Thursday, January 09, 2014

RWS Contemporary Watercolour Open Competition 2014 & Associate Membership

This is a quick reminder for all those domestic and international artists who aspire to become members of the Royal Watercolour Society.

This year the Royal Watercolour Society has separated :

Previously the two have happened at the same time with some very confusing and no doubt irritating timetables for the artists making an application for election and entering work to the competition.

That said I'd still expect the RWS to pay a lot of attention to the people whose work gets selected and accepted for this very prestigious juried exhibition.

RWS Open 2013 at the Bankside Gallery

RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2014

The RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition is an annual open competition for artists working in water-­‐ based media. It is run by the Royal Watercolour Society to encourage fresh approaches to watercolour painting, and to showcase the latest innovations in the medium. Any professional artist who is not already a Member of the Society may enter.

The Entry Pack is more helpful than most - mainly because it's not trying to cram it all onto 2 sides of A4! Thank goodness for art societies which have realised that clarity is more important in the digital age than how few sides of paper you have to print!

Note that the entry pack is based on last year where the entry to the competition and application for election were horribly tangled up. They now have two separate pages on the website and two separate application packs and the processes run at different times of the year.

RWS Contemporary Watercolour Open Competition 2014 - Entry Form

The big bonus of this competition

The big bonus is that the open entry is not competing with members' work for space on the walls of the gallery. The open competition is just that - a competition amongst non-members to get their work hung.

Plus the members have three exhibitions a year - in the Spring, Autumn and around Christmas/New Year - which means election means your work gets seen more often than in some other art societies.

The Alphabetical Anomaly

Last year I highlighted things in my review of the exhibition which I've rarely had to comment on before.

To be frank - there was something downright odd about last year's selection.  I counted the surnames of selected artists and matched them to the first half and second half of the alphabet. The following is NOT statistically normal.
It's not usual for surnames starting with letters in the first half of the alphabet to comprise nearly 80% of the works exhibited. Maybe next year start the selection process at the other end of the alphabet?
In addition, I was NOT impressed with some of the works selected for the exhibition and this was a view which was very obviously shared by at least some of those who hung the exhibition.

Let's hope the selectors this year are fully refreshed from their seasonal activities, on their toes and mindful of the the need to ensure that those artists whose surnames come at the end of the alphabet do not get left out because there's no room left in the exhibition.

The RWS must also be very mindful of the fact that some artists can make their paintings look a lot more attractive on a digital file then they are in reality.  To my mind the only thing a responsible art society can do in these circumstances is to reject all works submitted which vary significantly from the works submitted online.  I'm certainly beginning to see why the RA's category of "selected but not hung" makes sense.

Having said that - read on to see what the RWS has to say about this year and the measures to address these issues.

Paintings in the RWS Open 2013

What can be entered 

  • All paintings in water-­‐based media, including watercolour, pen and ink, acrylic and gouache are eligible, regardless of style or subject matter, as long as they are painted on paper.
  • The painting must have been completed in the past four years by the artist entering it.
  • The painting must not be larger than 100cm x 100cm when framed.  

Who can enter

This competition is OPEN to
Any professional artist who is not already a Member of the Society may enter.
By implication, that means
  • people who are NOT members of the Royal Watercolour Society
  • people who do NOT live or work in the UK
  • people who are NOT amateur / hobby artists
  • artists of any age (not indicated - but no limit indicated either) 

Commission and Fees

For those confused by VAT, the way the commission works is that the Gallery will charge 40% + VAT of 20% when selling a painting. That means on a £1,000 painting, the Gallery will take £400 and include £80 in their VAT return to HM Revenue and Customs - which means you get £520. Which means your profit is £520 minus the travel/courier and framing expenses and entry fee of £14.  You write down your costs to marketing!


You don't enter this competition to win prizes - although there are some. You enter it to impress your friends that you got your work into an RWS show and.or to impress the members with your work and provide support for an eventual application for membership! :)

Special points to note

I'm trying to pick out here aspects which are NOT the same as the entry conditions for other art competitions.  Some are a jolly good idea and should apply to other competitions also!
  • Amateur artists are not eligible.  The use of the words "professional artist" may possibly need clarification - however it's clear to me that they want people to enter the competition who earn their living by being an artist.
  • Neutral rules! Ignore at your peril.
Paintings must be framed and glazed to be included in the exhibition. Frames must be of professional quality and should be white, natural or black wood, with a white or cream coloured mount.
  • Poor quality is out. It looks very much like last year's "oddities" will not be back this year. There's a very clear statement that works where the framing is not up to standard and requirements will not be hung - nor will paintings which differ significantly from the digital image.
Poorly presented paintings will not be exhibited. This includes paintings in plastic, metal, or clip frames; paintings with tinted, non-­‐reflective or no glass; or any painting that differs significantly from the photograph that was entered.
You can review past posts of past exhibitions in the links at the end of this blog post.

Election to Associate Membership

You can download the Application Pack for Associate Membership 2014

Applicants are invited to submit three framed, glazed paintings and a portfolio of supporting work to be judged by RWS Members. If elected, you will become an Associate Member of the RWS, eligible for promotion to full Membership after three years.
The bit you won't find in the application pack is that the convention is you can be a member of the RWS or the RI but not both. This is referenced in the election pack as follows

providing they do not belong to another London watercolour society
Personally I don't understand what past difficulties have to do with present membership.

Here's the nuts and bolts of the application process
  • Return your completed application form, a CV, a cheque for fee of £40 and a stamped address envelope to Bankside Gallery by Monday 10 March, 5pm
  • Deliver three framed paintings and a portfolio of small watercolour sketches, studies, drawings and sketchbooks to support your application to Bankside Gallery on Friday 21 March, 11am-7pm 
  • All work must be on paper and must have been painted within the past four years. 
  • Your paintings must be professionally framed and glazed, and must not exceed 1.5m x 1.5m.
  • Please ensure each painting is clearly labelled on the back with your name.
  • All submitted paintings must be available for sale - if you are elected the RWS will choose one of your framed paintings for the RWS Diploma Collection. The remaining two paintings will be exhibited for sale in the RWS Spring Exhibition at Bankside Gallery (Friday 28 March – Saturday 26 April).

Past Exhibitions

You can review my blog posts below about some of the previous exhibitions below. These include gallery shots of works in the exhibition and links to the websites of prizewinning artists.

For some reason this exhibition's association with winter months often finds me knocked for six by some bug or other - or otherwise curtailing exhibition visits due to very bad weather and my dodgy feet/balance - hence the gaps in some of the posts below. It's certainly an excellent exhibition and one I usually I try and get to see if at all possible.

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