Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2017 - call for entries

For all those undeterred by television programmes about painting, applications for Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2017 - run by Sky Arts - close on 28th April 2017.

You could win a £10,000 commission and £500 worth of art materials from Cass Art.

Landscape Artist of the Year 2017

We're coming up to two months left before the deadline for entries for this competition.

Who can enter

The Competition is open to all artists – amateur, professional or hobbyists - but there are some restrictions.

This is NOT a competition where your partner, your best mate or Mum can enter you without you knowing!  People can help you with the entry process but it must be YOUR ENTRY.

YOU can ONLY enter IF you:
  • are aged 16 or over as at 29th November 2016 
  • are in good health
  • hold a valid passport
  • have been LEGALLY resident in the UK, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Channel Islands and the Republic of Ireland for at least one year on 29th November 2016
  • can provide documentation to support all of the above (ie. birth certificate; passport, any relevant documentation relating to your immigration/residency status).
Also if you are aged under 18 your parents MUST
  • provide written agreement to you entering the competition
  • written consent to you being filmed prior to filming.
  • accompany you at all filming - or send a nominated adult.
You are NOT able to enter if you have been a finalist or winner of ANY previous Artist of the Year competition run by Sky Arts.

If you are chosen as a Shortlisted Artist or a Reserve Shortlisted Artist, you must be available for filming between 1st June 2017 and 20th July 2017.

How to enter

The emphasis on YOU means that only YOU can enter unless you are under 18 in which case your parents need to complete and submit the entry. (You can help them!)

You've only got one chance with this competition. This is what you need to do:
  • Read the terms and conditions (LOTS of small print). Then read them again. Then read them again before you upload your entry. I cannot emphasise too much how easy it is to miss or misunderstand an important point - and you'll be kicking yourself if you do! 
  • YOU need to complete/submit the online application form
  • YOU need to upload digital images (low-resolution JPEGS, no less than 800KB and ideally no more than 1.0MB) of landscape paintings created by YOU. These are: 
    • A photograph of your landscape painting NOT including any frame. See further notes on what the landscape should and should not be
    • A photograph of an additional landscape. 
    • An optional third photograph of a piece of your art. This does not have to be a landscape
    • One passport-style photograph of yourself. (max size 500KB) 
  • You will also be asked to
    • describe yourself as an artist and your background, 
    • detail whether you have entered or won any other art competitions - and how far you got.
    • state details of any television programme you've been on before
    • explain why you painted your landscape and how you painted it
Note you should NOT manipulate your images (using Photoshop or other digital image software) so they look better than they are.
The images of the Landscape Entry and the Additional Works of Art must not be manipulated in any way and must be of the work of art entered.

Eligible Landscape paintings - for submission

Artists are selected to attend the heats based on the artwork submitted as part of the entry.

If you are shortlisted you are required to supply high-resolution quality images of your Landscape Entry for marketing and publicity purposes.

Sky Arts has some advice about how to photograph your art

Images of landscape paintings that are eligible for submission are defined as follows:
  • MUST be a painting of a landscape vista
  • MUST each have a file size of at least 800KB and ideally no more than 1.5MB.
  • Eligible media for the painting include any material EXCLUDING photography, video, sculpture and all forms of digital media. 
  • Collage and mixed media works are all allowed. 
  • The work may be abstract or expressive - however, it must be recognisable as a representation of a landscape 
  • Aall paintings should have been produced in the last five years.
  • Maximum size is 1220 x 914 mm (48” x 36”). 
  • Additional Work(s) of Art submitted can be any size, and can also be in any material other than photography, video, sculpture or any form of digital media.
In addition, IF you are shortlisted (or added to a List of Reserve Shortlisted Artists), you MUST bring your original landscape entry and any additional works of art (submitted as part of your entry) to (and potentially from) the Heat. Paintings must be unframed, and substitutes cannot be accepted.

So bottom line that means you have to be able to get a minimum of two artworks plus all painting gear to a Heat which might be located anywhere in the country.

Heats / Filming open to the public

There are six heats in the first stage of the Competition which will take place intended to take place in three locations in 2017 across the UK and Ireland on the following dates at various location (to be decided):
  • Heats One and Two: on Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th June 2017 
  • Heats Three and Four: on Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st June 2017
  • Heats Five and Six: on Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th June 2017
You may be invited to any heat at any location. If you are a Shortlisted Artist, you can indicate a preferred Heat, but it might not be possible to accommodate your preference.

