Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Results of "How do you price your art?"

Making A Mark Poll ( March 2009) - How do you price your art?

The MAM Poll for March asked the question How do you price your art? It examined your preferences across a range of different approaches to pricing art and finished earlier today. The results have been counted - and the winner is..........a three way draw - more or less!
Set your prices and stick with them. The market looks for consistency in pricing from an artist.
After an initial jockeying for position, the poll settled down into a pattern with two front runners virtually the same all the way through with a third close on their heels.

This month I've ranked the chart in order of popularity to make it easier to see the results. If you click on chart you can see a larger image. It has to be said that a number of people commented that they used a combination of approaches to arrive at a baseline which now guides their pricing. Others commented on how much prices varied depending on the medium you work in.

Popular options for pricing art

Of the 146 people who took part in the poll:
  • 21% price their art on per square inch or square cm basis
  • 20% have specific prices for specific sizes
  • 18% base prices on comparable art for sale where you live
What this says to me is that artists have tried very hard to be consistent in their pricing - in relation to size and place where it is sold.

Price per square inch/cm (21%)
The artist determines a standard price per square inch or centimetre and applies this to all artwork. This can lead to some very odd prices unless a different standard price is used for very small or very large pieces.
The advantage of the price per square inch approach is that it makes it very easy to price artwork (if you keep frames or any other additional costs consistent). It's certainly one I use as a check on prices I set for specific types and sizes of my art.

However it does tend to underprice small works and overprice large artwork. If you subscribe to the notion that price should be determined by both skills (the fixed cost) and the variable costs of the size of the canvas or paper covered (the variable cost) - as well as what the market will bear. Otherwise it's becomes a bit like pricing for painting a room!

The other problem is that it can result in some rather odd prices which people generally end up rounding to the nearest $10/£5

A number of artists commented that size was immaterial - and that in fact it was more difficult and took longer to produce quality artwork in small sizes!

Specific prices for specific sizes (20%)
This is a variation of the price per square inch which adjusts (rounds) the price to a value which sounds more like a reasonable price. It avoids odd sounding prices.
This, if you like, is the cleaned up and harmonised version of price per square inch/cm! You'll rarely find prices which are odd sums with this approach.

Casey Klahn suggested that it was very important to compute your "most sales" price point. The notion being that this provides a guideline for how you divide your time between pieces of different sizes. The more pieces you produce in the size and price range that has a good track record for sales, the more likely you are to achieve actual sales in reality.

Based on comparable art where I live (18%)
The artist studies prices displayed in local galleries and other places where art is sold and finds a comparable artist in terms of media and/or subject matter and relates prices to these. Success with this strategy depends on whether or not the baseline artist is selling work and how much a reputation earned over years has been factored into the price they charge.
This proved to be much more popular than I was expecting given that the poll was being taken by an online audience. I guess it's because many people seek to sell their art locally as well as online and consequently MUST be aware of what sort prices are being achieved for artwork in local galleries and other place selling artwork.

It's also worth bearing in mind that irrespective of where you live buyers often check out an artists prices online and they're certainly not going to be buying in galleries if they find the same or similar work online for a different (lower) price.

Alternative approaches

The three options in the middle of the pack are based on gut feel - and some research.

Plucked from the air (10%)
This is the "it feels like a $500 painting to me" approach. There is no obvious rationale other than a gut feel and/or a wish to avoid doing research to check out the current state of the marketplace
I've used this one before now and my guess is most people probably have at one time or another. But it's difficult to use this approach over time to provide a consistent basis for pricing artwork. It's also difficult to escape the fact that sooner or later we all need to do some research!

This approach works better the more you look at art and build a knowledge about how other artists are pricing their art within different marketplaces, galleries and other places for selling art. I cannot recommend too highly that you go and see exhibitions and collect exhibition catalogues!

I always go round exhibitions making notes about which works are selling and what seems to be the upper and lower limits of the range of sales - which are obviously different for different sizes and artists. I often find myself looking back at catalogues from the exhibition last year! (Which is not to say that I always agree with prices people put on their work. What I judge to be overpriced work gets a great big exclamation mark on the catalogue from me!)

Based on comparable art on the Internet
The artist looks at what else is available on the Internet and picks an artist or group of artists, notes the prices asked (or achieved at auction) and then adjusts accordingly. More astute artists search for information about the price asked which actually achieves a sale.
Just as locality played a more important role, it appears rather fewer artists than I expected base their prices on comparable online artwork. Or maybe they don't feel they have the time to do the research - or just don't understand some of the pricing decisions used by some artists who sell artwork on the Internet. I know I certainly come into the latter category now and again. I'm amazed at the number of people - with extremely variable talents - who think that the price of a daily painting is $100!

