Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize and exhibition

I went to see the exhibition for the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize competition at Painters Hall in the City of London yesterday. The purpose of the Prize is to encourage creative representational painting and promote the skill of draughtsmanship.

Winner of the 2007 Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize
New Life,oil painting
copyright Benjamin Sullivan RP, NEAC
The Prize was launched in 2005 and in the last three years over 2,000 paintings have been considered for exhibition and some 200 or so have been hung. Art has been sold and apparently some artists have also been selected by galleries for solo exhibitions as a result of the exhibition.

This year 66 paintings by 62 artists were chosen from some 800 entries (that's just over 8%). They're exhibited on special panels incorporating a lighting system in the Livery Hall and as a result virtually all works have very good lighting. It's an excellent show which includes work in a huge range of sizes and media - oils, watercolours, large pencil drawings, monoprints and tiny works in egg tempera. However there was only one acrylic painting and, sadly, fine art printing (often renowned for draughtsmanship) was also represented by only one work - which won a prize!

You can see the artists whose work was selected for the 2007 Lynn Painter-Stainers exhibition on the Parker Harris website.

The 2007 panel included the following judges:
At the end of this savage exercise in speed-rating, what are we left with? A remarkably representative overview of the varied state of British representational painting. In the still-life camp, Uglowish lemons and Morandiesque garlics vie with photorealist crushed drinks cans and plastic bags. On the landscape front, a Cornish beach scene with echoes of Alfred Wallis sits alongside a snowy back garden à la Carel Weight and a super-realist 1960s motorway restaurant. There are odd images of animals and children: a mad-eyed Albino hamster presses his quivering pink nose against a picture plane, while a small boy in blue underpants skips over a telly. In the portrait department — heavily subscribed this year — there are paintings of young and old by young and old, the age not always reflected in the price: a giant Lady Thatcher by 25-year-old Lorna May Wadsworth carries a gob-smacking price tag of £100,000. (Only a maniac would pay that, but perhaps one will.)
In short, this year’s Painter-Stainers is a massed parade of painterly observation of a sort too rarely seen in public galleries.
Laura Gasgoigne, The Spectator Art column
The winner of the Lynn Painter-Stainers prize ( of a gold medal and £15,000 /$31,000) is Benjamin Sullivan RP, NEAC with a work called 'New Life' which is a curious - and very fine - portrait of a woman in a dressing gown, with a cat and a mouse and a self portrait of the artist above a separate painting of the view of the backs of some houses. Sullivan has a fine art degree from Edinburgh College of Art and is a member of both the NEAC and Royal Society of Portrait Painters and has won several awards with both art societies.

Other prizewinners are:
  • The Young Artist Prize (£2,500) Poppy Jones 'These Screen' - a monoprint (she is yet another fine art graduate of Falmouth College of Art - whose ex students also did very well in the ING Discerning Eye competition). The Young Artist Award is for an artist who is 25 years of age or under on 3 September 2007.
  • Runner Up (£1,000) Dick French The tunnel of love - pencil and oil pastel and paper collage
  • Runner Up (£1,000) Jennifer McRae - Lord Slynn of Hadley and the sea holly - oil (I continue to be intrigued by her technique and skill. Jennifer McRae has also won first prize in The Hunting Art Prize in 1998 and has works in the National Portrait Gallery, and Scottish National Portrait Galleries.)
  • Runner Up (£1,000) Susan Wilson - The Young Oxford Undergraduate - oil (a New Zealand artist who studied at Camberwell and the Royal Academy and who now lives in the UK. She taught at Chelsea School of Art from 1988-93.)
  • Runner Up (£1,000) Neale Worley NEAC - Andrea - oil (He is a member of the NEAC and has won previous prizes with them)
  • Runner Up (£1,000) Antony Williams RP - Emma with cactus - egg tempera. (This is a simply HUGE painting to be in egg tempera. Think millions of brush strokes! He is a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and exhibits regularly in the BP Portrait Awards and RA Summer Exhibitions. He also has works in the National Portrait Gallery and Queen’s College Oxford.)
I work almost exclusively in egg tempera, which can be a painstaking and exacting medium, but one which allows me to express a feeling I have about the look of the world. All my work is the product of direct and intense observation,which can produce as a result a heightened sense of realism,where every surface detail is given almost equal consideration.
Antony Williams RP - see examples of portraits here
I sketched one end of Livery Hall - which included the absolutely enormous oil painting of Lady Thatcher by Lorna May Wadsworth priced at £100,000. I distinctly remember being puzzled when looking at this, as I didn't quite understand how the 'drippy' background and style of painting matched the character of the woman. Apparently Sir Denis Thatcher was a member of the Painters-Stainers Company.....

Lady Thatcher in Livery Hall
9"x6"pencil and coloured pencil in Moleskine
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

For me the exhibition brochure - which includes images of the prize-winning works - would be more helpful if it included a short resume of all prizewinning artists on the almost blank page facing each image, especially as there is an obvious intention to promote this type of artist and art.

Interestingly there is also no website specific to the exhibition - only one run by the people who administer the competition. This means no online images of the prizewinners or any other images from exhibition. I think this is a major omission as I'm sure many artists who might want to submit would really like to see the type of work being shown if they are unable to travel to/see the exhibition. Of course it can also help sales! I have however to thank Parker Harris for very kindly sending me an image of the winning work for this blog post. I trust this now conveys rather better than my prose why this painting deserved to win.

Finally, in location terms, Painters Hall is 'off the beaten track' in terms of main City of London thoroughfares but is just around the corner from Mansion House tube and is walking distance of the centre of the City of London. I noticed that the location of the exhibition - or maybe the size of the prizes(?) - appeared to have had a huge impact on prices of paintings - which seemed to me to be very much higher than those seen in the Mall Galleries or the NEAC website for work by the same artist.

A couple of things occurred to me afterwards.

