Sunday, May 11, 2008

11th May 2008 - Who's made a mark this week?

Life and Death by Jeff GeorgeLife and Death
8.5" x 32", colored pencil on light gray mat board
copyright Jeff George

This week the Colored Pencil Society of America announced the results of the jury process of the competitive entry of coloured pencil artwork submitted to the 16th Annual International Exhibition associated with the CPSA convention in Seattle this summer. This is the list of accepted entries from colored pencil (and coloured pencil) artists who have been successful.

Every year, it's very exciting to find out who has been selected and the colored/coloured pencil world waits with some apprehension. Following the announcement, the airwaves have been fairly humming with e-mails as per usual. However, this year, many people have been commenting on the fact that missing from this year's list of selected artists were a very large number of past prizewinners and artists whose work has been accepted into CPSA on a regular basis (eg Linda Lucas Hardy - top winner in 2007, Linda Koffenberger - top winner in 2006, and former prizewinners Robert Guthrie, Melissa Miller Nece, Kay Moore Dewar to name but a few) .

Now in my view few artists ever expect to get into the CPSA Annual Exhibition every year (for example last year the work of Kay Schmidt the President wasn't selected) plus we can't of course know whether or not artists who have exhibited regularly in the past actually submitted work this year. But it is more than a little surprising that so many artists should fail to make the cut this year.

Or is it? I for one was certainly expecting a bit of a shake-up given:
  • the change in rules (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.) which eliminated the scope for certain practices which have apparently characterised some entries from some artists in the past . Many of you will recall I commented about this earlier this year in The rules for the 2008 exhibitions of coloured pencil art and CPSA and UKCPS: originality in concept, design and execution
  • the new submission arrangements - which eliminated slides in favour of entry via the uploading of a digital file (which will undoubtedly have favoured those who are a bit more IT savvy - or who have access to someone who is). One person I was conversing with this week said they'd love to see the age profile of juried entries to this exhibition compared to previous exhibitions.
  • and finally, the nature of the contemporary art included in the Seattle Gallery of the juror artist and curator Jeffrey Moose who is an artist and curator as well as a gallery owner.
However I certainly wasn't expecting the change to be the seismic shift that has apparently happened or for it to eliminate so many former prizewinners. So is this a good thing or not?

Well, if the quality of the juried artwork holds up against standards in the wider art world, then widening the pool of artists who are accepted into the exhibition can only be a good thing for the society in the longer term. For example, it's always good for a young artist to get an endorsement of their work. It's also a good thing, in my opinion, if it also prompts people to reflect on how well the nature of a lot of the art in previous CPSA exhibitions relates to contemporary art generally. Certainly it's the case that, in the past, the subject matter and treatment of work in CPSA exhibitions has had a particular emphasis on realism and is decidedly more traditional - some would say 'old fashioned' - compared, for example, to the work exhibited by many of the national art societies who hold their annual exhibitions in London. However, I've noted before that there is a very decided disparity between the art which seems to win prizes in the USA and that which wins prizes in the UK.
What I notice is that at both sets of exhibitions, the range of styles is not as wide as I see in other media at other exhibitions. If I wanted to be really controversial - why not! - I'd say most works in both exhibitions are realistic in style and competent but 'safe' in execution. They just don't demonstrate the breadth of artistic licence that I see elsewhere. I think that is a very great pity.
CPSA and UKCPS: originality in concept, design and execution
Put simply, in my opinion, work shown by national art societies should always reflect the very best in contemporary art (i.e. art of the present) - in concept, design and execution - as opposed to work which reflects how well work has been rated in the past.

I'm going to stick my neck out and predict that CPSA might give some thought to a change in the arrangements for jurying work for next year's exhibition.

CPSA now has an opportunity to eliminate the notion that what gets past the jury process is entirely due to one person's taste and preferences and has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the work. Having one judge was always understandable in a country as large as the USA when selection was by slides. However, now that CPSA has switched to digital images it could now have a jury of more than one person based in different locations (as UKCPS has) so long as those jurors all have access to a decent computer and monitor for viewing images from a CD. Speaking personally, my preference would be for a three person jury which included a leading artist within the CPSA community, one leading artist working in any media within the region and a leading gallery owner or curator from the region.

Many thanks to Jeff George CPSA - an artist who has been juried in this year and whose art has won a number of prizes at CPSA exhibitions - for allowing me to use his new piece Life and Death as the image for this week's 'who's made a mark this week'. This image is one of Jeff's two entries to CPSA but this is the one that was not accepted for the exhibition. Put your hot drink down before you you click on the image to see a larger version. If you look at it carefully you'll understand the title better - and why I suggested you put your drink down!