Cost plus (wage rate+materials cost+markup) (8%)
The artist determines an hourly rate for their work, adds in the cost of materials (and matting and framing if applicable) and then adds a flat rate or a percentage as a mark-up which covers marketing and other business expenses and/or a profit element.
Sounds complicated doesn't it? However it's certainly an approach which is worth using 'backwards' as it were to see how much you're paying yourself as a wage for your work. I'll do a post later this week showing you how to do this.

Least popular approaches to pricing art?

The options with the fewest votes might be deemed least popular. But are they?

No. of hours spent on the artwork (6.2%)
The price is determined by a calculated hourly rate based on the notion that materials costs are incidental and the crucial cost driver is the number of hours required to complete the work. It bears no relation whatsoever to whether or not the market will pay the price.
This approach had very few supporters. I'm wondering if this is because it has to prove itself as a successful approach in terms of generating sales for it to be adopted in the longer term. I'm guessing this is an approach which gets tried and abandoned by quite a few artists.

One of the things I observe talking with artists is how many of the more astute ones work out ways to speed up their art-making as they begin to realise that time has an opportunity cost - and is one of the key variables which you have a lot of control when it comes to earning money. What do you spend your time on?

Many start to adopt approaches which might reek of 'the conveyor belt' to some whereas they are in fact quite straightforward and sensible approaches to being efficient in the use of time. Such approaches can be quite simple things like gessoing 20 boards of a standard size in one go. Or even better getting the spouse, partner or responsible child to do it for you!

Artists did confess to feeling guilty for charging high prices - and getting sales - for artwork which didn't take long to do. To which my response is to ask how long have you spent working at your art so that you can work quickly and with skill?

Percentage increase each year (2.7%)
This approach is often used by an emerging artist who wants to grow sales income over time. The emphasis is always on relating to prices charged in previous years rather than what the market will bear or is currently paying for comparable work or input costs.
This was the least popular option - but that might be because if was seen as a refinement of one of the others which formed the basic approach.

It occurs to me that those people who voted for this option might well also include people who have already set prices according to 'specific prices for specific sizes'. These are typically not emerging artists but rather those who have got several years experience who have worked out which price bracket their art sells in and only need to adjust for inflation

I guess the question is will artists adopting this approach also need to adjust for deflation in the future?

Other options identified by respondents

Artists participating in the survey also identified other ways of pricing art. These included:
  • Gallery guides on/decides pricing policy for an artist's work
  • If the artist likes a piece a lot then it has to have a high enough price which would make a sale worthwhile!
Should competition organisers be able to change prices?

My blog post Guidance on pricing art last week attracted a large number of comments which are summarised below.
  • In general people thought that it was very helpful if competition/exhibition organisers provided price guidelines to exhibiting artists re. different types or sizes of artwork. While some provide a minimum price guide maybe there also needs to be a maximum price guide as well - unless agreed otherwise with individual artists?
  • People were generally averse to the notion that organisers or gallery owners could reduce prices without consultation with or the agreement of the artist
  • Some artists were VERY concerned about the idea that the exhibition people could devalue their other sales if they dropped the price too much. Hence the need to be clear about the scope for and limitations on wiggle room granted to the exhibition organisers.
  • In general people would not be averse to signing a contract which gave the sales people some wiggle room on pricing and discounts - but only if this was clearly specified in any contract and so long as it was not exceeded beyond what was agreed.
One final thought from one person who commented more generally about pricing.
If it's well priced it's seen at as cheap, if it's cheap, then it's not good and if it's not good then it's not worth having.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hello Computer!

I've just spent the last five hours or so wrestling with my laptop - which is now working again having tried to die in February. I'm too *!"!!%* to do anything other than post the drawing of Willow Pond which went on Watermarks very early this morning (see Cloudscape - Willow Pond).

For those who who'd like to know the issues which crop up when drawing water - check out the watermarks post.

For those who want to know what's involved in reviving a dead laptop without visiting your favourite repair person read on..............

Cloudscape - Willow Pond
coloured pencils on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

OK - now this is just a theory - but it's my theory! When a laptop battery runs down I think the laptop forgets what was stopping it starting up so you've got a chance to recover the situation. I tried doing the "take the battery out, wait awhile and then pop it back in again" tactic when it died back in February - but with no luck.

This morning the big computer froze yet again and I've now decided that I've got a registry problem and there is a file missing or corrupted somewhere.

So I decided it was now time to pay a visit to the repair man. But not before I tried just one more time to get the laptop started!