Given the obvious weighting towards portraits in terms of both submissions and prize-winners, I wondered whether judges are announced before the submission deadline - and whether that choice then effectively acts as a filter on which artists apply or what sort of work they submit. One wonders whether it is any coincidence that there were so many portraits this year given Daphne Todd's presence on the panel at the same time as one of the other artists is a prize-winning portrait painter and the third is a renowned figurative painter. Although I didn't enter I did look at the details when they came out and do remember immediately thinking 'portrait' as to the type of work to submit. So is the choice and mix of judges a deliberate act on the part of the organisers or entirely coincidental or what?

It then struck me that I'd also seen a lot of good work at this exhibition and the ING Discerning Eye exhibition last week by people who weren't apparently members of (national) art societies. I wondered why so many up and coming artists choose to submit to exhibitions like these rather than the (national) art societies? However my perception of this was in part dictated by the fact that the Lynn Painter-Stainers catalogue omitted to recognise various artists' memberships of various art societies. It gives the impression that only three are members whereas in fact a number of them have memberships of one or more societies. I checked with the entry form and it doesn't ask for this information - which is unusual as most do. However, notwithstanding this, although I recognised some artists' names and their work, there were a lot of artists were showing work new to me at both exhibitions - although much more so at ING Discerning Eye.

So are artists willing to submit to major prize competitions but not the open exhibitions held by the art societies? I certainly detected a different 'flavour' to the ING and Lynn Painter-Stainers. Although I know costs deters a lot of artists who have to ship from outside London, I don't think the reason can be cost as this seemed to be similar in cost to the RA and those, for example, operating out of the Mall Galleries. Maybe there is a perception that the selection process of the art societies tends to favour members and friends of members? It then struck me that none of the art societies actually explain their selection process anywhere on their websites. In terms of details which have got into the public domain, it's taken television and two journalists (the BBC with the RA Summer Exhibition, Lynn Barber last year with the Turner Prize and Laura Gasgoigne with this Prize) to explain what actually happens. Maybe more transparency about such matters might attract even more entries.? Personally, I think that if societies said more about the process and the chances of non-members being selected then that might well make a difference and benefit both artists and exhibition.

What do you think?
  • Does a major prize competition/exhibition make a difference to whether or not you submit?
  • Should societies and competitions be more explicit about the process they use for selection?
  • Or are there other reasons?
Submitting work
If you think you might be interested in applying in future years here are a few details which related to this year's competition. You can find more information here.
  • The Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize is open to living artists over the age of 18 on 3 September 2007, who are resident in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands or Isle of Man.
  • Only original, two-dimensional works in any painting media, that have been completed in the last three years, and that have not been previously exhibited, are eligible.
  • All works must be for sale, except commissioned portraits.
  • Artists may submit up to two works.
  • Works of art submitted must not exceed 72 inches (183cms) in their largest dimension including frame.
  • Works on paper must be framed.
(1) The Worshipful Company of Painter Stainers
Formed in 1502 by the amalgamation of companies in existence before 1283. Originally
the Painters applied colour to solid materials such as stone, plaster, wood or metal and the Stainers applied colour to woven materials such as canvas. Over the years the Company became more involved with Fine Art whilst still carrying out decorative work to buildings and ceremonial flags and banners. The Worshipful Company of Painter- Stainers is actively engaged in supporting the art and craft of painting. With a strong commitment to fine art, the Painters’ Company Charity is delighted to sponsor this annual prize in conjunction with the Lynn Foundation.

(2)The Lynn Foundation
The Lynn Foundation is a registered charity devoted to children, the disabled, music and the arts. Its contribution as co-sponsor with the Painter-Stainers is the prize money totalling £22,500 and an engraved gold medal for the winner.

(3) This year the Prize has also been supported by Linklaters, the Crown Group and The Spectator.


21st century watercolour - RWS 2008 painting competition

Maggie (2007)
watercolour on paper, 55 x 75cm
copyright Sue Rubira

21st Century Watercolour is an annual open painting competition organised by the Royal Watercolour Society, which usually takes place in the Spring.
The aim of the competition is to encourage innovation in the use of water-based media on paper and to stimulate fresh approaches to what are considered to be watercolour’s traditional strengths.
In March this year I visited the 21st century watercolours exhibition at the Bankside Gallery - and was very impressed by this watercolour painting by Sue Rubira as well as a lot of work by other artists working in water-based media. Overall I thought the show was very fantastic with works which showed some real flair for pushing the boundaries well beyond conventional watercolour.

The RWS is now inviting entries for the 2008 competition. Artists are invited to submit up to three framed, glazed water-based paintings on paper. The work I saw included all sorts of media which were waterbased - including gouache, acrylic and ink.

Details of how to submit work for this competition and exhibition are now available from the competitions page on the Royal Watercolour Society website.
  • Work needs to reach the gallery on Saturday 9th February 11am – 6pm and Sunday 10th February 11am – 6pm
  • Judging is then done on Monday 11th February.
  • Work which is not accepted needs to be picked up on Tuesday 12th February
  • The actual exhibition then runs from Friday 15th February – Sunday 9th March 2008.
  • Works which are unsold must be picked up on Sunday 9th and Monday 10th March.
Work is selected by a panel of judges who are Richard Sorrell – President of the Royal Watercolour Society, Richard Cork – Art Critic, and John Gilboy, founder of the Orange Street Gallery.

In previous years numerous prizes, worth in excess of £10,000, have been kindly donated by various individuals and organisations including the Royal Watercolour Society, St. Cuthbert’s Mill, Baker Tilly, Winsor and Newton and Elizabeth Scott-Moore Fund.

I'm currently cogitating about submitting a pen and ink with wash drawing....................

Note about Sue Rubira:
Sue Rubira was born in Brentwood, Essex in 1959. She studied illustration at Bristol and the Royal College of Art, London after which she moved to Portugal. Sue now lives and works near Southampton, England, teaching and painting portraits on a personal and commission basis. In 2006 she won the 2nd prize in the prestigious Sunday Times/Singer and Friedlander competition for watercolour artists with her portrait Geoff (image 19 in her gallery of paintings on her website).

