Monday, March 31, 2008

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Annual Exhibition 2008

The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours is currently holding its 196th Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. The exhibition is open daily and finishes on Saturday 5th April 2008.

Cover: "The Fisherman II" by Frances Francis RI

There are 427 works in the exhibition this year compared to 510 paintings last year - which is a reduction of some 16% on the 2007 number. The catalogue comments on there being less space but I'm not quite sure why that is - certainly the new galleries display the work much better than before. The corridor to the North Gallery has been lost for display purposes but at least visitors can now quite clearly see that there is a gallery there! Could it be that there were more larger works hung this year?

What I noticed in particular was that a number of the people whose work I really liked last year - including a number of women artists - are not part of this year's show.

I thought the idea of showing all candidates for membership work together in the far part of the North Gallery was a brilliant idea. It made it a lot easier to assess the relative merits of each candidate in my opinion. As last year, we particularly admired the work of Geoffrey Wynne.

Three painters at the 196th Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour
(L to R) Leslie Goodwin, John Folkes and Frances Francis.

The work in the bottom right hand corner is the work for the exhibition catelogue

Artists whose work I enjoyed this year include:
  • Mat Barber Kennedy RI – I appreciate his focus on architectural features and his relaxed and accomplished pen and ink line work with splashes of colour. He won the Turner Watercolour award this year.
  • Peter Folkes VPRI, RWA – his work demonstrates a rich use of textural effects and very simple and powerful shapes
  • Paul Banning RI, RSMA, AROI – a very accomplished watercolourist. I always think his work is very masculine in terms of some of its subject matter eg insides of boat yards, workshops and sheds. Do take a look at his website where you can see three of his works which were in the exhibition - The workshop, St. Osyth, The workshop, Frost and Drake, Tollesbury and The Studio Party
  • Diane Bell – who had executed pen and ink plus colour wash drawings of Erith Yacht Club in her sketchbook and had then extracted the pages and had them mounted and framed. They came across as very fresh.
  • Leslie Goodwin MBE, RI, RWA – his work is quiet, has very simple marks and shows masterful use of empty space and a limited palette
  • Bob Rudd RI – I liked some, but not all, of his paintings of monumental trees
  • Naomi Tydeman RI - won the John Blockley Prize and was displaying some fine abstracted marine work
  • John Yardley RI – continues to draw with his paint brush and to produce very simplified almost sketchy views of urban life which make me wish I could wield a brush to do likewise! Not least because he is an enormously popular painter who always sells well!
After a career in banking he started painting full time in 1986. Yardley received no formal training and maintains that this has given him the freedom to find his own style. His artistic impulse is to paint what he sees with little embellishment and he has the ability to capture the vitality of any scene.
The Street Gallery - commenting on John Yardley
I really liked the composition and design of the work of Kevin Hughes RI work from a distance but then found that the consistent and insistent texturing of the surface, which is much more apparent when close up, to be less appealing. Do take a look at his website though and make your own minds up.

There were a few graphic artists producing illustration type work – these included C.J. Archer RI ASA ( scroll down on the link) and Neal Meacher RI, ARCA.

This year there is a new award – The Turner Watercolour Award – of £2,500 plus a medal divided between the exhibitions of both the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. Prizewinners are as detailed below. It was a good year for people called Jonathan!
Bill Toop demonstrating on Saturday plus a very small admirer (not to scale!)
pencil in sketchbook, copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Although I’d loved Norma Stephenson’s work in this year's Pastel Society exhibition, I found her work in this exhibition to be very muted and lacking in colour and didn’t find them nearly so appealing.

One aspect which was rather curious was that several artists in this exhibition seemed to have a quite similar style. It made made me wonder whether they had all belonged to the same generation of students at art college.

One of the Council members, Bill Toop RI, was demonstrating his approach to watercolour in the gallery last Saturday and managed to create interest and appreciation in even the smallest of visitors. Terry McKivragan RI, the Membership Secretary, will be demonstrating next Saturday.

These are links to:
The RI does not have its own website which, in my view, is a great pity. It would be very helpful to aspiring watercolour artists around the world to see more work by its members and its exhibition.

I know there are going to be a lot of people clicking the links in this post and, although some artists (like Paul Banning) have really excellent websites, I just wish I could have found more good links of a similar ilk.

I visited the exhibition with Vivien Blackburn, Glen Heath and Tina Mammoser. We were supposed to be sketching as well for International Sketchcrawl day - but we didn't get a lot done - although we talked a lot!

