Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to enter the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition 2013

Artists have got about six weeks to get their entries sorted for the 245th RA Summer Exhibition 2013 at the Royal Academy of Arts.

This very prestigious exhibition will be held at Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts (Monday, 10th June - Sunday, 18th August 2013).  It's likely to have around 150,000 visitors.
  • This post is about the entry process for the world's largest open submission art competition which has been held every year since 1769.
    • for those who have not submitted before - and 
    • for those who have just forgotten how and need a reminder!
  • This is rather a long lost. A summary of how to enter is also provided in Major UK Art Competitions in the UK 2013

First we need to look at last year and what changed - before we go on to wonder whether the changes will be abandoned and the exhibition will revert to "type".

Terms and Conditions for Entries to 
the Summer Exhibition 2013
held by the Royal Academy of Art
The nature of the competition
In 2012, more than 300 first-time 'open submission' artists had work in the Summer Exhibition, almost 1,500 entries were shown and more than two thirds were by non-Academicians.An artist's guide to the Summer Exhibition

Last year:
  • There seemed to be a conscious effort to attract more artwork from younger artists to address accusations which have been justifiably levelled at this competition in the past.
  • the number of works increased - as did the number of works by non-Academicians.  There were also more new artists selected for the exhibition than has happened in recent years
  • the hang was changed in a quite radical way and many more smaller paintings were hung in the Large Weston Room.  This was presumably associated with the fact the Exhibition hung more work from the open entry than ever before.

This was my review of last year's exhibition - Review: 244th Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy which focuses on the extent to which the exhibition changed last year.

244th Summer Exhibition - Paintings in the Large Weston Room
This year's exhibition

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ten Tax Tips for Artists

Here's Ten Tax Tips for Artists - some of which are reminders for me this time next year!  Plus some links to guidance on what to do and what not to do!

I'm just finishing up my tax return (due 31st January 2013) and I'm just reflecting on
  • what are the things I'd wish I'd known when starting out and 
  • what are things I want to remember for next year's tax accounts
In my experience, anybody who is willing to spend some time sitting down and reading the guidance notes should be able to compile their own tax accounts and do their own tax return online unless their affairs are complicated.

So here are some tips for how to make things easier when it comes to doing your tax return as an artist.  So just to get an overview first......
  1. File as you go
  2. Hobby income is still income
  3. You can use short-form accounts
  4. Develop an organised folder system for different tax years
  5. Keep business transactions in a separate bank account
  6. Learn how to use a spreadsheet
  7. Foreign Income is only complicated for some people
  8. Register to use the online self-assessment system
  9. Tell the tax people if you become self-employed
  10. Learn the difference between income/expenditure and receipts/payments - and all about allowances!

At the end you'll find a link to a downloadable toolkit to check for errors in your 2011-12 self-assessment return which must be in by 31 January 2013 - or you incur a £100 fine

and now to business.........

Sunday, January 27, 2013

27th January 2013 - Who's made a mark this week?

Manet's portraits of his wife - with cat
Manet - Portraying Life at the Royal Academy of Arts
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
This is going to be a quickie.  As ever I've left my tax return to the last minute and must get it done pronto!

I posted about Manet twice this week
Plus I put up a new banner on my Facebook Page 

Drawn during the ROI Art Event Evening at the Mall Galleries in December 2012
Artists and Art Blogs

A chapter from the first biography about Banksy, the relentlessly anonymous street artist, has been published in the Smithsonian Magazine.  Read The Story behind Banksy
While he may shelter behind a concealed identity, he advocates a direct connection between an artist and his constituency. “There’s a whole new audience out there, and it’s never been easier to sell [one’s art],” Banksy has maintained. “You don’t have to go to college, drag ’round a portfolio, mail off transparencies to snooty galleries or sleep with someone powerful, all you need now is a few ideas and a broadband connection. This is the first time the essentially bourgeois world of art has belonged to the people. We need to make it count.”Read more: Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
Coloured Pencils
  • I've only just found out that the Scribbletalk Forum is no more due to the low level of activity and has been replaced by a new and private Facebook Group as a means of getting image security and privacy.
  • There is also a very active Facebook Group called Colored Pencil Artists and Lovers on Facebook which is also a closed group but has a lot of very familiar names from the world of coloured pencils.
Who Painted This?
Art Business & Marketing
  • to follow - after the Income Tax Return!
  • ArtInfo reports that an Artist (was) Busted at SCOPE Miami for Copying Photographers’ Works.  Somewhat predictably the Gallery now wants to have nothing to do with the artist.  Also somewhat predictably the artist still doesn't seem to get what they did wrong.  It's not about giving a credit - it's about getting written permission so that you can create a derivative work!!!
Art Collectors and Art economy