'Maggie' was hung in the 21st century watercolour 2006 exhibition. It won the
Daler Rowney 1st prize at this exhibition. In my blog post about the exhibition I wrote
I also very much liked Sue Rubira's giant and striking face of "Maggie". You can see the finished version on her blog here and also see stages on the blog posts prior to that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How to keep an artist's sketchbook

Two more of my book reviews for The Big Drawing Book Review. These two are about books which provide advice on developing an artist's sketchbook. They adopt a different approach to looking at how an artist approaches choosing and using a sketchbook. Both will be of particular interest to those who use watercolour.

Describing how you produced a sketch shouldn't be difficult for most artists who sketch as the actual process of sketching generally etches both the place and the approach indelibly in your mind - which is, of course of one of the very best reasons for sketching!

The Artist's Sketchbook by Albany Wiseman (with Patricia Monahan)

Now I know this book has at least one dedicated fan who maybe will comment some more below.

Here's what Laura (Laurelines) had to say about Albany Wiseman recently following a workshop holiday in France.
My teacher was the adorable Englishman and renowned painter Albany Wiseman, whose many books I'd owned and whose work I'd already deeply admired. Albany is a consumate draftsman. It was his use of drawing in painting that I felt resonated with my own approach and why I chose his workshop over others. Albany is a very generous teacher, giving lots of individual attention and demonstrating his own techniques on site. I learned a lot from him and am in the gradual process of incorporating what I learned.
Albany Wiseman's book sets out to show how a sketchbook can be used. He starts by discussing the reasons for keeping a sketchbook and then looks at materials and media which can be used for sketching.

He then tackles subject matter with a short and well-informed introduction to each section and then provides notes against each sketch - which are done in a variety of media. For each subject area he also provides a demonstration of a how a sketch can be translated through to a finished painting with comments on adjustments made en route.

Inevitably, his sketches reflect his interests and the places he has visited - as they do for any artist who sketches. Subjects covered are:
  • People (life drawing, musicians, the workplace, the moving figure, sports players, dancers, figures travelling, drawing in a crowd, restauarants and bars, babies and children)
  • Animals and Birds (cats, dogs, sheep and goats, horses, zoo animals, wild birds and domestic fowl)
  • The Interior (flowers, cut flowers, interior spaces, domestic still lifes, 'found' still lifes)
  • Landscape (Light and Atmosphere, gardens, trees in winter, trees in summer, mixing green, sketching on holiday, sketching in winter, skies, seascapes)
  • Architecture (Industrial Architecture, farm buildings, follies and eccentric buildings, magnificent buildings, detailed architectural studies, lettering, bridges, the character of a place)
He also includes some basic instruction about sketching basic shapes, drawing complex shapes in perspective, sketching with oils and acrylics, media for landscape sketching and exploring composition.

Particular features I liked about this book include:
  • his wonderful sketches using different media. I liked the fact that he includes all the loose and 'sketchy' ones and not just ones which look more 'finished'.
  • he's drawn on a lifetime of sketches, even including ones done in the same place 50 years apart. It's interesting to see how his style developed over time.
  • the detailed 'making your own sketchbook' section is something you don't often find in books about sketching.
  • the small 'tips boxes' made it easy to see key points 'in a nutshell' and are very useful.
  • some of the points he makes are worth repeating
Like a musician, an artist needs to practice every day amd a sketchbook is an ideal place to work on your observational and drawing skills. In time you will learn to select and simplify so that you can encapsulate an attitude, a pose or a movement in a few lines. Sketching regularly also improves visual memory and manula dexterity, enabling you to make accurate and rapid records of the subjects that interest you.
Albany Wiseman - Introduction to The Artist's Sketchbook'
How to Keep a Sketchbook by Michael Woods

The approach adopted by Michael Woods is to discuss why sketching is a good idea in the Introduction. He then covers sketchbooks and papers in Chapter 1, drawing materials in Chapter 2 and then, in Chapter 3, he provides examples of his own sketches of a wide range of subjects in a variety of media. He also provides some limited technical notes and a glossary at the end.

The subject matter covered by Chapter 3 can be detected on the Contents page but doesn't appear to be very organised as to any bigger themes - in contrast to Wiseman's book.

His book is written in an essay type style - which makes scan reading for tips and important points rather difficult. Nevertheless it's a good read and might well be preferred by those people who don't like their text broken up into boxes and bullet points.

All books which discuss media and materials face the inevitable problem that these references can become dated after publication. This book is no exception and includes out of date references to Karisma pencils which are no longer available.

I particularly liked the way that all his sketches are annotated with relevant details of size and type of paper and materials used. He then describes the process used for each sketch. If you're learning, it makes so much more sense of a sketch when you can see what somebody has used and understand how they set about each sketch. Unfortunately, the quality of the narrative - which is excellent in places - can vary and he doesn't always relate the bits of information which might be ingrained for him but would be novel for a student.


Of the two books, each has its particular merits and the individual style and approach are each likely to have their fans. I think on the whole I'd favour the Wiseman book as I personally found the structure of the book to be much more helpful and it was also a much easier read. I also preferred his sketches - but that's just a personal thing as they are both experienced artists. Overall I'd give Woods a 3+ pencils rating and Wiseman a 4+ pencils rating.

Notes on the authors

1) Albany Wiseman studied at St Albans School of Art, and has worked as a professional artist since 1952. His career covers many different aspects of art, from book illustration and posters to limited edition lithographs. He exhibits his work regularly at one-man and mixed shows throughout theworld and produces limited edition prints of mainly architectural subjects. He has work in the Tate Collection. Since 1990 he has taught throughout Europe, contributed to practical publications and currently teaches workshops for Arts in Provence. ‘The Artists Sketchbook’ was published in 2002, followed by ‘Drawing Solutions’ and ‘Watercolour Solutions’.

2) Michael Woods was Director of Art at Charterhouse School where he taught for many years. Trained at Norwich School of Art and the Slade School of Art, he is an established painter and has exhibited widely. He is the author of five books, including The Complete Drawing Course, also published by Batsford.

