Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Title please - plus time for a short break

It's no good - I've got to take a break and get my portfolio sorted for my application for fulll signature membership of the Society of Feline Artists - not to mention get everything finished, matted and in frames.

Then there's the question of a title....... (see the end)

Title - You tell me!
8" x 8", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Plus I've got some personal stuff which needs sorting and that takes time and many emails.

So it's likely to be very quiet for the next week or so - with maybe the odd post.

My landscape project WILL be starting soon, but probably not until w/c 10th August. I want to do it justice and I'm too pushed for time right now.

Now - can you can help me?

I'm having trouble coming up with a title for this one - which is almost finished. It's yet another kitten, sat in the bottom of one of those woven banana leaf waste paper bins. I'm sure anybody who has ever had a kitten knows just how much kittens enjoy waste paper bins and this one was no exception!

So any suggestions for a title?

[Update: I chose "Pick of the Litter" as a title in the end. Mainly because it was one of those ones which made me wish I'd thought of it first which I always think is a sign of a good title! So very many thanks to madtora who suggested it in the first place. I'd come and comment on your blog but you don't seem to have one!

I'm pleased to say that "Pick of the Litter" is also going to be in the SOFA Annual exhibition. You can also see the final version on my website]

Making a Mark reviews......

Monday, July 27, 2009

National Portrait Gallery images: Flickr vs Wikipedia?

I've got an update in the National Portrait Gallery versus Wikipedia debate - straight from the NPG.

Further to Wikipedia's blog post about the legal notice one of its members received from the National Portrait Gallery (see National Portrait Gallery versus Wikipedia - Round Two!) I asked the press unit at the National Portrait Gallery some questions and I've now had a response.

This clarifies some matters which had left me very confused. However I still think that the NPG needs to pay more attention to the content of wording on some parts of its website. It could be more helpful for those using digital sites (such as blogs) to share learning about art history.

Importantly it also indicates that the NPG would be open to an approach from Flickr to discuss how it can make some of its collection more accessible using the Flickr website.

For the sake of clarity:
  • bold text is my question. (Amplification may be in italics)
  • the response from the NPG is enclosed in a quote box thus (unless clearly indicated otherwise using a reference hyperlink, all quotes are from the NPG)
the response from the NPG is enclosed in a quote box
  • my comments follow in ordinary text - for the record, I'm no expert and these are only my opinions.
  • However I've introduced subheadings in bold to help keep a focus on the points being raised
Upfront - as there are criticisms of both the NPG and Wikipedia below - I'd like to offer my sincere appreciation and thanks to the National Portrait Gallery for providing some answers to my questions. I'd have approached Wikiepdia with questions if there was an email address to send them to.

I really value both institutions a huge amount and right now I'd like to lock them both in a room and not let them out until they've reached an agreement!

What does the NPG mean by "low resolution images"? (For example low res. images that I post on my blog or website are generally 72dpi around 500-600 pixels on the longest dimension and generally no bigger than 100KB)
By low resolution images we mean those which are 72dpi and displayed on websites at a maximum height of 500 pixels and a maximum width of 790 pixels.
That's good news. Images which are large enough to make sense of.

They're not as big as they could be and it's certainly the case that other museums and art galleries have made images available which are bigger than this - but it's a good start
and it's certainly better than nothing.

I've also been having a bit more of a think about the high resolution (300 dpi) images created by the NPG and purloined by Derrick Coetzee and uploaded to the Wikipedia website. The rationale behind producing high resolution images is for printing on paper. The expense incurred in producing them to the sort of quality required for such printing can be very high and is an expense which needs to be recouped. (Don't we know it? Eevery time we get a professional photographer to photograph our artwork or invest in cameras and lights to do it for ourselves the costs are not insignificant!). As this is such a large project I'd expect that costs incurred would be spread over the anticipated life of the image.

However, creating digital images does not mean they are automatically free for use or available for use elsewhere without permission. Copyright free means you are free to copy the original not to steal the reproduction.

The critical issue for me has always been about whether low resolution 72 dpi images were being made freely available given the public ownership of the images and the level of state funding made available to art galleries and museums in the UK.

Hence my next question.

What does the NPG mean by "accessible"?
'Accessible' means that the National Portrait Gallery was among the first to digitise and present a substantial portion of its Collection online for the world to see in 1999, before Wikipedia was born.

Since the re-launch of our website earlier this year, we have presented images at considerably larger scale than before (per spec, above) which it is possible (within most browsers) to 'right click' and copy for uses which conform to UK copyright 'exceptions' and 'fair dealing' provisions ('fair use' is an American legal term). It is very important to note that there are many items in the collections for which we have no mandate or permission to grant further access.

It states on our website at as follows:


What's allowed and what isn't

The National Portrait Gallery's website is here for your enjoyment. You may: access, download and/or print contents for non-commercial research and private study purposes;...
What they mean and what they say: Well that's clear enough. If we're using it for non-commercial research and private study purposes it's OK to use the images if they've entered the public domain and are compatible with UK copyright 'exceptions' and 'fair dealing' provisions .

However that's not what it says in the NPG's website information pack about images. Hence my next question.

Copyright still applicable: I do also appreciate that quite alot of the collection is not in the public domain - particularly in relation to many of the photographs which are also a very popular part of the collection.

