Friday, October 12, 2012

Review - UKCPS 11th Annual Open International Exhibition 2012

David Sandall has won the top award for pure coloured pencil artwork at the UK Coloured Pencil Society's 11th Open International Exhibition 2012.  This opened last Saturday at the Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery.  The exhibition continues until 25th November 2012.

UKCPS 11th Annual Open International Exhibition 2012 - Award Winners

You can find the Award Winners on the UKCPS website.  I've also got them listed below along with links to their websites and artwork.

What's noticeable this year is that many of the top award winners have not won a prize with the Society before.  Indeed I don't know a number of the names which suggests they've not exhibited with UKCPS before.

I found it interesting - and very exciting - that the top prize went to a coloured pencil drawing of people.  All David Sandall's work on coloured paper are self-evidently drawings.  He chooses to refrain from filling all the background.  His work in no way attempts to masquerade as a painting.

I note that the Awards have also moved on again and that there is now an award for still life which memorialises Peter Woof who died on September 27 2011, aged 55, just before the last annual exhibition.  Still life was an aspect of coloured pencil art which Peter made his own!

David Sandell
Derwent Award: Best in Show - Pure Coloured Pencil
David PritchardFox and CubDerwent Award: Best in Show - Mixed Media
Deborah Holman Black Vase (Self- Portrait)
UKCPS Runner up, Best in Show - Coloured Pencil
Chris Francis
Rondavel KrugerUKCPS Runner Up Best in Show -
Mixed Media
Cathy Holtom
(Down a Dusty Lane)
Endymion and Aglaia
Third Best in Show
Morryce J MaddamsRed LionUKCPS President’s Award
David SandellRevisingAnn James Massey Award for
Excellence in Drawing
Janie Pirie SBA GM UKCPSLife is just......Peter Woof Award for
Best Still Life
Jean Canter UKCPSSurrey Autumn - Ranmore Common from Polesden Lacey
Peter Weatherill Award for Best Landscape/Building
Beverley Courtney UKCPS
Indoor CatFaber Castell Award for
Best Animal / Bird
Portrait of my Grandfather
in Words and Colour
Caran d'Ache Award
Best Abstract/Fantasy
Suzy Herbert UKCPS ASGFAFreedom
SAA Award for Best Botanical
Janie Pirie SBA GM UKCPSClare
Kate Clarke Award for
Best Human Portrait
Jackie CoxThe Pool Jackson's Award for
Creative Use of Colour
Irina Garmashova-Cawton UKCPS StrawberryHighly Commended
Chris Francis
Profile Karin
Highly Commended
Denise Howard
Better Days Behind
Highly Commended
Deborah Holman
Ink Pots
Highly Commended

Artwork I liked

Here's the artwork I liked - based on the Picasa slideshow which gives you an excellent view of all the artwork in the show.  I've included links to artists who have not been mentioned above.
  • Nicolson Brooks ~ Portrait of My Grandfather 30x25cm (mixed media) Good to see somebody telling a story; using text within a drawing and drawing a subject with emotional content
  • Chris Francis's two works - Profile Karin and Rondavel Kruger - At last some scribble makes its way into the UKCPS exhibition. Pencils are made for scribbling and some of the very best artists have used looser mark-making to create great drawings
  • Suzy Herbert ~ Freedom 22x20cm I'm always intrigued to see what visual joke Suzy will come up with this year. Humour most emphatically has a place in art.
  • Suzy Herbert ~ Mellow Fruitfulness 19x23cm I personally would have placed this work by Suzy higher in the running for the Best Botanical Art in the Show
  • Denise Howard ~ Better Days Behind 40x30cm I thought this piece was stunning. 
  • Karen Musgrave Hill ~ Dancing Chillies 34x25cm I really like the simplicity of different views of the same simple subject on a completely plain background. This artist has really looked at that chilli.
  • Kris Owen ~ Best Mates 37x29cmIt took a while a little while to work this one out. I like artists who don't spell it all out to those viewing - a conundrum draws you in and gets you involved with the work.  I also like the fact the foreground and background complemented rather than competed with the real subject of this drawing.  Plus there's character in there even though they both have their eyes closed!
  • Janie Pirie ~ Lilac Blossom 50x45cm Janie does stunning botanical works - simple as!  That lilac colour is the most difficult colour to get right.  Janie has captured all the nuances which exist in real life.
  • Pamela Preller ~ For Once There Was 37x46cm Different!
  • David Pritchard ~ all his animals are excellent!  I don't ever recall seeing his work before and wonder where he's been hiding!
  • David Sandell - again all his drawings are excellent - simplified and unified they must pack some punch
  • Ranjini Venkatachari ~ Epiphany 45x61cm (mixed media) - I liked the visual pun in this one.  It's certainly not a subject I've seen before.
Observations about the exhibition - an alternative perspective

I've not been to Nuneaton so these observations are done from the perspective of the online exhibition of all the work selected for the Exhibition.

