Monday, July 16, 2018

Mackintosh: Glasgow’s neglected genius - revisited and updated

A month ago today, when the interior of the Glasgow School of Art burned down to the ground on 16 June 2018 (see ANOTHER Major Fire at Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art and VIDEO: An Appreciation of Glasgow School of Art), it came in the midst of all sorts of celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh's birth.

For example:

The first half of the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art
(image from the programme)
....but the third act has still to come....

I watched the programme on iPlayer as I wrote blog posts about the fire - and the first version was an excellent programme.

Following the fire, a decision was made by the BBC to revisit the programme and update it within the context of the fire

‘Mackintosh: Glasgow’s neglected genius has been revisited - including a visit to the burned out shell of the Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art - and filmed the ruins - and then re-edited the programme to take account of the fire.
The film examines Mackintosh's iconic buildings, notably the Glasgow School of Art. Interwoven with his architecture, design and watercolours is the personal story of Mackintosh.
...and so tonight, on BBC4, the revised version is being broadcast this evening at 10pm - and I recommend all Mackintosh fans make a point of watching/recording it. I'll certainly be watching it again.

Take Two - ‘Mackintosh: Glasgow’s neglected genius'

Below you can also find out more about:
  • Mackintosh 150
  • the rebuilding of the Mackintosh Building

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Martin Gayford on Canaletto's paintings of London

I'm a fan of the painter Canaletto, the famous "painter of views".

I'm also a fan of the literate and articulate writer, author and art critic Martin Gayford.

So what better than a video of Martin Gayford talking about Canaletto and his Grand Designs - which was a lecture given and videoed at Gresham College. (Well maybe a better quality video! It was made in 2010!)

Canaletto - The City Seen Through an Arch of Westminster Bridge

It's also remarkable for some scenes of London that have completely disappeared since Canaletto painted them.
In 1746 the great Venetian artist, Canaletto, moved to London following the market and wealth for his work. Nine years later, he left the city attacked by the critics as repetitive and a fake. What was 18th Century London like to be the centre of such hope and disappointment? How did Canaletto feel about the city, and how are we to assess these views today?

Canaletto: Grand Designs - Martin Gayford - Gresham College Lecture from Gresham College on Vimeo.

You can see all future lectures at Gresham College here.

More about Canaletto

More about Martin Gayford

Martin Gayford has been talking with artists for 30 years. He doesn’t just nip into the studio with a notepad: he has a gift for sustaining conversations that unfold across decades. Modernists and Mavericks by Martin Gayford review – Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London painters

Friday, July 13, 2018

John Moores Painting prize 2018 - winner announced

There's not a lot of press coverage for the winner of the John Moores Painting Prize 2018 - and I have to say I'm not surprised.

Jacqui Hallum's painting King and Queens of Wands triumphed over 2,700 entries to win the John Moores Painting Prize 2018 in its 60th annoversary - which means she wins:
  • a £25,000 first prize, 
  • a three-month fellowship at Liverpool John Moores University, 
  • plus an ‘in-focus’ solo display at the Walker Art Gallery in 2019.

What do you say about a three cotton sheets stained and dyed with inks?
Not a lot if you are the Art Press it would seem...

This is what Jacqui Hallum had to say about her painting.

Bottom line - I've never understood the decisions of the John Moores Painting Prize and I'm none the wiser after this year's choice.

It always strikes me that what the artist thinks they've made and how the judges interpret the painting seem to be at odds quite often.

Listen to what the artist has to say in the video - and then read this....
The curator Jenni Lomax said Hallum’s painting emerged as the clear overall winner from the shortlist of five, which each receive £2,500. “There is something about the provisional and nomadic nature of the work that makes it feel very current,” she said. “At the same time an initial sense of lightness belies historical and personal references that collapse within its folds.” Jacqui Hallum wins John Moores painting prize | The Guardian
One is so very tempted to continue by constructing a sentence which uses the word "arty farty"  - but I won't.... I've got better things to do with my time.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Glasgow School of Art will be rebuilt

The good news is that that Mackintosh Building at Glasgow School of Art will be rebuilt.

Model of Glasgow School of Art - Mackintosh Building
Below is essentially a summary of what's being reported elsewhere following the announcement by Tom Inns, the School's Director on Tuesday.
  1. “We’re going to rebuild the Mackintosh building." - but part of it is unstable and will be dismantled
  2. Building was insured and rebuild costs will be covered by insurers
  3. c.50% fixtures and fittings were in storage at time of fire
  4. A detailed digital model was developed as part of the work done after the last fire. This now provides an immense amount of data about every aspect of the building and how things were
  5. The process of dismantling the building and removing dangerously unstable sections began on Tuesday afternoon
  6. Kier Construction has now "concluded its relationship with the art school". Their statement that adequate fire safety strategy was in place has been 'professionally checked" by school
  7. An ongoing investigation by the Scottish fire and rescue service will determine what really happened to start the second fire - and why it burned out the entire school.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Botanical Art Bonanza!