The fact that the artist or photographer retains copyright doesn't mean that they won't allows access. It would be really great if the NPG would negotiate with artists and executors to gain access to low res pictures which can be made accessible on the Internet.

Low resolution images: What the NPG copyright statement also doesn't say is that you may download low resolution images and use them on (say) a blog.

However there is a letter on the Wikipedia site dated Thursday
, 26 Oct 2006 - ostensibly from Matthew Bailey, the (then) Assistant Picture Library Manager at the National Portrait Gallery which indicates that it is possible to use low resolution images on a digital site - so long as they were clearly presented with a link back to their source and the relevant copyright notice.

Wikipedia took exception to this. Read User Kaldari's excerpt from his reply to the letter to see why. Wikipedia takes the view that....
Any image used on WIkipedia must either be public domain or licensed under a free licence. Unfortunately, we cannot use images licensed exclusively for Wikipedia. The reasoning behind this is that all Wikipedia content is free to reuse, even for commercial purposes
User Kaldari - responding to a letter from the NPG in 2006
Now we're at the nub of the issue!

Wikipedia has apparently decided that any and all images on its website must be free and available for commercial use - ie with no copyright notice attached.

So what exactly is it doing accepting images which are clearly designed for commercial purposes, have cost a lot to produce, have their commercial value protected by relevant software (ie parts of the image can be seen at very high resolution) and have not been released under licence by the organisation which commissioned the photographs?

The reason that Wikipedia is devoid of photographs of people living today is that it dare not touch photographs taken by living commercial photographers. Yet the images which it has accepted are also taken by living commercial photographers who would exercise their copyright without impunity if exactly the same photo was placed on (say) a stock photography site where the image was for sale.

Let's not forget that the photos used by Sheryl Luxemburg infringed the copyright of the photographer on a stock photography site (see American Watercolor Society Gold Medal - the final verdict on Sheryl Luxenburg) ie her artwork made a copy of the photograph - and, as a result, she had to return the gold medal and the prize money and was banned from entering AWS competitions.

Logically speaking, if a photograph of a tramp enjoys copyright then so does the photograph of a painting of Queen Elizabeth 1. The subject matter is not material to the creation of a photograph or copyright - which is why UK copyright law varies from that which prevails in the USA.

On the face of it, it strikes me that the infringement is such that the wikipedia member who downloaded the images and then uploaded them to Wikipedia would normally be warned, suspended or banned from Wikipedia. I don't quite understand why Wikiepedia is defending what he did if it says something quite differently about what is allowed on the website.

Breaches of copyright Having considered the matter further sice my last post, I'm now clear in own mind that accessing high resolution images (which are clearly a commercial asset and/or can be used for commercial purposes) through circumventing the software set up to protect them is to my mind a clear breach of copyright. One could make a case for it also being called theft. These images wouldn't exist without the expertise of the photographer and the funding which came from the taxpayer.

Now if Wikipedia put an embargo on all commercial uses my personal view would be that they might be in a different place than the one they are right now.

It also calls into question all those high res images on Wikpedia which have been downloaded from commercially for sale DVDs of images.

This next question relates to the issue about low resolution images being accessible for permitted purposes.

When is the National Portrait Gallery going to create a message to this effect on the NPG website and revise and/or remove what it currently says in the the NPG's web information pack (which I personally think is absolutely "crackers" and completely incompatible with the gallery's mission to educate and inform re portraiture. Just how is the school student supposed to access web-ready low res images they choose as being relevant for their projects?)
Our website licensing terms are very much in keeping with standard terms in the image licensing industry, and the way we publish these terms is more open and approachable than most other cultural organisations.

However, we will be reviewing the way that this information is displayed on our website and hope to make it clearer that visitors to our website may access, download and/or print contents for non-commercial research and private study purposes.
It WILL become clearer! That second paragraph represents a MAJOR step forward.

If the gallery takes a clear lead and makes sure that its website does NOT carry contradictory messages that should be very helpful to all those wanting to use web-ready low resolution images for their own legitimate purposes.

However I'm not sure I agree with the first paragraph - I've read the terms and conditions of many art galleries and museums around the world and in my view, the NPG's is one of the worst for lack of clarity re legitimate use. To my mind the terms and conditions positively deter people from making use of images for legitimate use and/or making requests for a licence.

For me, it's absolutely essential that a system spells out very simply and very clearly (in word which would win a Plain English Crystal Mark Award) what is allowed in relation to low resolution images which avoids all students needing to ask and/or paying fees for non-commercial research and private study purposes.

Is there a market for high resolution images? In addition, the argument about licensing would be more cogent if there was an active market. There a very interesting Freedom of Information request and response here
income from online rights - A Freedom of Information request to The National Portrait Gallery by Etienne Pollard (On What do they know?)
I am writing in response to the request you made under the Freedom of Information Act in your email of 23 March 2009 for the following information:

1 The number of requests made for use of National Portrait Gallery collection images on third party websites in each of the past five years.

2008/9 235 licences granted

2007/8 413 licences granted

2006/7 295 licences granted

2005/6 est. 205 licences granted

2004/5 est. 305 licences granted

2. The income received by the National Portrait Gallery in consideration of the use of National Portrait Gallery collection images on third party websites in each of the past five years.

