Thursday, May 31, 2012

Art that keeps you coming back again and again

If you like a painting you keep going back to look at it some more.  Over half (52%) of the people who responded to this month's Making A Mark Poll "How long do you spend looking at a painting you like?" underlined the point that looking at a painting you like takes more than one visit.

Most people who like a painting don't just look at it once.  They pay it a repeat visit:
  • 28% of respondents said they pay periodic visits and 
  • 24% pay frequent repeat visits.  
127 respondents in May 2012 - see POLL: How long do you spend looking at a painting you like?

Less than 7% spent less than a minute looking at art they liked.  Unlike the Daily Mail experiment (see We know what we like, and it's not modern art! How gallery visitors only viewed work by Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin for less than 5 seconds), only 2% of respondents wanted to look at art they liked for less than 15 seconds.

An exercise in looking at art

One of the interesting aspects of this poll is to consider what you want to do when visiting an art gallery, art museum or art exhibition - and then think about how people view your own art

Here's an exercise to get you thinking!

Ask yourself these questions when you've reviewed the artwork on view in an exhibition or gallery
  • Do you need to go back and look at a painting (or sculpture or whatever) again?
  • Did you route your path through a gallery or museum so you could look at a particular work again?
  • What is it about the artwork you like which keeps drawing you back?
    Now think about your own art
    • What do people comment on when they look at your art?
    • What do people say they like in particular when looking at your art?
    • Does your art make people want to look at it again and again?
    • Does it contain a motif or coloration or a particular technique which will make people want to look at it again and again?
    • Does it contain the elements which attract you to other artwork?
    Speaking personally, other than the artwork which has won prizes, the artwork I feature in this blog is very often the artwork which I've had to go back and have another look at on my third trip around the gallery or exhibition.  I usually go round an exhibition three times before I leave:
    • once quickly - to see what's there
    • once slowly - to look more carefully at the works on display
    • once again - to make sure I didn't miss anything - and to look again at the works I particularly liked
    It's why I frequently go to exhibitions on my own!

    How do you view art?

    artThe Making A Mark Poll - Resources for Artists

    Are you like other artists? Every month I ask the artist readers of my popular art blog what they think about some aspect of being an artist and selling art...

    Wednesday, May 30, 2012

    BP Portrait Award 2012 - 55 Selected Artists

    These are the 55 artists whose portrait paintings have been selected for the BP Portrait Award 2012 Exhibition - categorised by country.  The BP Portrait Award has a first prize of £25,000.

    The exhibition opens to the public on 21 June at the National Portrait Gallery in London - until 23 September after which it will tour the UK - with exhibitions in Edinburgh and Exeter

    Mr Kitazawa's Noodle Bar, Tokyo
    by Carl Randall, 2012
    © Carl Randall
    Click the link in the artist's name to see their website (or that of the artist's gallery) and more or their paintings and portraits

    Tuesday, May 29, 2012

    Hilliard Society of Miniaturists - 30th Annual Exhibition

    The 30th Annual Exhibition of the Hilliard Society of Miniaturists opened to the public at the Town Hall in in Wells, Somerset,  last Saturday.  374 artworks by 98 artists from the UK and overseas were selected for this year's exhibition which is one of the two major exhibitions of miniature art in the UK each year.  

    The show closes on Sunday 3rd June (from 10am-5pm) - so lots of time left to see it.  Those unable to get to Wells easily will appreciate that this year, for the very first time, we can now also view the exhibition online.  You can also purchase artwork in the exhibition - to make enquiries please contact the Society

    Private View of the 30th Annual Exhibition of the Hilliard Society of Miniaturists
    The Private View was held last Friday as Wells.  Celebrations commenced at midday with the Awards presentation, followed by drinks and canapés.  The main hall of the town hall where the exhibition is held is large and airy with open French windows through which cool breezes blew to moderate the very hot temperature outside and a room which at times became full of visitors.

    30th Annual Exhibition before the Private View
    Those visiting the exhibition were able to view and enjoy the high standard of the miniatures on display in the Society's own freestanding cabinets.  These have well positioned overhead lighting so that there is little reflection or glare to interfere with viewing of the paintings.

    The exhibition was opened just after three pm by Michael Eavis CBE, better known to regular Glastonbury Festival goers as the founder of the Festival and the man who owns the farm site where it is held.  He now lives a few miles down the road from Wells. He began by commenting that he was far more familiar with larger work by artists such as two of his friends, Banksy and Rolf Harris. He expressed admiration for the exhibition, commenting that it was the first time he had seen such a display. He and his wife spent quite some time going round the show and Michael was even seen to be signing autographs along the way.

