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.

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