2008/9 £11,291

2007/8 £18,812

2006/7 £16,573

2005/6 £10,021

2004/5 £14,915
income from online rights - A Freedom of Information request to The National Portrait Gallery by Etienne Pollard (On What do they know?)

...and that's before the associated costs incurred in adminstering the requests. It's not a lot is it? It's going to take a long time to pay off that £1m investment programme!

Access to high resolution images: To my mind, in relation to high resolution images, the important thing is that a hyper link exists to an image which can easily be viewed online. If access is available on the host site, I personally can't think of any reason whatsoever why a high resolution image needs to copied and placed on the Wikipedia site. Unless the motivation was commercial.............

Links back to copyright notice and where the original is: I also have absolutely no problem at all in indicating copyright status against an image with a link back to the originating art gallery or museum. Regular readers of this blog will know that's my standard practice.

The plain fact is people need to know where the original is. Anybody will tell you that an original beats the photograph any time. People wanting to learn more about art need to VISIT art galleries and museums - and those wanting to know more need to see a picture in person and consequently need to know where they can find it.

That's also a very cogent reason why art galleries and museums should work with those who disseminate educational information on the Internet - it helps to increase the number of visitors to the art gallery or museum.

That's why I like the approach that Flickr has taken with various institutions where the images are grouped in relation to the institution which has donated them.

Has the NPG yet worked out how it can attract public support for its stance? It really doesn't have it as yet!
This is looking ever so like an "own goal" in terms of how the issue has been addressed. (You may win the legal case but it leaves a poor impression of the NPG)
There is a lot of debate on the internet about this issue and of course we encourage debate. Unfortunately there is also a lot of misinformation about this situation. One thing we would like to emphasise is that we did not receive a response from the Wikimedia Foundation on our requests to discuss the issue so we were obliged to issue a lawyer’s letter to D Coetzee, the Wikimedia contributor involved in the matter.

Also, we are working to clear misconceptions about the Gallery being heavy handed in its dialogue with Wikipedia and to emphasise that we are not against Wikipedia using low res images of those works not being in copyright. But we also wish to reiterate that the Gallery is protecting these images in order to make them fully accessible to the public who own them. The Gallery needs to license these images commercially in order to help ensure there are sufficient resources for the photography and digitisation of a large and evolving collection.
How to contact Wikipedia re copyright infringment: In relation to the first paragraph, I'm increasingly disappointed with Wikipedia on this one. While it does have an email address for copyright infringements (it's for those who were wondering), it doesn't have a legal address of the Foundation on the website for takedown notices. It requires people to go through a third party which is..........
Mike Godwin or Sue Gardner, Designated Agent
Wikimedia Foundation
c/o CT Corporation System
818 West Seventh Street
Los Angeles, California 90017
Phone: +1 (415) 839-6885
Facsimile number: +1 (415) 882-0495
Designated agent From the Wikimedia Foundation
The Wikipedia Foundation is uncommunicative: What the NPG seems to be saying is that these people did NOT respond to their requests to discuss the issue.

Or maybe the NPG couldn't find this agent's address? It's certainly the case that Wikipedia is also pretty tortuous when it comes to giving up information about how things works and how to contact them!
Also, isn't it about time that Wikipedia recognises that the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act is an American law and does not relate to every country in the world.

It's also very sad that its own copyright page does NOT openly and explicitly recognise that copyright law varies depending on where in the world you live and where documents originated. Maybe it'll think about tightening up on that aspect?

Time, cost and effort required to generate public domain images: The reality is that copyright may have expired on the original artwork but to get an image into the public domain costs time, money and effort which means this is emphatically not a free good. That access needs to be financed.

I'm all for art galleries and museums making more art work accessible. After all most of the collection at any one time is in the vaults. Digitisation is a great way of making the collection much more accessible. However that does have to be funded. I'm with the NPG on that one. There are basically two options:
  • create the high res images and then sell work as prints etc and licence images for printing by third parties - which looks like it might take a long time
  • ask the government (ie the tax payer) to fund the project
One could make a case for the digitisation of the artwork being funded by government - with a contribution from every single tax payer. On the other hand why not try and secure as much income as possible from high resolution images sold to art lovers - which are the only ones which have a real commercial value - so long as there is free and easy access to the low res version.

For example - why doesn't the NPG work with Wikipedia to produce images for display in an appropriate form as a number of other museums and art galleries do.
We hope that this issue will be resolved so we can work with the Wikimedia Foundation in the future.
It was interesting to see that Wikipedia had approached the NPG re working with it to access images back in 2006 (see above). However the current cirumstances and documentation on the Internet suggests Wikipedia appears to only have one way of working ie "You agree with our way of thinking or we'll take your images anyway!" It's really not very conducive to good working relationships.

Different copyright laws not different interpretations: It was good to see an open letter on the Wikipedia site
about Working with, not against, cultural institutions but it could have avoided further confusing the issue
On one level the threat is an issue of differing interpretations of copyright law.
Wikipedia - Working with, not against, cultural institutions
No!!! It's about the applicability of DIFFERENT COPYRIGHT LAWS. The law which is applicable in the USA does not apply in the UK. The arena for debate about how laws can be improved is the legislature or the court - NOT Wikipedia.

