Friday, October 31, 2008

Urban Sketchers officially starts tomorrow

Urban Sketchers Blog

Urban Sketchers is a new team blog which officially 'opens for business' tomorrow. However it's actually been up and running since 7th October in order to introduce all the correspondents - of which I'm one. See Meet the correspondents: LONDON > Katherine Tyrrell (you even get to see a different photo of me!)
Urban Sketchers is a community of artists around the world who draw the people and places of the cities where they live and travel to.
Urban Sketchers (the blog) has grown out of the Flickr Urban Sketchers group which was started in November of 2007 by Seattle journalist and illustrator Gabi Campanario.

Below you can find the list of the 45 correspondents - and their blogs - located in towns and cities all over the world. The list is alphabetical by first name. Why don't you see if you recognise any names?

What I found particularly interesting, when I read through all the introductions, were the very many and varied reasons why people sketch - and how they go about it.

Reading through these introductions is a very fast introduction to why people sketch in cities!
Urban Sketchers looks like it's going to be a very active blog so why don't you subscribe by email or in your feedreader - or add it to the blogs that you follow.

This is what Gabi Campanario (Seattle Sketcher) has to say about why he sketches
This is a city of both tough fishermen and coffee snobs, Boeing machinists and Microsoft programmers. Its unique geographic setting with water and mountains east and west creates an interesting backdrop to the urban landscape. I try to capture all of that in my sketchbooks, drawing every day on the bus, during lunch breaks or on weekend outings to the beautiful places of the Pacific Northwest. Labeling things and writing observations around the drawings is the type of journalism that suits me."
Gabi Campanario
You too can join the Urban Sketchers Flickr group so long as you observe the guidelines for what can be posted.
This is a group for all sketchers out there who love to draw the cities they live in or visit, from the window of their homes, from a cafe, at a park, standing by a street corner... always on location, not from photos or memory.

Here are some guidelines:

1. You did the drawing on location, not from photos or memory. Adding color or a few details later is fine. On site doesn't necessarily mean outdoors, you can draw from a coffee shop, pub or grocery store or any other city building. Just make sure the subject is urban. Computer generated images are not acceptable.

2. The subject of the drawing has to be primarily urban. The word urban comes from the latin urbs, which means city. So drawings here must have city elements: streets, buildings, houses, traffic, city parks, shops, stores, churches... you get the idea.

3. Drawings of people are okay as long as they are in an urban setting: walking on a street, at a coffee shop, on the bus, subway or other way of public transportation.

4. You should state in what city you did the drawing. Even better, place the drawing on the map. That would be helpful for other sketchers who may want to draw from the same location when they're in your city.

Hope this helps, happy sketching!

gabi campanario
Seattle Sketcher
Urban Sketchers
My main link with Urban Sketchers is going to be through my blog posts on Travels with a Sketchbook in....... However I will also be highlighting posts on Urban Sketchers from time to time in 'who's made a mark this week'.

I'm now off to start my map of where I've done my sketches in the past and to explain in a post on TwaS why I'm in profile in the photo!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The little book of drawing

The Little Book of Drawing: A Friendly Approach by Mary McNaughton is not like any other book which aims to teach drawing in my collection. Its subtitle gives you a indication of why.

It's designed as an interactive drawing course for those wanting some direction for their drawing studies. It places an emphasis on exploration and you finding your own unique style of drawing rather than instructions to 'do it this way'.

The text is interesting - it's like reading the spoken word and indeed it's been intentionally written as if you were listening to her in a classroom. McNaughton has taught art at the University of Minnesota (U of M) for 15 years and also has conducted numerous workshops at other colleges and universities. She has studied, drawn, painted and exhibited her work for the past 25 years. McNaughton discovered her unique method of instruction while completing her master’s degree and doctorate in applied design at the U of M.

Unless indicated the quotations below are small extracts from the book to give you a sense of how she 'talks'.

The book is split into a number of sections:
  • starting materials
  • what is drawing?
  • blind contour drawing
  • adding value to contour
  • capturing texture
  • drawing ourselves
  • composing your drawings
  • using what you've learned
It's a book without colour, all the illustrations are in monochrome and there's no attempt to use up space showing you large pictures of art materials. Instead she provides a brief list of a range of useful materials for starting to draw. It's basic but pitches about right in my opinion for the new student. I liked the way she describes materials is a simple but helpful way
Hot press has a smooth surface. Cold press is textured. For this book start with hot press
I love the way that she responds to the question 'what is drawing?' by starting with the emotional response - something which so often gets neglected by so drawing instruction books. She emphasises the intensely private nature of the drawing experience because of its capacity to be revealing of the self.
We draw what we are and we are what we draw.
She starts by looking at why we draw, what we draw and the instinct for creativity. Most of all she's about finding yourself through your drawing.