So I switched on - and got past the black screen. This time it came up with a "This computer did not shut down properly last time - here are your options for what you can now do"

  • I started in safe mode
  • and it came up!
  • so I plugged in the external hard disc and shifted all docs and pics over to the external hard disc - this took forever (ie but the laptop was now ready to go to the repair man if need be)
  • then I tried the system restore option
  • I decided to go back to the end of January - about three weeks before the major problems started
  • I then did a system restore (which was very very very slow)
  • once it finished I then started it up again in the normal way - and it started normally - but very slowly
  • soI closed down and started up again - and it worked better
  • then I found the security suite wouldn't update and the blacklist had gone missing and the laptop generally didn't like it
  • so I got out of all programs and reinstalled the security suite and then started up again
  • then I connected - and this time it updated the virus database which was obsolete
  • and then it wanted to restart AGAIN!
  • so I did
  • but it didn't notice!!!
  • so I closed down and then went and made a very late lunch
  • came back and started up AGAIN!!!!
  • and this time it noticed that it had updated
  • and then i started doing the windows updates.................
I'm knackered!

So what did I miss while I was back with XP and a mega screen?

I missed
  • the sidebar in Vista Desktop - and specifically the clock and the continually changing pictures (which I use for auditioning photos prior to using them as references for artwork. Anything which catches my eye when I'm not looking at it has a strong design)
  • the bit in Elements 5 which allows you to correct photos which have got a barrel distortion (I'm still running 3 on the older machine)
  • the lovely soft responsive non-confrontational keyboard of my Sony Vaio which is so much better for my tenosynovitis. Going back to my big Microsoft wireless keyboard was horrendous!
  • not having a problem with websites which need to have their font size adjusted to make them capable of being read on a big screen (it doesn't seem to present as quite such a major problem on a laptop)
  • all the files that I'd not got round to backing up!
Now I think I might have a go at doing a system restore on the old computer - I've found the advice about how to do a system restore in XP.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

29th March - who's made a mark this week?

It's not often I feature a book at the beginning of this post each week. However I was very taken with Seven Things Every Artist Should Know from the Huffington Post and highly recommend that you have a quick read.

It's based on a new book published last week - ART/WORK: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career by Heather Darcy Bhandari (Director of the Mixed Greens Gallery, New York) and Jonathan Melber (an art attorney). If you'd like to know a bit more:
  • read the first chapter on the Amazon website (click the link in the title) and check out the two 5 star customer reviews
  • read a very thorough review on artblog.net.
For the record the seven things are listed below but you'll need to read the article (or the book) to understand the reasons behind the list.
    1. Every artist has a day job
    2. Residencies are good for your health
    4. Write stuff down
    5. The Internet is all the rage
    6. Rejection: It's not you, it's them
    7. There's more to life than commercial galleries
Jonathan Melber is the lawyer (degree in Ethics / doctorate in law) who has been opining in his new blog on the Huffington Post that The AP Has No Case Against Shepard Fairey - check it out for his take on the use of "fair use". Plus I like Ed Winkelman's take on it - that by using the photo Fairey actually increased the value of the original photo rather than harming it!

Congratulations to....

Laurel Daniel who has won 2nd place in the International Artist competition for April/May and has also joined the Daily Paintworks group.

Laurel's blog Laurel Daniel Oil Paintings features her plein air paintings and studio work while Laurel Daniel Small Works features her small paintings. Laurel now paints full-time and teaches at the Austin Museum of Art .

Congrats also to Richard Klekociuk who is an international member of UKCPS living, as he does, in the state of Tasmania in Australia. This year, Richard was one of 43 finalists in the Glover Prize - an art competition which has the biggest prize for landscape art in Australia.

You can read more about this in Richard Klekociuk - Glover Prize finalist on the UKCPS News blog.

Wholemeal Landscape, Northern Tasmania
90 x 75cm framed (35" x 29.5"), Prismacolour pencils on Canson Pastel Board
copyright Richard Klekociuk

Art Blogs

Drawing and sketching
Dry Media - pastels and coloured pencils
Botanical art
Environmental Art
  • Diane Wesman is also a member of Project Art for Nature. This is a a collaboration of artists and illustrators from Minnesota and Wisconsin, working independently and collaboratively to create artwork which promotes stewardship of threatened natural areas in the region. Great idea - I wonder if others are doing likewise!
Being a painter is my job and just like most jobs, I need to clock in and work whether I'm interested or not. That's where finding the key to motivation comes in.

Exquisite woodblock paintings drawing on the tradition of Japanese art. An uncompromising and accomplished artist, Cressida Campbell has established a reputation as Australia's pre-eminent exponent of the painted and printed woodblock.

