Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The rules for the 2008 exhibitions of coloured pencil art

Study: After Utagawa Kuniyoshi
coloured pencil on Polydraw film (see note)

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The first "unwritten" rule of any art competition - particularly an open competition - is that the rules have to be clear. After all "The rules are the rules" aren't they?!

The second "unwritten rule" is that when an organisation changes the rules in any way from one year to the next, it must make both the change and the interpretation of that change very clear in any formal and universal statement that is made about the competition ie "the rules".

Organisations get one go at this. The words on the piece of paper which says 'Rules' have to be very clear and not capable of misinterpretation (see unwritten rule number 1!). This is because:
  • That's what gets sent out to members. I file mine away in my folder for competition entries and I guess many do likewise. It's the only thing I refer to before sending in an entry.
  • That's what goes on the website and gets read on screen.
  • That's what gets sent out to non-members who ask for entry details.
  • That's what gets copied by members to friends, students etc who are non-members.
  • Injunctions are always about 'please read all the details on the form carefully'.
Yesterday, some artists in the coloured pencil world experienced more than a little confusion due to statements being made about 'the rules' for the exhibitions / competitions - which fall outside the published and official statements in 'the rules'. Such ancillary statements may be thought to be seeking to clarify the rules but the reality is that the only people who know about these statements are those people who have read entries on internet forums or in a newsletter which only goes to members. In other words these are statements about 'the rules' which aren't actually in 'the rules', are not available to people without computers, and/or don't frequent the forums and/or are not members of the relevant organisation.

There has been much thrashing of keyboards about the content of both the published rules and the ancillary statements as a result. There was much discussion in forums yesterday and doubtless there will be more today. I also know that discussion will be supplemented over the course of today by more than a few blog posts about yesterday's statements and discussions.

What we now need is absolute clarity and a level playing field for all potential entrants. There is a problem and we need to find a solution. The Chair of the UKCPS has invited views and this is my response over and above comments I've already made in the UKCPS Yahoo Forum.

I think there's a fair chance a number of people may not comment on what has happened due to concerns about or fear of not "upsetting people" and "ruining their chances of a prize". I've found that one of the advantages of having passed my 50th birthday is that those sort of concerns become of less consequence - and I do propose to comment. Read on!

What has changed

What has changed are the rules for entry to exhibitions run by the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA) and the United Kingdom Coloured Pencil Society (UKCPS). Both Societies have sought to clarify the nature of the work which is eligible.
  • The CPSA 'rules' are published and available on their website here, as a pdf document "Prospectus and Exhibition Information". The CPSA have changed both the specifications (page 2) and the method of submission - which is now via digital entry.
  • The UKCPS distributed their "Rules on Eligible Works" for their two exhibitions with their March 2008 newsletter which arrived at most people's homes yesterday. UKCPS has an item about changes to the rules in its members' March newsletter. Unfortunately, this contains an interpretation of the rules which is not clearly stated on the form itself (ie it is NOT in 'the rules'). This interpretation was repeated on two internet forums yesterday.
Anything which I say from here on is my view (unless clearly indicated as a direct quote from the rules). Any person wishing to submit work to the exhibitions is advised to read 'the rules' and ONLY 'the rules' very carefully.

What do the rules for CP exhibitions say?

First - what are 'the rules' stating in a formal way? In summary, both coloured pencil societies are now placing a much clearer emphasis on the total process of producing a pencil artwork - but attempts to define what this means is currently causing a problem.

CPSA Prospectus: specification
• Artwork must have been executed within the last 3 years and not previously hung in any CPSA exhibition (International or Explore This!).
• Concept, design and execution of the artwork shall be solely that of the artist. No work copied from copyrighted or published materials. No images produced by drawing over a digital reproduction allowed. No prints. No collaborations.
• Artwork must be colored pencil ONLY! Use of any other media (watercolor, acrylic, oil, ink, etc.) or artist prepared surface disqualifies entry.
• Acceptable additions: solvents (e.g., turpentine) and graphite pencil used under/between/over layers.
• Artwork must be two-dimensional on a single surface. No collage or montage.
• Framed size cannot exceed 32x40 inches. Mats must be white, off-white, tan, gray or black; frames should be simple in design (no ornately carved wooden frames).
• Artwork must be ready to hang by wire—no sawtooths. Plexiglas only. Absolutely NO glass or “clip on” frames.
• Information on submitted entry form regarding size and price cannot be changed. Artwork cannot be altered after submission of entry.
• CPSA, juror, and gallery reserve the right to disallow a work if it fails to meet the specified criteria.
CPSA Specifications For and requirements
UKCPS Rules and conditions on eligible works