Vivien at the Mall Galleries
pencil in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Vivien and Glen were attending the exhibition with the Leicester Society of Artists. A number of its members had work in the exhibition.

One of the interesting points which Tina raised was that she hadn't appreciated before that acrylic was an acceptable medium and she's consequently never considered submitting work - but will now have a think for next year.

The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours has promoted the English art of watercolour since its foundation in 1831. Originally called the New Society of Painters in Watercolours, the RI was formed as an alternative to the existing society at that time, now the Royal Watercolour Society.

The RI continues its policy of showing diversity of styles and techniques, from traditional uses of the medium to the more experimental and innovative paintings now produced by members of the RI and other artists whose pictures have been selected by the RI council. These include many young painters who are encouraged to submit their work using water-soluable mediums.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

30th March 2008: Who's made a mark this week?

A view of the 196th Annual Exhibition of the
Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours at the Mall Galleries
20th March 2008 to 5th April 2008

Yesterday I visited the 196th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours at the Mall Galleries with Vivien Blackburn, her friend Glenn and Tina Mammoser. I'll be writing more about this exhibition tomorrow.

Saturdays during the Exhibition are the days when it gets a lot of visits from art societies and watercolour societies from all over the country. If your Art Society isn't making it more feasible and economical for its members to attend art exhibitions around the country by organising trips, then why don't you ask them why not? ;)

In the UK, the clocks changed overnight so we're now back to normal again in relation to time differences with the USA and elsewhere. I can highly recommend atomic clocks which adjust themselves!

Featured artist

I'm the featured artist this week in Sue Smith's (Ancient Artist) Sunday Salon series of interviews with artists....or rather I will be when she's had a chance to process the stuff I sent her rather later than I'd intended - sorry Sue!

[Update - now posted Sunday Salon: Sitting Down with Katherine Tyrrell]

Art holidays and workshops - and nature journalling

More from the world of art holidays and workshops - if you're a regular reader/commenter do let me know if you've got a blog post about workshops delivered or attended.

This time the focus is on nature journaling in Central America and the Caribbean. Here's some references to various botanical blogs and sites I've looked at this week. these include:
Art Business and Marketing
Art Education - summer programmes
Art Galleries and Museums
  • Meet Nicholas Penny, the new Director of the National Gallery in London, in a couple of interviews here and here.
  • We went to the Alison Watt exhibition 'Phantom' at the National Gallery yesterday - both the film about her and her work is stunning! Well worth a visit if you're going to be in London before it finishes on 22 June.
  • Today is the last day for having your say on the next work that should go on the fourth plinth (which now has its very own website!) in Trafalgar Square
  • David Hockney has given his biggest work Bigger Trees near Warter to the Tate. I know this looks like a massively altruistic gesture, but even this Hockney fan can't help thinking that maybe its size also took up rather a lot of room at home?
The Hockney is over 12 metres long and 4.5 metres high, which probably makes it the biggest painting ever done in the open air. Painted in oils, it comprises 50 separate canvases, hung together. The view is of a copse outside Bridlington, in Yorkshire, which is now Hockney’s main home.
The Art Newspaper
The Utagawa School, founded by Utagawa Toyoharu, dominated the Japanese print market in the nineteenth century and is responsible for more than half of all surviving ukiyo-e prints, or “pictures of the floating world.
Art History
  • Art Magick is a virtual gallery which is ostensibly dedicated to obscure 19th century artists and long-forgotten paintings showing a "magic world of romance and pictured poetry" - which means mainly the Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist movements. You can see the pictures by art movements.
  • However I discovered this week that under 'museums' it has a staggering set of links to all the major (and a lot of minor) art museums and galleries around the world!
Art Societies
  • the UKCPS blog has a post So what is Art about? which summarises some of the debate had recently about what sort of artwork is eligible for exhibition with UKCPS.
  • I also understand that CPSA are also planning to include something on a very similar topic in their next newsletter.
  • I also highlighted an aspect which is not allowed in CPSA submissions (or UKCPS from 2009) in this post Drawing with mechanical and optical aids (which has also prompted some very interesting comments)
Art Supplies
and finally.......

Now you've read my post (ie there's a reason this come last! ;) ) and before you get on with the rest of your day maybe you'd better take a look at Maggie Stiefvater's posts about strategies for time management - addressing all those things you do rather than getting on with things!
Now, the reason why these are worth reading is because they're written by somebody who has proved that time management can really work and create the space for getting more things done - like writing that novel you always meant to write.

