Saturday, June 28, 2014

Video - What the Artist saw

This is another of the films which the National Portrait Gallery have commissioned to make about the competition process relating to the BP Portrait Award 2014. This film - BP Portrait Award 2014: What the Artist saw - The Judging - is about the judging process and features two artists
  • Alan Coulson - a past prizewinner. He won the the third prize in 2012 for this portrait of Richie Culver and also has a painting in this year's exhibition - see Jordan below and Jordan and Alan in the screen image for the video.
  • Jo Fraser - who has had her work selected in 2011 and won the BP Travel Award in 2011 (see BP Travel Award 2011: Jo Fraser travels to Peru)
Jordan by Alan Coulson 2014
I think it's a great film - and very nicely edited. It gives you the artist's perspective and also shows you the Judges and what they have to say.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Richard Twose and David Jon Kassan - video interviews with BP Portrait Award prizewinners 2014

Here are my next two video interviews with artists winning prizes at the the BP Portrait Award 2014 Ceremony,  held this week in the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Video interviews below are with:
  • 2nd prizewinner - Richard Twose (UK)
  • 3rd prizewinner - David Jon Kasssan (USA)
All three of the prizewinners have something to teach us about the process of being selected for the BP Portrait Award
  • An awareness that you really need to raise your game and paint your very best if you want to be selected. All had thought about entering the competition for a long time before they submitted this year's entry. 
  • The advantages of choosing a model with an interesting head and face and backstory. None of the models were young. All have faces which have lived a life albeit they have all led very different lives. I guess that gives character to the portrait as well as making painting skin a lot more interesting!
  • They all have a passion for painting which comes through strongly in each interview
  • All were humble about their own selection. All felt very strongly that just being selected for the exhibition was a massive achievement of itself - since the work of only 55 artists is chosen from submissions by over 2,377 artists
Both Richard and David agreed that Thomas's portrait of Man in a Plaid Blanket was a very worthy winner - and that you cannot beat inspecting a painting in person to see the paint on the surface of the support and what the artist has done with it.

In addition I would note that ALL THREE of the prizewinning portraits were of the head and upper torso and the hands as well as the face were very evident in all three. Hence you might get selected if you enter just a head but I doubt you'll be shortlisted.

So - on to the interviews.

An interview with Richard Twose

Jean Woods  by Richard Twose
Second Prize (£10,000): Richard Twose (age 51 - 01.04.1963) for Jean Woods (900 x 600mm, oil on board).

Judges’ comments - Jean Woods 

The judges immediately recognised the strong personality coming through in this portrait. The stylish Modernist quality of the painting was well judged and seemed to reflect the subject perfectly’
Richard Twose is a Bath-based art teacher (for two days a week - in a large sixth form college in Bath).  His portrait is of Jean Woods, age 76, a grandmothe of four, a former fashion model and the star of the documentary Fabulous Fashionistas. Listen to the interview to find out how Richard came to meet Jean and paint her.
Sometimes as Jean was talking, especially about her much-missed late husband, she reminded me of Rembrandt's Portrait of Margaretha de Geer. Jean has a similar intensity and honesty in her gaze. I wanted to capture that sense of someone who has learnt to be almost fearless, looking forward to life still but with a great richness of experience behind her’.

An interview with David Jon Kassan

Letter to my Mum by David Jon Kassan
Third Prize (£8,000): David Jon Kassan (age 37 - 25.02.1977) for Letter to my Mom (1245 x 810mm, oil on aluminium panel)

Judges’ comments - Letter to my Mom

‘The judges were moved by the palpable relationship between the sitter and his mother in this portrait. They felt there was a serenity in the pose and were particularly struck by the artist’s attention to his mother’s hands’.
David's portrait of his mother includes a written tribute in Hebrew inscribed into the painting. His mother is not a willing sitter but consented to sit when she was offered a paint of her grandson Lucas.
‘My work is very personal and heartfelt. It’s my visual diary, so my family and loved ones make up a large part of what and why I paint. My parents have always been inspirational to paint. This portrait is a letter to my mom, who hates it when I paint her. But I tell her in the painting that by painting her, it is my way of spending time with her, contemplating our relationship and time together, my earliest memories’. 
The Hebrew text painted onto the portrait above the sitter reads: 
‘Dear Mom,/ This painting is my way to spend more time with you./ My way to meditate on our life together./ And all of the earliest memories I have / All of my earliest memories from you.’

