Monday, March 31, 2014

Contemporary Watercolour Painting - Exhibitions in London

Lovers of watercolour painting are in for a treat! From tomorrow you can visit two major exhibitions of watercolour painting in London by two of the oldest watercolour societies in the world.
I recommend visits to both for those who can get to London.  For those of you who can't....

Two virtual exhibitions

You can see both exhibitions online if you're unable to get to London. However do bear in mind that online exhibitions are not so good at giving you a true sense of size - besides which the paintings always look better in person.

selection from the online exhibition of 
the Spring Exhibition of the Royal Watercolour Society
selection from the online exhibition of 
the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours
Below I comment on:
  • the images and how they are displayed
  • events running during the course of both exhibitions

Some comments about images and software

One of the curious aspects of both galleries is that neither would exist if it were not for the art societies they support.

Yet at the same time both need to exercise the same quality control over images and their display as any conventional commercial gallery. In my view, the galleries' role is to ensure that ALL the images put on display online are top quality AND that the software works easily for viewers

Royal Watercolour Society (website run by Bankside Gallery)

The online exhibition offers you the option of paging through the online images or a slideshow.

On my 27" iMac screen, some of the images during the slideshow were brilliant while others were really badly photographed and dreadfully pixelated. Clearly images are very different sizes and quite probably very different dpi.

It strikes me that members of the RWS need to agree a minimum and maximum size of digital image and dpi for the images of paintings for their online exhibitions and then optimise their online display for that. To my mind this is a matter where the Gallery should step in and provide
  • clear guidance to artists about how to achieve better digital images of their paintings
  • a quality control "cut off" which means poor images do not go online. 
That doesn't mean they don't appear in the exhibition. Just that the existence of poor images online won't mean that people stop viewing and hence those artists whose images appear further on don't lose viewers because one artist has not yet mastered the art of digital images. It's a very important point and one I'd feel very strongly about if I was an exhibiting artist.

One very simple solution is to provide a photography service at cost for the artists who fail to submit quality images.

Home page of the website of the Royal Watercolour Society
includes a prominent and visual link to the online display and dates of the exhibition

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (online exhibition website run by Mall Galleries)

In a lot of ways the RI's online exhibition display on the website is very sophisticated. You can scroll down the page and see cropped images of all the paintings in the exhibition.

However there are problems
  • too many clicks are required to see large images in sequence. I couldn't get the website to generate a slideshow - and yet I feel sure I've viewed one in the past on this site.
  • a bit more guidance as to what the icons do would be useful. I wonder just how many people actually click through to the large image view?

The RI also needs to attend to its own website. While it has usefully put a clear link to the online exhibition high on the home page of its own website (run by the RI), it's failed to put anything at all on the Exhibition Page except the dates of the exhibition. So no sample images and no link to the online exhibition - and no images at all on the Home Page either!

In an age where the visual image is the way we navigate around social media, I'm afraid I simply don't 'get' art societies that don't use their artists' work to promote their activities!

Home Page of the RI website - dull colours and no pictures.
In my opinion this website needs a radical makeover.

Events during RI Exhibition

You can find more details of Talks and Courses on the RWS website


  • 2 April - Talk: Rebels, Vorticists and Futurists: Young British Artists in the Great War
  • 10 April - Talk: David Jones in the First World War
  • 24 April - Talk: Reinventing the Art of Watercolour: Eric Ravilious and his Contemporaries


Events during the RI Exhibition

All events are free of charge to visitors attending the exhibition (there is a small entry fee to the exhibition itself for non-Friends of the FBA).
  • Wednesday April 2 - Painting in the Gallery - Jean Noble RI SWA
  • Thursday April 3 - Painting in the Gallery - Julia Sorrell RI RBA
  • Friday April 4 - No events
  • Saturday April 5
  • Sunday April 6 - Vice President's Tour of the Exhibition - Tony Hunt VPRI
  • Monday April 7 - Winsor & Newton Materials Demonstration - Paul Robinson
  • Tuesday April 8 - President's Tour of the Exhibition - Ronald Maddox PRI
  • Wednesday April 9 - Artists and their Sketchbooks - Ian Sidaway RI
  • Thursday April 10 - Exhibition Talk and Tour - Robin Hazlewood RI
  • Friday April 11 - Painting in the Gallery - Roger Dellar RI PS ROI
  • Saturday April 12
    • Meet the Artists - Rosa Sepple RI & Andy Wood RI RBA
    • Artists and their Sketchbooks - David Parfitt RI
  • Sunday April 13 - Gallery Closed 
  • Monday April 14 - No events
  • Tuesday April 15 - Painting in the Gallery - Chris Forsey RI and John Yardley RI
  • Wednesday April 16 - Artists and their Sketchbooks - Ian Sidaway RI
  • Thursday April 17 - Vice President's Tour of the Exhibition - Tony Hunt VPRI
  • Friday April 18 - Good Friday
  • Saturday April 19 - Exhibition closes at 1.00pm
I'll be reviewing both exhibitions - just as soon as I've finished my book - which incidentally includes some stunning images by Mat Barber Kennedy RI - whose work you can see at the Mall Galleries.


  1. Thanks for the compliment on my drawings, katherine. I look forward to seeing the book when it comes out. Northlight do a good job of promoting their books to the artist community here in the USA. Enjoy the shows this week. I wish I could get over to be at the mall galleries tomorrow. Best wishes, mat

  2. Yeah, it is perplexing how slow some art societies and galleries are slow to learn or figure out what is seemingly so obvious to us all.

    I get impatient with poor quality images and especially having to click too many times to arrive at a large image, and worse, if I have to click my way back out!
    And on touch screens, like iPads etc., too many clicks can be a nightmare!
    If it is too much work to see the art I leave.

    I see a lot of online announcements for shows that are 'static' announcements only. Even after a show opens some remain static.
    No images at all? In a visual business?
    They should realize that, as a marketing tool, that may very well draw buyers in if it works well, or not....

  3. Perhaps there is a deliberate policy here to make the public feel they must see shows in the flesh because on line is such a struggle....... just a thought.

  4. I think like a lot of the commercial galleries, there's still an element of finding the best way to deliver a virtual exhibition which provides large enough pics to tempt people to come and visit and/or buy art online - and not so big that there's nothing new to see when you visit the gallery.

    I think most of the future learning lies in
    * the artists getting better at producing digital images and
    * the galleries getting better at delivering a super efficient and high quality online virtual gallery.

    My view is that the performance measure for effectiveness is the sale that such a virtual gallery generates. I liked the red stickers on some of the Bankside images!

    Artists who have been selling online for some time learned long ago the importance of the image quality and how accessible it is. I guess at the end of the day it all finally depends on how much people want to sell art!


COMMENTS HAVE BEEN CLOSED AGAIN because of too much spam.
My blog posts are always posted to my Making A Mark Facebook Page and you can comment there if you wish.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.