Sunday, January 31, 2016

How to avoid frames eating your profit

This is the second in my series of ten articles about how to be a cost-effective artist - for "The Artist" magazine.

This one is about framing.  That's because framing has the potential for eating into any profit you make in a major way. However there are a number of different ways to contain costs and this article suggests some of the ones I know about.

What's your best tip or favourite tactic for keeping a lid on your framing costs?

The top of my article on page 66 of the March edition of The Artist Magazine
It's now available online and at all good newsagents

Friday, January 29, 2016

Notes on the pastel portraits and techniques of Jean-Etienne Liotard

These are some notes I made when visiting the exhibition of artwork by Jean Etienne Liotard at the Royal Academy of Arts - after I saw the new exhibition 'Painting the Modern Garden' on Wednesday.

I'd been meaning to visit this exhibition for quite some time as it includes a lot of pastel portraits and I wanted to take a close look at them from a technical perspective.

If you like pastels or create art using pastels and have the time to visit before it ends of Sunday then I'd recommend you do so if only learn more about pastel paintings were created in the 18th century.

Jean-Etienne Liotard, Archduchess Marie-Antoinette of Austria, 1762
Black and red chalk, graphite pencil, watercolour and watercolour glaze on paper, heightened with colour on the verso, 31.1 x 24.9 cm 
Cabinet d'arts graphiques des Musees d'art et d'histoire, Geneva. On permanent loan from the Gottfried Keller Foundation, inv. 1947-0042
Photo Musee d'art et d'histoire, Geneva. Photography: Bettina Jacot-Descombes 

So here are the notes interspersed with images from the exhibition.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Nature's Bounty at Kew - a review (closes 31st January)

This is the last week of the Nature's Bounty exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew Gardens. It closes on Sunday 31st January (10am to 3.45pm).
  • The exhibition is about the paintings of fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts in the collection of Dr. Shirley Sherwood. 
  • The flowers which are included are those which include the method used for propagation associated with the flower - which is usually seeds or seeds within berries.
The Yellow Lotus painting by Beverley Allen anchors a wall of tropical plants in the main gallery
It's complemented by works from the collection of Kew. I'm going to focus on paintings owned by Shirley Sherwood for this review
many of these paintings and some paintings on show are the culmination of months of observation, waiting for a pear or apple to ripen so that every stage can be shown.
It's perhaps pertinent to comment that one of the aims of very many botanical artists is to have their work added to this very important and prestigious collection.  It is after all a collection which prompted the very first gallery of botanical art in the world.

After that the next aim is for it to be exhibited in one of the exhibitions of works in her collection at Kew! Dr Sherwood has after all got some c.1,000 paintings in the collection from 25 years of collecting. It's a very real distinction for a botanical artist to have your work chosen for one of her exhibitions at Kew.

[As with the 2015 RHS review, the illness and demise of two much loved and aged kitties accounted for a very odd year last year when it came to reviewing exhibitions. Which explains why I'm only reviewing it now.]

I saw it for the first time last week but was extremely impressed. I found I lingered a tad too long with my magnifier on some paintings which had me intrigued as to technique and skill in both drawing and painting.  So I'm going to try and get back to see it again next week before it closes.

One thing worth mentioning is that the exhibition is beautifully hung with clear themes emerging as you go round. These are not announced to you - the gallery allows you to be intelligent and detect the gentle shift from one type of subject to another. Plus it looks good too!

The Featured Artists and Works

One of the things I particularly like about The Shirley Sherwood Collection is the fact that we get to find out about botanical artists from all around the world.

There isn't a book to go with the exhibition. That's because you can also see many of the works in this exhibition - except more recent acquisitions - in her two books 'A Passion for Plants' and 'A New Flowering'.  For those of us who are huge fans of the books it's a real pleasure to be able to see the paintings 'up close and personal'.

However I do think it's a pity that we don't have a public record of the artists featured in the exhibition and the works on display.  The gallery kindly sent me the labels for the paintings in the exhibition from the gallery so I could make sure I spelt all the artists' names correctly as some of them were new to me.  It occurred to me I could create that public record - which is so important for credibility in terms of exhibitions.  Hence the list of featured artists and works below.

You will find below that
  • featured artists are listed by the country they live in
  • Links to the websites (or related sites) of the artists are embedded in their name.  Some of these took some tracking down!
  • All the works identified are watercolour on paper unless otherwise indicated in captions 
  • Quotations identified after an artist's name and paintings are brief and from the artist's website.
  • Images: 
    • Gallery shots copyright Katherine Tyrrell (by permission of The Shirley Sherwood Galley)
    • Artwork - copyright the artist

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

(an overdue) Review of RHS Botanical Art 2015

This is a VERY overdue review of the RHS Botanical Art Show held last February.

Initially I misplaced my catalogue and notes and then subsequently I was distracted (much loved cats dying etc.) and just plain forgot to write it up - so I'm now remedying the error as the RHS Botanical Art Show 2016 is almost upon us!

