Saturday, February 28, 2009

MAM Poll results: Improving your art education

What's the most effective way of improving your art education? was the MAM Poll for February. The results have proved to be both very interesting and also very good news for art tutors! What follows is my own personal perspective on the results. You're invited to concur (if you do) or suggest an alternative perspective.

76 people responded to the poll and the pattern of their responses remained static throughout the month. The chart shows their responses expressed as percentages.

It's important to say upfront that a number of people commented that they learned in a number of different ways . People valued the opportunity to follow a number of alternative routes to improving their art education.

For me, I like a session where an experienced artist can give some insight into how they create what they create. I also learn from group sessions where the composition, whether human or still life, is someone's else's vision and I just draw it. I learn by seeing how others approach the same subject.
Jeanette Jobson
However since I knew that would be the answer for a lot of people, the question was posed as it was to get people thinking about which had actually proved to be the most effective.

I think the lesson for all art tutors is to
  • appreciate the value that current approaches have for students in the real world.
  • secure a possible growth area in a virtual world in the future by thinking long and hard about how online interactive alternatives can be improved and delivered.
The three most effective ways of improving your art education

The three most popular approaches to improving one's art via educational resources, in order of effectiveness, are:
  • short workshops with professional artists - 37%
  • atelier method/private instruction - 16%
  • regular local art class - 14%
It strikes me that people who have had some tuition from a professional artist tutor who can teach effectively are all very supportive of this way of learning - whether it happens in a workshop, a private class or a regular local art class.

If you're surprised by these choices it may well be the case that these are options which you haven't personally pursued to date for a variety of reasons. Maybe this poll provides some food for thought?

I hasten to add that my caveats in the description of the tutor are made for a good reason. There are a fair few tutors out there who don't deliver the goods - and I'll be writing more about how to identify a good tutor in the near future

Thee other popular options

Studying in art school and from books and being a member of an art group or art society were also regarded as effective by some people.
  • art instruction books/art journals - 11%
  • higher education/an art degree - 9%
  • membership of an art group/society - 7%
I was amazed to see art instruction books and art journals come so low - I was expecting to see this option do much better. There again, the explanation might lie in the quality of the content of some of the books. That explanation is certainly supported by the comments about art books made by me and others on this blog in 2009.

I found it interesting that people who had art degrees were identifying other options as the most effective way of learning!

I personally think an art group of peers has a lot going for it - because of the nature of the dialogue which can take place. I guess whether this takes place online or offline will depend on the nature of the group. I've got experience of both sorts and they both have their pros and cons - although pros generally outweight the cons.

I'm wondering whether art societies maybe think that if somebody is good enough to become a member then they don't need to learn in the company of their peers. Or maybe they just don't organise enough events or ways in which members can learn?

Less popular

Two options were seen as less effective:
  • online art blogs / projects - 3%
  • museums and art history resources - 2%
I don't think art blogs are seen primarily as a vehicle for art education at the moment. However, I think it's a big mistake to underestimate their potential reach, scope and impact.

My personal view is that you only come to view the art you can see in art history and museums and art galleries when you've come to understand how all art grows out of what has gone before. I think it's also likely that although people see learning about art history as important - it's necessarily regarded as being the best way of learning.

Least effective

The least effective option is the art forum - which during the entire month did not attract one single supporter. I have to say I was very surprised to see this because I've lost count of the number of times I've seen the view expressed on various art forums that people view it as an amazing resource. I'm now inclining to the view that this could possibly mean two things:
  • From a positive perspective - the art forums are very popular places for hobby artists and people of similar skills to congregate
  • From a negative perspective - that means you can have people who are no more skilled than you are telling you how to improve your work!
My experience of art forums is that both are true. What I think they lack are a clear demonstration of the critical faculties employed by the better art tutors. Professional artists often don't have the time to spare to offer much support. Plus of course tutors are likely to be somewhat guarded in their comments on an art forum as they are prime place to pick up potential students for their next workshop!

As a result, there can seem rather too much emphasis on "happy clappies" at times when in fact work although improving can still be a long way from "good". It can leave people in the same place for a long time.

I think art forums are great places for people who want the company of peers. However I've personally seen a lot of improvement in the art produced by some people once they left forums behind, became more independent and constructed their own paths to learning.

Maybe a greater degree of interactive one-on-one consultation could go a long way to make up for the educational input which online sites apparently fail to deliver at present?

What do you think?

Note: This opinion poll will be added into The Making A Mark Poll - Resources for Artists which is a record of all the various polls conducted to date.

Lesson learned - don't forget to do your updates

I've been having an extremely riveting time this morning - NOT!

My laptop is playing up (lots of beeping noises and refuses to start) and I've had to go back to using my big desktop with the noisy fan. Which has just been sitting there - not connected to the internet.

