Thursday, September 21, 2017

10 Best Paintings in the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition

This year I'm not doing a post that announces the prizewinners in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2017. That's because
  • the painting which won is in acrylic on canvas board and is actually eligible for acceptance into the annual exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters! 
  • I have rarely felt so disappointed in the conduct of a panel of judges.
this competition aims to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the genre of watercolour painting.
I'm left wondering when are we ever going to discover the next Leslie Worth if we give this prestigious competition over to people who paint with acrylic on canvas not paper so it looks like an oil painting?

Not only can I find nothing to celebrate about the painting that won £10,000 First Prize I can find nothing to merit it even being hung in the exhibition.

View of part of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition Exhibition at the Mall Galleries
This year's competition is also unique in having the least press coverage in print and social media of any STWC prizewinner I've ever known.

Hardly surprising really - and I'm quite sure that's NOT the aim of the sponsorship!

What the panel of Judges were thinking I really don't know - however to my mind it maybe explains the delay in the announcement of the selected artists.  Incidentally one artist pointed out that Fred Cuming RA (who's an oil painter and whose work I love) disappeared from the list of Judges between the General Info for Artists and the announcement of the prizewinners at the end of August. I wonder why....

The "small works" wall beneath the Mezzanine
Meanwhile, the organisers need to consider whether advertising it as "a watercolour competition" could be a breach of the regulations relating to the advertising standards authority's Non-Broadcast Code and specifically the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing
The central principle for all marketing communications is that they should be legal, decent, honest and truthful. All marketing communications should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society and should reflect the spirit, not merely the letter, of the Code
More of the exhibition
Consequently this year I'm not going to focus on the prizewinners - except for one who merits her award.

Instead, yesterday I decided to look for what I thought were the ten best watercolour paintings in the exhibition. By that I mean paintings using a water-based medium recognised by the watercolour societies and used in a way which means you can tell water had been used.
Watercolour or water-soluble mediums, including watercolour, acrylic, ink or gouache (with the exception of water-soluble oils) painted on paper or paper based supportRoyal Institute of Painters in Water Colours
That's because, as I think most people would agree, watercolour is one of the most difficult media to excel in - and this competition is ultimately about excellence over and above innovation (and why anybody would think making acrylic look like an oil painting counts as "innovation" is completely beyond me!)

[Note: My personal view is that media which can be applied using water are not the same as water-based media. Water-based mediums can only be accurately described as such if they can be manipulated by water before and after they have been applied to a support - otherwise they are not water-based.]

More of the exhibition
So below you can find:
  • The ten best watercolour paintings in the exhibition
  • a Reference Archive of posts relating to past years in this competition - which include some amazing watercolour paintings
Plus I'll be back at the weekend with a short video of the exhibition and more comments and observations - including some numbers I'm crunching.

10 Best Paintings in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition

Below is my selection of the ten best paintings in the competition

I'd love to know what your ten paintings are. Tell me which ones you like best.

You can see the paintings in the competition - but not their relative size - on the competition website. If you click a painting you then get a bigger version and if you click it again you then get a much bigger version.

Some have done a better job than others at representing what they are like in reality. I have issues with the ones which digitally enhanced their pics to get selected because the difference - and the difference between image and reality is very marked - but the judges appear to have been totally oblivious to this. Other exhibitions don't hang paintings where this has happened.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

David Shepherd (1931-2017)

Today the death of David Shepherd CBE FRSA, the conservationist and renowned painter of planes, trains and wildlife, was announced by his family via his Foundation website. He died yesterday, on 19th September 2017, age 86.

I remember thinking how frail he looked at the end of June at the splendid Wildlife Artist of the Year Exhibition at the Mall Galleries.  Moving more slowly, a little more bowed and a little less weight than I remembered - and I was used to seeing at the preview at the exhibition which he started to raise funds for conservation.

However there was still the twinkle in the eye and the interest in what artists had painted and what people had done and were planning to do next in the world of wildlife art.

