Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Making A Mark in 2008 - the results

all images copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is the final post in my end of year annual review of artistic endeavours in 2008. So far we've had:
This post relates to my own personal review. Once again I'm going to review what I've done in relation to my original plan for 2008.

As in 2007, it was based around a set of broad goals which had proved a useful framework for thinking about and organising different activities. It was also informed by my guiding principle which is that more or less everything should fit with just one maxim – “Life is too short”. What this means is that I try always to do what I enjoy doing and avoid or forget about the rest (eg I no longer iron if I can help it!).

Learning – continuing my own personal development as an artist AND as a person who appreciates art. I enjoy learning period. This means, for example, I can enjoy learning about a certain type of art because I enjoy looking at it – not because I want to do it. I will be continuing to learn more about the history of art and specific artists and will continue to go to as many exhibitions as possible because I find these activities to be extremely helpful to developing my own perspective and ideas about my own art. I look so I can see.
Learning about other artists: I found out about a lot of new artists in history during 2008, although a lot were not the ones I originally had in mind. I keep track of what I find out by creating an information site and new ones this year included ones for Goya; Maria Sibylla Merian; JMW Turner; Hiroshige; Hokusai; Vilhelm Hammershøi; Dame Laura Knight; Mary Cassatt; Winslow Homer; Andrew Wyeth; Chuck Close and David Hockney

In terms of my original plan some artists were badly neglected. I've only just started to scrape the surface of the wonders of Turner (J.M.W. Turner - Resources for Art Lovers published Feb. 08) and didn't manage to do as much I'd hoped in relation to different artists working in colour or series (eg Degas). They continue to remain artists which I want to learn more about.

A spin-off of learning about artists was the development of a site dedicated to Art History & the History of Art - Resources for Art Lovers which provides links to all the websites where information can be found about various artists.

Learning through visiting exhibitions

I seem to have visited and reviewed very many more exhibitions this year. Exhibitions have certainly become a much bigger part of my blogging life and in turn have provided me with the benefit of seeing an awful lot of art! I also commented on Juried art competitions - does size matter? and Art competitions and copyright - the AWS Gold Medal debate

For those of you who may have missed references to them earlier in the year here's a list of all the exhibitions and galleries I visited and/or reviewed on this blog:

all images copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Learning through projects

I've learned that I need to be a lot less ambitious! My 2008 schedule for projects reduced the number and lengthened the time span of the major projects - and yet still proved impossible to complete. I've been much more flexible about timings and have parallel tracked a number of my endeavours. However I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that projects at the back end of the year are always going to be in competition with a very busy exhibition 'season' in the Autumn and I need to be more realistic about this when constructing my plan for 2009.

While I wanted to place a lot of emphasis on learning in 2008, it has had an impact on 'doing'. The reason for this is that looking at art and studying art takes a while to absorb. It would be a great pity if the lessons learned were not then transferred in some way into my work - however it's felt at times as if there was just too much to translate. I'll comment more on this in the 'Doing' section.

all images copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Planned projects: The projects highlighted below are hyperlinked to the Resources for Artists sites that I created during the course of the project. Each of these include all the Making A Mark blog posts from each project.
I did a significant number of book reviews during the year (I've not counted!) - many of them in tandem with the projects. I think a few of you might have bought a few new books as a result judging by the comments!

Unplanned projects:
my plan is flexible and can accommodate topics which emerged during the course of the year.
The Making A Mark Polls were also totally unplanned - and were triggered by the survey widget becoming available as a module in the sidebar of Blogger! They included What's the MAIN way you sell your art? - The Results The polls will continue in 2009 - with the first being announced on Friday!

Doing – in 2008, ‘doing’ is going to be partially linked to projects which are about learning. I’ll aim to produce art using what I’ve learned and the material I’ve accumulated to date. ‘Doing’ might well be focused around specific themes to create bodies of work. 'Doing' will also involve producing work for exhibitions.

all images copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've started working up or revising drawings and sketches from past trips abroad - however I still have masses of material remaining to be worked up! I like to leave a gap between 'being there' and then drawing 'being there'. Somehow it gives me a different and better perspective on a view and helps with determining the overall aesthetic for a piece. It's also good to redo old pieces which have stood the test of time in terms of looking at them but where I now feel like I have the skills to make them even better.

My 'doing' was enhanced and undermined all year by the same thing. Too much information to know what to do with! 'Doing' slowed right down in the latter part of the year although I continued to draw in class and to sketch. This was because I felt like I didn't quite know where to go with my work. I'm now getting clearer in my head what I'd like to develop in terms of 'my look' but the 'how' still eludes me . I keep nibbling away at the edges.......