Pussy Willow study
coloured pencils

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Several hours later I think I've got to the end of all the software and security updates required to make it safe and efficient when connecting to the Internet. A lesson learned!

I'm very glad I bought a back-up disc with 3 licences when I renewed my security suite recently - but I'm having problems getting they key installed so I'm hoping I can get that sorted out.

It's also very odd because this computer uses XP and I've got to go back to remembering how XP works. I already miss my Vista sidebar with the my ever changing photographs which allowed me to pick out thumbnails with promise from out of the corner of my eye.

...and what's with my so called Microsoft wireless comfort keyboard? The keys are reverberating though my tenosinovitis which is not enjoying it at all! Comfortable it is not! I love my soft-touch laptop keys which was one of the main reasons for using it.

I've still got to go and get the Vaio booked in for its diagnostics - but not on a Saturday I think!

End of whinge!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Is Maggie Stiefvater the next JK Rowling?

Long time readers of this blog will have seen my posts in the past about Maggie Stiefvater and her approach to getting things done and read about her huge success at achieving her goals in the last three years - initially as a full-time artist and latterly as an author writing young adult fiction. She now has one book published (and on its way to a reprint after 5 months) and two more being published later this year.

I've now done an information site about Maggie before all her full-on author commitments to book tours and conventions just take over and we lose all the artist side of her life altogether. Maggie thinks it makes her look far too impressive. However I can tell you that in my opinion, it still doesn't say enough about all that she has achieved in the last three years.

You can find my site here Is Maggie Stiefvater the next JK Rowling? I promise you this is not a facetious question not least because her big book deal is with JK Rowling's publishers!

So - for anyone who feels as if they're in a creative slump or for anybody else who needs some 'get up and go', try taking a look at the penultimate section How does she do it? which focuses on the Maggie way of doing things. There is also an earlier section Maggie's thoughts on making art which some will find very useful.

The important thing is a lot of what she talks about is an attitude of mind which supports getting things done in different contexts.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I'm freshening up my blog roll

Just a quick note to say I'm trying a different strategy with my blogroll - plus reviewing contents - and you'll see changes during the next few days while I work through it. At the moment it's very much "in transition".

Baroque Angels, St Nicholas Chuch, Prague (1994)
coloured pencils in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Here's what I'm doing:
  • aiming to eliminate the 'regular reads' section on the principle that all blogs in the blogroll should be regular reads and/or good references!
  • creating more of an emphasis on groups of similar blogs. This should reinforce the status of each blog in relation to a particular media or genre or other focus of the blog.
  • creating new groups. Can you see which ones have made an appearance so far?
  • aim to make sure I'm including blogs which keep cropping up in 'who's made a mark this week'. The general principle being that the more interesting or informative the content the more likely the blog is to show up.
  • creating more of a focus on blogs which have posted recently by using the facility to display only the '5 blogs' or '10 blogs' which have posted most recently. This means that if your blog stops posting it won't necessarily drop off the blog roll - but there again it's unlikely to show up either.
  • aiming to rotate group positions on the blog roll periodically - probably in relation to any theme the blog is taking at the time. The placement you can see right now is not static.
I think that's it. This exercise only started yesterday so I'm bound to think of something else as things progress.

Note: The sketch is one I did on a painting holiday trip to Prague in late September 1994. This trip was (I think) the first time I used coloured pencils for sketching! St Nicholas Church is in the Old Town Square in Prague (not to be confused with St Nicholas Cathedral!).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is printmaking becoming the new 'painting a day'?

This post invites a discussion about the place of printmaking in the context of a changing art scene and economy via a reflection on the painting a day movement and what's been happening to paintings in the last few months.

The 'painting a day' phenomenon which saw 'lift-off' in 2006, generated a lot of artists producing small affordable works on a regular basis and selling them via the Internet. This in turn enabled a lot of people to buy original art for the first time. In time, it also widened the pool of people who bought original art and enabled some people to develop as art collectors. Many artists who kept to the discipline of daily painting also noticed how much their artistic skills improved. All to the good.

Since then our economic environment has changed and the big R has arrived. I've had a particular interest for some time in the impact of a recession on people making art and people exhibiting art. I'm interested in how it might change their behaviour. To that end I've been observing exhibitions for some time. Following the banking debacle last September, I've made a particular point of looking for changes in what gets exhibited, how work is priced and what sells.

What I've been noticing is
  • Devotion pays! Any genre which has a devoted set of collectors continues to sell well and better than most (eg miniature art, wildlife art, botanical art)
  • The type of contemporary art which used to be bought by bankers with bonuses appears to be becoming unfashionable. Values are dropping like a stone and some art is becoming unsellable.
  • Established artists with are recognising that uncertainty makes spontaneous splurges less likely and while there is still money around, it's being spent more thoughtfully
  • Professional artists with 'names', long careers, galleries and a dependence on sales for a significant part of their income are starting to exhibit smaller and more affordable works.
  • There are much fewer places to exhibit art. A lot of galleries have closed (or will end up closing). However others have begun to recognise the importance of the Internet to stimulating sales and a number are currently investing in new websites.
Galleries, art societies and painters seem to be thinking more and more about how to make their work more affordable for those who continue to buy. I've certainly seen an increasing number of smaller works in exhibitions and smaller works are therefore becoming much more evident in exhibitions as well as on the Internet...and so the gallery world is beginning to look a lot more like the Internet!

