Thursday, October 29, 2015

Video of plein air painting demo by Julian Merrow-Smith of Postcard from Provence

Julian Merrow Smith of Postcard from Provence has many fans - but few have met him and few have seen him paint - until now.

A student perspective of Julian Merrow-Smith doing a plein air painting demonstration

One of Julian's recent students, Timothy Joseph Allen, has now posted on YouTube a 20 minute video on YouTube of a painting demonstration done during Julian's last painting workshop of 2015 at La Madelene (October 10th to the 17th).
Videos are a really great way of seeing what's on offer when a painter is also a tutor and offers painting workshops.  This one is a snapshot of what you might experience in a plein air workshop with Julian - you're getting the student perspective!

It's also very clear to me from this video 'that Julian is a communicative tutor who provides his students with a constant commentary on what he's doing during a demo - plus he explains the reasons behind the points he think are important.

The video appears to have been shot on mobile phone as it's tall and thin - however that means you get an excellent view of the palette on the pochade box and what he's mixing as well as the painting.

On the left is a still of the view he is painting.

Do remember to click the HD (bottom right) to get the best picture

Postcard from Provence - Painting Workshops

This is the page on Julian's blog which provides more information about the painting workshops .

The dates for 2016 are already published (see the left hand column):
  • May 15th-22nd
  • July 20th-28th
  • Oct 2nd-9th

Postcard from Provence
Painting Workshops - the website page

This is how Tim summed it up in his blog post Painting En Plein Air with Julian Merrow-Smith
I had the great pleasure to take part in Julian Merrow-Smith’s last plein air workshop of 2015 in Provence, France, from October 10th to the 17th.

The company was gracious, the lodgings impeccable, the cuisine exquisite and the landscapes a feast for the eyes: nothing more could have been better for what was, in essence, six days of plein air boot camp.

Julian’s method of teaching was direct and to the point; every morning and afternoon he did a demo. It was a very no nonsense approach of picking a good spot, getting comfortable, setting up the paints and then getting to work. His technical instruction was an excellent distillation of his experience, and was most helpful in dealing with very complex and fluid challenges like composition and color mixing.
Now that's what I call a satisfied customer!

Painting Workshops: two questions for students and tutors

  1. If you are a student, do you like to see videos like these BEFORE you book a painting workshop?
  2. If you are a tutor, do you provide videos of what you do - from the student perspective - on your website?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to hang a painting - using mirror plates

This is the third post in a series of posts about how to hang a picture using different types of hanging hardware

This post considers what a mirror plate is, why use mirror plates and how to attach them to a frame.

The previous posts are:

What is a mirror plate?

A Mirror Plate - also known as a picture frame plate - is a piece of metal (usually brass) designed to lie flat against the back of a mirror or picture frame. It's then used to attach the mirror or picture frame to the wall - usually using screws.

This is what a mirror plate looks like.

A brass plated mirror plate

They come in different sizes and can have different sized screw holes. The screw holes are usually flat on one side and counter sunk on the other side.

They are normally solid brass, brass plated, nickel plated or carbon steel. Some have three plain holes while others have two plain holes for the frame and a slotted hole. Some are completely flat both sides, others have a one side which is counter sunk.

For larger works, the plate is normally rectangular and includes a number of holes for additional security.

You can see a range of mirror plates in the selection offered by
Other suppliers also have them and you should be able to find them in store at the major DIY stores although they sometimes don't list them online.

You also need the appropriate sized screws to fix them. These should be the same metal as you select for the plate (eg brass screws with brass plates). The screws also need a surface which will take screws!  Do not use nails as they are not generally not strong enough nor long enough!

If you are hanging anything very heavy you will also need rawl plugs and longer screws and heavy duty plate fixings.

Why use a mirror plate?

The benefits of using a mirror plate are as follows:
  • the frame is secure on the wall and cannot be removed without the use of a screwdriver. This is why they are often a standard fixing for exhibitions where you want to ensure nobody can lift a picture off a hook and walk out with it. 
  • the frame is flush to the wall and does not lean out in any way. 
  • frames which include mirrors or glass are safe. If anybody brushes against the frame it will not move and cannot be dislodged easily
  • It enables you to position a frame accurately on a wall. You don't have to guess where it will end up once the slack in the hanging wire is taken up
The downside of a mirror plate is that you are left with a hole when you take the picture down. However this can be filled and painted over. This is what very many galleries do all the time.