I'm very much a fan of this sort of approach - one which aims for people's drawings to be unique. I absolutely HATE approaches which are all about 'draw like me'/'paint like me'. They seem to be rarely about the fulfilment of the individual as an individual and can very often seem to be for the greater glory of the tutor. (Lest there be any misunderstanding I hasten to add I have no quarrel at all with those who demonstrate basic principles or how their own particular approach to rendering while at the same time placing an emphasis on students finding their own personal style.)

Off that particular hobby horse and back to the book!

I also like the way she starts with blind contour drawing - again something which only ever seems to be tackled by the better quality drawing books.
I've discovered this method to be a great equalizer in classes. People who come to the class with previous training are soon humbled and those who come terrified of drawing loosen up and drop their guard
Her approach moves from blind contour to inner contour to actually discussing what contour is and then showing how line compares to contour - something a lot of people don't understand! She then how value can help describe form.

Interestingly her approach to composition goes back to looking at you can compose just using contour and create a story. Again - something I don't recall seeing tackled quite so early in any book about learning to draw. However it gets people thinking about they can use different elements of drawing in a creative way to compose pictures right from the beginning.

That really is the difference between this book and others. It taps into style, creativity and picture-making right from the beginning. Subjects which often don't get mentioned by many drawing books I pick up - and then put down again.
Dr. Mary McNaughton's unique, friendly approach will help you rediscover art and develop that creative voice within you.
  • Covers all the fundamental concepts and techniques--stuff like contour and gesture drawing, the importance of value, how to build strong compositions and finding good subjects.
  • Provides engaging exercises challenge you to take your art to the next level by drawing with your other hand, working in series, turning your name into art, and other friendly exercises.
  • Helps you apply what you've learned and explore your own unique style in a series of drawing projects that range from gardens and landscapes to animals and the human figure.
Product description
I'm not going to describe the whole book - I think I've already given you a taster of what you'll find. Plus you can see a preview of the first 32 pages on Google. My only caveat about the book is that I think it would have benefited from a much wider range of drawings to amplify her points. My fear would be that if you don't like her style you might stop reading the words!

Take it from me that if you like very conventional instruction books and/or rendering detail for its own sake then you might not like this one.

On the other hand if you like a challenge, are open to different methods of instruction, are interested in exploring drawing and developing your own style and/or finding out how to combine skills in drawing with approaches to developing style and picture-making you will find it interesting.

Plus if you want to find out who you are through your drawing then this is a jolly good place to start.

This book was published last year North Light and my copy cost me £14.99 although its back cover indicates it's available for $19.99 in the USA and Amazon (and others) will have it for rather less than that.

Look out for a square yellow book.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The top 10 items for the sidebar of an artist's blog

I was talking to somebody yesterday about the sidebar on their blog and realised that I'd never done a blog post about the sidebar. The sidebar (side column) of your blog is "prime real estate" for:
  • promoting your blog and attracting subscribers
  • providing information about yourself and other websites you may have - including links to where people can buy your art
  • highlighting other blogs that you rate and want to share
  • and, for some people, including adverts or widgets which monetise your blogs.
Given that my blog has now crossed the threshold of 1,000 subscribers for the second time in a week (I didn't really believe it the first time it happened - when I added 100 subscribers in one day last Monday!) I'm going to take this opportunity to outline how I operate my side column

Chelsea Green Tomatoes
10" x 8", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The top 10 items for the sidebar of an artist's blog

In my view these are the essential items in the sidebar of an artist's blog
  1. About the blog: If you don't have a snippet as a strapline to the title (like this blog) then you need a snippet of text to say what the blog is about. This is your 'elevator pitch'.
  2. Profile/About Me: I don't mind if there's no text in the sidebar so long as there's a link to somewhere which tells me who's writing this blog. I'll then take it more seriously. A photo is a welcome addition, but I well understand those people who don't feel they photograph well!
  3. Portfolio: tell me where I can see more of your art
  4. Sales: tell where I can buy your art (if relevant)
  5. RSS feed: Include an RSS feed link if you want subscriber numbers to grow
  6. Email subscription option: enable people to subscribe via email and you'll get many more readers.
  7. Recent posts: If you want people to link to your posts then make it easy for them to copy and paste the blog title. It also tells people at a glance what the blog is about.
  8. Categories / Labels: These tell me what your blog is really about!
  9. Archives: If you don't have an archive then your content dies as soon as it leaves the front page of your blog. It also tells me how long you've been blogging and (if displayed) the number of posts tell me whether or not you are a serious blogger.
  10. Copyright Notice: essential if you are displaying your artwork on your blog. It needs to be prominent. Remember people viewing your blog can live anywhere in the world and won't necessarily know about the copyright regime which operates in your country.
What follows is a discussion of issues relating to the content and organisation of the sidebar.

