Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The New English Art Club Future Fund Auction

The New English Art Club is holding a silent auction this week to generate money for its Future Fund.  You can see the artwork included in the auction in the online catalogue which can be downloaded. There's some excellent artwork in the auction - and what's on offer includes a portrait sitting for a drawing by Saied Dai!

Plus there's a live auction on 29th May.

Works in the NEAC Silent Auction

The exhibition and silent auction runs until 31st May in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries.

Tomorrow there is a live auction in the gallery, conducted by Lord Dalmeny, Chairman Private Clients, Sotheby’s on Thursday 29th May from 6.30.

Works in the Live Auction By Ruth Stage and Ken Howard
- taking place at the Mall Galleries Thursday 29th May from 6.30

You can bid for artworks for sale in the Silent Auction. 

Lots purchased from the Silent Auction may be paid for and removed between 1pm on and 4pm on Saturday 31st May or during the following week from the FBA reception, 17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5BD during office opening hours, subject to payment being completed. Shipping and delivery costs are not included in the bid.

The New English Art Club is a registered charity no. 295780. The NEAC Auction Terms and conditions are detailed at the end of the catalogue.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mackintosh Building Fire Fund

Today the Glasgow School of Art has launched the Mackintosh Building Fire Fund.

Glasgow School of Art

Help with the restoration of the Macintosh Building

Plans are in hand to raise the funds to get the building which suffered terrible destruction in the recent fire.
The very severe damage to the building’s iconic library, in particular, is a cultural loss of significant magnitude.
The Scottish Government have pledged to match up to £5m raised by the Glasgow School of Art for the restoration of the building. This funding will be in addition to any longer-term funding requirements for building recovery and restoration, and which will be supported by the Scottish Government and its agencies following full evaluation of insurance liability.

The Macintosh Library before the fire

You can find the place to give what you can on Mackintosh Building Fire Fund on The Big Give
  • it aims to raise funds through donations to respond to the fire at Glasgow Art School which destroyed the Macintosh Library and created significant damage to the building.
  • the intention is to promote the appeal through international networks, encouraging lovers of the ‘Mack’, at home and abroad, to fund-raise to help restore this wonderful building to its former glory.
  • you can donate online - which means people living around the world who love Macintosh and appreciate the significance of this building can help to restore it
The Glasgow School of Art are the custodians of this magnificent building and it exists to serve the students of the School. The GSA takes seriously its responsibility to preserve this internationally iconic building and to ensure that it continues to be at the heart of our campus and creative community.
Read more about the Charity running this project.
and the First Minister for Scotland also commented
“The ‘Mack’ is an extraordinary building. It is an architectural gem and the artistic heart of Glasgow. It can and will be restored, and everything which can be done must be done to deliver this.

Phoenix Bursaries for students

Those students who were most seriously affected by the fire in the Macintosh Building and lost their final year artwork are to receive special funds called Phoenix Bursaries.
Up to a hundred fine art students who lost work in Friday's blaze will receive the Phoenix bursaries, providing studio space for up to six months and a living allowance while they rebuild their portfolios.
This is what  Professor Tom Inns, Director of The Glasgow School of Art, had to say
“In the aftermath of Friday’s fire the GSA was overwhelmed with offers of support including offers of studio space from the Scottish art schools and from a broad portfolio of other art colleges in the UK, Europe and USA. The beating heart of the GSA is its students and our priority is to ensure that all those most seriously affected by the fire are given the opportunity to rebuild their practice. The GSA will therefore create special bursaries which will enable the students have sufficient studio time to develop their practice and make new work.”
GSA are also asking people wanting to offer practical assistance, to e-mail in the first instance to Alan Horn, Director of Development at

OASC for Metropolitan Museum of Art Images

I do like to look at images in high resolution - there's an amazing difference between high resolution images online and those you see in books or low resolution images online.

You can now access some 400,000 high resolution images belonging to the Metropolitan Museum of Art through their Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) initiative.

That basically means they are for educational use.

Below you can find out more about how to access the images and what can be accessed plus a neat reminder of what size an image needs to be to print it.

In keeping with the educational topic, I'm highlighting images relating to topics which have receeived in-depth study on this block - drawing, botanical art, John Singer Sargent and the ukiyo-e prints of Hokusai

John Singer Sargent
(American, Florence 1856–1925 London)
I love the scribble he uses for the leaves and flowers 
and wonderful to see a drawing associated with such a famous painting

What's OASC?

Lots of museums have an arrangement whereby high resolution images can be accessed and very often an image is charged - and the Met was one of the museums who did that.