Note: I should explain that both interviews were held in the noisiest BP Portrait Award Press View I've ever been in - lots of chatting going on. Consequently the view of faces was dictated by how close I needed to be to make sure the microphone picked up their voices!

BP Portrait Award - previous years

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A video interview with Thomas Ganter, Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2014

Thomas Ganter, winner of the BP Portrait Award 2014
with his winning portrait "Man with a Plaid Blanket"
oil on vanvas 1600mm x 600mm
Thomas Ganter kindly gave me a video interview about winning the BP Portrait Award 2014, the morning after the Awards Ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery

I'm very grateful to Thomas for giving me an interview when English is not his first language - and to Neil Evans at the NPG for letting us stay on to get a quieter gallery for the Interview.

About the portrait

Man with a plaid blanket
by Thomas Ganter
oil on canvas 1600mm x 600mm
The portrait selected as the best of the work submitted in 2014 for the BP Portrait Award  is called Man with a Plaid Blanket. It's painted using oil on canvas and it measures 1600mm x 600mm.

This is what the judges thought about it

Judges’ comments - Man with a Plaid Blanket

‘All the judges were struck by the intensity of the sitter’s gaze and how every texture and surface was rendered in intricate detail - from the icon-like gold chain fence to the rose in the crumpled paper cup’.
I have to say this painting does not render well at less than high resolution so if you disagree with the comments I can only refer you to the comments of both the other prizewinners who both agreed you had to see it in person to appreciate why it won.

This is what Thomas had to say
"Most of my canvases try to capture to beauty of visual appearances while including a message, whether it's the impact of globalisation or the social inequality."
His aim it to get us to reframe how we see the world.  His prizewinning portrait does just that. He invites us to consider the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty and the worth of the ordinary human being.

It is a complete original. It starts from him seeing a homeless man.......
‘After being in a museum, I saw a homeless man and was stunned by a similarity: the clothes, the pose, and other details resembled what I just saw in various paintings. However, this time I was looking at a homeless person wrapped in a blanket and not at the painting of a saint or noble in their elaborate garment. By portraying a homeless man in a manner reserved for nobles or saints, I tried to emphasise that everyone deserves respect and care. Human dignity shouldn’t be relative or dependent on socio-economic status’.
The museum he had been visiting on a rainy afternoon was The Städel. One of the most important collections of Old Master paintings can be seen in the art museum called the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie in Frankfurt am Main. This includes masterpieces by Dürer, Grünewald, Holbein, and Elsheimer, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Brueghel, Rubens, Mantegna, Botticelli, Tiepolo and Batoni, Poussin and Chardin - see examples on the website. I'm left wondering whether the Altar retable 'Mio da Siena' was an important influence.  A pointer for those submitting in future years - do take a look at the very many ways in which people have been portrayed in days long gone. There is rarely anything completely new but there is certainly an awful lot to learn from.

Thomas spent two months working out his ideas and how to represent them in terms of visual language on the canvas. Three artists he has identified as influential to that process are Velazquez, Hans Holbein and Jan van Eyck.  He then spent three months painting the portrait.

His model for the work was a local homeless man called Karel Strnad who earned money by washing car windows.

The face of Man with a Plaid Blanket by Thomas Ganter
It's certainly a work which repays seeing in person and closer inspection. Suzanne du Toit, the 1013 winner, admired his painting of the plaid blanket very much.  I particularly like both face and hands. I think aspiring entrants to this competition should note that yet again we have a complete upper torso.  In fact all three shortlisted paintings had both face and hands.

This is what I had to say about it when the works were shortlisted. Bear in mind I had the tremendous benefit of having seen the high resolution photos of each work.
My gut says Ganter will win. There's something very penetrating and yet enduring about that portrait and themes it raises. Plus I've never ever seen another painting like it in the BP and originality counts for a lot.
Which means I'm officially very please to have yet again spotted the winner! I must do a countback sometime to work out my strike rate!