Further conditions include:
  • Each Heat Location/Date will have a Reserve List of standby artists who can take the place of a Shortlisted Artist who is no longer able to take part (eg forgot to bring their artwork with them!)
  • You are required to bring your actual artworks submitted as part of your entry to the Heat
  • You have to paint the Visa allocated - whether you like it or not! (Personally speaking, this is what would eliminate me - I can't abide people telling me which view to paint!  I've also been filmed painting for television and I can tell you that it this condition is quite simply OTT. By all means, indicate an area in which artists have to sit or stand - but do NOT tell me which view I connect with. I can't produce a good artwork unless I find a view appealing!)
The Shortlisted Artists will have a maximum of 4 hours over a 6 hour period (or such other period as the Producer at its discretion may determine) to complete their Heat Artwork. Your painting is judged on the results produced at the end of heat, whether you think the artwork to be finished or not.
The Semi Finalists will consist of the winners of each of the Heats and wil take place on Tuesday 18th July 2017

The Finalists will be asked to complete a further two landscape artworks

TIPS for potential applicants

DO NOT apply IF:
  • you don't like having your photo taken - you'll freak when you see what you like through a camera lens
  • you have never done any plein air painting. This is a landscape competition and it's not exciting watching people paint from photos or iPads - so you MUST be prepared to paint the landscape in front of you from observation.
When you apply, DO
  • submit landscapes which you have painted plein air.
  • explain clearly where the place was
  • how you painted it - ideally while painting plein air.

Sky Arts Artist of the Year Competitions: Other Posts

Landscape Artist

Portrait Artist

You can read more about Art Competitions on my dedicated webpage on this blog Major UK Art Competitions 2017-18

Monday, February 27, 2017

Review: The Big Painting Challenge - Episode 3 (Animals)

Episode 3 of the The Big Painting Challenge was painting animal antics and they were at Whipsnade Zoo.  They seemed to enjoy a bit of sun in contrast to the previous four seasons in one day experience of Hastings!

The First Challenge

As always, the first challenge was two hours. The aim was to capture a flamingo on canvas. Obviously, the notion that the media used was the artist's choice (from the first week) has gone out the window and we're back to oils and acrylics.

Flamingos at Whipsnade Zoo
The judges were looking for them to:
  • give their animals a sense of life
  • accuracy through observation
  • avoiding a cliche interpretation of a flamingo
Early in the programme, I thought David Dibosa was seriously losing touch with reality
It's all too easy to use cliches, but to actually look at a flamingo and turn that into a convincing painting, that's very difficult indeed.
As if we all walk around with cliche caricatures of flamingos in our heads all the time?

If it was a cat or dog I might understand the point - but flamingos? Really? (PS Suman found one later!)

It began to make sense when the cliche/caricature theme kept coming up throughout the programme. I came to the conclusion he was just parroting a pre-agreed theme rather than telling us his own thoughts.

The other really irritating nonsensical comment he made was during the judging.
It's a portrait and by deciding to make it a portrait we get a sense of character to give it the spark of life which is the thing we were really looking for
Obviously he's fixated with criteria and has never seen a portrait which portrays somebody dead from the neck up. It's NOT the genre of portraiture that gives the spark of life, it's an artist's talent, skill and experience!

So far I'm totally at a loss as to why he's a judge of a challenge/competition like this which basically focuses on the development of basic painting skills by amateur artists.

While he does make some intelligent comments, he frequently comes up with comments about the paintings which are completely at odds with the other judges who are actual professional artists. I back Daphne and Lachlan - I know them both personally and, although they won't always agree with one another on everything, they are both practising artists and both know what they are talking about! By way of contrast, I looked up David Dibosa's CV again and there's not a jot of practical experience as an artist in it. He's an academic, an art historian and a curator and while I might be very happy with him taking up the cudgels with Andrew Graham Dixon, I really don't see what he has to add to this programme for amateur artists - apart from possibly meeting the BBC's diversity challenge.

This interview with him summed up to me why he is so wrong for this programme - he simply hasn't got a clue about amateur artists or what sort of messages they need to hear!
Was it tough being a judge?
It was more serious than I expected it to be. I thought it would be more light-hearted but the contestants were so passionate about their art that it varied from shock and surprise when they got through to distraught contestants in tears when they didn’t.
Would you like to do more TV judging?
Yes! It’s fascinating to see amateur artists progress at that speed. It would be a pleasure to do something similar. I also loved the glamour and being made a fuss of – it’s a luxury having someone always checking you’re looking your best!
However, I come back to the query I raised last week as to why does this programme need SEVEN people other than the participant artists on screen?

Friday, February 24, 2017

RHS Botanical Art Show 2017

The RHS Botanical Art Show 2017 is open to the public today and tomorrow at the RHS Lindley Hall in Westminster.  Admission is free. I was at the Preview last night.

Bridget Gillespie with her RHS Gold Medal Winning exhibition of Root Vegetables: Lifecycle  
standing next to Beetroot Beta vulgaris which has won the 'Best Painting in Show' award
at the RHS Botanical Art Show 2017
In future, all blog posts about botanical art exhibitions are going to be on my website dedicated to Botanical Art and Artists - specifically on the News blog 

You can get every blog post emailed to you 

Best Exhibit in Show - Pandanus by Mariko Ikeda from Japan
Posts about the RHS Botanical Art Show 2017 to date are as follows:
Please join me on the Botanical Art and Artists News Blog for more about:
  • who won which medal
  • my review of the exhibition
  • top tips from RHS Gold Medal winners about how to exhibit at the RHS and do well
  • interviews with the RHS Gold Medal Winners
  • and this year, for the first time, hopefully a video!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

118th Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society 2017

I went to the Private View of 118th Annual Exhibition of The Pastel Society at the Mall Galleries on Monday.  It's different this year - and I'll highlight the reasons why below. The exhibition continues until 3pm on Saturday 4th March.