Why do so many galleries use such pompous, overblown prose to describe their exhibits? Well, there's now a name for it: International Art English. And you have to speak it to get on.
Art Dealers 
Art Exhibitions

John Singer Sargent Watercolors - MFA Boston 13 October 2013 - 20 January 2014

Art Supplies
Opinion Polls
  • Don't forget the Making A Mark Opinion Poll in the right hand column - Do you read ebooks about Art?
43% of U.S. adults would be willing to give up beer for a month if it meant they could keep accessing the Internet on their smartphones, and 36% said they’d be willing to give up chocolate.
Based on feedback from both users and webmasters, we redesigned Google Images to provide a better search experience. In the next few days, you’ll see image results displayed in an inline panel so it’s faster, more beautiful, and more reliable.
and finally......

Chinese Girl by Vladimir Tretchikoff
The painting behind what is reputedly the most reproduced print - the green skinned Chinese Girl by Vladimir Tretchikoff - is to go to auction at Bonhams - see Chinese Girl portrait goes to auction.

This article Revealed after 60 years... the real Green Lady whose face is on a million living room walls identifies the model, Monika Pon, who was the original Chinese girl and shows her side by side with the painting.

I'm wondering how anybody can ever tell what is the most reproduced print.  I think it's unlikely that it's still the most reproduced print - even if it was in the 1950s.

I wonder what is the most reproduced print today. Answers via comments please.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Who painted this? #13

I'm still ringing the changes trying to find a painting that one of you is unable to guess within a couple of hours of it being posted!  We're back to still life this week.

Who painted this? #13
How to participate in "Who painted this? #13"

PLEASE make sure you read the rules before posting a comment - and ONLY POST ON THIS BLOG what you think is the answer.

Click this link to read THE RULES for participating in this challenge (this saves having to copy them out for each post!).

In short:
  • use your brains NOT software to find the painting which created the above image
  • search using words only on a database of images
  • leave your answer as a comment on this blog
  • if correct it will not be published until the next post - which provides the answer
  • if wrong it will be published
  • do not leave the answer on Facebook!
  • the winner - who gets a mention and a link on/from this blog - is the first person to give me a completely correct answer for ALL the things I want to know
Who Painted This #12 - The Answer

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Exhibition Review: Manet - Portraying Life at the RA

Édouard Manet's painting of Berthe Morisot
on the Banner for the Manet - Portraying Life Exhibition
on the front of Burlington House, home of the Royal Academy of Arts
This is the headline short version of my review of Manet - Portrayal of Life - the new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts - which is the first major exhibition of Édouard Manet.  That's because I forgot to take my pill that makes me mobile and I'm in agony and can hardly move after the Friends Private View this afternoon!

I usually like to sleep on it before writing a review as it's always interesting to see what you remember the next day.  In this instance I don't think my views will change much

This is:

Visit the Exhibition if you live in London and are interested in painting and portraiture. If you live outside I couldn't justify the expense of making the journey to London just to see this exhibition.  But an interesting exhibition if you've got other reasons bringing you to London. (Plus remember you can come to London any time and see these paintings at the National Gallery for free!)

Initial Impression

There's not a lot of paintings (59?) and they're utterly swamped by being in the big main galleries of the RA (the ones used for the Summer Exhibition).  Some stunning paintings - and some which I personally don't think deserve to be in an exhibition.