About Thomas Ganter

Thomas works in the art business - but his business is illustration. He cofounded Kawon, an animation and illustration agency in 2001. It has a seriously impressive website showcasing their work - but it's a very different sort of work to this award-winning portrait.

His illustration work helps him with his painting
"Being an illustrator helps my by the daily exercise of drawing, painting and thinking in concepts"
He was born in 1974 in Limburg - so 40 this year - and as you can hear in the film he heard his work had been selected the day before his 40th birthday.

Thomas studied illustration at the University of Applied Sciences Wiesbaden, Germany and in 2001 got a Diploma: Trailer Animation and Character Expressions. Thomas also used to hold a Lectureship for Life Drawing and elementary drawing.

He refers to his painting as a passion and it's one which also allows him to follow his own ideas rather than those relating to his clients' needs or projects.

Painting might not be what he does full time but he certainly put a lot of thought and effort into this painting.

I liked the idea that he continued to develop his techniques when his first submissions did not succeed.  It's a message which should bring hope to those who have submitted in the past and are thinking about submitting again in the future.

TOMORROW - I'll be posting video interviews with the second and third prizewinners - Richard Twose and David Jon Kassan - and after that it's my video review of the exhibition and then it's on to the BP Travel Award!

Other reviews

BP Portrait Award - previous years

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BP Portrait Award 2014 - Video of presentation to prizewinners

Thomas Kanter, winner of the BP Portrait Award 2014
with (left to right) Bob Dudley, Sandy Nairne and Nigel Havers

Last night Thomas Ganter won the £30,000 BP Portrait Award 2014 at the National Portrait Gallery in London - and below is a film of the awards ceremony.

I filmed the presentation ceremony with Mini iPad in one hand and my camera in the other taking photographs - hence there's an odd wobble in this video and less than wonderful framing at times. If you want to skip the Havers speech, the awards ceremony actually starts at 2 minutes 30 seconds.


The Awards are (in order of presentation)
Nigel Havers, the actor presented the BP Portrait Award prizes to the prizewinners - assisted by Bob Dudley, the BP CEO and Sandy Nairne, the Director of National Portrait Gallery.

This Awards Ceremony was special for two reasons. It marked the 25th anniversary of BP's sponsorship of this Award. This was also the last Awards Ceremony to be hosted by Sandy Nairne. Last week he announced his intention to retire from his post as Director - although he won't be going until early 2015.  he's been the Director since 2002.

Brownie points go to those who spot last year's BP Travel Award winner in the video! ;)

I'll be writing a number of posts for this blog this week, following interviews with the prizewinners and a proper tour of the exhibition.

BP Portrait Award - previous years

I've been covering the BP Portrait Award for some years and have an extensive archive of posts relating to previous competitions which I know are much studied by those contemplating an entry!

BP Portrait Award - Shortlisted artists on Making A Mark:

BP Portrait Award 2012

BP Portrait Award 2011

BP Portrait Award 2010

BP Portrait Award 2009

BP Portrait Award 2008

BP Portrait Award 2007

BP Portrait Award: From 2,500+ entries to just three artists

Tonight we go from over 2,500 people who entered the BP Portrait Award 2014 to three prizewinners - and just one person who wins the top award. This year the National Portrait Gallery which organises the exhibition has filmed the artists shortlisted for an award.

In a few minutes time I start getting reading to go to the Awards Ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery which is this evening. I've got to be there by 6.45pm!

Definitely one of the best bits of writing this blog is being able to go up to the three people who have been shortlisted for the prize and ask them for an interview. (see my post Shortlist announced for BP Portrait award 2014)

Do watch this brilliant film made by the National Portrait Gallery about the journey of the three BP Portrait Award finalists to the gallery where the exhibition is held - and where the awards will be announced at 7.30pm this evening.

I was smiling all the way through it - it's so good to hear from people who are really into painting people - and painting from life.

Tomorrow I'll be interviewing and videoing the artists and videoing the exhibition.

Don't forget - next year it could be you! You can register now to find out how to enter next year's award Come back this week for more of my special posts about the BP Portrait award.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Will Cadmium be banned in artists' paints in Europe?

The European Chemicals Agency is currently consulting on proposed restrictions - a virtual ban - on the use of  Cadmium in artists' paints in Europe. Unless a case is made against the proposal Cadmium might be banned in artists paints and other art materials within a couple of years.