Art business and marketing
Galleries are not the magic ticket to stardom and riches...they are but one option in the spectrum of venues by which artists can exhibit their work and hopefully advance their careers.......My point is there are other options out there, many of which are totally in the hands of artists themselves.
Edward Winkelman
  • Sharon L Butler (Two coast of Paint) has written about The Art World on Facebook: A Primer on the Brooklyn Rail. which is chock-full of insight into the advantages of Facebook. However it doesn't get to grips with the intellectual ownership/copyright issues and underlying thrust for finding ways to make Facebook generate income (witness more than one volte-face by its creator and owner).
  • You can lose out in more ways than one of losing out when investing in high-end contemporary art. Not only have values dropped but now it seems at least one gallery owner has been "economical with the provenance". Lawrence Salander, the gallery owner of Salander Oreilly Gallaries (once identified as the best in the world!) was last week indicted on 100 counts including fraud, forgery and falsifying business records - see New York art dealer charged in $88m scheme. I wonder if, like Madoff, yet more will surface?
Art competitions, exhibitions and galleries
Tips and techniques
Websites and blogging
and finally......

Have you seen this before - artists in their studios - from long ago! I liked the one of John Singer Sargent in his studio, circa. 1884.

  • The good news - I've lost another half stone.
  • The bad news is that I'm having very major problems with my computer (and I'm already on the back-up one) which is freezing repeatedly. The latest theory I'm testing is that it's the latest version of Firefox which has just been uninstalled! The computer only froze five times during the writing of this post(which involved crashing out each time!!!) and I'm now publishing while I've still got a computer which is running! You may find this post updates in the next hour or so!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Botanical Artists: Elizabeth Blackwell and 'A Curious Herbal'

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first British woman to produce a 'herbal' and the first woman to engrave as well as draw plants.

She compiled and published her hand drawn, engraved and coloured "A Curious Herbal" in 1735 in order to raise funds to free her husband from debtors prison! It had taken her six years but she achieved she her aim in the end.

What's a herbal? A herbal is a book of plants, describing their appearance, their properties and how they may be used for preparing ointments and medicines.
British Library - A Curious Herbal
A herbal is the name given in earlier centuries to a book about plants - particularly those thought to have a medicinal use and of interest to physicians.

My new site dedicated to her Elizabeth Blackwell - Resources for Botanical Art Lovers [UPDATE] About Elizabeth Blackwell provides links to all the websites and places where it's possible to find out more about her and her work. One of these is the Chelsea Physic Garden which is the place she visited on a regular basis to draw the plants it contained.

Chelsea Physic Garden
photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Hans Sloane (the man behind the name behind Sloane Square) purchased the manor of Chelsea(!) and then provided the grounds for the Physic Garden and also apparently provided the funds to help get "A Curious Herbal" published.

It's actually very difficult to find places online where you can see images from "A Curious Herbal". I came to the conclusion there were two main sources.

First is the British Library website which has a 'turning the pages' site dedicated to "A Curious Herbal" - see British Library - "A Curious Herbal" - a Turning the Pages" book. This is a digital online version of the finely-bound copy of "A Curious Herbal from the collection of King George III which resides in the British Library. The e-book provides a series of double page spreads with image and explanation of what each plant is and what it is used for. The preface of the book also provides a testimonial from the President and governing body of the Royal College of Physicians to the effect that they found Blackwell's illustrations to be very useful.

Second believe ot or not was Amazon! Amazon has various of the images from the Herbal available as giclee prints - so I've included a number of them in the information site.

Overall I'm finding the stories - the history, the context, the facts and the places - associated with some of these lesser known botanical artists to be absolutely fascinating and it's leading me off in all sorts of directions in terms of further research! There's more to come...........


Friday, March 27, 2009

Guidance on pricing art

I've been hearing about an entry form for an exhibition - which will remain anonymous - which states the following
When pricing your work do please bear in mind the current financial climate – our visitor survey last year showed that many more would have bought works from the Exhibition but thought it over priced!
The reality is that the previous year's exhibition did not generate many sales.

Surgery Tree
pencil in Moleskine

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The contract signed by the artist when submitting work also indicates that they agree that the organisers of the exhibition have the option to change the price if they think it's wrong.
(name of organisers) reserves the right to revise the sale price of your work and will inform you of any changes.
My personal view is that in the current recession, now is not a good time to be "precious" about pricing!

For me the benefits of any agreement like this are that
  • the organisers of this particular exhibition are working with the artist to make a sale more likely.
  • Plus any gallery and/or organisers which provide advice which helps generate sales and commission are more likely to still be doing business and holding exhibitions this time next year.
On the other hand:
  • I think I'd want a say if my price was to be revised.
  • Plus I can see that people who price high because they really don't want to part with a piece might end up being very disappointed (ie with a sale for a lot less than they asked!).
It's an interesting strategy. I know that when dealing with people who know their particular marketplace very well I'm very happy to be guided on pricing - and I always ask for advice! I also know that when entering some juried exhibitions I sometimes feel completely in the dark about how to pitch a price and would very much welcome a steer from the organisers.