Besides producing her art, Maggie is now on her fourth novel - and her first one Lament - The Faurie Queen's Deception got its ISBN number and made its Amazon debut for pre-ordering this week while her agent accepted an offer from her publisher for the second one Ballad the previous week and she's about to start reading Maggie's third novel next week!

Maggie has a link near the top of the right hand column of her site where you can pre-order her new book and make happy all the young teens in your life who are looking for the next Harry Potter.............

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Techie Saturday: auditioning your photos

I was once very fortunate to have a young professional photographer called David Hodge as a neighbour. He taught me about how much of the technique to getting a good photograph was about putting yourself in the right place at the right time. Plus just how many photos it takes to get a halfway decent one (approx 1 in 10) and how many it takes to get a stunner (more like 1 in 100 if not more).

So the rationale goes that taking many more photos increases the chances that you'll capture something which provides a source of creative inspiration. Fortunately digital photography came along and I stopped worrying about the price of film and processing! However sorting through all those photos can be a bit of a problem.

Which is why I'm so enjoying the Windas Vista sidebar on my new laptop. I've got my clock, I've got my calendar, I've got my two lots of sticky notes (short and long term reminders) and I have my slide show!

I fortuitously set up the slideshow to show all my photographs at random. I now find that one of the really great things that happens as a result is something pops up and into the corner of my eye and I think 'Yes!!! I remember that one and it STILL has great impact!'

In effect, it means I'm conducting a continuous audition plus just having something visual within my peripheral vision keeps that bit of my brain constantly stimulated.

The size of photo in the sidebar is ideal - just a bit bigger than thumbnail but not that much bigger. Hence all the ones which have great value patterns just jump out and sock it to my eyeballs - which are, of course, looking somewhere else at the time. It's like having a small child in the corner yelling 'pick me, pick me!' They're not perfect - they'll need adjusting to work with - but they have that ' certain something' which appeals to me.

What I do is pull out all the head turners and pitch them into a file of possibles. If they were done at the same time as the sketch I also copy the sketch across to the same file. Then when it comes to choosing the next thing to do I have an image ready to work with. Or rather I have a choice.

It's also rather nice being able to look back at all the places I've been and all the things I've photographed. And it was also very nice knowing David - even if it was only for a short time.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Drawing with mechanical and optical aids

Marmande - study #1
7" x 5", coloured pencils

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Artists have been using mechanical and optical aids to help them with their drawing for a very long time. However views about which are "OK" and which are not tends to vary quite a bit and can, on occasion, stimulate lots of debate!

This post provides an overview - with links - to some of the aids which artists have used to help them get an image down on a surface over the centuries. At the end of this post, you'll hear about one which many of you may not have heard about or tried before.

Historical mechanical and optical drawing aids

In the past some artists used the camera obscura to produce images. The most famous artist who is believed to have used one being Johannes Vermeer. If you've ever wanted to find out more about how it works or look at one, the wikipedia article provides an extensive explanation plus a list of sites around the world where they still exist.

The camera lucida is another device which has apparently been used to aid drawing as it allows the artist to see both image and drawing simultaneously.

The development of linear perspective in art is one of those subjects which is hugely intriguing in relation to the devices which were developed in order to try and get it right. Bruce MacEvoy (Hand print) provides us with a masterful overview of all of this in his elements of perspective. It includes images of the various perspective machines which were invented and descriptions of the different ways and tools - including the perspective grid - which people used to try and to get to grips with linear perspective

A Claude Glass was used to simplify the tonal pattern of a view and is associated with the great French landscape painter Claud Lorraine. The odd thing about it was that the user had to turn away from the view to use it!

Modern drawing aids

Today the devices people use are both simpler - and more complicated!

Let's start with the really complicated! I'm a complete novice when it comes to the digital applications which can now create the same effects as some of the historical devices. However I gather rather a lot can be done using digital software. I do know it can be used to visualise three dimensional structures when producing graphical imagery whether it's in films, comics or just home improvement shows!

Coming to the much simpler end of things - I've got a section on the drawing aids I use in my website's section about Art materials and other resources.

Probably the most popular drawing aid that we use today is the camera. Photography is used by artists who make extensive use of aids to copy photographs and by artists who just use photos as references to supplement any sketches or paintings done in front of the subject. Developing your skills in using a camera can pay dividends.

Assessing values is always important when drawing and can be difficult if you're drawing in difficult light. You can also see on my website the very simple Val-U-Viewer I use. The red acetate in this renders a coloured image (whether the subject or your own work) into a monochromatic value pattern. The use of a preprinted value scale can also be incredibly useful if you're trying to translate colour into value.

