Tuesday, November 24, 2015

£30,000 BP Portrait Award 2016 - How to enter and how to get selected

The Call for Entries for the BP Portrait Award 2016 was published yesterday on the National Portait Gallery website - so it's time to write my Annual Guide to how to enter and how to improve your chances of being selected! Many of those who've been selected in the past have told me they've found it very helpful.

The closing date for digital entries from artists all over the world is 2nd February 2016.

BP Portrait 2015 - after the Awards Ceremony
Second Prizewinner Michael Gaskell (for the 4th time!) (link is to a video interview with him)
with Peter Monkman (2009 Winner) who was one of the Judges in 2015
This year the image which will feature on the competition website's home page is that of second prizewinner Michael Gaskell who has now won second prize a total of four times!

What this post covers

This post covers:
  • 12 reasons why this is a competition worth entering - which includes details of the significan prize money
  • How to enter for those who don't like the small print. I won't cover every last detail - so you still have to read ALL the conditions but sometimes it helps to have an introduction first! :)
  • The Judges - plus a video of a judge explaining how the process works
  • How to get selected - my suggestions for how to improve your chances of selection. Plus a video of a past winner explaining the process and how it worked for her.
  • The Exhibition
  • links to past posts about previous BP Portrait Award winners and exhibition reviews on this blog going back to 2007

What's different in 2016

The major change this year is that the conditions and the rules now have a white background and are a lot easier to read. 

For those who didn't enter last year the major change in 2015 was that postal entries are no longer accepted and the entry is process is digital.

If any of you spot anything else that has changed please leave a comment and I'll do an update.

BP Portrait 2015: Judges's Choice for First Prize on the left
'Annabelle and Guy' by Matan Ben Cnaan,  
Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2015 Visitors' Choice on the right
'Juanito' by José Luis Corella
Photo © Katherine Tyrrell

12 great reasons to enter the BP Portrait Award 2016

This is a "game changer" of a prize. It typically has a very positive impact on the careers of artists who win the top prize - for all the reasons listed below

  1. This is a very prestigious portrait competition. If you're a serious portrait artist you need to think seriously about entering one of the most prestigious art prizes in the world. This competition has been characterised as "the Oscars of Portraiture".
  2. Enhance your CV with a BP Portrait selection - this is the competition that artists boast about being selected for! Just being selected for the BP enhances an artists career. 
  3. The status of 'selected artist' is underpinned by fierce competition. The competition attracts a lot of entries. In 2015 there was a record-breaking 2,748 entries. From these some c.300 were long-listed and just 2% of the entry - 55 portrait paintings - were selected for exhibition.
  4. Entrance to the BP Portrait Awards Ceremony 2015
    The prizes are significant.
    Get selected and you have a good chance of winning a major prize. Nearly 10% of those portraits are selected for the exhibition stand a chance of winning one of the five major prizes. They're worth between £6,000 and £35,000.  This year thye are:
    • First Prize: A cash award of £30,000, plus, at the judges’ discretion, a commission worth £5,000, to be agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist.
    • Second Prize: £10,000
    • Third Prize: £8,000
    • BP Young Artist Award: £7,000 (eligible artists are aged between 18 and 30) 
    • BP Travel Award 2016: £6,000
  5. Become an international artist! This is a major international art competition which welcomes entries from international artists. 
  6. Get your artwork exhibited in a Major International Art Gallery  The National Portrait Gallery is in the centre of London - right next to the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square. This Prize is one of the main reasons why the National Portrait Gallery in London is in the top 20 art galleries and museums in the world 
  7. Get your artwork seen by a huge number of people.  The 2015 exhibition was seen by nearly 330,000 people - and that was before it went on tour to two other places around the UK.  Something nearer half a million people will see the exhibition by the end of the tour.
  8. Be acclaimed by the public and win the People's Choice Award. Even if you don't win a prize you might win the prize where the public get to second guess the judges.  The prize goes to the portrait which receives the most votes from visitors to the exhibition. 
  9. Banners of portraits in the exhibition
    Outside the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery
    Summer 2014
  10. Be commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and have your work join its permanent collection. You don't have to win First Prize to join the list of artists who receive commissions from the National Portrait Gallery.  In the past artists whose work has been regularly selected and/or shortlisted have also been commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to produce a portrait for the permanent collection. There are no guarantees - but this is also another way of enhancing your CV and interesting galleries and others who commission portraits
  11. Get major exposure for your artwork via the publicity materials. The artworks chosen for the publicity materials are often not those shortlisted. Which means you may find your portrait hanging outside the National Portrait Gallery on a banner - or on all the posters around the Underground - and all around London. 
  12. A jolly good reason to visit London. Interestingly the international artists invariably turn up to the events at the beginning of the exibition. I guess that's because being selected provides you with an excellent reason for making the trip to London and seeing the exhibition - and doing all the other great things you can do in London.
  13. Network and make lots of friends. David Kassan (Third Prizewinner 2014) suggested last year that the networking and friendships you will make with fellow artists in the show are "unbeatable".

