Saturday, June 30, 2012

Poll Results - Size Matters!

June 2012 Making A Mark Poll: What's the main reason for the size of your artwork?
This month I asked you what was the primary reason for the size of your artwork and 125 people responded to the Making A Mark Poll for June.

In POLL: How do you decide the size of your artwork? I highlighted a number of reasons for making choices about different sizes of artwork.  These focused on:
  • Art Practice
  • Art Collectors
  • Art Exhibitions
In reviewing the results of this month's poll, I'll use the same headings to highlight what the data tells me and the key points made in the comments received on the post announcing the poll.

You may have a different view.  Please do not hesitate to comment telling me what that is.

Poll Results

125 people responded to the poll during June - and the poll results will be typical of the people who responded.  These are the results in tabular form - and are the same as the ones represented by a pie chart at the top of this post.

What's the main reason for the size of your artwork?

whatever subject demands & hang the cost36%
standard sizes: minimise framing costs21%
latest purchase of paper/support12%
standard sizes: for exhibitions (swop frames)10%
small size for enthusiastic collectors7%
small size for impulse purchases5%
small size for ease of postage5%
something else5%
big for competitions/ to get noticed0%
big for collectors with space & money0%

Size is important!  Artists do think about the size of their artwork and for the most part appear to have developed a perspective on what size suits them best.

In summary, of the 125 artists who responded, there is a clear split between an 'art is all' aesthetic perspective and those who want their art to make financial sense as well as being aesthetically pleasing.
  • Just over a third are persuaded that the aesthetic of their design and composition is the overriding factor in determining the size of their art.
  • Just under a third are mindful of pragmatic and financial considerations with respect to framing for exhibitions and sales.
  • One fifth paint small for three main reasons - all of which primarily relate to sales and despatch to customers and/or exhibitions
  • 5% of artists have other reasons for painting the size they do
Read my analysis and commentary to find out more about determines the size of artwork.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: David Nash at Kew - A Natural Gallery

I'm going to have to go back to Kew Gardens to find more of the sculptures by David Nash in his exhibition of sculpture David Nash at Kew - A Natural Gallery. I reckon I found about two thirds of them on Wednesday - but missed some of the really good ones.

The sculptures in wood and bronze are located around the gardens and in the Temperate House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Cork Dome - (2012) cork oak
©  David Nash
The first ever sculpture Nash has made using Cork Oak.
Cork Dome is the sculpture Nash is most excited about. It is an entirely new work, built onsite at Kew Gardens. It's also the first Nash has made from cork oak. He was inspired to make it while visiting the cork harvest in Portugal.
Cork Dome
This is an index of all the works by Nash which are on display in Kew Gardens
  • If you click on the image it takes you to a page for each sculture.
  • On that page it tells you how the work was made and what Nash thinks of it
This is my video of the works I saw.  It's a combination of film and stills of sculptures

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Working on site: David Nash in the Wood Quarry at Kew

David Nash in the Wood Quarry at Kew
Image courtesy of Kew Gardens
In his latest exhibition David Nash at Kew - A Natural Gallery at The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, David Nash RA has his studio in the gardens. Except in his case the studio is a Wood Quarry and his tool of choice is a chainsaw.
This is the first time Nash has shown his process of making art as part of a major exhibition. It is also his first wood quarry in ten years.
This is a video of David Nash working in his Wood Quarry at Kew Gardens.

In a career spanning 40 years, the artist David Nash has created over 2,000 sculptures out of wood, many of them monumental in scale.
kewgardens - David Nash at Kew - the Wood Quarry
In my last post, about artists working on construction sites, I commented on how the artists told me that the art comes out of what presents itself.

It's very much the same thing when David Nash works with wood. The weight of the wood dictates that most of the work is done where the tree grew. This means that when he works around the world, he works with the trees and the wood which is indigenous to the place.

In other words, he responds to his environment - much as the artists do who work within a building site.

Yesterday I went to view the exhibition. I didn't get round it all (ran out of time plus ran out of space on my SD card!) and one of the parts I didn't get to was the wood quarry. So I was very pleased to discover this morning that Kew Gardens have published a video of David Nash on the Kew Gardens YouTube video channel which shows him working in the Wood Quarry and explaining how he work.

Later this year, works created by David Nash in the Wood Quarry will be appearing in the exhibition at Kew.

I'm just annotating a video I've created (I've just learned how to annotate film so as to indicates titles of work!) and am drafting a review of the exhibition which will be published later today.

In the meantime, enjoy the sight of an artist at work in the landscape.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

'Built" : recording and responding to the construction process

I've had my braincells stretched and given a good workout today.  That's because I've been at the 'Construction: Knowing through making' symposium which accompanies the current 'Built' exhibition at the Mall Galleries - which opened yesterday and continues until 7th July

It's really refreshing to attend an intellectually stimulating event linked to an exhibition of contemporary art which makes you really think about how people work and what is actually going on.  I can think of a few people who know me who would have loved to attend this event and see this exhibition.  One chap at the end commented that it had completely changed his life!