Consultation on the proposed ban on Cadmium in artists' paints in Europe

How the proposed ban came about

Sweden prepared a restriction report on the use of Cadmium in artists paints
The proposed restriction concerns placing on the market and use of cadmium and its
compounds in artists’ paints; TARIC code [3213] and pigments TARIC code [3212]
that could be used for the manufacture of artists’ paints.
This is the 203 page Swedish report (in English) Proposal for a Restriction - Cadmium and its Compounds I Artists Paints
During use and cleaning procedures cadmium based artists’ paint is released to the waste water. At the waste water treatment plant (WWTP) the cadmium pigments will for a predominating part end up in the sewage sludge. Sludge is then applied as
fertiliser in the agriculture. The cadmium compounds used in artists’ paints
will eventually dissolve in the soil (Gustafsson 2013, Appendix 3) and hence there is a potential crop uptake and in the extension exposure to humans via food.

Colours, imitating cadmium, already exist. Cadmium based pigments are mainly substituted by organic pigments. The properties of the organic pigments are in many
ways similar to cadmium colours but cannot be considered identical and thus have to be evaluated on a case - by - case basis by the individual artist.

The alternatives are generally less costly per volume unit but require larger volumes than cadmium based paints. In this report it is assumed that these aspects cancel each other out The proposed restriction will effectively reduce the identified risk.

Consultation on the proposal

You can comment on the proposal before 19 September 2014 - however I suggest you read the commentary by Spectrum Artist Paints first

Click this link to find out how you can give comments

Public consultation on restriction proposal

Anyone can comment on a proposal to restrict a substance. Those most likely to be interested are companies, organisations representing industry or civil society, individual citizens, as well as public authorities.

Comments are welcomed from the EU or beyond.

The public consultation lasts for six months.


Provide your comments within the first three months of the consultation period to ensure that your comments are taken into account when the rapporteurs of ECHA's Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) and the Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) meet three months after the publication of the proposal.

Write your comments in English, if possible.

Response to date from the art community

Spectrum Artists Paints is leading a campaign for cadmium in artists' paints. Read their blog posts
Naturally the manufacturers and distributors of artists' paint are most concerned. Here's some articles about the problem
Artists have also commented. In Complicated Cadmium Botanical Artist Jarnie Godwin comments on the availability of alternative pigments and paints by different manufacturers.

UPDATE - more comments and responses (as at 6th July 2014)

More blog posts of Jackson's Art Blog

Thanks to Gisele Pellegrini for reminding me about this topic and its currency.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Mac after the Fire - an Archive, an Appeal and guess WHO!

News about "what happened next" following the fire at the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA)

  • The Macintosh Appeal
  • New Trustees are Peter Capaldi and Brad Pitt
  • Graduation and Degree Show 2014

The Macintosh Appeal

Last week The Glasgow School of Art formerly launched The Mackintosh Appeal. The aim is to raise something like £20m to allow the GSA to commission the work that needs to be done following the fire in the Mackintosh Building.  (Click the link if you would like to support the appeal via the Big Give)

New Trustees

I am seriously impressed by who the GSA has got to be Trustees of its Appeal!

The GSA confirmed last week that both Peter Capaldi (the new Doctor Who) and Brad Pitt are to lend their support to the Appeal by becoming Trustees.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Pastel Society - 115th Annual Exhibition

I got to see The Pastel Society's Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries briefly this week. It must be the first time I've not had this review up from the beginning - however it's still worth noting who won what, what the exhibition looked like and which pieces I liked! The artists are, of course around all year long even if their exhibition isn't and you can contact the Gallery if you're interested in making a purchase or commissioning an artwork

So this is going to a fairly visual post as I'm still slogging through layouts for my book - which happens to feature work by one of the prizewinners!  Of which more later.

Perspective on part of The Pastel Society Exhibition

The exhibition accepts work in Pastels, oil pastels, charcoal, pencil, conté, sanguine, or any dry media.

This year's exhibition looked very good hung on the walls. To my mind it looked a lot more contemporary than some of the annual exhibitions of some of the fellow FBA societies. Which is not me saying I liked all I saw which was trying to be more contemporary - but I liked a lot of the exhibition.