My last photo of David Shepherd - on 27 June 2017
at the preview of the exhibition for the Wildlife Artist of the Year 2017
David Shepherd taking a tour of the exhibition before the PV got properly underway

I won't attempt any sort of recap of his career. His website has an admirable one which draws out both the story of his life and his very many achievements and awards.
he became a conservationist overnight when he came across 255 dead zebra at a poisoned waterhole in Tanzania. Throughout his career David tried to do all he could to repay the enormous debt he felt he owed to the elephants, tigers and other animals that gave him so much success as an artist. ‘Tiger Fire’ was one of his first major fund-raising successes, raising £127,000 (equivalent to £1.4 million in today’s money) for Indira Gandhi’s Operation Tiger in 1973.
He set up the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) and has helped to protect endangered wildlife for over 30 years. The Foundation has now given away over £8.5 million to help save wildlife. Not bad for an artist - helped by more than a few other artists and other conservation enthusiasts

I'm sure very many wildlife artists will want to remember him best in terms of what he meant to them.  Please feel free to add a comment below. Messages of condolence can also be emailed to mandy(DOT)gale(AT)

I know that when he started the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition, as well as raising a huge amount of money for conservation he also enabled very many wildlife artists to show their art in a world-class exhibition.

I was always amazed at the number of international artists I met at the exhibition and whose work I saw. It's an exhibition which enjoys a very special kudos in the world of wildlife art - particularly for those who were concerned about the conservation of wild animals threatened with extinction.

Below I'll share just a few of my memories of David at the exhibitions over the years.

(left to right) David Shepherd CBE, Adam Binder - Wildlife Artist of the Year 2010,
David Gower and Robert Lindsay
David Shepherd at WAOY 2016 with his personal choice for a prize
The Sentinel by Laurence Saunois (Figeac, France)

Alan Woollett at the Awards Ceremony with David Shepherd
- he had no idea he'd won his category!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rachel Whiteread on Drawing

Following on from yesterday's Jerwood Drawing Prize post, this is another post about 'drawing'.

This is Rachel Whiteread talking about drawing - in a very normal, accessible, everyday way in a video by Tate Britain. It was filmed for her exhibition of her drawings at Tate Britain in 2010

Another exhibition opened last week at Tate Britain - simply called Rachel Whiteread
Celebrating over 25 years of Rachel Whiteread’s internationally acclaimed sculpture
The exhibition is on until 21 January 2018.

Rachel Whiteread's Drawings

The show that can overturn one's attitude to an artist is as rare as hen's teeth. The show that can achieve this solely through drawings – unless the artist is a draughtsman – is even less common.
This first-ever museum exhibition of her drawings shows Whiteread doodling (her word) on paper, using pencil, gouache, ink, correcting fluid (to build texture). She calls these drawings her working diary, but they are in no way personal or confessional. They don't throw back at us any kind of image of the sculptor. They feel coolly constructed, painstakingly analytical. They remind us of work by the minimalists – paintings by Frank Stella from the 1960s, or stacked units by Donald Judd. They are cerebrally set apart from us.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Gary Lawrence wins Jerwood Drawing Prize - for the second time

Gary Lawrence has won the £8,000 First Prize in the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017. It's the second time he's won First Prize. He also won in 2011

Last time he won with a very complex 6ft by 4ft drawing called Homage to Anonymous - as a tribute to unknown artists. He produced a simple view of Pothea reflecting on his holiday to the principal town on the Greek island of Kalymnos
using a packet of ten Tesco Value budget pens which he used to ink his images onto the reverse side of old Woolworths advertising posters.Hard-up artist bags £6,000 prize after using 3p biro to create stunning landscape | Daily Mail
This time he's won by producing an equally large drawing - also of the town of Pothea on Kalymnos. This time he's used poster paint (I assume that's the yellow background) and felt pens.

The fridge magnet reference relates to the two boards of bridge magnets with "scenes from Greece" on them which are then reproduced in little 'thought' bubbles on the edge of the paper. Each is accompanied by a comment from the artist – ‘Athens – never been here’, ‘Cyprus ‘08 ok-ish’, ‘Zante Town – Euro Spar’.