  • The Artist's Sketchbook Albany Wiseman; David & Charles (October 1, 2000);128 pages;ISBN-10: 071530965X;ISBN-13: 978-0715309650
  • How to Keep a Sketchbook Michael Woods; Batsford Ltd (12 Sep 2002); 128 pages; ISBN-10: 071348747X; ISBN-13: 978-0713487473

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pondering and planning

Anthea's Flowers - Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense)
297mm x 210mm, coloured pencils on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've been pondering recently on what I want to include in my 'work/blog plan' for next year and have been talking about this with a few people. I'm now going to share some thoughts about the plan so far in this blog post and if anybody would like to comment please feel free. Nothing is set in stone.......


I've decided that a month is simply too short to do a project on one artist or rather it can be daunting to start a new project each month. "Life happens" as they say - and only having a month means either the project or other things going on in my life can get a bit compressed at times.

Some of the projects were also a lot bigger than I realised and at times created a bit too much stress in terms of trying to finish 'properly' rather than in a half-hearted way. One of the things I very much enjoy about the projects is the research - and that's when I probably do most of my learning and reflecting - in ways which might not always be apparent in the posts - but I still need time for that. So my priority is to have time to do a project properly but to not feel rushed to complete artwork inspired by the project - which is a bit what it felt like at times.

I'm therefore thinking along the line of major and minor projects for next year. Major projects would be at least 2 months. Minor projects would be something more akin to an exercise or a small challenge - less about research and more about practice. Their other purpose is also to provide a counterpoint or complement to the major projects. The intention is also to avoid a mindset which gets bogged down on one topic - plus I like and need variety!

A major project would be about something which may take a while to do properly. Five candidates for this are set out below.
  • Composition - revisiting this topic and trying to understand more about what different people have had to say about composition, what are the 'rules' and why breaking the rules also works. I then want to relate it to specific subject matter (eg landscapes and flowers) and artists that I like - such as Degas. I'll probably start with this topic and then try and pick this up in other areas of work during the rest of the year. It'll certainly cross over into.........
  • Japanese Art - ukiyo-e prints influenced virtually all the nineteenth century artists I studied this year and I want to know more about it. I want to focus on those artists who drew landscapes such as Hokusai and Hiroshige.
  • Colour - a huge subject! I want to get to grips with different theories about colour, look a little bit at some of the different schools and artists renowned for their use of colour eg Fauvism, Scottish Colourists, Monet, (any other suggestions?) and to try some more in-depth colour exercises than ones I've done so far. In particular I want to develop work around colour which vibrates. I started a squidoo lens for this topic a while back - see Colour - Resources for Artists
  • Working in a series - looking at the benefits of repetition and developing a series around one motif; picking up on Monet's series paintings and other artists who've developed major themes and painted the same motif several times.
  • Turner - his approach to drawing, sketchbooks and painting and how his work progressed over time.
A minor project might well focus on specific aspects of art. For example:
  • mark-making - exploring my signature (this is the way I make marks not how I sign my work!). This might well be a pick-up and put-down project through-out the year and will probably have strong links with the colour project.
  • developing drawings which address weaknesses or push boundaries or a very precise area of art. Examples might include:
    • drawing hands
    • drawing feet
    • drawing with tone and values and no line (a real challenge for somebody who cross hatches all the time!)
    • exercises from the Experimental Drawing book
  • finding different examples of feline art in art history
  • more book reviews - probably involving books about colour, pastels and coloured pencils.
The book

I'm going to get started on developing an outline and thinking more about publishing and marketing options. I'm pretty clear what the main topic will be. Not being in a rush, I want to see where this takes me as opposed to being very definite at this stage.


I did start to develop plans for workshops this year - and then had to 'down tools' while addressing a health problem which will hopefully be sufficiently sorted sooner rather than later and will mean I can start addressing this again. I'm thinking around options for 1 day, two days in London or the UK and longer periods abroad. These may require field trips! ;)


I also need to decide which juried exhibitions I will enter work for, deal with other matters relating to galleries and exhibitions and work out how all that fits in with the work I want to do around developing my art.

and finally...........can you help?

I've forgotten what these flowers - which grow in my friend Anthea's garden - are called. So far the names which came to mind and have been rejected are Meconopsis (Himalayan Poppy) and Icelandic Poppy. I'm now erring towards either some form of Lavatera/Mallow or Morning Glory or some other sort of poppy. Does anybody have any ideas?

[Update: Thanks to Tracy and Lorna we now have a name. It's Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense) - click the link to see a photo from The Wildflower Society for confirmation]

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Local Art Community #2

I wrote recently in 'The Local Art Community' about the problems of finding out about artists, art activities and art resources in local communities - for the benefit of both resident and visiting artists and art lovers.

I also suggested there was some scope to
look at how we organise information to remedy this.

If anybody is interested in this subject then I suggest you take a look at the following sites which are incorporating blogging software/webware into the provision of local information.

The sites highlighted below represent examples of three different ways that very different localities are tackling this issue.
For those not familiar with the localities highlighted, I've included links at the end to their pages on wikipedia.
  • The first is a major site for a city which is building its platform for its designation as European City of Culture - using a largish and monetised website which incorporates a blog and listings.
  • The second is an art society based in a major town in Scotland - using a Wordpress blog linked to Flickr
  • The third is an innovation by a commercial gallery trying to work in partnership with a local town website.

Art in Liverpool is a website with gallery listings, a blog, lists of artists, links to galleries and artists in Liverpool plus relevant arts festivals, local adverts etc etc. It also has options for RSS subscriptions and a weekly e-newsletter.

The site has been set up and is owned by an individual called Ian Jackson and is run with the help of a team of people. I'm guessing that it may possibly have had some development funding associated with Liverpool being designated 'European Capital of Culture' for 2008. And if it hasn't then I'm surprised they've not bid for any!

The 'Capital of Culture' is something that happens in Europe (and I gather also happens in the Americas). In the past various cities have bid for the right to be called 'Capital of Culture' and it has a hugely beneficial impact on local arts activities. For example, Glasgow was transformed by being designated European Capital of Culture for 1990. The competition became intense and the designation is now rorartes on a country by country basis with the UK's turn coming up in 2008. Work for Liverpool's year will have started back in 2004.