Promote your blog on your blog

I noticed that when visiting blogs I always tended to pay more attention to blogs which had a lot of subscribers - so decided to use my own blog data to promote my blog as soon as it became respectable.

I moved all the key benchmarks to the top of the side column because it's the best way I know of showing that people appreciate the content of this blog. My subscriber numbers fluctuate up and down all the time but the total has been climbing steadily over time because I'm happy to say most people rate the content after they've tried subscribing for a while.

I also had a big jump in subscribers when I made the subscriber links and widgets really easy to find. To start with they were half way down the side column. It was a bit like having a business card which never got handed out. Once I moved the subscription links to near the top (just under the information about visitors/subscribers) my subscriptions started to take off in a major way.

If you leave out an RSS link it won't stop those in the know from subscribing. In most feedreaders you only need to add the URL to 'add blog' section of a feedreader and it will find the RSS feed. But not everybody uses feedreaders and knows this.

I always provide a link to both subscribing via email and a separate link for subscribing in a feed reader. Just because you always read in a feedreader doesn't mean everybody does. I have a huge number of people who get this blog every day via email.

Finally, you may be surprised by how many people have forgotten to include any feed or subscription link at all. One of my blogging chums was musing on the lack of readers on her blogs. Was it the art? Was it what she wrote about? I pointed out it might possibly be something to do with the fact that there was no subscription link in the side bar. One was promptly included and subscriber numbers started to take off!

I also promote links to my other blog in the sidebar and even provide an RSS feed which provides the headlines to the last 5 blog posts.
My recommendations:
  • show people if your blog is popular
  • highlight an RSS feed and email subscription link and make them easily accessible
  • promote your other blogs in the sidebar too
Provide your contact information

If you want to have a dialogue or you want to sell art then you need to make yourself accessible and MUST tell people how they can contact you.

My link is to the page on my website which provides an image of my email address. I'm wary of including live links to email addresses because of the ways in which these tend to be harvested by people who sell them to spammers. If I were to put a live email address on this blog I'd make sure it was on which was solely related to receiving emails from people reading this blog. That way I can kill it or change it without risking my main email addresses.
My recommendations:
  • show people how to contact you.
  • think about which email address you use if providing a live link on the blog
Promote your art

Most people remember to include a link to their website and/or galleries where art can be purchased - but again the link is not always there or is just not that obvious. I'm not any sort of expert at selling art from my blog but I do look at what other people do.

Here's what I think when people show me links to their art.
  • Links to a portfolio website tells me you're serious about your art
  • Links to galleries tell me this is an artist who is selling in galleries
  • Links to online e-commerce sites are essential for people who selling their art online - but make sure people can find them easily. Ask yourself whether they need a signpost or a widget.
  • Links to Flickr and other such sites suggest to me this is somebody who is doing art for pleasure (except when seen alongside the above)
I'd be interested to hear if people have different interpretations.

I have a major problem with my sidebar which is that I have a very large number of other sites relating to my interest in sharing information about art as well as producing it. I'm not at all happy that I've got that aspect right as yet - and it's a problem which must be addressed as the list grows ever longer (75+ and counting)!!! My feeling is that a major tidy-up needs to be scheduled!
My recommendations:
  • include all relevant links to places where I can find your art
  • highlight the key locations where your art can be found/purchased
  • keep other information about you and your sites under control
The Blogroll

When I began blogging I used to learn huge amounts about art, blogging and other useful sites from blogs I found in people's blogrolls. I still investigate blogs I've never heard of before when reviewing a blog roll.

My own perspective is that I really appreciate people who split up their blogroll into meaningful sections. I've found over time that some blog names can be really 'clever' and very opaque as to their content at one and the same time!

I haven't had a major edit of my blogroll for bit. Plus the advent of the Blog Followers widget on Blogger has made me think about whether I need a new way of differentiating between:
  • blogs I follow
  • blogs I read on a regular basis
  • blogs I recommend
I'm now moving towards thinking along the lines of showing people what I follow through the followers widget and then including what I read/recommend to others in more tightly defined sections within the sidebar.