Then last week I went to Originals 09: The Contemporary Printmaking Show and realised that in looking at how behaviour has been changing in relation to the recession, I've been too fixated on looking at what painters are doing.

Here were a set of artists who are being traditional and innovative in the approaches and techniques they are using for printmaking. Here was an exhibition where all the art is original - some of it is unique and some of it comes as a numbered edition. Prints were still large - and small.

In this show as in other shows of fine art prints, I've found I'm absolutely riveted by the artists' skills in composition and different styles of drawing and mark-making. It always seem to me to be hugely sophisticated compared to what I often see in paintings. I've also concluded that the practice of printmaking means many printmakers make more effort to identify elements of line and tone during the process of designing and making a print. It certainly seems to me that prints often have a lot more impact due to their strong graphical qualities. (Let's not forget that graphical qualities are what makes a representational painting call to you from tens of feet away and say 'come and look at me'!)

Originals 09: The Contemporary Printmaking Show
Prints on display in the East Gallery of the Mall Galleries

Just before Christmas I went to The Mini Picture Show at the Bankside Gallery which is a Christmas exhibition of small works by members of the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers.

One of the things that struck me about The Mini Picture Show was how many prints it contained. It was pointed out to me that are many more members of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers than there are members of the Royal Watercolour Society. Plus the printmakers are probably more used to working in a range of sizes from large to small. They certainly swamped the show with their work - all of which was at very affordable prices.

I don't tend to buy much original art as I tend towards the 'buy the best and make it last a long time' school of thought and many paintings that I really like fall outside my affordability range and the size of the wall space available! Instead I bought two small prints at this exhibition - as my Christmas present to me!

The business bit of the equation

Every summer, as I loiter in the Large Weston Room at the Royal Academy looking at the prints in the Summer exhibition, the '"numbers lady" in me always makes a bid for attention. I ALWAYS end up mentally totting up the huge numbers of red dots for some of the prints and then multiplying them by the unframed print price and reminding myself every single year that a print has the potential to produce very significant earnings for an artist while not breaking the bank for the collector. It's a real win-win option for both artists and collectors.

Let's also not forget that prints are also frequently delivered unframed which means you don't have to go through the business of discarding the frame it came in because it doesn't work with your decor and replacing it with something else - so yet more money saved for the collector! (Remember if it was a painting you will have paid for the cost of the frame and the cost of the commission and VAT if relevant making the frame a ridiculously expensive part of any purchase of original art which in no way benefits the artist!)

I've also been told by a number of reputable galleries which deal in prints that they're very happy to sell prints online and are also very happy to offer a "sale and return undamaged" offer to their patrons who want to see the work.

Is printmaking the new 'painting a day'?

In asking the question "Is printmaking the new 'painting a day'?" I'm not trying to suggest in any way that printmaking is a new way of creating more affordable art. Mainly because printmaking has ALWAYS been a way of people being able to buy original art at more affordable prices.

Instead I think what I'm suggesting is that printmaking may experience something of a renaissance during the recession in relation to people who like to buy original art.
  • For the artist who paints at present, printmaking offers an opportunity to develop and refine their existing skill set
  • For the artist as business person original fine art prints create the potential for switching towards a different business model and one which lends itself very readily to internet marketing
  • For the purchaser, original fine art prints offer an opportunity to buy original art at an affordable price
Finally - a thought - maybe there needs to be "a print a day" website? ;)

So - over to you.
  • Do you think the recession will favour printmakers?
  • Have you thought about getting into printmaking?
  • What sort of changes are you making to your practice and business model as the recession bites?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Originals 09: The Contemporary Printmaking Show

Jump Baby Jump by Mick Davies
3D Etching / watercolour
Chairman's Choice - selected by Wendy Harman

Originals 09 is an annual open exhibition of contemporary printmaking at the Mall Galleries in London. It opened on 18th February and I went to see it last Friday. The exhibition finishes on Saturday 28th February and I'd highly recommend a visit for anybody who is interested in printing and who can get to London this week.

Stockwell Sisters by Anthea Toorchen
Collograph/Sculpture (edition of 3)
Originals: The Contemporary Printmaking Show is the UK’s most prestigious printmaking exhibition. Now in its sixth year, and building on its reputation as the single most important Open Print Show in the UK, it presents another sensational exhibition with an outstanding mix of famous names, up and coming artists and the best of current students.
Mall Galleries - exhibition page
I was very impressed by the quality of the fine art original prints on display in the exhibition. As you might expect I went round looking in particular at the linocuts to see what could be accomplished - which is always an incentive for creating art!