The entry form, which contains rules and conditions of entry, is confusing. In my opinion, the whole document should be headed up "rules and conditions of entry" - but it isn't. As it is, only the first paragraph is described as 'rules'. Unfortunately I can't refer you to the document as it is not yet available on the website.
Rules on eligible works
The Annual United Kingdom Coloured Pencil Society Open International Exhibition shall be of pure coloured pencil work only. Submission will be open to all artists. Coloured pencil does not include pastel pencils. It does include crayons such as Caran d'Ache Neocolour 11 or Derwent Aquatone. There shall be no restriction on how the pencils are used - all solvents including water are acceptable. graphite pencil may be used under or between layers of coloured pencil, but the pigment surface of the work should be 100% coloured pencil. Coloured support media are permitted, but any colour added to the ground should be done with the coloured pencil pigments. Pictures that have been accepted for any previous UKCPS exhibition will not be eligible.
UKCPS Notification issued March 2008
It then goes on to have a number of conditions. I can't see any merit whatsoever in splitting conditions from rules - but that's another issue!
The Society wishes to see work submitted for exhibition that is entirely the original work of the submitting artist from source and content to completion. The exhibition should show the compositional and drawing skills of the artists, as well as their ability to use colour from a pencil source. For this reason submitted work must meet a number of conditions:
  1. The concept, design and execution of the artwork shall be solely that of the artist. The artist must have taken any photographs used for source material and no work can be submitted which has been executed in class or which has been assisted by another artist. No work may be copied from copyrighted or published materials including copyright free stock images, and no images may be submitted which have been produced by drawing over a digital reproduction.
  2. Artwork must be two-dimensional on a single surface (not collage or montage) and be capable of being exhibited, framedm in a traditional way.
  3. By submitting an etry, the Artist asserts copyright to the completed work...........
UKCPS Notification issued March 2008
What are the concerns?

Concerns focus on originality of the artwork and intellectual property issues. These have included, for example:
  • the extent of original work by the artist alone
  • the use and display of trademarked logos in artwork
  • the use of copyright images without seeking or gaining all proper permissions
  • the extent to which an artist has 'copied' an image generated from a photograph taken by somebody else.
    • Copyright lies in the process of generation not in the area of competence - so whether an image is generated by a professional photographer or a member of your family or your best friend an image produced by somebody else is subject to copyright. Copyright can be transferred and a licence for its use is required.
    • If a licence has been granted then the issue is whether the drawing created as a result is significantly different, in both composition and detail, to enable it to be claimed as an original work of art. This is an area where coloured pencil artists who work in a hyper/photo-realistic way may come "unstuck".
There are two major problems with the new UKCPS 'rules'.
  • Firstly the people who work from photographs taken by other people - who are pretty fed up about all this as one could have predicted.
  • Secondly, a notion was raised and discussed yesterday that competitive work cannot be displayed as part of "works in progress" (WIPs) on internet art forums. This is what Talking Point - the members magazine had to say - I EMPHASISE that at least part of what comes next is NOT what it says in the rules and conditions.
.....the UKCPS has decided to follow the changes brought in the CPSA for the exhibitions in the USA. This aims to ensure that the work accepted will be entirely the original work of the submitting artist. If you work from photographs, you must have taken the photo yourself. This change will exclude photos from all outside sources including copyright free galleries, books and magazines. The use of an image composed by someone else means that your artwork is not entirely your own and original. Similarly any work completed with outside assistance is not entirely your own work and this means the exclusion of work completed on courses and workshops and also work which has been displayed as a 'step by step' exercise over the Internet on sites such as and where other artists comment and make suggestions. An essential point is that the completed image should demonstrate your own drawing skills. Copyright is becoming a very 'hot' topic these days abd breaches of copyright on images like logos and registered designs are increasingly the subject of legal action. We recommend that you seek advice if your picture includes a copyright design as a substantial part of the whole image.
Talking point - March 2008
I'm entirely supportive of no copying from photos which are not your own and no submission of work which has been completed in a workshop or class or under the tuition of a tutor. I know of one (non-CP) tutor who saw one of her students win a major national prize through submitting work which had been completed in one of her classes using an image which she had created and for which the student received tuition during the course of the workshop! This point certainly needs to be emphasised.

However, there has been complete uproar about the comment regarding the notion of "assisted" and the internet art forums.
I don't think "assisted" means "you can't discuss work in places where we can see it going on - even if you do discuss it behind closed doors or in groups which are not on the internet which think it's OK because this is what artists do".

The UKCPS Executive (as a minimum) needs to consider what they mean by "assisted" within the context of what is NORMAL artistic practice. Which is that you talk to people about your work. Artists are adult and autonomous. They are capable of listening and choosing what, if anything, is relevant. Otherwise you get into the ludicrous situation of trying to decide at what point you can no longer talk to anybody about your work because it might invalidate it for competition purposes!!!

