Monday, August 10, 2020

10 changes in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2020 Call for Entries

The Call for Entries for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2020 has been published. This post covers
  • The Changes in 2020
  • The Prizes - more major changes
  • The Exhibition - and it won't be seen at the Mall Galleries in 2020.
  • How to Enter
  • Making A Mark posts about previous exhibitions (2008-2019) plus notes about how many artists and paintings were selected in recent years
Last year's prizewinners

10 Significant Changes in 2020

  1. The value of the prizes is much reduced and TOP PRIZE IS MUCH REDUCED. 
    • A First Prize of £3,000 + £1,000 art material vouchers compares to 10,000 in 2017 and £6,000 in 2018 (i.e. a reduction of £7,000 cash in 3 years)
    • what this means is that this art competition no longer qualifies for an automatic notice of the call for entries on my blog - which has always been limited to first prizes of £10k and above. 
  2. The competition has opened up to "artists living and working in the UK and internationally " - which
    • apart from being a very clumsy ungrammatical phrase, this is a MAJOR change as the competition has always been limited to artists living and working in the UK. Presumably an effort to generate some extra income?
    • it also appears to mean your 5 year old can enter - since I can't spot an age limit. 
  3. The deadline for entries is later than usual - as in it's after the date the exhibition would normally have opened. However I guess we've got used to change in recent times. The closing deadline for online submission is 5pm, Thursday 24 September 2020.
  4. Selection will be made on the basis of digital works / digital entry only
    • Which I guess might mean more scope for independent thought and less for being influenced by what other Judges think.   Having participated in a digital selection (and picked the one who went on to become the overall winner) - I'm personally in favour of anything which favours Judges choosing whoever they think is best - as an individual.
    • No need to send your art. You only need to do that if picked for the exhibition. 
  5. The exhibition does NOT open in London. It will be seen first in the provinces and will not arrive at the Mall Galleries where it normally starts until January 2021. 
  6. The Sponsors have changed. They are now:
    • The Sunday Times
    • Parker Harris - who run the competition
    • Cass Arts
    • Daler Rowney
  7. Everybody selected gets a new set of paints!  Woohoo - see below.
  8. No guidelines as to how many will be selected - Unlike previous years there are no indications or promises as to how many will be selected. 
    • By way of contrast when it generated its reputation as a top competition under Singer & Friedlander an exhibition comprising 150 paintings was not unusual. 
    • This year they could select 10 and get away with it. 
  9. The full panel of Judges has NOT been announced.  It's more difficult to get top Judges when you reduce the prize pot - because they know and we know it is not the prestigious competition it once was.
  10. Very sloppy rules and guidelines - which I pick up on above and below.  
The prizes are as follows
  • First Prize – £3,000 and £1000 of gift vouchers to use at Cass Art stores
  • Young Artist Prize* – Exhibition opportunity in the Art Space at Cass Art Islington or Glasgow and £500 to cover expenses
  • Second Prize – £1000, £695 Maimeri Blu Set worth, £750 worth of Arches Watercolour Paper
  • Third Prize – £500, £150 Maimer Blue Set, £500 worth of Aquafine Watercolour Paper
In addition all all successful artists will get a set of Aquafine 24 Half Pans Set!

Daler Rowney Aquafine 24 Half Pans set

On balance I'm wondering if the competition ought to change its name to the Cass Arts Watercolour Prize - unless the Sunday Times is funding all the cash prizes.

It looks to me as if the Sunday Times has cut its contribution to £5,000 i.e. half the sum of just the first prize in 2017. 

The significant reduction in prize money and other prizes really takes a LOT of prestige away from this competition.  Which is incredibly sad as this competition has been seen as very prestigious for very many years - until recently.
Now in its 33rd year, The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition is the largest and most prestigious watercolour competition in the UK. 
This statement on the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition website is just not true any longer - in my opinion.  
Like I said last year (see Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019 - Prizewinners & Exhibition),  in my opinion it's time for 
  • another MAJOR CHANGE in the competition/of the main sponsor
  • to one which wants to provide more credibility and prestige that this art competition has enjoyed in the past
  • more involvement of painters in traditional watercolours as Judges.
This is because:I'm not sure enough imagination and creativity is being used in terms of thinking about which company or trust might be an appropriate sponsor for the future given it's very clear that the Sunday Times i no longer a major investor in the competition.