A lot of people attended the Private View
This is the first year of the new President Jeanette Hayes who seems to have had a very positive impact in terms of changes made to date. I'm certainly liking what I'm seeing.  You can read an interview with her in last October's edition of The Pastel Society Newsletter (available to download from their website)
the Society is currently enjoying real momentum, thanks very largely to the efforts of recent Presidents. I think it is really important to maintain that momentum. 
The Exhibition was opened by The Right Honourable Michael Portillo who entertained the very large numbers at the PV with his speech.

The Right Honourable Michael Portillo opens
The 118th Annual Exhibition of The Pastel Society 2017
at the Private View on Monday.
On the right is Jeannette Hayes, the new President of the Pastel Society

Exhibition metrics - and the Open Entry

First some numbers for the benefit of those hoping to exhibit at future exhibitions.

There are 271 works in the exhibition

So far as the OPEN ENTRY is concerned..

OPEN ENTRY: 785 works were submitted by non-members for this Open Exhibition
  • 100 artworks selected from the open entry by 69 non-members
  • The ratio of members' work to non-members is 63:37 
  • The average number of paintings per non-member artist selected is 1.4.  
    • A number have two works selected
    • Those who are serious contenders to become full members have 3 or 4 works selected meaning that the majority of exhibiting non-members only have 1 artwork selected.
  • Open entries selected for exhibition: percentage selected is 12.7%. meaning...
    • Most artists have somewhere between 5-10% chance of getting an individual entry selected - based on fact some artists have 2 or 3 works selected. 
    • (Comparison: RA Summer Exhibition - chance of getting a work selected = 6.2-6.6%)
    • Probably the best way of improving your chances of getting selected is submitting more than one very good artwork in eligible media
I forgot to ask how many entries were received but will do that so I can highlight what percentage of entries were selected for the exhibition. [UPDATE: Now received and added in above]

Changes in the Gallery

The changes in the exhibition are subtle but incrementally they add up to a pleasing change in content.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Interviews with RHS Botanical Art Gold Medallists - from the UK and Europe

At the end of this week, the RHS Botanical Art Show 2017 opens in London in the RHS Lindley Hall.

This post contains interviews with five artists who won RHS Gold Medals for their botanical art in 2016.

I've been writing about the RHS Botanical Art Shows on this blog since 2007. In future, all my reviews about the RHS Botanical Art Shows and interviews with the artists will be on the blog on my dedicated website Botanical Art and Artists. (This has grown traffic fast and now gets two-thirds of the traffic that Making A Mark gets. Also, Alexa's 'similar sites' tool now ranks it as the top website in the world for botanical art!)

You can subscribe get every blog post emailed to you when you Subscribe to Botanical Art & Artists - News by Email

Interviews with RHS Botanical Art Gold Medallists in 2016

Now for the explanation behind this post!

In 2016, there were 13 Gold Medallists and I had to really rethink my normal strategy of including all the interviews with Gold Medallists in one blog post.

After the show, I wrote a number of blog posts about:
Then added their photos and mini-bios to my website pages about Botanical Artists in the UK and Europe and Asia and Australia and Africa....

....and completely FORGOT (I was pooped!) to write up the interviews with the five artists winning Gold Medals who lived in Italy, the Netherlands and the UK! Whoops!

So one year later here it is!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review: The Big Painting Challenge - Episode 2 (Landscapes)

The Big Painting Challenge was out of the studio and down in Hastings for Episode 2 Landscapes, aka as The Big Battle of Painting Hastings.

This is about:
  • what happened next - when the contestants tackled plein air painting
  • the learning points in relation to what mentors advised
  • the learning points in terms of what contestants did
Readers will recall this series of programmes is all about how to Learn, Improve and Grow as an artist.

Review of the landscape paintings after the big painting challenge

The First Challenge

The first test is another Perspective Challenge - they're painting the Pier!
  • this time their challenge involved working outdoors and plein air painting from observation (which always comes as a bit of a shock to those who've never tried it before!)
  • It involves rendering the straight lines and diminishing perspective of Hastings' newly refurbished pier.
The challenges are identified as being about 
  • scale, 
  • perspective and 
  • proportion.
I took one look at the view and dropped my jaw. It's not an easy subject even for experienced painters.

Hastings Pier from the promenade a big plastic tent

The BBC and the judges forgot to identify for viewers that the real challenge was painting plein air!

I really don't know how people can get involved in programmes like this without it occurring to them that it might be a good idea to give themselves a bit of a head start by getting some practice in by trying to paint plein air.

As it happens the weather conditions would have challenged even those with experience.