I have to say I found the works selected for the exhibition both pleased and disappointed me.  It's good to see some new and more professional artists getting involved with the society.  It's good to see some new styles and some excellent quality.

At the same time it's disappointing to observe that the Society still has some way to go before there's a greater congruence between the artwork selected for this exhibition and the type of artwork I see at the exhibitions of other national art societies.  For example, as always there is a huge emphasis in the UKCPS exhibition on highly realistic artwork and very little painterly or impressionistic work.  Elsewhere I see a much greater range of styles - even by those relying on photos for references. Maybe some coloured pencils artists don't submit such work on the basis of what they see in the exhibition online?

It's good to see some evidence this year of the beginnings of new styles and approaches to making art with coloured pencils.  However I see very little change in the subject matter.  At no other national society do I see more than 30% of the artwork in the exhibition portraying animals.  (Can I emphasise at this juncture that I like good wildlife art - however I also enjoy landscapes, botanical and still life). Elsewhere it's typical to very usual to see landscapes accounting for a significant proportion of an exhibition - however at UKCPS for some reason this year landscapes make up less than 10% of the works selected.

Also while the standard at the top end is going up I personally feel that some of the work selected falls far short of the quality I've seen in previous exhibitions.

My view for some time has been that UKCPS will only 'come of age' when it embraces more styles, more subjects and more different approaches to making art with coloured pencils.  Recent changes are encouraging but to my mind there's still quite a considerable way to go.  (Please bear in mind I see the annual exhibitions of virtually all the major art societies in the country - and have done for some years)

A lot of people won't agree with what I've said.  Others may observe that it needed saying.  Now I've got my head above the parapet, I'd just observe there are lots of different ways of making art - as artists from other art societies have already shown us.  I'd just really like to see coloured pencil artists exploring their medium more.



  1. Bob Ebdon emailed this comment to me as he was unable to post it.

    There's no need to have a Google Account or to be a blogger to post. Just sign up with OpenID

    I need to post it in two parts as it's long!


    Hi Katherine,

    I tried commenting on your Making a Mark blog but I can never remember my password so I cant sign in. Just wanted to register a few comments on what you wrote - most of which I agree with.

    When I finally saw the online exhibition, there was just one artist I went back to and looked closely at all of his work - yes, a deserved winner IMHO, very reminiscent of Old Masters Conté pencil sanguine drawings, and yet of Bernard Poulin's work too. This guy can draw, and I liked his subject matter as well. Like you I didn't recognise a lot of the names in this exhibition, which is great, it is always good to see new talent coming along. Like you, I was worried about the quality of some of the work - always a problem where you have a large gallery space to fill.

    You had a couple of comments that I agree with, about a lack of landscape work, and a lack of impressionistic work. These deficiencies have been evident from the start of the Society. This comes from America, I believe. The models that we all have of what constitutes "good" CP art tend to be American - Ann Kullberg, Arlene Steinberg, Gary Greene and so on - and tend to be realistic. Despite the odd impressionistic picture getting into the CPSA exhibitions, most of the prizewinners and all of the books show realistic work. When you try to do landscapes like that - and these artists don't! - it is actually very hard to do. So we don't tend to get landscapes entered for the exhibition. I guess the answer to this is that we need new models. We need an artist somewhere to produce amazing work in an impressionistic style that we can all aspire to, in pure CP. Over to you? We need to somehow get art work that is valued for its subject matter, its style, its communication with the audience - rather than its technique - hung in our exhibitions. We need a CP Monet!

