Thursday, April 30, 2015

Selected Artists - BP Portrait Award 2015

I think most portrait painters want to be able to list "selected for the BP Portrait Award" on their CV as it is the most prestigious portrait exhibition in the world!

In this post I list the 55 artists who had their portrait paintings selected for the BP Portrait Award 2015 - Exhibition. Their paintings will be seen by more than 250,000 people this summer at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Plus images of some of the selected portraits!

Ordeal by Murat Tezcan Demirbas
Oil on Canvas - 150 x 150 cm
copyright Murat Tezcan Demirbas
Below you can find the names of the Selected Artists - please note:
  • They're listed alphabetically by country. The country is the country of residence rather than the country of origin.
  • There are links in the names to the artist's websites (where websites could be found easily).
  • Some also have links to the portrait on their website. 
I RECOMMEND that any aspiring portrait artists should:
  • check out the website portfolios of selected artists and
  • note the standard of the websites - and note how many artists now have one!

Selected artists

So here they are, some names I recognise, some I know well but there's lots of new names! The BP Portrait Award website will, in due course have a page for each of them as they've done in previous years. In the meantime enjoy finding out about who got selected this year.

My thanks to all the artists who sent me images to use with this blog post.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shortlist for £30,000 BP Portrait Award 2015 announced

More than 2,748 portraits from a record 92 countries were digitally submitted for consideration by the Judges of the BP Portrait Award 2015.

Just three have been shortlisted for the £30,000 First Prize - and you can see them below. The portraits and artists are:
I have to say having seen the high resolution images, my money is very definitely on Michael Gaskell - not least because:
  • he's been selected five times, shortlisted three times and and runner up twice and I can't believe they'd be so cruel as to select him again and make him the runner-up again!
  • it's the best painting I've seen him do - the technical expertise used is impeccable and the portrait itself is absolutely stunning.
Below you can find out about:
  • the prizes on offer - those selected already know they've won at least £8k!
  • more about the artists - and see the images shortlisted.

Tomorrow I will be highlighting the 55 selected artists whose work has been selected for the exhibition. The portraits selected for the exhibition will be on show at the BP Portrait Award 2015 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 18 June to 20 September 2015 and will tour subsequently.

Prizes on offer

The winners  of the prizes will be announced shortly before the opening of the exhibition to the public in June
  • The First Prize is £30,000 plus a commission worth £5,000 to paint a portrait for the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. The subject of the commission is agreed
    between the Gallery and the artist.
  • The Second Prize winner receives £10,000 
  • The Third Prize winner received £8,000. 
  • There is also a BP Young Artist Award of £7,000 for the work of an entrant aged between 18 and 30.

Shortlisted Portraits and Artists

Annabelle and Guy by Matan Ben Cnaan

Annabelle and Guy by Matan Ben Cnaan
1200 x 1300mm, oil on board
Copyright: Matan Ben Cnaan
Age: 35 years old (born 23.04.1980)
Nationality: Israeli - he comes from the north of Israel
Occupation: a contemporary Israeli painter
Current home: Emek-Jezreel, Israel
Art education: studied fine arts at Haifa University
Previous appearances in this award: None
Subject: his friend Guy and step-daughter Annabelle. However the portrait is an allegory.
In my work I study and capture the local Israeli with a non-romantic yet sentimental view. The land and its people partake equally in my view of today’s Israel.... Politics as well as Historical and Biblical themes are for me like the mythological and religious inspirations for the Old Masters creations.
He's used two friends as models for allegorical painting. The allegory in his painting relates to the biblical story of Jephthah. This is the man who vowed to God that if his side is victorious in the battle with the Ammonites, he will sacrifice the first thing that greets him upon his home-coming. The convention is that it's assumed this would be his dog. However his daughter gets there first and Jepthah realises what an awful mistka ehe has made - but nonethless upholds his vow and sacrifices his child.
Unified by the blinding light, all the objects in the picture become one. The tension imminent in the moment of realisation of the horrible price one must pay is reflected in the composition. The rough wall and rugged gravel echo the grittiness and grief in Guy's (Jephthah's) character, whilst the fig tree, casting an ominous shadow, presages Annabelle’s fate. Her strong posture reflects her own resolve and her role, in both the biblical story and in Guy’s life, in carrying his burdens and misfortune. Being no more than a child, Annabelle attempts to process her tragic fate’.

