - in alphabetical order:
  • Geoff Harrison (Portraits websiteFacebook | Instagram | Twitter) - Stockport man (which greatly appealed to Stockport woman Joan Bakewell! Undergraduate degree in Fine Art Printmaking from the School of Art in Hull; lived in Japan for several years but now lives in London. He did an MA Japanese Studies at SOAS in 2009. Involved with anatomical painting and illustration and medical arts. Has had two residencies: Artist in Residence at Barts Pathology Museum at St. Bart's Hospital + Leverhulme residency at The Royal Veterinary College (see his paintings) He has also been shortlisted for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters' Bulldog Bursary and long-listed for the BP Portrait Award. He produces portraits on commission.
  • Yevhen Nahirnyy (Facebook not a Page | ) age 19 but already taking commissions. One of the young artists taking part in the ‘In The Studio’ program with the Mall Galleries.
  • Dorian Radu  (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) He has over 10 years of experience as a professional artis and has work selected for ROI exhibitions. He worn the he L. Cornelissen & Son Prize at the ROI 2017.
  • Chris Williams (FacebookInstagram | Twitter) a professional artist from Shropshire with a studio base in Hereford. She also paints landscapes and competed in Landscape Artist of the Year 2017 (the one with the big bridge). She exhibits about half a dozen times every year and is a regular exhibitor with the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.



The Amateur Artists


The five amateur artists were:
  • Sophia Campbell (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) Fine Art student at Belfast School of Art. See local press - Antrim woman Sophia Campbell's brush with fame on Sky's Portrait Artist Of The Year
  • Kelly Frank (Facebook | Instagram ) Described as a passionate amateur artist who made it to the Heats of 2018 PAOTY and painted Michaela Coel (the David Tennant episode). Her self portrait was exhibited as part of the Royal Ulster Academy Annual exhibition in 2018. Last year she also has a portrait painting in the Society of Women Artists Annual Exhibition.  She also participated in the 
Reoccurring in many of her paintings is the omittance of an eye, as described in the ancient proverb, ‘The eyes are the windows into the soul’. This phrase is crucial to her mentality as she grabbles to read and interpret her subjects. In her words, ‘People are a process, in which they slowly reveal and hide themselves’.
  • Suzon Lagarde (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) Suzin is French but now lives in London while she studies at two independent art schools in London. She’s currently on a Portraiture Diploma at the Art Academy near London Bridge, after having studied 3D modeling for video games in France.  She's also taken classes at The Heatherley School Of Fine Art.  This is an interview with Suzon Lagarde
  • Mike Tucker (Saatchi | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) Fine Art graduate Aberystwyth University (BA) 2011 - 2014 Coleg Harlech (Foundation) 2010 - 2011. Lives in Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire and works in admin in the Prison Service. Uses Corpse Apple as his brand name.
  • Eric Whitehead (Instagram) Studying a Foundation Course at London Fine Art Studios. Had never painted anybody from life before and had only ever done drawings from photos. Unsurprisingly he used his phone camera in the Heat.


Survey of the Self Portraits on 'The Wall'


For me the self-portraits fell into two groups.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Politics of Sponsorship - a new reality for art galleries and museums

Sackler is a name I associated with sponsorship of the Arts. This is because Dr Arthur M Sackler who was a physician, scientist was also an art collector who endowed institutions of learning and culture throughout the world.

He's now dead but his family continues to sponsor the arts.

Images of the Art Galleries and Museums endowed by Sackler (from his website)
However, Sackler is now a name which ranks alongside BP (post the Deep Water Horizon spill) in terms of the opprobrium and level of protest at sponsorship - and gets the same extensive level of coverage.

See the coverage this weekend following significant protests at the Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museum of Art.



The same thing happened last year

The gist of the campaign is this.