How to enter for those who don't like the small print

The website contains:

The Rules

Essentially there are NO CHANGES TO THE RULES and just a small increase in the fee for entry.

I recommend that anybody wanting to submit a portrait should read The 2016 Rules three times! That's because the worst mistakes you can make when entering art competitions is to 
  • create a work for a competition 
  • and then realise that it isn't eligible 
  • or you can't present it in the right way by a deadline.
All due to the fact you didn't read the terms and conditions and/or the rules properly.

Note in particular that works can be disqualified - even if selected for exhibition - if they have not adhered to the rules!
Below is my effort at make the rules accessible. I review and revise it each year. I've split the rules up into sections relating to
  • the artist
  • the portrait

RULES: WHO can enter

  • Artists must be aged 18 years or over as of 1 January 2016 - living anywhere in the world

RULES: The Portrait

Pay particular attention to these. I've detected much more careful scrutiny and a tightening of the application of the rules in recent years. Where rules are now being spelt out more clearly one must assume that they have been ignored in the past!!
The National Portrait Gallery reserves the right to disqualify any piece of work if the artist has not adhered to the rules, even if the work has been selected for exhibition

Each artist is limited to ONE ENTRY PER ARTIST.

The work entered
  • must be recent i.e. completed after 1 January 2015. You are required to indicate:
    • the date of the first sitting
    • the date the portrait was completed (Bear in mind people will tell the organisers if they've seen a portrait exhibited prior to 1 January 2015!)
    • the start date needs to pre-date the completion date. (latter was new in 2012.  I think this is an area where entries have been caught out in the past)
    • "the stated date of first sitting should be before the stated date of completion"
  • SHOULD be a painting based on a sitting or study from life AND the human figure MUST predominate(There's a more explicit statement on this in the FAQs which I think is new - see the quotation below)
    •  You need to indicate on the form whether or not you have met the sitter.
    • The portrait can be a self portrait or a group portrait
we request that your painting is based on a sitting or study from life. We understand that you may need to work from photographs for assistance but the primary source should be from life.
  • MUST be available for the entire period of the exhibition and the tour to two other venues (not yet available - but assume up until April 2017)
  • must NOT have been previously submitted for consideration
  • should NOT be signed on the front. All entries must be anonymous for the purposes of judging. Consequently the judges may reject a work if they decide that this rule has been compromised.

Media and Size:

  • MUST be predominantly painted in oil, tempera or acrylic (No watercolours, works on paper or pastels will be considered )
  • MUST be on a stretcher or board, preferably framed and unglazed
  • MUST be 
    • AT LEAST 25 x 20cm (10” x 8”) unframed. Smaller works will NOT be considered.
    • NO BIGGER than 244 x 244cm (96" x 96") framed (including the frame). 
    • Multi-part portraits - up to three parts - must comply with the size constraints for one work when installed and must come with complete instructions for installation.