I also find the implicit assumption in the open letter that USA copyright law has some sort of dominance over any other copyright law to be arrogant in the extreme.

Wikipedia or Flickr as a partner? However I did find the open letter's promotion of a cooperative way of working to be much more positive. Although one was left wondering whether there might be another reason.........
Wikimedia Commons is not the only organization that seeks these donations (of volunteer time and effort). Flickr, a commercial website, has a paid staff that is seeking the same material. As Noam Cohen of The New York Times noted earlier this year, Flickr and Commons are competing for similar donations.[3] Each site brings a different set of advantages to the table. In theory, it makes sense for one nonprofit institution to build a relationship with another nonprofit in preference to a commercial website. In practice, the outcome may depend upon whether Wikimedians adopt a cooperative or a confrontational approach. Possibly within the next year, either Flickr or Commons will gain enough momentum to become the dominant venue for archival image donations.
Wikipedia - Working with, not against, cultural institutions
I had the same idea - hence my next question.............

Or maybe web-ready low res images could be made accessible via Flickr as museums like the Smithsonian are doing?
The Gallery does not usually allow visitor photography of its collections. This is for several reasons:
  • copyright (protecting others’ rights as well as protecting our own income streams for the direct benefit of the Gallery);
  • conservation;
  • data protection and privacy (of members of the public);
  • security; and
  • interruption to general visitor enjoyment.
However, special photography requests are welcomed and handled on a case-by-case basis by the Rights and Images department.

We would of course be happy to discuss this if we were approached by Flickr as we would be interested to find out how this worked with the Smithsonian and other museums.
I read that as an open invitation to Flickr to start discussions with the National Portrait Gallery! You heard it here first.

and finally......

Can somebody answer this question. Since only the copyright holder can serve notice of an infringement, why isn't it the photographer which has served notice on Coetzee and/or Wikipedia ?

Or did the NPG employ the photographer (and hence own the copyright) or did it pay for the copyright ownership as part of the contract to photograph the works.

Just a thought.

Making a Mark reviews......

Making A Mark - reviewing goals and themes

Regular readers may remember that on 1st January this year I posted Making A Mark in 2009 - The Plan. I recently realised I've not reviewed how I'm doing on this blog so this post remedies that and highlights changes from what I planned.

10" x 7.5", coloured pencils on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

In my plan I talked about a set of principles - which a lot of people liked - about how to keep yourself on track as the world about you changes. No need to repeat those here as they continue to underpin what I do and the way I live my life - and create my art. Click the link above if you want to find out about them.

My goals are about moving forward and my themes are about providing me with an overview about how different planned activities were connected. I'll comment on how I'm doing below.

Goals for 2009
LEARNING: To look at and learn more about art which I find stimulating. I'm not trying to understand all art. I don't mind if the stimulation is to the eye, brain or heart. I just want to know more about the art which arouses a response in me.
My personal Art Library continues to expand in a very significant way - so much so that the books are taking over my home. However when I decided this morning to do a project about landscape painting (of which more tomorrow) I was able to gather together an awful lot of relevant books in a very short space of time - admittedly from different book piles!

The immediate priority is to get new shelving built!

I'm still going to lots of exhibitions and enjoying the fact that writing reviews of the exhibitions helps me to look and learn more while in the exhibition. I've decided to put my efforts into exhibitions which I'm happy to recommend. Consequently if I don't like an exhibition then I don't review it.

I orginally planned to learn more about female artists in 2009 and to feature an interview with a female artist each month in 2009 - but that's not happened as yet. Interviews to date have been with Ann Kullberg, Alyona Nickelsen and Margaret Stevens. I also have some interviews agreed in principle with female artists. I need to get on with these!

However I have learned more about a couple of female botanical artists from the past
DOING: To make art worth making. I'm more interested in doing better than doing more of the same. I'd like to be able to get what's in my head down on paper! I'd like to get past the feeling that I can't start because it won't be good enough - I know I have to start somewhere!
My aim in 2009 was to develop and refine my style so that it develops the characteristics of art I like. I still have the feeling of going through a transition where a lot of art is in my head and rather less on paper! However I'm also fairly clear that the overall direction - as indicated in my January 1st post - is the right one. I just need to get started!

The series of works associated with the Ecology Park Pond have been progressing quite well although I've found it very odd that I've been less interested in the pond as summer started. Possibly because there are now more people around and it's noisier. I liked it in winter! What it has taught me is the value of visiting and drawing one place again and again.

I bought a set of tools for linoprints and I'm not convinced as yet that my hand (ie the tenosynovitis in my drawing hand) can cope with cutting hence why you've not seen anything as yet. I think I need to develop a set up where I can warm lino and cut in tandem.

Drawing on gesso boards has not started and remains a planned activity.
SHARING: To celebrate what's good in art and to share it with others - whether it's art, artists, art techniques or art supplies. This is a major theme of my life. It's who I am and what I like to do. Sharing has many facets
I've started a new blog Making A Mark Reviews to review art products and books and have been trying to produce post to this each week with variable success. I'm thinking I need to get a routine set up which help this as I've got stacks of stuff to review - the problem is finding the time!

I continue to review exhibitions - and to enjoy the feedback from people who visit as a result of my reviews.