Eliza by Michael Gaskell

Eliza by Michael Gaskell
(370 x 270mm, acrylic on board)
Copyright: Michael Gaskell
I've met Michael Gaskell twice. That's because:
  • he has been selected for BP Portrait Award exhibitions five times (1999, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2010) 
  • he's been commended twice (1999 and 2001); and 
  • on three occasions his portrait has taken the second prize (in 2003, 2009, 2010).
  • he's already been commissioned by the NPG to paint portraits for its collection (a portrait of climate scientist Sir James Lovelock)
All I will say is that it's not unusual for the portrait which wins First Prize to have an artist who has a good record at BP Portrait Prize - and Michael fits that brief better than anyone else I know - see BP Portrait Award: Michael Gaskell's unparalled record)

This time he has painted his entry in acrylic rather than the egg tempera that he very frequently uses. The attention to colour, tone and texture is absolutely unbelievable - every warp and weft in the fine linen of the blue shirt is visible. The treatment of flesh and its blemishes is absolutely superb. More importantly still, the portrait is arresting.

What's also very interesting is that this year, Michael has submitted a larger painting (approximately twice the size of ones he has submitted in 2009 and 2010).

I'm thinking this will mean the painting offers a better 'presence' and also conforms rather closer to the sort of size of portrait that the NPG likes to have in its collection. Maybe this will do the trick and enable him to convert a magnificent track record into a First Prize this year. I know a lot of people will be very pleased if that happens - not least Michael!

Age: born 1963
Nationality: British - he comes from Sheffield
Occupation: a contemporary British artist
Current home: he now lives in Leicester
Art education: studied at St Helen’s College of Art and Design and Coventry Polytechnic
Previous appearances in this award: selected five times, shortlisted three times; won second prize twice
Subject: His niece Eliza age 14 (She first sat for him as a small child - but that painting has not yet been completed!)
I hope this painting conveys a sense of Eliza’s growing confidence as she develops into a woman but retains some of the self-consciousness which was also present at the time.’
The work has been primarily influenced by Michael's study of the portraits of the great fifteenth century  Dutch painter Hans Memling (c. 1430 - 1494) who followed on from van Eyck. (You can see paintings by Memling here). His study of Memling was triggered by a commission to produce a painting for an Americna collector and fan of Memling.

My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening by Borja Buces Renard

My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening by Borja Buces Renard
1500 x 2000mm, oil on canvas
Copyright: Borja Buces Renard
Age: age 36, born 1978
Nationality: Spanish
Occupation: Artist
Current home: works and lives between Madrid, Spain and Florida, USA
Art education:  ?
Previous appearances in this award: None
Subject: his mother Paloma and his brother Jaime - painted in the living room of his parents’ house on a typical Sunday when the family would gather and talk

The painting has forms dissolving on the edges and is influenced by the progressively debilitating illness of his father who died a few weeks after it was finished. The illness accounts for his absence from the painting and his death is why the portrait is dedicated to his father Jose Antonio, and to his mother Paloma.
‘Making this weekly event slowly disappear, I wanted to portray this emotion in my paintingwith the image of my father missing and that difficult time for all of us, especially for my mum whom had dedicated herself to taking care of him. Our living room, in which we all spent many evenings together was the place that would best capture that moment. I had painted my mother, father and brother many other times on that same couch, so I was pretty sure about how I wanted to use the light and colour’. 
Other than that, it seems to me that his painting is a classical exercise in the golden ratio. Just look at where the eyes are and how the main horizontals and verticals bisect the portrait


The competition was judged from original paintings by:
  • Pim Baxter, Chair of Judges and Acting Director at the time of judging, National Portrait Gallery;
  • Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery;
  • Kim Mawhinney, Head of Art, National Museums Northern Ireland;
  • Peter Monkman, Artist;
  • Simon Schama, Historian; and
  • Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts & Culture, BP.

More about the BP Portrait Award

I'll be writing later in the week to comment on the record numbers who entered this year and how digital submission changed the profile of the entry.

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! :)

Entry for the 2016 BP Portrait Award opens in November 2016.

The Shortlist

BP Portrait Award 2015

BP Portrait Award 2014

BP Portrait Award 2013

BP Portrait Award 2012

BP Portrait Award 2011

BP Portrait Award 2010

BP Portrait Award 2009

BP Portrait Award 2008

BP Portrait Award 2007

Monday, April 27, 2015

14 good years

The Kittie Sitter
I'm not really feeling like doing a proper blog post today.