One of my other underlying goals has been to try and settle more on major themes for my work. I still feel like I cover too many different genres. However I know I will NEVER be able to settle on just one theme - I know I need variety. I've done much pondering during the year as to what my themes should be and I THINK I now know what direction to go in. I'll write more about this tomorrow

One of the highligts of the year in terms of 'doing' was Life drawing in the Royal Academy Schools Life Room

Sharing – this a major theme of my life, who I am and what I like to do. There will be a continuing focus on developing how I can share what I learn and learning from others who share what they do. I'm happy to contemplate some major projects in this field but am not about to rush into anything.
Website: In June 2008, I created my new 'hub' website at This has three clear areas of focus - drawing, writing and sharing It has links to all my other sites.

Blogging - number of posts: In total I've posted well in excess of 400 blog posts in 2008. In the first three years of Making A Mark I've posted as follows
  • 2006 - 349 posts
  • 2007 - 393 posts
  • 2008 - 358 posts
I've consciously tried to take more 'time out' this year - but still managed to produce enough blog posts to have done one nearly every day just for this blog! I even blogged right the way through that really nasty bug we all seemed to get ( and I got three times!). In addition to that I've also
Blogging - Popular posts: Generating ideas for topics I'm interested in has never been a a problem, choosing which one to post about is! I get pointers from what people are interested in and reviewed which were my most popular posts this year earlier today - see Making A Mark - popular posts in 2008 and my new information site Making A Mark - Popular Posts). It always provides a surprise!

Blogging - Number of visitors: The exponential rise of the number of unique visitors has continued. In effect, I virtually doubled the number of visitors to this blog during the course of its third year. The number of unique visitors hit 200,000 in February, 300,000 at the end of July and reached 380,000 by the end of the year. I think at least some of the pre-summer traffic was a spin-off from the fact that the website for UK SATs examiners happened to have the name 'Making A Mark'! However EDS have now lost the exams contract and I'm guessing that maybe they won't be using the same website address in future!

Writing - Making A Mark Guides: I've also written a number of guides for a number of topic areas which are now available as pdf files. Download the Guides for free from the Making A Mark Publications page

Writing - The Book: This made absolutely no progress at all although I do think I'm clearer now about where it might go in terms of outline - so I guess that's progress.

Sharing - Resources for Artists: I've lost count of the number of information sites I developed during the course of 2008 - but it was an awful lot (I need to keep a list in 2009!) - including a whole bunch about gardens for those of us who like to draw gardens- see Great Gardens Headquarters! You can see all of them in Making A Mark on Squidoo

Sharing - Workshops were completely sidelined as I simply could not guarantee being able to deliver due to a temporary health issue which needed sorting. More about plans for 2009 tomorrow.

Sharing the Highs -
One of the things that has given me the most pleasure during the course of the year is to highlight artists whose work - and working practices - I think are good. Hence
  • the Making A Mark Awards - which we've had this week
  • the people featured in my weekly 'whose made a mark this week' blog posts
  • the mention that is made of all the artists whose work I like and highlight in posts about exhibitions I've seen.
I seem to have developed a curious benefit from all my 'talent spotting' on blogs and in exhibitions. During 2008 I started to get an uncanny feeling - I kept spotting winners before they were winners! I know this because the evidence is in the blog posts! I've begun to wonder whether my 'nous' and my developing 'eye' are getting rather good at spotting talent.......... ;) We'll have to see whether the trend continues in 2009. :)

Showing – besides showing work on this blog and my website, I will participate in a limited number of exhibitions. I may try and develop local gallery representation but this is not a priority.

– This has had a very low priority for some time and is unlikely to rise much up the pecking order. I will continue to try and find ways of selling work that do not distract too much from learning, doing and sharing. Efficiency is the major priority.
I exhibited during the year in the annual exhibitions of the Society of United Kingdom Coloured Pencil Society - see I've been juried into the UKCPS Annual International Exhibition and showed four works with the Society of Feline Artists (central London). You can see my feline work here. I also contributed to an exhibition in the USA.

I think I succeeded this year in making sure that submitting work for shows did not railroad all other endeavours as has happened in the past. I even learned how to cut a mat with my new quite sophisticated Logan mat cutter so trips to the framers could become more limited!

Selling is still not a high priority. I want to be to become more settled in the style which has developed in my head even if it's made less progress on paper. Plus issues to do with the economy seem to be conspiring to keep selling activity low key so maybe that's no bad thing!

Travelling – Travel undoubtedly broadens the mind and my travels support both ‘learning’ and ‘doing’. This is probably the vaguest area as yet with no firm plans but a number of ideas
Travelling was very limited in 2008 for various reasons however I'm hoping I can start travelling again in 2009 - although it's a pity about the exchange rate. I did however manage to get out and sketch when able to do so and you can see the results in Travels with my Sketchbook in...... London, South of England, and Interior Landscapes - with food

and finally....

I had a lot of compliments about the blog during the year - which I truly appreciate. Many thanks to all those who take the trouble to write saying how much they enjoy the blog and its content.

Here's a couple of the compliments

Making A Mark - popular posts in 2008

I'm doing my own personal review of what I achieved in 2008 - which I'll be posting later today - and decided to take a look at what were my most popular blog posts in 2008. Well, one thing led to another and before I knew it I had a new information site on squidoo Making A Mark - Popular Posts and a widget which creates a list which I can post on this blog to show to you what the most popular blog posts were (problems with widget - see note at end).