Built - in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries
So this post is about:
  • 'Built' the exhibition
  • 'Construction: Knowing through making' - a symposium which addressed the very special challenges facing the four artists in the exhibition

Monday, June 25, 2012

24 June 2012 (+1) - Who's made a mark this week

I always find BP Portrait Award week really busy - two events to attend and, since I started videoing, more than a couple of posts to write and some films to make (see section on Art Competitions).  This week was complicated by a trip down to Dulwich to see two more exhibitions - the new Warhol Portfolios exhibition and the Phillip Haas Four seasons sculptures after Giuseppe Archimboldo (of which more later this week).

So - lots of scope for photos on who made a mark this week (see below)!

Let's start with one which I always love taking - the artist with the model and the portrait.  In this instance it's Alan Coulson with Richie Culver (also an artist) and Alan's portrait of Richie.  This is the chap whose portrait is on a big banner hanging outside the National Portrait Gallery in St Martin's Place.

BP Portrait Award 3rd Prize: Richie Culver by Alan Coulson
BP Portrait Award 3rd Prize: Richie Culver by Alan Coulson
Oil on wooden board 850 x 950 mm
Alan Coulson (left) with Richie Culver (right)
Artists and Art Blogs

Drawing and sketching

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Profile of Aleah Chapin

Aleah Chapin and "Auntie"
Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2012

© Aleah Chapin
Last week I was delighted to meet Aleah Chapin - the first American female artist to win the BP Portrait Award.

She's also one of the youngest artists ever to win this very prestigious portrait prize which was hotly contested this year by 2,187 artists from 74 countries.  (see Aleah Chapin wins £25,000 BP Portrait Award 2012)

I interviewed her the day before the 2012 BP Portrait Exhibition opened at the National Portrait Gallery opened to the public.

I was also tickled pink to find out that Aleah had already sent my blog post about the shortlist - in which I predicted she would win the First Prize to all her relatives! 

It also made for a very friendly interview - and I've made a film of excerpts and uploaded it to YouTube.

At the end of this post you can hear from Aleah herself in my video of highlights from my interview with her.

You can see Aleah on the right with her portrait of "Auntie".

About Aleah Chapin

First a little bit about her background.  
Aleah grew up on an island north of Seattle but is now based in Brooklyn, New York. She lists her home town as being Langley, Washington which is on Whidbey Island.

She has been painting since she was a child.

In 2009 she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Cornish College of the Arts which boasts it is one of the top visual arts and performing arts colleges in the USA.

Since graduating from Cornish, she has attended a residency at the Leipzig International Art Programme in Germany in 2011 - this is a picture of her work in the studio she had for the summer.

She's also got a good track record in winning scholarships and other prizes and has participated in 19 solo and group exhibitions in the USA, UK, Netherlands and Germany since graduation.  I guess this
is getting her work in front of a lot of people, and she is already being exhibited by galleries which many older professional artists would be very happy to be exhibiting in.

This summer Aleah graduated from
New York Academy of Art with an MFA - and recently learned that she'sbeen awarded a postgraduate fellowship with the NYAA which will provide her with a studio, a stipend and some teaching experience - plus a show at the end.

As Aleah put it to me "Everything has happened very fast in the last two months!  It's all really coming together"

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Video of BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2012

Here's my handheld video of a walk around the BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2012 at the Press View at the National Portrait Gallery on the morning of 20th June.

You can hear my dulcet tones at the beginning check with the Head of PR that it's OK to video the exhibition and post it to YouTube. 

I was walking around with one eye on the portraits and one eye on the people I had to negotiate my way round!  I've edited out all the bits where there's lots of people and not a lot of paintings!  The lighting is also not brilliant - I maybe should have tried videoing with my new camera which produced photographs of the paintings which I didn't need to process.

I'd be happy to hear suggestions for ways of improving a video of a walk around the exhibition - as opposed to setting up a tripod and panning.

PS Later today I'm hoping to process/upload the video of my chat with Aleah Chapin, the winner of the BP Portrait Award 2012 and then post my interview with her on this blog.

(I've previously posted my video of the 2010 Exhibition on YouTube as well - with the kind permission of the NPG)

BP Portrait Award 2012
Plus my website - which includes other portrait competitions - Portraiture - Resources for Artists

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2012 (Part 2)

This post about the BP Portrait Award 2012 follows on from my analysis yesterday of what I saw as the factors which do and do not influence which works gets selected for the BP Portrait Award

In Part 2, I want to comment generally on works in this year's exhibition and highlight in particular some of the non-prizewinning works that I like

First off, to my mind there is absolutely no question that the best portrait in the show won the top prize.  That said, there is still an awful lot of top quality portrait painting in the show.