I've just got back from the vets and, having feared the worst, I've had my worst fears confirmed.

My big boy cat Cosmo has a large mass in his stomach. He's losing weight very fast because he's eating very little. When I look at this drawing it makes me realise how much he's lost. He's becoming a little boy.

We're hopefully talking weeks rather than days but who knows. He's 14 and would be 15 this July but I rather doubt he's going to make that birthday. We're not going to go in for investigations or being heroic. Rather all the focus will be on giving him a good quality of life for whatever time he has left. I'm going to let him go on for as long as he's still the cat I know and love and he's still purring.

One nice thing is he's forever immortalised in my book. He's the cat who pops up on a regular basis throughout my book - and he's a really wonderful "still cat" model. He was also the best uncle ever and loved looking after Polly's kittens.

I am, of course, sat here typing all of this with Cosmo sat next to me on his fleece - and tears sliding down my face.

I'm just going to make the most of him while he still wants to sit next to me.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Shortlist for the Art Fund Museum of the Year Award 2015

Six museums have been shortlisted for the Museum of the Year and three of them are focused on art or are are art related.

This is the Michelin Star rating for Museums so being shortlisted is an honour - but winning it is something else!
The Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year annually surveys museums and galleries across the UK, awarding one outstanding winner a prize of £100,000.
The judges are:

  • Stephen Deuchar - Director of the Art Fund
  • Michael Landy, artist
  • Alice Rawsthorn, design critic
  • Fiammetta Rocco,The Economist books and arts editor  and 
  • Axel Rüger, director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony at Tate Modern on Wednesday 1 July 2015, following the Museum of the Year Debate.

The "Art" Museums

HM Tower of London (Historic Royal Palaces) (Shortlist page)

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red on the morning of 10th November 2014

Last year the Tower displayed the stunning installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red: 888,246 ceramic red poppies representing fallen British and Colonial serviceman.
I visited the display the day before Armistice Day - and the sight was stunning and really brought home just how British and colonial fatalities there were. See my two blog posts:
This video explains HM Tower of London - which will be interesting to any visitors to London.

See the comments from the public and view the numbers that visited - 5 million in total - in this next video.

For me this is the best video I've seen to date about this installation - it's a story of connectedness, community and commemoration.

Given the public response to this installation and commemoration it'll be a very strong candidate which beats it.

The Whitworth, Manchester (Shortlist page)

This is an art museum which I used to pass every single day on my way to and from school. I've not yet been to it since its transformation but I know that it's been very well received.
In 2014 the gallery underwent a radical £15m transformation, doubling in size – and while it was closed, ran a series of experimental pop-up events.

The MAC, Belfast (Shortlist page)

I visited the Mac in March - albeit only to have lunch. It looked a very impressive building which is situated right next to the Art School. It's part of an initiative to regenerate Belfast.

Belfast’s new arts venue presented an outstanding programme in 2014 and established itself as a world-class contemporary art gallery.

The other short-listed museums

The short list pages and their videos are embedded in the names of the remaining museums on the shortlist.

Dunham Massey (National Trust), Altrincham

A place I know well and one which I may try and visit next week when I go to see my mother.
To mark the First World War centenary, this beautiful Georgian mansion was transformed back into Stamford Military Hospital, with live recreations of stories from its archives.

IWM London 

Following an incredible £40m renovation, London's flagship war museum reopened in July 2014, 100 years after the First World War began.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

The museum reopened in 2014 after a spectacular renovation of its neo-Gothic building, and with a lively new public engagement programme. 
I love its Twitter handle

Friday, April 24, 2015

25th anniversary exhibition of the Shirley Sherwood Collection

An exhibition to celebrate the anniversary of a collection seems to me to be an excellent idea - but I hadn't seen one before this week.

Work by Botanical Artists in the Collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood OBE
(Left) Brian Poole - Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), Copper etching with watercolour
(Centre) Rosie Sanders - 'Greater Knapweed' watercolour
(Right) Phansakdi Chakkaphak- Caribbean Jewels Sapphire Blue (Scilla peruviana) - watercolour

Jonathan Cooper, Park Walk Gallery
(just off the Fulham Road)
A new exhibition opened this week at Jonathan Cooper, Park Walk Gallery in Chelsea.