CPSA instructs the judge to select only one piece per artist in order to include as many different artists as possible - which is an admirable rule which could usefully be adopted by more societies. You can see Jeff's entry that was accepted into the exhibition on Jeff George's website here - Empty Nest (2007)

For all those artists who are now turning their thoughts to the 7th Annual Open International Exhibition 2008 of the United Kingdom Coloured Pencil Society, webmaster Bob Ebdon has done an update of the website and produced an exhibition FAQs page which has some helpful tips for artists submitting work from overseas.

all images copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Back to my usual round-up of things I spotted on the net this week - which is somewhat shorter than usual due to the fact that I was officially 'otherwise engaged' and was also out and about enjoying the wonderful weather and the flowers we've had in London this week (see above). I have to report that my writing project made some progress but the housework was a little bit less successful in competing for my attention. OK - I confess, I ignored it! But, in mitigation, I plead last summer's weather (downpour) and the need to see some sun this year! On my wanderings I got a great idea for a new series of drawings.....but you'll have to wait and see.....

Art Blogs
  • A little while ago Jeanette Jobson (Illustrated Life) drew Portrait of a Lady by Rogier van der Weyden, as an exercise in drawing. I was very struck by how Jeanette's features were similar to the lady in the portrait and encouraged Jeanette to to try the portrait again but this time as a self portrait. And she's done it - see Self portrait update! I have to say in my opinion Jeanette has done an absolutely splendid job and looks amazingly convincing as a lady from 500 years ago. Now we know the reason for all that sage comment from the lady who won my Make Me Think Gong in 2007 - she's been here before! I'm toying with the idea of creating a challenge for people to do something similar. How do you fancy creating a self-portrait within a drawing you do of a historical portrait? Let me know what you think - and if enough people are interested I'll set up a blog for it (I well remember what happened to Wally's site when he had his self-portrait challenge!).
  • When ever I pick up a link to my blog being referenced on another blog I visit it and then have a good scout around to look at other posts - and this helps to generate items for this review each week! One such post I found this week was on Liz Massey's Creative Liberty. I very much like how it starts one of her top posts (back in February) Building your grid: Engage in “deliberate practice”! I loved the quote about 'deliberate practice'.
One of the most basic building blocks for creative success in any discipline is practice. Musicians and athletes are explicitly encouraged to practice their craft regularly, while other creative domains occasionally step away from this encouragement to debate the efficacy of practice vs. inborn talent.
Liz Massey - Building your grid: Engage in “deliberate practice”
  • Liz also has a second post earlier this month about Building Your Grid: Commuter Creativity (Time)
  • Maggie Stiefvater is doing a number of interesting posts analysing the effectiveness of the composition and styles of different artists -check out Greywaren Art to find out more.
  • This news item intrigued me - apparently artists had an important role in the last world war. I'd love to know whether other countries employed artists in the same way
  • Richard McKinley (Pastel Pointers Blog) has a couple of useful posts:
    • the first An Artist's Signature is about to tackle producing an artists signature on a pastel work - and I now I've ummed and aaahed about that one in the past
    • plus some a helpful tip Seeing Red which is always worth reiterating every time I see it on a blog about how to see greyscales in the landscape.
Other interesting blog posts
  • When visiting your blogs, I also take a quick scan at your blogrolls and click on anything which looks interesting (another topic - how do you make a blog title look interesting?) and came across this post The Top 50 Productivity Blogs (most of which you haven’t heard about) on Zen Habits which looked like a good time-wasting way to avoid getting on with what I was supposed to be doing! Plus a nice alternative for all of you in need of a good read on Sunday or Monday morning!
  • Never one to be outdone by Kew Gardens, the Royal Horticultural Society have now introduced sculpture at Wisley - the RHS flagship garden in Surrey - as revealed by a recent item on the My Garden blog of Jim (wait for it!) Gardiner. This sculpture is of the 'green' variety!
Animal Art
  • Two very useful sites which will be well known to a lot of animal artists - but maybe not all.
    • This is the Pet Portrait Wildlife Art Forum owned by Melanie Phillips in mid Wales who is a professional pet portrait artist. She created it in January 2006 as a way of responding to the very many e-mails she used to get asking her questions. Since then it has taken off in a big way and now has some 450+ members!
    • The Animal Artists Protection League has been set up by the Forum and tries to monitor the web for unlawful use of its members images. Check out their great logo!
  • Also check out the big squirrel! drawn by artist and illustrator Tommy Kane (Tommy Kane). Plus he's got new coloured pencils and doesn't say anything about them!!!!
  • Mattias Adolffson (Mattias Inks) in Sweden draws absolutely beautiful innocent images which include both people and animals. You can see a wonderful example here in Twigs and More Twigs....and then there's his pigs in hats. Personally I love his Drawbacks of being a hotshot sketchbook artist!
Art business and marketing
Art supplies
  • Those who like their pens may enjoy these picture from the the Chicago Pen Show courtesy of Bluman otherwise known to a lot of us as Armand B Frasco (Moleskinerie).
  • Green and Stone in the Kings Road Chelsea now have sets of the new Caran d'Ache Luminance pencils in stock - but no Luminance pencils in open stock. Personally I don't buy a new brand until I can locate a source of open stock convenient for me - so sightings of Luminance in the UK would be very welcome comments.
  • Watch out this week for my blog post review of Green and Stone - complete with photos!
  • A Picture Perfect View Finder - as highlighted by Richard McKinley in his blog post (see above) is available in reputable independent stores in the USA or from Picture Perfect Products by mail order + cheque or money order in US funds. It provides:
    • 3 VIEW FINDERS with composition guides. Find the best composition, sketch with greater accuracy; know instantly what standard surface sizes are appropriate.
    • VALUE FILTERS neutralize color without obscuring details. Compare value range of colors, develop contrasts with ease.
    • 2 VALUE SCALES, one that is an integral part of the viewfinder unit, and a second separate scale for added flexibility in determining values.
Blogging and websites
  • Yikes! A huge change has been initiated by Blogger and I missed it last week. Blogger now schedules future-dated posts is a post in the The Latest from Blogger Buzz (on the Blogger dashboard) which explains how you can now schedule posts for automatic publication.
    • I start and/or draft lots of my posts in advance of publication and even have them 'scheduled' for their due date.
    • However I didn't have a major arrhythmia once I realised that there is now actually a third category of posts and the only way to get the blog post into it is to publish it with a future date - see below.
    • My draft posts will now stay in the Draft category just so long as I keep hitting 'save now'.
Have you ever wanted to announce something on a certain date but knew you wouldn’t be at a computer to make a post? Or you wanted to keep posting regularly but knew you’d be on vacation for a few weeks? Scheduled post publishing is here to help you out.