    Sarah Whitehouse (President of the Hilliard Society) with Michael Eavis
    Awards and Prizes

    The points which are taken into account when selecting work for the exhibition are as follows
    • A high standard of draughtsmanship and composition.
    • Mastery of miniature technique in chosen media and palette.
    • No subject larger than life, portrait head no larger than 2” (5cm).
    • Frames and mounts must be of high quality, clean and in keeping with the painting.
    • Maximum image size: Rectangle 4.5" x 6"; Square 4.5"; Circle 4.5" diameter.
    • Maximum outside frame measurement 50 sq. inches.
    Below you can find the image and with a caption underneath which indicates the award and the winner.  Click the link in the name of the person who received the award to see more of their work.

    Note the key to scale on the website - a one penny coin is larger than the circular numbered catalogue code next to each painting.

    Monday, May 28, 2012

    Wildlife Artist of the Year - Karen Laurence-Rowe

    Last week over 150 works of wildlife art selected for The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s Wildlife Artist of the Year competition were exhibited at the Mall Galleries.

    This post is about the award winners and the selected artists and artwork.

    The artwork was submitted by both established and exciting new artists and was sold to help both with raising awareness and funds for critically endangered mammals supported by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF ).

    Wildlife Artist of the Year Award Winners

    Overall Winner & Winner of 'Endangered Wildlife' category
    Rothschild Mirage by Karen Laurence-Rowe
    Oil on Canvas 198cm x 117cm (78" x 46.1")
    Karen Lawrence-Rowe won The 2012 Wildlife Artist of the Year Award and the Endangered Category with Rothschild Mirage.  Karen is one of Kenya's leading wildlife artists.  Do pay a visit to her website

    Karen Lawrence-Rowe accepted the £10 ,000 top prize from
    wildlife artist and conservationist, David Shepherd CBE and conservationist Mark Carwardine.
    Popular sculptor Nick Mackman was the Overall Runner-Up and the winner of the Go Wild Category with Huddle of Pups by Nick Mackman

    Category Winners

    The category winners are as follows
    View the winners and the full exhibition online by clicking here

    Selected artists and artwork

    These are:
    Click three times on the image to see the best size of image for viewing the quality of the work.

    What struck me about the work which was selected and hung was that an awful lot of the images were wholly original - I'd never seen them before even if I'd seen images of that animal before.  To my mind that's got to be the focus of anybody entering artwork in this competition - the composition  needs to be original and the execution must also say something about the signature style of the artist.  In other words the artwork is unique - and not like something we've already seen in other shows or in photographic images in journals.

    Links:  This is my website about wildlife art - Wildlife Art - Resources for Artists.  It contains links to previous Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibitions and highlights award-winning artists

    Sunday, May 27, 2012

    27th May 2012 - Who's made a mark this week?

    I've been busy again this week with matters relating to activities of the new Urban Sketchers London group.  On Saturday, we held our first Sketchcrawl.  This was very ably organised by Pete Scully (Pete Scully), whose hand drawn and annotated maps are an artwork in themselves!

    We had a wonderful sunny day.  Pete did a count-up from the attendance sheets and around about 50 people signed the sheets and more people came for just part of the day.  There were some amazing sketches and lots of variety in the sketching we saw although, rather oddly, very much less watercolour sketching than I think occurs elsewhere.  That said we had rather a lot of architecture in Fleet Street and the Temple to deal with!

    My fellow founder members of the Urban Sketchers London blog will be posting sketches on our respective sketch blogs and the urban sketchers blog later this week.

    Yesterday I set up a Flickr Group for people to post their sketches to who attended the Sketchcrawl - which you cam find here.  There won't be there just yet as we've not yet written to those who attended the sketchcrawl.

    James Oses and drawings of Fleet Street
    In the meantime I'm highlighting below some of the people who came to the sketchcrawl - and the work they did and the posts they wrote.

    I had a n awful lot of "looking at London" on Saturday!  I've also highlighted the content of a fascinating BBC2 programme about A Picture of London broadcast on Saturday night.  If you're interested in how people portray London in paintings over the centuries then I recommend you catchup using the BBC iPlayer link in my post.