It comprises Work from Botanical Artists in the Collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood OBE - and it celebrates 25 years since she began her collection.

She now has some 905 paintings and drawings by over 240 contemporary artists from 30 countries around the world.  That, as I think you will agree, is some collection!

What makes it very special is that much of it is work by contemporary botanical artists. Indeed Dr Sherwood has made a major contribution to the revival of interest in botanical art - not to mention a developing an art gallery dedicated to botanical art in collaboration with Kew Gardens.

She is, in short, a true patron of botanical art. To have your work chosen for her collection is very much seen as an accolade.

This however is not a display of her artworks in her collection - such as one might see at Kew. This is a selling exhibition.

You can view the e-catalogue or download catalogue.

The Artists

The artists chosen demonstrate the range of work in the collection and the artists who assembled in the gallery on Tuesday evening came from all over the world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Are your sites mobile friendly - or are you facing Mobilegeddon?

Yesterday mobilegeddon was supposed to happen - here's why:
  • Did you know that some 30% of all search queries now come from mobile devices (smartphones and tablets)?
  • Google has said that it expects overall search queries on mobile devices to exceed PC volumes this year
  • Did you know that Google made a change yesterday which now favours webpages which are mobile friendly for smartphones (i.e. you can read and navigate them easily)?
  • Are you monitoring the traffic to your websites and blogs to see if the change has an impact on your sites?

Mobile is tomorrow

Well actually the big change was yesterday - but you know what I mean - we can't get away from mobile it's here to stay!

The importance of mobile devices has been growing year by year, quarter by quarter and month by month.  It's expected that by 2018 a third of the world's consumers will own a smartphone and buy/consume using it.

More importantly Google has been losing out to Facebook re its advertising income and needs to make websites more mobile friendly to get it back again!

So, bottom line, Google figures it's now essential that mobile friendliness is reflected in how it ranks websites in response to search queries. It wants its search queries to be satisfying its customers.

Yesterday Google rolled out a technical change to their search engine which means that - from now - all sites which are mobile compatible will get an uplift in search rankings.

You can read more about it  on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog

Google also offers some extra help
To get help with making a mobile-friendly site, check out our guide to mobile-friendly sites. If you’re a webmaster, you can get ready for this change by using the following tools to see how Googlebot views your pages:
  • If you have a site, you can use your Webmaster Tools account to get a full list of mobile usability issues across your site using the Mobile Usability Report.
PLUS, yesterday it reiterated
To check if your site is mobile-friendly, you can examine individual pages with the Mobile-Friendly Test or check the status of your entire site through the Mobile Usability report in Webmaster Tools. If your site’s pages aren’t mobile-friendly, there may be a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google Search. But have no fear, once your site becomes mobile-friendly, we will automatically re-process (i.e., crawl and index) your pages. You can also expedite the process by using Fetch as Google with Submit to Index, and then your pages can be treated as mobile-friendly in ranking.
As a result of this switch to favouring mobile friendly websites Google Says There Are 4.7% More Mobile-Friendly Websites Today Than Two Months Ago

It's important to note that this change will not affect the ranking of websites based on a desk-based search. However the ranking results from a mobile-based search are now likely to be completely different - and will become more and more important as ownership and use of mobile devices grows and grows.

If you think this doesn't affect you because your site hasn't got much mobile traffic.....

Has it occurred to you that your site hasn't got much mobile traffic BECAUSE if's not compatible with mobile devices?

Have you asked friends with sites which are mobile compatible what percentage of their traffic comes from mobile devices?

So how is it for you?

So if like me you've got a website which works fine on an iPad Mini. This is my portfolio site Pastels and Pencils

but that same website looks completely different on an iPhone - even my iPhone 6+

I might see the whole page but I can't read it easily
If I turn it into landscape Format on my iPhone 6+ it's better - but still not ideal.
The main text is still very small and more of the "above the fold" territory is lost to site
then, like me, you have a problem which needs to be solved.

Especially if your website does really weird things to the size of some of the images on my website when the space has been specified by pixel size rather than percentage!!

Essentially this change relates to smartphones rather than tablets - as the FAQs make clear. 

However my view is that if you are having to tackle mobile friendliness from scratch you need to tackle both the iPad/Tablet view as well as the Smartphone view.