Botanical art fans are converging on London this week for the RHS Botanical Art Show. 

In terms of handing out Gold Medals for Botanical Art this is the most prestigious botanical art show in the world.  It effect it's the visual equivalent for botanical artists of the Olympics or the World Cup! Absolutely nothing else presents the same sort of challenge!

That's why in recent days botanical artists have jetted into London from all around the globe - to try and capture that elusive RHS Gold Medal. That said, we've got quite a few Gold Medallists who are returning to see if they can enhance their credibility by winning another one!.

Medals are being awarded as I write - and I'll be there at this evening's reception.

View of part of last year's exhibition in the RHS Lindley Hall
Each of the run of panels is an exhibit of a minimum of six works by one artist
Work is graded against various criteria
- but medal colour is often determined by the weakest not the best - so everything has to be excellent!
However, while in London to see this show there is also the most fantastic opportunity to see other top class botanical art exhibitions - and this is a list of the details of everything on offer in London - in terms of botanical art!

Those pursuing other genres might pause for a moment and reflect when there were this many top class of exhibitions in prestigious venues for other subject matter!

Royal Horticultural Society

The RHS Plant and Art Fair (10-12 July 2018) includes three international exhibitions of botanical art and photography. These are:

The RHS Botanical Art Show

Venue: RHS Lindley Hall, Elverton Street,
Dates: 10-12 July 2018

For more information:
Plus this is information about how the RHS Botanical Art Show works for those aspiring to show in 2020 (you're already too late for 2019!). It's the only show I know where you have to be approved BEFORE you can submit your artwork
This is also a show where it pays to sort your visa out in good time..... It loosk like we might have lost one exhibitor to visa problems at the UK end.... - which will be very disappointing

This is a video I made of last year's Botanical Art Show

The number of botanical artists this year - per country is as follows:
  • 19 x UK + 1 group
  • 7 x Japan
  • 4 x Korea
  • 2 x Italy
  • 2 x New Zealand
  • 2 x Turkey
  • and one each from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Hong Kong, Thailand and the USA​

The RHS Botanical Photography Show

Venue: RHS Lawrence Hall, Greycoat Street, Westminster
Dates: 10-12 July 2018

Polina Plotnikova - at a previous show

More information:

Worth a Thousand Words

Venue: RHS Lindley Library 80 Vincent Square LONDON SW1P 2PE
Dates: 5 July - 17 August 2018

This is the "must see" for every visitor to the Botanical Art Show - if for no other reason than it is adjacent to the show in RHS HQ in Vincent Square.

View of part of the exhibition

More information:

Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

There are two exhibitions on display at the moment - in the same place and for the same dates.

Venue: Shirley Sherwood Gallery, Kew Gardens - which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year
​Dates: 31 March - 16 September 2018

​The Florilegium: The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

This is an exhibition by the Florilegium Society of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. It was originally mounted at the RBGS Gardens in Sydney in 2016 as part of the 200th anniversary of the Botanic Gardens. ​

Part of the Florilegium exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - This is a world class exhibition and sets a very high standard for exhibitions by Florilegia


Down Under II: Works from the Shirley Sherwood Collection

The second exhibition - Down Under II: Works from the Shirley Sherwood Collection - is a follow on from the first exhibition of artwork in the Shirley Sherwood Collection of native Australian and New Zealand plants created by local and international botanical artists.

Natural History Museum

There's always an exhibition of nature botanical or natural history in the Images of Nature Gallery at the Natural History Museum
Venue: Images of Nature Gallery, Natural History Museum

The Art of British Natural History : Images of Nature

When I last visited besides the examples of botanical artwork by many of the great artists from the past there were some paintings of natural habitat by Barbara Nicolson and a reproduction of a watercolour painting of orchids by the late Pandora Sellars

Orchids (1985) by Pandora Sellars (1936-2016)

Rumanian Cultural Institute

The exhibition of botanical paintings included in the Transylvania Florilegium has returned for July and August

Jonathan Cooper Gallery

Finally for the true and dedicated fans there are some excellent artworks by botanical artiosts from England, Scotland, Australia and the USA on display at Jonathan Cooper's 30th anniversary exhibition in Chelsea

Monday, July 09, 2018

Four ways to hold a pencil to draw

How you hold a pencil to draw is different from how you hold a pencil to write.