Latterly there's been a move to make high res. images available for educational/non-commercial use.  Partly I guess because it's now relatively easy to spot the use of an image online (see How to do a reverse image search) so identifying commercial use becomes that much easier.

Here's the arrangements which have been developed by the Met - and what it replaced.
OASC was developed as a resource for students, educators, researchers, curators, academic publishers, non-commercial documentary filmmakers, and others involved in scholarly or cultural work. Prior to the establishment of OASC, the Metropolitan Museum provided images upon request, for a fee, and authorization was subject to terms and conditions.
The director commented
“Through this new, open-access policy, we join a growing number of museums that provide free access to images of art in the public domain. I am delighted that digital technology can open the doors to this trove of images from our encyclopedic collection.”
 Now all we need to see is more art galleries and museums following the trend!

Violets, Primroses and Other Spring Flowers
Kubo Shunman

Part of an album of woodblock prints (surimono); ink and color on paper
(Japanese, 1757–1820)
Quite unlike botanical art we're used to seeing from Japanese artists

What's included?

This is the link to the Collection Online.
(OASC) images associated with these artworks can be downloaded for license- and cost-free scholarly and academic publication, according to the Terms and Conditions.
The FAQs page provides a definition of what can be accessed via this new initiative.  It certainly isn't everything that can be seen on the website.
Works that are covered by the new policy are identified on the Museum’s website ( with the acronym OASC. (Certain works are not available through the initiative for one or more of the following reasons: the work is still under copyright, or the copyright status is unclear; privacy or publicity issues; the work is owned by a person or an institution other than the Metropolitan Museum; restrictions by the artist, donor, or lender; or lack of a digital image of suitable quality.)
Togetsu Bridge at Arashiyama in Yamashiro,
from the series Remarkable Views of Bridges in Various Provinces (Shokoku meiky┼Ź kiran)

Katsushika Hokusai 
(Japanese, Tokyo (Edo) 1760–1849 Tokyo (Edo))
one of my favourite artists for landscapes - Hokusai has a lot to teach about design and framing a landscape

What's scholarly?

There's a debate over on Hyperallergic about the copyright restriction which they claim over the images which have been released - see Metropolitan Museum of Art Releases 400,000 Images, with Restriction

Personally I find it most helpful to start with the Met's definition of what is NOT scholarly use
What is not scholarly content?Commercial use, publication, or distribution in any media or format is not scholarly content. Some examples include: commercially published general-interest books in print or electronic media; all products, merchandise, (including posters, calendars, notecards, datebooks, mugs, etc.), advertisements, or promotional materials for any services or products in any media format; feature films or documentaries funded by commercial organizations.
Essentially it means for non-commercial and educational use. I'm taking the view that this blog is very much focused on educational content for the development of artists. Plus I only ever publish online and all images become reduced  to low res. to make them compatible for a speedy load.

Plus you need to look for the icon below images in the Collection section of the website to identify images that are part of the OASC initiative.

The problem is that the Met provides a number of different criteria for how you can 'slice and dice' its collection but OASC is not one of them.  So I went for an artist that I thought might be accessible - John Singer Sargent - only to find no OASC icon.

I then tried a search using "john singer sargent oasc" - but that produced a "no records" result.

Bottom line you just have to persevere and eventually you start finding images with the OASC icon.

Determining the suitability of a digital image for reproduction in a print publication

This is a topic which has been occupying me much of late as I work through my archive of past images finding ones for inclusion in my book.

As a result I found the guidance offered by the Met to be invaluable. I'm sure others will feel likewise. It;'s not that this is original so much as it's once of the more succinct explanations I;ve come acrosss.

When determining the suitability of a digital image for reproduction in a print publication, there are several key factors to consider: resolution, pixel dimensions, and the intended size of the printed output. The following table provides some typical output sizes and the recommended dimensions for a publication-ready image at 150 ppi and 300 ppi—the most common resolutions for images available from the Museum's website.
Print Output Size
Pixel Dimensions
 8 x 10300 (ppi) 2400 x 3000
 150 (ppi) 1200 x 1500
 4 x 6 300 (ppi) 1200 x 1800
150 (ppi)600 x 900

Though some images available via Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) may not meet the above requirements, this does not necessarily preclude them from publication at smaller sizes. A useful formula in determining the maximum print size of any digital image is as follows:
Digital Image Print Size
Note that image resolution is only a factor in determining print output. For digital purposes, the pixel dimensions of an image are the only measurements that determine display size.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Major fire at Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art