How to become mobile friendly

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Review: 30th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists

Entrance to the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists

The Society of Botanical Artists is relatively young compared to those national art societies which started life in the 19th century. However this youngster is in robust health and currently going from strength to strength.

As it reaches its 30th Annual Exhibition it seems an appropriate time to take stock of the progress made promoting botanical art and in displaying botanical artwork at its annual exhibition.

30th Annual Exhibition - In Pursuit of Plants

The theme of this year's show is In Pursuit of Plants. You can see it in the Aldersgate Room, in the basement of Central Hall Westminster until Sunday 26th April 2015. The exhibition is open every day between 11am and 5pm and admission is free.

This is a short video of the opening address by Sandra Armitage, the President of the SBA about this year's exhibition and the preparation for next year.

The topic for next year's exhibition is "Shape Pattern and Structure" which will be 15-24 April 2016.

Highlights of the exhibition

I think the thing most worth commenting on is the improvement in the standard of the student work.  The work of students in their final year of the Distance Learning Diploma Course is, as always, exhibited in a corner of the exhibition. (The students graduated from their course last Friday evening). Every year I've seen some stunning work alongside work which appeared very promising.

This year I was amazed to find a display which is truly outstanding in the breadth and depth of the quality of the work.  So much so, that much of the student work on display was an awful lot better than rather a lot of the artwork I used to see in the early days when I first started visiting this exhibition each year. (I started coming in 2006 and you can now find links to all my past blog posts about the SBA exhibition on the Botanical Art and Artists page of this blog.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Society of Botanical Art: Certificates of Botanical Merit 2015

This post includes news about which artists won the coveted Certificate of Botanical Merit from the Society of Botanical Artists in 2015.

My next post will include a review of the SBA's 30th Annual Exhibition.

Sandra Armitage, President of the SBA
providing an introduction to the exhibition and Awards Ceremony

Certificates of Botanical Merit

The Certificates of Botanical Merit are an esteemed award as the standard required is that associated with botanical illustrations for scientific purposes.

Hyacinths (graphite) - £1,600by Guy William Eves SBA, FCPGFS, CBM (2011)

The pencil artwork of Guy William Eves is very fine. On Saturday he demonstrated how he works with a Linen Tester (a tool with considerable magnification) to achieve the very fine detail evident in his work. This particular work demonstrates the growth of the Hyacinth. Flowers do not need to be exotic or esoteric to warrant am award for botanical merit.

For those unable to get to London to see the show you can see more of his work at the Aldeburgh Gallery (14-20 May; and 15-21 October)

Hairy Bittercress by Maria Herkert
Cardamine hirsuta - Hairy Bittercress (coloured pencil)  - ££450
by Maria Herkert
I really liked this one. The plant sits in the centre and its various attributes and dimensions are unpicked around the plant. I have to confess I do like the name too. It goes to show what can be achieved with one plant - even when it's one considered to be a weed by most gardening websites!

Aconitum japonicum var. montanum
(watercolour) £1,800
by Yuriko Kojima SBA, CBM (2013)

A slightly unusual composition - but all the parts are included from roots to blooms to dissected parts. I like the way the flower stem leans just as it would do in a garden.

I'd love to see more of Yuriko's paintings but sadly she has neither a website nor a member's page.

Fruits of Magnolia sprengeri var. diva 'Westonbirt' 
(watercolour and graphite) £1,495
Beth Phillip BSc (Hons) Dip.Ed, SBA, GM, CBM (2008, 2010)
This is such a splendid painting by Beth Phillip! It's definitely one of the stand-out images of the show and it won a prize as well as a CBM. One of the things I really like about is the very controlled use of analogous colours portraying the amazing complexity of the seeds and seed structure.

However one of the other reasons it stands out is the actual magnolia it portrays and the quality of the formation of the seed pods ! It's always worthwhile seeking out of an exceptional specimen if your aim is to produce excellent botanical art!
Known locally as the ‘Diva’, the goddess magnolia tree at Westonbirt is the tallest specimen of its kind in the British Isles and is a champion tree; an accolade awarded by the Tree Register of Britain and Ireland.
Foresty Commission - Westonbirt Arboretum

Clematis vitalba - Old Man's Beard(watercolour) £380
by Sally Pond DipEGS(Dist.), SGM, CBM (2013)
This work was Highly Commended for the Joyce Cuming Presentation Award as well as achieving a CBM.