I know I can certainly think of more than one.

In the absence of anybody sorting it out, I challenge those that think they could do better to get on and do!  Even with Covid, there's very definitely scope to do a lot better than this.

Might Sky Arts be interested and team up with one of the watercolour organisations - and maybe put a focus on those who have not yet had their day in the sun?

The Exhibition

The Exhibition will be held at two venues

Venue #1: Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery, Market Place, Basingstoke, RG21 7QD (Please click here for opening times, free entry)
Dates: Tuesday 27 October 2020 – January 2021
but no announcements on website or Facebook to date

Venue #2: Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1
Dates: Monday 18 January – Sunday 24 January 2021

View of the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition last year at the Mall Galleries

How to enter

Who can enter

Anybody living in the UK or another country can enter this year

What it used to say is 
The competition is open to all artists born or currently resident in the UK - who are making paintings using water-based media
but that is now gone.

What can you enter

Works entered must:
  • Have been carried out in the last three years ie dated 2017 or later
  • Be the sole and original work of the entrant
  • Be the entrant’s original composition
  • Have a maximum size of work, in its largest dimension, including frame, is 122 cm
  • All works shortlisted and submitted for final judging, must be securely framed and behind glass. Metal, plastic or clip frames will not be allowed*
  • Be available until the end of January 2021 if selected for exhibition
NOTE THE HUGE GAFFE!! It says absolutely nothing about media in the RULES.  

COMPETITIONS CAN ONLY BE JUDGED BY THE RULES.  Try and do otherwise and you could end up with some major problems in relation to various relevant regulations

This is the sort of issue which means for me that this competition has lost the credibility it enjoyed for the 20 years under Singer & Friedlander. It's as if the people at the Sunday Times - or any of the other sponsors - simply do not care.

Somebody could enter a painting in water-mixable oils and they couldn't rule it out - because it's NOT IN THE RULES.

You have to go to the Help and FAQs TAB to find
Are acrylics, gouache or inks acceptable mediums?
Yes, any water-based media is acceptable. Artists should note that whilst any water-based mediums are acceptable, this competition aims to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the genre of watercolour painting. The judges will therefore be looking for work that makes the most imaginative or otherwise impressive use of a water based medium in this respect.
The purpose of a Help and FAQs section should only ever be to help clarify the RULES OF THE COMPETITION - but since there are no rules about ELIGIBLE media whatever is said is irrelevant.

This is what I said in 2018 on the topic of media - and it deserves repeating this year.
My view is that:
  • This competition for its (past) prestigious reputation based on excellent watercolour paintings (made with the NON-plastic NON-polymer related stuff which comes in pans and tubes) 
  • This competition is very popular with the public who all expect to a lot of "proper" watercolour paintings - demonstrating the range of ways you can use traditional watercolour paint (i.e. NOT how to make watercolour look like oil paint!)
  • If the judges don't choose lots of good and "proper" watercolour paintings then they just make the sponsoring brand look  REALLY STUPID!


How to enter

  • These are the Rules and Guidelines
  • All submissions must be digital - this is the link to the entry form
  • all images should be 300dpi BUT
    • with a maximum file size of 2MB. 
    • in the following file formats are acceptable: JPEGs, TIFFs or PNGs.
  • all payments of the £15 entry fee must be digital
  • you can enter up to 4 artworks

The Timeline

  • Deadline for online entries: 5pm, Thursday 24 September 2020
  • Artists notified of results by email: Friday 2 October 2020 
  • Delivery of selected works - to be confirmed
  • Exhibition opens 
    • at the Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery 
    • Tuesday 27 October 2020 – January 2021
  • Exhibition opens 
    • at the Mall Galleries Monday 
    • 18 January - Sunday 24 January 2021
  • Collection of works - to be confirmed (after the end of the exhibition in 2021)

The Judges

Each year the panel of judges represent experts in their field. The judges will be looking for work that makes the most imaginative or otherwise impressive use of a water-based medium. The judges’ decision will be final and binding and no correspondence will be entered into.
A full list of selectors will be announced soon…

2017 - 87 paintings by 78 artists were selected from 1,057 submissions.
2016 - 75 paintings by 66 artists were selected
2015 - 90 works by 80 artists were selected
2014 - 93 works by 73 artists from across the UK

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Job losses at major art galleries

Staff working in the 'art' side of major museums in the UK seem to be surviving Covid-19. Those working in the trading arms appear to be not so lucky. 