How to fix a mirror plate into a frame

Assembly Kit: You need:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Art on Television - The Story of Scottish Art

The BBC is currently telling The Story of Scottish Art on BBC Scotland - but is not broadcasting this south of the border. However I've only just found out that , very sensobly, all the programmes are now available to all of us who can access BBC iPlayer.

I haven't watched them all as yet but the little I've seen suggest they are all going to be fascinating. I'm 'flying blind' when it comes to the images I've added into to this post and may revise them after I've viewed all the programmes.

Links to the programmes on iPlayer are included in the title of each episode

Links to paintings after the name relate to the collection of digitised paintings by that artist held in the BBC Your Paintings website.  I can certainly recommend having a look at these as by seeing a digital retrospective of a collection of their paintings you get a much better appreciation of the scope and value of an artist.

At the end I've included links to more information about Scottish art and artists.

The Story of Scottish Art

The Story of Scottish Art was broadcast on BBC Scotland earlier this month but was not shown south of the border - but is now accessible via iPlayer!

The series is the most ambitious ever done about the history of Scottish Art. It covers some 5,000 years, from the earliest Neolithic art to the present day.  The aim is to
  • explore developments and innovations in art across the centuries, 
  • place Scottish art in an international context and 
  • relate the art to the story of Scotland’s social and political history.
forging a modern art for a modern Scotland
The writer and presenter of the series is Lachlan Goudie who many will remember from The Big Painting Challenge earlier this year.
“Scotland’s artistic heritage is rich and complex. People often know about the ‘Scottish Colourists’ but when you look beyond this small group of painters, you realise that for 5,000 years, generations of artists from Scotland have been creating and innovating with extraordinary bravery. They’ve consistently pushed at the boundaries of what art can do and questioned what it actually means to be a ‘Scottish' artist. As a painter myself I feel a real urge to understand the motivations and the challenges that have confronted artists from Scotland throughout the centuries. How they’ve helped define their own culture whilst being informed and inspired by the most revolutionary international art movements of the day."
There are four episodes as follows.
Westray Wife 20110529
The Westray Wife

The Story of Scottish Art - EPISODE 1 (10 days left) 

This focuses on:
  • a visit to Orkney and encounters with 
    • the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney, a stone circle that has stood for thousands of years. 
    • the Westray Wife, an ancient figurine on the island of Westray that is the oldest sculpted human figure in the British Isles.
  • the sophisticated art of the Picts and the Gaels
  • the exuberant Renaissance period of the early Stuart kings
  • the destruction of artworks in Scotland following the Reformation

The Story of Scottish Art - EPISODE 2 (17 days left)

 A View of Loch Lomond by Horatio McCulloch
Oil on Canvas, 76 x 127 cm
This highlights:
The Skating Minister by Henry Raeburn
one of the most popular portraits in the UK
  • the blossing of Scottish Art in the 18th century - due to the the intellectual revolution of the Enlightenment and the classical influence of the continent 
  • the emergence of a new cultural identity and a new generation of Scottish artists:
Allan Ramsay - Allan Ramsay, 1713 - 1784. Artist (Self-portrait) - Google Art Project
Self Portrait of Allan Ramsay

The Story of Scottish Art - EPISODE 3 (24 days left)

Turning to the 19th century, this episode looks at a generation who transformed the way we saw Scotland's landscape and identity. It focuses on:
BBC Your Paintings - Paintings by JD Fergusson

The Story of Scottish Art - EPISODE 4 

(broadcast tomorrow on BBC Scotland and available on iPlayer afterwards)

The final programme considers Scottish art in the 20th and 21st century. It features some artists who are less well known outside Scotland.

Links in this section include ones to the BBC's Paintings website where you can see more of their work
BBC Your Paintings: Paintings by Joan Eardley

More information

Those interested in Scottish art will find the following of interest

Friday, October 23, 2015

How to hang a large or heavy picture - using heavy duty hanging hardware

The critical factors you need to know when hanging a heavy picture are:
  • what weight the picture is
  • what sort of hanging hardware is best for the job
  • what sort of wall you are hanging it on.

'How to hang a picture' series

This post considers how to hang a heavy picture, why use heavy duty picture hangers and how to attach them to a frame.

It's the second post in a series of posts about how to hang a picture using different types of hanging hardware.

What is a heavy picture?

In plain simple terms:
  • a very heavy picture is one which you wouldn't think twice about trying to hang without an extra pair of hands.  The issue is NOT whether you can lift it. It's about whether you have the strength and motor control in your upper body to execute a manoeuvre to hook it onto the wall on two sides - while holding it above your head.
  • if you would struggle to hang a picture on your own because of size or weight then you ought to be thinking seriously about heavy duty hanging hardware - and checking the wall!