One of the skills all artists need to develop is an insight into what is constructive comment and what is utter c**p. Seeing a work through other people's eyes can help you know what to do next. However the simple act of hearing comments does not make an artist prostrate themselves with gratitude, roll over and then leap up and put all those comments into action. Similarly, an artist may have already decided what to do next and might be interested to know whether others think the same way. Quite apart from these consideration there's the practical issue of introducing a condition which cannot possibly be policed. How on earth will UKCPS ever know about all the conversations which take place?

If this were to be introduced as a condition (and I emphasise that it is not a stated condition in the rules) then I think its most major impact would be on the artists/teachers who frequent internet forums or blogs. If this becomes the rule then all those who teach would have to become very disciplined and be constantly aware of the need to refrain from commenting in any way on pieces being displayed on the internet. So much for any aims a society might have for supporting the education and development of its members!

What do other art societies / art competitions do?

Interestingly - and by way of contrast - the terms and conditions for entry to the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts (which is the largest open exhibition in the world) confines its requirements as to ways of working and 'ownership' of the artistic process to the following statement about intellectual property.
Intellectual property rights
7.1 Each artist by entering a work confirms that they hold all intellectual property rights in the work.
Terms and Conditions for entering works to the Summer Exhibition 2008 (pdf file)
That's it - there is no other statement about how an artwork is produced other than relating to size and what counts as two or three dimensional work! I interpret this statement to mean that the person submitting an entry holds all rights including any copyrights they may have acquired in the normal course of practice.

The BP Portrait Awards rules only state that the work must be original paintings in specified media and that "The work entered should be a painting based on a sitting or study from life and the human figure must predominate." It doesn't say that the use of photographs as source material is not allowed. The only real constraints in terms of artistic process relate to the mediums which are not permissible.

What I'm attempting to demonstrate here is that two of the most prominent national art competitions/exhibitions in the country choose to treat their prescription as to what is and is not allowed in a completely different way from the two coloured pencil societies. They place no limits on the nature of artistic practice or discourse or source materials. They just require that people respect the law of intellectual property and/or use a size and materials which 'fit' that particular organisation. In a nutshell, they treat artists as autonomous adults.

What's the solution?

My personal view is that I'm very much of the opinion that
  • Artists should always be treated as adults
  • the rules for entry in 2008 should be as stated on the entry form - and on the entry form ALONE. There should no comments which in effect introduce further conditions.
  • comments about various people's views about how "assisted" should be interpreted - outside what it says on the entry form - should be withdrawn immediately.
Such notions can be discussed at the AGM, after appropriate notice and consultation, and then applied for 2009 if members agree. Plus it's always worthwhile testing important statements out on people to make sure that they are understood prior to publication.

One possible way round all of this in future is to take the lead from some of the more leading art organisations. The emphasis should be placed on artists being asked to certify on submission of their entry that the work is original and that they own all intellectual property rights to their entry.

The rules and conditions could clarify what this is ie work has not been copied from the work of others in breach of copyright or trademark, that they have not received any significant assistance with their work and that they understand that significant assistance for the purposes of the competition includes working from photographs taken by anybody else, work done in a class and/or under the direction of a tutor and work done jointly with another artist.

The really important thing is to avoid indulging the following fallacies.
  • Fallacy #1: Artwork is always totally original. Artwork is very often derivative of other visual images and people often copy techniques initially and then make them their own - in their own style. Totally original concepts and methods of execution are extremely rare. As my Japanese Art project will demonstrate this month, there is a considerable amount of western art which has been very heavily influenced by images of Japanese Art - you will be surprised!
  • Fallacy #2: Art competitions must always exclude entries which have been the subject of normal artistic practice. Normal practice involves showing your work to other artists, receiving critiques and then deciding, in an autonomous way, whether or not to take any action on the basis of those comments and discussions. In other words are artists are adults and competitions should expect them to act in an adult way.
To the extent that some artists are inexperienced or naieve about what is expected then societies could take on the role of educating those artists about copyright issues and the like. However in pursuing the aim of promoting the medium of coloured pencil, I also expect the societies to reward clear demonstrations of original, authentic and autonomous work. For example, so long as societies continue to reward photo-realistic work then they need to very sure that the photo is also the artist's own work.

Any UKCPS members reading this may well want to join the discussion on the UKCPS Yahoo Group - which is only open to members. For some reason, in group view, the discussion is buried in a thread about the newsletter Talking Point.