Below are the images and information about the artists that won an RHS Hold Medal. Also, at the end I have:
  • my observations about the show
  • TIPS for potential exhibitors from Gillian Barlow, Chair of the RHS Picture Committee
Hideo Horikoshi - winner of the Best Painting in the RHS Botanical Art Show 2015
for Apiaceae Daucus carota ‘Kintokininjin’
The 2016 show will be held from 26-27 February 2016 at the RHS Lindley Hall. As a member of the RHS I've already ordered my ticket online and printed it off and it's pinned to the wall just above my iMac! You too can book tickets for this show.

RHS Botanical Art 2015 - Six Gold Medal Winners

All the Gold Medals except one went to international artists with four going to Japanese artists. Scotland also did well with Kathy Pickles from the Orkney Islands picking up her sixth Gold Medal (1991-94, 1996, 2015) and Turkish artist Gulnar Eksi, who has worked as a botanical artist for the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, also picked up another Gold Medal for one of the RGBE's major projects.

This in part explains why this particular review of the show (compared to others - see end) is much less focused on interviews with the GM-winning artists.
Exhibits of groups of drawings or paintings are assessed first and foremost as botanical illustration (Guidelines for judging group exhibits of drawings and paintings of plants, flowers and gardens)
This is the link to the RHS Botanical Art Medal Winners in 2015
Winner of Best Botanical Art Exhibit

Best Botanical Art Exhibit - Climbing Plants
Kumiko Takano (Japan) - Climbing Plants

Kumiko Takana with two of her paintings
Kumiko Takana's paintings displayed a wonderful sense of design both within each painting and across the display as a whole. The habit exhibited by these plants came across very strongly in terms of the way each plant was shown.

Winner of Best Painting

Hideo Horikoshi. (Japan) Traditional Root and Tuber Crops in Japan

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Reasons NOT to link to a website

An approach from a major art website has prompted today's post about reasons NOT to link to a website.

First the letter. Next and my response.
Finally some of the reasons why it's not a good idea to link to a website
....and finally - what Google thinks about schemes to swop/trade links and why they are a bad idea.

The 'request to link' email and my response

I've removed the name of the gallery website and the link to it - because I won't be linking to it! Everywhere you can see "a gallery" below was originally the name - and a link to the gallery
Dear Webmaster,

I’m the webmaster of "a gallery" [description of project]. We receive millions of visitors monthly. Our database of Fine Art images and articles is in the millions and we continue to grow daily. We are a nonprofit organization. This is your opportunity to take part in our project.

I visited your website earlier today and wanted to congratulate you on a creating a well presented and informative site. I would like to add a link to your website from ["a gallery"] and wanted to know if you would be kind enough to link back to us.

Adding a link from ["a gallery"] to your website will greatly increase your Search Engine Ranking in Google, Yahoo, Bing and other websites. A link from our site to your site will mean that your site will ranked HIGHER on these search engine results pages which will translate to more visitors and better exposure.

If you are interested let us know, and I will get back to you with the exact link information that we would like you to use. Please also let me know what description you would like us to use when we link back to you.

Looking forward to hear from you,
Webmaster ["a gallery"]
This is a standard letter. It wasn't tailored to me. An identical letter will have been sent to all the artists they have approached - and some will have been flattered by it.

I reviewed their site to find  the section where they include the links from artists' websites. In a section called "Recommended Art" there was
  • a completely undifferentiated list of links to artists' websites and blogs
  • The list ran to some 39 pages and on each page there were 50 links
  • That makes for a list totalling nearly 2,000 websites
  • It wasn't alphabetical
  • It wasn't differentiated in any way in terms of type of art produced, media used or subjects favoured
  • It was just a long list of people who were flattered by the email.
I searched for the name of one or two well known contemporary artists - and their websites did not feature in the list. On the other hand I did see the websites of people I know of who I thought had more sense.

That's when I decided to respond - and to write this post.

Below is my response to the gallery.
Dear "a gallery"

I don't believe the way you reference other sites actually aids their search engine ranking in any way. An undifferentiated list of the sort you use is in fact one of the things which Google highlights as a strategy for linking which it condemns.

Perhaps you have a recent reference to your link strategy which suggests Google endorses it?


Katherine Tyrrell
Somewhat predictably I didn't get a response.

Reasons NOT to link to a website

All about links

A link is a way of connecting one piece of text in an online file to another online file. The hyperlink allows you to see it or follow it.

Here's what Tim Berners-Lee - the inventor of the Internet - had to say about the myths surrounding Links in a note he write back in 1997.
On the web, to make reference without making a link is possible but ineffective - like speaking but with a paper bag over your head.
In summary:
  • a link is neutral in principle - in principle it does NOT imply:
    • a recommendation 
    • or a suggestion that another person created the content within the link
  • you can link to anything online which is public - if it's online and you can read it then you can link to it and the owner can't stop you
  • It's not an infringement of someone's privacy to make a link to their website. If they want to be private it's best not to have a website.
We know from the way the Internet - and Google in particular - works that some links carry more weight than others. However that depends on the reputation of the website generating a link and the value of the content it covers.