The show is made up of work submitted by some 1,300 artists, some of whom submitted the maximum of 6 works!

Two views of the West Gallery, Mall Galleries

I'd also like to note that the catalogue for the exhibition is one of the best I've seen for a while. It's got a combination of the normal catalogue plus a number of interesting articles, and lots of adverts for printing facilities and supplies in London.

The exhibition is organised by the Federation of British Artists and doesn't have a dedicated website - which I think is a pity as it means that there is no static site for archives, online galleries or a place where people can find out information about the show during the course of the year.


Well done to whoever generated all the sponsorship of the prizes! Here are the people who won prizes (and thanks to Emma Healey at the Mall Galleries for the list). I've also included the names of the works and the type of print. Also included are links to the artists' websites where you can see more of their printmaking activities.

For outstanding work in the exhibition to be added to this collection.
Paul Catherall (Gas Black - Linocut),
Peter Lawrence SWE RS (St Ives - Wood engraving) &
Shelley Rose (Blue over Grey - Silkscreen/edition of 10)

A purchase prize for an etching of outstanding technical merit.
-Piers Browne (But she has fled full sail - etching/edition of 25)

One year’s membership of the Arts Club, Dover Street for one exceptional artist... Ross Loveday (Salt in the Air - drypint/caroborundum)

Two prizes of £250 each from the charity whose aim is to encourage the making of editioned etchings, lithographs, and relief prints, and also hand papermaking....
Adele Wagstaff (Saieda ethcing/aquatint/drypoint edition of 10) &
Veta Gorner (Wrong Shadows II Etching/edition of 25)

Wrong Shadows II by Veta Gorner
winner of the Birgit Skiold Prize
and the John Purcell Paper Award

£250 prize and solo exhibition in February 2010 at the celebrated Brook Gallery for artistic innovation .... Herme Bellido (Medersa II Screenprint/unique)

One day individual tuition at the Curwen Print Study Centre.
Awarded to Tessa Holmes (Centro Storico I solar plate etching/varied edition of 5)

Two week’s exhibition space at Union Street Gallery during 2009/2010.
Awarded to Rhys Himsworth (Avatar lithograph/edition of 10)

£500 each to two outstanding printmakers who are UK resident.
Philip Naylor (Heights, Dwellings, Settlements monotype/unique) &
Nicholas Richards (Ghost ships etching/edition of 40)

£940 worth of advertising and editorial promotion to a student of outstanding merit.
Awarded to Ian Brown (Air screenprint)

£250 of printmaking materials for an outstanding print in the show. Awarded to
Fiona Hepburn (Sea Star Handcut screenprint/woodcut) &
Hilary Ellis (Network I embossing/graphite)

Paper to the value of £125 awarded to two outstanding printmakers. Won by
Christopher Moon ( Powerlines etching/edition of 25) &
Veta Gorner (Wrong Shadows II Etching/edition of 25)

£250 awarded to the best etching by an artist under the age of 40.
Won by Martin Langford RE (Epilogue Etching/edition of 100)

£1,000. Split between:
Megan Fishpool ARE
(Muse Solar etching) &
Morgan Doyle ARE
(The Sound Woodcut)

Membership of the studio for one year plus 10 day’s printing
Awarded to Biljana Tesic (Botanical Explorer photoetching/edition of 20)

One year’s free registration, and 25 free sessions in the print studio.
Katherine Jones (Forest Light etching/edition of 25)

Feature in Printmaking Today.
Awarded to Tobias Till (The Westway lino/edition of 30)

An opportunity to exhibit at the Printroom
Tom Hammick (Small Trees in a Garden II monotype/unique)

One year’s free membership as an Associate Member
Ros Ford (Albert Road Viaduct II etching/aquatint edition of 20)

Two awards, each of £100, for outstanding wood engravings. Won by:
Chris Pig (Ghost engaving/edition of 30) and
Hilary Paynter PRE, SWE (Another Cat Show)

Three awards, each of £200 worth of paper:
Hazel Brook (Colour Form VII monotype/unique),
Fiona Hepburn (Sea Star handcut screenprint/woodcut) &
Rose Blake (The Stunted Sonnet (silkscreen)

Outstanding work selected by Deborah Roslund: Martin Ridgwell ARE (First encounter etching/edition of 75)

THE SIR PETER BLAKE AWARD Won by Adrian Bartlett (Burning the tree etching/edition of 50)

Won by: Abigail McLellan (179)

won by: Mick Davies (Jump Baby Jump 3D Etching / watercolour

Marianne Fox Ockinga (New Age of rail woodcut/edition of 25)

Note just how many artists have websites! What is it about printmakers - could it be that they are more internet savvy? I was able to find websites for virtually every artist with real ease - stark contrast to the exercise which normally happens when I'm highlighting prizewinners in another type of exhibition. Most of them also had very attractive and accessible websites as well!