RULES: Submission

The Digital Image

You are required to upload one photograph of your entire portrait. You also have the option to submit an extra photograph of a detail of the work. This may be a good opportunity to show the level of detail, the texture of the paint or a particular area of interest in the composition.
  • Images must be:
    • Saved in JPEG (.jpg) format
    • Smaller than 3MB (3,000k)
    • At least 1,080 pixels on its longest side (height for portrait format images, width for landscape format images).
  • The selection process is based on the image you upload - even if it is not finished when you upload it
  • You get to decide whether or not to include the frame
  • You can supplement with a second photo which shows a selected crop of a detail of the painting. This is your opportunity to demonstrate technique and expertise.

The submission process

  • Complete the 2016 online entry form 
    • upload it and the image and 
    • pay the registration fee (£40) to the NPG 
    • by 23.59 on Tuesday 2 February 2016.
  • All correspondence with artists will be via email - and it's up to you to check your email!
  • All entrants will be notified if their work is selected 
    • for the second round of judging by 27 February 2015.
    • for exhibition by 1 April 2015.
  • Artwork for the second round of judging needs to be delivered between Monday 14 and Friday 18 March 2016(I suggest you check that you can get the artwork there in two weeks without breaking the bank)
  • There are lots of very detailed requirements as to submission and collection of the actual painting - I've summarised some of these below but there is more and my advice is to read it all very carefully!
    • All artists are responsible for the insurance of their works. In other words submit at your own risk.
    • The National Portrait Gallery will NOT arrange courier collections or post works on behalf of the artist (unless they are international - I'm not sure whether Scotland and Wales count!)
    • International artists should also pay particular attention to their financial liabilities (eg import duties etc) and what they are required to do. The gallery will make sure that your packaging is kept so that it can be reused when the courier /transport agent comes to collect your work. The Gallery will send the work back to you if you include pre-paid postage
  • There are detailed conditions relating to copyright and publication which all entrants should read.

The Judges

Artists should be aware that all works are judged on an equal and anonymous basis and that there is no segregated judging by region or country.
The Judges this year are:
I'm especially pleased that Jenny Saville (who loves painting flesh and unexpected perspectives on the body) is one of the judges - I've long admired her work. For those who don't know her or her work read this Telegraph article Jenny Saville: ‘I like the down and dirty side of things’ and an earlier one from 1998 -  A body of work.

Below is a video by Competition Judge Sarah Howgate on how the work is selected. Bear in mind that this was before the introduction of the digital entry process and the judges only seeing digital images prior to producing the long list for the second round of judging (and I'll replace this when a more up to date video becomes available - I'm checking with the NPG)

How to get selected

If you are thinking about entering, let's be very clear that it's a major deal just to get selected.

It would be very presumptious of me to tell you how to get selected.

However there are things that one notices when viewing the exhibitions over the years - and as trends (and Judges) come and go. So that's why I write this section. Essentially I'm offering you the best advice I can offer - alongside the links to my posts about all the past exhibitions (see end) - based on:

  • track record
  • the artwork
  • technical aspects which can improve

Just remember - those who win the first time they enter are few and far between - and I've got a video interview with one of them (Aleah Chapin) below

Track record

  • Build up a track record of being selected for the exhibition
    • To build up a track record first you have to enter. 
    • The reason for developing a track record of being selected is because prizewinners (but not always the winner) very often tend to come from those who have previously been repeatedly selected for the exhibition.  
    • I have a short list of a few painters who I confidently expect will win prizes in this competition in the future. 