For example if a leading national newspaper linked to you and cited you as a leading example of a particular trend in painting you might expect to get a lot of visitors (see this article in the New York Times on 23rd February 2006 about Postcard from Provence by Julian Merrow Smith and his wife Ruth's blog post "Sold Out" the same day).

However this sort of link doesn't happen that often - but it doesn't stop artists thinking it might happen to them too!

The real reasons why people link to a website

In general, people link when:
  • they know they can link without permission (ie the email above is all about getting me to link to them - not them linking to me!)
  • they find the content to be of value - either temporarily (for a project) or as a website they like to keep visiting over time (e.g. in a blogroll)
  • they're pretty sure they want to find the site again in the future
  • they'd like to see more from that site - because they're so impressed by what they've seen so far.
  • to boost their website - BECAUSE they think you'll link back and that will help how their site ranks (but they might be wrong on both counts)

Links that don't work

People aren't interested in creating links for sites that:
  • might be stuck in a pile of what looks like your "for filing" tray from a year ago i.e. there's no way to find your link without looking through a long list of other sites which are not grouped or categorised in any way
  • are of little relevance right now
  • practice deception when trying to generate more links
  • don't generate any traffic.
If you've ever linked your website to one of these websites that promises you lots of benefits, you might want to check your statistics to see if you ever get any traffic from it. My guess is there will be none.

Links that are really bad news

Anything that resembles link trading and/or a Google Link Scam is really bad news for your website.

I've seen a number of websites build their profile by asking and/or offering "perks" to get other artists to link to them. It's a very easy and quick way of gaining rank - but the only website that benefits is the one that hosts the links - UNTIL Google sniffs out the link exchange.

Google does NOT like link trading. If you indulge in link trading it does your site more harm than good.

In Link Schemes, Google states its views about the use of links to improve the way your website ranks in Google

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results:
  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
  • Excessive link exchanges ("Link to me and I'll link to you") or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
This is what Google would prefer you to do
The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.


  • Create good content so people will link to you
  • Link to sites you like and want to visit again
  • Link to sites you'd like to share with other people
  • Don't link to a site because somebody says you'll get a benefit - it's almost always a con.
  • Don't link to a site which practices deception.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pastel Society Workshops and events

One of the things I very much like about the national art societies that exhibit at the Mall Galleries is they always have a good range of events, demonstrations and workshops.

In February, the main gallery at the Mall Galleries will reopen after a major refurbishment and will be boasting a new energy-efficient heating & air conditioning system and more natural daylight.

The first two exhibitions to benefit from this will be:
Details of the workshops, events and demonstrations associated with the Pastel Society exhibition are now published on the website.

I've included a summary of them below - except I've added in links to websites and profiles and videos where available plus quoted how they like to work with pastels

Pastel Society Workshops

Events Page: a sample of the pastel workshops being held during the exhibition

All of the workshops:
  • take place between 11am and 5pm allowing people to travel to London from some distance. 
  • are priced at £60 for the day. 
  • Easels and drawing boards are provided by students are expected to bring their own pastels and drawing materials/supports. 

The tutors providing the workshops are all experienced artists and tutors and signature members of the Pastel Society.
I usually work from sketches made on site. I often take a Unison pastels colour chart, which I use to annotate my sketches with colour references. I also use a digital camera for back-up information, and for detail that I may have omitted to record at the time. I paint in soft pastel on either pumice paper, solid-core mountboard, to which I apply a coloured pumice surface, Sennelier pastel card or Canson paper.
My pastels are mostly worked onto mountboard using a watercolour or acrylic underpainting.

I draw and sketch from life, using pen and ink, pencil and charcoal. These works are often completed in-situ, then used to influence larger paintings, done in the studio.

Currently involved with teaching drawing and painting abroad and in the Berkshire area and tutor to the Medical Artists’ Education Trust at the Royal College of Surgeons, London
I prefer to make pencil, pastel, charcoal or graphite pencil over soft pastel drawings from different positions, if the eventual portrait is to be an oil painting. Sometimes these drawings are the main commission and so become a prelude to a more intensive study.
"The way I work is to launch straight in with colour, without any underpainting or other preparation that might interfere with my spontaneity and energy."

Pastel Society Art Event Evening

  • The Pastel Society Art Event Evening will be on 1st March - between 6pm and 9pm and is a ticketed event - with a glass of wine, live music and drawing.  Those attending can work alongside members of the Pastel Society.


All demonstrations are free with admission and in my experience the artists are generally very happy to discuss what they are doing, what sort of materials they use etc.

