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.....

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Artists of the Year: Videos, Deadlines and Suggestions!!

Just a reminder for fans of the two major artist of the year programmes on Sky Arts re.
  • Portrait Artist of the Year 2019
  • Portrait Artist of the Year 2020
  • Landscape Artist of the Year 2019

Portrait Artist of the Year 2019

The PAOTY Rig in the atrium at the Wallace Collection - April 2018
....starts on Sky Arts 12th February 2019 at 8pm. 

The Heats were filmed at the Wallace Collection in April last year and the THREE videos below suggests we're all going to be viewing some interesting sitters.

Mind you I spent my time trying to spot the finalists! (she says - hugging her photos of the final filmed last summer at the National Portrait Centre to her iMac!)

Promo 2019 from Storyvault Films on Vimeo.

The three sitters for the first Heat are apparently
  • television and film actor Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey, Brideshead Revisited etc plus he plays Antony Armstrong-Jones in upcoming episodes of series 2 of The Crown)
  • stage, TV and film actress Geraldine James (who I always associate with Jewel in the Crown) and 
  • Andi Oliver (Saturday Kitchen host  and one of the three Judges of Great British Menu etc)

Episode 2 has
  • David Gandy, 
  • Anne Reid and 
  • Ashley Walters
You can follow the latest updates on

Can I take this opportunity to:
  • remind artists participating in the episodes to lick your website into shape - because I'm coming looking for it!
  • please send me your URL after the episode has aired (message me via my Facebook Page) or contact me. I'm happy to include a link to you - but first I have to find it - which is not easy when Sky Arts does not list the artists by name....

How to watch if you don't have Sky

For those who want to watch and do not have Sky here's what you need to do to watch it like me on the Now TV App - which I wrote last year - How to watch Sky Arts - Portrait Artist of the Year 2018 without subscribing to Sky!

Portrait Artist of the Year 2020

Thursday, February 07, 2019

120th Pastel Society Annual Exhibition - Prizewinners

The Pastel Society is holding its 120th Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries.  
The first thing I want to say is "Congratulations!" for two reasons:
  • First obviously for making it to its 120th annual exhibition. There's an awful lot of art societies that don't make it that far - or even anywhere near!
  • Next because they have all the details about the exhibition, the prizewinners, the events etc on the website right now - and that information has been available since the day after the private view. So big pat on the back for the webmaster!

The Private View was held on Monday (which I unfortunately couldn't attend as I was unwell) and opened by Alistair Burtenshaw Director of Watts Gallery - Artists' Village. (GF Watts was one of the founding members of the Pastel Society in 1898).

However I got to see it on Tuesday - and hope to be back again before it closes.

This year the exhibition is being sponsored by Derwent - and I do like the way the Pastel Society shares around the opportunity to be sponsor!

Tonight is the The Pastel Society Art Event Evening 2019 - but there are still plenty of events to come - and these are listed at the end


One of the best exhibits on this wall I've seen in a while
You can see the exhibition at the Mall Galleries from today until 3pm on Saturday 3rd March 2018.

You can get Free Entry to the exhibition for Two if you mention Making A Mark at the Gallery Desk (normal price £8)

It includes 281 artworks in total, of which 180 are by members (64%) and 101 are by nonmembers (36%) - in pastels, charcoal, conte chalk, pastel pencils, coloured pencils, Pierre Noire pencil, Graphite, oil pastel and mixed media (which should be predominantly dry)

There are LOTS of ways to view the artwork if it's too far or too expensive to get to London to see the exhibition. You can also:
The only problem with digital versions of the exhibition is you don't get the sense of scale that you get when you see the work in the gallery.

I'm going to leave a review of the "open" aspect of the exhibition until after I go back (I thinking about drawing plants in the gallery on Saturday morning and then having another meander around in the afternoon)

However I will say it's very well hung - you can see that the small team that hung it got the colour balance right. It's also got more contemporary work which is good to see and a fair few red spots!

Plus the end wall is sensational! I recognised the work by Patricia Cain and Jeanette Barnes (left of centre) straight away - but was greatly intrigued by the vivid green artwork - which came from the open entry!  Apparently Carla Groppi won the The Hugh Casson Drawing Prize at the RA Summer Exhibition in 2015.  David Brammeld is doing a session on drawing trees on Saturday afternoon for those who want to learn how to draw trees in winter.

The end wall with work by
(left to right) two works by Patricia Cain, who won the 3rd Threadneedle Prize in 2010
a very large charcoal drawing of the Crossrail Station, Canary Wharf by Jeanette Barnes (an ex tutor of mine),
an extremely vivid work by Carla Groppi and a suite of four works of trees by David Brammeld
Bookshop and view of main gallery gallery
The shop as always has a fair few books relevant to the exhibition. I rather liked this view


You can see large images of all these paintings in the Mall Galleries facebook Album for 2019 PrizewinnersEach image links to the "buy" page for that artwork.

You can also see images of all the award winners at the Private View on the website

I found most of the artworks - so you can see them in their frames with the award label next to them.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

The snowy painting challenge - the results

Last Saturday, I asked to see the paintings people had been doing during the recent cold spell and snow.
I'm thinking of doing a blog post about RECENT snow paintings.
If you've been braving the temperature and painting snow scenes - or even staying inside and painting the snow outside
  • EITHER - leave a comment with the url of where I can find the pic
  • OR - send me a pic of your snow painting - preferably with a pic of you painting it!
The ones I'm posting below are those done recently and from observation. I'm afraid I eliminated most of those that appeared to not have been done in the last few weeks.

If you enjoyed the challenge - either in terms of sending/nominating paintings - or just reading the results please let me know on my Facebook page (sorry - comments are still suspended on this blog due to the idiots who post spam)

This is the painting - and entry - which impressed me the post. It's a lovely painting of 'snow on allotments' by Valérie Pirlot (website: Facebook:
A better picture of the painting I did at the week-end in the snow. I've painted that view dozen of times, but it looks so different covered in white. So much fun to paint! Now available on my website:

Even better - we got the artists's eye view too. So you can see what she was painting.

Best of the lot is we get what it takes to go out painting plein air in wintry weather. Love the comment to go with it!  Truly a British Plein Air Painter of snowy weather!

This is one of the later ones to come in. I like to think I maybe inspired Martin Truefitt-Baker to have a go!

You can see from his post Snowy day tree that this is a favourite tree that he has painted a number of times. Like Valerie it's a view he's painted many times. Maybe this is a tip for snowy paintings - much better to paint a view you know under snow then spend time working out which is the best angle and how to paint structures. You don't want to hang about too long working out

More importantly this is his second oil painting after a break of 30 years. He's been using acrylics for a long time but has only just recently started painting in oils again.!
This is a painting I've just finished in the last couple of days. This is only the second oil painting, I've now completed, after returning to the medium after 30-ish years. 

Snowy day tree

Haidee-Jo Summers sent me some of her paintings done at the weekend. She's a very experienced plein air painter in the snow - and I love her snow paintings.
Hi Katherine, we haven’t had much snow here in Lincolnshire but on Saturday I managed to get out in it and paint these... no photos of me painting them though...
Bothy by Haidee-Jo Summers
The woodman’s bothy at Belton village, this site used to be the woodyard for the whole Brownlow estate.
One of the things I very much like about HaideeJo's paintings is that she always gets the light and tone just right.  You can feel the cold!
Logs by Haidee Jo Summers - providing you don't need a lot to make a snowy picture
These are a few of my favourite things... wood pile in the snow from last weekend 8” x 10”