    Artists and Art Blogs

    1st Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl

    We learned from those coming to the Sketchcrawl that there are various other groups out there who are also drawing London - and we aim to connect up in some way.
    Botanical art
    • People have commented in the past about the fact that the media restrictions of the BP Portrait Award means that types of portraiture which don't involve the use of acrylic or oil paint are lost from view.  Colossal Art and Design has two posts which highlight the different ways people make portraiture these days
      • Photographic Specimens by Michael Mapes on explains how Michael Mapes creates specimen boxes of dissected images and other items related to the individual pinned to create an image of the original photographic portrait. I think it's a new take on an old approach and the images are amazingly effective.  I just wonder how long they will last.
    The boxes house thousands of individual specimens consisting of dissected photographs and biographical DNA in the form of such things as hair, finger nails, scent, eye lashes, fingerprints, food, botanical elements, fabric swatches, makeup, dirt, handwriting samples and breath.Michael Mapes website

    Art Business & Marketing
    Sellers will only be charged $0.20 USD to list or renew an item, regardless of quantity. Fees for additional quantities will only apply when an item sells.
    Art Competitions

    Artists and Illustrators magazine is holding a competition to find the Artists of the Year 2012.  The deadline is 16 August 2012 closing date, after which a shortlist of works will be drawn up by the expert panel and then readers will also have the chance to vote for their favourite works on the Artists & Illustrators website.
    Rather than submitting an artwork in a specific category, we will be holding an open competition so you can send in artworks depicting any subject, in any medium: from botanical art to figurative works, abstract paintings to rural landscapes
    Art Exhibitions

    Exhibitions in the UK
    Exhibitions in Europe
    • I didn't quite understand the rationale behind the focus of this review "Britain's Greatest Artist" Abandons Photography of Hockney's exhibition "David Hockney, a Bigger Picture" at the the Guggenheim in Bilbao until September 30, 2012 - even if it is written by the Onwer/Editor of Outdoor Painting. Hockney has been plein air landscape painting for quite some years but this is mentioned in passing whereas the article places more emphasis on one aspect of Hockney's career from quite some time ago.  In particular, the comment about his drawing perplexes me.  Hockney won a prize for his drawing while at the RCA and was generally regarded as an outstanding student!  Anybody who has actually seen the charcoal and iPad drawings in this exhibition would be in no doubt of this.  For a more up to date perspective on Hockney see the other recent articles about this exhibition David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture on my website About David Hockney - British Artist
    Exhibitions in the USA
    Andy Warhol was also the most photographed American artist of the 20th century. But what do the images he created of himself really tell us about him? Who was Warhol?
    Art Education
    Art Studio and Supplies

    and finally.....

    There are new T shirts for painters in watercolour - I thought these by Carol Carter (Paintings) were rather good

    Saturday, May 26, 2012

    A Picture of London

    The BBC television programme A Picture of London provides a content for various paintings of London by such well known artists as Canaletto, JMW Turner, William Hogarth, Claude Monet, JM Whistler, John Martin, Gustave Doré, CRW Nevinson, and Henry Moore . It also introduced me to less well known artists such as Joseph van Aken and John Collett who produced figurative townscapes.

     The way in which the city has been destroyed and regenerated is highlighted.

    The burning of the Houses of Parliament by JMW Turner
    The BBC2 programme was actually developed as part of the London 2012 Festival and The Cultural Olympiad on the BBC

    Here's what the BBC had to say about it
    This first-hand, eyewitness account charts the extraordinary growth of London and uncovers what the past really looked and felt like, excavating London’s history not just through familiar paintings, but by ranging right across the visual record: posters, cartoons, architectural sketches, maps, plans, photos and film.

    In a city that seems ever-changing it’s hard to imagine that just behind the bright lights and glass-fronted shops lies the blueprint of London, a piece of history preserved behind a modern façade.

    The programme digs out the unexpected and the surprising – the images that transport viewers back with a jolt to the days when Notting Hill was a racecourse, Peckham a well-to-do Victorian suburb and Marble Arch a place of public execution.
    If you missed the BBC2 programme about you have seven days to watch A Picture of London on BBC iPlayer in the next seven days.

    Here are some of the images featured in the programme.  You can find most of the images on the Your Paintings website.  You can also Browse a gallery of paintings from BBC Two's A Picture of London

    Friday, May 25, 2012

    Journal and sketchbook Illustrations by Queen Victoria

    Queen Victoria's Journals have been published online as part of the celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee.  This is the latest project of a grand scheme to digitise the royal household and its collections and archives.

    Queen Victoria was, of course, the only other monarch to date to have achieved a Diamond Jubilee.
    Queen Victoria was the longest serving British monarch, reigning as Queen from 1837 to 1901 and as Empress of India from 1877. In total 141 volumes of her journal survive, numbering 43,765 pages.
    The illustrations are split between:
    An example of her landscapes can be seen below.  However it's obvious from her journals and sketchbooks that what she most enjoyed doing was sketching people.