This would have been a much better exhibition with certain paintings culled (not good enough) and transferred to the Sackler Galleries upstairs which would have suited both the size of the exhibition and the size of many of the paintings much better.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Numbers for Artists: How to work out profit from an art sale

Following on from yesterday's post How to calculate the cost of entering a juried art exhibition this post looks at profit

I've finally got round to doing something I intended to do after a post I wrote in 2009. That dealt with How much are you paying yourself?

How to Work Out Profit from an Art Sale

I've now revised this and published it as a "Numbers for Artists" Guide - called How to Work out Profit from an Art Sale.
  • This is for Artists wanting to understand the full costs which supported your creation of an artwork and how much profit they made from a sale 
  • It identifies 
    • a full cost approach to calculate actual profit from the sale of an artwork 
    • enables an estimate of an artist’s hourly rate of pay
As with yesterday's guide, you can find this on the Making A Mark Guides section of my Making A Mark website - click the link in the title of the Guide to access it.

Compare hourly rates of pay

You can also compare hourly rates of pay to the median hourly rates of pay in £ recorded for artists / graphic designers in the UK via the Payscale website.  (Note this chart updates automatically as new data is reported)


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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to calculate the cost of entering a juried art exhibition

Have you ever sat down and really analysed how much it really costs to enter a juried art competition or open exhibition?

If you have then probably, like me, you may have had a bit of a shock.  Here are some of the reasons why the costs can mount up without you noticing and why it can be so expensive:
  • you're paying entry fees AND commission on sales
  • you're not submitting to a local gallery and it's not a short local drive in the car.  You've often got to get the artwork to a place a long way from home. This involves packing costs and shipping/travel costs which you don't normally have to pay - often both ways if the work is not accepted or doesn't sell.
  • the competition isn't from your locality - it's often national or international and there's hundreds if not thousands of people all competing to get their artwork into the exhibition
  • this exhibition is prestigious and the artwork needs a frame which looks good - and unless you've worked out to keep a handle on costs that can be expensive
There's only one thing worse than a nasty shock after you've worked through the numbers - and that's a nasty shock because you didn't work through the numbers!

I started working out the costs when I needed to work out a price for my work.  I didn't mind making only a little money if the work sold - I understood that juried exhibitions are often much more about marketing and building a following then they are about selling per se.  However I did object to making a loss!  Bear in mind that I also don't have the same transport/travel costs as other people as I already live in London.

It really made me start paying attention to pricing and to the scope to manage costs (eg buying frames which were standard sizes rather than custom made so that they can be reused with the mats custom made - by me).  Setting the costs out on paper helped me to focus on what costs could be better managed, what costs could be eliminated and what costs you just had to take on the chin.

A spreadsheet for calculating the costs of entering a juried exhibition

I've created a spreadsheet to help artists calculate the real cost of entering a juried art competition or open exhibition

A Making A Mark Guide: Analysing the cost of entering a juried art exhibition - is available from my website.  The spreadsheet automatically summarises costs and produces overall totals and net cost or profit.

Analysing the cost of entering a juried art exhibition - Practice Worksheet
If you enter your personal cost data (or estimates) based on experience or research - in the green column - it tells you
  • the costs of entering a juried exhibition - and how much you're spending on 'marketing' your work if it doesn't sell
  • the net gain if you sell the work 
It includes
  • a proforma template (yellow tab) which you can tailor to your own needs if you know how to use Excel.  Just copy the whole sheet over to a new sheet to start a calculation.
  • a worked example for a work which sold (blue tab)- gives you the net gain on which taxes are payable
  • a worked example for a work which did NOT sell (red tab) - to give to you the total potential cost of 
    • NOT submitting your best work 
    • and/or NOT making a realistic assessment of your chances of getting work accepted
  • a practice worksheet (green tab) which you can use again and again just be eliminating the data in the "enter data" column

Don't worry if you make a mess of it - you can always download it again!

If you're used to using spreadsheets, you should find it fairly self-explanatory.  Your cost data is entered in the green column in the practice sheet and the summary costs are then calculated automatically.

Do please let me know if you have any queries

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Links to more resources for artists

Monday, January 21, 2013

20th January 2013 - Who's made a mark this week?

This week the snow has come to London - and the UK - this week and I've been looking for people drawing and painting the snow.