I highly recommend that anybody seriously contemplating an entry to the BP Portrait Award 2013 should

  1. review the various factors which appear to me to influence which portraits (and artists) get selected for the exhibition - see my Review: BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2012 (Part 1) 
  2. get themselves to the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London before September to see the show! Or catch some of the show when it journeys to Edinburgh and Exeter.
Overview of the Exhibition

Here's some of the things I noticed:
  • Fewer "big heads" - the trend seems to be going back to "normal" portraiture.  However those that were painted are very impressive.  
  • Lots of realism - which means if you want to get in as a painter of realism you need to be very good indeed!
  • Fewer "painterly" works than I'd like to see
  • A lot of smaller works - I'm guessing this might partly be to do with the distances which some works are now travelling to be judged for this exhibition - I see they're now making the journey from Australia!
  • More monochromatic or near monochromatic works than usual - including some large works
  • Fewer people in context - I have an an impression of fewer works with an interesting contextual background which helped to tell the story of the person.  I notice this because I like good backgrounds which add to the story of the person or immediately convey a sense of who this person is.
  • More tattoos than hitherto!
  • Almost all involved painting just one person.
I liked the hang (which you can see something of in my previous post).  Having smaller works punctuate the larger works helped me see then more easily.  

Artwork worthy of a closer look

Here are a few of the pantings which kept me looking at them for longer.  I'm going to try and explain why.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2012 (Part 1)

The BP Portrait Award is a challenging art competition for any portrait artist.  This year a twenty five year old American woman entered the competition for the very first time and won the top prize.

Her work was one of four shortlisted for prizes out of the 55 selected for the exhibition - and the 2,187 entries received from artists in 74 different countries.

To get selected you need to produce good artwork and get noticed.  So how does that happen?

This year the judges have identified WHY they selected the shortlisted works - and you can see their reasons on the narrative next to each painting (but not on the website - as yet - but I'm going to lobby for this to be included).

This year, as well as commenting on the exhibition, I'm going to offer my perspective on what it takes to get selected and to win.  Hence, this first part of my review is going to focus on the patterns I observe in relation to artwork which gets selected.  It also includes views of the exhibition.

[UPDATE: I've now also uploaded a handheld video of the BP Portrait Exhibition 2012 to YouTube]

BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2012
all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell
So what makes a winning work?  How is work selected?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Aleah Chapin wins £25,000 BP Portrait Award 2012

Aleah Chapin - Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2012
(left to right: Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery,
Bob Dudley, CEO of BP, Aleah Chapin and Sir Michael Parkinson)
all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell
International artists took the first and second prizes at the BP Portrait Awards 2012 ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery this evening.

American artist Aleah Chapin (26) - born in Seattle in 1986 and based in Brooklyn - has won the BP Portrait Awards First Prize - worth £25,000 - and a commission from the National Portrait Gallery - as predicted by me (see BP Portrait Award 2012 - The Shortlist). 

Her large nude portrait (oil on canvas, 58 x 38 inches) of an older lady who is a close friend of her family. Auntie is just one of a series of paintings in her
The "Aunties" project - which comprises nude portraits of women Aleah has known all of her life. The portrait is simply stunning and I knew straight away it would win.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the NPG commented
"Aleah Chapin's portrait is ambitious and beautifully painted, with superbly controlled colour and tone. She is a very deserving winner of the 2012 BP award, which once again demonstrates the vitality of contemporary portrait painting around the world"
I have to say I'm very pleased to see another female winner of this very prestigious prize - and it's wonderful to see what tremendous skill and sensitivity that she has for such a young artist.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pastel Paper and Pastel Boards

I've been reorganising my art supplies recently.  It helped to make me realise how much it's possible for one artist to buy if you haven't got your art supplies as well organised as they could be!

Having acquired an IKEA Alex Drawer Unit for paper storage I've been surveying my stock of paper and boards for working with coloured pencils and pastels.  The new unit has made for a huge improvement in knowing what I've got.

Having unearthed all my pastel grounds from where they'd been hiding I've now got a strong itch to get back to working with pastels again!

So far as the pastel grounds are concerned I've tried a fair few different types of pastel paper and pastel boards over the years but always felt that I could do with a better understanding of how the supports vary.

One of the ways I understand art materials better is to get them all lined up together and then systematically review them - looking for similarities and differences.

I've started to do this by creating a new site - Pastel Papers and Pastel Grounds.  It's very much the type of site which I wished I'd been able to review when I first started using pastels.  The new website provides:
I'd be very happy to hear from pastel artists who have reviewed different pastel papers and pastel boards and are happy to share their views - and generate a little bit of traffic to their blogs!

I'm also really interested to find out how the voting turns out - and what turns out to be the most popular pastel ground!

When I started out, it wasn't long before I began to appreciate that the type of ground you used made an absolutely HUGE difference to the way the pastel adhered and what it ended up looking like (Thank you Bill Creevy!). That's when I wanted to know more about the different types of pastel support and began to experiment with different types of support - before I started working more with coloured pencils.