The design used for this work is delightful. There are no wonderful colours to draw the eye, the painting has to rely entirely on the skills of the artist to design a painting which builds on the typical growth habit of "Old Man's Beard" to produce a painting which is excellent. The use of two stems, rather than one stem, which crossover is critical to the end result. The placement of the "beard" in the sweetspots top left and bottom right is also very helpful to its overall impact.

My only surprise is that this work has not already sold when I took the photograph - it's delightful.

Pinus wallichiana 
(graphite) £400
by Eiko T Takano SBA SGM, CMB (1993, 2000)
This Bhutan Pine is native to the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains,
Pinus wallchiana has tufts of long, blue-green needles. This graphite drawing very much focuses on the structure of the plant and its needles and pine cones rather than on the colour and shows emerging cones as well as fully mature ones.

Wendy Smith's One and a Half cones of a Scots Pine (x4) (pen and ink) £500 is the final work to win a CBM and despite touring the exhibition three times I seem to have missed this one.

More about Certificates of Botanical Merit

You can read more about who's won Certificates of Botanical Merit in the past on my page devoted to botanical art which lists all the posts from previous years devoted to the CBMs.

[Note: 've also updated my previous post with an image of artwork by Carmen Lyons which won The Derwent Award for outstanding pencil art]

and finally...... 

It would appear that there was a mix-up on catalogue numbers and my work which got an Honourable Mention for the new Strathmore Prize for innovative composition is actually Grey, Green and Pink in Yuma (ie not Echevaria Laui) which makes a lot more sense to me in terms of 'composition'!

So here it is - hopefully those cactus spines look a tad 3D!

Grey, Green and Pink in Yuma
(coloured pencil) £350
by Katherine Tyrrell

Next up is the review of the Annual Exhibition itself.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Prizewinners at the Society of Botanical Artists' Annual Exhibition 2015

Yesterday's Private View of the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists was yet again an occasion to meet old friends as well as view some wonderful art in a very well hung exhibition.

This year the exhibition has 603 drawings and paintings in the main display and 18 miniatures and 3D works. These were selected from well over 900 entries.

The layout seems to me to be working better than last year with fewer 'skied' pictures which meant fewer problems with white outs from the lighting.

The theme this year is "In pursuit of plants" and as always it's always fascinating to see how this has been interpreted by the different artists. (Next year the theme is "Shape, Pattern and Structure" which I'm very excited about as it's all the things I like about plants!)

I'm going to focus in this post on the main prizewinners and
  • give a more considered opinion of the work in the show in my post on Sunday
  • highlight those who won a Certificate of Botanical Merit on Monday.
That's because knowing more and more people every year, one ends up spending more time talking and less time looking and because I'm going back to see the exhibition again this afternoon to see the demo about painting on vellum and review the exhibition again so I can pick out the pieces I want to highlight. So sorry not to provide more about the exhibition overall at this stage!

I'll also be highlighting the Tours and Demonstrations dates and members involved at the end of this post

The Exhibition is open from 11.00am to 5.00pm every day between 17 to 26 April 2015 at Westminster Central Hall, Storey’s Gate, London SW1H 9NH.

But first the prizes - and this year, for the very first time, I get a mention!!

Society of Botanical Art - 2015 Awards

Gardener, writer and broadcaster Matthew Biggs to open the exhibition and was very enthusiastic about the standard of work on display. He also presented the prizes.

The Joyce Cuming Presentation Award

This is a legacy from Joyce Cuming – a sterling silver Almoner’s plate. The winner receives a certificate.  It is however one of the awards which are most prized as this one also produces a list of people who were Highly Commended during the selection process.

Gael Sellwood accepting her award - the silver plate of
The Joyce Cuming Presentation Award
The winner this year was Gael Sellwood GM SBA PGCE, FEATC Cert HE(BotIll) for Hydrangea macrophylla 'King George' from her 2014 RHS Gold Medal winning exhibit of autumn and winter hydrangeas (at Malven).

Gael Sellwood holding the Joyce Cuming silver plate high above her head
with her watercolour painting of Hydrangea macrophylla 'King George'

Those Highly Commended included the following artists (attribution is in the caption to the image)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A new website - Botanical Art and Artists

Today I'm launching my new website Botanical Art and Artists  It provides a compendium of resources about botanical art past and present for botanical artists and illustrators of today and tomorrow.