Sledgers at Belmont Tower, Grantham
© Haidee-Jo Summers

Vue de Toits, Effet de Neige (4th Impressionist Exhibition 1879) by Gustave Caillebotte
Collection: Musee d'Orsay
Photograph © Katherine Tyrrell - all rights reserved

Artists and Art Blogs

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lynn Painter Stainers Prize 2013 - Selected Artists

83 works by 71 artists have been selected from over a thousand submitted for display in the 8th Annual Exhibition of The Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2013.  This will be held at the Mall Galleries, London SW1 from 19 February – 2 March 2013.

This prestigious art competition is designed to encourage creative representational painting and promote the skill of draughtsmanship.  The exhibition features excellent figurative painting by both established and young contemporary artists from across the UK.

Oranges from the South
Dr Leonard McComb RA Hons RWS RE RP
Oil on canvas, 50 x 60 cm
The award winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on Monday 18 February 2013 at the Mall Galleries, London SW1. The prize money totals £25,000 and the prizes are as follows:
  • First Prize of £15,000 
  • five Runner Up Prizes of £1,500 each. 
  • the Young Artist Award of £2,500 - to promote painting and support fresh new talent.
I'll be doing at least one more post reviewing the exhibition next month.  You can find links to posts about the call for entries and reviews of previous exhibitions and lists of selected artists at the end of this post.

Selected Artists

The artists whose work has been selected for the 2013 Exhibition are listed below.  I've organised them alphabetically according to the number of works selected for the exhibition.

Three works
Two works
Melons from the South
Dr Leonard McComb RA Hons RWS RE RP, 
Oil on canvas, 50 x 60 cm
One work
All works are for sale. For further details please visit:

Admission to the exhibition is free.  It takes place at the Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1Y 5DB between 19 February – 2 March 2013, (10am – 5pm daily).
Website: | Twitter: #LPSPrize @ParkerHarrisCo

Note: The Selectors

Ken Howard OBE RA NEAC, is a British artist and painter who has exhibited extensively throughout the UK and internationally. He was President of the New English Art Club from 1998 to 2003, and was elected a Royal Academician (RA) in 1991. 

Andrew Lambirth is a writer, critic and curator. He has been The Spectator’s art critic since 2003, and a contributor since 1996. A volume of his selected reviews from The Spectator entitled ‘A is a Critic’, will be published in March. 

Nina Murdoch, is a British artist who had a major solo show at Marlborough Fine Art in 2011. She has won numerous art awards, including the 2008 Threadneedle Prize. 

Antony Williams is a British artist and Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize winner 2012. 

Andrew Wilton is visiting research fellow at Tate Britain, following a distinguished career at the Tate, the British Museum and the Royal Academy of Arts.

Sponsors: The Lynn Painter-Stainers Competition is sponsored by The Painter-Stainer's Company, The Lynn Foundation, Minerva, and Linklaters LLP 
Links to previous Making A Mark posts about the Lynn Painter Stainer Prize and Exhibition

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Who painted this? #12

I have to keep thinking of new ways to challenge those participating in the challenge of identifying who, in the history of art, painted this painting, what's it called and where is it now - and how did you work out the answer!

This is something of an iconic painting of paintings.

Who painted this? #12
Do please make sure you read the rules of participation before you respond.

How to participate in "Who painted this? #12"

PLEASE make sure you read the rules before posting a comment - and ONLY POST ON THIS BLOG what you think is the answer.

Click this link to read THE RULES for participating in this challenge (this saves having to copy them out for each post!).

In short:
  • use your brains not software to find the answer
  • search using words only on a database of images
  • leave your answer as a comment on this blog
  • if correct it will not be published until the next post - which provides the answer
  • if wrong it will be published
  • do not leave the answer on Facebook!
  • the winner - who gets a mention and a link on/from this blog - is the first person to give me a completely correct answer for ALL the things I want to know
Who Painted This #11 - The Answer

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Society of Botanical Artists: "The Language of Flowers" - Call for Entries

The Language of Flowers is the title of this year's Annual Open Exhibition by the Society of Botanical Artists (SBA).  This post is about how to submit an entry for those not familiar with the process.  It's also a reminder for me - and others - that the SBA deadline for entries to the 2013 Annual Exhibition is 18 February 2013!