The main problem is that I still haven't transferred a lot of the the blogs I follow into the followers function - but I''ll get there!

rcial aspects

This blog is not monetized. I could monetize it through the use of advertising and have thought about this but I'm the sort of person who turns off the sound during the ad breaks on the television. Plus I'm also venting from time to time at the moment about the dreadful Glam-Ads on Squidoo (the issue being essentially about the non-relevance of content which also does not equate to the rating of my sites).

I can and could cope with restrained adverts in moderation if highly targeted and extremely restrained in presentation but I haven't felt the need so far to investigate whether that's possible.

I have to tell you I HATE the 'active' adverts now seen on blogs. They are massively distracting and tend to persuade me to leave a blog as soon as possible. I also really don't like a jumble of adverts of different hues/fonts/designs down the side bar. They offend my eye from an aesthetic perspective and really distract from any art being shown. Thankfully I generally see these only on professional techie type blogs written by people earning an income from blogging.

Having said that there is a good case for using widgets of relevance to you to break up the long lists found in sidebars. These need not involve any monetisation of your blog.
My recommendations:
  • think about the value of adverts relative to their impact on the display of your art
  • think about presentation and placement and the capacity to distract the eye/drive people from your site
  • break up long lists with pictures/widgets
and finally......

I try to tailor my sidebar to the length of your blog in terms of the number of posts that can be seen. I just don't see the point of a very long sidebar if there is no content to the left (or right) of it........However, I cut the blog posts from seven to five just recently as the blog was taking a long time to load and this blog now has that problem too! The main reason being that I've taken to parking my past surveys at the bottom of the sidebar - which maybe needs a rethink.
Memo to self: Time for an edit and an overhaul of the sidebar!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Artists, Art Societies, Art Groups and Ning

Take a look at Ning if you've ever wanted to set up a public or private art group, run or help with a national or local art society, are interested in new ways to market your art and/or have been running a group and using either Google groups or Yahoo groups.

Chelsea Green Tomatoes - a work in progress
10" x 8" coloured pencil on Arches

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've always disliked intensely the functionality issues associated with trying to follow any sort of conversation in Google or Yahoo Groups.

The endless repetition of what has gone before and problems in trying to work out the sequence of a conversation gives me the screaming ab dabs.

What this means is that I don't participate in such groups as much as I might like to as I find I waste so much time trying to work out who said what to who in what order. I'm sure I'm not the only person who feels the same way! The other major disadvantage to me is that images are never ever present in the conversations - and I have to click a link or go and find them!

At present I'm involved in helping Vivien and Lindsay set up a small group of artists for a specific purpose (you can tell we haven't gone public can't you!). Yesterday we decided to try and use Ning to provide a way of communicating as a group in private and, as I'm the techie, set-up has been down to me.

So this post is a way of
  • recording what I've learned so far about Ning
  • enables me to pass that information on to fellow members of the new group
  • and, of course, also allows me to share it with the rest of my blog readers.
What is Ning?

I first had contact with Ning with Keiser Collectors - which is an invitation only group with a public home page. I'd heard about it before but hasn't investigated it too much. Being invited to be a member meant that I got to see how a new social network worked at first hand.

Essentially Ning is webware which allows you to create a social network for pretty much any sort of purpose which wouldn't raise an eyebrow. It allows you:
  • to connect with 'fans' or, as in Duane's case - art collectors
  • create a community of actual and potential customers
  • Raise awareness about a particular issue or event -such as an art fair
  • create a website for a specific event - such as an exhibition
  • create a group relating to a specific interest or activity - such as animal artists
  • connect with other artists in a specific locality
  • connect with other artists in an art society
  • share artwork and insights as a 'buddy group'
So basically lots of different ways in which the webware can be used - either by you as an individual in marketing your art or you as a member of a group that needs a networking facility.

What does Ning include?

Ning can include quite a lot of different features - but probably best to start fairly simple.
  • Network information - provides a profile and image for the network in the Ning directory
  • Keywords - allows you to specify so your network can be found in the directory and (presumably) on Google
  • a favicon - I've always wanted one of these! That's the teeny tiny image which identified a site to the left of its URL in a browser
  • you can decide how many of the features will be incorporated into your network. Features include:
    • members - this looks very like the followers widget in Blogger
    • communication - forum, groups, chat (any or all)
    • images - photos and videos (any or all).
    • rss feeds - as many as you like
    • badges and widgets - you choose
So what are the details of what's possible? Here's a brief summary!