I meet a lot of people who say they work with pastels - but in fact they only seem to work with pastel pencils and have never ever tried to work on anything than pastel paper of the type found in most art shops. To me they're missing out on a wonderful experience as all of us who have acquired messy hands will vouch for.

I know that I had what felt like an absolute epiphany when I started using Rembrandt Pastel Card (no longer available but now reincarnated as Sennelier La Carte Pastel (Pastel Card). Suddenly I had a surface which gripped the pastel and made it much easier to get saturated colour and to show the marks I intended to make. Plus working big and using the whole arm opened up a whole new way of working! Plus I learned the hard way not to get it wet.

Later on, I began to see the development of grounds which assumed that the normal way of working would include a watercolour or acrylic underpainting prior to the application of the pastel and there are now a number which offer this functionality.

[Update] I was also sceptical about the ability of watercolour paper to take pastel - until I did a workshop with Sally Strand on Cape Cod - see The best ever workshop - pastel painting with Sally Strand and my painting on Saunders Waterford NOT 140lb

It's also interesting to see which brands remain year after year and which are those which come and go (and which are those which get a new name every year!)

Shelves of Sennelier Pastel Card - formerly known by a number of other names!
as photographed in the Sennelier Shop in Paris in 2009 (the one opposite The Louvre!)
You can find out more about pastels and other papers and supports in two related websites:


Sunday, June 17, 2012

17 June 2012 - Who's made a mark this week?

London from Greenwich Park (exhibited 1809) - JMW Turner 
oil on canvas, 902 x 1200 mm
Collection:  Tate Britain
I've been channelling Turner this week......

First there was Matthew Collings excellent programme about the River Thames of JMW Turner - see BBC4 - Turner's Thames - which is still available to watch again on iPlayer!

Then I started to research all the different places he lived next to or near the Thames - which turned out to be rather more than I thought.

.....and finally I started to channel Turner on my iPad - below is my version of London from Greenwich  - a view which is very familiar to me.  Don't adjust your glasses or screens - I'm afraid that the quality of the picture hasn't translated very well from my iPad.

Artists and Art Blogs

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why do wealthy people invest in art?

Barclays Wealth Insights Report - June 2012
Do the wealthy buy fine art for the same or different reasons to everybody else?  

Is profit their motivation or do they seek pleasure - or maybe both?

We've become used to thinking that astronomical prices for art are pretty much a function of art being treated as an investment tool for the realisation of capital growth.

Certainly there have been lots of tales of the exponential growth that some have achieved when holding fine art as an asset (see The Scream - the Most Expensive Artwork Ever Sold at Auction).

We hear less about the drop in value of those who have been over-rated.

So how do the wealthy regard the fine art they buy?

Profit or Pleasure? Exploring the Motivations Behind Treasure Trends is a Wealth Insights report published by Barclays this week.  It explores the motivations behind "treasure trends" across the world.

"Treasure assets" are defined as items such as precious jewellery, fine art, wine, antique furniture, classic automobiles and precious metals.

The findings in the report are based on a global survey by Ledbury Research of:
  • more than 2,000 high net worth individuals. In this instance "high net worth" means people in 17 countries around the world (Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific) who had over USD$1.5 million/GBP£1 million (or equivalent) in investable assets - including 200 with more than USD$15 million/GBP£10 million. 
  • a series of interviews with academics, professionals and other experts from around the world
The survey and report provide an in-depth study of investment trends across the world in these treasure assets, as well as offering insight into the financial and emotional motivations for wealthy individuals holding these particular items.

In particular, the report looks at the value that high net worth individuals in the UK and around the globe place on their possessions.

Generic conclusions about why people own treasure assets
  • Wealthy people hold an average of 9.6% of their total net worth in 'treasure' assets
  • Women tend to prefer treasure assets and are less likely to consider their treasure to be a financial investment
  • Only 11% of UK ‘treasure’ assets are held for financial motivations
  • Those wanting less risk and a guaranteed return on their investment tend to invest in treasure with a defined commodity value - such as gold and jewerllary
  • Those who live in more volatile economies tend to invest more in 'treasure' assets - it's seen as more secure
  • The most significant motivation for holding treasure assets was enjoyment - people acquire the treasure because they derive pleasure from it
  • Owning treasure can be social - especially if you get to share it and show it off to people.  
  • In those countries which have more people who have acquired their wealth relatively recently - such as India and China - people are more likely to want to demonstrate their status through the treasure they own.
  • Treasure is "sticky" - in principle, people are willing to trade but in practice they don't
  • People who enjoy owning their treasure are also likely to value it for its social or heritage benefits - and want to pass this on.
  • Selling on inheritance is the rule rather than the exception
    • children don't always value treasure in the same way as their wealthy parents
    • what's a good collectible tends to vary between generations
Expensive works of art, sculptures and furniture can cost significant sums of money to insure, store and maintain. They can also be subject to inheritance taxes, which can be high in some countries, like the U.S. and U.K.
Why invest in fine art?