Below you will find:
  • the key points for those wanting to enter the Exhibition.  
  • links to previous posts on this blog which include images so you can see the type and quality of work which is accepted for exhibition and/or wins prizes
  • links to my resources for botanical artists
Social of Botanical Artists - Annual Exhibition 2013
"The Language of Flowers" - theme for the 2013 Exhibition

You don't have to submit work which complies with the theme - however works which do make for a more interesting Exhibition.

Reasons for choosing the theme of The Language of Flowers include:
  • flowers have traditionally had symbolic meanings and can be used to spell out messages - which will doubtless appeal to the cryptographer cross word puzzlers among the botanical artist fraternity.  I'm agog to find out who will have the best suite of works - in words as well as art!
  • it also offers scope to submit artwork about plants which have unusual names - either in Latin or as common vernacular or nicknames - the call for entries wonders whether the SBA will see a Miss Wilmott's Ghost in April  (I couldn't resist a small diversion - here's two articles on this plant - The Essay: Miss Willmott's ghost (1999) from the Independent is about the background to Miss Wilmott and the second Miss Willmott's Ghost (2005) is by Christopher Lloyd in The Guardian prior to his death)
How to enter the Exhibition

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours Annual Exhibition 2013 - Call for Entries

The 201st Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours will be held at the Mall Galleries between 5 - 18 April 2013.

Private view, Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 2012
Deadlines for entries are as follows:
  • Digital Submission and Pre-Selection Deadline: Thursday 31 January (noon).  This enables artists to submit work for pre-selection and avoids the cost of getting the work to London if it is not pre-selected for review by the Final Selection Panel.
  • Receiving Days: Friday 22 & Saturday 23 February (10am – 5pm) This is for work which has been pre-selected and work which was not submitted via the digital entry.  All work is then reviewed by the Final Selection Panel. You can submit work via regional handing-in points -  select this link for more information
Thinking about Entering?

If you're not sure whether or not your watercolour artwork "fits" with this exhibition why not take a look at my blog posts about previous RI Annual Exhibitions below.  These include gallery shots of works in the exhibition - which display the variety, size and quality of work which is accepted.  Plus links are given, where available, to the websites of prizewinning artists and artists whose work I liked.
Annual Exhibition 2012: Paintings by Ronal Maddox, President of the RI
Who can submit artwork?
The is an "Open" Exhibition which means that non-members of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour are also allowed to submit work.

What to submit

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge official portrait - my verdict

This afternoon I went to see the first ever formal official portrait of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge painted by Paul Emsley at the National Portrait Gallery.  Read on for my review of it and some further thoughts on the viral repercussions of its unveiling - plus what I learned about people and portraits in the last few days.

I studied the portrait in the Gallery for some time - and sat and sketched it as I find that a really good way of really looking hard at a portrait.

The first image you see on this post is a jpeg file sent to me by Paul Emsley himself which has more colour and much less pallor and dark shadows than some of the reproductions I've seen published in the last few days.  I also have a copy of the high-res print version of the official NPG version.  Plus the original reference photo has been posted on an art forum - which also makes for an interesting comparison. So here's how they all vary from what I saw in the gallery.

Essentially both the Emsley and NPG photos are darker than the painting.  Her head in the painting is not seen floating in the dark!  Both also lose some of the definition in the hair which I could see clearly while sat opposite it doing my sketch.  Both make the background too dark.  Coloration is better in the Emsley photo and closer to the original.  The NPG makes some of the shadow areas seem much more marked and bluish than they are in reality. Interestingly the reference photo shows a dark area under the eyes which is less marked in both photos - and the painting!

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge
By Paul Emsley (b.1947)
Oil on canvas, 2012
1152 x 965 (45 3/8 x 38)
NPG 6956 
© National Portrait Gallery, London;
A National Portrait Gallery commission
given by Sir Hugh Leggatt in memory of Sir Denis Mahon through the Art Fund
I had a go at lightening it to something more like what I saw in the gallery.  In trying different tweaks in Photoshop I began to find the tweaks which I think may have been applied to the original photograph which made it a not so wonderful reproduction of the painting - as seen in rather too many places recently.  (I am incidentally more convinced than ever that a number of journalists commented on the portrait without visiting it)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

13th January 2013 - Who's made a mark this week?