It's also particularly difficult at the moment. Art is still selling but both volumes of sales and prices are changing across the piece.

What do you think?
  • Is this a sensible strategy by the organisers?
  • Will it deter some artists from entering work?
  • Could they possibly improve it?
Note: I'm deliberately not naming the organisation involved as I think that is completely incidental to the strategy they're employing. If you recognise the agreement, please do likewise when commenting.

Don't forget there are just a few days left to respond to the March Making A Mark Poll "How do you price your art? What's your preferred approach to pricing?" See the right hand column to participate.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Botanical artists - Franz and Ferdinand Bauer

When you begin to learn about botanical art you begin to hear about the Bauer Brothers. Then you see some of their work and you begin to realise why they are so very highly regarded in the field of botanical illustration.

Banksia coccinea by Ferdinand Bauer Plate 3 from Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandiae
(source wikipedia)

They are artists who belong to what's known as the Golden Age of Botanical Art - the eighteenth century. The international revival of interest in botanical art has led to them again becoming famous artists.

Today I've completed the detective work for a new 'resources for botanical art lovers' website - The Bauer Brothers - Resources for Botanical Art Lovers.

The site starts with the story of the two brother growing up in Austria and then follows their diverging paths as adults
  • Franz Bauer was employed as "botanick Painter to his Majesty" and to draw all the new flowering plants at Kew under the sponsorhip of Sir Joseph Hooker.
  • Ferdinand Bauer is best known for his role as botanical artist on expeditions to explore and record the flowers and natural history of Greece and the coastline of Australia.
It finishes with a section which focuses on their joint and individual major projects as botanical illustrators.

The new site will be of interest to all botanical artists and all those who enjoy botanical art and natural history. It provides links to the biographies of the two brothers, their major projects and achievements in botanical illustration and places and books where you can see their drawings.

All I can say is that it was more than a little difficult tracking down various references in books and online and getting the timeline and places right, but the eventual story of the two brothers is quite fascinating. My new site just scrapes the surface of their achievements!

Early life

The Bauer brothers were born in what was then Lower Austria. Their father was the court painter to the Prince of Liechstenstein and consequently they were surrounded by art and painting from an early age. However, their father died when they were young and subsequently they were both employed by the local Abbot to record all the plants and flowers in the town's monastery garden. They produced over 2000 watercolour drawings of plant specimens under his guidance and their work has since been published as part of a book known as the Liber Regni Vegetabilis or the The Codex Liechtenstein. The story is told in Garden for Eternity: The Codex Liechtenstein

Francis and Ferdinand acquired their first experience of botanical illustration with the arrival of Father Norbert Boccius, Abbot of Feldsberg, in 1763, and

Their education continued in Vienna under the botanist and artist Baron Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin who was the Professor of Botany and Chemistry at the University of Vienna and Director of the Botanical Gardens - at the Schönbrunn Imperial Gardens - and who produced many fine illustrated books. . They were introduced to the field of microscopy and learned how it could be used to record fine detail. Under the guidance of Baron von Jacquin, the two perfected their skills as botanical illustrators and became familiar with diverse plants and fine-tuned their eyes to exacting observation. This developed their extraordinary attention to detail which became their hallmark.

Franz Bauer

Franz became anglicised after settling in Kew and became known as Francis. He worked at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew for about 50 years - at a time when Kew was rapidly expanding its collection of plants. The impression I get is of a botanical illustrator who was very happy in a 'back room' role, who did not want to travel and who over the years became more and more interested in the science and botany of the plants he studied.

His strelitzia reginae - which I've seen in person - is stunning.

Ferdinand Bauer

Franz Bauer was definitely overshadowed by his rather more famous younger brother who travelled extensively with botanists and explorers to map and record:
  • the natural flora and fauna of Greece with Dr John Sibthorp, the professor of botany at Oxford University. They travelled to Athens, Crete, the Aegean islands, Delphi, Rhodes and Cyprus. This resulted in the compilation and publication of Flora Graeca. Only 30 sets were published initially with a further publication of 50 sets. In 1830 a set cost cost £630. You can see a scan of the complete set on this link (which took some tracking down!) - OUP - Flora Graeca (e-book). It's simply stunning - a "must see" for all artists interested in botanical art or natural history
  • the natural history of the coastline of Australia - with Matthew Flinders and surgeon and botanist Rober Brown. This resulted in the Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandiae.
One can only marvel at his output!

