This post is about:
- the exhibition of selected works - there are 78 paintings in total in the exhibition (12 less than last year and 22 less than was advertised in the Call for Entries)
- which artwork I liked the best
- aspects I think can be improved
- 24 - 29 October 2016 Parabola Arts Centre, Parabola Road, Cheltenham GL50 3AA - Monday - Saturday: 10am - 4pm.
- 10 December 2016 - 28 January 2017 Guildford House Gallery, 155 High Street, Guildford, Surrey GU1 3AJ. Monday – Saturday: 10am - 4.45pm.
You can also see the works online on the exhibition page of the website (it takes AGES to load) - and compare them to those in previous years (scroll down). Each painting also has an individual page on the website.
|Viewing the exhibition - prizewinners on the left.|
- Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 - Call for Entries - published in March
- Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 - Selected Artists - which includes images from some of the exhibitors
- Kathryn Maple wins Sunday Times Watercolour Competition for second time - which focuses on the prizewinners which were announced in advance of the exhibition in the Sunday Times at the end of August.
|The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition Prizewinners - on the wall|
Review of the exhibition
Before I start.....
Why the big reduction in number of paintings selected and hung?
The very first comment I wrote in my exhibitions notebook was "smaller than in previous years?".
I'm very puzzled as to why the number of paintings exhibited has dramatically reduced.
This art competition is advertised as follows
Approximately one hundred works, which reflect the true breadth of the medium, will be selected by a panel of leading figures from the art world. (Sunday Times Watercolour Competition website)Now the difference between the advertised 100 paintings and the 78 paintings actually in the exhibition is 22 paintings. That's a reduction of more than 20% compared to what those entering the competition were told. That's very considerably more than rounding down approximation might allow for. (For example last year , only 90 were shown and I remember thinking then that this was a bit too low.)
I'm very sad that we haven't been able to see works by 22 more artists.
This year several artists have had two works selected (Jacqueline Abel, Bob Aldous, Lucy Austin, Louise De La Hey, Kate Hunt, Chloe Le Tissier, Robert Offord and Jenny Ross)
That means the number of artists being exhibited is considerably below 100.
Just 68 artists have work in the exhibition - not 100. Which means while we could have seen work by some 32 more artists, the judges in their wisdom have decided this is not to be!
I'm firmly of the view that if the number of works that can be hung are limited then the number of artworks selected should also be limited to just ONE artwork per artist. The reasons why are because:
- artists enter art competitions is to raise their profiles and develop their careers - so every artist eliminated from the exhibition is a very serious issue and one the judges ought to be mindful of.
- If you start reducing the chances of an artist getting their work selected then artists begin to think very hard about whether it's worth entering.
I'm left with questions:
- Were the Judges even aware that
- the competition had been described as having 100 paintings?
- Kathryn Maple (the first prizewinner) had won the competition two years earlier? (I love her work and she's very definitely worthy of a prize - but the question remains.)
- Should we deduce that if 100 artists' paintings were not show that:
- there weren't another 22 paintings worth selection and hanging?
- or another 32 artists whose work was worth seeing?
Bottom line everything said in marketing an art competition needs to be accurate (i.e. "legal, decent, honest and truthful") otherwise taking entry fees from artists and not delivering what is promised begins to look like "taking money under false pretences".
Next year, if there is no revision to the marketing, I'll be commenting on this topic - and the chances of an artist being selected - in my annual Call for Entries blog post . By way of comparison, it will include a countback and record of just how many paintings have been actually hung in recent years. That's the big bonus of a blog - I have an archive! ;)
This is good exhibition with a good range of different styles - but it doesn't quite have the impact of some exhibitions I've seen in the past.
That said it's probably the best watercolour exhibition I've seen this year in terms of:
- range of subjects
- range of styles
- diversity of techniques
- levels of demonstrable expertise
|The small works wall|
It's also nicely hung which made for some nice photographs of paintings on the wall.
There's a good representation of members of the two major UK watercolour societies - but it's by no means overwhelming - just 7% of the exhibiting artists. I expect the percentage is higher once Scottish watercolour artists are added in - if anybody spots one do let me know!
- Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour (RI) - David A Parfitt RI; Deborah Walker RI
- Royal Watercolour Society (RWS) - Wendy Jacob RWS, Paul Newland VPRWS NEAC; Denis Ryan RWS;
- Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) - Andrew Stock SWLA, RE
Interestingly people who get selected for the exhibition on a regular basis - like Mark Elsmore and Varsha Bhatia are not members of either watercolour society.
People in paintings
There's a variety of treatments of portraiture - with an emphasis on head shots.
|A corner for watercolour portraits|
Prompts for prospective entrants - and future prizewinnersWorks are typically medium/large - particularly the prizewinners.
Although there's a diversity of subject matter but it's far from comprehensive. So here's what's missing for those who'd like to make an impact next year!
- there are no large paintings of people in groups or within a context which is not anonymous (go next door to Lewis Hazelwood-Horner's solo exhibition - see Impressive solo exhibition by 2016 Threadneedle Prizewinner - to see what I mean)
- there's very little peopleing of landscapes
- there are very few cityscapes
- there's very little still life
- there's one wildlife - and the animal is not obvious!
- there's one painting leaning towards botanical
However there are lots of landscapes!
There's not a lot of competition for the Smith & Williamson Cityscape Prize. This is a very respectable prize of £1,500 however if the artwork selected for exhibition is anything to go by not a lot of people enter cityscapes of merit. The winner this year is a stunner but it did stand out in more ways than one. I'm actually very surprised given the huge surge in the number of people who now pursue urban sketching - very often using inks and/or watercolour.
Framing is universally restrained. Frames are white, black, light/normal wood or a neutral colour.
Mats are not significant in a fair proportion of artworks - and are often absent. Paintings on whole sheets of paper (and there's more than a few) are typically float mounted.
The Paintings I liked
One of the things I look forward to each year is seeing what Mark Elsmore (a former winner of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition Winner) has painted this year!
This year he's demonstrating his mastery of perspective, a limited palette and graded washes.
I found the work to be heading towards mesmerising....
|Mark Elsmore, One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor – £1800|
James Judge is a member of the The Thames Group of Artists (who have a wonderful blog about their show and pop-up galleries at various locations along the Thames)
I am however puzzled as to how come this painting is in the exhibition as the artist's name did not appear on the list of selected artists that I was supplied with (and consequently is not on my published blog post listing the selected artists) - although I note his name is now on the website as being one of the selected artists. Maybe there was a late change?
|James Judge, Unit 18 – £3500|
(see 203rd Annual Exhibition of Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours #1 - Prizewinners and Events).
|Deborah Walker, Tidal Rhythms – £6200|
|Jayne Stokes, Wanderlust – £1500|
I see superb watercolour painting in every botanical art exhibition I visit - but never ever seen any botanical art in this competition. Maybe botanical artists don't enter?
A watercolour painting of plants by Sophie Charalambous is the closest thing this year
|Sophie Charalambous, Boat Club Garden, Kings Cross – £1750|
Finally, I loved this little painting - and assemblage by Helen Wilson RSW RGI PAI. I suspect an artist with a good sense of humour.
|Helen Wilson, Another Red Herring (£1600)|
The 2016 judging panel were:
- Akash Bhatt, Winner of Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2015;
- Sara Dudman, artist;
- Simon Oldfield, Director of Simon Oldfield Gallery;
- Desmond Shawe-Taylor CVO, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, and
- Louis Wise, Critic and Writer, The Sunday Times ( whose list of articlessuggests a fairly wide-ranging brief!)
Watercolour Media Information
The competition aims to celebrate and reward brilliance and innovation in the medium of watercolourEligible media includes:
- any water-based media
- including acrylic, inks and gouache
For watercolour that means knowing what the media support is as well as what type of water-based art media has been used.
So how do people know observing online or in the gallery know whether a painting has been painted with traditional watercolour, gouache, acrylic inks or acrylic paintings?
The simple answer is that they won't know and can't know. Unfortunately:
- the catalogue is completely silent on this issue
- the website is no more helpful
- the labels on the wall say nothing.
I wasn't the only visitor commenting on the lack of information which helps to make the works more meaningful to the viewer.
I live in hope that the message will finally get through......