  • The Sackler family wholly owns Purdue Pharma, which makes the prescription painkiller OxyContin.
  • Oxycontin is the brand name of a timed release of oxycodene, a prescription analgesic for moderate to severe pain 
  • Oxycontin allegedly tends to create addiction and a number of people are said to have died from that addiction. In 2011 it was the leading cause of drug related deaths in the United States.
  • Accusers allege that the Sackler Family and their company are in effect "the highest form of drug dealers" (see Hyperallergic article) 
  • Goldin is a photographer - and her work is in the Guggenheim which was targeted for protest this weekend. Her interest is that she apparently recently recovered from a near-fatal addiction to OxyContin.
  • This weekend she continued her campaign - with the help of others - to get Art galleries and Museums to remove the name and refuse Sackler Funding. 
  • However a number of Sackler developments actually predate any development and distribution of the drug (but "why let the truth get in the way of a good storey?"
  • Apparently the name is the issue for the protestors....
Due to Sackler’s untimely death, his widow went ahead with the project. The Sackler Wing of Galleries was named “Building of the Year 1992” by the Royal Institute of British Architects. (Sackler website)

It is, of course, a lot more complicated than that......
The Massachusetts lawsuit is only the latest against the company, which back in 2007 first pleaded guilty to misleading regulators, doctors, and patients about the addictive qualities of OxyContin.
This is what Goldin wants....

Goldin wants Sackler family members to put money into rehabilitation centers rather than art and academic philanthropy. She also wants museums to stop taking donations from the Sackler family and to stand with her campaign to expose pharmaceutical companies that made fortunes from opioids. (The Guardian)



Protests in London?


One is left to wonder whether the Sackler Galleries at the Royal Academy in London will face the same level of protest as the American institutions which have felt the wrath of Nan Goldin.

Goodness knows there's enough people in London who do love a good protest!  Preferably ones which involve drama, writing words somewhere they shouldn't and lying down.....

Time Piece - 4
Time Piece was the latest in a series of durational performances by Liberate Tate.
They create unsanctioned live art inside Tate spaces to 'free Tate from BP'.
(Source: Flickr)


The Bottom Line


Essentially the more strategic and wider-ranging thrust of the campaign is that:
  • all art museums and galleries should have an ethical and rigorous approach to sponsorship i.e. 
    • formulate clear criteria which have to be met by Sponsors 
    • test and validate the credentials of those who want to sponsor them against those criteria
    • refuse funding from those who don't meet all essential criteria
  • none should accept sponsorship from those who attempt to get social credits through spending money on the arts to offset damage done to people and the environment elsewhere.
When you put it like that it's very hard to disagree.

It's a laudable objective.

It needs to start happening - but I guess it only will happen when the Boards of such institutions take their responsibilities seriously.

I guess the next thing we'll be doing is debating giving back any donations to Museums in art form as well e.g. the Parthenon Marbles - because they were looted.

Do protests like this help? 
  • Not really if they are led by one very prominent individual - because they then look like the marketing machine for that individual in overdrive and it tends to prompts cyniciam and suspicion rather than support.
  • Yes - if they are well thought through and prompt support from a wider population (which generally means those who don't tend to like the "look at me" activities of a few).


Read more about BP Funding

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Challenge #2: Life Drawing Live - from the Royal Academy

I'm quite liking the idea of a monthly challenge during 2019. So, after snowy paintings, my Challenge for February (I'm thinking once a month is about right) is to watch the live streaming by the Royal Academy of a Live Life Drawing Class - and draw along with the class!

a still from last year's class
See #LifeDrawingLive: the anatomy class - A live-streamed class to join from home.
This takes place:
ON: Thursday 28 February 2019
AT: 7.30 — 9pm

You've got the rest of the month to practice - and there are some ideas below





My sketch from A 'Day to Draw' at the National Gallery
done while listening to Sarah Simblet talk about
the anatomy and skeletal features and muscle groups
in Polliaiuolo Brothers ' The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastien'

This was my sketch done while listening to Sarah Simblet explain anatomical features in various paintings in the National Gallery in 2007!


Life Class on Channel 4 in 2009


Jonathan Yeo was obviously totally unaware that live streaming has been done before!

The live streaming of a life class has happened once before on Channel 4 when we had Life Class in 2009 and LOTS of people joined in.  Below is what happened.....