Some of the strategies being employed to allow art galleries and museums to live within their means seem a bit crude at present - and, in my opinion, there needs to be rather more business 'nous' employed in my option.

This is a tweet by the union representing the staff at Tate Enterprises Ltd - the commercial subsidiary, which operates retail, publishing and catering within the galleries - following a socially distanced demonstration will take place outside Tate Modern at the end of July.

I'm left wondering whether the Head of Coffee - on a salary which exceeded that of curators of art at the Museums(!) - will be on the list of those whose jobs may be for the chop.  (READ my post from January 2020: Next time stop and think before you have a coffee at the Tate)

To be honest - if it were staff in Conservation (which requires training for jobs with limited opportunities) who faced the prospect of losing their jobs I'd be very concerned. However the trading arm does NOT exist without the reason why the art galleries and museums exist. Jobs in catering also crop up rather more frequently than jobs for conservation staff or curators.

While it's always sad that anybody loses their jobs through no fault of their own, let's keep a proper perspective on this. 

  • It's a lot more sad for people who are losing their lives during the pandemic and 
  • there is going to be a major structural shakeout with respect to how organisations are run in future - and there's no guarantee that ANYTHING will ever go back to being the same as before.
  • If more cuts in spend are needed, and I were in charge:
    • I think I'd be very inclined to start with all those earning a salary of over £35k - right up to the Director - with the percentage cuts increasing as salaries increase.  
    • That would enable more people to remain employed and reduce those who would need to claim benefits. 

More about the job losses

These articles tell you more about the consultation about the need to cut back on staffing due to the anticipated decreased level of trade at the Galleries.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Amazon Best Sellers for Landscape Painting Books should make Jeff Bezos ashamed!

Yesterday the ratings for Amazon Best Sellers for Landscape Painting Books were a COMPLETE AND UTTER JOKE.  

"Best Sellers" Book Categories are a complete joke at times and, when they are and I spot them, they will ALWAYS be called out by me!

These - I kid you not - were Amazon's Best Selling Books about LANDSCAPE PAINTING yesterday!!!!!
They include 
  • Colouring Books about Ocean Life, Beach Life and Butterfly Gardens (i.e. nothing whatsoever to do with Painting) and 
  • Bob Ross Bubblehead with Sound (I kid you not) and Bob Ross by the numbers
Talk about dumbing down!
Amazon Best Sellers Landscape Painting 070820 Best Sellers Landscape Painting 7th August 2020

This from a business where Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, is now reckoned to have a personal net worth of $192 BILLION.

Jeff Bezos should be so ashamed since his wealth is all achieved with COMPLETELY INADEQUATE QUALITY CONTROL over the categorisation systems on Amazon!

In my opinion, it's about time Amazon got round to 
  • sorting out the fact people exploit Amazon's categorisation system because - from what I can make out (i.e. I've been finding "complete abortions" like this for years when reviewing books) 
  • introducing better quality control - because there is absolutely NO QUALITY CONTROL over categorisation.
Unless they get called out - as I did yesterday on Facebook.

So this morning - less than 12 hours after I had a MAJOR RANT on Facebook about the lack of control of categories on Amazon - we now see this. Believe it or not the top 10 best sellers about landscape painting now includes books about landscape painting.

Examples include
  • Learn Watercolour Landscapes Quickly by Hazel Soan
  • Mixed Media Landscapes and Seascapes by Chris Forsey
However we still have:
  • Adult Coloring Book : Stress Relieving Designs Animals, Mandalas, Flowers, Paisley Patterns And So Much More: Coloring Book For Adults ranked as the top Best Seller!!! Best Sellers Landscape Painting 8th August 2020

All Amazon needs to do is have one category for Colouring Books for Adults which automatically categorises all colouring books into that category no matter how hard their authors or publishers try to place them in other categories. They can then have sub-categories within that.

I haven't even started on the Best Ratings....

Which currently has the Thomas Kinkade Special Collector's Edition 2019 Deluxe Wall Calendar rated as the best landscape painting book ever.


They managed to get a better handle on the fake reviews on Amazon - although in my opinion, quality control is slipping again. It's now time to get to grips with categories and STOP the gaming of the system.