The Natural History Museum (which inherited his drawings) has published a book Ferdinand Bauer: The Nature of Discovery about his work in 2000 which is available from Amazon through resellers or direct from the Natural History Museum.

I can highly recommend making the effort to view art of both brothers in person as I did last year in the Treasures of Botanical Art exhibition at Kew.

You can also see good examples in two excellent books by Shirley Sherwood:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Review: Royal Watercolour Society - Spring Exhibition 2009

The Spring Exhibition of the Royal Watercolour Society at the Bankside Gallery in London is for works by Members and Associate Members only.

View of Bankside Gallery all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell,
all paintings copyright the artists

Unlike the recent 21st Century Watercolour Exhibition - which I know disappointed quite a few people due to the lack of pure watercolour - this exhibition has many more paintings in pure watercolour and in my opinion was all the better for that.

Special mention must go to David Brayne who is the featured artist. The end wall had a very striking collection of his paintings which he creates using raw pigment and acrylic gel.
My working method starts with the use of raw pigments to creat my own colours. It involves a lot of risk taking and is a lengthy process. I am never entirely sure what to expect but I couldn't make these paintings any other way
David Brayne RWS Spring Exhibition 2009 catalogue
All his paintings had a wide painted frame and no mat (and no slip showing either). It looked very much as if they had been framed using spacers between glass and painting. I thought they looked most impressive framed in this way.

Annie Williams RWS RE won the Turner Prize for Watercolour. I think this must be new as I don't recall ever seeing this being awarded before. However it's jolly nice seeing a Turner Prize being awarded for watercolours for a change! I certainly never ever tire of looking at her paintings.

I've asked her (while demonstrating in the past) how she works and it's really good to see a detailed explanation of how she creates her watercolours on her member's page on the RWS website. Here's a small extract.
I love to use colour, shapes and patterns and the effect of light and shade – still life allows me to use all of these. The backgrounds are often abstract contrasting with the more carefully drawn objects. The colour is built in layers of thin wash.
Annie Williams
Overall the exhibition was a pleasing mix of
  • realism (eg Paskett VPRWS) through figurative (eg Berry RWS RE and Bawden RWS RE) and the abstracted (eg Hackney RWS) to the completely abstract (eg Henderson ARWS)
  • watercolour, gouache, watercolour used with other media (eg pastel, collage with paper) and some use of acrylics. As indicated earlier what it was most pleasing to see were some excellent paintings made using just pure watercolour.
  • a complete range of approaches from the very traditional (eg Doyle, Roxby Bott and Halliday) to the more adventurous and innovative (eg Brayne) and those mixing watercolour with other media (eg pastel in the case of Rushton)
Artists whose work stood out for me included:
  • Michael Chaplin's large painterly - in a loose washy sense - works
  • Liz Butler - whose paintings of trees in this exhibition were all very small for a change
  • Harry's Chair by Michael McGuinness RWS - a great pleasure for those who like the very plain and simple. It's also a complete contrast to some of his other work.
  • I loved Stuart Robertson RWS's Nepalese Lions for the great colours and the rich sense of textures.
Pictures at the entrance - on the left (including Dawn bottom left)
and the right (including Nepalese Lions bottom right)
  • The delicacy of Dawn by Alexander Vorobyev RWS grabbed me from the get go as I entered the gallery and drew me in - which is amazing given its very high key palette and total lack of contrast. It was like a mesmeric maze for contemplation where you just need to sit and look at it and follow all the various indistinct figures around the painting. Read his comments on his work on his member's page - it's fascinating
I normally really love the work of Jane Corsellis RWS, Paul Newland RWS, Leslie Worth PPRWS and Fay Ballard AWRS but somehow this time around it was more of a case of like but not love. I was also puzzled as to why some members weren't showing anything at all.

Finally I can confirm that I didn't see a single work which looked like it might have been created other than by hand using a brush! Nobody in this exhibition is trying to be hyperealistic to that extent!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Where artists lived and worked in London

I live in East London, which has more artists per square mile than any other place in Europe.

A little while ago, I discovered a website created by The Museum of London. In a way it's very sad because I came upon it completely by accident archived on their old website. I'm sure most people would never ever find it at all. However I am an inveterate searcher of websites for past exhibitions which is how I came upon the virtual website "Creative Quarters - the art world 1700 - 2000". This seems to have been constructed to support an exhibition of the same name which ran at the Museum of London from March to June in 2001. I found the book of the exhibition as a paperback secondhand edition available from Amazon for an astronomical price.