I'm also continuing to produce information sites - resources for artists and resources for art lovers (artists in history and modern and contemporary artists). I also created a brand new set of lenses earlier in the year which come under the heading Resources for Artists - Selling Art Online
SHOWING: To show artwork because it merits display rather than because it's the thing to do. I much prefer seeing exhibitions to submitting work to them!
I'm continuing to exhibit work in a low key way. So far I've had work accepted into the Society of Botanical Artists (which I was very pleased about) and the Society of Feline Artists (where I got on the front cover of the colour brochure). I've also submitted work to the UK Coloured Pencil Society and if I get juried in this year I will earn my signature status which would be great.

I've also got two exhibitions booked for 2010 with two smaller groups. I'll be showing work with the:I even managed to produce a schedule of:
SELLING: To gear selling activity to income targets and the realities of the marketplace. Right now this means that this is a low priority. Picking up on the principle of variety being the spice of life but too many genres makes an artistic identity confusing - I need to try and identify (say) three main genres to pursue.
Selling continues to be a low priority.

I'm getting clearer about the three genres I want to pursue but at the moment it's looking like four (and maybe five!)! "Do I need to get ruthless?" I ask myself periodically - but I'm not very good at responding! I keep reminding myself that one of my principles is Variety is the spice of life
  • Landscapes will always continue to be a major interest - in terms of both sketches and more formal artwork.
  • Interior landscapes tends to be my 'bad weather' option and the time when I most often populate my scenes with figures. I'm thinking about creating prints from sketches in advance of working up my sketches of interior scenes as 'proper' artwork
  • Plants and flowers - and their patterns and interior landscapes - continue to be a recurring theme which interests me
  • Feline Art - I like drawing cats and kittens and have discovered this year that the latter are rather popular. [Duh!] However I've also discovered a new found interest in drawing birds as well. Maybe if I refine this category as being fur and feathers?
However I have decided that I'm not going to pursue still life as a genre and will only continue to draw people for practice in drawing and to enable me to record people from life in interior landscapes.

Themes for 2009

My activities are linked to themes in 2009 - which were influenced by what I learned or observed in 2008. I'm reviewing the themes rather than the activities
Mixed Media
I keep seeing brushwork in my visual (mental) interpretations of how my work will develop. Questions I need to provide an answer to include:
  • Could my liking for dry media be the reason why I'm resisting getting started on making new work?
  • Do I need to buy new brushes?
  • Do I need to do underpaintings?
I've started to play around with brushes again after a very long break. I also bought a whole load of colourfix last week with a view to doing some underpaintings for pastel or coloured pencil.
The Face, the Figure and Female Artists
These are facts I 'discovered' in 2008
  • there's a lot of interesting female artists around - in the past and the present
  • female portrait artists do not get a lot of 'formal' recognition in the UK
  • I do a class on 'drawing a head' but never submit drawings of people to exhibitions
  • I include figures (without faces) in my sketches all the time - but never in my 'worked up' drawings
  • people are very interested in learning how how to sketch people - and I could be tempted to develop a workshop and instruction book.
I did the life class on Channel 4 recently and continue to draw people from life while out and about. My 10 Tips for How to Sketch People continues to be a very popular post plus I've written a second blog post about sketching people ( 10 "Dos and Don'ts" for how to draw people while eating). I'm discovering more and more that people want to know how I get figures into sketches. I need to think some more about this theme - particularly in relation a guide on drawing people.
I've been photographing an awful lot of flowers for the last two years and use it to learn more about a subject. I'm very drawn to
  • macro pictures which abstract the flower from conventional reality. What I like are the shapes, planes, patterns and colour fields within the petals, sepals and leaves.
  • the patterns in cacti and succulents continue to absorb me
  • developing a series of images which fit together in conceptual terms and on a screen or a wall.
I very much enjoyed seeing how some of my images of cacti and succulent looked together and I need to do more of these - hence some new additions I've now got in my south facing window boxes. However I need to make some progress with patterns and macros - especially if I'm shipping art out to an exhibition in the USA next year!

Examples of my drawings of cacti and succulents
coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Since starting the Ecology Park Ponds series I'm also getting very interested in patterns in nature (reeds etc) and have been taking a lot of photos which abstract those patterns. You can see those here in my Textures set. I've started to experiment with working out how to translate these into art - but you haven't seen any of those as yet!
  • I like to produce a sketch or a drawing that has a clear sense of "place".
  • When I make a drawing of a place as it is today, besides the conventional artistic considerations, I also like to try and understand the place, what it represents and why it looks the way it does. In a way I'm trying to see the story of the landscape behind the surface of what I can see.
  • I draw a lot more water than I realised!
  • I want to develop a series of drawings representing a journey - through space or time.
Water continues to be a recurrent theme in relation to places. I've also hugely enjoyed getting out and about and walking and sketching more in the winter months - while suitably wrapped up! I've now got practical solutions to seats being too cold to sit on and a fingerless gloves with a mitten top as a solution to cold fingers.
  • The Ecology Park Ponds series is fulfilling the series theme and the notion of a journey through time. My sketchbook blog continues to provide information about a place as well as sketches of it.
  • I'll be continuing to develop my series of sketches and drawings of the Thames during the rest of the year - partly in response to the need to develop work for the exhibition in February.
I'm also intending to develop a focus on learning more about landscape painting in the second half of the year - and different approaches to making art about places.
Communities of Interest
Non corporate communities of interest are emerging as a way of people working on specific subject matter
  • Watermarks as a community - within the blog and the ning community - provides a good enviroment for discussing different perspectives on making art. It's provided the stimulation for a complete new series of works - and I've already finished two!
I've developed Sketchercise which is proving to be extremely successful in shifting the pounds and inches for a number of us! I've also developed a second art community which is more private.
I need to blog less - but not a lot less. It feels very creative to me and the blog posts often help me find useful information and sort out problems I'm trying to tackle.
  • I need to change the time I write my blog posts so I get more time to make art when the light is good. A task and finish approach with bedtime as the deadline for the first draft might work....with a quick edit in the morning.
  • I'd like to achieve 500,000 visitors by the end of June 2008.
I've had a total and abysmal failure on blogging less and changing the time I write blog posts! I'm writing more blog posts and have a very long 'to do' list.