(You can find links to previous annual exhibitions of The Pastel Society at the end of this blog post).

Click the links in the artists' names to see more of their art on their websites or Facebook Page. You can tell the relative size of work by comparing the size of the Blue Stickers which signify a winner - which are all the same size.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cochineal and Carmine

One of the really interesting parts of the Making Colour Exhibition at the National Gallery is a wall of clear boxes which contain the raw resources for the Lake colours used in painting.

If you've ever wondered what the raw materials look like this is very definitely an exhibition worth visiting!

Which brings me to Cochineal. This is an insect that produces a brilliant crimson red dye and was introduced into Europe in 1520. However it has been used in Mexico and South America as a deep red dye since the 2nd century BC. By 1550 tons of the dye was being brought over to Seville (the only port allowed to import it) to make the valued red dye. The insects were flattened and transported as dried insect 'cakes'. This trade continued until the late 18th century.

A very popular use of the dye was for textiles and tapestries in particular.

Cochineal was also often used as a glazing pigment in oil - e.g. in Carmine - because of its transparency until the late 19th century when the cochineal production industry went into steep decline. Many different shades could be produced from the cochineal lake dye depending on the additives added to the dye bath. Its use died out as artists realised it was fugitive as indeed were many of the dyes used to colour pink and crimson colours prior to the development of the stable pigment Quinacridone.

Today cochineal is widely used as a food colourant despite the fact that it provokes allergic reactions in a lot of people.

...and this is what Cochineal looks like.

Cochineal - insects, dried cochineal lake and dyed textile
National Gallery - Making Colour Exhibition
  • On the left are the little dead bodies of the cochineal bettle - a very small scale insect which feeds on cacti and is mainly found in Central America and Mexico. The insects are killed using boiling water and then dried in the sun.
  • in the middle is the powdered version of the pigment
  • on the right is what looks like a piece of silk which has been died using the cochineal dye. 

More resources about Cochineal

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Making Colour and painting with poison

I highly recommend the new "Making Colour" exhibition at the National Gallery and will be giving it a full review very shortly - once I've finished work for the layouts for my book.

Making Colour - The Yellow and Orange Room
Find out more about the paintings in the Yellow and Orange Room in the exhibition on the exhibition website 
Those interested in the history of the development of colours and how colour changes over time will find it absolutely fascinating. So if you're not "all about the art" and have some room for the science as well I recommend you pay a visit if you can.

One picture in particular grabbed my attention - because I learned something completely new to me - and this is it.

Flowers in a Vase (c.1685) by Rachel Ruysch
Oil on canvas, 57 x 43.5 cm
National Gallery
Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750) was Dutch still life painter who specialised in the painting of flowers. So naturally, I was gravitating towards this painting before I realised why it was in the exhibition!

The painting is in the exhibition to highlight the source and components of a natural orange pigment called Realgar.

One of the themes of the exhibition is the identification of colours - such as purple and orange - which were typically created using mixes of other pigments because there was either no naturally occurring mineral of that colour or it was difficult to obtain.

In the case of Realgar, it is one of the few sources of a natural orange pigment. However it contains arsenic, which means that those very nice orange day lilies were actually painted with a poison and are highly toxic!
Realgar is a highly toxic arsenic sulfide and was the only pure orange pigment until modern chrome orange.
Pigments through the ages
Realgar is made of arsenic and sulphur and is also known as "ruby of arsenic".  Its more common use is in rat poison.

The fact that this rather nice orange pigment was toxic meant is wasn't used very much - although it can be seen in Venetian paintings and some Dutch flower paintings.  Its use in painting died out in the 18th century.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An exhibition in aid of The Art Room