It reminds me of some of the drawings produced in the past which used to illustrate a journey with small drawings around the edge showing scenes from the route.  Quite why it should be yellow is not explained.

Winner of the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017
Gary Lawrence, Yellow Kalymnos with Fridge Magnets, 2017.
Felt pen and poster paint on canvas, 250 x 249cm. Photo: Colin Mills
The artist is from Wethersfield, Essex and was also shortlisted for the Derwent Art Prize 2015.

One of the panel of selectors, Michael Simpson, comments on the drawing as follows
“a brilliant evocation of a time capsule; of time squashed in on itself as a topographical romance in retrospect.”
While the drawing is an undoubted complex piece of work, I'm not quite sure how awarding the First Prize to somebody for the second time when the aim the Jerwood Drawing Prize is
promoting and celebrating the breadth of contemporary drawing practice
On the whole I prefer prestigious prizes which you're allowed to win once. My reasons are as follows:
  • Such a rule means that the benefit of the prize, not to mention the prize money, is spread amongst the widest pool of deserving artists. Ultimately that means it has the scope to enhance the careers of more artists - and that's no bad thing.
  • If you allow a prize to be won for a second time, then you begin to entertain scope for 
    • the "Ant & Dec" problem (entertainers who have won the "most popular entertainment programme in the National Television Awards every year but one going back to 2003)
    • accusations of favouritism
Nothing to stop other artists winning the other prizes more than once - but for me the rule of "win and that's it" for First Prize has a cogent rationale in the context of competitions generally and the aims of this one in particular.

Other Prizewinners

Evelyn Williams Drawing Award (£10,000) 

The final selection was made by
  • Elizabeth Gilmore, Director, Jerwood Gallery, Hastings; 
  • Anita Taylor, founding Director, Jerwood Drawing Prize, and 
  • Nicholas Usherwood, Art Critic and Curator and trustee of the Evelyn Williams Trust.

Barbara Walker won this new prize - which incidentally has the most prize money.  (Is this the new name of next year's drawing award given this is the last year of Jerwood Sponsorship?)

She's a very impressive artist with an outstanding portfolio of 'proper' drawings. 

Her figurative drawings explore race identity, belonging, class and power.  This drawing comes from her Shock and Awe series of drawings about the contribution of Black servicemen and women to the British Armed Forces and war efforts from 1914 to the present day. It includes embossed lines to represent the non-Black service personnel.

She's currently exhibiting in the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. (see my blog post
Khadija Saye and 'The Venice Biennale: Britain's New Voices' on BBC2 which includes my comments on her drawings for this exhibition.)

Winner of the £10,000 Evelyn Williams Drawing Award
Barbara Walker, Exotic Detail In The Margin#2,

Graphite on embossed paper, 52 x 61cm. Photo: Colin Mills

Other Jerwood Drawing Prize Awards

Thursday, September 14, 2017

£25,000 John Moores Painting Prize 2018 - Call for Entries

The John Moores Painting Prize is celebrating its 60th anniversary and holding its 30th exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 2018.  The anniversary of this prestigious painting is being celebrated with two additional prizes for the first prizewinner (see below for further details).

During the last 60 years it has championed contemporary British painting for over two decades longer than any other art prize of similar size.
"[The John Moores Painting Prize is] the Oscar of the British painting world"
- Sir Norman Rosenthal, curator and former exhibitions secretary at the Royal Academy.
Registration for the call for entries for the John Moores Painting Prize 2018 opened today at 12 midday today, 14 September 2017.

Below is an overview of the call for entries and links to relevant webpages.

About the John Moores Painting Prize

This art competition is a PAINTING competition and is open to all UK-based artists working with paint. It culminates in an exhibition at the Walker Art Exhibition in Liverpool which is held at the same time as the Liverpool Biennial.