It was wet and rainy and blustery passed off by one of the tutors as being "a little bit of wind and rain" when clearly even the camera crew were more than a bit challenged by the weather! I wrote down "HORRENDOUS CHALLENGE!"
"Painting plein air has thrown everyone out of their comfort zone - even the camera crew"
The paint appeared to be running off the canvas. I can only conclude they'd been supplied with media which mixed with the amount of moisture in the atmosphere caused the paint to diffuse and disappear. I've actually never seen anything like it.  At one point I wrote down
All their paintings are washing away!
Presumably retiring to a seafront cafe and painting from the window (the perennial sketcher solution) was not an option?

The mentors gave prompts about eyelines and perspective and proportion with reminders to measure size, shapes and angles - and generally indicated that they were looking for a bit of determination to deal with the elements.

Personally I found myself being rather surprised to hear one of the mentors telling one of the painters that he needed to make sure that buildings get lighter as they go away from you - without any explanation as to why.  Clearly the concept of "aerial perspective" didn't make it on to the perspective teaching script - or the idea that this doesn't just apply to buildings.

Angela Watson emerged as a bit of star for this part of the programme. Not only was she very used to it being rainy at the seaside (the only time she ever visited was when the weather was too bad to do anything on the farm) but she also got stuck in and found a unique solution to dealing with the way her paint kept dripping down the canvas. She turned the canvas sideways so the drips then ran horizontally across the canvas. Plus she produced a painting which all three judges like a lot!  I think she's going to do well despite only painting for a year.

Angela gets to grips with her streaks

The Second Big Painting Challenge - Landscapes

The next day, the contestants encounter and experience that well known phenomenon of painting plein air in the UK - four seasons in one day!
  • The location for the day is the pier (did the producers know this is always the most blustery place at the seaside?) and 
  • the challenge is to paint the landscape, architecture and beachfront of Hastings. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How to create a bubble wrap envelope for your framed artwork

I spotted a very useful set of instructions today for two different ways of creating a bubble wrap envelope for your artwork when transporting it to an exhibition.

Last week I had fun and games sat in the National Dining Rooms at the National Gallery last week taking custody of a painting and creating a bubble wrap envelope for it so I could take it home on the tube. All done over the knives and forks and napkins! (Next blog post: "How to make yourself the centre of attention!"). Incidentally, I used the second method!

Anyway - here's the link to the instructions - which have ace diagrams - which could do with being a tad bigger but are perfectly readable

Bubble Wrap Envelope Instructions - New England Society of Botanical Artists

On my home with painting wrapped securely - on my way to the tube
Here's my bubble wrap sandwich - complete with big red buses and lions in Trafalgar square in the background.  It has string tied around it to prevent it coming undone.

I also recommend string bags for carrying packages which are securely packed.

They offer absolutely no protection whatsoever but will change shape for just about any package.

Plus you have no extra weight or substance to carry on your way to the pick-up or going home after the drop-off.

Nor do you have any problems getting a  string bag into e.g. galleries or restaurants (as compared to a suitcase).

Interestingly I walked out of the National Gallery with a picture - and nobody stopped me!

QUESTION: What's your favoured method for transporting artwork when you don't have access to a car.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I'm in the spotlight!

Vuelio recently rated my blog as one of the 10 top art blogs in the UK and has now also done a blog post about me.


As it says
In this spotlight, Katherine chats to us about how she measures the success of her blog, how she likes to work with PRs, and how she uses social media to promote the content on her blog.

Blogger Spotlight Katherine Tyrrell Making A Mark

I'm really not at all used to having two "much larger than I would normally use" photos of myself in a blog post. You can have too much of a good thing! ;)

Can I go back to blogging in my PJs now?

See also Making A Mark is a Top 10 Art Blog in the UK 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: The Big Painting Challenge - Episode 1

I'm going to be doing a review of each episode of BBC's second series of The Big Painting Challenge.  I did this last time with the first series and tried to focus on learning points from what I observed. The aim of my blog posts will be to try and draw out the themes of the episode and identify the things I noticed.
The aim of the series is to help the artists - and by implication the watching audience at home -
  • Learn
  • Improve and
  • Grow as an artist.
I'll also be introducing comments from social media - although frankly I think maybe this programme appeals to an audience that doesn't tweet!  They were certainly very quiet last night.

First episode, first explanation of what happens next!