    Scottish Landscape Studies.  Page of watercolours by Queen Victoria
    © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2012 © Bodleian Libraries © ProQuest
    You can read an essay on Queen Victoria's sketchbook - which I personally found very interesting as an account not only of how young ladies were taught to paint but also in terms of the way her habits indicate the nature of her character.

    The website is very well atttuned to accessibility issues and has tried very hard to make both navigation and viewing of the Journals and illustrations as easy as possible.

    The project is a partnership between the Royal Archives, Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University and the online publisher, ProQuest who should be commended for their efforts in bringing these illustrations into public view.

    Other Jubilee activities
    In addition to the digitisation of Queen Victoria’s Journals, the Royal Archives has undertaken the following projects in Diamond Jubilee year:
    • An online partnership project has been undertaken so that the public may trace their ancestors who have worked for the Royal Household. Free access to the records, which range from the seventeenth century to 1920, will also be available in the National Archives’ Reading Rooms in Kew.
    • A selection of Queen Victoria’s school copy books will be available for viewing at the National Archives at Kew for the first time.
    • “Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Scrapbook”, a website focused on Queen Victoria’s life and reign, including her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, was launched by Buckingham Palace in April 2012. It contains documents from the Royal Archives, paintings and photographs from the Royal Collection, as well as audio and film clips. See
    • Over the Diamond Jubilee period, the Twitter account @QueenVictoriaRI will tweet selected excerpts from Queen Victoria’s Journals, illustrated by links to photographs, paintings and original documents. This account will run from 24th May until 7th June.

    Thursday, May 24, 2012

    Review: 'The Queen - Art and Image' at the NPG

    The Queen: Art & Image is the latest exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.  It's an essay in the history of portraiture over the last sixty years and probably says as much about the artists and photographers who have endeavoured to capture the Queen in 2D as it does about the Queen.

    That point was very clear to me last week when I viewed this exhibition - and for that reason alone I recommend this exhibition for all those interested in portraiture.

    The exhibition is organised according to decades and moving through the exhibition felt a little bit like reliving one's life.  The Queen ascended the throne a little while before I was born and she's always been there - just as the images of her also became images in my life.

    It was totally fascinating to see some of them for the first time and to realise how small they are in reality.  Others impress in ways I wasn't expecting.

    I waited a week before writing this review to see what remained with me.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    Transparent Watercolour Society - Annual Exhibition 2012

    In the UK we don't have a watercolour society which limits itself to the use of just transparent watercolours.  However in the USA there is such an art society - the Transparent Watercolor Society of America.

    Transparent Watercolor Society of America 

    The mission of the Transparent Watercolor society is to preserve and promote the unique character of transparent watercolor as a major medium.

    It was created in response to the growth in water-based media which began to take over traditional watercolour societies in the seventies.  In essence, the TWSA differentiates between:
    • transparent watercolour
    • water-based media
    Annual Exhibition 2012

    Annual Exhibition

    Annual Exhibitions have been held since 1977, shortly after the new society was created.  Initially it had a midwest focus and latterly has grown to become a national art society - changing its status in 2003.  It now has over 1,000 members.

    This year's exhibition recently opened - and can be seen in Wisconsin.  At present the exhibition is NOT an international exhibition and entries are limited to residents of North America.  Nor does it tour the USA and/or Canada.

    This is the prospectus for this year's exhibition (pdf file) for those contemplating an entry next year.

    Criteria for entry

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    Video: Andy Goldsworthy speaks about his work

    Andy Goldsworthy has intrigued me for a long time.  I'm just one of many who love his work - see About Andy Goldsworthy - British Land Artist.  His books of photographs which record his often ephemeral work are also extremely popular

    He's not a man who is much given to interviews and usually only does them in relation to an exhibition.

    This is a video of him talking - 25 years ago - about how his artwork and how he creates it in Grizedale Forest in 1987.

    Here are some other interviews with Andy Goldworthy:

    Sunday, May 20, 2012

    20th May 2012 - Who's made a mark this week?

    Yesterday we had the London launch of The Art of Sketching at Cass Art in Islington.  The founder members of Urban Sketchers London ran a whole afternoon of hour long sessions with each of taking the lead for an hour on specific topics to do with the way we sketch and answer questions about urban sketching.

    Cass Art Islington - London Launch of The Art of Urban Sketching
    Zhenia Vasiliev and Barry Jackson start the first session of the afternoon at 12.30
    Zhenia is demonstrating the use of waterbrushes with ink.
    It was very interesting to hear the topics which came up from those who attended - how to crop an urban scene, how to cope with perspective on buildings and what to do about shadows were ones which kept coming up.