Besides being able to buy prints via the Mall Galleries, their website page for Originals 09 states that you can also view and buy works online on the Artichoke Print Studio website. However there is no indication of this on the Artichoke website - and I gather from Artichoke that the page is "pending". Apparently when it arrives it will then display work for sale all year until the Originals 10 exhibition starts when next years artists will be showcased.

As a business model, an exhibition linked to a year round gallery site is a potential win-win solution for all concerned. However gallery websites and administration both need to be really well designed, efficient and effective to make it work for the artists - and as the website is not available that's a question which remains outstanding for the moment.

Originals 09 – Print Workshops (Wed 18-Feb-2009 to Wed 4-Mar-2009)

If you would like to learn how to make your own prints, Artichoke Print Studio is running a series of courses in conjunction with Originals 09. I've included details below of the ones which are still to run. I'm afraid I haven't got a clue as to whether spaces are still available.

Courses take place at Artichoke Printmaking in South London, for booking forms and availability please contact Artichoke directly by telephone (020 7924 0600) or email

Bio-friendly Collograph
Two day course – Thurs 26 and Fri 27 Februrary, 10.30am – 4.30pm

Oil-based Monoprinting
Tues 3 March, 10.30am – 4.30pm

Water-based Monoprinting
Wed 4 March, 10.30am – 4.30pm

Introduction to Aquatint
Wed 4 March, 10.30am – 4.30pm

I'm eyeing up those monoprint courses!

Google gmail / googlemail is down

Google gmail/googlemail has gone for a hike! I've made a cup of tea, restarted my computer and put all the laundry away - and gmail has still not restarted! I've known it have hiccups before now but nothing as long as this.

It's taken about 20 minutes to produce a 502 server error notice. It's possible if this is a server error that it's not the same everywhere.

However all other Google services seem to be working normally so I think I might just go and finish my blog post!

In the meantime Google engineers will be working frantically and thinking about their bonuses........

[Update 11.20am: It's now been down for an hour. According to PCPro Google have issued an update via a telephone and are encouraging affected users to visit the Gmail Help Centre for status updates. However the Google/PCPro link is amorphous to put it mildly and the one you want to use is the announcements and alerts section of the Gmail Google Group. The most recent post I read one suggests to me that the service is not going to be returning for some hours........

Meanwhile Twitter is going to ignite with the all the twittering which is going on!]

Monday, February 23, 2009

Book review: The Coloured Pencil Artist's drawing bible

If you give a book a title which includes the words "drawing bible" then expectations are created. For me 'a bible' suggests this is the only book you need if you want to be a coloured pencil artist. I'm afraid I disagree. While The Coloured Pencil Artist's Drawing Bible has its merits, it's disappointing to also find some serious weaknesses in the discussions of tools and materials and techniques for working in this media.

I used to have a policy of not reviewing a book unless I thought it was good ("If you can't say anything good, don't say anything" etc). However with a recession upon us, I'm going to have to revise that policy and start indicating more clearly where books fall short - as this one does.

First a small digression on the topic of authors. For me there are three sorts of art instruction books for media.
  • Artist/author - doing it my way: Books which are written by people who have worked for a long time in the media they're writing about and developed their own techniques. Coloured pencil artists like Janie Gildow, Barbara Benedetti Newton and Ann Kullberg have in the past produced instruction books which have become popular standards for those wishing to learn more about coloured pencils. More recent publications carry on this tradition of the artist/author. One does need to be aware though that these often tend towards presenting the author's perspective on "how to" rather than demonstrating a compendium of different approaches. It can lead to multiple book purchases! :)
  • Author writes art books: Then there are books which are written by artists who write art instruction books for a living. They can be very good (Hazel Harrison and Judy Martin are authors who spring to mind) - but they can also struggle if they don't know their medium well.
  • Artist/author - compendium: Personally I'm a huge advocate of the third type - books which are written by an artist who knows her medium extremely well and who can write objectively about different approaches to that medium and knows and includes a wide range of other artists work. Jackie Simmonds is an excellent example of this type of author in relation to pastels. I would highlight Vera Curnow as having demonstrated this sort of approach in the past in relation to coloured pencils.
Recently I seem to be seeing a lot more books by artists who have been commissioned to write a book irrespective of their background. I don't know Jane Strother, the author of this book. So far as I'm aware she's not a signature member of a coloured pencil society although she is the author of The Colored Pencil Artist's Pocket Palette. Google suggests she is a teacher, commercial illustrator and painter in oils.

The book is divided into chapters - and I'll comment on each in turn. Up front, I'd like to note that it's good to see a range of work in coloured pencil by a number of artists from the UK and USA illustrating this book.