The big event of the week was the first formal portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge.  There's been more written about portraiture on the internet in the last couple of days than I've seen in a very, very long time!

However I find I've been getting more and more irritated by people who are making judgements on some less than wonderful photographs while at the same time making carping comments. I'm very sure most would be horrified if similar comments made in the same tenor were to be made about them and/or their paintings! Some of the comments left me wondering how artists could say such things about a fellow artist.

Here's my post - Paul Emsley and the Duchess of Cambridge - two videos and a drawing  which I recommend you view if only to see the videos and get an accurate perspective on the why/how it was painted as it was.  Most importantly the videos identified in the post highlight the reference photographs used for the portrait and provide a much better colouration than the photographs of the portrait.  The one I posted yesterday supplied by the NPG was completely drained of all colour.

Reference photo on the left and portrait on the right
a still from the video about The first portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge
Over and above what I said yesterday (see below), I do think people would do well to reflect on the fact that:
  • this is a woman in her 30s who is emphatically trying to be herself and is not trying to look like a supermodel or a fairytale princess
  • the bags under her eyes are genetic - they were not created by Paul Emsley.  
  • when she got married she was a decade older than Diana was when she got married - the two are in no way comparable in age ie she should look "older"
  • she has a degree in the history of art - and she knows what portraiture is about 
  • I think it highly unlikely that she was not aware of the type of paintings that Paul Emsley produces - he does not flatter people and he never paints them 'smiling with teeth' - this portrait will not have been unexpected or any sort of accident
  • her grandmother in law is probably the most painted person in history.  Many of her portraits look nothing like her - and she doubtless would have been a source of a few tips on the topic of how much the British love to criticise the latest Royal portrait!
  • Sandy Nairne, the Director of the National Portrait Gallery - which has 11,000 portraits in the Collection - was quoted as saying - presumably in response to a question as to why she wasn't smiling 'properly'
    There isn't a single open-mouthed portrait in the collection
James Gurney's post - Kate's Stifled Smile -  asks a relevant question which focuses on the pursed lips or closed smile depending on how you look at it (the Facebook entry about this post which has generated nearly 100 comments - some of which were really abusive in tone)

Below are the articles by the journalists
While by way of contrast
It's very human - when you look at it, the full face is in front of you, you look straight into the eyes and face. There are no airs and graces, there's no background context to allude to success or power - it's very much on a level of one to one with the viewer. It's quite natural, it's open, it's straightforward and very pure - it's immediate and not overly sentimental.
My conclusion?

  • First, people would do well to remember there's nothing media proprietors like more than the extra traffic caused by a bit of a controversy.  They're also not above contributing to the feeding frenzy in order to generate comments and traffic and sell more adverts!  
  • Second, I suspect this painting will become known as the "Mona Lisa painting" within the collection of contemporary royal portraits and will become extremely celebrated in time - with people remarking in puzzlement about what was all the fuss about at the time.  After all, it will remain in the NPG collection for centuries to come - unlike the articles written about it!
[UPDATE Monday morning: Paul Emsley has now written to me having heard about the views I was expressing about his painting of the Duchess and my comments on the photography.
He's sent me a photograph of his painting of The Duchess of Cambridge. I can confirm that it looks nothing like the one which has been circulating in the newspapers and on the Internet.

The one I'm looking at has much better colour and the transitions on tonal values are much more subtle and very much more like what I'm accustomed to seeing in Paul's work.

Which means that in the real painting she does NOT look old or drained or a vampire or a gothic horror or any of the other really nasty and mean-spirited remarks which have been made about this painting.

To me this new photo indicates that the problem with the image people have seen lies entirely with the photographer and NOT the artist. I hope as this fact becomes more apparent that some of those who made nasty remarks will have the good grace to apologise!

I don't have Paul's permission to post the image however I'm hoping I might be able to post it on my blog later this week - ideally after I've been able to see the painting for myself.]