This post focuses on the conclusions relating to investing in fine art.
When buying a painting, for example, collectors can all too easily let their heart rule their head. The emotional and social attachment to treasure means that investors are extremely likely to make sub-optimal decisions about when to buy, sell or how much to pay.
There are some interesting conclusions as to why wealthy people buy fine art which I thought were worth highlighting.
  • Fine Art is a more enjoyable way of diversifying a portfolio
“Art is one of the few tangible assets that also qualifies as a passion investment. There is more enjoyment in displaying art on your wall than in displaying stock certificates.”
  • Fine art is one of the most popular categories of treasure in terms of the number of high net worth people who have bought fine art
  • fine art is very much seen as an investment favoured by older people 
  • plus people's attachment to their treasure tends to grow as they get older - once bought fine art is an investment people tend to hang onto; 
  • “Once people own something, they start to ascribe value to that object simply through having owned it and that means that they are not willing to sell it at the same price for which they would buy it,”
  • hence younger people are more likely to see art as an investment rather than as an asset to love and cherish
  • however the popularity of fine art is not consistent across the world; those countries which favour fine art are shown in the table below
Countries which prefer to invest in fine art

    #1 preferred investment#2 preferred investment#3 preferred investment
    South Africa
    • Showing a new investment to people provides a signal as to relative status ie you can afford to buy an expensive painting - however, on average, only in the UK and USA only a small proportion of people own treasure to show off to people (UK: 19%; US 22%)
    • ownership of fine art pictures and paintings has grown significantly in the last 5 years: 
      • then 41% owned pictures and paintings; 
      • today 49% own fine art pictures and paintings
    • paintings are seen as having a more stable value than alternative investments
    The Mei Moses All Art Index, which tracks returns from paintings sold mainly in New York and London, returned 11% in 2011, beating the return from the S&P 500 by about 9%
    • however auction results as an indicator of the state of the market are misleading.  
      • auctions only tell you about the success or otherwise of art transactions which occur in public - for art which is expected to sell.  It says nothing about art not expected to sell at auction or prices of artworks sold in private transactions.
      • art can be difficult to sell.  The report suggests it's not for those who want to maintain their liquidity.
      • prices paid at auction might not reflect scarcity.  The art market inverts normal rules on occasion.  Some of the highest prices are paid for contemporary artwork where the artists have been prolific (eg Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol)
      • people apparently pay more for art on sunny days!
    • fine art sculpture is thought to be an area of growing area of investment in the future
    Just under half of respondents who own fine art sculptures consider their treasure to be priceless.
    • the markets for different classes of art tend to behave differently (eg old masters are regarded as more secure than contemporary art)
    “Investors are more averse to making losses and tend to want to hold onto winners for a longer period of time in the art market than with traditional investments.”
    • hence holding art as an investment means that a collector should diversify if they are to avoid the risks associated with collecting just one artist
    • the value of Art Funds very much depends on the extent to which they offer a high degree of expertise, time and contacts
    • The art market can be manipulated - which is where the exhibitions in the major museums come into play!
    The relatively small size of the art market means that there are more opportunities to create and move markets than in, say, equities or currencies. Even something as simple as exhibiting a work can enhance its value.
    “Collections are more likely to increase in value if they are seen by the general public because art accrues value through exposure. This is particularly important with contemporary art, where the reputations of these artists are still being consolidated.”
    Dr Sarah Thornton - author of Seven Days in the Art World
    The wider economic issues

    In my view, there's a very good argument for bequeathing fine art to museums and art galleries rather than to family members - for one thing it will remain forever identified with the person who bequeathed it
    Passing an art collection down the generations can create a wonderful legacy, but it can also be an unwanted burden.
    However, there's an interesting social utility debate about whether wealthy people do society a favour or a disservice when they invest in fine art and then lend it to a museum.  Would they have helped society more if they had invested in the local economy in the area?

    Those thinking the latter are maybe missing the point if you look at the extent to which museums can regenerate an area and have a very positive impact on local economies!

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    Threadneedle Prize 2012: Analysis of entries / selected artists

    Each year, as The Threadneedle Prize matures as an art competition we see a change in the process and/or the results.

    Last year, the major change was the huge increase in submissions from artists based in the regions as the cost of entry was slashed due to the use of digital submission.

    Back in early March I highlighted the Call for Entries for £30000 Threadneedle Prize 2012. The entries have now been judged and this post provides an analytical overview of the result at this stage.

    This year there are THREE major changes - with more artists and more artwork in the exhibition which is excellent news for all aspiring prizewinners!
    1. the number of artists who will be exhibiting has more than tripled from 45 to 145 - that's an increase of 322%!
    2. Plus many more works have been selected for the exhibition.  This year the exhibition will include 153 works compared to 59 works in 2011 - which is an increase of 260%
    3. The shortlist of six artists will not be announced until at the Private View on 25th September 2012 at the Mall Galleries in September - which should provide a considerable incentive for artists to show up!
    The Threadneedle Prize: The beginning of the Artists' Reception 2011 
    In the foreground:
    Lewis McNaught, Director of the Mall Galleries, talks to Henrietta Simson, the winner of the Threadneedle Prize 2011
    Threadneedle Prize - the Art Competition

    Here are some of the statistics.  