Overall this is a large, well designed and well developed website, which in my opinion looks like it might provide a potential model template for how to deliver a site for a local art community which incorporates elements of web 2.0 social networking!


Aberdeen Artists OnLine provides another example of how local art communities are getting to grips with getting online using webware.

It looks like it's still very new but is also a useful model for local art societies. It has an 'about the AAS' page, member profiles (providing external links to galleries and a page for each artist to provide profile details ) and also provides pages on how to get in touch and how to join. Posts are about art society news and information for member artists.

Flickr then has a tag for 'aberdeen artists photos' which has sets for the artwork of all the different artists. That's the first time I've seen Flickr used in this way. I'm not clear whether this is a public Flickr group - with controlled access to membership or what.

At present this site is very much resticted to the activities of the society and isn't yet taking on board all the other art resources in Aberdeen - such as local galleries and art shops. However the basic model of linked webware that they've set up could certainly do this.

St Neots

St Neots Picture Gallery has a blog site for its B&M gallery, framing services and art supplies. This commercial gallery is also sponsoring a 'Featured Local Artist' slot on the St Neots Town website. A click on the town website brings the reader back to the gallery site which then has a page for the featured local artist. It's a neat idea by a commercial entity - but maybe one which is rather dependent on how active the local town website is.

More sites?

I'm happy to use this blog to publicise different ways of highlighting the profile of local art communities. So if anybody else knows of interesting sites which are trying to incorporate the dynamics of a web 2.0 world into local art communities please let me know - use the comments function or contact me direct.

Plus - for those who asked - I have started to draft a 'how to do a squidoo lens' for publicising local art communities.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

25th November 2007: Who's made a mark this week?

Extracts from The Watercolour Flower Artist's Bible
paintings (above) by Jana Bouc
paintings (below right) by Tracy Hall

copyright to paintings - Jana Bouc

Congratulations to.........

Two bloggers who number amongst the eighteen artists who contributed artwork to The Watercolor Flower Artist’s Bible which was published recently.

Jana Bouc
(Jana Journal and Sketch Blog) has had a number of her paintings published (see 4 of them above) and her
artwork can be found on pages 72, 85, 86, 101, and 152 of the book. Jana is a watercolour artist living in the San Francisco area and is one of my 'regular reads'. You can see larger versions of each page if you click the image. Read more in this post.

Tracy Hall
(Watercolour Artists Diary), a watercolour artist living in the Orkney, also has a painting in the book and wrote about it here (see above right). You can also see more of the books she has contributed to on her website here (scroll down the page). Other artists also contributing to this book include Lucy Willis and Maud Durland.

Congratulations also to the United Kindom Coloured Pencil Society which now has 560 members as a result of its membership drive at the recent Art Materials Live show at the NEC. On the basis of number of members relative to UK population, this now makes the UKCPS the most popular coloured pencil society in the world!

You can read more about it here on the NEW UKCPS Blog. She says with a big beam on her face having prompted its conception at the AGM and acted as midwife at the birth of the blog! ;) Bob Ebdon, the UKCPS Founder and webmaster is looking after this new blog. The aim is to provide an additional way of communicating with UKCPS members and it will focus on news about and information from UKCPS and its members. It has currently got five times more subscribers than blog posts in a very short time so looks like it's going to be very popular with the online UKCPS community! Note that y
ou don't have to live in the UK to join UKCPS. It's possible to pay for membership online and an increasing number of international coloured pencil artists are now joining the society and sending work to the annual exhibition. In the meantime, if you're interested in coloured pencils can I suggest you subscribe to the blog and let Bob and UKCPS know what you think about how it's doing so far!

Art Blogs
  • I saw my first skaters of the year on Wally's Crackskull Bob. I sketched skaters last winter and enjoyed the experience a lot (great practice for drawing people who are moving!) so will try to sketch some more between now and January - maybe at the two outdoor skating rinks near me at Canary Wharf and the Old Naval College at Greenwich. Maybe we should all line up our skating sketches at the end of the season and give them marks out of 10 for technique and style? ;)
  • I find a lot of art blogs by looking at people's blogrolls and clicking on the links of any I think I've not seen before - and that's how I found the amazing sketchbook blog of Ivo Kircheis - whose website is pretty amazing too.
  • Vicky Taylor Hood of Seastrands Studio wrote Some Hints on beginning a Landscape Quilt Part 1 last year - but virtually all the advice is applicable to any of us in whichever medium we choose to work and whatever subject we choose to use.
  • Cin (Learning Daily) has found a new and what looks like an interesting site - see her post about it here in 'take a look'. Lookybook launches 'for real' on 1st December.
Art Education and Workshops
  • Nancy Standlee (Nancy Standlee Art Blog) has been posting a number of detailed and interesting posts about her recent Arne Westerman painting workshop hosted by the Southwestern Watercolour Society at Irving Centre for the Arts in Dallas, Texas. If you've ever felt like having a 'virtual' workshop try this one!
    • Day 1 - tips on how to work
    • Day 2 plus Day 2 slideshow - emphasis on the figurative plus tips and Nancy's slideshow from tips
    • Days 3 and 4 and Nancy's slideshow - colour mixing and more thoughts and tips
    • Day 5 - more tips from Arne and pics of Nancy's workshop work. I think the first one is a stunner! Here's her recommendation..........
Arne is very talented, witty and loves people and if you can take his watercolor workshop, run and sign up now. He's in his early 80's and has gained lots of "people wisdom" and painting knowledge along the way. He possesses great teaching and communication skills.
Art Exhibitions and Galleries
  • The London Transport Museum, in Covent Garden, reopened last week after a major refurbishment. Two aspects to interest art lovers
Rowling's sketchbooks and watercolours describe in detail the week-to-week activities as the old Museum was dismantled, exhibits removed and the building contractors moved in. As buses were driven away, trams swung through the air and massive steel girders delivered, Bruce's drawings recorded the machinery, the men and the mayhem of the building site.
Art Fraud

Have you ever felt a grudge about the way the art market works or wanted to fool it? Or do you subscribe to the 'honesty is always the best policy' line of thinking? Read here (and below) about what happened to Shaun Greenhalgh - an 'artful dodger' who did resent the art market and who set out to defraud it - with the help of and his conspirators in crime - his elderly parents in their 80s.
A man was jailed for four years and eight months yesterday after earning £850,000 from making fake art treasures with the help of his parents in their 80s in their terraced house in Bolton.
The Guardian - Arts
Art Resources - Traditional Printmaking
Art Videos and slideshows
The Big Drawing Book Review

Two more of my reviews for this BIG review. I'm hoping to get on to the 'How to keep a sketchbook' ones this week.
Websites and Blogging

If you were busy around Thanksgiving you may have missed my post on Wednesday about Blogging - an update on rights, liabilities and spam attacks (....and I want to know if there are any more turkey sketches out there?)