The artists giving demonstrations are:
  • 25 February 2016 - Ann Wilkinson PS her profile (b.1934, elected PS 2004) and website
Ann's aim is to produce a picture with an interesting surface pattern. She likes to achieve this with a composition that takes into consideration every shape, the objects and the spaces between. Ann uses a limited pallet and strong tonal variations to emphasise the overall unity.  
I use pastels rather like watercolour artists - by creating a pallet of colour and dipping into I using tissue paper and hands to apply the pastel. I use paper masks, all the time, rather like a screenprinter lays on different areas of colour. I love the blank sheet of card or paper and not knowing what I will end up with.
Roger will work on several pieces in order not to become to precious, and thereby more critical. In the studio he often uses sketches and photography to gain his first idea, and not to copy but to interpret.
  • 3 March Susan Relph PS See above for details of Susan. Come and watch her working, talk to her and find out more about portrait painting.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Techie: Facebook Page share button has disappeared

Earlier this week, the Share button disappeared from all posts on Facebook Pages for a number of people.

[UPDATE 22 January 2016: Finally the 'share' button has returned to Facebook Pages - nearly two weeks after it disappeared. Seems like a long time to me for something that ought to be fairly straightforward to fix. Did it take Facebook this long to notice - despite all the feedback?]

This makes it virtually impossible (as in 'very difficult and longwinded') to share anything from one Page to another.

At the beginning I thought I must have done something really, really awful and incurred the wrath of Facebook. Not that it had told me I done anything wrong but I couldn't think of any other explanation. There again I couldn't think of anything I'd done wrong either!

So I sat and looked at posts on museum pages and exhibitions that I wanted to share - and I couldn't.

At the beginning of the week I looked to see if anybody else had the same experience and couldn't find anything.

Turns out that a lot of people probably thought the same as me and just sat tight and waited to see what happened.

After very nearly a week, they are now all over Facebook complaining about what has happened and how long it is taking to produce a fix. Some of them have even taken to direct messaging Mark Zuckerberg!

The conclusion that many are coming to is that this is Facebook's way of extracting money from people running Pages and/or that it is connected to the recent introduction of Facebook Business Manager. Personally I think a lot of businesses may start pulling their Facebook advertising in the near future if people can't share items on their Pages easily to other Pages! (Why would you advertise on a platform that you can't trust to perform properly i.e. share easily)

The thing is that many pages are community oriented pages - they're not Business pages. I don't make any money from any of my three Facebook Pages - that's not what they're about!

I think Facebook might just have come up with a reason for many people to become more active on Twitter and embracing Instagram!

PS The consensus of opinion re Facebook Business Manager is "do not touch with a bargepole" - people are having all sorts of problems with access to their accounts.

Key Points

Below are the key points of what has happened and two possible work arounds.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Art Visionaries - a review

I have a problem with contemporary art. I always feel like I need a map to navigate what's happened in the last 100 years. There's just so many different artists and so many different art movements - and I find it very difficult to sort out who's important and who's not.

This week Laurence King published a book called Art Visionaries which might well provide a resource to fill the gaps in my knowledge of contemporary art.  It's both well written and well presented.

Art Visionaries published by Laurence King
Paperback | 340 colour illustrations | 312 pages | 290 x 200 mm
ISBN 9781780675770 Published January 2016
Essentially the premise of the book is that it covers 75 of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.  They are characterised as artists who defined art in the 20th century and the choice reflects the changes in art during this time

  • from representative of the visible world to include abstraction
  • from painting and sculpture to include collage, performance, photography and installations etc 
  • from traditional materials to include iron and steel, neon tubing fibreglass, textiles
  • from an art world which largely revolved around Paris to one which expanded into the USA

Any selection is going to be idiosyncratic and reflect the view of the authors. To me the selection came across as overwhelmingly male and seems to lean very much towards both a Western perspective and artists with a European background irrespective of where they ended up living.  There is one Japanese, one Korean and no Chinese artists. There's also rather a lot of sculpture, installations and land art.

I have to say I was somewhat surprised by some of the artists who were included - and excluded. Some of those who are included who I have never heard of seem to have become known for one particular approach to making art - even when this approach has not necessarily had a major impact on the art of others.  Oddly artists like Hockney who have had an eclectic approach and keep reinventing their art get left out on this criteria.

You can see who is included on the contents page on the "look inside" on Amazon.

Here's a small selection of who is included according to nationality

  • Russian artists - Kandinsky, Malevich, Chagall, 
  • French artists - Matisse, Leger, Braque, Duchamp, 
  • Belgian artists - Magritte
  • Dutch artists - Mondrian
  • Spanish artists - Picasso, Miro, Dali
  • Italia artists - Morandi
  • German artists - Otto Dix, George Grosz, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer
  • Swiss artists - Klee, Giacometti
  • British artists - Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Andy Goldsworthy, Anish Kapoor, Rachel Whiteread and Damien Hirst (but no Lucian Freud, David Hockney or Tracy Emin - which just seems weird!)
  • American artists - Edward Hopper, Alexander Calder, Rothko, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons (but no O'Keeffe)
  • European artists who came to America - de Kooning, Abramovic,
Some of the names of some of the other artists meant nothing to me - and I guess that's why this book is going to be educational.