What's the issue with walls?

This is the question frequently not asked by people whose large and/or heavy paintings fall off the wall.

INTERIOR Walls / Drywalls

Interior walls are built using a wooden framework and some form of covering - often plasterboard in modern houses.  They're not really suitable for hanging anything heavy. Light and medium sized pictures can be hung on dry partition walls using picture hooks which are hammered into the walls using long hardened or steel pins.

However steel pins are not long enough nor are they strong enough to hold heavy weight pictures and should NOT be used - unless you want your picture to fall off the wall.

Ideally you should aim to hang medium sized pictures where the stud frame is (i.e. into wood which provides a more stable structure) but the chances are the location of the wall stud does not fit where you'd like to hang your picture.  To check their location you need to use a stud locator.

My studfinder - invaluable for older properties and where you have drywalls.
If you know the drywall is robust you can use a special anchor for dry walls.

If like me you live in an older house you might find that some of your original interior walls are made of lath and plaster and the rule for these is you absolutely MUST find the wall studs before you hang anything. (I've got a shelf at the top of the lathe and plaster wall I'm currently facing - however it has heavy duty shelf brackets in every single stud as it crosses the wall!)

All the artwork I possess - except for the smaller lighter works - are hung on brick walls - see below.

EXTERIOR or load bearing walls

Domestic homes will always have exterior walls and load-bearing walls which are suitable for hanging items which are a heavy weight. Typically in the UK the wall is a solid masonry (brick or stone) wall or a concrete block wall.

These are the walls from which to hang a very large or very heavy picture (or mirror i.e. there's a good reason why very large mirror are very often found on chimney breasts). That's because this type of wall can take the longer screw length which might be required to get a solid fix.

If you're hanging artwork in another sort of space you need to check what sort of wall it is.
  • Banging on the wall often provides a good indication. If it sounds hollow then it's an interior dry wall. 
  • The other trick is to bang in a nail. If it's easy to hammer in then chances are it's a drywall. If it takes a lot more effort it's probably a masonry wall. If it's really difficult to impossible then it's very likely you've hit concrete and only drills and screws (and a heavy duty electric drill) will work.  The same can be said for good quality exterior brickwork.
One further consideration is the decoration. 

If you think you might want to move paintings around a lot I wouldn't favour walls which are wall papered!  It's easy to fix holes in a painted plaster wall - but sorting out multiple large holes in nice wallpaper is a bit of a challenge!

What is heavy duty hanging hardware?

Heavy duty hanging designed to provide a more secure fixing to large and/or heavy pictures. They're made of more robust metal and commonly have at least two if not three screw holes.

It requires TWO bits of complementary hardware:

  • the heavy duty hanger -  this is a flat steel plate with a a hanging loop at one end which is fixed to either side of the back of the picture frame. It's often plated in brass and has at least two and often three holes to ensure a secure fixing should any one screw work loose. They are often between 50mm and 90mm in length.  They can have either:
  • the heavy duty J hook - this is fixed to the wall and is the mate for the heavy duty hanger fixed to the frame. It provides the secure structure over which the D ring or loop is hung. 

Why use heavy duty hangers?

Hanging is basically as good as the weakest point within the apparatus and the level of tension placed on any weaknesses.  Hence in general it's advisable not to use wire and d rings for very heavy pictures because it's been known for the wire to create a lot of strain that in turns pulls a one screw D ring out of the back of the frame - and the picture comes crashing down.

Heavy duty hanging hardware prevents:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

How to hang a picture - using D Rings

I'm going to be doing a number of posts about how to hang a painting. These will consider different aspects of what's involved in hanging a painting and hanging an exhibition.

This first post will consider how to hang a picture frame using D rings - using two different approaches for different size and weight of picture - and includes images and videos to show you how to use D rings.

A small artwork framed using D rings as hanging hardware
Note how the professional framer has used single strand of picture cord
and then knotted and and whipped the ends
If you find this post helpful please share it with your friends and/or share using Twitter or Facebook.

Update: The next two posts are:

What are D Rings?

D rings are a very common type of hanging hardware used by professional picture framers and also available to all artists via retailers in the high street and online (see below for links to some of these in the UK).
  • They comprise a ring - in the shape of a letter D (hence the name) and a plate with a screw hole.
  • D rings are always used in pairs - screwed into the back of the frame. 
  • They can have one screw hole or two. One hole is suitable for lighter works. As the weight increases (eg medium sized pictures) use a D ring with two screws for greater security.
  • The ones most commonly used for small works are nickel plated.  
  • The type of screws used should be matched if possible to the type of D ring used.