When I'm out sketching I often take a very simple card viewfinder with me - or I use my camera's zoom lens and viewfinder to try cropping a view in different ways even if I don't take any photos. It's a lot easier and quicker to make decisions about what works if I've got something blanking out what is around it. I've also got another card which helps with checking scale when out and about. You can see images of both in the drawing aids section.

I mostly draw freehand but sometimes I use a simple grid system when working on a complicated drawing. It's mainly used to ensure I get proportions correct if I'm trying to do an accurate drawing of a building. You can see an example in this post Palacio de Mondragon, Ronda. I tried doing it freehand and just found I could not get the arches right - so out came the grid for that small section in the centre of the work!

Some people use tracing paper to trace from photographs. Personally, I find tracing incredibly boring and longwinded and reduces the scope to practice my freehand drawing skills. As a result I have used it precisely once in the last 10 years - and that was in a class I took! However for some people it can be quicker than drawing freehand. To be useful it really needs to be used by an artist who knows how to correct for photographic distortion and also understands their subject well and what is misrepresented in a photograph. I also think it works better when used in a minimalistic way to get the proportions of big shapes and very critical small details otherwise drawings can develop a cardboard cut-out 'look'.

Some people use projectors - and then place their paper on the surface which is being projected on to. Again, this has the same potential problems as tracing in relation to copying from photographs - which often 'lie' and misrepresent. With projection comes the added complication of inadvertently projecting at an angle and adding in an additional distortion.

Print a digital image onto art paper: This is the 'new' technique which I've not seen documented anywhere before (until I read the May copy of American Artist) - although I have to say I had come to the conclusion some time ago that it was being used by some artists. The technique involves converting a computer image of a photograph into a grey and white version and then printing it out direct onto Stonehenge paper or acetate suitable for printers. I'm not clear whether this is intended to just print line or it prints both line and tone. However, whichever it is this is very fast compared to tracing for more complicated and/or larger works. Of course it brings with it all the same caveats and reservations which mechanical copying is subject to. Output size is also limited by the type and size of printer. Naturally it will also only work with supports which can be used in a printer - which means it can't be used by artists using heavier weight supports and boards such as pastelbord.

Now - given we're coming up to the 31st March deadline for entries to this year's CPSA Annual Exhibition, it's worth noting that the rules of CPSA state quite clearly that
No images produced by drawing over a digital reproduction allowed.
CPSA annual exhibition prospectus: specifications 2008
So what this means is that this last method is strictly off limits for that competition. It will also not be allowed for the UKCPS exhibitions as from 2009.

I don't believe this point got highlighted in the major online debates about 'copying from photos' and 'collaborations' which were a hot topic in the coloured pencil world at the beginning of this month - but it's worth emphasising. The bottom line is it may be a useful technique but it can cause problems if you want to enter competitions.

Personally I will continue to subscribe to the view that the best technique of all for me is my constant practice of freehand drawing skills. Like regularly doing small studies from life such as the one at the top of this post. It's no great shakes either as a composition or a finished piece of work - but then I was only drawing a couple of tomatoes out of the fridge and doing quick studies like these keep my hand-eye co-ordination for drawing in good working order!

The question of what is the right balance between an artist exercising their own personal drawing skills or supplementing with skills they've developed in the use of mechanical or optical devices is one of those never-ending debates in visual arts. I'm one of those who leans more towards the personal rather than the technological end of the range of options. But that's because I LIKE drawings which aren't exact and don't always look like photographs.

Whatever the answer is it's certainly the case that many artists have used aids of various sorts for their drawing for centuries.

Do you use a drawing aid which I've omitted? Which method do you favour and why? Which way do you lean - towards an emphasis on hand-eye co-ordination or the use of technological aids?


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Seaside Art Colonies - in the UK and USA

I've always been intrigued by art colonies and have tried to visit a few over the years - most of which have seemed to be beside the sea!

To date my list includes: Newlyn, Lamorna, St Ives, Walberswick, Kirkcudbright, Chelsea, Monterey, Carmel, Gloucester and Cape Ann, - plus others whose names escape me - although I suspect they're probably places like Prout's Neck which are associated with only one artist!

I'd like to know more about them - and have started to try and find out a bit. I started with the wikipedia article about art colonies but found it rather odd. I think it's talking more about planned artist communities rather than those which are places where artists choose to congregate on a more informal basis. Scope for improvement there maybe?

My aim is to try and find useful links to the various ones around the world - and was rather hoping people reading this blog might be able to suggest some.