    In 2011:
    • 4,350 works were submitted 
    • by 2,377 artists
      • an average of 1.83 works per artist
    • and 52 works were selected for exhibition
      • which equates to 1.4% of the artwork submitted was selected for exhibition
    • by 45 artists 
      • just 2% of those who submitted work
    In 2012:
    • 4,062 works were submitted (a decrease of 7%)
    • by 2,441 artists
      •  an average of 1.66 artworks per artist
    • 740 works (18% of the entry) were invited to travel to London for further review by the selectors.  There were so many works to look at "in the flesh" that the Mall Galleries had to arrange an overflow space in the ICA next door!
    • 153 works were selected for the exhibition in the Mall Galleries in September
      • which means 3.8% of the artwork submitted was selected for exhibition.
    • by 145 artists 
      • which is a 322% increase on 2011.
    The exhibition this year will include a much larger number of 3-D works.  37 sculptures have been selected for the exhibition and these vary in scale from the tiny to the huge.

    I'll be posting the names of the selected artists just as soon as the organisers can provide them.  They'll be busy informing the artists right now!

    Threadneedle Prize - the 2012 Selectors

    This year's Selectors are:
    The works were selected for their quality of execution as well as their strong, contemporary, and sometimes challenging, interpretation of figurative painting and sculpture.
    Threadneedle Prize - The Exhibition
    The Threadneedle Prize is the UK's leading showcase for contemporary figurative and representational painting and sculpture. Our aim is to promote and display works that use a variety of different mediums, styles and approaches, with an overall focus on the quality and confidence of the finished work. The competition sets out to promote and encourage excellence.
    The Threadneedle Prize Exhibition at the Mall Galleries (The Mall, near Trafalgar Square, London SW1Y) will open to the public on 26 September 2012 and close on 13 October 2012.  The exhibition is open daily 10am-5pm (closes 3pm on final day) and admission will be free

    Throughout the exhibition, visitors will be able to vote on ALL the works for the Visitor’s Choice Award of £10,000.

    Threadneedle Prize - The Prizewinners

    The Threadneedle Prizes 2012 total £46,000 and comprise:
    • The Threadneedle Prize: £30,000
    • The Visitors’ Choice: £10,000
    • The Threadneedle Prize Finalists (5 awarded): each £1,000
    • Visitors' Choice Finalists (2 awarded): each £500
    The winners of the two major prizes will be announced at the Awards Dinner on 10 October 2012.

    2011 Exhibition:
    Other information about art competitions in the UK

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    Call for Entries: ING Discerning Eye 2012

    ING Discerning Eye 2012 - Call for Entries 
    The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is created from small artworks selected by two art critics, two artists and two collectors from an open submission and those who have been invited to contribute work.  Last year over 600 pieces were displayed in six small exhibitions at the Mall Galleries.

    The Call for Entries for submissions to the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2012 has been published.
    • The deadline for entries is 7/8th September in London.
    • Prior to this art can be taken to regional pick-up points around the UK
    Below you can find:
    • a commentary on the percentage of work which gets selected from the open submission - and how well this does in terms of sales
    • an overview of the process for entry
    • tips for submitting work

    What's your chances of getting accepted?

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    Have you heard about NGA Images?

    It's becoming noticeable that Galleries are getting a lot better at making their images available to the public - and I'm going to be highlighting improvements on this blog.

    National Gallery of Art | NGA Images 

     The first site worth noting is the NGA Images website which was launched in March this year to provide open access to digital images  of all works believed to be in the public domain.

     That's not open access hedged around with all sorts of caveats and exceptions and exclusions - it's genuine open access.  It actually recognises that not all those who want to study art are enrolled in a school or on a college course.  It's genuinely expanding the resources for those of us who want to learn more online / in our third age etc

     Consequently you and I can now search, browse, share, and download free of charge more than 20,000 digital images believed to be in the public domain.
    With the launch of NGA Images, the National Gallery of Art implements an open access policy for digital images of works of art that the Gallery believes to be in the public domain. Images of these works are now available free of charge for any use, commercial or non-commercial. Users do not need to contact the Gallery for authorization to use these images. They are available for download at the NGA Images website (
    I applaud the Gallery's underlying rationale.  Its open access policy very much endorses the educational role of the Gallery and the national importance of it making images of its collection and associated information available to scholars, educators, and the general public. I wish  this approach were one which were more obvious in the way some other galleries make their images available for use by others.
    The Gallery’s open access policy is a natural extension of this mission, and in applying the policy in a global digital environment, the Gallery also expands and enhances its educational and scholarly outreach. The Gallery believes that increased access to high quality images of its works of art fuels knowledge, scholarship, and innovation, inspiring uses that continually transform the way we see and understand the world of art. 
    Available Images
    Over 20,000 images are available.  However they're not all on display for you to look at.  However you can use the search engine on the website to find images of the type you're looking for.