Use of D Rings:

  • Which way the D Rings are screwed into the frame depends on the size/wight of the picture and which method is used for hanging using D Rings (see below for smaller/lighter pictures and tomorrow's post for larger/heavier pictures)
  • They are usually made of steel with a nickel or brass plating. The cheapest are zinc plated.

For heavier pictures:

  • The nature, composition and size of the D ring usually changes as the size and weight of the framed artwork increases.
  • The plate part of the D Ring extends and the number of screw holes increase so that the load is spread. 
  • The location of the D ring on the frame also changes to ensure a secure hang.

Why use D Rings

D rings are:
  • Much stronger than the small screw eyes or screw rings which should only be used for very light items 
  • Much more suitable for framed artwork which is other than small. As a rule of thumb, if the size of my framed artwork is about the size of an A4 piece of paper or bigger I would always use a D ring. 
  • Enable the hanging wire or cord or chain to be threaded easily. 
  • Hardware which lie flat. If taped over, they won't damage other frames when pictures are stored in stacks (very common in open exhibitions and for any artist producing a lot of work)

How to attach D Rings to hang a picture

There are basically two approaches to hanging using D Rings.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Fry Art Gallery and the Great Bardfield Artists

We visited Saffron Walden recently and discovered the Fry Art Gallery which is open from April to the end of October each year. 

The gallery provides a home to artwork by artists known as the Great Bardfield Artists who are also the subject of a recent publication - Bawden, Ravilious and the Artists of Great Bardfield

The book of the exhibition | V&A Publications
On display at the Museum are some of the paintings, prints, wallpapers, books, fabrics and ceramics created by the Great Bardfield art community between 1930 and 1970. 

At present there are two exhibitions - closing very soon (25th October) - which cover:
  • From Eric Ravilious To Grayson Perry - to mark the 30th anniversary of the opening display of the North-West Essex Collection in the Fry Art Gallery
  • The Art Of Acquisition - The Great Bardfield Artists' Houses - about the interior of the houses
Watercolour paintings by Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious
Eric Ravilious Submarine Series
Lithographs - done while he was working as a war artist

Monday, October 19, 2015

Review: Annual Exhibition 2015 - Royal Society of Miniature Artists, Sculptors and Gravers

This year's Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Miniature Artists, Sculptors and Gravers has more than 600 works of art - in miniature.  All the works are less than 6" x 4" in size.

The exhibition can be found in the North Gallery of the Mall Galleries and continues until Sunday 25th October. The exhibition is open each day from 10am to 5pm. It closes at 1pm on the final day. Admission is free.

A small part of the RMS Annual Exhibition 2015 in its regular home
- the North Gallery of the Mall Galleries

all photographs taken with permission of the RMS | all paintings in this post copyright the artist
The maximum overall sizes for miniatures including picture, frame and mount if any, are:

  • Rectangles and Ovals: 4.5" x 6" (11.5 x 15cm)
  • Squares: 4.5" x 4.5" (11.5 x 11.5cm)
  • Rounds: 4.5" (11.5cm) diameter
RMS - Artist Information for Exhibition Entry
You will see below that the actual paintings are quite a lot smaller than the allowed size including mat and frame.

This year you can also see a slideshow of works in the exhibition online.

The special display cases enable visitors to get a really good view of the miniature artworks
and at the same time make provide excellent security
This is also a Royal Art Society with a difference!  The comprehensive exhibition catalogue includes a signed endorsement from the Prince of Wales who is is a big admirer of the dexterity involved in miniature paintings both their Patron and awards a prize for miniature art (see below).

As always the exhibition is extremely well organised. Many congratulations also to the RMS webmaster on actually having the Society's website updated with everything relevant to the exhibition in the first week!

Miniature art also includes miniature sculpture


Demonstrations are held in the North Gallery throughout the exhibition. Those for this week are:


Below are the long list of prizewinners - although as per usual some artists were winning more than one prize!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How art changes your brain - the well-being value of drawing and painting to older people

This is about a recent study about the impact of drawing and painting and art appreciation on the mental health and well-being of older people.

Left Brain Right Brain
A recent post to my Facebook Page has been very well received - and I didn't want to deprive those of you who are not on Facebook!
Would you like to generate "a significant improvement in psychological resilience"? Start drawing and painting in your old age! Art appreciation doesn't work as well as actually making and creating!
Study Finds Making Art May Keep Our Brains Healthy | Hyperallergic 
The article referenced above summarises the research.