And finally.......

Held over from last week where it got bounced by The Last Supper............
You know what they say about first impressions. That’s why both Hollywood and independent studios are spending valuable time and resources to create the most appropriate main title sequences for their films..... On SubmarineChannel, we love a good main title. That's why we've started an online collection of the most stunning and original ones. Some are engaging or wildly entertaining, funny, exhilarating or deadly beautiful. Some are oozing with visual treats while others hit you hard with their bold and audacious style.
About Submarine Channel and 'Forget the Film, watch the Titles'
One that I found on Lines and Colors. Charley P excels at highlighting interesting niche sites and this one is no exception. His review of Forget the Film. Watch the Titles got me interested, the animation section of the website grabbed my attention and then I noticed that last week it made it on to the list of Top 100 Coolest Film Sites on the Web list by Fade In Magazine. Make your hot drink before you start looking.......

Saturday, November 24, 2007

ING Discerning Eye at the Mall Galleries

Visual language
8" x 11", pencil and coloured pencil in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I went to see the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition at the Mall Galleries yesterday. It's a unique art event insofar as it is the exhibition of pieces which have been chosen by two artists, two collectors and two critics who act as selectors for what are, in effect, six individual parts of the same exhibition.

2,300 contemporary artworks are submitted by artists from all over the UK. Artists in the process of establishing their careers can display work alongside well known artists.
...the Discerning Eye Exhibition presents the work of artists, both unknown and established, working in every discipline, in all styles and at varying levels of execution, to the widest of audiences. The work can be challenging, but essentially it is engaging, accessible and affordable. Something, it is said, for everyone
John Penrose, Chairman Elect, Discerning Eye
This year the very interesting mix of selectors were
The individual preferences of the six individuals were clear to see. For example Davina McCall's choices were almost entirely paintings of people or animals. I think I spotted one still life in her selection!
I found myself using one criterion only in my selection; that is would I give the work house room?
Charles Saumerez Smith, (Discerning Eye 2007 catelogue)
Winners of the prizes were as follows:
  • ING Purchase Prize (£5,000) Susan Angharad Williams 'Still Life with Artichoke' - chosen by Charles Saumerez Smith (I can't find either artist or painting anywhere on the internet, so I'm assuming she is 'unknown' and without a gallery (or a gallery with a website) - and yet I really can't believe that. Does anybody know different?)
This is a realistic painting of a still life which incorporates high quality painting of very fine detail and beautiful subtle colours (although one wouldn't know this from the reproduction in the catalogue which is atrocious). The composition is both restrained and intriguing. This is a painting which quietly demands attention. The artist also had a small and very fine drawing chosen by Drusilla Beyfus.
  • The Discerning Eye Chairman's Purchase Prize (£1,000) - Mathew Draper 'Calm Seas, Bass Rock'
Draper is a pastel artist who trained at Falmouth College of Art. You can see his studio and pastel table here and read a description of his method of working with pastels here. His work had reminded me somewhat of Whistler and his Nocturnes (studied back in May) and I therefore found I started to smile as I read about his work!
  • Meynell Fenton Prize (£1,000) - Michael Fenton 'Study of Juliette' - chosen by Davina McCall
This is a portrait I'd love to own - although I suspect it was a commission. I think it's been done in a very washy oil paint - almost like a watercolour. The painting style appears casual and relaxed and yet is also acute in its observation of form, tone and colour. Very accomplished. (I found a website for Michael Fenton - but the work is dissimilar in style, so I'm guessing this is another unknown artist without a gallery)
  • The Penrose Prize (£1,000) - Jason Walker 'Self portrait study - happy thought' - selected by Jennifer McRae
Jason Walker graduated from Falmouth College of Art, Cornwall in 1992. He has been selected for various national exhibitions including the Hunting Art Prizes Exhibition at the Royal College of Art in February 2004, The Discerning Eye Exhibition and the BP Portrait Award Winner of The Holburne Portrait Prize 2004, elected to paint Michael Eavis, founder of Glastonbury Festival and winner of the South West Portrait Prize.
You can see more of Jason Ward's work at the Lemon Street Gallery here. Besides his portraiture work, he is also painting classic and yet contemporary still life paintings.
I have to confess that I like his paintings on the website link (above - of a 2006 exhibition) better than this one.
  • The Arts Club Prize - Clare Bigger 'Dancing Queen' - chosen by Dame Stephanie Shirley.
This is a wonderful metal sculpture of a cat. Check out her website - really wonderful work. I'm only surprised that I can't ever remember seeing it before.

There's an awful lot of very impressive sculptural work in the show. In fact I'd go so far as to say this exhibition had more sculptures that I liked than any other I've been to this year. I particularly loved the sculptures chosen by Charles Saumerez Smith.