First Impressions

My first impressions were favourable. They've certainly addressed a number of niggles associated with the last series
  • the artists are allowed to use whatever media they choose - and can bring their own media and kit from home. That gets round some of the nonsense of the last series which was to do with people having to get to grips with an entirely new medium in pretty short order
  • there's more instruction and guidance. This series is going to very obviously have a much higher educational component delivered by the two mentors. There seems to be some sort of conscious effort to replicate the atelier system with a view to 
    • encouraging contestants
    • coaching the artists in fundamental skills - which also provides a more direct benefit to any amateur artists watching
    • pushing them out of their comfort zones in order to realise their inner artist and true potential. (I think it actually takes quite a lot longer than this - but the idea is on the right lines!)
  • the programme is being much more explicit about the criteria that would be used to judge each challenge - this can only be a good thing as that also provides a basis for the audience to develop their ability to make judgements according to those criteria. However judging by last night they could have done with a big card with the criteria stated on it somewhere prominent within each room where the artists were painting!
  • They've changed the format for the challenges. Using the classic three different challenges format as used for the other challenge programmes meant that the last challenge always got squeezed for time. This time the format seems to be:
    • signature challenge
    • mentor tips and techniques session 
    • the painting equivalent of the "showstopper" which now seems to have much more time
  • The artists seem a good mix.  This is their profiles page on the BBC website. There are variable levels of experience and formal art education and tend towards the serious amateur who'd like to do better and the 'just out of art school'. 
    • There appears to be no scope for the series to be won by somebody who had been a professional artist who had become a stay at home Dad as happened rather predictably last time. 
    • I'm not quite sure why television needs to have such an overwhelming obsession with "interesting back stories". It always leaves me thinking that people get chosen for their back story rather than their enthusiasm for art and skill and competence. 
    • One of the contestants, Ruaridh Lever-Hogg is deaf - he has a "voice" who reads his signing and who we never see (which I rather like). He made the very interesting point that losing one of your faculties means the others become more enhanced.  
    • Others have a different perspective about the mix of artists - wanting to see the best of those who applied.
  • I like the introduction of "The Public Gallery" which enables one artist to get a 'pass' to the next round. 
  • They've borrowed the warehouse overlooking the Thames at Wapping - as used by The Great British Sewing Bee.  That should help keep costs under control in contrast to the last programme where every episode was located at a different site around the country

    The First Still Life Challenge

    Quite why this programme insists on having such an odd assortment of totally unrelated objects as a still life is beyond me. It would have been good to see a more considered approach to the objects which could have still offered a challenge in relation to size, shape, colour, texture etc.

    Saturday, February 11, 2017

    Want to buy the catalogue for an art exhibition that has closed?

    The Museum Bookstore is new. It's an online store that specialises in the exhibition catalogues and art books produced by leading museums and galleries across the world.

    I don't know about you but as a dedicated art bookophile, I find myself buying old exhibition catalogues more and more. Especially for those exhibitions I missed or could not get to because they were in another country. This looks to me like the sort of online bookstore a lot of artists are going to be bookmarking.
    We set up Museum Bookstore for art, fashion and design lovers whether they want to read up on an exhibition they are about to visit; read more about an exhibition being held far afield, revisit an old favourite show or just add another beautiful coffee table book to their collection.
    The website gives you the option of:
    At the moment the links are predominantly museums and art galleries in the UK and USA but there are also occasional catalogues from leading French, Austrian, Australian, Dutch, Scandinavian, Spanish museums and doubtless many more.
    Middle of the art books and exhibition catalogue
    They also have a blog - but sadly it lacks images

    The good news is that if you like books, visiting need not be an expensive experience.
    We ship worldwide and delivery is free on orders over £50.00. Like the very best days spent at a museum, we want shopping at Museum Bookstore to be enlightening, surprising and enormously good fun.

    Overall, I'm favourably impressed - and it's getting a bookmark un my art books folder.

    Friday, February 10, 2017

    Works on Paper Art Fair 2017 - review

    The Works on Paper Fair is at the Royal Geographical Society at the top end of Exhibition Road until Sunday 12th February.

    RECOMMENDED: I visited yesterday and enjoyed seeing a range of watercolours, drawings and prints - on paper. In fact the best bit of the show is the sheer variety of works on display.  It makes a change from some of the other exhibitions I cover!

    The Fair is organised in a series of rooms with each exhibitor having a decent sized stand. It's busy without being silly - although whether it's probable it will get busier at the weekend. There were a lot of people arriving after work last night to take advantage of the fact it went through to 9pm!

    The Long Gallery had a diverse bunch of exhibitors

    The Pavilion  provides a taster - some of the stands provide a sample artwork

    The Hall - where a number of more traditional works can be found
    The works on show range from
    • very traditional - and old - watercolours by past masters who include David Cox, Alexander and John Robert Cozens, Gainsborough, Samuel Palmer, Francis Towne, Thomas Girtin, J.M.W. Turner and Edward Lear in the display of a number of fine watercolours which form part of the collection of Eton College 
    • traditional watercolours by a variety of watercolour artists on various stands. I spotted some watercolours by the famous Lakeland painter Alfred Heaton Cooper including one impressive one of a view in Norway.
    • contemporary prints by Japanese artists using a variety of methods
    • it was a joy to see a painting by the late Leslie Worth Past President of the RWS who died in 2009. I'd be ecstatic of I saw works like this in their exhibitions now. The thing is when you rate an artist and then they die is you can never ever be certain when you will see their paintings again - so it was wonderful to see this one
    Early morning at Budleigh Salterton by Leslie Worth (£1,500)
    Exhibited by Charles Nugent
    • Ilaria Rosselli del Turco is exhibiting a monotype of a seated figure on the Fine Art Consultancy stand - alongside prints by Frink and William Scott
    Ilaria Rosselli del Turco and Seated Figure (monotype)
    • There were a number of pencil drawings by artists in the show. Examples included (see photos below)
    Coloured pencil drawings of birds by Alan Woollett
    on the Francis Iles Gallery stand