Presentation and navigation
  • you can determine the appearance of your network up to a point. There are a number of preformatted templates to choose from plus you can also choose the colours for different parts of the template and the fonts to be used for headings and text.
  • you can manage the tabs for navigating the site - and demote some to sub-menus
  • you can choose the active language and customize the text on your network, including tab names, e-mail footers, error messages and more.
  • you have the option of adding javascript or HTML code to your network - for example so that it includes code for Google analytics.
  • the creator has control over membership and Administrators and can promote and demote Adminstrators and ban members from the network if required.
  • Network creators have a special community to help them get the best out of ning at the network for Ning Network Creators. There's also a community for developers who are developing open social network applications for the 535,000+ networks already on ning.
  • you can have a streaming record of activity on the main page if you want. You decide whether or not this includes new content, new comments, new friendships, new members, member updates and details of application activity
  • Each member has a fully customizable profile with their photo, basic information and everything they’ve contributed to the network
  • you can add text eg to create an area for a weekly column,
  • you can choose whether or not you broadcast a message to all members of the network
  • you have the option of an event listing in which you can schedule events, invite network members, and keep track of who’s attending. I'd anticipate that would be a great feature for an art society with regular events.
  • The network can have a forum - which can have categories (as many as you like) which then have discussions (called threads elsewhere) - and you can customise how these are displayed. The major advantage compared to Google/Yahoo groups is that you can upload an image into a discussion response. Overall, it's very like a conventional forum set-up and you can also usetags for discussions and responses.
  • It's possible to create groups for specific interests, affinities and/or geographical locations or whatever you fancy. Which would work very well for a national art society with geographical branches.
  • there's also a chat facility
  • Images: You can post photos and organize them into albums or display them in galleries or slideshows.
  • Videos: You can upload original footage or share videos from popular video services like YouTube, Google Video and Vimeo.
  • you can insert widgets from other websites and use them to direct people to other sites or for special promotions or community announcements.
Premium services

The most important aspect of ning is that it is completely FREE!

However you can have added extras (called the premium service) for a fee. In general, prices vary and vanity costs! For example you can:
  • Remove Ning Promotion Links for $7.95 per month - if you don't want people to know you use webware! ;) I think this is expensive and personally I wouldn't bother but if you want to customise your 'brand' the option exists!
  • Control the Ads for $19.95 per month (Ning runs ads on your social network but these can be removed or changed (I think) to ads of your choice). Personally my view is that if this is private site you can live with/ignore the ads . It's different if you want to go public. However if you create a temporary site for an event then (I think) you need not be tied into long run costs. You can always delete your site after it has served its purpose.
  • Use Your Own Domain Name for $4.95 per month per domain. That's quite expensive in my view considering Blogger lets you do that for free.
  • Get More Storage and Bandwidth for $9.95 per month per unit. The default (free option) comes with a quota of 10GB of storage and 100GB of bandwidth which equates to approximately 5,000 photos or 500 videos. You can also get additional units of 10GB storage (10GB) and bandwidth (100GB) for $9.95 per month, per unit. Most people are never going to need this with a small group - but it would be very different matter for a fully fledged forum. Bear in mind that the big ones operate in terabytes of data. You'd probably also need to spend the money to get control over the adverts and try and raise some income that way. (Show me a forum which doesn't have adverts!) My only concern at the moment is that I can't quite see how you know if you're running out of storage or bandwidth. I do know what some of my current activities run out at and I think with a bit of judicious deletion from time to time this is the sort of service which could operate very effectively without needing to pay a premium.
Public or private?

It's very much up to you. The options are as follows
  • Public: This network is visible to everyone. Anyone can sign up to become a member. Visitors can......
    • See everything
    • See just the main page
  • Private: This network is visible to members only. Who can sign up to become a member?
    • Anyone
    • Only Invited People
Duane has Keiser Collectors set up as a public network with the home page visible to all - but you have to be a member to see beyond this. I've got the new network set up as a private network which means you cann't access it without logging in via your ning user ID and password.
When you create a private network, only members can view pages on your network. You can choose to allow anyone to join your private network, or you can choose to allow only invited people to join.
Ning - What is a private network?
I hasten to add that I've not covered everything Ning offers above. However I have been very pleasantly surprised as I've been progressing the set-up. Except for the bit where trying to upload a photo freezes Firefox. But I've had the same problem at times with Flickr and there will be a solution!

You can
  • find out more at product overview
  • see what's possible on the Ning Blog which features different networks set up using Ning.
  • see what the press (eg Forbes and USA Today) have to say about it here.
My initial view is that those running smallish art groups should certainly take a close look at Ning. Those running larger groups might want to try and size the level of their activity first and think about the financial implications. Anybody who can operate Blogger could operate Ning - but it takes a bit longer to learn how it's all put together. I certainly benefited from having been a member of a ning community first.