Tools and Materials
I confess. I'm a complete addict for the approach used by the Watson Guptill material and techniques book. These provide an in-depth and expert analysis of all the relevant media, supports and tools needed for working in a particular medium. To my mind they set a standard which it is difficult to match. However anything calling itself 'a bible' should be aiming to match that sort of standard - or choose another title!

For me, this chapter in this 'bible' is a very serious weakness. Much of it could come from any generic book about drawing. More seriously this is what it does NOT do:
  • Types of coloured pencils - This very brief two page spread demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of coloured pencils. For example it fails to distinguish between oil based and wax based pencils. The major distinction according to this book is whether or not a pencil can be used for watercolour! It totally ignores all the different manufacturers and the different brands of coloured pencils and hence provides no commentary whatsoever on any of these. It says the pencils vary in character from chalky and opaque to soft and waxy to hard and translucent without giving you a clue as to which these might be! There is absolutely no reference to lightfastness issues and the need to be very careful about which pencils you buy. See my 'resources for artists' information site for more details about all these issues - Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists
  • Paper types - One of the interesting aspects of coloured pencil is how important the support is for the nature of the work produced. This book only provides discussion of generic paper types which include ones which I'd suggest are infrequently used by coloured pencil artists. As anybody who takes up this media knows, coloured pencil artists can talk for hours and hours in person and on forums about the different types and brands of support - in terms of brands of papers, abrasive surfaces, illustration boards and other rigid boards. This is one of THE big topics of interest for CP artists. The book suggests drawing (cartridge) paper is a good all rounder whereas the recommendation most CP artists would make is buy good quality paper and find out what a huge difference it makes to the quality of your work
  • Sketchbooks - The sketchbook section is entirely generic - no attempt has been made to reference artists who use coloured pencils for sketching. In my extensive experience of sketching with coloured pencils, the paper in certain sketchbooks is far more receptive to the use of coloured pencils than others. However the discussion is around the really important issues - such as size and spiral binding!
  • Stretching paper - this section left me wondering what type of book I was reading!
  • Essential tools - omits entirely a number of tools any CP artist would regard as basic. Examples include the electric sharpener with the spiral cutter, the battery powered or electric eraser, BluTak or similar and solvents. It does however have room for yet more pictures of indeterminate pencils and sketchbooks!
I'm afraid to say I've seen everything covered by this section done better in other books. Again this doesn't come up to the standard I would expect of a "bible".
  • Handling pencils - The section on different grips is interesting but is probably more appropriate for a book on drawing techniques and fails to connect with coloured pencils. It fails to recognise most people who invest in equipment use a drawing board of different levels of sophistication and instead includes a section on using an easel!
  • Mark-making: dry pencils (and watercolour pencils) - These sections could have been good if it had related the techniques suggested to CP art - but neither does and the examples in both are crude.
  • Hatching - the examples are very crude and fail to demonstrate the delights of hatching and cross hatching or the opportunities for working with colour theory to deliver the optical mixing of colours
  • Blending -it begins to get better at this point and it's good to see looser examples of artwork included
  • Blending with solvents - I have difficulty with a book which is recommending the use of turpentine as a solvent when odorless and safe alternatives are available. It completely omits any reference to which sort of pencils work best with solvents and their use for an underpainting. The example is very poor compared to any number that I have seen elsewhere.
The book provides a very rudimentary explanation of colour theory. The use of complementaries is important in coloured pencil and this section could have been longer. There is a reference elsewhere to the production of vibrant darks 'in passing' without any demonstration of this important aspect. The reference to low key and high key is useful but the example images were less persuasive. When it came to layering colours explanations were either sparse or repetitious and left me feeling like the book needed a really good edit or a better structure.

Planning and procedures
This is extremely generic and covers choosing a viewpoint, format and composition and drawings styles. Similarly there are much better step by step demonstrations in other books. Do NOT ever take a craft knife out sketching as recommended by the author or you risk being arrested! Sharpeners with a container are safer and won't litter your surroundings with your shavings.

Themed palettes
I was in two minds about this section. It takes a photograph and then produces a pallete which represents the colours from an identified range of pencils. The problem as usual with this book is that it completely fails to identify manufacturer or brand and hence the suggestions are generic only. For beginners who are apt to use local colour only this is a useful prompt but is probably completely redundant for any intermediate or advanced artist. Possibly pitched at the sort of person who'd buy the author's other book about palettes?

This is the redeeming feature of this book and to my mind the only real reason for buying this book. There is a good range of coloured pencil artwork from a number of different artists - however you can also find such a range in other books about coloured pencil. There's a bit of a tendency to err towards demonstrating its use for realism - but then that tends to be what a lot of coloured pencil artists do. I'd have preferred the book to more clearly differentiate between works which are essentially mixed media, works which have involved some form of solvents and works which are produced using dry pencil work only. That would have provided a much clearer understanding of what is possible with each approach. It would also have been very helpful if dimensions had been included.