I knew this was a good idea because Seth Godin - winner of the The Make Me Think Gong - did it first! (see A year's worth of popular posts).

Here's what I noticed about the posts which Google Analytics told me were most popular:
  • I continue to get a considerable amount of traffic for posts which were created in 2006 and 2007. That's partly because I've made these very accessible. The way I did this was by creating information sites for specific topics in Squidoo which list relevant posts from this blog. People find the information site and then come and read the blog posts. Check out Making A Mark on Squidoo if you want to see all the information sites I've created. The notion of continuing to make your inventory of past posts accessible in order to generate traffic is one recommended by Jakob Neilsen - the guru of web usability. This is how he does it for his own material using Alertbox.
  • A lot of the posts are information about art supplies relating to drawing and sketching and coloured pencils. People like to know more about what's available and which are the best.
  • People also very much like advice, information, tips and techniques relating to "how to" approach a particular task. Some of my most popular ones relate, not surprisingly to drawing and sketching.
  • Students of art history are particularly interested in blog posts which highlight either those aspects of an artist which are not covered very well elsewhere or any post which provides a neat summary of the information available on the internet. I've got a couple of posts which I rather suspect are now identified on recommended reading lists!
In short people like to read informative posts - as you've often told me in comments on this blog!

If you're creating good information for artists on your blog you might want to think about how you can continue to make that information accessible for people who come along later and might be interested in reading it too.

I'm now thinking about creating another listing of popular posts which were created in 2008. I find that keeping popular posts under review tells me a lot about where my readers and I have very common interests.

Do you review your most popular blog posts?

What were your most popular blog posts in 2008?

[Note: I can't work out why I can't the widget to produce a plexo listing like the one on Seth Godin's blog - and will update when I've worked out how!]

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blogging Art in 2008 - The Making A Mark Awards (Part 2)

Following on from Part One of the Making A Mark Awards 2008, welcome to Part Two and:
  • The Painting Plein Air Plus Prize
  • The Going Greener Gong
  • The “Tales from the Frontline” Mention in Despatches / The “Amusing Musings” Trophy
  • The Best Online Exhibition
  • The MAMA Prize for best portrait by a female artist
  • The Special Mention for a Portrait Drawing Portfolio
  • and finally………The MAMA Prize – for the best artwork completed and posted on an art/illustrated blog in 2007
(Some the images for this post may turn up a little bit later!)

The Painting Plein Air Plus Prize

This award is for excellence in plein air painting plus a strong commitment to sharing information. I'm not saying I've found everybody who provides good advice - but I do wish I could find more blogs which I could point people towards in terms of regular plein air painters who are informative and share useful information. I tend to check out blogs by finding the "plein air painting" label and then reading through the posts. There are a lot of plein air painters but not so many who share useful information on a regular basis.

This award has previously been won by
In 2008, the contenders are:
  • Michael Chesley Johnson (A Plein Air Painter's Blog) - Michael has published a new book in 2008 about Backpacker Painting. He specialises in painting in both oils and pastels and a lot of his painting is done plein air. He shares useful information in workshops and in his blog as well as in the book.
  • Irene Brady (Nature Drawing and Journaling Workshops) who tends to provide some useful and practical tips associated with drawing and painting plein air on location in the jungle! (see also the next award)
  • Linda Blondheim (Linda Blondheim Art Notes) who combines practical tips about marketing, painting and painting plein air with recipes.
  • James Gurney (Gurney Journey) - winner of The FAQs and Answers Really Useful Medal 2008 - and his practical tips about Plein Air Painting. Here's an example of how he approaches a painting outdoors during a Paint-Out.
This year I'm going to award the Painting Plein Air Plus Prize to two tutors with a long-standing commitment to helping artists to work plein air - and sharing their advice on their blogs. Painting plein air is a continuous theme of their work and their blogs and their advice.

The winners of the Painting Plein Air Plus Prize 2008 are:

The Going Greener Gong

This award is for the art blog which I've found most stimulating in relation to getting us in touch with nature and the environment. It encompasses those who blog about animals, birds, flowers and plants. Blogs are not required in any way to limit themselves to just those topics but they do need to have a feel for being green and sustainable about them. They also get extra points for getting out and about and drawing from life!

In 2007, the prize was won by Richard Bell's nature diary Wild West Yorkshire. Richard started his nature diary in 1989 and continues to set a standard which is hard to beat.