If you just want to look at some wonderful art, there's lots to look at and links to take you to more places to enjoy the art produced in the the last few hundred years and by today' artists.

There's also lots of information to help you improve if your focus is on drawing or painting plants and flowers.

Botanical Art and Artists - a compendium website
Home Page of Botanical Art and Artists on Launch Day 16th April 2015

You can access information on the site via
  • the top menu - which has a drop down menu of pages within each topic 
  • the menu at the bottom of the page which provides quick links to headlines of content in a slightly different format.
You'll also find that due to a responsive design it can be accessed easily via a desktop, a tablet or a smartphone. (On the smartphone it reads down the columns in sequence left to right - making decisions about how to locate content more than a little challenging!)

Please bookmark it and/or share it with anybody who you think might like to access its resources. 

Today seemed like a good day for the public launch as it's also the Private View day of the 2015 Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists!  (I have two coloured pencil drawings in the show!)

Where to find the SBA

The SBA features quite a bit on various pages - and this is probably quite a good way of explaining how the site works.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Prizewinners at the 124th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters

This post highlights the prizewinners at the 124th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. I'll be writing more about the exhibition on Saturday.

The Private View as per usual was packed. If anything I'd say there were even more people than usual.

The PrivateView
There are even more people in the other galleries and waiting outside!
A few brief words about the exhibition to start. It's very well hung - I gather a new hanging team have taken up the challenge of producing a good looking exhibition. The Conversations and Peoples choice exhibition in the Threadneedle space looks particularly good.

The only thing which puzzled me was why the first painting I'd ever seen in the Mall Galleries priced at £100,000 was in the North Gallery. It's a very good portrait by Jennifer Anderson of the current Director of the British Museum and the Director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Even more puzzling is why it's listed as £100,000 on the wall of the North Gallery (middle room), a "publicly commissioned work" on her website and as Not For Sale on the Mall Galleries website. Which is it? Has somebody confused value with price?

The exhibition opens to the public on Thursday 16th April and continues until the 1st May 2015 at the Mall Galleries. Catalogues are £10 and admission is £3 and £2.50 concession. Free to Friends of Mall Galleries, National Art Pass holders and under 18s

The Prizewinners

Some £35,000 in award money was distributed during the prizegiving ceremony due to some generous sponsorship.  There are three brand new prizes this year - and one of them was my idea!

The Seven Investment Management £15,000 'Conversations' Prize

The 'Conversations Prize is awarded for the best work interpreting the theme of a conversation piece, including two or more figures.
John Wonnacott CBW RP celebrated his 70th birthday with a cheque for £15,000 as the winner of the Conversations Prize in its inaugural year.

John Wonnacott with his painting
Ian and Lois, the White Slip
Oil, 225 cm x 135 cm

The painting which won the prize is a commission and is called Ian and Lois, The White Slip.  Ian, the The gentleman in the painting, has sat for a number of portraits with a sitting once a week and he and John know each other very well. The woman in the painting is his wife Lois. The background includes a very large painting John was working on. Plus a number of mirrors set up to create a more interesting background - you see the backs as well as the front of the couple - plus John himself sat in a chair in front of his easel.  It's a fascinating painting - it's a little bit like a puzzle with a bit of Van Eyck thrown in.

I asked John what he intended to spend the money on. John told me that he'd recently had to spend a lot of money having his garage rebuilt as this is where he stores his paintings (he generally has around 20 on the go at any one time) and, as it happened the work had cost £15,000 and the prize money means he has nice new watertight storage at absolutely no cost!

The Seven Investment Management £15,000 'Conversations' PrizeThe winning painting (right) with the runner up (left)
Note: The prize is actually my idea! It started a couple of years ago when I suddenly realised that virtually the paintings I saw in portrait exhibitions were singleton portraits and some of those were often just the head. It seemed to me that there was some significant deskilling going on when one compared portrait paintings today with paintings in the past when painting people in a group was something which was much more common than it seems to be today. An exhibition I saw prompted the notion in my head that the way to get people painting portraits of groups of people was to focus on the notion of the conversation piece and to have a rather big prize as an added incentive!  

So I started talking to people about it - and talked to the people at the NPG re. the BP Portrait Award as well as people at the Mall Galleries and the RP.  I had in mind a little healthy competition! I was convinced one of them would see the wisdom of stretching artists to create more interesting portraits. Plus of course it expands the scope for more portrait commissions!  