The idea is that it explores eight areas in London which have been associated with different artists over the years. It works like a matrix - one dimension is the timeline from 1700 through until 2000 and the other dimension is the eight areas of London. It then weaves in the lives of the artists and tells snippets of the story of their lives at different times as well as showing you where exactly on a map they were located.

What I found fascinating is that I knew already many of the connections they identify between artists and places - but I didn't know exact addresses or dates. This site makes what you learn from textbooks or exhibitions seem a bit more real. Plus it reminds you about how parts of London were considerably more rural in times past than they are now!

It also means I'm going to be walking around London in future looking rather more carefully at certain addresses!

The areas are:
Battersea Reach from Lindsey Houses
James Abbot McNeil Whistler
51.44 cm (20.25 in.), Width: 76.52 cm (30.13 in.) , oil on canvas

Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery (Scotland)
Some of the links take you right outside the exhibition to third party sites which I think is a pity as it disrupts the visual flow of this virtual exhibition.

Although the exhibition says it's tracing the journey of London's artists through the city from the 18th century to the present day, what it does not do is trace how individual artists move around London at different stages of their careers. This seemed to be missing which I thought was a pity.

Initially I was very excited about the website. Ultimately it left me wanting more and wondering when somebody is going to write the definitive guide to where artists lived and where arts organisation were located in London in times past.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Botanical artist - Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Rosa moschata by Pierre-Joseph Redouté
When I was younger, my first encounter with 'proper' botanical art was through the botanical illustrations in the Royal Horticultural Society Calendars, diaries and address books that my mother used to get from our local garden centre.

I just loved the pictures and could sit and stare at them for hours. You can see the sort of thing I mean in these botanical illustrations. I started to learn about the different styles of the various botanical artists whose work was represented. Slowly I began to learn the names - which always seemed to me to be slightly odd - otherwise known as being foreign! On my break, I did a bit more studying of botanical art and botanical artists and began to put together some more information sites including Pierre Redoute - Resources for Botanical Art Lover  [updated] About Pierre-Joseph Redouté ​(1759-1840)​

Pierre-Joseph Redouté was one of the names I first learned from the RHS publications. He was the man who painted the beautiful roses and lilies. I've now learned that in total he produced over 2100 published plates depicting over 1800 different species, many of which had never been rendered before. I wonder what it must have been like documenting plants wh ich had never been drawn or painted before! Redouté's art was the first art I came across where, although botanically accurate, the emphasis appeared to be more on the art than the botany. I've now learned that the major initial influences on his work were the Dutch and Flemish flower painters of the baroque period (such as Ambrosius Brueghel, Rachel Ruysch, Jan van Huysum and Jan Davidszoon de Heem). One of the things I'm finding particularly fascinating is how botanical art has been produced over the years. In the case of Redouté he originally went to London and Kew in 1786 to learn the art of stipple engraving and color printing which was to provide him him with the technical expertise needed to produce his beautiful botanical illustrations. Latterly, he certainly developed to perfection a method of colour application which involved the use of a minute chamois leather or cotton mop for the application of a succession of colours to a copper engaving. In later years, he also learned how to paint using pure watercolour - from a Dutch artist, Gerard van Spaendonck

Patronised by the last Queen and the first Empress of France 

I also found out that Redouté's profile is in no small way due to his patronage by two of the premier first ladies of European history - which is quite a unique claim!
Marie Antoinette 1783 by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Although Redouté was born in the Ardennes in Belgium, he was appointed draughtsman to the cabinet of Queen Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France (and continued painting right through the French Revolution!). After the revolution he was transferred to the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle at the Jardin Botanique where he became involved in developing botanical illustrations for scientific publications and was also commissioned to document gardens which became national property. Joséphine de Beauharnais, Empress Consort of the French François Gérard After the Revolution. Josephine Bonaparte, the first Empress of France, wanted to fill the the gardens of the Château de Malmaison with the rarest plants from around the world. Redouté prospered under the patronage of the Empress Josephine and the engravings from Redoute's drawings of those plants during the early years of the 19th century are considered to be his best work. These include:
  • Etienne Pierre Ventenat's Jardin de Malmaison (1803-04),
  • Aime Bonpland's Description des Plantes Rares Cultivees a Malmaisonet a Navarre (1812-17),
  • Les Liliacees (1802-16) Les Liliacees is considered by some to be his masterpiece
  • and finally Les Roses (1817-24).
I have also created a group website - A compendium of Botanical Art Headquarters - which can be used as a bookmark by all those who like botanical art and as a route into all the sites I develop. I'm on a bit of a roll with my botanical art studies so expect a few more of these. Some like Margaret Mee are well known while others I only learned about as I started to find out more about botanical art. Coming up are:
  • Basilis Besler
  • The Bauer Brothers
  • Geogre Dionysius Ehret
  • Margaret Mee


Monday, March 16, 2009

Meet the kittens - back in a week

Meet the kittens - they're here to keep you company while I'm off and about doing other things.

