Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: 49th Annual Exhibition - Society of Wildlife Artists

This is a pictorial review of some of the 375 artworks in The Natural Eye - the 49th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists.  Names of the prizewinners and a video of the exhibition will be posted later this week.

Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists
West Gallery, Mall Galleries
Wildlife and natural history art is very popular with a number of artists so in this blog post I'm going to
  • emphasise the opportunities afforded by the exhibition - which opens to the public on Thursday 1st November
  • highlight why I think this exhibition sells so much art - and why wildlife artists should aspire to be selected for this exhibition
At the end you can also find links to my reviews of past exhibitions of the Society of Wildlife Artists.

First some photographs of some of the exhibition paintings, drawings, fine art prints and sculpture  selected for the exhibition. Interestingly there are absolutely no snow leopards and only one tiger which is a graphite drawing of the tiger in its habitat.  I must confess I really enjoy an exhibition which gives so much space to such a wide range of species.

Bursaries and Events

One of the things this society has is a strong educational ethos.  It offers advice and guidance to emerging wildlife artists (see exhibitions events below) and awards two bursaries each year to promote development and skills.  These are:
  • Painting Wild Scotland Bursary - offers an emerging artist the opportunity to attend a week long course in Scotland under the tutelage of two of the Society’s leading painters; Chris Rose and Darren Rees - and to exhibit a selection of the resulting work at the annual exhibition of the SWLA. The judges want to see a portfolio of working sketches and field studies that show energy and emerging talent.  Applications have to be made by June
  • Seabird Drawing Course Award - this offers places on The Seabird Drawing Course with John Busby. The week long course is to be held 16-23 June 2013 at seabird colonies in North Berwick and the Firth of Forth.  The closing date is September. (Application form - will be updated for 2013)
These are the details required of all those applying for a bursary.

(Note for other art societies:  The funding for the bursaries is created through the donation of a small artwork for auction)

Ceramic sculpture by Jill Moger who is demonstrating ceramic techniques this Friday
Below is a list of the events on each day of the exhibition.

Thursday November 1stPortfolio Day (11am and 3pm) with Michael Warren SWLA and Harriet Mead PSWLA. An opportunity to bring some examples of your work for feedback and guidance.

President’s Tour  (11.30am) An informal tour of the show with Society President Harriet Mead
Friday November 2ndExhibition tour (11am) and Book signing
by Bruce Pearson VPSWLA, author of Troubled Waters: Trailing the Albatross, an artist's journey

Demonstration of ceramic techniques (11am - 4pm) by Jill Moger SWLA,SWA.VPRMS

Talk (3pm) by Vice President Bruce Pearson on his experiences following albatrosses and other seabirds across the remote Southern Ocean
Saturday 3 NovemberMax Angus - available for advice and comment in the gallery
Sunday 4 NovemberD I M Wallace - available for advice and comment in the gallery
Monday 5 NovemberRobert Greenhalf - available for advice and comment in the gallery
Wednesday 7 NovemberBarry Sutton - available for advice and comment in the gallery
Friday 9 NovemberDaniel Cole - available for advice and comment in the gallery
Saturday 10 NovemberDavid Parry - available for advice and comment in the gallery
Sunday 11 NovemberEsther Tyson - available for advice and comment in the gallery

The winning painting of an old moose by Heather Irvine
the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year 2011
hangs in the North Gallery
The art society exhibition which sells the most art
The UK national art society which sells the most works in an exhibition - in a numerical sense - is the Society of Wildlife Artists.
Which art society exhibition sells the most works of art?
Exhibition in The Threadneedle Space
Year after year I have observed that this exhibition sells a lot of art.  So much so I asked how they rated in terms of overall sales - and got an answer which I wrote about in Which art society exhibition sells the most works of art?

So how do they do it?  Here's some of the reasons why I think this art society does so well
  1. Wildlife art has a strong customer base in collectors.  They like the art and they like collecting it.  Once you've assured a customer base that they can be assured of a very good exhibition, then they will turn up year after year and generate a lot of sales at the PV.  What converts a fan into a collector is quality - and that depends on excellence in practices relating to selection and standards expected of both artwork and presentation.  
  2. The wildlife is biased towards the UK.  Most notably this exhibition places more emphasis than I see in other exhibitions on the animals and birds found in the UK
  3. The artwork is authentic and speaks to those who know their animals and birds. These artists know their subjects.  Much of the artwork in this exhibition is produced by artists who develop their art from observations and sketches made in the field. 
  4. The artwork is artwork.  Very little is trying to look like a photograph.  It's realistic and figurative but rarely hyper-realistic.  These are paintings which look like paintings.
  5. Artists display work in a wide range of styles and media.  There's something for everybody.  It includes some of the best printmaking I see all year. 
  6. This is an exhibition which hangs a lot of work - and yet it never looks crowded to me.  There's a lot of use of neutral or white frames for work.  There are incredibly few works where you notice the frame before you notice the work
  7. This is an exhibition in which the work is hung extremely well.  The hang is organised by a small group of members led by the President and two of the Vice Presidents.  I almost enjoy the hang as much as I enjoy the work.
  8. The Society has a lot of dedicated professional artists as members - this is how they make their living.  Many of them are represented by several galleries and/or have their work exhibited in several exhibitions and art fairs each year.  Over time I guess they've learned a thing or two about how to market their work!
I'd be happy to take comments from members as to why they think their society does so well.

SWLA Awards 2011

As I managed to turn up a day too early by mistake(!), I don't know who won the prizes - which will be announced at the Private View on 31st October - so I will do a separate blog post about this later in the week.  I'm just hoping I spotted some of the winners!

The North Gallery - Out of the Frame

As last year, the far room in the North Gallery has been given over to the display of sketches made in the field - which are pinned to the wall "out of the frame".   (I also discovered how they do this without damaging the paper - and will be sharing an amazing hanging device on Making A Mark Reviews!)

I'm going to do a complete blog post next week on Esther Tyson one of the artists in this room as her work and her story is fascinating.


1 comment:

  1. That's a gorgeous setting for an exhibition! One of the best I've ever seen! Enjoy!


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