The book works its way through the artists chronologically based on the birthdate of the artist. There's no attempt to group them together within different movements. 

The book is very heavily visual with large images. The format is identical for each artist - they each get:
  • two double page spreads
  • an intelligently curated and articulate bio which:
    • summarises key aspects of their life (and leaves out the boring bits!) 
    • highlights the reason they are important and counted as 'Art Visionaries'
  • a portrait pic and then images of their work
  • a timeline for how their career developed - down the vertical edge of the page or across the bottom of the double page spread
I'm a huge fan of timelines - they help me make sense of art in the context of what was happening in the world and how a career has developed over time.

The other thing that is very helpful about adopting a strictly chronological approach is that you get to see the diversity in art that occurred during the same period and also which years seemed to generate a lot of good artists. My birth year was a good one! :)

All in all it's a jolly useful book - and very accessible. I'm going to be filling in the gaps in my knowledge!

Note: I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher - however this is an independent review. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The 3rd Derwent Art Prize - Call for Entries

The Cumberland Pencil Company announced the Call for Entries from international artists for The 3rd Derwent Art Prize on Monday. 

The deadline for entry is 1st June 2016.

The competition is now a biannual competition - so the next one will be in 2018.

Astri Saunders, Marketing Manager at Derwent, said

“We are proud to launch the Derwent Art Prize for the third year. Our aim of the exhibition is to showcase artworks created in pencil and increase the profile and importance of drawing as a fine art medium”.
This is a digest of who can enter, what you can enter and how the process works - with an overview of the timeline of dates. The competition is organised by Parker Harris to whom all queries should be addressed.

Approximately 80 drawings will be selected for exhibition at the Mall Galleries. The exhibition will be held between 19th - 24th September 2016.  You can see my video of the last exhibition below

After this the exhibition will go on a short tour of venues in the UK between October and December 2016.

The organisers have not yet resurrected the Facebook Page for the competition but you can reasonably expect that selected artists might also get some promotion for their artwork via this channel of communication as well.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Ashes to ashes...

About the passing of David Bowie, his vision, visuals, paintings and my youth.

David Bowie in 2002
Photo by Adam Bielawski
Bowie is the man who elevated his music to what can only be described as an art form.
I'm sure I'm not the only 60 something who has been remembering their youth today - following the news of the sad passing of David Bowie. (his website)

He's one of the few people whose tracks remind me instantly of where I was when I first heard them - from a particular classroom at school and a long discussion about 'Space Oddity" in 1969, to Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane in the sixth form. The very weird and "arty' video film of Ashes to Ashes is forever associated with my first year of studies and revising for my accountancy qualification.  Plus who can forget Jagger and Bowie video of Dancing in the streets for LiveAid in 1985!

Importantly though, he is an example of one of the many leading musicians who started out studying to be an artist - studying art, music and design, including layout and typesetting at Bromley Technical College.

He was not so much a rock star - more a cultural icon!

His music over the years has always had a very strong visual identity - and that constant reinvention is not something that you can achieve without a very considerable imagination and oodles of talent for the visual arts

I know that I will miss both his vision and visuals.

I'm not sure how many people are familiar with his art.
I liked a lot of his music but my favourite tracks were all the dance ones and, in particular, Let's Dance. 

It was reissued as a yellow vinyl single on 16 July 2015 in conjunction with the "David Bowie is" exhibition at the Australian Centre For The Moving Image in Melbourne.

The ACMI has now created a dedicated Bowie Channel in his memory.

RIP David Bowie (David Robert Jones 8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016).

UPDATE The BBC have just devoted the first 15 minutes of the 6pm News to his death - well worth watching if you have access to BBC News on the Internet. (BBC page: David Bowie - 1947-2016)

Here are some of the obituaries to this great artist...

Thursday, January 07, 2016

RA Summer Exhibition 2016 - Call for entries

Every year I write about how to enter the world's largest open submission art competition - the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.

You need to know

Artists wishing to enter need to know six things up front:
  1. If your entry is not one of the first 12,000 entries received you won't be exhibited. This is because, as in previous years, the RA are only accepting 12,000 entries for the first round of screening entries. Do NOT leave your entry to the last minute!
  2. Submission is digital via an online form - which are now on sale. You need to register first - and should do this now!
  3. The deadline for entries is midnight on 12 February 2016
  4. Only one third 4,000 will be shortlisted for the second round of selection.  
  5. If you get through to the second stage you will then have between 15 - 20% chance of getting your work included in the exhibition - something like 700 exhibits by non-RA members.
  6. This year there is a big bonus for printmakers - watch out for the new guidance below!
Entries for last year’s exhibition sold out before the deadline so we encourage you to enter as soon as possible. RA Website
As I advised last year, to avoid being disappointed make sure you get your form to submit your work and then submit it as quickly as you can!  If you wait until the deadline you may well find the limit on entries has already been reached.