I'll be reporting back on how our new network 'works' as we start to test it and stretch it. I know both Vivien and Lindsay have been very excited about it and it'll be interesting to hear the views of the rest of the group once we've finished the set-up.

So - what do you think? Interested? Can you see some possibilities for your own activities or of groups you currently belong to?

(Note: The coloured pencil drawing is a work in progress - the tomatoes need to be greener!)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bankside Gallery - Watercolour and Wood Engravers

Royal Watercolour Society Autumn Exhibition 2008

This post is about two recent exhibitions at the Bankside Gallery:
  • The Royal Watercolour Society Autumn Exhibition - finishes 8th December
  • The Society of Wood Engraving - 71st Annual Exhibition - on tour
The Royal Watercolour Society Autumn Exhibition

The RWS founded in 1804, is the oldest and most prestigious watercolour society in the world. Its aim is to bring together artists working with water-based paints and to promote the language of watercolour painting to an ever widening public. One of the ways it does this is through two exhibitions in the Spring and Autumn each which display work by members and associates of the Society. All works are for sale.

You can see works in The RWS Autumn Exhibition:
  • a sample on the RWS website on their current exhibitions page. All works are for sale (and you can see which ones have sold). If interested contact Bankside Gallery on 020 7928 7521.
  • until 8th November 2008: at the Bankside Gallery at the home of the RWS - the Bankside Gallery, 48 Hopton Street, London SE1 9JH. (020 7928 7521).
  • between 15th November - 21st December 2008: at The Lund Gallery, Alne Road, near Easingwold, North Yorkshire, YO61 3PA. This is the first time that the society has exhibited in the north of England. Easingwold is 20 minutes north of York.
The virtual exhibition on the RWS website is, in my opinion, a very sensible move. Although it doesn't list every image and they are unpriced, the thumbnail images give a sufficiently good impression that anybody who might be seriously interested in a purchase could approach the gallery to find out more. I'm not at all clear why they've chosen not to list the sale price on the website - it's on a printed list in the gallery. If the virtual site is to lead to sales it really also needs to have the same information. Dimensions and media used would also be advantageous - but that would probably require a pop up image.

I commend the members galleries to people who'd like to see the diversitty and quality of painting by society members. Click the name to see more images.

As always I found much to interest in the work of Annie Williams (who has numerous fans - the website indicates that this exhibition has produced sales for all the work on the website), Paul Newland and Pichard Pikesley. In every exhibition I try to work out why different pictures appeal. In technical terms, I guess it's something to do with the complexity of the mark-making and patterning which includes glazes. The paintings all work at different levels and those that keep drawing me in to look more and more are those I tend to find hold most appeal.

Sophie Knight attracted my attention at this exhibition - and you can see more of her work on her website. I guess part of the attraction was explained for me when I read her statement about how she works - it speaks of an experience I very much connect with.

Two works by Sophie Knight RWS
I mainly work in situ, directly from the landscape/cityscape. I also produce larger scale works, in a more reflective manner, in my studio in London.

I work very physically, often in awkward locations such as perched on the edge of a waterfall or surrounded by commuters at a station. This experience and the struggle to record the ever-changing light, colour and weather of my subject all becomes an integral part of its final appearance.

Working quickly, I drenched the paper with water and pigment keeping the composition constantly on the move, pushing the paint around until I am happy with the final image. I aim to retain those first moments of visual excitement I feel when truly looking.
Sophie Knight - extract from Statement
The Society of Wood Engravers - 71st Annual Exhibition

71st Annual Exhibition - A wall in the Bankside Gallery

Earlier this month the Bankside Gallery was one of the galleries hosting the 71st Annual Exhibition by The Society of Wood Engravers in 2008/9.
The Society was founded in 1920 by a group of artists that included Philip Hagreen, Robert Gibbings, Lucien Pissaro, Gwen Raverat and Eric Gill.......the SWE was revived in the early 1980's and has built up an international reputation for excellence. The two main, regular activities of the Society are its annual touring exhibition and newsletter.
I thought it particularly admirable that the exhibition is giving a platform for people completing engraving courses at the different colleges around the country. This is a Society which is obviously looking to make sure that its art form endures and prospers.
This exhibition features over 100 engravings and other relief prints selected from Britain and around the world. The Society of Wood Engraver's annual exhibition is recognised as the premier showcase for the engraver's art. This year's special feature display will focus on the teaching of engraving an the courses that are available across the country.
A wall of work by students on engraving courses

The Society takes the view that it gets maximum exposure for both artists and to potential purchasers by hosting the exhibition in different places around the UK. In 2008/9 you can see the exhibition at:

I find these sort of prints to be absolutely fascinating and I'd love to be able to create a wood engraving. I think anybody who really enjoys the creativity which can be employed through the use of line and mark making would find wood engraving a logical next step after drawing. I'm really sad that an hand injury means that I can't take the pressure or vibration through my hand without setting up further problems.