    Hall Garden Artichoke (July 2015 to July 2016)
    graphite and charcoal on paper 59x42cm
    I liked the mini exhibition of Luke Elwes paintings being shown by Karen Taylor Fine Art

    Luke Elwes - an oasis of a small collection of art by the same artist
    Two of my favourite artists who paint plants are also exhibiting at the show

    Rosie Sanders has a stunning and luminous watercolour painting on a full sheet of paper on the Coombe Gallery stand.  I tried but couldn't find a way to eliminate the lights!  Rosie had a book published of her paintings last year - which I got as one of my Christmas Presents and it's a great dose of colour for the middle of winter!

    Watercolour and charcoal, 77 x 102 cm
    and finally, I came across a taster of a solo show which is coming up at the Abbott and Holder Gallery opposite the British Museum later this month. My friend Jess Shepherd has been painting leaves for a long time and has created more than enough for her first solo exhibition - called Leafscape. Suffice to say there's enough interest in her work that those who have expressed interest in buying at the Private View - where selling starts at 6pm - are now being given tickets and forming an orderly queue!  Always good to hear!

    Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa bignonioides). Belicena, Granada, Spain by Jess Shepherd 
    Watercolour on 100% cotton rag paper, ​76 x 56cm

    Wednesday, February 08, 2017

    Australia's Impressionists at the National Gallery - review

    Yesterday morning I visited the Australian Impressionists exhibition at the National Gallery in London and I'd certainly recommend a visit to this small but stimulating exhibition. On the basis you can only really give 5 stars to a blockbuster of an exhibition, then I'd give this one 4 stars and would certainly recommend it as an exhibition every serious landscape painter should try and see. Certainly all those who paint plein air should make a pilgrimage!

    At the end of this review are links to more reviews if you'd like a wider perspective and other views as to whether it's worth making the trip up to London to see it.

    Golden Summer, Eaglemont, 1889 by Arthur Streeton
    Oil on canvas, 81.3 × 152.6
    © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
    Interestingly not all of the painters are Australian by birth -- two were born in England - and not all of the Australian Impressionist paintings are of Australia - some are of France. Of which more below!

    However if, like me, you are one of those people who like buying a catalogue for exhibitions you enjoy I wouldn't bother visiting for the next 2-3 weeks or so.  That's because the exhibition catalogue sold out under 9 weeks of it opening - and with another 9 weeks to go before it closes (on 26th March 2017)!  I gather that the catalogue is currently being reprinted but won't be back in stock until at least 20th February.

    It's actually a very good catalogue so worth the wait. I trotted across to the art section in Waterstones in Trafalgar Square in the hope they might still have one and was rewarded with a copy! (Along with two more books but that's another story!)

    I can only assume "somebody" vastly underestimated how many catalogues would be required for this exhibition!  Which is a great pity as the Gallery won't make back those lost sales over a month or more of visitors and no catalogues!  Not a very smart move from whoever is responsible for the merchandising of this exhibition.

    I'd also love to show you how the paintings in this exhibition look so much better than the very same paintings that I saw at the Australia exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts back in 2013 (see my review 'Australia' Exhibition at the Royal Academy - review). I'd love to show the contrast but unfortunately I was not allowed to take any gallery view photographs!

    (Quite why Galleries invite people hoping to stimulate a review - and then say you can't take photographs(!!!) I'm really not sure. It's also somewhat annoying as as I found out later that videos of the exhibition and the paintings are already on YouTube!).

    Gallery 4: Australian Impressionism
    'Australia' at the Royal Academy - 21 September 2013 to 8 December 2013
    The RA exhibition was when I saw Arthur Streeton's paintings for the first time 'for real' although I'd known about him and his paintings for quite some time.

    In my opinion the paintings look so much better at the National Gallery against very neutral stone coloured walls (rather than the Hex #666666 Grey colour at the RA).  The background in this exhibition is a very Australian outback colour - it's the colour of dust and stone - and hence the paintings somehow manage to look more real. The blue glows even more and the stone colour unites the spaces inbetween the paintings and you very much get that sense of endless landscape which is very prevalent in Australia - it just goes on and on forever. (I've driven through landscapes in Australia similar to these albeit north of Sydney rather than south). 

    Anyway - on to my image-heavy review.  You can also see a list of reviews by other people at the end if you're unsure on whether to make the trip to the National Gallery.

    The Exhibition

    There aren't a lot of paintings in the show - just 41 in total. The exhibition is being held in the Sunley Room which is the exhibition gallery in the centre of the National Gallery usually used for the small/medium sized exhibitions.