It was absolutely awful yesterday to see the pictures and videos of the fire raging through the iconic Grade A Listed Mackintosh building of the Glasgow School of Art (@GSofA)- designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
"The most important work by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, an architect of international significance, Glasgow School of Art is held in the highest regard by architects and the public alike - it was rightly judged to be the best building of the past 175 years in a nationwide [RIBA] poll."
[UPDATE: I've subsequently learned that the windows of the room on fire in the image above are the shallow bay windows of the iconic Macintosh Library which was constructed of wood and contained wooden furniture designed by Mackintosh. This article in the Telegraph confirms the damage and something of what happens next - Glasgow School of Art fire: 'Iconic' Mackintosh library destroyed]

Image from BBC Scotland Video of the fire
Glasgow School of Art: Fire crews battle to save building
The fire broke out at midday yesterday - just as the final year students were erecting their degree shows within the building.
Eyewitnesses said the fire appeared to have started when a projector exploded in the basement of the building on Renfrew Street in the city centre.
BBC News
Reports indicated the fire started in the basement and spread up through the west wing of the building to the roof - which as you can see from the screendump from a BBC video has been very severely damaged.
Eye witnesses feared that the whole west wing of the old building has been lost, including the irreplaceable Mackintosh library and the Hen Run, a famous corridor running along the roof which linked the west and east wing.
First building 1899, second Building 1909 
Architect: Charles Rennie Mackintosh
The good news is that everybody was got out safely and there have been no casualties.

Plus the fire service has subsequently announced what has been saved.
"With the incident under control indications are the firefighters' efforts have ensured more than 90% of the structure is viable and protected up to 70% of the contents - including many students' work."
What I do know from fires is that what isn't destroyed by fire can easily be damaged beyond repair by the amounts of water required to put out a very fierce fire as this one obviously was.

It remains to be seen what has survived and what will need reinstatement. Surely there can't be any question but that this Grade A Listed building must be reinstated?

This is the page providing updates for the students and staff - which I am sure will also be of interest to all Glasgow Art School Alumni and those who were fans of the building

Besides being a wonderful building, this is also an excellent School of Art. Three of the current four nominees for the Turner Prize 2014 are graduates of the Glasgow School of Art as have been many in the past - see Graduates of Glasgow School of Art dominate Turner Prize nominees

Initially there were fears that all the work for final year degree shows - and assessment for their degrees - had been lost but the situation is now unclear. However a very reassuring message was sent to students
Students should not concern themselves about finishing work at this stage. Further information on assessment, degree show and graduation will be issued as soon as possible.
To see something of what may have been lost or damaged I looked through the internet.

Let's hope as much of this as possible has been saved or can be reinstated

The Glasgow School of Art: Studio from The Glasgow School of Art on Vimeo.

Another fire as degree shows assembled

The fire had strong echoes of the fire at the Pratt Institute in New York - again as graduates were assembling their final degree shows. This is what I wrote on this blog back in 2011.
The Pratt Institute in New York had a major fire in February 2011 in its main building which took nearly 170 firefighters to extinguish. It destroyed the studios of the Fine Art Seniors and their artwork for their senior projects which many will have spent months on. You can see pictures of the blaze on their Facebook page. Lots of people have rallied to the support of the students who lost their art supplies as well as their artwork.
Art supplies including brushes, canvases and other tools have been donated by a range of art supply stores, including Utrecht and Daler-Rowney, Pratt spokeswoman Jolene Travis said. More than 3,000 brushes have come in. The selection also includes personal contributions from faculty, Travis said, including some “used, very well-cared for and loved brushes tied in ribbons.”
Hopefully, the art materials and art supplies people in the UK will ask the Glasgow School of Art what they can do to help replenish any losses of art supplied by the students.

Why not keep an eye on the information for students page, and if it appears they have sustained losses of kit and materials, why not leave a message on the Glasgow School of Art Facebook Page or send them a tweet if you'd like to send them supplies for the students?

Plus why not give them a 'like' or a 'follow' by way of support?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Moleskine sketchbooks have changed - or have they?

The new Moleskine Sketchbook wrapper
In a panic about whether Moleskine has changed its paper as well as the wrapper for its very popular sketchbooks - as reported - I ordered some.

The sketchbooks arrived today - and it's interesting

My order included:
  • a large A4 size sketchbook with the new wrapper (I've previously ordered the Folio Sketchbooks with the dark mauve wrapper) and
  • a normal 'large' sketchbook  with the old lilac wrapper (with a double page spread of 8" x 10")

Comparison of the NEW and old wrappers for Moleskine sketchbooks

I then dug out an old Moleskine that had an empty page, my latest Moleskine and I photographed them all together - and this is what they looked like

Moleskine sketchbooks - the paper is different but not how I expected!