I guess I'm on the look out for the next Andy Goldsworthy! However I guess I'm not looking hard enough as I've not come across a lot of new 'greener' blogs by artists in 2008. Artists who had "going greener" credentials in 2008 included much the same people as last year:
  • Irene Brady's blog about Nature Drawing and Journaling Workshops. Irene has a very strong emphasis on drawing natural history and shows the work done in workshops in both the USA and overseas - including her Costa Rica workshop back in February when she lost her camera to a thief - but still had her natue journal recording all she saw and did. She provides lots of tops about how to draw nature up close and personal.
  • Tracy Hall's Watercolour Artist Diary blog displays her watercolour paintings which record nature in detail around and about the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland
  • Pica is still trying to sketch a bird a day, one at a time in Bird by Bird
  • Numenius and Pica describe Feathers of Hope as being a weblog on nature and place, the design arts, critters, and baseball. It certainly records a practical commitment to saving birds.
Artists also worth a special mention in 2008 are:
  • Rebecca Latham (Nature & Wildlife Art) whose blog features miniature paintings of wildlife and where she shares videos of her approach to painting.
  • Sherrie York (Brush and Baren) who produces delightful linocuts featuring nature and wildlife.
  • Debbie Kotter Caspari (Drawing the Motmot) whose blog is described as being about sketching adventures in the wide world of nature, with how-to sidebars and a bias for birds. I love Debbie's description of herself "I'm an artist with binoculars, a traveler with a sketchbook and a birder with a banjo.....I particularly love drawing from nature" Right now she's off Drawing the Amazon. Check out also her plein air forest interiors and Landscape vignettes which she developed as Artist-in-Residence at Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts
plus there are numerous artists with blogs largely devoted to animals who are supporting worthwhile animal charities through their art.

I decided that the winners of the Going Greener Gong in 2008 should be two ladies who share a common theme which is a bit of a pun on my part. They both draw nature in the raw, travel into the forest ("going greener") at home and in distant lands to do so and then record what they in their sketchbooks and on their blogs.

The winners of the Going Greener Gong in 2008 are:
The “Tales from the Frontline” Mention in Despatches / The “Amusing Musings” Trophy

There are two key essentials to this prize(s). One is that the blogger must be writing tales of life as it is lived in an artist's household and, second, ideally there is an amusing edge to it! Plus this is when you find out whose blogs I read for reasons quite apart from the quality of the art!

Contenders include:
  • Gayle Mason (Fur in the Paint) whose tales - told with an exceptionally dry wit - about what three males, five dogs and an unruly pond can get up to when she's not looking regularly generates a very broad smile on my face
  • Walt Taylor (Crackskullbob)- who has a variety of names as does his blog - regularly cracks me up. The rest of the time I go away with a puzzled look on my face..........
However, I have to confess I am totally riveted by tales from the frontline - amusing and otherwise - from the Helgeson Household in upstate New York. I never ever miss an instalment. I enjoy Tracy Helgeson's paintings (Works by Tracy Helgeson) very much indeed but I'd turn up for the stories even if she never posted any paintings. Well so long as she posted photos of the house, the veggie garden, assorted animals and children and varioous excursions........not to mention the studio!

I was going to have a separate award for the The Most Gorgeous Mouthwatering (MGM) Studio of the Year for the most improved studio of the year but I never got myself organised enough to make a note of all the studio improvments which I read about during the course of the year. However I thought it would also be a bit of a fraud because I always knew that I was going to give the award to Tracy - and her brand new studio in the attic. She moved her studio, had a new floor laid, new walls and storage sorted, painted it all, bought and installed new studio furniture and then renovated her ex studio/new sitting room - and took photos and took us all through the process with her. Talk about comprehensive!

So the winner of The “Tales from the Frontline” Mention in Despatches / The “Amusing Musings” Trophy for 2008 is Tracy Helgeson (and Doug and Ginger and all those who helped with the new studio)

Previous winners of this prize are:
  • 2006 - Ruth Phillips (Meanwhile, here in France) won The “Tales from the Frontline” Mention in Despatches
  • 2006 - Hugh McLeod (Gaping Void) and Maggie Stiefvater (Greywaren Art) won the Amusing Musings Trophy
  • 2007 - Dermott (I am Dog Hear Me Snore) the Australian Old English Sheep Dog who lives in Tuscany with Mr and Mrs We Spent a Long Time Boofing This Dog - won both!
The Online Exhibition of the Year

This was a new award this year - and its focus is on areas of the online artworld where we are seeing innovation.

The intention was that the term "online art exhibition" should be interpreted quite loosely ie it did have to be online and accessible, about art and in the form of an exhibition - and ultimately impressive enough for you to remember it and want to nominate it - but that was about it. After that it could have been created by a publicly funded/major art gallery or museum, or a private art gallery, or a charity or by an artist on their website or on Flickr.

I was quite disappointed about the number of nominations received - but having increased the number of awards people could nominate for from one to three, maybe that's something I should have expected! I'd be interested in your feedback as to whether you think this is a good idea for next year.