A view of some of the fine art prints which were relocated into larger galleries
in the RA Summer Exhibition 2015
This is a LONG POST and this is what I cover:
  • About the Summer Exhibition (with links at the end to my previous reviews of Summer Exhibitions at the RA - which include images so you can see what you're up against)
  • the key documents you need to know about - and how the RA helps prospective entrants make a good job of their entry
  • Who's doing the selection and hang this year
  • The Submission and Selection Process
    • who can enter
    • what you can enter
    • the timeline and process - and how to enter
  • Changes I've spotted - compared to previous years - are also highlighted below. I probably haven't spotted all of them so if you can see any more please leave a comment and I will update this post.

About the Summer Exhibition

Key facts:
  • The exhibition has been held every year since 1769!  This is the 248th Annual Summer Exhibition at the RA.
  • The exhibition showcases painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, architecture and film.
  • the submission fees and commissions fund the organisation of the exhibition, the RA Schools and other exhibitions put on by the RA
  • Prizes: prizes valued at c£50,000 were on offer in 2015.  This was a decrease of £20,000 when compared to previous years. There's no indication of prizes for 2016 - although this is not generally the reason to enter.
  • Number of artworks: in 2015, 1,131 pieces were listed in the catalogue. The percentage of works by non-Academicians seems to vary - it's about two thirds
  • In 2015, the RA produced the Summer Exhibition Explorer for the very first time. This was an online and fully illustrated list of works. It was very successful. Nearly 120,000 users visited the website, many to check the availability of works for sale.  
  • In 2016, they are changing the rules for how works can be sold online - see NEW Artwork Sales Information below.
  • Sales: over 5,000 works have been sold at some exhibitions - however...
    • an awful lot of these will have been repeat sales of limited edition fine art prints which tend to do extremely well in terms of sales because they are more affordable (ie the sales figure does not correlate well with the listed items figure). 
    • it would be jolly nice if entrants knew how sales do by type of work, how many works by non-academicians sell and what percentage of the prints generate repeat sales.

The Key "Need to Know" Links

These are the basic MUST READ carefully documents!
These are listed under Helpful Links at the side of this page (Note the change in URL) - which is a good thing as they are not self-evidently links!
Below I unpack these documents and highlight the main points

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Art on BBC iPlayer - January 2015

The only channel on British television which does programmes about art and artists on a regular basis - using people who are credible commentators is the BBC. In other programmes about art that are educational and informative and not just "entertainment".

It's one very big reason why the BBC must remain a public broadcaster and NOT become commercial.

Art documentaries on BBCiPlayer

So - what can be accessed via iPlayer at present? You'd be surprised. The archive includes documentary films going back to the 1960s!
  • First the recent programmes being shown or recently show on BBC. Then at the end, other programmes still available to view via BBC iPlayer.

The Story of Scottish Art

Lachlan Goudie reprises his documentary  about The Story of Scottish Art - in 4 episodes - on BBC4 tonight - starting at 8pm.

See my earlier blog post Art on Television - The Story of Scottish Art for more about this programme
The catalogue of the current exhibition of
Arthur Melville - Adventures in Colour
on display at the Scottish National Gallery
until 17th January 2016
I got my copy as a Christmas present!
Also available on iPlayer right now are:

Art Crime - The World's Most Expensive Stolen Paintings

Presented by Alistair Sooke

The World's Most Expensive Stolen Paintings (60 minutes) was broadcast last night and contained more than a few surprises. Such as:
  • art thieves are not specialists - they are career thieves who specialise in robbery and who probably know very little about art - which accounts for why they broke in to the van Gogh Museum and stole the first two paintings in the catalogue and ignored the really valuable ones
  • art theft is not glamorous - forget the Thomas Crown Affair (they don't look like film actors either if they ones appearing in this programme are anything to go by!)
  • thieves are not stealing to order according to the man who set up the specialist unit in the Metropolitan Police
  • thieves like coming in through the roof!
You have 29 days to left to watch it

More about Art Crime soon!

Michael Palin's Quest for Artemisia

You have 27 days left to watch Michael Palin's Quest for Artemisia - the story of 17th-century Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi.

I commented on the film in my post Artemisia Gentileschi on BBC4 and iPlayer and provided links to more information about this famous woman artist.

Secrets of the Mona Lisa

You have three days left to watch Secrets of the Mona Lisa (59 minutes)

Andrew Graham-Dixon presented this fascinating programme about how many Mona Lisa paintings da Vinci painted and how many are in the Louvre!
this landmark film uses new evidence to investigate the truth behind her identity and where she lived. It decodes centuries-old documents and uses state-of-the-art technology that could unlock the long-hidden truths of history's most iconic work of art.
It got a lot of publicity when it aired last month. Here are some of the articles about the subject of this documentary

The BBC Archive

The BBC Archive includes a number of programmes about art and artists - but it's not that easy finding them.  They are however typically available for over a year.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Copyright infringement - recent lawsuits involving artists

This week I came across a different approach to copyright infringement on an artist's website.