For those who would like to know more you can read the actual research findings in this study report How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity

It starts by making a statement which was new to me.
Recent research on visual art has focused on its psychological and physiological effects, mostly in clinical populations. It has shown that visual art interventions have stabilizing effects on the individual by reducing distress, increasing self-reflection and self-awareness, altering behaviour and thinking patterns, and also by normalizing heart rate, blood pressure, or even cortisol levels[1], [2], [3], [4], [5].
It then explains the hypothesis of the study and what they did to test it. I'm missing out all the deeply scientific bits below!


The hypothesis was that participation in 10-week-long visual art groups may result in psychological changes and may alter the functional interplay of the DMN.

The brain's default mode network (DMN) is the network of regions of the brain which remain active even when an individual is at rest. It's important because it is the DMN network which is engaged when an individual is engaged in internal tasks involving making pictures e.g. daydreaming, imagining the future and retrieving memories.

It tends not to work when we are focused on the achievement of tasks and executing actions.
Distinct brain areas of a certain resting state network, the default mode network (DMN), are thought to be associated with cognitive processes such as introspection, self-monitoring, prospection, episodic and autobiographic memory, and comprehension of the emotional states and intentions of others [7][8][9].
My reading of this is that, in essence, they were testing whether stimulation of the DMN through active and practical development of visual art (eg drawing and painting) might 'fire up' the DMN network in the brain which in turn might help older people to:
  • be more self-aware of their personal condition
  • help them retain memories better
  • better understand the motives and actions of others
In other words, these are all the aspects which can deteriorate when mental well-being deteriorates as people become all older.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review: 70th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Marine Artists

The 70th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists opened yesterday at the Mall Galleries. It closes on Sunday 25th October.

RSMA exhibition in the Main Gallery
There are 329 paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures in the exhibition in the Main Gallery and the Threadneedle Space.  For those unable to get to see it, you can view the catalogue of the exhibition online. It's an excellent exhibition of various styles of painting in a largely representative fashion.

View of the exhibition in the Threadneedle Space
I'm afraid I was suffering from a frozen back during my visit to this exhibition and was in absolute agony!  Nevertheless I managed to get round and found the prizewinning paintings. I'm only sorry I wasn't able to study the other paintings in more detail - although I have highlighted some of the ones which struck me below - under the prizewinners

RSMA Annual Exhibition - Main Gallery

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2016 - Call for Entries

The Royal Watercolour Society published their Call for Entries for the RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2016 last week.

Webpage for the RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition

RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2016

Call for Entries

This is a link to the Application Pack which provides the details about who/what/where and when.

Who can enter

The Royal Watercolour Society’s annual competition is open to all artists except RWS Members.

In effect it's an open entry for artists who may become the next Associate and Full Members of the RWS as the competition takes place prior to the elections to membership.

Eligible work

  • Original work: The work must have been made by the entrant. There are no comments about derivative pieces or use of photographs taken by other people.
  • Subject matter: no constraints
  • Age of work: completed in last four years. Yet again we have a competition which does not stipulate a date to indicate the "later than" constraint.
  • Size of work: Slight contradiction on the FAQS which says in one sentence that all sizes of work are welcomed "However, if your painting is framed, it should not exceed 100 x 100cm"
  • Eligible media: includes: "all water-based media" - which means watercolour, acrylic, gouache, ink or any other water-based media on a paper support
The judges will be looking for ideas, competence and integrity – as long as the materials conform to those stipulated on the application form, they will be interested in how you choose to use them and will be excited by both innovation and expertise in traditional methods in using water-based media.
  • Pricing: all work MUST be for sale.  Note that the Bankside Gallery levies a commission of 40% + VAT on picture sales
There's a strong emphasis on "contemporary artwork'.
The judges are looking for pieces that push at the boundaries of watercolour, promote water-based media at its most accomplished and ask audiences to see the medium in a new and contemporary light.
I very much hope that they get - and select - artwork which clearly demonstrates the effects which can be achieved when watercolour is used with skill and accomplishment. I've been waiting a very long time for the RWS to find the next Leslie Worth!

What I can tell you is that, based on recent exhibitions, relatively few traditional watercolour paintings have been selected in the past.

Maybe it will be different in 2016?