    I also found out yesterday that the second reprint has now sold out in the USA.  That'll mean it's now on its way to its third print since publication on 1st February!  That's got to make it one of the most popular sketching books ever - and just goes to show what can happen when a group of people get together and make things happen.

    (This is going to be a very short Who's made a mark this week for various reasons)

    Artists and Art Blogs

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    The Art of Urban Sketching Book Launch - London 19th May

    Urban Sketchers London will be at Cass Arts Islington between 12.30pm and 5.30pm on Saturday 19th May for the launch of The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World which contains work by London based correspondents.
    Six artists will be sketching, answering questions and encouraging young and old alike to get involved in drawing! It's FREE too, just drop in 12.30-5.30pm.
    We had intended to do this book launch a lot earlier - just after Urban Sketchers London formally launched on 1st March this year.  However, the book proved to be so popular that it shot to the top of the art book charts and sold out so fast that we quickly realised we'd be having a book launch with no books!

    That didn't seem to be a great idea so we reluctantly decided we'd have to delay it.

    Come and meet the founder members of London Urban Sketchers who will be at the event on Saturday afternoon.  We all regularly draw on location around and about London cities and contribute to the international Urban Sketchers blog as well as the NEW Urban Sketchers London blog.

    We will be demonstrating how we like to sketch and showing you what are our favourite art materials for sketching.

    You should be able to find at least two of us 'working' at a time between 12.30pm and 5.30pm.  One of us will be acting as a demonstrator and will be answering questions while others can be found drawing elsewhere in the store or helping out with responding to questions.

    London Urban Sketchers are listed below with the demonstrator listed first
    Cass Arts Islington
    Cass Arts

    We're very happy to be partnering with Cass Arts for the launch.  They've started a Facebook event page for the launch.  You can find Cass Art Islington at 66-67 Colebrooke Row, London N1 8AB 

    The Cass Arts Islington store - where the launch will be - is their flagship store and the largest of their five stores in London.  This is their Manifesto

    How to get there

    These are the links to:
    About Urban Sketchers
    Urban Sketchers started online as a flickr group in 2007 and later became a nonprofit organization. Our mission as a nonprofit is to raise the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing, promoting its practice and connecting people around the world who draw on location where they live and travel. We aim to show the world, one drawing at a time.
    This is the manifesto we follow:
    • We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
    • Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
    • Our drawings are a record of time and place.
    • We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
    • We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
    • We support each other and draw together.
    • We share our drawings online.
    • We show the world, one drawing at a time.
    USK is now a charitable foundation, and organises an annual international symposium, as well as encouraging urban sketching. 

    Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    A New Leaf - an exhibition by Amicus Botanicus

    This evening I attended ‘A New Leaf’ - an exhibition of contemporary botanical paintings by Amicus Botanicus.  I can recommend it for all those who love botanical art - and those aspiring to become botanical artists.

    The exhibitions is at The Gallery, 54 Shepherd Market in Mayfair from Monday 14th – Sunday 20th May 2012 so if you want to see it you need to be quick.  It's open from 10am to 8pm each day.

    Private View of A New LeafAmicus Botanicus at The Gallery in Shepherd's Market
    Amicus Botanicus is a talented group of botanical artists from the UK, Japan, Singapore and the USA who are all graduates of the English Gardening School’s Diploma Course in Botanical Painting.  It's another example of artists creating groups to organise and exhibit their work (eg Art of the Real).

    It's good to see yet another group of talented artists promoting their botanical art in gallery exhibitions.  The work was of a high standard and the PV was very busy.  I spotted the red dots arriving before I left.

    This is their third exhibition.  They've also held exhibitions in:

    Below are some images from the exhibition plus some notes from a few of the artists who I had a chat with.

    Botanical Artwork by Carolyn Jenkins
    Carolyn Jenkins - I first met Carolyn at the RHS Botanical Art Show in the Lindley Hall - where she'd won a Gold Medal and Best Exhibit in Show - see RHS Botanical Art Show & Five Gold Medal Winners.  Do take a look at more of Carolyn's work on her website - it zapped me from across the gallery yet again!  I very much like her style.  Her compositions intrigue my eye and Carolyn told me that she spends a lot of time working out the compositions.  She also uses only transparent watercolour (like Fiona Strickland) and it's clear from her artwork and talking to her that her artwork comprises many layers of paint.  It's looking just as good thus time around.

    Magnolia Leaf by Linda Compton McDonald
    Linda Compton McDonald - I particularly liked two of Linda's works - her painting of a primula and a dry and dessicated magnolia leaf - which was centre stage in the window.