The message on the website didn't look to dissimilar to those you see on many websites with respect to who to contact if you want to reproduce the art.  What was different was that the link went straight to a firm of lawyers in the USA who specialised in copyright and trademark infringement. Suddenly one new that this particular artist meant business - in the literal sense.

Every so often I sit down and look to see what's emerged on the Internet with respect to copyright. This post identifies some useful articles about recent copyright infringements - plus how to find a lawyer who specialises in this type of law!

I'll be adding summaries of these cases to my new website. Much of what I have written previously about copyright and other useful articles can be found on the Copyright for Artists page on my new website Art Business Info. for Artists.

Copyright Infringement and Lawsuits involving Artists

There seem to be more and more prosecutions related to artists copying artists. This last month there have been four involving well known names.

It's interesting to read articles about the lawsuits relating to copyright infringement as these tend to reflect the current state of the marketplace and the legal world when it comes to what is considered a worthwhile case to fight.

Plus the outcomes for those who go to law - and get it wrong!

Litigant Mitchel Gray vs Jeff Koons

A lawsuit was filed in December 2015 on behalf of photographer Mitchel Gray.

It alleges that Jeff Koons used a New York photographer's commercial photo taken in 1986 for an advertisement in two editions and anArtists's Proof of I Could Go For Something Gordon’s (1986) without permission or compensation. Koons has a significant history in terms of copyright infringement litigation.

The auction house Phillips is also being sued because it handled the sale of the Artist's Proof in 2008 for $2.08 million.

Litigant Donald Graham vs Richard Prince and the Gagosian Gallery

The internationally renowned photographer Donald Graham is suing Richard Prince (who has previously been sued by photographers) for copyright infringement. The claim is that he reproduced his photo without seeking permission. It's not as if it was difficult to find out how to contact Mr Graham.

the contact page on Donald Graham's website
The most recent article in ArtNew News has three experts opining as to why this is a more significant case than the Cariou vs. Prince case. Indications are that relevant matters will relate to:

Monday, January 04, 2016

Sargy Mann: Thoughts towards a talk - on video

I included a link to a video of Sargy Mann talking about what it's like to be a blind painter - and how to see more and see better - on my Facebook Page at the weekend.
These are some of the words you would have heard from blind painter Sargy Mann in a TED Talk - if he hadn't died before he could deliver it
The video has now "gone viral" - with many people appreciating listening to a man who could paint but not see -  which is why I'm now including it here as well.

It's very impressive. It would have been great to see it as a proper TED talk but I think I like this version better! See what you think, the video is just over 12 minutes long.

At the end I've also included links to another couple of videos about him made by his son
  • "Probably the best blind painter in Peckham" a flick through the book of the same name
  • "Sargy Mann" - the 38 minute documentary made about his father just after he went completely blind - which tackles .

Sargy Mann: More. Different. Better. Thoughts towards a talk. from Peter Mann Pictures on Vimeo.
In the last months of his life Sargy was working on a TED talk, which he was scheduled to give in London in May 2015. In early 2015 he had two or three drafts, each with a very different emphasis and he was still coming up with new ideas. Thinking it might help him edit his material down to the allotted eighteen minutes I filmed him trying out what he had written and also kept the camera rolling as he talked about the ideas and what he was hoping to achieve.

Sargy died in April 2015. The talk was never finished but he had continued working on it or ideas that had come out of the process until the very end.
In January 2015 Sargy Mann: Perceptual systems, an inexhaustible reservoir of information and the importance of art was published by spbooks ( this publication attempts to bring together an extended version of the ideas Sargy was developing and which were sparked by the invitation to do the talk.
This is a link to the article Parting words from an artist of rare vision in The Guardian where I came across the video.

It covers an interview with his son Peter Mann, and Sargy’s wife, Frances. 
I have always had a frustration in that people love his paintings but they don’t understand what is to me the most interesting thing,” Peter said. “There was always the slightly patronising ‘isn’t it amazing he can do this and he is blind’. What is more interesting was the fact that he could only do this because he was blind.”

More Videos

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Cost effective ideas for artists - a series of articles for "The Artist" magazine

In 2016, The Artist magazine (in the UK) will be publishing a series of ten articles by me on the theme of 'Cost effective ideas for artists".

The first one is in the February 2016 edition - published on 31 December - which is now available in the shops or online as a digital edition!  It's very easy to find - on page 66 - the last page of the magazine.

The top of the first article - which is about buying art materials

Cost effective ideas for artists

This series of articles has been a bit of a slow burn and I decided not to say very much about them until the first one was published.

I was approached by Sally Bulgin, the Editor of The Artist, to do a series of 'tips' articles related to the business side of art some time ago.  Of course publishers plan their articles way ahead of when the magazine is published! So I met up with Sally to discuss how it might back in February last year and this particular article was sent off to Sally last September. (Anybody thinking of doing an article for magazines might like to note the time lags involved!)

I decided to try and adopt a 'workflow' approach to the topics within the series - so it starts with art materials and ends with VAT! Mind you I keep coming up with more ideas for articles so you never know - there might be more!