I did buy a print though - from this chap - Simon Brett! I'm now giving some serious thought to commissioning a book plate from him.

Art Education

I had been hoping to return to the Gallery yesterday for their Art Event day yesterday and you were supposed to see photos today of activities by the various artists involved. However a combination of a bad cold and dreadful weather put a lid on that idea. Instead you can see a photo of the Beginners Watercolour Course taught by Charles Williams ARWS which was taking place in the gallery when I visited the exhibition the previous weekend.

Bankside Gallery: It's well worthwhile keeping an eye on the Education page of the Bankside Gallery website (accessed via the completely opaque menu which pops up if you hover the cursor over the Bankside gallery name bottom left hand corner). For example, the next two events are:
  • Beyond Beginners Watercolour Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 November - 11:30am - 4:30pmTutor: Charles Williams ARWS £70 / £50 for Friends
  • Exhibition Tour Monday 3 November - 6pm for 6:30pm David Paskett VPRWS will be giving a free tour of the RWS Autumn exhibition. Meet in the Gallery at 11:30am.
Wood engraving: You can find out more about wood engraving on the Society's website - What is Wood Engraving? Click here to view a comprehensive list of 2008 UK wood engraving workshops. For information on courses and workshops, contact Kate Dicker: Telephone 01962 869617.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

26th October 2008 - Who's made a mark this week?

Paint for the Planet
1st prize global winner (2007) Charlotte Sullivan
age 13 from England

This week I'm starting with a focus on children and an exhibition of really great children's art with a very powerful message. It's a privilege to be able to view this art - children see so very clearly and are so very creative!

The International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment is organized annually by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Japan-based Foundation for Global Peace and Environment (FGPE), Bayer and Nikon Corporation. It's been held every year since 1991 and in that time has received over 190,000 entries from children in over 100 countries.

The image at the top is the painting which won global first prize last year by Charlotte Sullivan from England who was then aged 12, the image below is this year's global first prizewinner - Gloria IP Tung, 14 years old China.

Paint for the Planet is both an exhibit and an auction of children's art to launch the global United Nations campaign "UNite to Combat Climate Change". 25 original winning artworks from across the years have been selected from a total of over 190,000 entries from over 100 countries for this exhibition .

Yesterday, a selection of paintings were auctioned at the Harvard Club of New York City to raise emergency funds for UNICEF for children affected by climate-related disasters. The exhibit will also travel to various climate-related events around the world including the climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009.

I found this exhibition via this Guardian slideshow of nine of the paintings - Child's eye: Paintings offer unique perspective on climate change. You can also click here to view the children's videos about climate change. Plus there is a video of all the paintings in this very impressive exhibition - in Paint for the Planet auctioned paintings.

If you have or know children or grandchildren aged 5 to 13 you can read more about the 18th International Children's Painting Competition on the Environment on the website (click link) or in Scholastic News (see below). The closing date for entries is 15 January 2009.
There is still time for children to get involved in the 2009 competition. The theme of this year’s competition is ‘Climate Change. Our Challenge’. Children, aged between five and 13, from all around the world, are being invited to submit a painting that focuses on things that we can do to combat climate change, such as using renewable energy, energy saving light bulbs, car sharing and using public transport, planting trees, and so on.
Scholastic News
Paint for the Planet
1st prize global winner (2008) Gloria IP Tung, 14 years old China

Staying with the theme of children, Congratulations to...........
  • to Duane and Mrs Duane (A Painting a Day) on the arrival of the very beautiful Julianna Keiser - see My Masterpiece - who was born on Monday I'm now expecting baby items to creep into the still life paintings!
  • Laura (Laurelines) on becoming a grandmother for the first time. Laura drew inbetween supporting her daughter in the delivery suite and has produced some really gorgeous drawings of young master Jonas who arrived on Thursday, October 16th.
Art blogs
Art Business and Marketing