    [part 2 follows]

  2. [PART 2 of Bob Ebdon's comment as emailed to me]

    The other factor here is of course the insistence that pictures in this exhibition shall be pure CP only. Personally I would not like to see this change - I believe it is the USP for our Society, and asking artists just once a year to show what can be done with just CP is not too onerous a restriction. But it is certainly a lot easier to paint smooth washes of colour for skies, or to use an acrylic underpainting for foliage than it is to do this in pure CP. So artists like the superb Graham Brace, whom I have known for several years now, tend to do landscapes in mixed media, using whatever is appropriate to the subject matter, and using pencils for details. I love to see CP used like this, but still feel that in the main exhibition of the UKCPS I want to see just CP work.

    You also had one comment that I am afraid I took mild exception to - "masquerading as a painting". I know what you mean, and where you are coming from. You see CP as a drawing medium, and the most important feature of a drawing is the marks, the lines. This is for me what makes a drawing a drawing. So for me, realistic CP work is not masquerading as a painting - it is a painting. That is my definition anyway, and we can certainly agree to differ on that. What I don't like is the negative connotation of "masquerading". They are not pretending to be something they are not - they are what they are, which is very detailed and comprehensive application of pigment to a support in such a way as to completely cover the support and leave no marks showing. Nothing wrong with that, botanical artists have been working like that for many years. But I do agree with you that this does not represent everything that is possible with CP, and large areas of art have been under-represented in our exhibitions because of the prevalence of the American model and because of valuing technique above all else. We need to redress that imbalance, and hopefully the award of the first prize in this year's UKCPS show will begin to do that.

    Please feel free to repost this if you wish.

    Bob Ebdon

  3. Now for my response to Bob re the "masquerading" comment.

    There are two things as the back of this. For me paintings are things produced with brushes and, if they "look like oils" (or acrylic) they're hung without any glass.

    I've always been uncomfortable calling my work "paintings" whether in coloured pencils or pastels. I tried it, didn't like it and switched back to calling them drawings.

    For me media ought to be honest about what it is - and it upsets me that people doing pencil art somehow want to obscure that fact it's made using pencils.

    Maybe "masquerade" is too strong a term? I'm trying to think of another which will convey my stance while being less offensive to those who like to cover every last bit of their paper.

    Incidentally botanical artists working in a variety of media - including those wielding a brush and calling their work paintings - have NOT been covering large parts of their paper for centuries! I just wish they'd tell me how they manage to keep it so immaculate!

    Coming to your last point - technique is certainly important and a very proper focus for those learning their skills - however it's not art. Art is about so much more than pure technique.

    Technique is a necessary pre-qualification rather than what makes a drawing or painting special in my book. Just as you don't need to be the best painter to win the big prizes but you do need to produce the best art (in the eyes of the judges!)

    I'd love to see a real emphasis on the art and not the technique. Maybe we could work towards a new definition of the UK model of coloured pencil art?


    We are basically in agreement Katherine. We differ in what we would call some CP works - and to me that is not important ultimately. That argument can be resolved in many ways - by calling them "works in Cp", by agreeing that "drawing" and "painting" represent ends of a spectrum with many works somewhere in between, or by agreeing that I am right! But I do not believe CP artists are trying to deceive. They are saying "Look what can be done with CP - whatever you want to call it". There is surely no desire to stop artists working in a realistic style because it looks like a painting. What I agree we must do is to show everyone this is neither the only nor necessarily the best way to use pencils. You are absolutely right about technique being a tool for producing art, not the end itself.

    And "paintings are things produced with brushes!" - come on! Palette knives, drip buckets, spray cans, hands, sticks, sponges ........ How the pigment gets onto the support does not define what the work is called!

  5. Back to me - and my response
    OK - so maybe painters use the odd spatula as well! ;)

    I totally agree we're all pigment pushers at the end of the day - which is what makes me wonder what on earth is going on with some of the new definitions of "what is a coloured pencil"?

    When water soluble coloured pencils without a wood casing are ruled out and solvent applied with a brush is allowable then something has gone wrong!

    You'll appreciate that this is not a comment which is specifically relevant to UKCPS - not lease because I'm struggling to find ANY coherent definition of coloured pencils on the UKCPS website. The preface to the Exhibitions Page (ie "pure coloured pencil" completely contradicts the awards on the 2012 Exhibition page "Mixed Media Award"

    It's not until we get to the entry form (offline and a pdf form) that we begin to get some clarity (and that's only there because I pointed out a while back that there was nothing on the website to tell people what to do if they wanted to start an artwork for next year's competition! :)

    "There are 2 categories for which we are inviting entries:
    * 100% coloured pencil
    * Mixed Media (coloured pencil with other mediums)."