Other artists who caught my eye are:
  • David Gould - had three paintings of swimmers split between two judges. They reminded me of those film strips of stop frame photography. They certainly made me want look closer.
  • Sophie Levi - had a couple of pencil drawings in the show. You can see more of her action drawings on her website here.
  • Gareth Reid - is the winner of the BP Travel Award for 2007 and has four works included. They're small square brownish paintings - which reward close attention as the painting is very fine, even if the colour is a bit odd and reminiscent of sepia photographs. The painting on his website intro page is executed in a simialr style.
  • two attractive paintings by Louis Turpin caught my eye and somehow seemed familiar. However it was only when I got home that I realised that I'd bought some of his art cards during the summer because I liked the way he painted! I'd not seen his work before and will now look out for it again.
  • Glenys Barton's sculptures of Heads were fascinating - wings sprout from skulls.
  • Tessa Traeger has produced an absolutely amazing facsimile collage/photograph/fine art print(?) of Monet's painting on the bridge at Giverney - but composed of tiny cucumbers, cauliflowers and lettuces! I'd not come across her work before but I'm impressed by the photography of more conventional subjects on her website.
I'm struck by how many of the artists that I've identified have a connection to Wales and the West of England and in particular Cornwall. Which also means I can't not mention that the Prince of Wales (and Duke of Cornwall) has two works in the exhibition at the invitation of his cousin, painter and selector Sarah Armstrong Jones.

I've seen examples of his watercolour paintings in London exhibitions on a number of occasions. His work is very accomplished (he does wonderful skies!) - you can see some examples of the lithographs produced here.
The Prince is a keen watercolourist and paints whenever his schedule allows. Lithographs of his paintings are sold and all proceeds go to The Prince's Charities Foundation.
The Prince of Wales website
The galleries also included an exhibition of the works by the shortlisted candidates for David Gluck Drawing Bursary. For me there was absolutely no question - the work which I found most intriguing was that by Michael Shaw. He is exploring the use of CAD software to produce what he calls animated drawings which both create the illusion of a three dimensional world in two dimensions but also simulate the act of drawing and act as a surrogate for drawing in a physical form. You can see 'There but there' and 'Doodle' on his website here (scroll down). 'There but not there' has already toured the UK with the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2006. I find it absolutely riveting - and I'd like to see more work like this!

Finally - two notes. One is that show closes tomorrow - I'm only sorry now that I didn't visit earlier. Plus an interesting 'fashion' note for those submitting framed works for society exhibitions. I'm seeing more and more frames which are painted very neutral colours. Lots of ivories and creams. I also saw many drawings floated in a deep frame rather than placed behind a window in a mount. In my opinion this suited work with deckle edges rather more than those which had been cut.

About ING and Visual Art

ING sponsors the competition and exhibition. It's a pleasure to be able to highlight a company with such a significant commitment to visual art and in particular British art.

ING has art collections in a number of different countries. Its City of London offices are home to a significant art collection featuring work by British artists such as LS Lowry, Sir Stanley Spencer and Samuel Palmer. Its collecting policy initially focused on 18th and 19th century British watercolours and modern figurative works by British artists but purchasing now focuses on the latter. ING welcomes art interest groups to its offices each year to see the collection. The headquarters of ING are in Amsterdam the company also plays a major part in sponsoring the Rijksmuseum. ING's imaginative art programme also has a strong community outreach element which includes sponsorship of a community arts centre in Shoreditch, East London.


Friday, November 23, 2007

'How to' render realistic textures in pencil

Drawing Realistic Testures in Pencil does exactly what it says - and no more.

JD Hillberry specialises in hyper realistic techniques for rendering textures in pencil. You can see a mini-tutorial of the sort found in the book on his website here.

The book provides:
  • an overview of materials - this is good but not comprehensive. He covers pencils, erasers, blending tools, paper (I was interested to find he works on the back of Arches HP) and miscellaneous tools.
  • a range of tips and techniques - many of which are useful and are generally not seen in other books about drawing. Sections which are particularly thorough include
    • blending materials and techniques
    • how to blend/layer graphite and charcoal
    • how to indent
    • how to mask with frisket
  • detailed explanations of how to produce specific textures and surfaces - from eyes, skin and hair to wood, metal and shiny surfaces etc. Personally I find his inanimate textures to be more persuasive than those relating to people or animals.
  • very detailed demonstrations with annotated illustrations of how these techniques and surfaces can be incorporated into specific finished drawings. These are very clear in terms of what they choose to cover.
All it takes to draw is a pencil and a piece of paper.
JD Hillberry
My main issue with this book is that I think some people may think it will teach them 'how to draw' - as opposed to 'how to render'. The book certainly doesn't claim to teach people about drawing per se but in places it does seem to suggest it is in fact a 'how to draw' book. The synopsis on the back cover suggests that anyone can master the techniques to produce incredible drawings while ignoring there might be a bit more to producing such drawings than just these techniques! I think this may lead some people to think that being able to achieve a superior skills in rendering is really all they need to know in order to draw. However drawing is about an awful lot more than just technique.

What the book doesn't do is cover basic skills (eg drawing volumes and shapes). Nor does it explore the variety of marks which can be made with the various media one can draw with or the more advanced skills required for finished drawings (such as an understanding of different approaches to composition) or any notion (as indicated in yesterday's review) that drawing might be about "making marks with meaning".

The lack of any acknowledgement that there might be a bit more to drawing than 'how to render' concerns me. I'd have been a lot happier with something in the book that recognises the scope for learning which fits around this quite narrow subject of rendering realistic textures. Maybe some pointers to the scope of drawing and what else might be involved or a bibliography of other recommended books which take people beyond the techniques set out in this book?

In conclusion, the book is excellent at precisely what it sets out to do - drawing realistic textures in pencil. For those who enjoy and/or want to achieve this sort of rendering of surfaces and textures then this book provides a lot of helpful information and support which is clearly set out and explained.

However it is not a 'learn how to draw' book as such. For those who want to learn how to draw at either a basic or advanced level there are other more helpful books which provide a more rounded perspective on drawing - and its scope and practice. I'd award it a 4 pencils rating in relation to its coverage of rendering texture only.

You can read Laurel Neustadter's (An Artist's Journey) review of this book here. There are also a number of reviews on the Amazon link below.