This post is for those who'd like to explore different ways of holding a pencil and what each offers you. It shows you:
  • why different grips offer you more scope to draw in different ways
  • affect the range of movement that is possible from both your hand - and arm
  • enable you to move your pencil in different ways
  • offer you the scope to draw more effectively - in different ways
    Below I look at four different kinds of grips for drawing
    • the basic tripod grip
    • a basic drawing grip
    • the overhand/gesture grip
    • an extended underhand grip
    How to hold a pencil to draw - four different ways

    I'll be systematically showing you
    • what the grip looks like - in diagrams hand drawn by me!
    • which fingers it uses
    • what it's useful for
    • what it limits
    • who it's recommended for

    If you find it useful you might like to share it with your friends who also draw - or want to learn how to draw.

    Context - How we learn to grip a pencil

    It's often the case that those who have taught themselves to draw continue to use their familiar grip for holding a pen or pencil - the one they've probably learned at school when they learned how to write.

    However this can cause problems and it also limits HOW you can use a pencil to draw.

    It's also the case that many people who are teaching people 'how to draw' haven't necessarily been taught to draw themselves and are still using the grip they learned when little.

    For me, the essential thing is that people have the information to make a choice. After that, how we choose to use a pencil is entirely up to the individual. 
    • There is no right or wrong way. 
    • Your way is your way. 
    • However experimentation can lead to expanding and improving your skills in different ways of drawing - and ultimately change

    Different ways to grip

    Study the ways the grips vary. Look at people you know who draw and watch to see how their grip works. Ask them why they use the grip and why they like it. Ask them what they can do with it.

    In particular note:
    • which parts of the hand and arm are involved in the grip 
    • what the role of the thumb is
    • where and how the pencil rests if not gripped tightly by the fingers
    • whether the hand and/or the fingers move the pencil
    • what provides the pressure
    • what provides balance 
    • whether control is exerted via pressure or balance.

    The basic traditional / tripod grip

    Friday, July 06, 2018


    Civilisation by Kenneth Clark 1903-1983 (or Lord Clark of Civilisation as he latterly became known) is one of those landmark series that gives you access to the cultures, art, architecture and artefacts - which none of us could ever dream of encountering in entirety, in person, in our lifetimes.

    That said it's a very Western Europe perspective on civilisation - from 50 years ago. It was first televised in 1969!

    It's also a great trot through very many of the celebrated artists in art history (again - the Western European version) and an opportunity to see their artwork in situ.

    To my mind it's important that it remains accessible in terms of what it can teach us - even if it now seems dated in style and perspective.

    The BBC have done the decent thing and Civilisation is now permanently(?) accessible via the archive of BBC television programmes within BBC iPlayer

    There are also very many copies of the BBC series Civilisation on YouTube - and the fact they exist means that the entire series is accessible to everybody who does not have access to BBC iPlayer

    So this post is by way of signposting how the series is accessible to all
    • on iPlayer
    • on YouTube
    Explanation of what each episode covers can be found in the Wikipedia article about the Civilisation Series. (click first link above)

    Civilisation on iPlayer

    Civilisation by Kenneth Clark - on BBC iPlayer
    These are the links to the episodes:
    1. The Skin of Our Teeth - about the Dark Ages, the Norsemen and Charlemagne, after the collapse of the Roman Empire
    2. The Great Thaw - covers the reawakening of Europe in the Early Middle Ages (12th and early 13th centuries) and great architecture
    3. Romance and Reality - about the later Middle Ages in 14th century France (Loire) and Italy (Tuscany and Umbria)
    4. Man: the Measure of all Things - looks at the notion of the Renaissance Man and centres of Renaissance civilisation (Florence, Urbino and Mantua)
    5. The Hero as Artist - takes a look at a look at individuals of genius, notably Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci and focuses on great art in the Vatican
    6. Protest and Communication - about the upheavals of the Protestant Reformation in northern Europe. He looks at Holbein, Thomas Moore, Erasmus, the printing press and Durer.
    7. Grandeur and Obedience - the Counter-Reformation—against the Protestant north and the development of St Peter's in Rome.
    8. The Light of Experience - new realism and observation of human character in Dutch paintings
    9. The Pursuit of Happiness - how the works of Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart in the architecture of the Rococo churches and palaces of Bavaria.
    10. The Smile of Reason - the Age of Enlightenment
    11. The Worship of Nature - the decline of religion in the middle of the 18th century and the emergence of Rousseau, the romantic movement and the picturesque - being 'at one with nature' and the landscape paintings of Turner and Constable
    12. The Fallacies of Hope - traces the progressive disillusionment of the artists associated with the Romantic movement
    13. Heroic Materialism - a discussion of the materialism and humanitarianism of the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Civilisation on YouTube

    The most viewed and best quality version of Civilisation on iPlayer can be found in this Civilisation Playlist (in HD) by Rich9881 - which contains links to all 13 episodes (in HD).

    Like I said the fact it has not been taken down I guess means that the BBC recognises this is a programme which deserves to be accessible to all for educational purposes only.