    I gather this exhibition was triggered by the loan of an Arthur Streeton painting of Blue Pacific - to the National Gallery - one of the first paintings exhibited at the Gallery outside the hitherto normal scope of Western European painters. I know I spotted this last year and was struck by how it positively glowed on the wall of the Impressionist Gallery (I recognised the penetratingly blue blue used by Streeton!)  It's supposed to be painted at Coogee - so I checked and today the area where the people are standing is quite clearly fenced off for their safety!

    Blue Pacific, 1890 by Arthur Streeton
    Oil on canvas 91.4 × 50.8 cm
    Private collection © Courtesy of the owner
    The idea behind this exhibition was to have more paintings by Australian Impressionists and I think probably to warm up the walls in winter by having some paintings of sunnier climes on the walls! The exhibition was put together in a very short space of time - in collaboration with Art Gallery of New South Wales.

    It has three themes and four painters.  The four major Australian Impressionists (with my comments) in effect the equivalent of Canada's Group of Seven (see my review of Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven - Review)

    Tuesday, February 07, 2017

    Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize 2017 - Call for Entries

    Any artist can enter a self-portrait for the £10,000 Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize - and you don't have to be a portrait artist to enter!

    The Call for Entries for the Fourth Biennial of this Prize has been published and the deadline for entries is 12 April 2017.

    I've summarised the prize below. More details can be found on the website (see above links).

    Features of the Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize

    View of the 2015 Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize 2015 Exhibition at Piano Nobile

    Eligible artists

    You must MUST live and work in the UK or Ireland.
    • an amateur or professional artist - but you don't have to be a portrait artist
    • any age. There is no age restriction.
    The exciting thing about the prize is that it is open to all kinds of artists, not just portraitists. In fact it brings together a wide range of diverse artists of all ages and experience, who briefly, inquisitively, turn their eye upon themselves. We often find the majority of entrants have never even painted a portrait before, let alone one of themselves. Subject and object become one and the same, seeing and being seen in a moment of revelation and self-reflection – it’s fascinating. In 2015 we saw a thousand entries and we are hopeful we can build on that in 2017Dr Robert Travers, Director of Piano Nobile
    • you will be asked to share about yourself and your art

    Eligible self-portrait

    Works must be a self-portrait of the artist, but this may be alone or as part of a group, from life, from memory, from a photograph, figurative or abstract.
    The work can be in any recognised medium and any size.
    • Eligible media: drawing, painting, watercolour, print, collage, photo-collage, mixed media, and low-relief sculpture and construction.
    • NOT Eligible: Pure photography, stand-alone sculpture, and moving image works 
    • There are no restrictions on size - how very large works would be difficult to accommodate (i.e. use your common sense - go big and you start limiting your chances of being selected because you have to be better than several other artists who merit selection!)
    • Multi-part works, i.e. works in the form of a diptych or triptych etc., are eligible and will be regarded as one work.
    • there needs to be a label on the reverse stating your full name, the title of the piece and the date of the work as a minimum.
    • Works entered must have been created post-2000.
    • All works must be for sale and include the gallery’s 50% commission in the sale price.
    Works may be signed, but do not need to be signed.

    How to Enter

    There is no cap on the number of entrants.

    You can enter ONE ARTWORK ONLY.

    Submissions will:
    • be online via registration on the Ruth Borchard website
    • open on 1st February 2017 
    • close at midday on 12th April 2017
    • For the initial stage you will be asked to upload
      • a short biography to a maximum of 1,000 characters, and 
      • a PDF of your CV maximum 2-pages.
      • one photograph of your self-portrait in .jpeg, .png or .gif format (maximum file size: 5MB) - plus details of dimensions. Selection is based solely on the digital image.
    If the photograph does not show the whole work then the work will not be considered for the Prize.
      • images of two other recent works to support your application (to enable a fuller appreciation of your practice).  File format and file size as for the self-portrait.
      • contact information, including your website if relevant.
    The administration fee is £25 and will be payable at the end of the submission process. (Note this prize is run by a charitable institution).


    selection for the exhibition will be based on the digital photograph, therefore it is in the interest of the artist to upload a good quality photograph.
    120 artists will be selected for the exhibition. From these, a selection of works will be purchased for the Next Generation Collection. There is no upper limit for the number of works purchased – this is entirely dependent on the quality of works submitted.

    The winner of the £10,000 Prize in 2015 was
    Shanti Panchal

    with his painting Artist and the Lost Studio
    Judging will take place on Monday 8th May 2017. The finalists and winner will be selected by a prestigious panel of judges:
    • Alistair Sooke - deputy art critic of The Daily Telegraph; one of Britain's leading arts journalists and broadcasters (with the BBC)
    • Shanti Panchal - 2015 Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize winner 
    • Charlotte Mullins - art critic, writer and broadcaster
    • Richard Borchard (Ruth’s son), and 
    • Marilyn Scott, Director of the Lightbox, Woking (the 2017 Museum Partner for the Prize).
    During the judging, the panel will award the £10,000 cash first prize - and the Winner will be notified prior to the opening.