Facetime - a fundraising exhibition of artwork by major UK and international contemporary artists in aid of The Art Room - can currently be seen at The Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries until Saturday. It's all for a good cause......
With the patronage of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, The Art Room provides art as therapy to 5-16 year old children who are experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Some of the Facetime clocks painted by leading contemporary artists
- the Chapman Brothers clock (£25,000) is in the middle and Gerald Scarfe's clockface (£1,400) is middle row on the far left
Left - Yinka Shonibare
Right - Jan Pienkowski
Which is why you can see work by globally renowned artists (eg Jenny Saville, Yinka Shonibare MBE RA, Cornelia Parker RA, Antony Gormley RA) and other well known artists (eg Nicola Bayley, Gerald Scarfe, Roger Law) and the odd newsreader (Jon Snow).
Working in partnership with the Threadneedle Foundation, The Art Room, a national charity offering art as a therapeutic intervention to children and young people, have invited artists to contribute a clock or original piece of work for this important fundraising exhibition. Painters, sculptors, illustrators, architects and photographers have all contributed to Face Time and many have chosen to produce a clock face which reflects a key element of The Art Room’s methodology and practice.
You can see some fantastic pieces in the Facetime catalogue  - and at the Mall Galleries until Saturday.
Clocks represent an important part of The Art Room’s own practice: the child’s transformation of regular items such as clocks, aprons and stools can help work towards increasing self esteem, confidence and introduces the children to a sense of empowerment through their own creativity.
I have to say I shall remember the exhibition for a while for the unique materials which some artists used - such as
  • Cornelia Parker - rattlesnake venom and black ink, anti-venom and white ink
  • Jason Schulman - unspecified use of Bank of Engand sealing wax
  • Joseph Steele - silk screen paint fired from a Liquid CO2 gas cannon

Monday, June 16, 2014

Jerwood Drawing Prize 2014 - online deadline is 5pm today

Just a reminder that today is the deadline for registration for the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2014. The deadline for online registration: 16 June 2014, 5pm.

You can read more about it in my blog post Jerwood Drawing Prize 2014 - Call for Entries.

Jerwood Drawing Prize - Winners and Selected Artists 2010-2013

Winner of the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2013
Apocalypse (My Boyfriend Doesn’t Care)
Ink on paper, 183 x 150cm
© Svetlana Fialova
These are the blog posts about artists who have won the prize or been selected for exhibition in previous years
Plus my 2008 blog post about Antony Gormley on drawing - at the Jerwood - which includes some great observations about drawing.

NOTE: I'm been very busy finalising the content of my book at present - hence the infrequent posting....

Monday, June 09, 2014

RHS Exhibitions: Guidance and Regulations for submitting Botanical Art & Botanical Photography

The Royal Horticultural Society recently gave its website a massive overhaul. URLs have changed and some things went missing for a while - including the Guidelines and Regulations for submitting Botanical Art to an RHS Exhibition!

I wrote and asked what had happened and, as a result, the information has now been loaded. It's also been relocated out of the Shows area and into a section on Education and Learning and a subsection on Libraries. This is in part because the Picture Committee is no more and the function previously carried out by that Committee is now undertaken by the Picture Panel under the auspices of the Lindley Library and Arts Committee. So the website follows the organisational form of the RHS.

For those of you who want to enter your botanical art or botanical photography into the RHS Exhibitions I've detailed below where you can now find the information. You have until 25th June to submit work for assessment to the next meeting of the Picture Panel.

RHS Exhibition of Botanical Art

You have until 25th June to apply to be assessed to submit work for a future exhibition of 
Botanical Art in the RHS Lindley Hall
This is half of the 2014 Exhibition and the winner of the Best Exhibit in Show is in the foreground
(see RHS Botanical Art Show 2014 - Medal winners)
A very high standard of work is required in the exhibition of botanical illustration.

Emphasis is placed primarily on botanical accuracy with aesthetic appeal.

Individual artists or group exhibitors are allocated space at each show.

Exhibits must comprise a minimum of six pieces of art, preferably presented on a theme.
Interestingly the exhibition is referred to as being about botanical art whereas the introduction to the subject references it as being about botanical illustration. As botanical artists well know there is some considerable scope for debate about the differences between botanical art and botanical illustration!  It's certainly the case that Gold Medals awarded of late have had a very strong botanical theme.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Who made a mark in May 2014?

I'm still trying to develop a new way of doing "Who's made a mark". I'm now thinking along the lines of a once a month round-up complemented by more frequent posts of new things to look at via my Facebook Page. This seems to work better for me as it spaces out the effort involved.

That said I still need to work on timing - this was supposed to be published last Sunday - but I ran out of steam near the finish!  Which means it's about May and now the first few days of June as well!