I feel it's a shame that the techniques articulated by the artists are not reflected in the rest of the book. It's as if the front end was produced in isolation from the gallery. Personally speaking I'd have much preferred to have seen a more extended explanation from each artist of the key techniques used to produce each picture. After all, lessons from the experts are what really makes a book worth buying!


I was completely bemused by this section which is a series of photographs from Shutterstock with suggestions for how to treat them. The fact that it then recommended copying the images just left me with my jaw agape! Coloured pencil societies have been spending a lot of time and effort in advising members about the perils of copying other people's material particularly when it is copyrighted.


I'm not sure the publishers were clear what audience they were aiming at. If it was artists beginning to use coloured pencil then the book simply doesn't deliver in enough depth and as indicated above there are other books around which deliver better value for money. If it's people starting to draw then I guess it might explain the choice of author and the wealth of very generic material that it includes - but I can't help thinking such people would be more likely to buy any of the really good drawings books which are around. I'm afraid I can't recommend this book because of the serious weaknesses it displays in relation to the more technical aspects of drawing with coloured pencils and because there are much better books around which tackle the subjects covered in a more accurate and comprehensive way.

I think it's a great pity that the artists whose work has been included in this book haven't had the quality of their work matched by the art instruction on offer.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

22nd February 2009 - Who's made a mark this week?

The latest edition of American Artist - featuring Ed Terpening

Congratulations to..............

Ed Terpening
(Life Plein Air) who I'm very pleased to see has contributed to an 8 page feature article in American Artist written by the Editor, Stephen Doherty. Ed also has his painting, “Secluded Cove” is featured on the cover. As longtime readers of Ed's blog (like me) will know, Ed has had lots of experience in trying out new ways of marketing art on the Internet and explains the focus of the article 'Sell Traditional Art in modern ways' in his post American Artist Cover as follows.......
The focus of article is my experience in social media (eg, Facebook, YouTube, etc) and this blog. After 390 posts and 1,414 reader comments, it’s your participation that has made this possible! I’ve really enjoyed your feedback, and the opportunity to learn from you by reading your own blogs.
American Artist Cover
and also to........
Zen by Nicole Caulfield

Nicole Caulfield (Nicole Caulfield Art Journal) - it's that portrait yet again! As well as being the portrait that you voted The MAMA Prize for The Best Portrait by a Female Artist on a Blog it's now also won 3rd Place in the Children's Portrait Category in the National Portrait Society of America's 2008 Members Showcase Competition (which even though it's not the open competition is a very notable achievement - check out the quality of the portraits winning prizes) and the People's Choice Award at the Thorne Sagendorph Biennial Show. (I'm not quite sure why the NPA decided to have the titles of the categories in a colour nobody can see!)

Congrats also to Dianne Mize who made it to her first anniversary of her blog - Bagatelles and Meanderings - earlier this month see First Anniversay - Wow!

Art Blogs
It's easy to become overwhelmed with the problems that we are facing in America, and particularly as artists. We have to move away from that feeling of despair. We all have a circle of influence in our personal and professional life, a circle of acquaintances and friends who we can help in some way.
Art Notes Blog - The Circle of Influence
  • Birds might just take over my blogging by the end of thisyear. I bought an RSPB 'identify a bird' book this week - while down in Cornwall Sarah Wimperis (Muddy foot Prints) has released her Cormorant (see right)
Cormorant by Sarah Wimperis
  • One of the paintings In enjoyed the most this week was also produced by Sarah in Stones on her painting blog The Red Shoes. That triptych format is really working!
  • Continuing with the printing theme for 2009, Vivien Blackburn has been doing a whole series of posts about her linoprints and monoprints on Paintings, Prints and Stuff
  • Meanwhile over at Have Dogs Will Travel, Robyn has acquired an apprentice and continues to make great progress on the lino printing front - see Pumpkin Linoprint (right)
Pumpkin Linoprint by Robyn Sinclair
Linocut 13 x 20cm printed on cream paper
  • Summer must just be around the corner - over in Postcard from Provence land, gessoing of boards is now taking place outside in the sunshine according to Meanwhile here in France....! It's certainly been noticeably milder in London this last week.
  • Watch out for all the new paintings for her exhibition which are being posted on Karin Jurick's blog A Painting Today in the next several days
Art - Group Blogs
Art Business & Marketing

The Ecology Park Pond series #8 - The Bull Rushes
by Katherine Tyrrell

More of my series about marketing art:
As an artist, how often do you regard yourself as part of the selling experience?
Do you regard yourself as personally relevant to whether or not people collect or buy your art - or not?

