Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Vote for the best portrait by a female artist in 2008

The Making A Mark Award for Best Portrait by a Female Artist aims to celebrate and highlight excellence in portraiture and, in particular, to highlight the skills of female portrait artists whose work can be found on a blog in 2008.

This is my own small contribution to increasing the the profile of the female portrait artist on the internet for reasons explained in the original call for entries post.

This award also connects this year with next year - when I intend to focus on female artists a bit more. It also relates to the fact that female artists don't often win prizes for portraiture although Jennifer McRea proved me wrong on that score this year for example by winning the RWS/Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.

I've been impressed by the nominations received. In inviting nominations I asked you to place emphasis on the excellence of the portraiture. Consequently the portrait could be of any living being - it could be be a self-portrait or a portrait of a group or a single man, woman, child or animal or bird. I also suggested people could nominate their own work in much the same way as you do when entering a conventional art competition.

I've tried to explain why I selected each work. Here are my thoughts on Selection, jurying and must-see lists and Juried art competitions - does size matter? Bear in mind narrowing it down to five is very difficult! You can see all the artwork nominated for best portrait of the year in this post Making A Mark Awards: Nominations for the best portrait by a female artist.

Vote for the best portrait by a female artist on a blog 2008

What you have to do now is decide which one you like the best (see images below) and then vote for it
- once only please! ;)
  • The deadline for voting is a minute past midnight (Greenwich Mean Time) on Tuesday 30th December 2008.
  • I will then announce the winner in the second part of the Making A Mark Awards in a post later on the 30th December.
I suggest you click on the images before voting so you can see all the work properly. When you've voted you can then view the results by clicking on the 'view result' link in the bottom left hand corner (just above the polldaddy link).

Shortlist of best portraits by a female artist on a blog in 2008

Two Ladies Outside
(22" x 30") - in Score (which includes close-ups)
copyright the artist - Tracy Helgeson (Works by Tracy Helgeson)
I've only recently started following Tracy's landscape and she says she's returned to figures and portraits - and wow what a return! I find them very evocative and intimate. This piece in particular has a sense of real people, and a friendship conveyed in a warm loose way but probably more precisely about the pair than a realism style would be
nominated by Tina Mammoser (The Cycling Artist)
This one made the shortlist because I responded strongly to this painting the very first time I saw it on Tracy's blog. You can't beat a strong connection at first sight! I also very much endorse Tina's comments. Tracy's new paintings of people are also the result of a lot of thought and experiment. This is also an excellent example of how you can start from a photograph and yet not produce something which is photo-realistic.

Walk Through
12 x 12", oil on masonite SOLD
copyright the artist - Karin Jurick (A Painting Today)
I love her enigmatic series of people looking at paintings but this one bursts with colour and a great contrast between the static watchers and the walkers.
nominated by Nick (100 onions)
Strictly speaking, this is a figurative painting rather than a portrait per se - however it's too good to leave out of the shortlist! What I love about Karen's painterly realism style of painting is that she always produces excellent compositions in terms of where she crops. Plus her painting of clothing is brilliant. She simplifies right down and yet still manages to convey every crumple and more importantly anatomical correctness about how people stand inside their clothing. This particular painting is a convincing demonstration of how much you can tell about the personality of people just from their backs!

Karin is also Mistress of the Group Portrait - it's no easy getting a number of people to fit together in a painting! I've always felt convinced that Karin probably mixes and matches her visitors and her gallery paintings - but I could be wrong. For me, she again demonstrates what can be done when using photographs - through making choices about what to include, what to leave out, how to revise values and colour - and most of all by NOT copying exactly what is there.

Cool Off
(10" x 10", oil)
copyright the artist - Sharon Wright (Sharon Wright Artist)
I chose this piece because of the immediacy and downright human spirit it portrays as well as the crisp handling of light and the freshness of color.
nominated by Dianne Mize (Compose)
I loved Sharon's explanation of this painting. I didn't really need it - the painting says it all!
My better half, Roy, rarely ventures into the sea. He doesn't like cold water. So I had to make a record of this, his initial reaction, as he took the plunge. He was pleasantly surprised to find that the water was quite warm!
This is a very simple but very effective composition. It demonstrates neatly how a portrait does not require a person to look straight out of the canvas. I also like how Sharon has paid attention to detail in the places which matter (such as Roy's profile) and the feet in the sea while elsewhere surfaces and background are treated very loosely but with conviction.