Two exhibitions were nominated by three readers:
I'd like to nominate the NEWA (National Exhibition of Wildlife Art) online exhibition.
I find everything about this exhibition to be done professionally. The online gallery provides large clear images of all the work with the added facility to reserve a painting.
Gayle Mason
I would like to nominate the Canine Art Guild's "Helping Paws" exhibition. This innovative show has participating artists designating various canine shelters and rescue groups to receive a portion of revenue from sales. People's Choice awards were given with the price money being awarded to the artist's chosen partner group.
Linda Shantz

The cause is right and the artists feel strongly about it + a nice variety of different mediums and techniques.
Sheona Hamilton-Grant
What I find absolutely fascinating is that both exhibitions are about animals and both have got themselves organised so that they can raise money - for artists or charities - by selling art online via a virtual exhibition.

For some peculiar reason having a virtual exhibition is something which most art societies have not yet got their heads around and are unable to do for the most part (a notable exception being NEAC)! I wonder whether this is something that will change as the recession bites in 2008? I know I lost count of the number of art society websites I came across which failed to get any images at all from their Annual Exhibition online at the same time as the actual exhibition was on show. I came across a fair few society websites which were still showing images from an exhibition which was more than a year old. There will come a point when communication via the Internet (website and/or blog) will become part of the overall plan for an art society exhibition - but I am beginning to wonder how long this might take!

From my perspective I could nominate rather fewer sites than I'd like to. However 2008 for me will be remembered for
  • introducing an online and interactive element to the award of major art prizes. The Threadneedle Figuratibe Prize is a new major UK Art Prize where the public can vote online for one of seven shortlisted artists (see below) to win the Prize worth £25,000. All the artwork in the exhibition at the Mall Galleries is also seen in a virtual exhibition on the associated website where members of the public can also vote for the prizewinner - see Threadneedle Figurative Prize (part 1) - view the entries and vote! and Nina Murdoch wins the Threadneedle Figurative Prize 2008. (However I have to say I was much less impressed with the associated blog)
  • The use of video to publicise art exhibitions and further art education. An example includes videos posted in relation to the exhibition "J. M. W. Turner" at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art by (1) VOANews about the Turner Art exhibit and (2) by the Metropolitan Museum of Art on You Tube. The latter are ten minute chunks of a talk by Simon Schama, Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University about the work of J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) but have had surprisingly few visitors! You can see links to them all here JMW Turner - Turner and the Romance of Britain
I'm going to identify two exhibitions for a Special Mention this year - and will find a way of providing a bigger choice next year. Something tells me I need to keep a running list of sites which have impressed me!!!
  • the best website organised to support an exhibition of animal art is the NEWA exhibition. It impresses because of the professional approach to delivering a website which is likely to generate sales - and because all of this was accomplished without a formal art society infrastructure to support it.
  • the most exciting online exhibition innovation in 2oo8 was the virtual website for the Threadneedle Figurative Art Prize - and the scope to vote for the winner online. This site really captured the imagination and I gather it also delivered a fair few votes!
I'm not going to identify an Online Exhibition of the Year this year - but would like to commend all the abovementioned sites to you asvery worthy of exploration.

The MAMA Prize for The Best Portrait by a Female Artist on a Blog

Readers of this blog voted for this prizewinner between Christmas Eve and the poll closing at 1 minute past midnight today. During the poll, the artwork in the lead kept changing all the time! You can view:
Congratulations to all those who were shortlisted for making this a very interesting process and many thanks to to all those who took time out to vote for their favourite.

Zen by Nicole Caulfield

I'm pleased to announce that the artwork which received most votes for the MAMA Prize for The Best Portrait by a Female Artist on a Blog is Zen by Nicole Caulfield. Zen attracted 28.29% of the vote. I'd also like to congratulate Nicole's 10 year old daughter Katie Caulfield who also made a significant contribution to the final result!

Both second and third paintings also held top spot for a significant time during the course of the poll.
The 'Special Mention' for a Drawing Portfolio

Nominations were also invited for an artist with a blog who has, in your opinion, displayed a consistent high standard and posted the best portfolio of portrait paintings, drawings or fine art prints on a blog in 2008. This is where an artist has consistently maintained an excellent output of portrait work. This was not just limited to women!

Portfolios of portrait drawings mentioned during the nomination process for the best portrait and the best artwork on a blog in 2008 are:
The Special Mention for a Portrait Drawing Portfolio is shared between:
  • Cindy Woods (Learning Daily ) - for her regular drawings from life of her fellow residents at the Virginia Home where she lived. Who could ever forget her vivid portrayals of certain residents!
  • Adebanji Alade (Adebanji Alade: My Art, My Passion for Sketching) for his portfolio of drawings of people on buses, tubes and trains in London. Adebanji shows a firm commitment to drawing from life at every opportunity despite the fact that drawing on a moving bus/tube/train is not easy and your models are always apt to exit at the next stop!
The MAMA Prize for The Best Artwork completed and posted on an art/illustrated blog in 2008

Many thanks to all those people who took time out to nominate and the people who voted on the shortlist for The MAMA Prize for the Best Artwork completed and posted on an art/illustrated blog in 2008. You can see
The winner of the MAMA Prize for the Best Artwork completed and posted on an art/illustrated blog in 2008 is A Walk in the Ocean, a small pastel painting by Margaret Dyer (Small Pastels and an Occasional Oil) - nominated by Casey Klahn (The Colorist)
In 2007, the inaugural winner was Carol Carter (Carol Carter) with Up from the Abyss

I hope you enjoyed the Making A Mark Awards for 2008 - I know I enjoy doing them and will be here again with the fourth set - including some new awards - in December 2009.