Moleskine Folio Sketchbook

It looks like the Folio Sketchbook has dropped the old dark mauve wrapper for a new lilac edged wrapper. They're still called Folio Sketchbooks on the Moleskine website
The Sketchbook A4 has 96 wide pages in high quality heavy paper, ideal for tempera colours. 160 g/m2 top quality acid free paper
The paper in this NEW version of the Folio Sketchbook is described thus
Back of new Moleskine sketchbook wrapper
  • Size (inches): 8 1/4" x 11 3/4"
  • Size (cm): 21x 29,7
  • 96 pages
  • 165 g/m2 (111 lb acid free paper)
  • ISBN 13: 978-88-6293-193-9
Interestingly the back of the wrapper describes the paper as now having better absorbing paper.

Now since this is NOT the watercolour sketchbook this seems an odd description. I don't particularly want the paper to be absorbent. I use coloured pencils and much prefer hard sized paper because the colours remain far more vibrant if they don't sink into the paper. The old description was this
  • A4 plain pages in high quality heavy paper.
  • 160 g/m2.
  • Dimensions: 21 x 29.7 cm - 12 x 8.5".
Back of old Moleskine Folio Sketchbook wrapper

On the face of it the NEW PAPER is lighter in colour and it feels as if it possibly be a little lighter in weight despite the assertion that it is in fact heavier 165g/m2 as opposed to the old 160 g/m2.

So far as I am concerned the weight and smoothness of the paper is everything. I wouldn't buy Moleskine sketchbooks at all if they lost either of these characteristics.  I also don't want a soft sized paper - I want a paper where the ink and coloured pencils I use sit on top of the paper and don't become absorbed by the paper and lose their 'edge'.

This is the link to the Folio A4 Sketchbook on the website

This is the link to the Folio A3 Sketchbook on the website (Not to be confused with the Moleskine Folio Plain book - with the old mauve wrapper - which only has 100 g/m2 acid free paper and is now listed as 'out of stock' by the Moleskine Store)

I found these first by putting sketchbook in the search window. I eventually found them through using the link to Creativity Notebooks and Albums

Using the top line menu I can get what's called the Art Plus collection (under Creativity). Just to confuse matters this seems to include a new size with an odd name called Art Plus Sketch Album - BUT note this only has 120 g/m2 paper not the 165 g/m2 paper of the Sketchbook.

So the moral of the story if you want the heavy weight paper is STAY AWAY from anything which is called
  • Notebook - the paper is not suitable for sketching if you don't want marks to show through the paper
  • Plain Book - 100 g/m2 acid free paper
  • Sketch Album - 120 g/m2 paper
  • Red Notebooks - this is flimsy paper that I use for my notes of exhibitions (however note that there is a Red Sketchbook which has a cover which claims 165 g/m2 paper)
I haven't tested the paper yet - watch this space!

[UPDATE: For those confused between the Folio sketchbook and the Folio book with plain paper this is how they were described when introduced in 2009.  

The Folio Collection will launch five new products, providing consumers with formats for both creating art and for professional use:
  • Ruled book : 176 pages, available in the A4 format
  • Plain book: 176 pages, available in the A4 and A3 formats
  • Portfolio: an accordion-style tool featuring big pockets in cardboard and cloth, available in A4 and A3 formats
  • Sketchbook: 96 large pages in high quality heavy paper, available in A4 and A3 formats
  • Watercolour Album: 60 pages, heavy paper, 200 gsm, cold pressed, available in the A4 and A3 format

Note the Plain book does NOT say it uses the heavy weight paper.]

Moleskine Classic Large Sketchbook

As per the image on the right in the top photo, this has traditionally been described thus
  • ISBN 13: 978-88-8370-115-3
  • Size (inches): 5” x 8 ¼”
  • Size (cm): 13X21
  • Pages: 104
  • Collection: Notebooks and Journals
  • Model: Hard black cover notebooks
  • Cover: Hard Cover
  • Colour: Black
  • Layout: Sketchbook
  • Format: Large

The new Large Sketchbook states
  • 104 pages of top quality heavy weight acid-free paper
  • Size (inches): 5" x 8 ¼"
  • Size (cm): 13 x 21
  • ISBN 13: 978-88-8370-115-3

What surprised me when I put the Large Sketchbooks together was the difference in the colour of the paper. I've not been using my current Moleskine much - and now I see why!  The colour is way different to normal and the brand new Sketchbook I that has just arrived is much more like the 2007 one. Seems as if somebody lost the plot on quality control.