A number of artists intend to post on their blogs about this issue today. I'll be updating this blog post today to add in links to their posts below as and when they post. Check back for an update!
Do please comment on this blog if you have a view irrespective of whether you area coloured pencil artist or not. It would be very helpful if people said whether or not they worked in CP and whether or not they are a member of either or both societies.

  1. Japanese Art and Artists Project - a study of a drawing by Utagaw Kuniyoshi called "Ayus, Swimming Upstream with Hagi Branch 36.8x12.2 mid Tempo era (1830-1844).
    This drawing was done as a study in Japanese drawing. I wanted to try and see whether film would work in terms of creating flat colour on one side and the drawn line on the other. It seems to have worked well although I find I can't work as I would have liked in relation to application of coloured pencil. The other test was of what it felt like in terms of drawing the sort of lines which one finds a lot in prints. They are very sinewy and sensitive and quite difficult to get right first time. For the watermarks I just studied his approach and then tried to apply it without copying. The aspect which is particularly effective is the two colours used which gets great depth. I'm not sure how apparent that is. I left out the seal and text.
  2. The deadline for people to purchase an entry form for the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts is today - Tuesday 4th March! Entry forms have to be completed and returned by 18th March.


Deborah Paris said...

Lovely drawing Katherine! Hmmmm, is it correct to call a colored pencil piece a drawing or a painting (or can it be either as with pastel?) I also work in pastel and my pastels are paintings, but I don't know the correct terms for colored pencils. Anyway its a beauty!

Casey Klahn said...

The Koi drawing is spot on for your Japan study. Wonderful!

Making A Mark said...

Well I've come round to a way of thinking that all pencil art is drawing and pastels are only paintings if the ground is completely filled.

Then there's the perspective which says the only things which are paintings are media which can be presented without glass - and that's certainly possible now with CP.

I think people should do whatever feels comfortable for them

Thanks for the comments on the drawing but I can take absolutely no credit whatsoever for the image other than a bit of nifty hand eye co-ordination in drawing it without resorting to grids or tracing.

The challenge with my Japanese Art project over the next two months is going to be about understanding how they produced it - and initially I'm taking the Van Gogh route of attempting reproductions in another media. Hopefully before the end of two months I'll be generating my very own 'japanese style' art!

Laura Frankstone said...

Katherine, I agree with you 100%. Those rules need to severely edited, rethought and rewritten. The very idea that you shouldn't discuss your works in progress with other people! That rule-making group has, as they say, some control 'issues.' I'll bet that all of you dissenters will be successful in getting them to rescind some of these silly strictures. And, of course, I LOVE your watery, Japanesey fish.

Making A Mark said...

Thanks Laura - it's always good to hear an external perspective.

I knew you'd like that water. As soon as I saw it I thought of you and your water in Hawaii. The interesting bit is the two tone/colour thing he's got going on.

It also reminded me of David Hockney - or maybe I maybe I mean I wonder if it (or something like it) stimulated David Hockney when he was doing the swimming pool pics?

Tina Mammoser said...

Wow. Let me get this straight - if you are fortunate enough to live in a large city with an artistic community or are able to rent in a group studio situation you are allowed to have peer critique of your work and progress that way as an artist. And as many many working artists do. You could even create the work within a class or mentor situation that you take as a professional artist who wants a different environment than the studio once in a while. It's okay as long as it isn't online?

But if you aren't so fortunate and perhaps live somewhere isolated you aren't allowed to find peer critique or support in online communities instead?

What century do these societies think we are living in? Do they think that artists live in bubbles offline?

Unknown said...

No bubbles, Tina, just dens, underground vintage nuclear-safe places, under rocks, in caves, mountains, isolated islands... lol. sadly, no bubbles, though! .. I want a bubble.

Ok, Ok, I'll stop kidding now.

Thank you for the post, Katherine!
While I am not a member of neither, this definitely arises awareness of things I should keep in mind for future times when and if I decide to take part in any sort of CP society and their competitions.

By the way, love the koi!!

Robyn Sinclair said...

I love this tall slim format, Katherine. Fascinated to hear more of this technique too. It's a beautiful study!

Rules always make my eyes glaze over, so I'll stay out of this one. :)

Tina Mammoser said...

Oh and a quick clarification - you can still purchase Royal Academy forms, you just can't do it online past yesterday. You can purchase one in person or over the phone. They recommend purchasing by the 14th since the return deadline is the 18th March.

Kuniyoshi_Cat said...

Great piece of work! I would like to post it on my blog with your permission. Let me know. Thx!

Matt aka Kuniyoshi Cat

check out>>> Blog about Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Making A Mark said...

Thanks for the comment Kuniyoshi Cat - I'm afraid the answer is 'No' - and I've left an explanation as to why on your blog.

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