What do you think are the awards which are missing?

I know I'm very inclined to get organised so that I can have a new award for The Most Gorgeous Mouthwatering (MGM) Studio of the Year - for the most improved studio in 2009. This can be for anything from a major clean-up and sort-out through to a complete new-build. I've introduced this category as there have been so many people having a go at doing something about their studio - and then showing us the results and it would be really nice to recognise this in some way in 2009. Make sure I know about it you do something major to your studio!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Blogging Art in 2008 - The Making A Mark Awards (Part 1)

Ladies and gentlemen - welcome to the first of two posts which are all about the Making A Mark Awards. This is the third year of the MAMAs and most of them are entirely decided without any consultation or voting! Get your hot drink of choice and find a comfy seat - this is a long one and comes in two parts!

However before I move on, I'd just like to remind you that two awards are in fact determined by you the reader! At the moment there is less than one day left to vote on two Making A Mark Awards - voting closes at 1 minute past midnight on 30th December. Tomorrow I'll be formally announcing the winner of the Making A Mark Awards for:
Click the links to view the shortlisted works and vote.

Today, in PART ONE of the Making A Mark Awards I'm covering the winners of the following
  • The Best Art Blog Project of 2006 Virtual Challenge Cup
  • The FAQs and Answers Really Useful Medal
  • The Make Me Think Gong
  • “The Moose” Award for the best animal in an illustrated blog
  • The Travels with a Sketchbook Trophy (which absorbs the 'Get Off Your Blogging Bottom and Sketch' Brass Plate)
  • The Painting a Day Stickability Shield
The Best Art Blog Project of 2008 Virtual Challenge Cup

It's appropriate to start with this award as one of the characteristics of 2008 has been the emergence of yet more group activity in relation to art and blogging art. Art can be quite a lonely activity and it's noticeable that people often like to have some sort of involvement in groups and projects related to art! If you're pondering on your future direction in 2009, it's something to think about.............

The Best Art Blog Project of 2008 Virtual Challenge Cup goes to Karin Jurick's blog project Different Strokes from Different Folks.
The Purpose in All This
- to paint or draw the scene, not the photograph
- to paint or draw from photographs
- to make choices from the information given to you
Here are some of the reasons why I admired this project:
  • This project is relatively new but it was well thought out, hit the ground running, attracted participants very quickly and has achieved an awful lot in a very short space of time. Currently 65 pairs of participants (130 people!) are engaged in a three week long portrait swop!
  • Karin provides guidance to participants how to improve their art. Primarily this has been about encouraging people to see that using photos as references need not involve copying - that making choices, using your imagination and interpreting a photo are skills which are also important. She's latterly started providing mini tutorials.
  • Karin is a firm but fair project leader. She resists inappropriate 'short-cuts' which others might call cheating - and that includes painting over pre-printed images! Hurrah! She also refuses to post images which are not up to standard - thus encouraging people to get to grips with producing more satisfactory images for us to look at. Hurrah again!
  • I particularly enjoy the link to pages which show the collections of paintings displaying all the different versions possible from one photograph. Here are some of my favourites - Week 1 Results; Week 6-7 Results; Week 8 Results
In short she sets a standard and creates a set of expectations about the levels of skill that people are expected to get to grips with. I so wish there were more Karin Juricks in this world and completely support everything she is doing and asking of the people participating in this blog and project.

Other contenders included:
  • The Urban Sketchers blog. This grew out of an existing Flickr group so started with a ready-made large group. It probably has the best track record in terms of switching people on to subscribing/following a blog. Both the number of contributors and visitors and visits are all growing very fast. It's also great because it shows just how many artists and illustrators really do go out with their sketchbooks and sketch from life on a regular basis. My only slight concern about this one is whether it's getting too big too fast and maybe losing a sense of community.
  • The Virtual Sketch Date project which started quite casually in April and then exploded in terms of levels of participation. The project was created by Rose Welty (Rose's Art Lines ) and is now administered by Rose and Jeanette Jobson (Illustrated Life ) and Stacy Rowan (Stop and draw the roses ). The project has proved very popular and like the Different Strokes from Different Folks project uses the same reference photo to stimulate a variety of treatments by participants. For me, the lack of actual images all in one place (blog or Flickr site) lets it down and I do hope this issue can be resolved for 2009.
  • the Daily Paintworks site has survived a fairly radical change in participants - which is never easy - without missing a beat.
Special mention should also go to those not eligible for this award but which had a project nevertheless
  • the Illustrators' Partnership Orphan Works Blog provided a place where we could find out how the campaign on orphan works was progressing - but is essentially a tool for communication with a very large group of artists' and illustrators' organisations and interested individuals.
  • Danny Gregory's Illustrated Life book would not have come into being but for artists who like to sketch and a community of bloggers who like to display their sketches. This was a project which emerged out of sketching and blogging about it rather than an art blog project per se.
The winner of this prize in 2007 was the International Sketchcrawl drawing marathons.