Seaside art colonies in the UK
A major feature of art colonies is just how many of them are associated with the sea. Three years ago there was an exhibition about the ones in the UK called Painting at the Edge: Britain's Coastal Art Colonies (1880–1930) at Penlee House Museum in Penzance (well worth a visit if you ever get to Penzance).
Organised by Penlee House and the University of Northumbria, this major survey exhibition put the Newlyn and Lamorna artists' work in context with that of their near-contemporaries in other British sea-side art colonies in St. Ives, Walberswick (Suffolk), Staithes (Yorkshire), Cullercoats (Northumbria), Kirkcudbright (Dumfries & Galloway) and Cockburnspath (Scottish Border). The cross-over between the colonies is fascinating, and many names appeared in more than one place. The exhibition included works by Newlyn painters Frank Bramley, Walter Langley (who also painted at Walberswick), Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes and Fred Hall, and Lamorna group artists Lamorna Birch, A. J. Munnings, Harold and Laura Knight (who also worked at Staithes) and Charles Naper. The show included works by Mark Senior, Charles Mackie, Isa Jobling, Philip Wilson Steer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, George Clausen and George Henry, among others, loaned from public and private collections throughout the UK.
Penlee House Museum, Penzance
So that means a list of seaside art colonies (and artists) in the UK might look like this:
The Beach at Walberswick c.1889
Phillip Wilson Steer Oil painting on wood, support: 603 x 761 x 15 mm
  • Suffolk - Walberswick (Walter Osborne, Philip Wilson Steer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and George Clausen)
  • Yorkshire - Staithes (Mark Senior, Charles Mackie, Laura and Harold Knight and Isa Jobling)
  • Northumbria - Cullercoats (where Winslow Homer made his home for a while in the 1880s)
  • Borders - Cockburnspath
  • Dunfries and Galloway - Kirkcudbright
Kirkcudbright has had a long association with the Glasgow art movement, which started when a colony of artists, including the Glasgow Boys and the famed Scottish Colourists, such as Samuel Peploe and F. C. B. Cadell, based themselves in the area over a 30-year period from 1880 to 1910.
Many of them moved to the town from Glasgow, including E A Hornel, George Henry, and Jessie M King, and their presence led to Kirkcudbright becoming known as "the artists’ town", although this moniker may have originated more from tourist board publicity [4]rather than local usage.
The whodunit Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers involves the artistic community of Kirkcudbright. [5]
I'm much more familiar with the UK than elsewhere for obvious reasons - so finding out about places elsewhere will need some help!

For example, in the United States, I think the list of seaside art colonies include the following? Can people confirm - and/or tell me what's missed out?

Rockport Motif #2 9" x 12", coloured pencil on Saunders Waterford HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
The first Gloucester painter of note was native-born Fitz Henry Lane, whose home still exists on the waterfront. The premier collection of his works is in the Cape Ann Historical Museum, which holds 40 of his paintings and 100 of his drawings. Other painters subsequently attracted to Gloucester include William Morris Hunt, Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, Frederick Mulhaupt, Frank Duveneck, Cecilia Beaux, Jane Peterson, Gordon Grant, Emile Gruppe, Stuart Davis, Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Barnett Newman, William Meyerowitz, Theresa Bernstein, and Marsden Hartley and artists from the Ashcan School such as Edward Hopper, John Sloan, Robert Henri, William Glackens, and Maurice Prendergast.
Monterey has a noteworthy history as a center for California painters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Such painters as Arthur Frank Mathews, Armin Hansen, Xavier Martinez, Rowena Meeks Abdy and Percy Gray lived or visited to pursue painting in the style of either En plein air or Tonalism.

I'm toying with the idea of running a series of occasional posts on the various art colonies. I just find it fascinating that you get places where artists congregate and I wonder at times whether the artists or the place is the magnet. Probably both I guess! :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In praise of my sketching chairs

Me (in 1992) sat on
my first Phillips Folding Chair,
sketching the temples
Lake Bratan,
in the 
Bedugul area 
of north central Bali
This post is for anybody who is warming to the idea of sketching plein air this summer - or who'd like to be a bit more comfortable when they do so.

I've no idea why it has taken me well over two years to get round to writing a post in praise of my wonderful sketching chairs! ;)

Phillips De Luxe Folding Chair
I highly recommend my Phillips Folding Chair. It has a lightweight tubular aluminium frame and a very strong green Cordura canvas seat and back. It comes in two heights which means that I can sit comfortably despite the fact I'm very tall. I find the canvas back makes a huge difference to my overall comfort. The folding mechanism is also very easy to work once you've got used to the hinge which you can see at the back of the chair.