I've yet to try the new Moleskine sketchbooks - but will report back when I have.  (Initial trials of hatchling in pen and ink on the back page suggests the paper seems pretty similar.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The layouts are landing in my inbox!

I don't think anything much is going to happen this week.

I've just been sent and have started going through the layouts for the book which means some intense work reviewing the layouts and then work to do as a result of them

I'll be back posting when I can.

In the meantime here's one of my drawings related to 'how to hold a pencil'!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Favourite art instruction books about subjects you draw and paint

Today I propose we all think about the best and/or most helpful art instruction books about the different kinds of subject matter that people draw and paint e.g.
  • portraiture and people
  • animals and wildlife
  • landscape - including urban and marine contexts
  • still life and floral art
  • genre art - everyday scenes

Interestingly when I first asked the question about "which is your favourite art book?" in 2009, most of the answers revolved around the craft and techniques of drawing and painting and how to make a picture rather than about the special issues and aspects of different types of subject matter.

So with this review I'm going to start at the end as it were with a view to filling the gap.

Which is the best and/or most helpful book about....

The questions are:
  • Do you have a favourite art book? (What is it and why?)
  • Is there one book which had a huge impact on you and your work?

Other questions which tend to make you realise which books are valued most are:
  • Which book(s) do you perennially recommend to others?
  • Which book(s) will you never ever lend out?

In addition, here are some more detailed questions about subject matter to activate the brain cells. (I sometimes find I can't generate answers to very generic questions until somebody asks me something more precise!). These focus on different aspects of the subject matter - because some books are very good at one particular aspect.

Some of my books about drawing people and painting portraits and self-portraits

People and portraiture

Which is the best and/or most helpful book for learning about:
  • how the body works?
  • the structure of the head and face?
  • lighting a person/people for 
  • how to group people in an artwork?
  • how to paint a portrait?
  • how to paint a self-portrait?
  • how to handle a portrait commission

Animals and wildlife

Which is the best and/or most helpful book about for learning about:
  • animal anatomy for artists?
  • drawing and/or painting cats?
  • drawing and/or painting dogs?
  • drawing and/or painting birds
  • how to handle a pet portrait commission
  • how to approach wildlife paintings?
  • how to draw and paint animals from life?
  • how to use reference photographs in an intelligent way?


Which is the best and/or most helpful book for learning about:
  • the basics of landscape painting?
  • more advanced approaches to landscape painting?
  • painting plein air?
  • drawing and painting trees?
  • drawing and/or painting skies, weather and atmosphere?
  • drawing and/or painting water?
  • drawing and/or painting in an urban context?

Some of my books about landscape painting and urban sketching
(with more in the sketching and painting sections!)

Still life and floral art

Which is the best and/or most helpful book for learning about:
  • setting up and lighting a still life
  • drawing/painting a still life
  • floral art
  • food art
  • botanical art
  • strict botanical illustration

Genre scenes (everyday life)

This term is usually used to relate to people engaged in everyday activity - although this is not a topic which seems to generate a lot of art books!

Which is the best and/or most helpful book for learning about:
  • choosing and selecting everyday scenes when drawing/painting from life
  • recreating everyday scenes
  • using reference material for drawing/painting scenes from everyday life

My Best Books about.... websites

These are the websites I've created over the years which aim to pull together listings of the best books on an art topic.

Making a mark - Artists' Favourite Art Books in 2014

It's time to update the list I keep of the favourite art books you like. 

There's no two ways about it - some art instruction books go on and on forever because they have a huge fan base. They get revised and reprinted on a regular basis and some of them sell millions of copies.

Others seem to have the status of a 'best kept secret' where you're only allowed to know about them once you've proved your value as an artist!

At the same time, there are new books coming out all the time which very soon 'make their mark' and join that list of favourite art books.  I know I've got books which have come out in the last five years which will be on many people's favourite art books list for many years to come.

Here is my current listing of Artists’ Favourite Art Books

Your favourite art books - five years on

It's now more than five years since that original review of favourite art books and I'm now aiming to do a major review - with posts every day this week. 

I first started reviewing what sort of art instruction books artists liked  in 2009 with Your favourite art books - what you like.  Last year I focused on what were the new books you liked in Your NEW Favourite Art Books.