However I did achieve 500,000 visitors before the end of June!
Writing and Workshops
I see a logical connection between workshops and writing. I'm more and more convinced that I do want to write at length - what do you mean I write long enough already? ;) - and want to go down the self-publishing route - not least because I expect there to be some shake-outs on the publishing front during the recession and because there's greater scope for flexibility. I've identified that an awful lot of people would like me to expand on how to sketch people - see 10 Tips for How to Sketch People - so this looks like a good topic for a possible workshop (maybe in London) and guide.
I did a major series of posts about art books at the beginning of the year which helped to convince me that self-publication is a worthwhile option. I'm currently trying to work out how to develop both a guide within the context of a possible series) and an associated workshop.

So - overall there's been progress on some fronts and I don't feel too hassled by pressure which is always good for creativity and output! However I do think that after a rather fallow period I now need to get back to producing more art. That in turn revolves around sorting out some accommodation issues to do with my art.

For that reason I'm going to be posting rather less over the next six weeks - which is always a quiet period any way for most of us.

You never know I might even take a week off - or even two!

Making a Mark reviews......

Saturday, July 25, 2009

26th July 2009 - Who's made a mark this week? #106

Harry Patch
Peter Kuefeld RP, NEAC
Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2009 (May 2009)
copyright the artist

Portraiture is more than just art. Portraiture is sometimes used to honour people by recording their presence in this world. Portraits of an individual can also serve to remind us of a community of people with the same experience.

Yesterday morning Harry Patch died. He was 109 years old and was our last living link with all those soldiers who fought in the trenches of the first world world war. Harry Patch was a Private who survived the Battle of Passchendaele. He never talked about the war until after his 100th birthday and when he did talk he was was passionate that no war was ever worth the killing of a single soldier - on either side.
More than any other battle, Passchendaele has come to symbolise the horrific nature of the great battles of the First World War. In terms of the dead, the Germans lost approximately 260,000 men, while the British Empire forces lost about 300,000, including approximately 36,500 Australians, 3,596 New Zealanders and some 16,000 Canadians from 1915 to 1917. 90,000 British and Dominion bodies were never identified, and 42,000 never recovered. Aerial photography showed 1,000,000 shell holes in 1 square mile (2.56 km2).
This is the BBC's website record of the experiences of "The Last Tommy". This is the Guardian's obituary and this is Private Harry Patch in the Daily Telegraph.

In May I was fortunate to see his portrait, which had been painted by Peter Kuefeld RP NEAC, at the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. It made me think then and it made me think again yesterday - and that's the power of portraiture.

As I said about his portrait in my Exhibition review: Royal Society of Portrait Painters 2009 (May 2009)
I really appreciate seeing portraits of ordinary people in amongst the ranks of the royals, politicians, academics, military and wealthy families who too often are the subjects of portraits in this exhibition. I'd really like to see a prize for the best portrait of somebody who's worthy of commoration but who is actually just an ordinary person.
A Portrait of Henry Allingham the last survivor of the founding of the RAF and of the Battle of Jutland will be seen in a BBC documentary and then be exhibited in London in November before being auctioned in aid of St Dunstan's, the home for ex-servicemen where he lived. Allingham became the oldest man in the world before he died last month at the age of 113.

Allingham's portrait is by Dan Llywelyn Hall who also has a portrait of Harry Patch in this year's BP Portrait Award exhibition. This particular portrait was done from a single 3 hour sitting.

The SSA Artist of the Year

On a happier note I'm pleased to highlight the fact that Hashim Akib has been awarded Artist of the Year by the SAA. The website hasn't changed yet but when it does you should be able to see the works which won the various categories. At present you can see the work which has won in previous years.

In the meantime, can I suggest that all those who are trying to improve their drawing and painting of trees take a look at his gallery of trees. Similarly his urban figurative work is most impressive - and the winning painting is an excellent example of this

Notting Hill Crowds by SAA Artist of the Year Hashim Akib
(Also Winner of the Best Townscape of Industrial Scene)
Acrylic on canvas
copyright the artist

Art Blogs

Coloured Pencils and Pastels

Art Business and Marketing

Art and the Economy / Art Collectors

  • At the New Statesman - you can start reading a series of investigations into art and the financial crisis, Tim Adams traces the falling stock of the melodramatic poster-child of Britart The tent is empty by Tim Adams. He starts with Tracy Emin.