My second Phillips Chair at Walden Pond, Massachusetts (September 2006)

It has a killer combination of being both lightweight (3.3lbs) and very robust. In my experience, travelling around the world sketching and painting using two Phillips Chairs in the last 20 years or so, they 'travel' really well - albeit with some caveats (see notes below). I should explain that I only had to get the second as the first went AWOL after it was left behind on a luggage trolley by mistake at the end of a 26 hour flight! I immediately went straight out to buy another....which at the time was somewhat easier than it is now.

This chair may be totally brilliant, but experience suggests that anybody interested in getting hold of one also needs to know the following!
  • A Phillips De Luxe Folding Chair is not cheap but as with anything which is good quality it will last for years and years and is probably extremely economical in the long run. It's also very difficult to get hold of one. The only places that I know of that now list them are Green and Stone in Chelsea and Heaton Cooper. (The latter is currently listing them as not in stock as their supplier is having difficulty getting hold of them). You can get two seat heights 40.5 cm and 46cm but they tend to be similarly priced. Price depends on where you source it from - it's listed at £56.35 at Green and Stones - but do bear in mind that the material used is the same as that in top of the range endurance luggage.
  • This chair (and any chair for that matter) always has to go in the hold of the aircraft (which makes it an item of luggage). It also very often has to go to a separate desk to be checked in at airports. It's therefore advisable to allow a little extra time for drop-off and pick-up (or a lot of extra time at busy times of the year).
  • I've found that a very strong bungee cord is absolutely essential to hold it together while travelling. You need to make it completely taut. Check that the ends can go hook round the tubular aluminium structure.
  • It's also essential to label the chair very clearly with its own luggage label and destination address when travelling. My latest chair has now done many more miles than I have. I've never had any problems in Asia and Australasia - but in the USA I've found it tends to take a diversion to other destinations and only arrives at my intended destination about 24 hours after I do. I think the tubular metal frame (which is extremely robust) is what causes the problem and raises suspicions amongst airport security staff. It went AWOL on 3 out of 4 flights to and from the USA in 2006!!! However it was always delivered the next day to an address of my choosing.
Blacks compact camping chair

I have one other sketching chair which I picked up in Blacks. It's actually a compact folding camping chair (link removed as out of date). It has a strong steel frame and a polyester 'aerated' fabric seat and back and it is amazingly comfortable, especially for those of us who are finding slim hips a dim and distant memory. It even has a neat socket for drinks - which would work well for those using watercolours. However when wrapped in its carry bag, it's much heavier (3 kg / 6.6lb) and double the weight of my Phillips chair which completely rules it out for overseas trips. The carry bag is also not the easiest thing to sling over your shoulder while carrying the rest of the plein air gear. This is the one to take out in the car for trips in the UK. One big bonus is cheap at £14.99.

Lots of people have sketching stools - however I'm very tall and tend to find the vast majority of these to be way too low. I find them to be uncomfortable to use while sitting on them and they also render me completely unable to move after 'squatting' for too long. Personally I find discomfort of that sort really gets in the way of a good sketch or plein air pastel painting.

If you're travelling by car and not having to carry a seat too far then pretty much any folding chair will do - although I can vouch for the fact some are a LOT more comfortable than others! I do envy people who can stand painting for long periods but since my defective feet limit standing still to very short periods this really isn't an option for me.

When travelling in a town I opt for finding somewhere I can sit down - which partly accounts for lots of sketches of interiors of cafes which also offer that well known bonus of 'facilities'.

On my Art Equipment - Resources for Artists site, I've listed:
  • other folding chairs and stools for plein air work
  • bags, backpacks, totes and trollies
If you're thinking of doing more plein air work this summer or maybe even going on a painting trip or holiday you might want to take a peek.

If you've got a favourite sketching stool or chair why not leave a comment and tell us what it is and why you like it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The art of writing a Press Release

Red William
6" x 4", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
This Guide explains what you need to know if
  1. you’ve ever written a Press Release but lacked guidance on how to go about it; or
  2. if you’ve issued a Press Release but it failed to achieve the impact you had hoped for; or
  3. one day soon, you think you might want to write a Press Release......
I’ve never ever had any problem remembering how to write and distribute a Press Release since the day I received a very ‘to the point’ briefing from the City Editor of a prominent newspaper who has since gone on to work for international newspapers and win a prize for business journalism.

Each day, this man was sent a small mountain of Press releases. He explained precisely what he looked for in a Press Release and how best to survive his morning ritual of culling the weak ones – which he conducted standing over his rubbish bin.