The questions remain essentially the same
  • Do you have a favourite art book?
  • Is there one book which had a huge impact on you and your work?
Other questions which tend to make you realise which books are valued most are:
  • Which book(s) do you recommend to others?
  • Which book(s) will you never ever lend out?
What would be very helpful is if we can all share the reasons why we find different books to be very helpful.  What suits one person might not help others in the same way.

I'm going to tackle this day by day by looking at different types of art instruction book.

This week I'm going to focus on the different categories and the categories for the next four days are:
  • Subject Matter (Monday)
  • Drawing and Sketching (Tuesday)
  • Painting - all media (Wednesday)
  • Colour and Composition (Thursday)
  • Being an artist / art business & marketing (Friday)
Please start having a think about what your favourite books are - the ones you recommend to others and won't lend out!

a small section of my book shelves holding art books!

You'll be able to read what books people recommend as their comments get posted. You might want to bookmark a posts so you can come to come back to it easily and read the results

In addition, I will also publish a summary of the results of this request for recommendations in a later post and, where relevant on my websites "The Best Books about....".

I will also link to people's blogs where they have written a good quality review of a book.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Women and Art

Here's a compendium of links to the current wealth of television and articles online about Women and Art.

BBC - The Story of Women in Art

This is a three part series featuring Professor Amanda Vickery, Professor in Early Modern History at Queen Mary College, University of London.

Her programmes explore how there is an absence of female artists on the walls of art galleries and museums. She reveals the ways in society and culture demanded women behave in a certain way and hence confined and inhibited female creativity

She examines those artists whose reputations have faded into obscurity and comments on one of the reasons being the way their artwork is currently hidden from the public. I knew some but very definitely not all the artists featured in the programme.

All the episodes are available on BBC iPlayer

Episode 1 - Amanda Vickery tells the stories of the early female artists across Europe. This features:

  • Sister Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588) a self-taught nun-artist—the first-known female painter of Florence, Italy and her absolutely enormous painting of The Last Supper (7 metres long)

  • Sofonisba Anguissola (b. 1532 - 1625) - an artist at the court of King Phillip II of Spain. She was a remarkable draughtswoman when it came to drawing people and became a pioneer of the new genre - the conversation piece. She impressed both Michaelangelo in her youth and Van Dyck in her old age. Her most famous painting - featured in the programme - portrays her sisters playing chess - where the personalities of the three sisters all shine through. He new style of portraiture attracted new clients and got her an introduction to the Spanish Court - at the time of the great rules of Spanish Court Portraiture. Her earlier paintings then transformed into court portraiture painted according to the rules of the court and the time.
    Portrait of the Artist's Sisters Playing Chess (1555) by Sofonisba Anguissola
    Oil on canvas, 72 x 97 cm
    Muzeum Narodowe, Poznan
      Self Portrait - by Lavinia Fontana
    • Lavinia Fontana (1552 - 1614) - she was the first woman artist to work in the same way as men. She operated outside the restrictions of convent (Sister Plautilla Nelli) or court (Sofonisba Anguissola). She was a female portrait painter who produced 200-300 paintings in her lifetime and was also pregnant 11 times. She became the portraitist of choice among Bolognese noblewomen.  You can see some of her artwork here
    • Artemesia Gentileschi (1593 - ) She had supreme belief in her own talent and skill and tackled the epic from the outset - for example Susanna and the Elders. Her depiction of the story brings a female perspective and also demonstrates amazing skill in painting at the age of 17.  Violence against men features in her painting of Judith and her maidservant - and the assassination of Holofernes (whose head is in the basket.)  This is a website about Artemesia
      Judith and her maidservant by Artemisia Gentileschi

      Clara Peeters - Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels
      Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels from circa 1615 by Clara Peeters
      • The Dutch Republic in the 17th century also had female artists.  Art in the Netherlands was on a more domestic scale. There was an obsessive preoccupation with the home. A new genre - the still life - was an area where women artists such as Clara Peeters, Joanna Koerten (a paper cutter who outsold Rembrandt) and Judith Leyster could excel. Leyster's painting The Proposition is discussed in the programme. I was particularly pleased to see that Maria Sybilla Merian is also highlighted by the programme. She invented the concept of painting the life cycle of insects with their host plants, revolutionised scientific study and trekked to the tropics to paint her notions of how nature should be represented.
      Episode 2 - The story reaches the 18th century. The focus turns to the industrial powerhouse that is Britain and the French Court of Marie Antoinette.

      Episode 3 - an illustration of how creative opportunities for women exploded in the 20th century. She travels from London and Paris to the remote Swedish countryside and the bleak desert landscape of New Mexico. The programme features Georgia O'Keeffe.