This post is about the notion that people buy YOU as well as your art.
Art Economy
“Quality,” primarily defined as formal skill, is back in vogue, part and parcel of a conservative, some would say retrogressive, painting and drawing revival..............Will the art industry continue to cling to art’s traditional analog status, to insist that the material, buyable object is the only truly legitimate form of art, which is what the painting revival of the last few years has really been about?
The Boom Is Over. Long Live the Art!
“There are a lot of embarrassed people who bought art that is now not worth what they paid for it. For the past three or four years it’s been a very, very thin market, with just two or three buyers pushing up prices by bidding against each other. Unfortunately, a lot of people knew the game. So those people who did not know are realising it now. It’s almost a fraud. I would never advise my clients to buy contemporary art.”
David Nahmad in Contemporary art is a fraud, says top dealer
Art Competitions
Art conferences and conventions

A new category - as marketing for conference season gets underway!
Art Exhibitions
  • Vera Curnow CPSA has a very useful article about "Working from Reference Materials" in The Artist's Magazine, March 2009, p. 23. Unfortunately there's no internet reference to this on the F&W site.
  • The New York Times discusses the Shepherd Fairey/AP issue about whether there really is a Web-given right to remix copyrighted images to create new works of art in Web Users Make Their Own ‘Obamicons. This is the website which creates your very own Obamaicon - totally legal if you use your own photo - or is it? Check out the gallery !
  • Check out the Ed Terpening version - as seen on his blog! (see right)
Tips and Techniques
Websites and blogging

750+ articles have been written about it so far in places like, New York Times, NPR, AP, Reuters, USA Today, SF Gate, AJC, Chicago Tribune, ZDNET, CNET, and NBC.

Plus mentions on CNN, MSNBC, Sky News, and others, and two days after we broke the story, it's still one of the most talked about subjects on Twitter, and over 64,000 users have joined a Facebook group protesting the terms of service change, plus 6,000+ Diggs, 528,000+ pageviews and 350+ comments on the original post... Facebook Privacy Fallout Goes Nuclear

the blog Consumerist cited them and interpreted them to mean that “anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later.”
If you'd like to get involved in crafting our new terms, you can start posting your questions, comments and requests in the group we've created—Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. I'm looking forward to reading your input.
Facebook - Update on Terms
and finally......

I've only ever mentioned music in this section once. In this post a year ago I wrote
This is a little bit different this week.

Talking to a singer about her website in my drawing class on Thursday got me to thinking about all those other independent artists who are now making it big because they found their 'voice' and got online.

One such - in the music field - is Adele. For those of you outside the UK who have not heard of Adele take a look at her website and/or her My Space page (c.1.9 million views of her profile) and hear some tracks (my favourite is 'Chasing Pavements') from her new album which I bought yesterday. It's called 19 - because that's her age. She writes all her own material and last week she won the very first Critic's Choice award at the Brits - for artists yet to release an album. This is what the BBC had to say about her. My bet is she'll be winning Grammys within the next two years. You can read more about her here - she's a genuine original who's been influenced by some of the 'greats' but who got noticed and got her break by being online.
24th February 2008 - Who's made a mark this week?
Last week she won two Grammys for the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Chasing Pavements and Best New Artist.

Should Simon Cowell be worried? ;)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Major art competitions in the UK in 2009 - dates and deadlines

"Katie" and Craig Wylie - winner of the BP Portrait Award 2008
photograph copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Following on from yesterday's post National Art Societies in the UK - Open Exhibition dates and deadlines about the open exhibitions of national art societies, this post highlights the major art competitions in the UK in 2009 and their dates and deadlines - as announced to date. Plus it announces the publication of Art Competitions in the UK - Resources for Artists.

The major art competitions are usually independent of any art society and attract major sponsorship. They typically attract a very significant number of applications.

Some may wonder at the inclusion of the Royal Academy here rather than in yesterday's post. It might be thought that the Royal Academy as a rather grand art society. However in relation to their major Open Exhibition I tend to I think of the Summer Exhibition as having more of the characteristics of a very large art competition. It's certainly one that a number of the other major competitions measure themselves against in terms of number of entries.

I've not included the Turner Prize in the list below as people shortlisted for the Prize are derived from nominations only and the Prize is opaque in the extreme as to process. Also excluded are competitions which are specific to one area of the UK and/or more minor competitions.

Major art competitions in 2009 (and 2010)
Yet again, some of the competitions managed to have their dates and details posted well in advance of the deadline for entries. This is extremely helpful to artists wanting to plan ahead.

You can expect to see reviews of most of the exhibitions associated with the above competitions on this blog later in the year. I've included links to past reviews of those I reviewed in 2008.

I've also developed another information site Art Competitions in the UK - Resources for Artists. In part this is because I've never found a site before which lists the major art competitions in the UK for all to see. On my site the major art competitions are grouped by type (eg portraiture; watercolour; figurative). The site has links to related websites and my past blog posts about both entry requirements and reviews of the shows I went to see. It also includes tips about and comments on juried art competitions.