My Review: RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2015 is recommended reading for those thinking of applying for this competition. In it I commented on:
  • who won the prizes
  • what the exhibition looked like - on the walls of the gallery
  • the lack of sales for a certain type of painting
  • why I think this competition and exhibition has lost its way
Exhibition for RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2015
My most significant comment - which I think definitely think bears repeating - was as follows
I also think somehow people have got the idea in their head that maybe "contemporary" means abstracted and entirely without any evidence of draughtsmanship - and that is simply not true. The definition of "contemporary" which should inform this show is "belonging to or occurring in the present"
That actually means it should represent the complete gamut of art being produced today - because otherwise the exhibition just reflects what gets submitted and what gets selected according to the personal tastes of the judges
Exhibition for RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2015 #2

Deadline for entries

The deadline for entries is Monday 18th January 2016, 12 noon

How to enter

You can enter a maximum of 6 paintings.

Entry is by digital submission - of form and artwork - via this webpage plus payment of the relevant fee
  • photographs should be of the unframed work - cropped to the edge of the painting - in even light.
  • Images should be in jpg format and no bigger than 2MB
  • the forms must state title, framed dimensions, medium and price. So if you've not framed the work you need to estimate what the framed dimensions will be - and then not exceed them if selected!
The fee for entry at £14 per artwork.
  • This is discounted by £5 each for works 3-5 and £10 for #6 i.e. the total cost of submitting 6 entries is £59. 
  • this is comparable to the £14 per artwork charged for the open exhibitions of the other national art societies exhibiting at the Mall Galleries. 
  • There are reductions on multiple submissions.
  • entries from bona fide art students at recognised art schools and Watercolour Society Friends are free


The judges are:

A list of paintings selected for the exhibition will be published on the RWS website on Friday 29 January. 

You have a month to get your selected work framed and couriered or transported to London.

Delivery of unwrapped and framed paintings is to Bankside Gallery on Sunday 28 or Monday 29 February, 11am-5pm. Paintings may not be delivered on any other date.

Note in particular that
Work will not be accepted if delivered by Royal Mail, FedEx, DHL etc., or by taxi as they do not have specialist art insurance.
You just know that there have been disputes over damage when you see notes like that!

Note the requirements of all paintings selected for exhibition identified in Preparing Your Paintings for Exhibition of the Application Pack. . You can be selected and then not hung if you don't meet the requirements.


The exhibition will be at the Bankside Gallery 4-16 March 2016.


There are a range of prizes but these rank alongside those available at the open exhibitions of other national art societies rather than those of the more prestigious art competitions.

Monday, October 12, 2015

LinkedIn Groups - a summary of changes

A lot of the professional artists and other art business professionals (museums, galleries, publishers, suppliers etc) that I know are members of LinkedIn - which is a network designed for connecting professionals.

It characterises itself thus
the world's largest professional network with 300 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the globe
I'm a member - and this is my public profile. If you're a member of LinkedIn and one of my 'connections' then you'll see a different profile. (Please note as with all social media I only connect with people I know).

You can check out whether people view your profile!

Changes at LinkedIn

LinkedIn is making some major changes at the moment. This post attempts to summarise some of these changes - because interestingly communication is not LinkedIn's strong point when it comes to managing change!

I've done a bit of research and it appears the changes are being driven by the facts that:
  • LinkedIn is a business and its shareholders would like to see a better return on its investment. (see Fortune: Here’s why LinkedIn’s shares are tanking today
  • LinkedIn Groups are running on what I consider to be antiquated software!
  • the competition is getting serious. For example, Facebook for Business appears likely to get more serious about the business/professional side of 'making connections'. It could present some very serious competition to LinkedIn. (By way of comparison, this is LinkedIn's public Business Solutions page)
Below is my effort at trying to understand the changes which are being made to LinkedIn Groups.

LinkedIn Groups

If you're a member of LinkedIn, chances are that you'll be a member of some of the LinkedIn groups relevant to art AND be in blissful ignorance of what's going to start happening this week.

The changes to groups are probably happening this week. They were announced to those of us running groups five days ago.
The Groups team has been working on some really exciting new improvements that will change Groups dramatically, starting October 14th.
  • The changes are being driven by the problems that have existed for a while with the way LinkedIn Groups are set up. For example - LinkedIn Groups have been magnets for spam by people who can't read or refuse to comply with the rules.  I currently spend part of every day deleting spam or moving it out of the discussion area of the group I moderate.
  • LinkedIn states that the changes being made are to promote engagement and are in response to what irritated people abotu groups and what people wanted to see change. 
  • Interestingly, those who manage and moderate groups have a different perspective. 
    • Many were clearly not consulted and are expressing some very serious concerns about the changes - specifically in relation to the control of spam.  
    • In addition, a number of the features which managers and moderators have been asking for to make their groups more effective are not part of the proposed changes.