    Search options include:
    • Boolean search - to identify an exact set of words or to exclude specific words.  Useful when used in conjunction with other searches 
    • the artist's name or keywords in the title eg here's the results for Claude Monet
    • the accession number - useful for academics and those with access to the accession number
    • the school of painting - by which they mean the country - here's the results for American - all 749 pages!
    • classification allows you to specify a particular type of art eg painting; medium allows you to identify all images relating to a specific media eg pastels
    What you find when you start searching is that a lot of images are identified but the actual photograph of the image is not available.

    Some of the images are organised in six galleries as follows
    One can only assume the intent is to develop further featured image collections over time eg portraits, landscapes, still life etc How to look at the images Without registration, you can view the images:
    • in two different sizes of thumbnails - it's your choice
    • with varying numbers of images on the page - 25, 50 and 75 which is most helpful as I find I want more when I'm scanning rather than studying
    • with a white, black or light grey background
    However if you register and log in you can also see the same images in high resolution mode and download them in varying large sizes.  It's much easier to see the techniques used by individual artists when you can see a work up close. Here's Vermeer's Girl in a Red Hat - cropped so the treatment of the contrejour is more obvious

    Girl with the Red Hat (1665/1666) by Vermeer
    oil on panel 22.8 x 18 cm (9 x 7 1/16 in.)
    Andrew W. Mellon Collection
    What you can do with the images

    Basically, you can create a lightbox for viewing and sharing the images or you can download images in various sizes and resolutions
    Users may download— free of charge and without seeking authorization from the Gallery— any image of a work in the Gallery’s collection that the Gallery believes is in the public domain and is free of other known restrictions.
    If an image of a work is not currently available under open access, it is for one or more of the following reasons:

    • the work is still under copyright, or the copyright status is unclear
    • privacy or publicity issues exist
    • the work is not fully owned by the Gallery
    • contractual restrictions specified by the artist or donor preclude open access
    • the work has not yet been photographed or the image quality standards of the existing photographs do not conform to Gallery criteria
    For many works whose status falls into one of the above categories, the Gallery makes available thumbnail images of the work under the doctrine of fair use, consistent with the guidelines established by the Association of Art Museum Directors.
    Charley Parker wrote a good review of this new facility back in March - NGA Images.  He was also very impressed with this new level of access and functionality offered by the NGA.

    You can follow the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012: Call for Entries

    You have until 9 July 2012 to submit entries for the £12,000 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012.

    Some of the most impressive portraits I saw last year were in the exhibition for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize.  There's something about this competition which stimulates a much more creative approach to portraiture - see Review: Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2011

    Wen, 2011 by Jasper Clarke (4th Prize, 2011)
    © Jasper Clarke

    How many people enter and how many get selected?
    • The National Portrait Gallery expects to get around 6,000 entries
    • The exhibition will display photographic portraits by around 60 photographers.
    • That means those if you enter you have about a 1% chance of getting selected
    Are there any awards?
    • the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012  is worth £12,000
    • the John Kobal New Work Award is worth £4,000 (including a commission).  This NEW prize will be awarded to a photographer under the age of 30 who is selected for the exhibition. 
    What sort of work is eligible?

    Sunday, June 10, 2012

    10 June 2012 - Who's made a mark this week?

    Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant by David Pilgrim AROI
    8x16in, oil on board
    Last Sunday there was no "who's made a mark this week" because it was the the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant and I was supposed to be either on the 7th floor of Tate Modern drawing the pageant from the windows of the restaurant or on the balcony of the Friends Room looking over the Thames. Instead I decided to stay nice and dry (rain, greasy pavements and my dodgy feet don't mix) and I watched it on the box instead.

    I knew the BBC had planned to have some artists painting on a bridge - and I was contacted by Haidee-Jo Summers (Haide-Jo Summers Artist - ma vie en couleurs) one of the artists who was painting on the Millennium Bridge - and who managed to produce two paintings. As the weather deteriorated I kept wondering how they were getting on. Well Paintings for the Diamond Jubilee answers that question. Oil paint does not stick to canvas which got wet in the rain - official! 

    Kudos to Haidee-Jo and David Pilgrim (David Pilgrim AROI) and the others who stuck it out as long as they could in the strong wind and torrential rain. I think they should get a medal!

    Congrats also to those who responded to my post about The Big Diamond Jubilee Art Challenge

    Artists and Art Blogs

    Saturday, June 09, 2012

    Review: 244th Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy

    Last Friday I went to the Friends Private View of the 244th Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.  It has a much fresher feel this year - the layout has changed and the overall visual impact is much better.  It's certainly the first time in a while that I feel like I want to go back and take another look when the crowds have thinned out from the frenzy of the PV days.