The Artwork

  • Paint for yourself and not for the Judges. People who 'copy' compositions or paintings styles which they think the Judges like might get selected but they don't often win prizes.
  • Paint more than a head - demonstrate you can do commissions involving hands! 
    • Take a look at the recently commissioned portraits in the NPG collection. Such commissions very often have heads and upper torsos including the hands. Given that the first prize winner will be offered a commission you may well enhance your chances by demonstrating an ability to paint more than a head.
    • review my past videos of the exhibitions (see my YouTube playlist for my videos of the BP Portrait and Travel Awards) to see the nature of the portraits which make it through to the final 
    • Last year there were 15 complete figures (although two had no face); 16 portraits of the torso - including hands; 2 portraits of the upper torso (minus hands) and 
    • 21 portraits of the head only i.e. 56% of the portraits included hands and torso
  • Paint more than one person! I've been advocating painting more than one person as a way of standing out from the rest of the entries for a little while. 
    • Last year the exhibition included 11 double figure portraits (20% of the total) - and two of them were prizewinners! I'm not claiming the credit (very few portraits have included more than one person in the past) but I'm left wondering if people took my advice last year! :) 
    • The important point is that painting two people and setting up a narrative between them creates more than twice the opportunity to impress! 
  • Think very carefully about size. I did an analysis of last year's exhibition which you can see in this post BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2015 - video and analysis - it provides an in-depth analysis of three portrait factors - size, type and number. 
  • Enter your very best work. You need to be a good judge of the standard of your own work to know whether or not you are ready.  
I suggest you watch the video below of my interview with the 2012 winner Aleah Chapin in which she talks about holding off until she thought she was ready to enter. She also talks about the whole process of entering and winning.

    Technical aspects to improving your chances

    Here are some suggestions about more technical aspects for getting selected - based on experience and observation:
    • excellent digital images do make a difference. That's because it's impossible to be confident in the qaulity of the work if the resolution or colour are 'off'. 
      • The photo also needs to be an accurate and totally representative of your portrait. It's so easy to reject artwork which disappoints when seen in person compared to the photo! 
      • Last year I heard about painters who kept painting after they had entered and sent in the digital image of their entry. The NPG says this is fine - however the portrait will be assessed initially on the digital image submitted. Personally I wouldn't risk it and would focus on improving time management!
    • Create a timetable to complete your portrait on time - the only way portraits get painted on time - and avoid a series of all nighters  - is if you diarise your commitments to painting and stick to them.  First of course you need to know how long a painting will take - and that only comes with experience.  Planning to finish in good time means you won't make poor judgement calls under pressure. Plus you'll have enough time to get the painting photographed properly (see above).

    The BP Portrait Award Exhibition

    2016 Exhibition

    The BP Portrait Award 2016 Exhibition will be open to the public at the National Portrait Gallery from Thursday 23rd June to Sunday 18 September 2016 (which I make one week less compared to last year)

    2015 Exhibition

    You can see the 2015 BP Portrait Award exhibition at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery (10th October 2015 − 28th February 2016) - which is earlier than last year

    Want to know more about the BP Portrait Award ?

    For all further enquiries to the event organisers please contact:  

    • BP Portrait Award 2016, National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE   
    • Telephone: 020 7321 6699   
    • email: bpaward@npg.org.uk 
    • Office hours are 9.00 – 17.00, Monday – Friday.

    Subscribe or Bookmark this blog if you want to see future blog posts about the BP Portrait Award. (for subscriptions see side column)

    In the future I will publish:
    • a reminder about the deadline for entries 
    • the list of artists selected for the exhibition 
    • the list of shortlisted artists 
    • the awards ceremony 
    • video interviews with the prizewinners
    • a review and video of the exhibition 
    Below are blog posts about earlier exhibitions on Making A Mark. Note these include links to my videos of the exhibition.

    If you just want the videos then go to the BP Portrait and Travel Awards Playlist on my YouTube Channel

    BP Portrait Award 2015

    BP Portrait Award 2014

    BP Portrait Award 2013

    BP Portrait Award 2012

    BP Portrait Award 2011

    CALL FOR ENTRIES: BP Portrait Award 2011
    BP Portrait Award 2011 Shortlist
    BP Portrait Award 2011: links to Selected Artists
    Review: BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2011
    BP Travel Awards: 2010 (Paul Beel) and 2011 (Jo Fraser)
    BP Portrait Award 2011: People's Favourite & Statistics

    BP Portrait Award 2010

    BP Portrait Award 2009

    BP Portrait Award 2008 

    BP Portrait Award 2007


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