Recent posts have focused on the the Art Economy and its implications for artists - including who really buys art. First, continuing from last week, the news from the auction houses doesn't get any better...........
between midway through 1991 and midway through 2008, contemporary artwork rose in value at a rate of 132 percent, or five times the appreciation of Old Masters, 19th-century, and modern and postwar pieces.
In fact, it is the people who treasure art and the friendships that form with an artist which motivates them to save their pennies and invest in their favorite artist. It is not the high toned elite or the self made millionaires who are helping artists to survive, but rather the middle class who really cares about beauty and original art, though they can't really afford it.
Linda Blondheim
Art Calendar has
  • an article by Bob Bissett on How to Self-Publish a Book of Your Art At Lulu
  • a list of 42 publishers accepting ongoing artist submissions in Get Your Art Published which accompanies an article on what publishers are looking for and how to apply in "Working with Publishers: How to earn royalties from your prints and reproductions," in the November issue of Art Calendar
  • a digital subscription offer - great option for those don't want to cut down trees or people like me who don't live in the USA. But is Art Calendar relevant for people living outside the USA?
Art competitions
  • People who are interested in learning more about portraiture should take a look at my post about The Bulldog Bursary - an apprenticeship in portraiture
  • There's just over 5 days left until the deadline for entries to the 2008 Pet Portrait & Wildlife Art Competition run by Melanie Phillips. I like the countdown clock!
  • Art Calendar also has a magazine cover contest with no entry fee (now there's a novelty!). In the past art magazines would produce a cover from artwork from an artist featured in the magazine. It cost nothing and was a fair exchange. Now when I look at some of the entry fees asked by certain magazines for cover art competitions I begin to wonder whether this is really an exercise in income generation. I'm therefore delighted to see a magazine which has cut out the entry fee. The closing date for submitting an entry is 23:59 on October 31, 2008, Eastern Time (USA). Note the format requirements.
Art - Copyright
  • Alyson B Stansfield (ArtBiz Blog) had a newsletter item titled Play nice (artist ethics) and a follow-up on her blog relating to the question of use of other people's photographs Ethics and using other people’s photographs.
  • Update on the AWS gold medal/copyright controversy: the very long threads on both Wet Canvas and Shutterstock have been removed from the public domain following a request from the artist's attorney. There's no indication yet as to when this matter will be resolved.
Art Exhibitions
Art History - Artists and artworks
Since the list was compiled, I've lost count of the works I can't believe I didn't include. But you are bound to have enthusiasms for art and artists that never came near our considerations. Perhaps entire cultures and traditions have been left out. I don't want to sound too apologetic here. I think the Guardian's 1000 artworks to see before you die amounts to a newspaper doing its own world art encyclopedia, and I really believe we have made a good job of it.
Jonathan Jones - 1000 greatest artworks: Do you agree with our choice?
  • You can also see an online exhibition The Best of the MFAH: An Online Exhibition on the website of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. This was stimulated by the book 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die, a guide to the best art around the world.
Art Information
Art News

The artist plans to create a gigantic face of Obama sculpted from gravel and sand, which will cover nearly 2.5 acres (1 hectare) of Barcelona beachfront before the U.S. elections. "The size of the piece is intrinsic to its value," the artist, Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, said Saturday. He hopes it will be big enough to be seen on Google Earth.
CNN World News

Art Project - Creating a Series

Stacks of wheat (end of summer) - after Monet / Stacks View (after Monet)
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

There's just under a week left to vote on my poll What's your MAIN reason for working in a series? (see right). I did two posts this week for my Making A Mark project on understanding series paintings better before the brain cells were struck down by a nasty head cold.
Art supplies
I saw today where you mentioned art supplies getting cheaper and I wanted to tell you that here in the states some of the big suppliers are cutting their shipping costs. Right now Art Supply Warehouse ( and Dick Blick ( have both lowered shipping to $5.95 no matter what size order. Also, they both have other deals now. ASW has 10% off every order, and Blick has $5 to $20 off each order, depending on size. Jerry's Artarama ( has 20% off all orders now, and I have an email saying they are going to do something about the shipping soon. So all of that makes a big difference!
Deborah Ross
Illustration - Practice Notes
Websites and blogging
  • According to Wired the era of the blog is over - Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004! I do agree with Paul Boutin about one aspect. I know the blogs I enjoy reading tend to be the ones written by those people who - like me - write all their own words for no pay!
Writing a weblog today isn't the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge............Scroll down Technorati's list of the top 100 blogs and you'll find personal sites have been shoved aside by professional ones.
Paul Boutin - Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004.
and finally...........

I added this video about Rembrandt Self-Portraits to my information site Rembrandt - Resources for Art Lovers. It's absolutely fascinating watching him age and his style develop at the same time.

PS This weekly post has got far too long again!