      You can view clips from the series online

      I very much like the enthusiasm and historical knowledge which Amanda Vickery brings to bear on her topic. She's a historian rather than an art critic but adds value because of that.

      I also love the detective story element - she unpicks the stories behind the paintings, she shows us the coded messages revealed by the paintings for those 'in the know'.

      I'm certainly going to be following this series through to the end - if I don't get there a bit sooner. The BBC have taken the unusual step of making the programmes available on iPlayer prior to broadcast - so you can access them all now!

      Guardian articles

      Amanda Vickery continues her theme in an article on the Guardian which is well worth a read

      Other websites

      The following focus on women artists

      The programme has prompted me to update my website All About Women Artists!

      Makingamark on women and art

      I've written a few posts in the past about women and art

      Friday, May 16, 2014

      "Mr Turner" - a new film about JMW Turner

      'Turner on Vanishing Day' by William Parrott
      See a trailer and watch a review of Mike Leigh's new film "Mr Turner" - about the life and career of JMW Turner - and see some small excerpts. It's getting rave reviews:
      Timothy Spall – a veteran of Leigh's films – plays this eccentric, determined London bohemian like a bronchial, cantankerous, randy old toad with backache. He grunts and grimaces and gropes his way through life. He talks like a market trader after a crash course in the classics.
      This is the official trailer

      and this is a video of the Guardian reviewers - who have to do their review sitting on a beach in Cannes! The review of the film finishes round about 4 minutes 30 seconds.

      Apparently Margate was 'spurned' for filming purposes - despite Turner's long association with the town (and a museum named after him!) in favour of the west country

      The film will be released in the UK on October 31st and in the uSA on 19 December 2014. At the moment it looks like it might well get a prize at Cannes!

      Thursday, May 15, 2014

      VAT for non-UK artists and UK exhibition organisers

      This post provides an introduction to recent changes in Value Added Tax and VAT registration for both 
      • artists living outside the UK who want to exhibit and sell their art in the UK; and 
      • those selling art by overseas artists in the UK i.e. the managers of art galleries and art fairs, the Executive Committees of Art Societies and the organisers of Art Competitions.
      Unsurprisingly, there are very many people who are not aware of the changes.  Hence this post.

      I want to emphasise that if you fall into any of the above categories you need professional advice. I used to be a professional adviser so I know enough to know when something is important but I'm now retired from that part of my life and am emphatically not offering professional advice in this post. Not least because just following the trail of announcements and new publications on the HMRC site is mind-numbing!

      Anyway, below I have a go at explaining what the situation is.

      View of a past Threadneedle Prize exhibition at the Mall Galleries
      This year the Threadneedle hopes to encourage more entries from European artists.

      Recent changes in VAT in the UK

      If you're an artist intending to exhibit work in the UK - or you are an art society or art competition intending to exhibit and sell artworks by artists not resident in the UK you need to be aware that the rules relating to Value Added Tax have changed

      The bottom line is that:
      • in order to sell art in the UK, an artist who does not live in the UK and has no recognised and proper business base here must register for UK VAT
      • there is no turnover threshold for an artist who does not live in the UK. They must register for VAT if they want to supply one work of art to a body based in the UK

      Wednesday, May 14, 2014

      The Threadneedle Prize 2014 - what's changed and how to enter

      Some important changes have been made to the Call for Entries for the Threadneedle Prize 2014 for figurative painting and sculpture with a prize valued at £30,000
      • This post 
        • highlights the changes in process
        • unpicks and summarises the "call for entries"
      • highlights the key dates in the processes for submission, selection and exhibition
      • highlights my blog posts about the Threadneedle Prize last year

      Paintings in the Threadneedle Exhibition 2013 - in The Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries 

      The Threadneedle Prize

      The Threadneedle Prize is about contemporary figurative art. It's aim is to
      • champion the most interesting figurative artists working in Europe.
      • offer both established and emerging artists a high profile opportunity to showcase their work at a leading venue in Central London. 
      • maintain its status as the country’s leading competition for figurative and representational painting and sculpture

      Previous winners and shortlisted artists include
      • Nina Murdoch, now represented by Marlborough Fine Art, and 
      • Rose Wylie, who is currently on show at Tate Britain. 

      Figurative Art Today (the 2014 exhibition) will include the selected artworks for the final exhibition and will intentionally represent a comprehensive survey of both high quality and variety in figurative art being produced in the UK and Europe.

      The Threadneedle Prize was established in 2008 with the support of Threadneedle Investments, a leading international investment management firm with long-term commitment to supporting the arts.