I'm very pleased by the calibre of the paintings selected for the exhibition - I'd be very surprised if they don't generate a few commissions! I'd particularly like to thank the Mall Galleries and the RP for running with the idea and Seven Management for providing the sponsorship - it's absolutely fantastic to see my idea come to fruition!

The £10,000 Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture and the RP Gold Medal 

for the most distinguished prize in the exhibition

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Bigger Picture Exhibition

This is going to be a bit of a picture oriented post about the The Bigger Picture exhibition being held at Lauderdale House for the artists participating in the Big Painting Challenge.

8 of the 10 artists exhibiting
(Left to right) Paul Bell, Alison Stafford, Anthea Lay, Jan Szymczuk, Anne Blankson-Hemans,
Claire Parker, Heather Harding and Richard Salter
The PV was tonight and was excellent - lots of people, good music plus drinks and nibbles - and the art's is definitely worth taking a look at. These are the details of the exhibition
  • Exhibition Dates: 15th - 26th April 2015
  • Exhibition Venue: Lauderdale House, Highgate Hill, Waterlow Park, London N6 5HG (tel : 020 8348 8716)
  • Exhibition Open: Wed-Fri 11am-4pm; Sunday 10am-5pm
Plus there's a special "Meet the Artists" Event on Sunday 26th April between 11 - 5 p.m

Here's some of the artists with their work

Paul Bell: website | blog | Facebook | Twitter
Paul can certainly paint an impressive canvas that carries across a room!

Paul commented that quite a lot of the time during the Challenge programme he'd have rather been on much bigger canvases. We had an interesting discussion about ways in which the programme could be improved - we were both rather keen on it being a little less stiff and formulaic.

Anthea Lay: Facebook
I loved Anthea's palette knife landscapes - her two small marine scenes are particularly effective. I rather liked Anthea's approach to marketing - she sells her paintings via her local WI market stall which I thought was a brilliant idea for people painting local scenes.

Claire Parker: website | Facebook | Twitter
Claire has a very impressive portrait on show. These and her drawings of people persuaded me that her future lies in figures and portraits. She's now coming up the end of Year 2 at Clare College, Cambridge. In the autumn she will start her year abroad for her languages degree before completing her final year the year after that.  Lots of time to reflect on where to go next with her art.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Who will win the NEW £15,000 'Conversations Prize'?

This year the Annual Exhibition of the of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters has a brand new prize - the £15,000 "Conversations" Prize sponsored by Seven Management.
A Conversation piece allows for a scene of two or more characters interacting, with each other and/or with the viewer.
This new prize was announced on this blog last Autumn - see A new £15,000 prize for portrait painting (08 Oct 2014). I was lobbying hard for this new prize before it was announced and I'm really pleased to see that at last we have some quality portraits of more than one person in a painting!  I was beginning to think the expertise was dying out!

Selected Artists

You can see the artwork selected for the exhibition on the competition's webpage (keep scrolling down) and the exhibit will be hung in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries.

The artists selected and shortlisted for the Conversations Prize are listed below

Shot by Ned by Peter Brown
137cm x 107cm £14,000
Do read the narrative which accompanies this scene of family life.
Peter is one of a few artists I know who is a prolific painter of scenes of groups of people.
Some may be surprised that Pete didn't submit another of his Family Breakfast table paintings
- of which I have seen a few!
Then there's the family at play in the artist's studio genre....... ;)

At Edmund's House by Emma Faludy 
oil on canvas, 110 cm x 161 cm, £7,000
I think Emma has produced an impressive painting from a rather different perspective than most
Ruth and Scampy by Joe Ongie
oil, 91cm x 91cm £1,500
I did wonder whether anybody would include an animal
- and anybody who has ever known a cat know what good listeners they can be!
This just struck me a wonderfully authentic portrait.
The announcement as to who has won the prize will be made at the Private View on Wednesday and I'll be there and trying to get a photo of the winner with their painting!


You can see the artwork selected for the main exhibition on the exhibition microsite - scroll down to see all the images which are on 6 pages.
The Annual Exhibition opens to the public on Thursday 16th April and continues until Friday 1st May. The exhibition will occupy the Main Gallery, North Gallery & Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries. Admission is £3 (£2.50 concession and free to Friends of Mall Galleries, National Art Pass holders and under 18s)