The first lesson he taught was that if you haven't got a great title ‐ which tells him what it's all about – plus a punchy concise hook for the first two to three lines then he simply didn't waste his valuable time reading any further ‐ and the Press Release would drift down towards the bin.

He worked purely on the basis that if you can't be bothered to introduce your material properly then he can't be bothered to read it. He’s not alone in adopting this view.

The really important and really difficult bit - being creative

Before you even start to write a Press Release, the first thing you must do is work out WHO it's going to and WHY you have a story that might interest them. It doesn't matter what field you work in, the reality is that you and lots of other people like yourself are all competing for the attention of the relevant people – and the people who bring them their news.

Your reader's time is valuable ‐ so show some respect and don't waste it. It all boils down to finding something which makes them want to read on. You're creative – so be creative and find an answer to these questions!
  • What's new or unique or different about you and your news?
  • Why is your news worthy of their attention in the virtual equivalent of a cattle market for news?
  • How can you find a way of avoiding being boring with more of the 'same old, same old'?
Your pitch can be helped by how you design, present or write your news.

The essential but technically difficult bit

You don’t need to be a marketing professional to write an effective press release but you do need to adopt a professional approach and technique. The technically difficult bit is about sticking to the ‘rules’.

How can you make an Editor's life simple? This is it ‐ the technique and some basic tips in a nutshell.
  • Audience: know who your audience is and pitch the PR to them ‐ use concepts and language which are appropriate to them.
  • Grab their attention with a good title: The title makes a difference. Do NOT be boring ‐ you have one line to produce a hook to catch their attention
  • Now keep their attention: Most people will skim read a PR. (Think about how you deal with your junk mail). You therefore have about 10 seconds maximum to make them want to read more. That equates to the title and a short first paragraph which spells out why your news is new / unique / different AND newsworthy.
  • Keep all text brief and to the point:
    • Top of the page (above the title) state PRESS RELEASE (bold caps) and the date/time of issue
    • ALWAYS write in the third person
    • ALWAYS double space text
    • ALWAYS write concise points in a simple sentence structure using as few words as possible
    • The first paragraph states what the PR is about AND contains the ‘hook’
    • (If required) The second paragraph states the essential facts – these are the five 'W's: who / what / where / when / why and how
    • Use a quote if it adds value
    • Eliminate flowery language, bias and hype
    • Check that facts, grammar and spelling are all correct
    • Remember that your text might be used verbatim
  • Short means short: A press release should ideally be no more than one side of A4 and NEVER EVER more than two sides of A4 (It has to be incredibly important to warrant this). Use sub‐heads as signposts if more than one side. Keep editing until you’ve removed all unnecessary words.
  • Further details: Include at the end:
    • Details of a contact for further information. Make sure these are precise, accurate and that it includes a telephone number which has a person and not an answerphone at the other end. Journalists always appreciate people who respond to their queries promptly.
    • An 'About You' section: spell out the factual details of who you are / who your company is / what your product is.
Remember – providing an Editor with good copy that’s accurate, newsworthy and easy to use will increase your chances of a favourable reception for your next press release.

The boring but very necessary bit

Don’t waste your time by producing a press release which sits unread in the wrong place.

Getting to the desk of the right person greatly enhances the chance that your missive will be read. You MUST find out the names of the people that the press release needs to go to. It takes a bit of research and a phone call to check names and titles and the correct address and/or e‐mail address.

That's it. Reach the right people, don't waste their time and make their life easier by providing good copy - simple!

Here are some links to websites which also have advice about how to write a Press Release.
©Katherine Tyrrell March 2008

Making A Mark Publications

If you think you might like to keep a copy of this post to hand for the next time you write a Press Release for you or your art society/community, I've included a PDF copy on the 'Making A Mark Publications' page on my website.

This also contains links to the following publications:
[Note: "Red William" was drawn from life while watching Anthony Minghella's last film - the admirable #1 Ladies Detective Agency]

Sunday, March 23, 2008

23rd March 2008: Who's made a mark this week

Four of the Daily Paintworks community of daily painters
(L to R) Justin Clayton, Karin Jurick, Carol Marine and Qiang Huang

Workshop demonstration at Karin Jurick and Carol Marine's workshop
at the Williamson County Art Center in Round Rock (north of Austin), Texas

Daily Paintworks colleagues and very popular daily painters Karin Jurick (A Painting Today) and Carol Marine (Carol Marine's Painting A Day) recently got together in Round Rock Texas to teach a workshop to some very lucky people. I gather it was particularly fascinating for people to see the similarities and differences in approaches of Karin, who works from her own photographs and laptop screen, compared to Carol who works from life and her own still life set-up.
  • Read Karin's take on her first ever week of teaching a workshop in this post My Week. This includes an account of her driving all the way from Georgia to Texas and back again. For those not familiar with the journey (that'll be me!) I checked Google Maps and the map query made it 949 miles across Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas!!!
  • Plus Carol's post "Demo Apples" & "Self Portrait".
They were joined at the end of the workshop by fellow Daily Paintworks people Justin Clayton (who lives in Round Rock) and Qiang Huang. (who like Carol lives in Austin). Their website provides more details about workshops in the USA and Canada given by members of this community.