Posts will change

They aim to make group posts more dynamic and interesting. Unlike at present, in future you will be able to:
  • include an image in a post
    • This is welcome and will be of great interest to artists. However bear in mind you can already post images to LinkedIn by sharing an update, uploading an image or creating a post - from your dashboard. i know some artists who use this regularly - and others who either have no idea this funtionality exists or choose not to use it.
    • I'll be interested to see how this impact on the speed of the site. As many of us know, those posting very large images can slow a forum to a standstill! 
  • mention another member of LinkedIn by name and html link and automatically signal to them that they have been referenced in a discussion. (Basically they seem to have copied the functionality already available on Facebook and which will be very familiar to those using Facebook.) This is a good move. It's very frustrating at present that linking to people is so very clumsy.

A new Groups app for iPhone and iPads

They aim to create more participation in Groups and to do this they needed to make Groups more accessible on the move. The existing app for LinkedIn generally gets a huge 1* rating in the Apple app store!  It's very difficult to use LinkedIn Groups on the move and anything that improves the current situation is welcome.
  • There is to be a new Groups iOS app - which is about time! I'll be taking a look at the app when it comes out.
    • It will offer the scope for push notifications. 
    • It will be available in English speaking countries to start with. 
    • This should mean that people will be able to do more 'out and about' posting - however the promotional nature of that posting will very much depend on what each individual group allows
Obviously the movers and shakers are all perceived to be major users of Apple products - or maybe we're just more vocal! Android doesn't get an app as yet but apparently one will be available soon

Types of Groups changing

Going forward there will be only two types of Groups. This is the change which is causing most ripples with the Owner/Manager/Moderator community - mainly due to the loss of control over membership in the Standard Group and moderation of people commenting. Many are predicting a spamfest will occur.
  • Standard - used to be known as 'Open'. As you might expect, historically these tended to generate a larger percentage of low-quality conversations
    • Any member of a group can invite any of their 1st degree connections to join - and approve their membership. Many Owners/Managers/Moderators are characterising this change as the equivalent of a spammers' charter.
    • The existence of Standard Groups will show up in search results (but not the conversations). 
    • You can probably expect to have some suggested to you.
    • From a business perspective - this is the only way people will know you exist - but you will have minimal control over who posts and content.
  • Unlisted - used to be known as 'Closed'. 
    • You won't know they exist unless you are 'connected' at 1st degree level to somebody on LinkedIn who is a member. That's because it cannot be identified via search and members cannot display the group on their profile, to members who don't belong to that group.
    • Only the group's owner and manager can invite members to the group - or respond to a request to join from an invite sent.
    • Participating in such groups does not offer either links juice or raise your profile in a wider community other than those visiting the group
    • The option to make a group unlisted occurs only when the group is created.
    • Members can join an Unlisted Group by invitation from the group owner or manager, or by requesting to join from an invite link sent to them.
  • Common features of all Groups:
    • all groups will be members only and only members can post in discussions
    • all groups are now Private (i.e. conversations and comments are visible to group members only. The notion is that these are better quality if private.)
    • discussions cannot be accessed by any search engine
    • conversations will now be posted instantly to a group without the need for manager approval. This gives scope to spammers to post spam BEFORE they can be booted out of a group. 
    • Group owners, managers, and moderators can still remove off-topic conversations
    • Members can still be put on moderation.
Bottom line a group will only be free from spam if members flag it and moderators are on it straight away.

I'm going to wait and see how the changes affect the group I moderate. At the moment moderation probably takes no more than 5 minutes per day. If the changes mean the group becomes less effective and/or the moderation more onerous, I've decided I will resign as Moderator and spend my time on my other projects.

It all boils down to how easy it is to control the spam. Unfortunately LinkedIn does not have a good track record when it comes to controlling spam:
Virtually everyone who joins a LinkedIn Group is eventually hit with a deluge of spam.
It is possible to keep reasonable control over spam with scrutiny over membership and robust rules as to what can be posted. I'm really perplexed as to how relaxing the proactive controls on who can become a member and/or post can mean better control of spam (e.g. careful scrutiny of a profile to check fit with the ethos of the group). It seems to me that LinkedIn is expecting unpaid members and moderators to do it for them!

My expectation is that a number of groups may now start to relocate to other platforms. I'd give it a month or so and then check in to see what it's like in the groups you belong to.

Removal of Promotions Tab

The Promotions Tab is being removed. In the group I moderate people are not allowed to drop unrelated links and/or promote themselves within Discussions. It works pretty well although that doesn't stop people trying - and posts get moved across to the promotions tab.