    Saracenia pupuera (Purple Picher Planu
    by Elain Searle
    Elaine Searle - I really liked Elaine's style of painting in watercolour.  The subjects of her paintings are almost translucent and ethereal.  

    English Florists' Feathers - tulips by Louise Young
    Louise Young's paintings of tulips were framed really well and it was good to see some really old fashioned tulips.  Louse noted how helpful the Wakefield and the North of England Tulip Society had been in keeping her supplied with examples of the old fashioned tulips she wanted to paint.  Louise's paintings are painted on Vellum (from Cowley's in Oxford) and she told me that the reason paintings on vellum look so good is because all the colour sits on the service.

    A wall of small studies
    Other exhibiting members are listed below with links to their websites or their profile page on the Amicus Botanicus website.  Most were exhibiting between 4-6 works
    Thanks also to - Lyn Sykes who told me a bit about the history of the group and its previous exhibitions and to Louise Young for arranging for me to be invited to the PV.

    The exhibition was opened by Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew who reminded us all that the early Directors at Kew placed a very great emphasis on botanical art as a way of recording plants as they lived.

    You can see more about the artists on the website: to see the work of individual artists.

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    How to create a 'search description' for your Blogger post

    This post is for people who use Blogger.
    • It introduces you to the new functionality within Blogger which allows you to write an individual summary descriptions for each of their blog posts.  
    • It also explains how this improves the post's listing by search engines - and may well improve the number of visitors - via search - to your blog too
    New functionality within Blogger

    Blogger has recently introduced new functionality to its software for blogging.  Within the new template there is now a new option to include a meta description for the blog AND each individual blog post.
    Meta elements provide information about a given Web page, most often to help search engines categorize them correctly. They are inserted into the HTML document, but are often not directly visible to a user visiting the site.Wikipedia - Meta element
    The meta description says what your blog or post is about - but doesn't appear on your blog.  However it does appear in the listing for the post in a search engine index.

    Various attempts by some to manipulate search engine rankings have led to some meta tags becoming much less influential than they used to be - keywords being a case in point.

    However a meta description is still used by search engines, particularly if it accurately reflects the content of the post (eg text or the alt tags on an image)

    Why describe your blog post in summary?

    Prior to implementation of the new functionality, the snippets used for my blog posts which had been indexed were usually
    • either the first sentence of the post 
    • or the labels/categories identified for the post.  
    I've always suggested that the first 200 characters of a post were the most important - and this is one of the reasons why!

    However if YOU create a 'search description' for your blog post, this means YOU - rather than Google or the other search engines - get to define how that post is summarised when indexed by a search engine.   You are not left to the tender mercies or whims of the different search engines!

    Sunday, May 13, 2012

    13th May 2012 - Who's made a mark this week?

    Date Palms by Shevaun Docherty
    an assignment for the the SBA's Distance Learning Diploma Course in botanical painting
    I'd like to share one of the reasons I write this blog - and why I cover so many art society exhibitions and art competitions.

    It all started from my own personal interests.  However as time passed I started to get feedback from people.  It seemed my interests were shared by many others.  That I knew from the numbers of people subscribing.  However, it also appeared that my readers were people who also acted on what they read.
    • A young artist entered the BP Portrait Award and won the Young Artist of the Year Award.  I found out at the Awards ceremony he'd read about the competition on my blog and decided to have a go when I went to interview him!
    • Others have entered art society exhibitions once they've seen the type of work which gets selected for display - and have come away with major prizes.
    One of my personal favourites is the artist who starts to study art in a more structured way.  Shevaun Docherty enrolled for the Diploma in Botanical Illustration run by the Society of Botanical Artists after reading A Making A Mark Interview with Margaret Stevens - my interview with Margaret Stevens PPSBA, FSBA the then President of the Society of Botanical Artists and the Course Director for the SBA Diploma. I had a lovely note from Shevaun last week.  In it she told me about telling Margaret Stevens this story when she collected her Diploma on graduation.  Plus she also told me that one of the new students on Course 9 had contacted her to tell her she had applied for the Diploma Course after reading my blog post Botanical Art under fire.  This was about how Shevaun was completing a botanical art assignment for the Diploma while living in Egypt, in the middle of the uprising as part of the Arab Spring last year.

    Now Shevaun is trying to work out how to get an Irish Society of Botanical Artists started.  If you're interested and would like your name passed on to Shevaun do let me know (see side column for contact details)

    And so it passes forward.......

    Both the images are by Shevaun and they're both of trees with fruit.  At the top is an image of Date Palms bearing fruit and below is a sketchbook image of an old olive tree plus the leaves and fruit.  I gather that the latter has been selected for a new book about botanical art about which I can't say much at the moment!