I'll be back in a week's time on Monday 23rd March.

Meet the Kittens
12" x 8", coloured pencils on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

These three will hopefully get an outing later this year in the largest exhibition of cat art in the UK - the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Feline Artists at the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery in central London in September.

In the meantime they're off to join the rest of my feline art on my portfolio website.

See you next week.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

15th March 2009 - Who's made a mark this week?

Australian Artist Guy Maestri has won the prestigious $50,000 Archibald Prize with his large portrait of blind Aboriginal singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunipingu. Do read the story about how Guy Maestri came to produce his portrait of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu - it's inspiring.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
by Guy Maestri
oil on linen – 200cm x 168cm
Winner of the 2009 Archibald Prize

There were:

  • 708 entries for Archibald (in its 88th year) for the Best portrait painting preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics. These are the finalists
  • 712 entries for the $25,000 Wynne Prize for Best landscape painting of Australian scenery, or figure sculpture - won by Lionel Bawden The amorphous ones (the vast colony of our being)
  • 561 entries for the $20,000 Sulman Prize for Best subject painting, genre painting or mural project by an Australian artist won by Ivan Durrant Anzac Match, MCG
You can see the exhibition for the The Archibald, Wynne & Sulman Prizes
7 March - 24 May 2009 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. The exhibition usually draws huge crowds. I actually went to one when in Sidney in 1998.

Art Blogs

Drawing and sketching
Sissinghurst - Elizabethan Barn and Fields
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
  • I'm often found sketching at Sissinghurst - farm fields as well as garden - and today's the day they open for the 2009 season - yippee! Sissinghurst and the BBC4 documentary highlights how I've now included links to all the episodes of Sunday evening documentary programmes about Sissinghurst in my site about Sissinghurst - for iplayer viewers only I'm afraid!
  • Charley Parker (Lines and Colors) did a very good summary about the new portrait of Shakespeare which has turned up in Shakespeare's portrait?
  • I was amused by Carol Marine's comment - in eggplant demo and kids again - about her student 'kids' asking if her photograph of the workshop group was going on her blog. Looks like it's a new status symbol! I reckon you can always tell from a photo whether or not people have enjoyed their workshop.
  • Lindsay Olson in Illinois summarised all the tips and links she got in response to her recent painting with mud in More Mud Works on Watermarks
  • Marion Boddy Evans has a Knife Painting Tutorial on her blog About.com:Painting
  • I asked What is watercolour? on Friday - and demonstrated the rather wide variety of answers you get if you try to find out! Comments indicate surprise at the range of water based media that are included in the definitions of acceptable waterbased media for the open exhibitions to some art societies - even if they are NOT to those compiling the dictionaries!
  • I missed Belinda del Pesco's blog post about her workshop with Charles Reid. I am so envious - I have all his books!
  • Check out Tim Wootton Wildlife Art - which is naturally enough the blog of artist Tim Wootton who lives in Stromness in Orkney. Not a lot of posts so far - but some beautiful paintings of birds. Do encourage Tim to post more often!
Art Business & Marketing
Find more monoprints and monotypes in the Etsy Art Category.
Find more linocuts and woodblock prints on Etsy.
Find collographs in the Etsy Art Category.

Find more intaglio prints on Etsy.
Search for screenprints, gocco, silkscreen, and serigraph on Etsy
Artistic Endeavors: Art Buyers’ Guide to Printmaking
Art and the Economy in recession
“It’s fallen off a cliff,” Buffett said Monday during a live appearance on cable network CNBC. “Not only has the economy slowed down a lot, but people have really changed their habits like I haven’t seen.".....He predicted that unemployment will climb a lot higher before the recession is done, but he also reiterated his optimistic long-term view: “Everything will be all right. We do have the greatest economic machine that man has ever created.”
The situation is set to become even bleaker in the arts.
Art competitions and art exhibitions

Paintings in Museums
by Vivien Blackburn (left) and Sarah Wimperis (right)

Art History
Websites, webware and blogging
and finally......

I'm taking a break from blogging next week to work on a number of linked items on a 'to do' list which have been hanging around for far too long! I've come to the conclusion that I'll get them all sorted if I sit down and work on them all at the same time - so that's what I'm doing next week. You might find things popping up on this blog - and there again you might not - it all depends how it does!

I think you'll find it interesting when I've finished!

I'm now off to the Museums in South Kensington for the monthly sketch outing with the RWS Friends......