Scheduling a post is easy to do: on the post editor page, click the “Post Options” toggle to show the “Post date and time” fields. Then, type a post date and time that’s in the future. When you click the “Publish” button, your post will become “scheduled.” When the date and time of the post arrive, it will be automatically published to your blog.
you can't really distinguish between someone who arrives and leaves immediately vs someone who arrives, loves what they see, reads it in detail and intends to come back.
  • Anyway - although I don't rate this indicator as highly as others - I thought I'd mention that this blog this week achieved 250,000 visitors since January 2006! :D
and finally....

I think May might end up being a light weight month for blogging for me as I continue to get on with other projects. You can expect to see more book reviews and shorter posts for a little while - plus I'll be trying to finish off previous blog projects. I'm also trying to make sure I don't miss the good weather while we have it - and I've been out and about a lot this last week.

Then in June I'm starting The Colour Project! I'd love to know about any useful sites or links that I haven't yet found and listed in Colour - Resources for Artists.


  1. I've always said I was born 200 years too late. Perhaps that should have been 500 years too late! I'm quite enjoying drawing myself in this role - well perhaps the gauze head dress is a bit much :)

    Oh yes, please do run a historical portrait challenge. People would love it, I'm sure. And the first one should be yours, as you were the inspiration to do this for me.

  2. On the subject of large-scale WW II camouflage, try the Boeing Factory in Seattle. Picture Photo.
    Also Photo

    Jafabrit had a great link to an artist responsible for WW I camo trends.Abbot Thayer

  3. "Having one judge was always understandable in a country as large as the USA when selection was by slides". Maybe I misunderstood, but I'm quite shocked that one person only is responsible for selecting. Is that really the case? It would seem pointless to enter work if you knew that one person's taste didn't match your style.

  4. I also didn't know about the new future dating for Blogger so thanks for the heads up. That will be immensely useful for me! I prefer to time my blog entries and other online activity around US times so this means I no longer have to worry about early morning posts to my blog at least. :)

    And I'm going cycling on the Isle of Wight this Tuesday so I can preplan my blogs for 3 days. Fantastic!

  5. The Arts Education students at the University of Regina do a "historical portrait" assignment. Each student locates his/her art historical doppelganger in a painting and then recreate the scene with him/herself in place of the subject. Because of time constraints, s/he photographs the setup (rather than painting or drawing it). Each student displays the "original" work, recreation and plain photo of him/herself as a triptych. I've been trying to get my kids to do one with me as a summer project... but no luck. I'd love to do one with you all!!

  6. Jeanette - maybe the thing to do is run it over the summer as Tania suggest lower down

    Tania - I love your idea of it being displayed as a triptych!

    How about it people - any more takers?

  7. Casey - that second photo is really impressive - it took a while before I realised what I was supposed to 'not see' - and you can guess from this that I didn't!

  8. Felicity - I think quite a few people are surprised by this. All the major art societies in the UK seem to employ a panel to jury. However one has to say that if the jury is just made up of society people you can always get accusations of 'same old, same old' being the order of the day in terms of who gets chosen. At least with the CPSA model you are often guaranteed a surprise! ;) That's why I think a jury panel where a majority of people are wholly unconnected with the Society has the most merit.

  9. Tina - I'm looking forward to seeing lots of lovely evidence of your trip to the Isle of Wight when you get back - give my love to Seaview!

  10. Thank you for the nice mention. I'm sorry I didn't notice earlier! I continued the Commuter Creativity series later in May with a post on building a mobile workstation for creating on the go, and I plan to post a final thought in the series on one's "traveling companions" during the commute and how they relate to making art. :)


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