    I absolutely agree that "look at what can be done with CP" is very much a laudable aim. However it's only really meaningful if the complete range of things you can do with CP are explored and presented for people to look at. An exhibition which is biased towards one 'take' on CP art inevitably has the potential to influence a whole generation! But I think we're in agreement on this! :)

    I do very much approve of the notion that it is permissable to submit both pure coloured pencil work and mixed media work to this exhibition - and then separate out the prizes for the top awards so people are clear which is which. This is a very positive move forward in my view. It also seems to have incentivised a few more artists to exhibit with UKCPS.

    UKCPS is only just starting out with mixed media - and it would be unfair of me to compare the results this year with the nature/quality of the artwork (and associated media) which has been submitted to the CPSA Explore This! shows in the past. However next year I'm hoping people start to get a tad more adventurous! It's worth taking a look at the artwork which has received past CPSA eXplore this Awards

  6. Thanks, Katherine for this post and link to the Picassa slideshow.

    I picked a few favorites and for reasons similar to yours.

    I liked Chris Francis' 'Rondavel Kruger', and Beverly courtney's 'Indoor Cat' because of evidence of the pencil marks, showing the artist's hand.

    Deborah Holman's more realistic 'Ink Pots' caught my attention.

    The entirety of the realistic work puts me in awe. I don't know how the artists accomplish it.

    I agree with Bob Ebdon that Realism seems to dominate as CP style.
    Maybe ofering a special prize for 'colored pencil done in an impressionistic style', or 'colored pencil abstract' to get CP artists thinking along new lines.

    I have always referred to my colored pencil work as "drawing", though I think some of mine could be considered to be CP art that "looks like painting", or "done in a painterly style". The difference between drawing and painting for me is that one is dry and one is wet.

    All that being said, what a fine show. Thanks again for the post!

  7. I just want to commend you for the huge amount of time and energy you use to create these posts. I look forward to them and I receive so much good information.

    Thank you for your time and efforts.

  8. I suppose we can all call our work what we like. For me, I do drawings, as I have a simple attitude to it all. Paintings are done with paint, drawings with pencil. I know there are others out there who will find subclassifications to cite as a reason to disagree, but I don't think it really matters.

    Personally, I have no interest in producing realistic work, as that doesn't particularly speak of the things I wish to communicate, although I very much admire the skill of those who practice in this style, and have learned a lot from discussions on technique within the UKCPS.

    What I do find interesting this year, though, from the evidence of my own entries, is that there does seem to have been a willingness to choose work which steps into less familiar territory. I submitted five drawings to this, my first exhibition. None of them was wholly realistic, as they were mostly free inventions, but they skirted around the edges of the botanic and wildlife categories. In fact, the one which was chosen was the one which I entered as a wild card, not expecting it to find much favour. It wasn't even intended as a picture to be hung, but as an illustration for a book I am writing. Just shows what I know as a beginner!

    The most significant thing about that is that it has given me immense encouragement to pursue my private path more publicly, rather than hiding my true message for private use only, in the mistaken belief that only certain styles and subjects are appropriate for coloured pencil. This simply isn't true, and I hope this exhibition is going a small way towards demonstrating that. Nevertheless, such an exhibition is always going to reflect what the majority of artists in the medium are doing, and coloured pencil is a singularly good medium for hyper-realistic work, and it would be inappropriate, and undesirable, if that aspect of the art were to be viewed negatively, in a desperate quest for new directions. There should be room for us all.

    I'm not a great lover of impressionism, myself, and wonder how comfortable coloured pencil would be as a way of recording fleeting impressions. It just doesn't seem to me to be capable of the rapid application necessary for such work, although I do take the point about 'scribbles' being under-employed in serious CP art. I shall be interested to see how artists respond to this in the future, and a good artist should be able to find a solution.

    In the meantime, I have a year to polish up my technique, which still has a way to go.

    nicolson brooks

  9. Hi all

    some wonderful comments and arguments here about coloured pencil and style versus technique! ~I need to digest them a bit and then add my tuppence worth. will be back :)


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