    Sketchbook Study of an Olive Tree by Shevaun Docherty
    work for an assignment for the the SBA's Distance Learning Diploma Course in botanical painting
    For more about who who's made a mark this week....

    Saturday, May 12, 2012

    Art of the Real

    I'm always interested in the different ways in which artists work together to market their art.

    Art of the Real (which also has an art blog also called Art of the Real) is an artistic collaboration between four watercolour artists - two members of the Royal Watercolour Society plus two members of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour.  Together they have developed what I think is a unique project to take realism in watercolour to exhibitions in reputable art galleries around the world.

    Art of the Real - the Artists

    The artists are

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    Painting the Queen

    Portraits of the Queen - and studies for those portraits
    the mini-wall in the Annual Exhibition
    of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters
    This year the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee

    Next week, a major exhibition The Queen - Art & Image opens at the National Portrait Gallery to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen

    This week and next, the 121st Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters - at the Mall Galleries until 18th May - contains:
    Tomorrow (Friday 11th May) there is a Painting the Queen a talk at the Mall Galleries at 3pm with Michael Noakes - one of the members of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RSPP)

    Below you can find 
    • a narrative of the process which applies to all those commissioned to paint the Queen
    • some of the images of the paintings and studies you can see in the RSPP exhibition.  They provide an insight into the very difficult process of painting the Queen.
    • some other perspectives on painting the Queen
    How an artist paints the Queen

    Wednesday, May 09, 2012

    Review: Royal Society of Portrait Painters - 121st Annual Exhibition

    The 121st Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters has a particularly strong set of portraits which came via the open entry.

    Indeed this is an exhibition where 45% of the works exhibited came via the open entry - despite the fact that competition for a place in the exhibition is becoming more intense every year.  I've got more details - and numbers - about the in a separate post Analysis of open entry to RSPP Annual Exhibition

    Last week I highlighted the portraits and artists which/who had won prizes in Antony Williams wins Ondaatje Prize 2012

    In this post I'm going to give you my general impressions of the exhibition.  I'm also going to highlight some of the portraits which caught my eye.  Speaking personally, I thought that portraits by non-members provided some of the more interesting portraits on display, even though most were typically smaller than the works by members which are on display.

    The first thing to say is that this is a very strong exhibition.  To my mind the quality of this year's exhibition rivals that of the entries typically seen in the BP Portrait exhibition on the other side of Trafalgar Square.  Which is hardly surprising since the society's members include a number of people who have won the BP or been finalists.

    The RSPP are to be congratulated working their way through the 1,347 images entered in 2012 to reach the 217 which you can see in the exhibition.
    • Portraits by members can mainly be seen in the West Gallery and the Threadneedle Space
    • Portraits from the open submission can mainly be seen in the North Galleries
    • [UPDATE:  The Mall Galleries has just created a new Facebook photo gallery for the Royal Society Of Portrait Painters Exhibition in which you can see yet more portraits in the exhibition]
    Portraits in the Threadneedle Space
    - a splendid new space for the bigger and more colourful portraits
    West Gallery - Private View afternoon
    The Private View always attracts lots of guests - including people who want to commission portraits
    Commissioned Portraits

    One of the unique aspects of this particular exhibition is the extent to which portraits on display are not for sale.  This is because they are very often commissioned by various august bodies and/or families without any intention of offering the painting for sale.

    Instead, the exhibition makes an excellent shop window for the commissioning process - with benefits for both artist and those commissioning work.

    There's no way of getting away from the fact that a number of clients like to have a very classic portrait.  Or that some RP members do a very good job in providing these.  For example, I can perhaps best sum up Keith Breedon RP's portraits of "people in a position" by quoting what I wrote down in my catalogue - they look like 'real people'.

    Some of the more traditional portraits by members
    - including works by David Poole PPRP and Keith Breedon RP
    This year this has tended to point up the contrast between the RSPP members and the open entry.   In particular, the open entry tends to reflect contemporary life rather better than the commissioned portraits of military bods, university chancellors, bishops and wealthy families.

    However there are some very experienced non-members who also produce large commissioned portraits.

    I spotted this portrait in the North Gallery and for me it's luminous and yet real despite its lack of a contextual background.  It turns out that this portrait of The Wards is by Paul Benney who has a well established portrait practice on both sides of the Atlantic.  He was invited to display his work by ex-President Daphne Todd OBE PPRP NEAC.  I do like the way his website indicates he paints more than just portraits.  One also gets a sense from his portfolio of portraits that he does like to paint interesting coloured garments.  The colours in the portrait are helped enormously by the variation in colour of the background.  I do like portrait artists who paint an optically interesting background - it seems to energise the painting.