The FAQs and Answers Really Useful Medal

If you go and look at my Making A Mark website you'll see that my activities are divided into three areas - drawing, writing (which includes this blog) and sharing. I place a great deal of importance on sharing information. Sharing what you know only costs the time it takes you to share while it can enable others to profit from that knowledge - both literally and metaphorically. That's why one of the really important Making A Mark Awards focuses on people who share useful information. I'd like to emphasise that I'm always inclined to give a great deal more credit to any people who share information for free - what they share is a complete gift.

Contenders for the prize this year included:
  • Marion Boddy Evans at who provides a one woman compedium on matters to do with painting
  • the various correspondents at who continue to provide articles on a wide range of useful topics in the form of art tutorials and business advice
  • Linda Blondheim (Linda Blondheim Art Notes) provides lots of practical tips from the perspective of a full-time working artist with years of experience.
  • Diane Mize (Compose) who started a new blog in July 2008 devoted to design and composition and weekly mini-lessons about how to do this more effectively
You can find all of these people in my new section of my blogroll - the bit devoted to Technical Tips and Techniques

The winner of The FAQs and Answers Really Useful Medal for 2008 is James Gurney (Gurney Journey).

I decided that James very much deserved this award because of the vast number of posts he has provided during the course of this year (and last) which have been both extremely informative and highly educational.

James is a one-man course in how to draw and paint! People pay fees for workshops from tutors who know much less than James does!

If you want to learn about how to improve your art I recommend spending some time digging around in James's archives. For example his collection of posts about Composition (23) and Lighting (32) are superb and set an excellent standard for others to try and emulate. Then there's Preliminary Sketches (28, Paint Technique (37) and.........good posts with sound advice never become out of date!

Last year's prizewinner was Charley Parker (Lines and Colors) for his comprehensive series of posts on How Not to Display Your Artwork on the Web

The Make Me Think Gong

This award is about making me think about the matters which are highly relevant to the activities of artists who are operating online. Anybody who knows me well knows that I really like people who make me think! They're generally people who like to think about what to do and how to get things done and why one approach might work better than another.

The previous winners of this 'gong' continue to provide many posts which are both interesting to read and also make me think. They are:
The winner of this award is supposed to be an artist or illustrator who has a blog. Contenders for the 2008 gong included: is the good news. According to Lindauer, new research reveals that over time, creative people increase both the quality of their artistic output, and the quantity, over their lifetimes, with productivity peaking during their 60's, but the quality of the output remaining steady at the lifetime highs well into the 70's.
I'd also like to give a special mention to all those involved with Watermarks which is a new blog I'm involved with. I'm really enjoying the very thoughtful posts and the discussions (on the blog and in our ning community) about art and how to approach it which these are generating. I'd like to say thank you to everybody who is involved for making it such a rewarding experience so far - and such an exciting prospect for the future.
But then what about:
  • Alan Bamberger at who doesn't have a blog and isn't an artist and consequently isn't eligible for this prize. Instead he prefers to write articles for both artists and art collectors. Nevertheless, he always makes me think whenever I read one of his articles - and he comes highly recommended by me.
  • Edward Winkelman (edward_ winkleman) - who is also not an artist but does have a blog. He provides some great insights into the art world from the perspective of an art dealer and gallery owner - and latterly a podcast which is highly relevant to artists trying to get into galleries
I eventually realised that when thinking about people who might be contenders for this award that many of them were not artists and/or didn't have art blogs. So I've decided to change my criteria and anybody who makes me think and offers insights which are transferable to the activity and business of being an artist is eligible.

....and on that basis Seth Godin (Seth's Blog ) is the winner of The Make Me Think Gong in 2008. I rarely miss reading one of his posts and very often find that they trigger thoughts about ways in which his thoughts could be applicable to the practice of art and/or marketing within the art economy. It's good to look beyond one's comfort zone to find stimulation! Here's a year's worth of his popular posts in 2008. Try reading Maybe you can't make money doing what you love.

“The Moose”Award for the best animal in an illustrated blog

This award is called “The Moose” after Maggie Stiefvater’s cat Moose who broke ACEO $ records and won this award in 2006. It focuses on the animal(s) rather than the artist.

The winner of “The Moose”- award for the best animal in an illustrated blog is Tracy Hall (Watercolour Artist). This Award is just one of the many which Tracy has won in 2008 with various Miniature Art Societies in the UK and USA. This Award is for "birds" in a generic sense and a rook in particular and recognises two of her principal achievements in 2008.