Now on with the rest of this review

Art Blogs and Artists

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Paul Emsley and the Duchess of Cambridge - two videos and a drawing

Many people have commented on Paul Emsley's portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge.

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge
By Paul Emsley (b.1947)
Oil on canvas, 2012
1152 x 965 (45 3/8 x 38)
NPG 6956 © National Portrait Gallery, London; 
A National Portrait Gallery commission 
given by Sir Hugh Leggatt in memory of Sir Denis Mahon 
through the Art Fund
Below you can view two videos about the portrait and the portraiture process.

  • The first is a video available via TheRoyalfamily channel on YouTube or the NPG website.  In this one Paul Emsley explains the process used for the portrait and shows the photos he worked from.
  • The second was created by the Art Fund who helped fund the portrait commission.

For me both videos provide a much better picture of the portrait than that seen in many of the photos.

I'm now wondering how many of those who wrote about the portrait did so from the photographs rather than the videos.  (I do hope the NPG will replace their "for use on a website" image - see right - which has completely lost the colour which is so evident in the videos).

Can I recommend that both videos are viewed full screen as they provide a much better appreciation of the portrait - in which she does not look old!

The first portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge

The first video shows us:
  • the relative scale of the portrait
  • the photos Paul Emsley worked from
  • the way he worked - and the glazing in thin oils
We also hear more about a very important concept behind the portrait - about how the Duchess of Cambridge wanted a natural portrait and NOT one which showed her "on parade", as it were, in her formal and official role. 
"The Duchess explained that she would like to be portrayed naturally - her natural self - as opposed to her official self. She struck me as enormously open and generous and a very warm person. After initially feeling it was going to be an unsmiling portrait I think it was the right choice in the end to have her smiling - that is really who she is."
It strikes me that this decision shows us a woman with her own independence of mind - and it may well be that people will come to like this portrait very much more in the years to come.

The painting was created in May and June 201 from two sittings at Kensington Palace and at the artist's studio in the West Country, England, and Kensington Palace - and from photographs.

As always you can't beat seeing the painting in person and you can do that by visiting the National Portrait Gallery in London where it is now on display as part of the Contemporary Collections in the Lerner Galleries, Room 36, Ground Floor, National Portrait Gallery (Admission free)
The National Portrait Gallery’s painting of its Patron was commissioned by the Gallery, and given by Sir Hugh Leggatt, in memory of Sir Denis Mahon, through the Art Fund.  The Duchess was involved in the selection process, from which artist Paul Emsley, the 2007 winner of the Gallery’s BP Portrait Award competition, was chosen by Director Sandy Nairne to paint her official portrait.

The Art Fund Video

Below you can view a video created by The Art Fund which further explains the portrait - although it gets a little overblown in my view.

The basic point though that this is a portrait of a new Duchess at the beginning of her 'royal career' in which she will be painted again and again in a much more 'royal' way in a very good one - and one which a lot of people missed who commented on this portrait on Friday.

A titular 'faux pas'?

I'm greatly intrigued by the fact that both videos are referring to the portrait as "Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge" which is a term usually used for a divorced Duchess(!) - and I beg to refer both to Burke's Peerage on this topic!  (Readers may recall "Diana, Princess of Wales" as the title she assumed only after her divorce).

A drawing of 'Katherine'

I may be completely wrong about this. I was also greatly intrigued by a charcoal drawing of a young lady called Katherine on Paul Emsley's website.  To my mind this bore a considerable resemblance to photographs of a younger Katherine Middleton.

It made me wonder whether this was actually the first time she had sat for Paul Emsley - or whether she was a little more familiar with the work of this artist.

Links: Two more Making A Mark posts about Paul Emsley

Note: Glasgow-born Paul Emsley (b.1947) grew up in South Africa before moving to England in 1996. He won first prize in the BP Portrait Award in 2007 for his striking large-scale study of the face of his neighbouring artist Michael Simpson. His previous commissions have included the author V S Naipaul (2009) and Nelson Mandela (2010). He is represented by the Redfern Gallery of London and is associated with Brundyn + Gonsalves Gallery in South Africa. (

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