If you are interested in learning more about this type of rendering then you can participate in the Charcoal and Pencils Drawings Forum at the ArtPapa Forum website, which is moderated by JD Hillberry. The board is described as being dedicated to artists who are interested in producing drawings as finished artwork rather than using it as a preparatory medium.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Experimental Drawing

Experimental Drawing (1980/1992)
Robert Kaupelis

Watson Guptill Publications (Art Techniques)

I'm so glad I started The Big Drawing Book Review as it has made me revisit some books which I haven't looked at for a bit - one of which is Experimental Drawing by Robert Kaupelis.
This book is about drawing; about the experience of drawing and seeing drawings; and about the possibilities of extending our traditional concepts concerning the parameters of drawing
Robert Kaupelis
This is also a book which has been written by somebody who has knowledge and skills which come from being both a very experienced teacher and Professor of Art and an acclaimed artist - see the note about his background at the bottom of this post.

"Experimental Drawing" has the feel of being both a distillation of much learning and experimentation on the part of Kaupelis and his students and a labour of love.

This book was first published in 1980 (just prior to his retirement as Professor of Art at New York University) with a paperback edition published in 1992. Since publication, it has been used as a standard text in colleges and universities across the USA. Indeed one of the people commenting on Amazon says there are few books about drawing available which are suitable for use with university level students but that she recognised some of the exercises in this book as ones she herself did in college. Despite its age it's still in print and available via Amazon (see links below).
......the variety of work going under the name of "drawing" makes it increasingly more difficult to define the term.

......While most art teachers have continued to teach drawing according to precepts of the 19th century, the very nature of the discipline has changed and expanded. To ignore this fact is to exist with your head in the sand. If you accept the simple definition of drawing as "the making of marks with meaning" and if you will allow that there is no one way or any specific tools necessary for making marks, the work in this section (Drawing Extended) will become for you exactly what it is: a result of art history, contemporary psychology and sociology and the scientific and technological developments of man"
Robert Kaupelis Ch. 8 Drawing Extended
It's a book which is a useful textbook for teaching drawing to degree students. It is also very helpful to those with no training in drawing and those wishing to expand their knowledge and skill base beyong that available in most 'how to' books but without attending a formal course. In my view, those who will value it most will be people who want to go beyond learning about basic rendering in a realistic way and who want to learn more about the heritage of drawing and what can be learned from this and the very many different ways in which drawings can be developed.
The broad scope of the book is set out below

Creative exercises illustrated by old and modern masters including da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dürer, Degas, Picasso, de Kooning, Dine, and Rauschenberg.

Table of Contents:
Chapter One: A Few Words
Chapter Two: Some Basics—Contour, Gesture, and Modeled Drawing
Chapter Three: Organization/Structure—Making Things "Work Together"
Chapter Four: Using Light and Dark
Chapter Five: Photographs, Grids, and Projected Images
Chapter Six: Probing a Single Form-Idea
Chapter Seven: Old and Modern Masters—Appreciated and Exploited
Chapter Eight: Drawing Extended
Chapter Nine: Now to Begin...
The initial chapters deal with the basics but in a more stimulating way than many other books. The emphasis is very much on how to look, observe, understand and record. I like the emphasis on exploring the impact of materials and format on drawings - how the same image can be drawn in different ways depending on the nature of the media, supports and format used. Also how copying a drawing - but using different materials - often stimulates people to look more carefully at how artists have approached and executed their drawing. I found many similarities to the creativity exercises recommended in other books such as Bert Dodson's Drawing with Imagination.

Chapter 5 tackles aids to drawing and provides a riveting exposition of Chuck Close's mid-career work using grids and photos. The chapter contains a comment on photorealism which strikes me as being one which should be read by every artist aspiring to photo realism
Photorealists are not so much interested in duplicating the real world as they are in duplicating the real world as it appears in photographs.
Robert Kaupelis Ch. 5 Photographs, Grids and Projected Images
I found that one of the very many valuable aspects of this book is Kaupelis's detailed commentary on the very many drawings by both old and modern masters which he includes in the book. He also includes drawings done as initial thoughts or studies for paintings - such as those done by Andrew Wyeth during the process of conceiving Christina's World. There are very few books which contain and comment on quite so many drawings within the context of a book which is essentially about a book about how to develop ways of seeing and drawing skills.

It's also one of the few books I've come across which relates drawing to conceptual art.
I firmly believe that most art is born from art. You don't see a beautiful scene and then decide to become an artist in order to paint it. No, no, no! You see a painting of a beautiful scene and you are astounded at this appearance of a reality that you've looked at many times but had never seen until your complete and total identificaiton with that particular illusion. It is then that you look around and see other scenes that might become the motif for an artistic statement.
Robert Kaupelis - Ch 7. Old and Modern Masters, appreciated and explained
He sets out a process likely to be productive for people wishing to study the drawing of the Masters. He also details how such works should be represented as copies (titles, formats etc)

One very interesting aspect of this book is it was written just as people began to use technology to develop drawings. The commentary towards the end of the book is very dated (and is recognised as such) but remains an interesting insight into how artists have always explored the use of different tools to develop ways of seeing and their work.

You can read very positive reviews by other people of this book on Amazon

For me - this book is very definitely worth a five pencils rating. I've decided that it needs to take up residence on my bedside table so I can revisit it more often. I'm planning to use this book more in future to try and find ways of teasing out the ways of drawing and images which are in my head but haven't yet appeared on paper to my satisfaction.

I'm currently thinking about my plan of work for next year and have in mind to set a monthly challenge for myself - and anybody else who cares to participate - using exercises from this book. Any takers?

Robert Kaupelis was a Professor of Art and Art Education at NYU for nearly three decades - from 1956 to 1985. His paintings have won acclaim in over 50 one-man exhibitions, and he is represented in numerous permanent and private collections throughout the US - for more detail see his impressive resume. The New York Times has praised his "careful draftsmanship [and] ... balance of quiet but efficacious drawing and color." Kaupelis was cited by Herbert Livesey in The Professors as one of the outstanding teachers of art in the nation and an entire chapter in the book was devoted to his career. Kaupelis has conducted workshops from Alaska to Florida. He is also the author of Learning to Draw, published by Watson-Guptill.
Based on Watson Guptill Publications Bio supplmented by detail from other sites