      The changes

      Tuesday, May 13, 2014

      Certificates of Botanical Merit at SBA Annual Exhibition 2014

      Read on to discover the artwork and artists which were awarded Certificates of Botanical Merit in the 2014 Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists

      Botanical merit, as we have seen in the RHS shows, is of particular importance when it comes to botanical art.

      That's why the Certificates of Botanical Merit are held in such high esteem. It's also no coincidence that winners of CBMs are often people who have already won an RHS Gold Medal as well!

      Certificates of Botanical Merit

      The 2014 Judge who decided which works should get a Certificate of Botanical Merit is Dr Brent Elliot. He is currently Historian to the Royal Horticultural Society and prior to that was Librarian of the Royal Horticultural Society from 1982 to 2007. He's also the author of several books.

      Primula vulgaris by Angela Martin SBA

      Of particular note is the fact that this painting was singled out by the keynote speaker - Dr Nigel Dunnet, Professor of Planting Design and Vegetation Technology, and Director of The Green Roof Centre, University of Sheffield (and one of the men who designed the wild flower meadows for the OIlympic Park).

      He pointed out that he not only found the descriptive note informative and helpful - he actually also learned something he didn't know about the primrose!

      It's a very fine painting providing a lot of information without overloading the design. Scale information is present but discrete. I also particularly liked the way this work was presented in terms of the additional cut out for the name. It's also a total bargain!

      Primula vulgaris (watercolour) £250
      by Angela Martin SBA

      Lophophora diffusa var koehresii by Alena Lang Phillips DipSBA

      Sunday, May 11, 2014

      Prizewinners at the Society of Botanical Artist's Annual Exhibition 2014

      Sandra Wall Armitage, the new President of the Society of Botanical Artists led the prize giving ceremony for the deserving botanical artists at this year's Annual Exhibition.

      She was assisted by the Speaker who opened the exhibition, Dr Nigel Dunnet, Professor of Planting Design and Vegetation Technology, and Director of The Green Roof Centre, University of Sheffield. He was one of the people responsible for the wildflower meadows which were such a feature of the Olympic Park.  You can follow Nigel and his plants on - he posts lots of pics of plants - particularly ones relating to green roofs!
      We have an inbuilt response to flowers. When you are surrounded by beautiful flowers most people experience a sense of well-being.Dr Nigel Dunnet
      The theme of this year's show is Botanical Garden and you can see it in the Westminster Gallery at Central Hall Westminster until Sunday 18th May. It's free to enter and is open every day between 11am and 5pm.

      Botanical Garden - 29th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists
      9th May - 18th May 2014
      all artwork copyright the artists
      all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell - with the kind permission of the SBA
      The Gallery has had a refurbishment and I have to say now provides a much better looking environment for the exhibition which looked excellent. The false ceilings and battening on the walls have all gone and the new walls and paint bring a very fresh look to the space which in my opinion only enhances the artwork.

      The shop has been relocated and appeared to be doing extremely well! (see yesterday's post - What every art society needs - an exhibition shop)

      The Diploma also has a very clear space for those interested in finding out about studying for the qualification and the quality of the student work on display was exceptional.

      Simon Williams, the Course Director reviews the student exhibit with a visitor

      One of the things I particularly liked this year was the way very informative labels had been introduced for some works (I guess it was optional?) so that visitors can not only admire the art but also learn something about the plant they are looking at and/or the approach adopted by the artist. You can see one of these listed below under Claire Ward's artwork.

      One slight reservation I had is that some of the works were hung rather high for a proper appreciation of the artwork. This meant I was  also fighting with the lighting when taking pictures which were hung high - as it was so strong it was producing "white outs" - and I apologise to all those artists if their artwork is not quite true.

      I understand there's a notion that maybe the number of works accepted should be reduced in future to improve the hang for visitors.  I like the fact it has 677 works plus the sculpture - however a bit of a prune may well be in order.

      However, this will present the selection panel with something of a challenge as the standard of exhibit is very high this year. One of the interesting characteristics of the exhibition this year was seeing some of the people who have recently qualified either with SBA or in Edinburgh "hitting their stride" and beginning to submit superior work - as reflected in the awards and Certificates of Botanical Merit. I can only imagine the standard will continue to improve year on year!

      I also noted a sudden surge in the number of works being submitted and hung with a black background.

      This post will be followed by one dedicated to those people who won a Certificate of Botanical Merit - but first here are details of the prizewinners.....

      Society of Botanical Art - 2014 Awards