Portrait by Karin Jurick
and self-portrait by Carol Marine
copyright the artists

I always really enjoy reading the blog posts from students after a workshop - so here are all the ones I could find!
I've been so busy with "ah ha" moments, I haven't even thought of taking pictures of my own paintings. I can truly say this has been one of those "Things" that happens on your "Art Journey" that is a major step in the way you think about painting and the way you execute it! It's like Carol & Karin have flipped on another circuit breaker in my brain!
Mary Spires
Art supplies
  • Yippee - a NEW BRAND of lightfast coloured pencil!!! Nicole Caulfield has been reviewing Luminance from Caran d'Ache on her blog (Nicole Caulfield Art Journal) and providing an assessment of what they are like. She was asked by Caran d'Ache to test the pencils during their development and some of her artwork is included in their promotional material.
  • There are 76 colours in the range - you can see them across the top of this page which shows some of Nicole's artwork - it looks like I may have solved my problem with reds (see yesterday's post)!!! 61 of them meet the ASTMS 6901 Lightfastness 1 standard while the remainder are at least 80% lightfast. This is a really major improvement. I guess that means CPSA will need to do a version 6 of the Lightfastness Test Book!
  • So far I've only been able to locate two sites Artifolk in the UK and Vicenç Piera (Barcelona) which is selling the pencils - in Euros! It's worth noting that these are VERY EXPENSIVE and, as yet, they are not available as single pencils from open stock. A 38 pencil tin works out at £2.27 a pencil and the 76 pencil tin is no much less at £2.10 per pencil.
Art Blogs
A couple of blogs about parenting and children's art development
  • Jean Van’t Hul (The Artful Parent blog) - in Northern Carolina - has done an interview with Laura (see above) about developing your children's art skills .
  • For all those who have created blogs to record their kids art, Gwynn at My Kids Art provides a sad note on which to end her blog last week.
International Sketchcrawl

A quick reminder that the 18th Worldwide Sketchcrawl is next Saturday - 29th March.

If you go to the Sketchcrawl Forum you can see all the places where people are indicating they'd like to go. Lots of places but not a lot of posts as yet - unless you live in San Francisco or Milan! The posts build during this week so it's a good idea to keep checking back. If nobody is being specific, decide where you'd like to go and make a definite suggestion as to start point and destination.

Vivien Blackburn and I will be sketching around and about the Mall Galleries (in 'The Mall') where we'll be visiting the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours.

Art Education
Art videos
  • The Dulwich Picture Gallery website has a wonderful set of videos about paintings included in their latest exhibition Coming of Age American Art, 1850s to 1950s. The 'movies' introduce the exhibition and then there are four films about individual paintings by Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent and John Sloane.
  • Ed Terpening (Life Plein Air) has been posting about his workshop in Palm Springs (Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3) with Mark Kerckhoff and has done a video Two Desert Demos of a couple of his paintings made from snapshots taken while painting plein air. He's also posted a video of a Mark Kerckhoff Demo - which starts with him painting in ink and then he continues in oils according to Carlson principles
He then washes in his first transparent paint layer based on the landscape planes described by John F. Carlson (from lightest to darkest): Sky, Flat Plane (eg, ground), Slanted Plane (eg, hillside), and Upright Plane (eg, tree). He selects a mid-tone gray wash in the middle of the darkest dark and lightest light FOR THAT PLANE. He then brings up the local color for each object.
Ed Terpening - commenting on Marck Terckhoff
Art Business and Marketing
and finally......

Did you know that Easter is apparently fantastically early this year? Apparently it will never ever be as early as this again in our lifetime because it's 220 years until the next time it's Easter Sunday on March 23rd. For the explanation read what Dinah Mow wrote on her blog (Idle thoughts of an idle woman). Good thing too - I woke up to snow this morning!

Happy Easter Egg hunting! Don't forget - too much chocolate makes your hair fall out! ;)