Art Blogs


  • I can't start without noting that last month marked the passing of Robert Genn.  He was an artist whose writings have made a very great deal of difference to an awful lot of artists. His dog Dorothy died on May 13th and Robert Genn died just two weeks later on May 27th. It seems like they'll always be together riding around in his open top car looking for good spots for paintings.
  • Robin Lee-Hall has been elected as the President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Her portraits are painted using egg tempera. 
Portraits by Robin Lee-Hall PRP

Botanical Art

Fiona Strickland Botanical Artist - Facebook Page
Shevaun Doherty - Gold Medal Winner for her Iris foetidissima on vellum

Drawing and Sketching

  • Brilliant sketch by Jennifer Lawson who recently walked 500 miles across Spain in 35 days on the Camino de Santiago - one of the pilgrimage routes - and sketched en route and photographed and blogged via her iPhone.  She started at Jean-Pied-de-Port France at the base of the Pyreness on April 24th and finished at Santiago de Compostela
    • You can read all about her journey during April and May on her blog - Jennifer Lawson carrying all her belongings on her back. Start at El Camino di Santiago—500 miles in 35 days. En route admire the sketches she left en route - "art abandonment"
    • Her wonderful drawing of the Praza do Obradoiro in Santiago de Compostela is the one of the reasons why somebody invented accordion sketchbooks!
Add caption

Painting & Plein Air

Haidee Jo Summers with her painting 'Sails up in harbour'


"Shower With a Friend" © Sherrie York
reduction linocut, 15" x 15"

Art Books

Art Business and Marketing

Becoming an artist

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The new BBC Arts Website

The BBC have a lot to do to do to up their game in terms of content and accessibility of the new BBC Arts website. Its aim is to enable much better access to both BBC Arts Programmes, additional material and the archive of programmes held by the BBC.

BBC Monitor Henry Moore November 1960
First transmitted in 1960, Huw Wheldon visits Henry Moore at his home in the run-up to a major exhibition of his work at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.
One of the archive programmes on offer via the new BBC Arts website
It introduced it with this post and video - Welcome to BBC Arts.
Welcome to the new BBC Arts website, a space which draws together arts coverage and comment from across the BBC - television, radio and online - and aims to put the best of British art and culture at your fingertips.

We will showcase performance of all types.....Here you will be able to find live streams of performances and events or enjoy them on demand later.

The BBC launched the new site of 14th May. It gets:
  • 10 out of 10 for the idea - this is the new way to access television when access need not be governed by schedules
  • 5 out of 10 for effort - they've started and are up and running - in a way similar to getting the roof on and the windows in. The basic structure is there but there's a long way to go before it's delivering what it's promising
  • 3 out of 10 for functionality. That's because it doesn't work at all well at present and much is inaccessible or very difficult to find!  
You can
  • sign up for the latest news on arts programmes and events via the BBC Arts newsletter
  • Follow on Twitter for the latest updates from BBC Arts @bbcarts
  • Follow the RSS feed -
  • Check out the A-Z Archive of Arts Programmes on the BBC via the feed for Factual: Arts, Culture & the Media: Arts - although a lot of these are not yet available online (I'm thinking it would be a much better feed if they indicated when they might be available online!)
  • Find out what is actually available to view now:

Form has not followed function - and the design needs radical improvement

The focus is all on "the arts" and fails to recognise that people have specialised interests e.g. art, literature or music. There's no link or categorisation which allows ready access to your particular interest - and that needs addressing very fast as they begun to put more material online.

The main problem is the navigation of the site and what's available is absolutely tortuous - no matter what improvements the BBC might think they have made recently.  The fact of the matter is it's very difficult to join up all the dots and find your way around to what's on offer easily.  They really need to address this

Frankly I don't think they've given any thought at all to how the design will function as they begin to put more of the archive online and need to make content available with much less scrolling. The BBC needs to rediscover the importance of the link to take you fast through several layers of content!

[UPDATE: Plus one of the main problems is there is no access to their forward programming of arts programmes coming up - which is always useful for those who like to plan ahead.  Just try finding a link to tonight's BBC2 programme "The Summer Exhibition:  BBC Arts at the Royal Academy" - it's absolutely nowhere to be seen!)

(PS If you think it's easy just try starting from the main BBC page and finding all the links identified above!)