“The art market is on a knife-edge,”

Tracey Emin

Art Competitions and Art Societies

The New York State Museum hosts a biennial exhibition of natural history artwork called Focus on Nature. Artists all around the world are eligible, and the show has grown to be one of the most prestigious in natural history art. The upcoming 11th edition will be held April 29- October 31, 2010. The deadline for entries is October 1.

Art Exhibitions

Art Education / workshops / Tips and techniques

Art History

Art Studios

Art Supplies

American Artist is participating in a comprehensive study to find out how you currently use artists' paints and surfaces and what products you might want to try or have changed to better suit your needs. What do you like best about acrylic paints? What would you change about oil colors? Do you use watercolors because they are portable or because they are water-soluble? Those are the types of easy questions you will be asked to respond to if you participate in the survey.

Art television

A reality show about artists!? Like American Idol??????
"American Artist" will bring together twelve aspiring artists to compete for a gallery show, a cash prize and a sponsored national tour. In each episode, contestants will create unique works of art highlighting art's role in everyday life, while they compete and create in a range of disciplines including sculpture, painting, photography and industrial design (to name a few). In working beyond their preferred mediums, artists will have to adapt quickly to changes in order to succeed. Completed works of art will be appraised by a panel of top art world figures including fellow artists, gallerists, collectors, curators and critics. The finalists' work will be showcased in a nation-wide museum tour.
Bravo TV
Read on:
Saturday was the final casting call for the new art reality show tentatively called The Untitled Art Project, which is being produced for Bravo by Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker in collaboration with Magical Elves, the company responsible for the popular reality contest shows Top Chef and Project Runway, on which the new art show will be modeled.



Websites, webware and blogging

I look at a lot of artists web sites, and a lot of them are unnecessarily difficult to navigate. I thought I'd write up the common design problems I find, based on the opinions I developed as a web and interface designer for 11 years.

and finally........

This week started on a serious note and is finishing on a very light fun one. Sarah Wimperis is hard at work on her Scilly Cow on her blog Hand and I. That's Scilly |Cow as in a cow painted to look like the Isles of Scilly.

A Scilly Cow in Sarah's Studio

Sarah has been asked to paint a cow for Truro's Herd of Cows this summer and she's taken delivery of one life size fiberglass cow ready for a bit of artistry at the hand of La Wimperis.

You can read about her progress in painting her cow in the following posts - which have lots of ace images of the step by step process! :) I'm just wondering how she's going to get the "independent streak" in! :)
PS I'm racing out the door to go sketching with the Friends of the Royal Watercolour Society in Kensington Gardens - I'll be back later with more pics for this post!

Making a Mark reviews......

Review: SAA Art Event

It's all about Art on the first floor of the Business Design Centre
organised by the Society of All Artists
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I visited the SAA Art Event It's all about Art yesterday - along with Felicity Grace (Felicity's Philosophies and Other Curiosities) and Sarah Wimperis (The Red Shoes). This is a review of what we found.

For those who have been used to visiting the Artists and Illustrators event at the Business Design centre (as both Sarah and I have done in the past) the first important point to note is that it's not the same.

Then again it's not trying to be. This is a completely new event in what remains a logical veneue for these type of events. It's also worth noting we've had nothing since 2005 when the A&I event packed in after it started to fail to attract manufacturers, distributors and retailers. The onset of online purchasing and the burgeoning of the craft market diminished both the need for and the viability of such events. The number of artist-related stands at Art Materials Live event at the NEC is quite miniscule compared to the number of craft stands - and the event is smaller than this new one.

The main differences are highlighted below. The event itself is smaller. It's using the first floor and the village green area - just beyond the entrance doors - but not the galleries or side halls/rooms. The layout was not as packed with stands as A&I used to be and that made it a lot more pleasant! There seemed to be a lot more demos and workshops which were around the edge of the space with the art supplies and SAA standards occupying the centre

Next - it looks to have been a big success. I understand they had nearly 4,000 people through the doors on Thursday (the first day) and apparently it was nearly as busy yesterday. It was certainly crowded when I arrived at about 2pm on Friday. That said it emptied out fairly fast around 4pm as people headed home to avoid the rush hour.

Art Supplies

There are virtually no stands by the manufacturers or retailers of art supplies. I spotted one about photography courses and another for a publisher.

The reality is that all the art supplies on display and for sale are what's available from the SAA's own 'shop' via its mail order or online catalogue. Basically they'd taken a lot of their supplies from their warehouse and hauled it to Islington!

Having said that there was a good range of supplies on display but maybe not as good in terms of choice as one used to get with the A&I and the various retailers. I'd characterise the majority as being ones which would travel easily. Hence pastels and pencils were all packaged and there was no scope for buying loose pencils from open stock - which is what I used to do a lot of at the A&I events. They were often the only time I could locate certain pencils in open stock!

There was also no scope for price competition as one used to get at A&I - however very good discounts were still on offer. Felicity bought a Charles Reid book and a DVD for just over half the price of the two items combined - so that was a big saving.