In future, I expect there will be a lot of deletions of posts happening - unless the LinkedIn Filters are effective at capturing them.

One thing is certain - LinkedIn Groups are NOT going to be a place where people can promote themselves and their art in future.

Removal of SubGroups

Some groups have subgroups - and these will be converted into full blown groups

Rules changing within Groups

It's certainly the case that there's very likely to be a rewriting of the rules within Groups to accommodate the changes and the removal of the Promotions Tab.

Groups Highlights and Email Digests

LinkedIn revised their software recently to produce selective highlights for a digest. We've noted that this has reduced the level of activity as people think there is less going on.

More about Art Business and Marketing

You can find out more about Art Business and Marketing for Artists on my new website Art Business Info for Artists

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

RIP Polly 2000 - 2015

Time for a pause in blogging - for reflection on the life of Polly, my much loved Abyssinian cat.

Polly sunbathing in the doorway heard me behind her
and an ear twitched round - worked up from a 15 second sketch and my memory!
14" x 11" coloured pencil on black Stonehenge paper
She died this afternoon after becoming very sick with heart failure 10 days ago.

Losing Polly would be bad enough on its own but coming on top of the loss of Cosmo to cancer four months ago (see RIP Cosmo 2000 - 2015) - it's really knocked me for six.

Cosmo and Polly as kittens
Guess who was boss?
They came to me at three months old in 2000 and started out as cute and continued as cute!

Polly contributed cute kittens for drawing and took the matriarch role, while Cosmo did cuddles, played nursemaid to the kittens - and knew his place in the Polly pecking order.

Polly says "A girl can never have enough feeds"
Cosmo says "I want a feed too!"

Guess who's bottom looks big in this?
Polly in particular was a very pretty cat for fifteen years. Latterly people were amazed at how old she was. Here she is in 2013

Polly demonstrating the advantages of backlighting
She was however VERY difficult to draw - maybe because she was so petite, precise and neat! She was always much easier to do from behind than from head on!

Polly - Study#1
pen and sepia ink, 10" x 6.5"
Polly had a certain way of staring at you when she wanted her next meal
"Polly" in 2008
pen and ink and coloured pencils
I ended up drawing her kittens more than I drew her - until the last few days.

Meet the Kittens (her second litter)
This made it on to the front cover of the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Feline Artists
and into my book Sketching 365 (page 90)
Coloured Pencil on Paper, 11.5 x 7.5 ins 290 x 190 mm
Polly - true to form - looked cute and gorgeous right up to the end. This was her yesterday afternoon.

Polly on 6th October - she died 7th October 2015
Having sat with her and next to her for the last three days, watching over her as she went downhill very fast, I now need to take some time out. Blogging will be back next week.

Monday, October 05, 2015

ING Discerning Eye 2015 - Selected Artists

The names of the artists who have artwork selected for the ING Discerning Eye 2015 Exhibition were recently announced.  You can find them below, ordered by the number of works selected and with links to their websites in their names - where I can find them.

I'm very reliant on artists getting their  website on to the front page of Google and actually announcing their good news on their website - and the general look and content of the site. However if I've got any of the links wrong do please let me know (see side column) and I'll change it straight away.

Artists also have the opportunity to email me an image of the artwork which has been selected and I'll update this blog post with the image - if I like it! This has worked very well in past posts about selected artists (eg I had LOTS sent to me for the Sunday Times Watercolour selected artists) - so for everybody else you might want to bookmark this post and come back and check from time to time

Ing Discerning Eye 2015 - The Exhibition

The Exhibition is on display at the Mall Galleries from 12-22 November 2015. It's open from 10am to 5pm and admission is free.

Eligible work had to be handmade. Drawings, paintings, sculptures and photographs were all admissable.

Mountain Village by Sue Wales

Ing Discerning Eye Exhibition 2014 - Selected Artists

Below the list of selevcted artists is split by (1) the number of works and (2) alphabetically. The link in an artist's name is to his or her website. Links to a commercial gallery page or the website of an art society are noted separately.

Some of the websites reminded me of the imperative to say what you do succinctly in your about page - in one line. Some did do that while with others, I read through several and was none the wiser when I got to the end.

Six works

Five works

Four works

  • Day Bowman - previous exhibitor
  • Chris Bushe - (gallery) a landscale painter and a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour (RSW)
  • Michele Griffiths - weird website - I'm not seeing any images 
  • Richard Heys - an abstract painter and sculptor

Three works