My article - which appears on page 66
(the last page of the magazine)
The first article is '20 tactics for buying art materials' and identifies some dos and don'ts organised around two themes:
  • how to organise yourself
  • how to deal with suppliers
If you’re organised when ordering and storing your art materials and keep an eye on what you spend, you can save money, afford to experiment with new materials and find exactly what you want when you want it! If you are trying to make money from your art, the bonus of adopting some of these practices could mean the difference between making a profit or a loss.
There are nine more articles in the series focusing on:
  • framing
  • exhibitions
  • getting your art online
  • copyright and how to protect images online
  • posting and shipping artwork
  • printing artwork
  • pricing your art
  • business expenses and tax allowances
  • vat
They all focus on brief "do and don't" bullet point tips about how to behave in a more cost effective way - or avoid practices which will seriously damage your bottom line!

So a quick read - on the last page of the magazine - with a payoff!

My first article is in this February 2016 edition

The Artist Magazine

There was a time when you had to wait weeks to get an art magazine posted to you if you lived in another  country!

However we now have digital magazines  which can be accessed via digital magazines.

If you'd like to read my series of articles - and the rest of what is an excellent magazine - you can access the different ways to subscribe via the website.

Alternatively you can browse a selection of pages taken from the December issue of The Artist below

Buy Online Digital Version Buy Apple Digital Version Buy Android Digital Version

BONUS: This is the edition which also has the 24 page supplement about art courses and holidays in 2016 - always a favourite with very many amateur artists!

Friday, January 01, 2016

10 Years of Making A Mark

First of all I'd like to take the opportunity to wish a Happy New Year from Making A Mark here in London.

May you and your art enjoy the best of times in 2016 wherever you live around the world.

Next I have a celebration.......

New Year fireworks in London 1st January 2016
Making A Mark was born on 13th December 2005 in terms of the first time I published a post. However I did then change both the design of the blog and its name before I went 'public'!

Making A Mark went 'public' at the beginning of 2006. That's a decade ago!

10 years and 3,027 published posts later this blog has had more than 3.4 million unique visitors. Since Blogger started counting it's had c.8.5 million pageviews.

BTW that's an average of just over 300 blog posts a year!

Where nearly 50,000 visitors to Making A Mark came from in December 2015
I have to confess I had no idea when I started quite how many people would read my blog or that they would live all over the world. I'm still taken aback when meeting artists at exhibitions to find that they know who I am!

I've always written the blog for me and it's changed as I have changed.

There again I've always been one who likes sharing information that I think others will also find interesting and/or useful - and consequently that accounts for the amount of digging around and finding things out that has happened on this blog in the last 10 years!

10 of the most popular posts in the last 10 years 

One of the reasons why my blog remains popular is that a lot of the blog posts I write remain relevant past their publication date - and my archives are very well visited!

Here's a selection of some of the most popular posts over the last 10 years with an emphasis on those which continue to have relevance to today.

10 Tips for How to Sketch People (2008) - the sketch at the top of this post will be appearing in Lynne Chapman's upcoming book on drawing people.

How to sign an art print (2011) - it's short but distils down the important rules

Change in Facebook Pages Rules will affect artists marketing their art (2014) - this is about the imminent major change on Facebook which would affect those using it to promote their art.

How Pinterest removed all my pinned images in minutes (#1) (2012) One of my major 'techie' blog posts. (Part 1) is about how to find out if your images have been pinned to Pinterest from your website or blog - and (part 2) how to get them removed.

Colour Schemes: Split Complementaries, Triads and Tetrads (2008) - this was part of my major project on Colour which I still need to resurrect in terms of the website I developed as a result.

Van Gogh: Drawing media and techniques (2007) - one from the days when I did projects about specific artists. I remember I loved writing this post - mainly because of the reading around and the looking at the drawings he did.

Which are the best books about oil painting? (2011) - this is a type of blog post I've loved to do in the past. It enables the "wisdom of crowds" to generate good content for people who read this blog. In this instance most of the value comes in the comments from those offering their recommendations as to the best book about oil painting - for artists of all abilities.

How to make labels for an art exhibition (2012) - sometimes posts are popular because nobody else has ever written about a topic!  This one was written after I did the labels for the first London Urban Sketchers exhibition - and I confess it was partly so I'd remember what I had to do the next time!

20 tips for entering art competitions (2010) - I've always liked sitting down and distilling down all the stuff I've learned over time into a number of tips!

5 guidelines for beginning to use soft pastels (2009) - This was a similar basic tips post but this time relating to soft pastels

Plus the Art Competitions Page is always very popular - this is Major UK Art Competitions 2016


I may reflect on what has changed for me in the last 10 years in a future post.  Right now I have to go and cook our New Year Dinner!

I'll finish with the sketch I did ten years ago tonight - of my lovely Cosmo catnapping with his 'Dad'.

Cosmo catnapping #5 - 1 January 2006