I saw the best display of different colours of colourfix sheets that I've ever seen (ie. the complete range!). I'd also never seen the new olive green or raw sienna colours before but seeing them made me realise I must have a couple of sheets of each colour! In total I came away with 12 sheets in various colours @ £3.50 each (a saving of about 40p per sheet on the price members normally pay price and a saving of 95p per sheet (21%) on the normal price. Plus I'm going to be sent two free Mapac project bags (one per 5 sheets) which they would have given me free but they'd run out!

Gadget type supplies apparently shifted very fast on Thursday and they'd sold out of some items by the time I arrived on Friday afternoon.

I also got an Essential Drawing Tools set because it included included five drawing tools - two embossing tools, a rubber shaper, a fan brush and a stippling brush. I've been looking for embossing tools for simply ages!

I think the emphasis needs to switch to having more small gadgets which are easy to carry and fewer large items which were difficult or too heavy to carry. I'd have liked to see a better system for placing orders for delivery of items at prices which were more than in the exhibition but still discounted over the catalogue prices. That said they were taking orders for deliveries - including overseas deliveries.

There are some 'new event' glitches which need to be sorted out if the event is repeated. Apparently they had queues to pay on Thursday. I gather the organisers worked very hard on Thursday night to get these glitches addressed before the exhibition opened on Friday and I saw very few queues but lots of buying activity and bags of goodies!

Demonstrations and workshops

SAA Art event on the Village Green at the Business Design Centre
audience for a demonstration on the left and a workshop on the right plus art supplies behind
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

It looked to me to be an ideal day out for the average art society - and it looked like a fair few had decided to do just that! Lots to choose from in terms of the demonstrations and workshops plus an opportunity to shop for art supplies until the plastic protested.

There were
  • lots more FREE demonstrations - which run more or less continuously with the same artists. Hence you don't need to book in advance and be told it's sold out and you don't miss the demo you want to see if the traffic delays you. One of the organisers I spoke to agreed that the information about this needed to be clearer on the website.
  • the same applies to the FREE workshop places
  • the emphasis of both demonstrations and workshops is on painting techniques. There was very little for example about the business side of art or illustration - which used to be a feature of the A&I events
  • I noticed that certain demonstrators were miked up with roving clip mikes and had speakers to help them be heard. Those who weren't miked up had more difficulty making themselves heard against the general background noise - and the next door stand where the demo artist was maiked up!!! Again that's an issue which I'm sure will be addressed for next year.
  • I think they'll need to vary the artist demonstrators and workshop tutors each year to make sure art societies keep coming back in coachloads.
Considering they only decided to put this event on in February I think the SAA did a fantastic job. It's not got the same scope or size as the A&I event and yet I think some visitors will like it better.

It was great to meet up with both Sarah and Felicity. It was also very odd to find out over a cup of tea that both Sarah and I had independently come up with the same "bright idea" - which you might just hear about at some point!

Two middle aged backpackers go art eventing

Making a Mark reviews......

Friday, July 24, 2009

10th Annual FMP Member Show 2009

Ann Kullberg runs a couple of online exhibitions on her website every year for people who are for subscribers to From My Perspective, her online colored pencil magazine.

This is the link to the 10th Annual FMP Member Show 2009. You can click on any of the works in the exhibition to see a larger image.

The juror's criteria and comments

This year the juror was CPSA award-winning artist Ester Roi who was featured on this blog last year when in this post about her Icarus Drawing Board™

What I particularly like about Ann's competition each year is that her jurors always provide feedback explaining their choices of awards to different entries. This year Ester decided that she was going to award points as follows

In an effort to be as objective as possible, I decided to score each individual piece in four different categories of equal value:

  • elements of art (color, value, line, shape, form, texture)
  • composition(organization of these elements)
  • content(mood, meaning, originality, statement)
  • craftsmanship (mastery of the medium and technique)
I really like that way of scoring. This is a competition run by a website which is focused on educating people about coloured pencil art. So it's really great to see a juror who is placing an emphasis on the whole process of creating art. Ester's criteria emphasise the basics related to the principles and elements of design and composition, and have a focus as much on content and originality as as on mastery of the medium and technique - which is very much the way it should be.

The awards

I've included links to the awards below. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page you can see all the reasons given for the awards and Honourable Mentions. I've highlighted Ester's comment on Nicole's work as an example of the type of comment being made.

Zen - in progress and complete
40" x 27"

by Nicole Caulfield (Nicole Caulfield Art Journal)

Best of Show: “Zen” by Nicole Caulfield

When I look at Nicole’s piece, time stands still. As I take a long, deep breath I inhale the classical beauty of its composition permeated with contemporary, symbolic meaning. The strong triangular shapes of the figure are balanced by the large rectangular foreground. The stark contrast in values is harmonized by the delicate changes in color temperature and the limited palette. Nothing is out of place and everything is artistically and symbolically significant. This is an example where art has transcended its medium, technique and material. Congratulations, Nicole, for your outstanding and timeless work of art.

Wouldn't it be great if more art competitions and jurors provided feedback like this?

Readers of this blog may recall that Zen won the MAMA Prize for The Best Portrait by a Female Artist on a Blog at the end of 2008. It's also won 3rd Place in the Portrait Society of America's 2008 Members Showcase Competition

The Place Prizes - which are all worth taking a close look at.
All the Honorable Mention winners received a high score in at least one of the above categories:See if you can apply the criteria to the works on show. Do you come up with the same view or maybe a different opinion?

Making a Mark reviews......