    I'm sorry I can't show you any images of what this year's exhibition looks like - but none have been supplied by the RA.  The only images available of the galleries are from last year's exhibition - which is a real shame - particularly as the look of the exhibition has changed so much this year.  This is the Telegraph's slideshow of works on display

    [UPDATE:  I've now received images of the exhibition and these are now included below]

    Courtyard of Burlington House and the entrance to the RA's Summer Exhibition
    Sculpture: From Landscape to Portrait (£180,000) by Chris Wilkinson RA
    engineered timber, stainless steel and concrete
    I've been in two minds about this exhibition for some time.  While it's undeniably the largest art exhibition each year in the UK, I think it can include an awful lot of what I regard as complete tosh - and can also look quite dreadful at times.  In my head the visual metaphor is a lumbering juggernaut.

    Friday, June 08, 2012

    Review: Rosie Sanders "Against the Light"

    Rosie Sanders and her painting of Cannas 2
    watercolour painting on Arches paper
    118 x 178cm

    I've previously written on this blog about Rosie Sanders and large scale flower painting - so it was an especial pleasure yesterday to go to the Private View of the Against the Light exhibition at the Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery in Chelsea to meet with Rosie Sanders and to see her very large watercolour paintings of flowers.

    The "Against the Light" exhibition opens to the public on 8 June and continues until 23 June 2012.
    Interested in the play of light and its effect on the colour, pattern and surface of the flowers, Sanders uses dramatic lighting to recreate the glow of sunshine through the petals. For this exhibition she focuses on the changing stages in the life cycle of flowers
    Once a botanical artist has "proved" their technical levels of excellence (eg RHS Gold Medal - Rosie has five) it's what they then do next which particularly interests me. I personally very much like botanical artists who push the boundaries of botanical art and take their art to the next step and create something which is very distinctive and unique to them.  These are the artists whose work is immediately recognisable.  Rosie is certainly one such artist.  
    A new exhibition of large-scale watercolours of flowers, painted from life. Sanders striking close-ups of flower heads in watercolour are painted on a hugely magnified scale, and can be as large as 5ft across and up to ten times bigger than the flowers she is depicting.
    You can see just how large her watercolour paintings are from my photographs.

    Wednesday, June 06, 2012

    POLL: How do you decide the size of your artwork?

    The Making A Mark Poll for June tries to identify what's the main factor which in general influences our choice of size for our artwork
    • Many of us will have pondered on the size of our artwork since we started being artists.
    • Many of us will have tried to find the right response to that ultimate challenge - "What's the right size for my artwork?" 
    • How many times have you and I started to get an artwork framed - only to discover that only a tailor made frame will do?  Only to then find out that the cost requires a small mortgage!
    Here's some of the things which have struck me over time - followed by an indication of the scope of this month's Making A Mark Poll.

    Please comment with your own experiences and thoughts
    about working at different sizes 
    and how you have arrived at a preferred size

    Art Practice
    • Moving to a bigger size loosens up the arm and stops the artwork being 'tight'
    • When working plein air, smaller paintings are more easily transportable.  The bigger the painting - the more likely it is to take off/get damaged etc
    • Using a bigger support increases the size of the space you need to work in
    • Big supports need proper easels
    • Working on a table easel is more relaxing than standing up all day at a full size easel
    • Working small can mean investment in magnifiers
    Looking at the Winner of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2008
    Somebody told me after I wrote the review for this show
    that they had no idea that the paintings were so BIG
    That's why when writing reviews I try to include a gallery view which includes people
    Art Collectors
    • Paint big and get noticed! (Have you ever noticed the size of artwork in competitions?)
    • People with big homes, lots of wallspace (and lots of money for art collections) like big paintings
    • There's a very enthusiastic market for miniature art
    Art Exhibitions
    • Working to a standard size can mean framing costs reduce significantly
    • It's a lot simpler and easier to send people and exhibitions small paintings
    • Size influences postage and insurance costs (which is a not insignificant consideration once art stops being small!)
    • Big frames don't fit easily in small cars
    • You only begin to calculate your profit on a sold work after deducting gallery commission and the cost of that very expensive tailor made frame!
    So here's my list of options for what influences you when deciding the size of your artwork

    What's the main reason for the size of your artwork?

    Here are the suggested options for the poll.  You probably use more than one - but what's the main reason for you?
    • whatever subject demands & hang the cost
    • big for competitions/ to get noticed
    • big for collectors with space & money
    • small for impulse purchases
    • small size for ease of postage
    • small size for enthusiastic collectors
    • standard sizes: for exhibitions (swop frames)
    • standard sizes: minimise framing costs
    • whatever comes to hand when I start
    • latest purchase of paper/support
    • something else
    Please leave a comment if there is some other reason.

    You can find the poll in the right hand column.  It runs until just after midnight on the last day of the month and I'll post the poll results later that day.