Tracy Hall - next to the cabinet holding her award-winning paintings at The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers - Annual Exhibition 2008

Special mentions go to
  • Gayle Mason (Fur in the Paint) for a cat called Shred who subsequently became known as Aristocrat. This cat charmed visitors to the UKCPS stand at the Art Materials Live fair at the NEC and the Supreme Cat Show in 2007, emerged as a set of WIP images in 2008 and went to the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Feline Artists where he sold before the exhibition had even opened!
  • Dermot – a rather charming if somewhat gruff Australian Old English Sheep Dog in Tuscany who writes his own blog (I Am Dog, Hear Me Snore) and has even trained his owners to take photos of him! He continues to make me laugh and it's absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with art!
Previous winners of this prize are:
The Travels with a Sketchbook Trophy
(which absorbs the 'Get Off Your Blogging Bottom and Sketch' Brass Plate)

The Travels with a Sketchbook Trophy in 2008 is posthumously awarded to Cindy Woods. (Learning Daily).

Cindy has always been an intrepid traveller to all sorts of places with her friend Ronda and was still travelling with her sketchbook as she visited all the places and people she loved best in the months before she died in November 2008. Not everybody will be aware that Cindy did all her travelling in a wheelchair - and any time my dreadful feet caused me pain and made me think twice about going out to sketch I would always think about Cindy and her penchant for travelling and learning daily! Here are:
Special mention goes to Seattle journalist and illustrator Gabi Campanario and all the very many contributors to Urban Sketchers who I'm expecting will probably supply the winner of this award in 2009!

Previous winners of this prize are:
  • 2006 - Laura Frankstone (Laurelines) won the “Travels with a Sketchbook Award primarily for blogging her sketches of Paris in October
  • 2006 - Julie Oakley won the “Get off your Blogging Bottom and Sketch”Brass Platefor her One Mile from Home blog).
  • 2007 - Martha (Trumpetvine Travels) won the new combined award
The Painting a Day Stickability Shield
"What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way." Winslow Homer
The Painting a Day 'movement' is now some three years old and some. During that time those who have been at it longest have produced some 1,000 small paintings.

For me there is no question that three people who have been very consistent in terms of quantity and quality of output over this period are the three previous prizewinners of this award.
Oyster Shell, Knife, Lemon Quarter and Goblet
19cm x 13cm (8"x5"), oil on gessoed card
copyright and courtesy of Julian Merrow Smith
Now we're in Year 3 it's interesting to see who's still producing quality work on a regular basis. Those who have part of 'a painting a day' and who have been successful at generating a following and a number of collectors for their work have a solid track record of producing good quality small works on a very regular basis.

I took a random look at the archives of various blogs for this one! To be honest what I found is a lot of people who are missing by a mile on the quantity of paintings posted to their blogs. I'm almost tempted to ask whether the painting a day movement has died.

As many people will appreciate by now, it's not essential to produce a painting every day. Good daily painters are those who generally try to paint every day but also have other commitments which call on their time and consequently tend to have a few paintings in hand so they can still post nearly every day. Plus of course there are lots of people who now balance commissions with their small paintings. However, to be able to step up to the mark for this award it's not enough to be producing work from time to time or work which isn't consistently good. This also isn't about working on larger paintings on a daily basis.

There were a lot of painters whose work was very good quality but who weren't posting enough work to merit consideration. I was looking for at least 20 paintings a month. There were also people who were producing good quality work on a very consistent basis - but who were fibre artists rather than painters! Maybe the time has come to stop referring to paintings as daily paintings unless they actually are? To call yourself a daily painter there has to be some sort of regular output! Otherwise you're just a painter............

The winner of the Painting A Day Stickability Shield is Edward Gordon (Edward B. Gordon) who started doing daily paintings back in November 2006. Apart from the last four days Edward has created a painting a day every day this year. The same in 2007. He completed 700 daily paintings back in October. His blog is popular and it indicates that he sells most of the paintings he produces. Today, his blog will post the 769th daily painting since 20th November 2006.

"Leitmotiv" (Number 730 of 16.11.2008)
copyright Edward Gordon

The runner up is Abby Ryan (Ryan Studio) who's been producing almost daily paintings since 23rd September 2007. Jared Shear would certainly have been a contender if his 365 day project posted at Cougar Peak-A-Boo had been around in 2008 (it finished on 31 st December 2007).

There's a message in the above for all those who want to be an artist in a recession - and for all those who have a "view" out of their window.

Just as a reminder here are some of my most popular posts from the past
Tomorrow in PART TWO of the Making A Mark Awards I'll be identifying the contenders and winners for
  • The Painting Plein Air Plus Prize
  • The Going Greener Gong
  • The “Tales from the Frontline” Mention in Despatches / The “Amusing Musings” Trophy
  • The Best Online Exhibition
  • The MAMA Prize forThe Best Portrait by a Female Artist on a Blog
  • The Special Mention for a Portrait Drawing Portfolio
  • The MAMA Prize for The Best Artwork completed and posted on an art/illustrated blog in 2008