    The Wards by Paul Benney (NFS)
    95 x 130cm (37 x 54 inches)
    © Paul Benney
    Works which caught my eye

    It's perhaps invidious this year to single out individual portraits and their artists because the exhibition is in general very strong.

    Three portraits of women by prize-winning portrait artist Michael Taylor RP made a very striking image in the West Gallery.  These paintings reflect his interest in painting figures and his skill in composition - which accounts for why the design and content of the images are so interesting. These are images which make me feel they are present in the room with me and I want to ask them questions about what it's like sitting for Mr Taylor.

    Michael Taylor's self-portrait drawing has recently been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery.  he also has three other portrait paintings in the NPG.

    Three portraits of women by Michael Taylor RP
    Seated figure with helmet £19,500
    Ancestral Portrait (Korean Style) £20,000
    Seated figure with helmet (£19,500
    oil paintings
    ©  Michael Taylor
    This portrait Not Fade Away by David Cobley RP RWA NEAC commanded a lot of attention and got a lot of comment.  It's an intriguing portrait with a number of allusions within the painting.  I thought I spotted some wings.

    Not Fade Away by David Cobley RP RWA NEAC
    oil, 183 x 152cm (72 x 60 inches)
    © David Cobley

    Anthony by Miriam Escoffet
    oil, 89 x 69cm (35 x 27 inches)
    © Mirian Escofet
    I think Anthony by Miriam Escofet caught my eye because the subject is not looking at the artist - but is instead looking at something outside the picture frame.  Having reviewed her website I can see this is an artist who is absorbed by how she can transform space. She has a fascinating section of her website where she demonstrates how she progresses a work.

    Tomas Clayton's Blue-eyed Boy's eye literally caught my eye despite being a small painting hung high on a wall.

    Blue-eyed Boy by Tomas Clayton
    0il on masonite, 20x23cm (8x9 inches)
    © Tomas Clayton
    The far north gallery contains an enormously poignant portrait of an old man titled Waiting by Sue Spaull (who needs to get her website sorted pronto!).  This again created a context for the portrait which spoke volumes about the individual.

    Waiting by Sue Spaull (invited by Brendan Kelly RP)
    © Sue Spaull
    I loved the three highly accomplished drawings in charcoal by Geoffrey Hayzer RP.  This is an exhibition which always appreciates a finely executed drawing.

    Three charcoal drawings by Geoffrey Hayzer RP (NFS)
    © Geoffrey Hazer
    The exhibition also includes portraits by art bloggers Sophie Ploeg (The Art-Ventures of Sophie Ploeg) and Olha Pryymak (Olha Pryymak).  I had the pleasure of meeting up and having lunch with Sophie and her model Emma - and it's an excellent likeness of Emma.  See Sophie's review of the exhibition here - Royal Society of Portrait Painters

    Autumn by Sophie Ploeg (NFS)
    oil, 74x54cm (29 x 21 inches)
    ©  Sophie Ploeg
    People I know: Nabil by Ohla Pryymak (£375)
    oil, 19 x 19cm (7 x 7 inches)
    © Ohla Pryymak
    In general, I very much liked the hang, although I thought the new Threadneedle Space was better suited to strong and colourful paintings and I'm not sure it needed a 'quiet wall'.  Quieter paintings seem to fare better in the smaller and more intimate North Galleries - which in this instance had a lot of traffic on the day I visited.

    Events during Exhibition

    The RSPP always makes sure that there are a number of good quality events during the course of their exhibition.  The following events will take place before the exhibition closes on 18th May 2012.

    The similarities between the role of the photographic portrait and the role of the painted or drawn portrait have created tension with practitioners since the invention of the photograph. Clearly, however, artists have been making use of the lens as part of an image capturing process for centuries. Is it wrong then for a portrait artist to use photography to help paint a sitter and if so, why? For instance, what do portrait photographers look for in their subjects that differs from that of the portrait painter and what can portrait painters achieve that their counterparts cannot? Does the use of photography within portrait painting extend the possibilities or does it impede them? How can the use of photography and video enable the artist to create broader contemporary insights into a subject or comment upon mass media itself?
    You can visit the exhibition can be seen at the Mall Galleries until 18th May 2012, 10am to 5pm (open until 7pm Thursdays).  Admission £2.50, £1.50 concessions (Free to FBA Friends, National Art Pass holders, Westminster Res-card holders and under 16s)


    Note: I also have a website for all those interested in portraiture - Portraiture - Resources for Artists