Its named after the sponsor of the prize, Sir John Moores (1896 – 1993) and was originally intended as a one-off!

It's now a biennial event and this will be the 30th exhibition in 60 years - since its launch in 1957.

You can view the previous winners of the John Moores Painting Prize on the website (1980-2016 and 1957-1978) . They include:

The Walker Art Gallery has an ongoing display of a selection of previous winning works John Moores Prizewinners 1957 - 2006 and notes that
The exhibition has consistently helped to raise the profile of the artists and in particular to further the careers of its winners

Criteria for assessment - and how anonymity is maintained

The original aims of John Moores were:
'To give Merseyside the chance to see an exhibition of painting and sculpture embracing the best and most vital work being done today throughout the country'
'To encourage contemporary artists, particularly the young and progressive'

Hence the competition aims to support artists who paint. There are two important criteria:
  • all entries are judged anonymously
  • to bring to Liverpool the best contemporary painting from across the UK
and after that it's whatever the members of the jury care to place an emphasis on.

In terms of "anonymous entry and judging" this competition is much more thorough than most
  • all artists are allocated a unique entry number
  • jurors are not given the names of the artists 
  • jurors are only provided with information about the title, size and medium of the painting

The Jury

The Jury changes with every exhibition. They are selected and appointed by the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition Trust and National Museums Liverpool.

As usual I've looked up the profiles of the jury members for the John Moores Painting Prize 2018 which are summarised below
  • Prof. Lubaina Himid MBEProfessor of Contemporary Art. School of Art, Design and Fashion at the University of Central Lancashire. She has been recognised for her services to Black Womens Art - see Making Histories Visible
  • Marvin Gaye Chetwynd - a performance artist given to changing her name. She trained as a painter at training as a painter at UCL's Slade School of Fine Art and the Royal College of Art and was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2012. See What do artists do all day
  • Jenni Lomax -  Ex-director of Camden Arts Centre (1990-July 2017) where she gave early shows to artists like Martin Creed and Yinka Shonibare. Awarded the Chevalier dans l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2007 and an OBE for her services to the Visual Arts in 2009. This is a Christies interview with her
  • Bruce McLean - a Scottish sculptor, performance artist and painter who studied at Glasgow School of Art and St. Martin's School of Art. He taught at numerous art schools including The Slade School of Fine Art, where he became Head of Graduate Painting (2002-2010). You can see his work here. In 1985, he won the John Moores Painting Prize.
  • Liu Xiaodong - a contemporary Chinese artist who studied at and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. He now has tenure as professor in the painting department at CAFA. You can see his work here


All paintings included in the exhibition are eligible for a prize.

The jury will select a final shortlist of five paintings and award the prizes.
  • First Prize - £25,000 plus an additional award (to mark the 60th year): 
    • a three month fellowship at Liverpool John Moores University 
    • an in-focus solo display at the Walker Art Gallery in 2019.

    • In addition, the prize is NOT a purchase prize, but the Walker Art Gallery may also purchase the painting which means another 'win' for the First Prizewinner.
  • four prizes for the other shortlisted artists of £2,500

There is also a Visitors’ Choice prize of £2,018, voted for by visitors to the exhibition at the Walker and awarded towards the end of the exhibition period.

Call for Entries

These are the Terms and Conditions and FAQS and Commercial Agreement on which I have based this summary. I do NOT warrant that I've covered every detail you might need to know - it's up to you to read all of these documents thoroughly and make sure you can comply with them when you send in your entry and painting.

Who can enter?

Artists who MUST
  • be aged 18 years or over on the day of registration
  • living or professionally based in the UK
I suggest if you're not sure whether your paintings are suitable for this exhibition you take a look at my blog posts at the end of this post which
  • list those artists shortlisted and selected for recent biennial exhibitions
  • with links to their websites and images of some of the shortlisted works

Eligible to exhibit

You can submit only one entry per artist.
Multiple entries under the same or under different names are not allowed. Artists found to have done this will be deemed in breach of the Prize’s conditions of entry and will have all their entries disqualified.