    Artists will be notified on Wednesday 26th of April whether or not their work has been selected for the exhibition.

    Entrants whose work is selected for the Piano Nobile Kings Place exhibition will be required to send or bring their work to Kings Place, Kings Cross, London, between 10am and 5pm on Friday 5th May or 11am and 4pm on Saturday 6th May 2017.

    Prizewinners to date

    The past prizewinners are:

    Both Thomas Newbolt and Shanti Panchal are represented by the Piano Nobile Gallery. Celia Paul is represented by the Victoria Miro Gallery.


    All one-hundred and twenty works will be hung, and the exhibition will be free and open to the public.

    The Ruth Borchard Prize 2017 exhibition will be held at Piano Nobile Kings Place from Friday 18th May to Friday 22nd September 2017 (You can see images of the 2015 exhibition on the website - it looks a splendid place for an exhibition). There will be a Private View opening event on Thursday 17th May.

    You can also see the ‘Ruth Borchard Collection: Artists’ Self-Portraits’ in an exhibition at The Lightbox gallery and museum between from 25 March until 25 June 2017. This will present displaying one hundred self-portraits by significant modern British artists such as Michael Ayrton, Cecil Collins, Roger Hilton, Ithell Colquhoun and Carel Weight.

    The Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Collection

    Read more about the collections on the website

    Facts about The Ruth Borchard Collection:
    • the UK’s only public collection of self-portraits by British and Irish artists
    • a life-long project of Ruth Borchard (1910-2000). Between 1958 and 1971, Borchard collected one hundred self-portraits by British, Irish and British-based artists.  She set a ceiling of 21 guineas for any one picture.
    • 168 works currently in the collection which continues to grow.  
    • It includes works by Michael Ayrton, Roger Hilton, Anne Redpath, Keith Vaughan, Jean Cooke and Patrick Procktor.
    The biennial Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize was launched in 2011 and The Ruth Borchard Next Generation Collection were launched by her son in 2011 in partnership with Dr Robert Travers, Director of Piano Nobile.
    You can see more about past exhibitions - and the works selected for exhibition - on the website

    The Next Generation Collection currently consists of 68 self-portraits by contemporary British and Irish artists, including Maggi Hambling, Anthony Eyton, Celia Paul, Tony Bevan and Thomas Newbolt.  The exhibition also tours.


    Saturday, February 04, 2017

    How to stop spam comments on specific Blogger posts

    This is tip for how to stop frequent attempts by spammers to post a spam comment to specific blog posts on a Blogger blog.
    • This is NOT how to stop spam comments from appearing. I can do that very easily through the use of moderation of all comments
    • What this post addresses is the utter tedium of having to keep reviewing and moderating  spam comments!
    I noticed that very many of these spam comments tended to arise on the same blog posts.

    • I've published 3,220 to date but it's only a few which attract spam comments.
    • The trigger seems to be if you use a particular keywords that people want to get links for AND that post has been popular AND it has had a lot of traffic.

    The saddos who don't realise that all Blogger comments are automatically "no follow" (i.e. they cannot add weight to somebody else's website) all target these posts - which is why I ended up moderating endless spam comments each day.

    (The 2005 blog post by Google below outlines their solution to the comment spam problem - which was subsequently implemented on Blogger)
    If you're a blogger (or a blog reader), you're painfully familiar with people who try to raise their own websites' search engine rankings by submitting linked blog comments like "Visit my discount pharmaceuticals site." This is called comment spam, we don't like it either, and we've been testing a new tag that blocks it. From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel="nofollow") on hyperlinks, those links won't get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. This isn't a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it's just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.
    Preventing comment spam (January 18, 2005) | Official Google Blog
    I got so frustrated at one point with the endless stream that I needed to review that I just turned off ALL comments by anybody at all.

    That was before I found out how to switch off comments for specific blog posts.

    How to stop spam comments on specific Blogger posts

    All you need to do is change on setting for individual blog posts.

    This is my choices under the Options menu on the right side of a blog post window.   (That's the one at the bottom - underneath the bit where you insert the "search description"

    Blogger options
    In order to stop spammer comments on specific posts you need to change the option for Reader comments so it looks like this (see below).

    In other words, you don't allow any more comments at all on that post - but you do allow your existing moderated comments to continue to appear.

    I also include a comment before I make the change stating "COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG POST HAVE BEEN SWITCHED OFF DUE TO ABUSE BY SPAMMERS".

    It's not obvious that the commenting function has been switched off for that post - until you click comments and try to post one.

    That's when you get a message - New comments have been disabled for this post

    What the spammer sees when they try to leave a comment
    What happens now is if I get a spam comment, I look at the blog post and try and recall whether it's attracted other spam comments in the past. If it has then I go to the blog post and change the comment settings for that one specific post to "Don't allow". That way there will be no more spam comments generated by that post.

    The new strategy seems to be working so far. Spam comments are much reduced.