copyright the artist - Felicity Grace
(Felicity's Philosophies & Other Curiosities January 29th, 2008)
OK, I'll be brave too and nominate myself as this is a category we girls should support! Paul is my brother and I was especially taken with his pose and the way his hair outlined his back. He's a very laid back guy and I felt it came across here. It was my first large portrait using colour and colour pencil
Self-nomination (als0 nominated by Robyn Sinclair (Have Dogs Will Travel) for best artwork on a blog in 2008)
This is another portrait which got my attention when it was originally posted because of the composition and the choices made by the artist about how she wanted to portray her brother. It's very simple, there is no background. All the work focuses on the stance, the face and that hair! It speaks volumes about the character and personality of Paul.

by Nicole Caulfield (Nicole Caulfield Art Journal)
Best portrait by female artist in 2008 has to be Nicole Caulfield's portrait "Zen"
nominated by Sheona Hamilton Grant (Black on Grey on White)
Nicole is currently developing a portfolio of portraits and marketing material as part of her new career direction as a portrait artist. Her daughters have been helping out with the modelling and this is a portrait of Katie her eldest daughter who I've met. That's how I know this is a really excellent likeness! Click the image to look more closely at the modelling of her features.

However my main reason for choosing this portrait is because Nicole has demonstrated that the conventional pose - looking out at the viewer - does not have to be done in a conventional way when producing a portrait. This is very much a designed piece and it's very memorable. She's also taken a very difficult dark and low key colour palette and mixed it with very young skin tones without Katie ending up looking like she was a ghoul! I also think this sort of portrait compares very favourably with the sort of portrait realism I see in exhibitions in London.

A final note......

It struck me when I finished how three of the artworks are of close family and how the other two are of strangers who aren't known to the artists. None were done from life but all are different in terms of the way each of the artists has worked with their reference photographs. I make no apologies for the fact that two are in coloured pencils - that was completely incidental to the selection!

It was also interesting to see how much composition and treatment of colour and values played a part in my selection and how often the background was restrained and did not compete with the portrait. That's maybe my taste or it's maybe what helps to make a portrait effective - what do you think?


  1. What a stellar slate of candidates. Hard choice, but I made one.

    Thank you, Katherine, for never ceasing to open my eyes to something worthwhile...and many thanks to not being afraid to draw attention to women artists...the quest for equal representation goes on and on and on. I look forward to what you have to say in 2009. Hurray for the women!

  2. Thank you, Katherine, for you blog. I enjoy it so very much.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Katherine,
    Those portraits are beautiful and
    moving...but nominate yourself??
    A mark of self-confidence, indeed ...but what a lack of elegance!!
    I never thought I would see something of this sort on your (otherwise) excellent blog.

  4. Valerie - my blog doesn't make elegance its chief priority. I'm not sure whether the artists nominating themselves would care whether or not others thought them to be inelegant - but I do!

    I have to confess I'm really at a loss to understand why you'd choose to comment as you do. How can nominating yourself be inelegant? Or am I inelegant for allowing people to do something which is a normal and everyday part of the art world - entering yourself for a juried competition?

    For example, the artwork that we see in competitions in art journals is always put forward by the artist - so how is this any different?

    When I chose the final five I focused on the art and what the artist and others had to say about the work on the blog - not at who nominated the work. As it happens, the first person who nominated her own work is somebody whose work has been exhibited by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Also, of the five I've chosen for the short-list, it's interesting to note that the only one which was a self-nomination was already nominated in the best artwork category and was one of only two artists to be nominated for the second year. Maybe you'd also like to take a look at the original post for that work (as I always do) and the number of comments it attracted when originally posted back in January?

  5. The final choices are so wonderful. I've narrowed it down to two...ooooooh can't I vote for two??

    Self promotion is the name of the game in the world of art, so I agree with your rationale for allowing artists to nominate themselves.

  6. Perhaps it's also inelegant for me to comment but it is a very curious thing to say. As Jeanette points out, that is the name of the game even for artists who are not comfortable with self promotion. What is the alternative - keep your work to yourself and cross your fingers you'll be discovered?! Why make art if it is not to be seen? I did that for many, many years. I would like to say that I hope it doesn't discourage anyone from nominating themselves next year. There are relatively few nominations when one considers how many artists are blogging and as a viewer/reader, it's wonderful to discover new names, new work and older work you loved and forgot what blog you saw it on! ;)

  7. Thank you to everybody who has voted.

    Well in excess of 100 votes have already been cast and this poll is heading towards 150 votes....

    There's just one day left to vote!


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