All this is by way of explaining that when I've got Tips for Artists published the page devoted to The Best Landscape Painting Books - will ONLY contain Landscape Painting Books - and will include Traditional Classics and well as Contemporary Classics!

P.S. Guess who has just found her complete pdf file about "The Best Books about Landscape Painting!! and is busy completing a new page on Tips for Artists!

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

How artists sign their art

When I said I'm not blogging, I should have said "except for posts about new content on my websites"! 

So today's post is about a new page I published a little while back - about how to sign your art - but did not publicise on this blog.

the monogram and date of this painting by Albrecht Durer
is obvious in size but restrained in colour and tone

How to sign a painting, drawing or fine art print is the third reincarnation of a page which started off some years ago and has been on two other websites

This NEW PAGE offers a structured introduction to artists signatures for ARTISTS
who want
  • to know more about the best way to sign and date a work of art
  • help with their signatures when using specific types of art media
  • Pros and Cons of signing your art
  • Initials, surname or change your name?
  • Monograms, initialed signatures & motifs
  • TIPS: How to sign your art
  • How to sign:
    • an oil painting
    • a dipytch/triptych
    • a watercolour painting
    • a pastel artwork
    • a drawing
    • a fine art print (limited edition)
    • a copy of another artwork
  • Signature Membership (of an Art Society)

PLUS POLLS about how artists sign their artwork

I've previously run polls which asked people how they signed their art. Those polls received over 2,000 responses

However I've had to restart the polls on this website - and below you can see current charts (since May) alongside my charts of some of the results from previous polls.

CURRENT (and previous) POLLS

The charts below cover:
  • size and location of the signature
  • whether you plan your signature in advance
  • whether or not to date your artwork
Current charts are in pink and the charts from previous polls are in multi-colours.

Do you date and sign your artwork

Sunday, August 02, 2020

I'm building websites in August!

This August I'm building websites for artists and will be back blogging regularly again in September. Apart from the off post here and there to say "I've finished xyz!" 

I do need sometimes to block out time to do things which keep getting postponed or bumped by the here and now.

Two NEW Websites

My BIG AIM is to see whether I can get two new websites with enough content so I can at least publish them as they have languished in draft for too long. These are:
  • Tips for Artists 
  • Fine Art Materials Guide for Artists


Basics and genres
TIPS FOR ARTISTS: Basics and Genres


Fine Art Materials Guide - for Artists
Fine Art Materials Guide - for Artists: some of the sections

PLUS Updating Existing websites with new content


I had a lovely day yesterday, getting the introduction to the Professional Practice Section of my Art Business Info for Artists website sorted.

Given the number of people currently being made redundant and hoping they can make a go of being a full-time artist I decided now is the time to get this section sorted!  I'm hoping to start a series of posts in September about things new full-time professional artists need to know about - or anybody aspiring to be one ASAP.

As a result of which content is better organised and the content also flows better on the page

So we have:
  • Professional Practice - This has content organised into three sections as follows:
    • Business HABITS for Organised and Effective Artists
    • Real Life as an Artist: Business PRACTICES
    • DEVELOPMENT: as an Artist and Manager of an Art Business
    • Please tell me what I've left out!
  • STARTING OUT: TIPS ​for an Emerging Artist
    • What you "need to know"
    • PLUS practical advice ​for working as a visual / fine artist
READ ON If you want.....
      • to be a success as an artist
      • to avoid failing as an artist
      • to be successful selling 'daily paintings'
      • to sell your art online
      • to exhibit your work
      • to be more productive
      • to be an artist as well as a parent
      • to develop your career
      • to get representation by a gallery
      • talk about the art business online
This section covers: various aspects of making a career as a professional artist - including
  • being a professional artist - definitions
  • the reality of earnings by artists
  • building a portfolio career
  • professional standards and contractual relationships
  • how to avoid legal problems & cons
  • reality checks
  • ​useful websites for learning more about the business of being an artist
PLUS on separate pages
The working lives of professional artists
The working lives of professional artists

At the end of the Professional Practice page there is a form in which YOU are invited to tell me about the things which you need to know more about or things you find challenging.
  • If I've got content covering your knowledge gaps on the website I'll point you towards it
  • Your comments will also influence the order in which I address topics.