Friday, April 14, 2017

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2017 - Call for Entries

This is my annual post about the Call for Entries for the 30th Sunday Times Watercolour Competition. For the 2017 competition, you will find below:
  • a summary of the process
  • tips for those thinking of entering this prestigious watercolour competition; and
  • plus links to all the blog posts I've written in previous years about the exhibition, who won prizes and who got selected - and their websites!

The Call for Entries - Process and Key Points

this competition aims to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the genre of watercolour painting.
This post provides an overview of the whole process plus key details relating to
  • key points you need to know - and not forget!
  • who can enter
  • what you can enter
  • how to enter
  • the time table
  • the prizes
  • the judges
  • the exhibition
For those who know the STWC of old the most important change this year is that Smith & Williamson appear to have pulled their sponsorship - so no prize for cityscapes and no additional tour to other venues in the UK - which is very sad.

Winners Wall in the 2016 Sunday Times Watercolour Competition

What you really need to know

The judges will be looking for work that makes the most imaginative or otherwise impressive use of a water-based medium.
  • The deadline for submissions 5pm, 26th June 2017. 
  • Open to all artists painting in watercolour who currently live (legally) in the UK
  • Entry for the 2017 competition is digital and ONLINE.
  • up to 4 artworks can be submitted @£15 per work entered
  • Your digital file for submission needs to be 300 dpi with a jpeg, tif or png file size of 500kb or less
  • You'll find out on 4 July 2017, via email, whether or not you have been selected for the final judging in front of the selection panel.
  • You only submit your watercolour if you're shortlisted. You need to deliver work to London on 14th or 15th July 2017
  • This is the official website. Plus these are the rules
  • The top prize is £10,000 BUT the prize pot has been cut (details below). 
  • It's unclear whether there is going to be a tour this year

  • You review the images from past exhibitions (see blog posts reviewing past SWC exhibitions at the end of this post)
  • you review the Facebook Page for the competition - which demonstrates the diversity of ways in which watercolour can be used 
  • Have a go and enter two works
  • The cost relative to the achievement and the experience is negligible
This gives you a sense of size of the artwork selected last year

Eligible artists - who can enter

  • The competition is open to all artists born or currently resident in the UK (i.e. you don't have to be a British citizen). 
  • There are no age limits for artists wishing to enter.

What you can enter

Eligible media includes:
  • any water-based media
  • this includes acrylic, inks and gouache (note it does NOT state that watersoluble oil paint is acceptable!)
This is a very popular competition with the public and they're expecting to see lots of "proper watercolour" paintings.

Certainly, it's my expectation that the final selection will include water-based media - other than traditional watercolour paint. However, I would also expect that it will be exceptional and it will not dominate. However, that's just my take on it.

Eligible paintings MUST be:
  • work carried out in the last three years ie dated 2014 or later
  • the sole and original work of the entrant
  • the entrant’s original composition
  • not bigger than 122cm, in its largest dimension including frame
  • securely framed and behind glass. (Metal, plastic or clip frames are not allowed)
  • available until the end of April 2018 if selected for exhibition (by which I assume the organisers are still trying to get a sponsor for a tour (not yet identified) - otherwise you'll get your work back sooner)
The small works wall in the 2016 Sunday Times Watercolour Competition

The process 

There are two rounds prior to the exhibition. (My understanding - and I am happy to be corrected - is that the judges don't actually get involved until the second round).
  • The first round involves you submitting a digital image by 5pm on 26 July 2017. 
    • There is then a sift and sort selection process (mainly to eliminate those lacking skill and/or originality) to produce a list of works which need to be seen in person by the Judges. 
    • Hence the digital image must be top quality and NOT misrepresent your painting - otherwise it will get instantly rejected in Round 2.
  • If you are selected, you will be notified by 4th July and supplied with forms to complete and labels to attach to your painting which you must then bring or send (List of Regional Carriers pdf file) to arrive at Carlton House Terrace in London on 14th or 15th  July 2017 (10am-5pm) 
  • The second round is judging by the Panel of Judges. 
    • You need at this stage to avoid giving judges a reason to reject your work due to bad presentation or inappropriate framing e.g. a frame which will drown other work. 
    • My advice would use a neutral frame rather than one which is loud
  • If you are not selected for exhibition - paintings will be available for collection on 21 & 22 July 2017 (10am-5pm)
  • The Exhibition will select a maximum of 100 paintings. 
    • The number is partly dependent on the size of those selected. 
    • If they select bigger works then they may well need to reduce the number hung.  (Note last year they only hung 75 paintings - a reduction of 25% on the estimated number in the call for entries)
BIG TIP: Very often some artists have more than one work selected so it's generally less that 100 artists - which is why it's worth submitting two works - because if they like your work they might take two!

Interestingly - having reviewed again the artists who got two works selected last year - most of them were 'abstract' / pushed the boundaries' of what watercolour media is used for.

That suggests to me that either the judges were biased towards this type of work or most of the work submitted was more traditional. However, the judges will hear very loud howls from the public if they go too far down the "contemporary abstract" as opposed to looking for those who exploit what watercolour can do within a figurative context.

2017 Timeline

  • 26 June 2017 - Deadline for online entries, by 5pm
Shortlist Selection / Delivery / Collection
  • 4 July 2017 - Email to artists - advising of the outcome of the initial review of works entered 
  • 14-15 July 2017 - c. 250 Shortlisted artists must deliver artworks to FBA (on these dates)
  • 18 July 2017 - Email to artists - advising whether their art has been selected for the exhibition or must be collected
  • 21-22 July 2017 - 150+ artists need to arrange to pick up short listed works that were not selected for exhibition. Available for collection at FBA, 10am-5pm
  • 19 - 24 September 2017 Exhibition at Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1 10am-5pm

Selection and Judges Panel 2017

The 2017 judging panel comprises:
To be honest I'd like to see a more prominent presence by leading individuals in the field of watercolour (i.e, people who paint in watercolour who major in exhibitions by those who paint in watercolour - and by that I don't mean people who use acrylic to look like oil painting!).  

The only two with street cred in this respect on this year's panel are last year's winner and the man who used to look after the Turner Watercolours. There are galleries which major in works on paper and watercolours - but the Long and Ryle Gallery is not one of them. Work your way through the artists they represent to see what I mean.


The First Prize is £10,000 - and that's about it in terms of serious cash that's been announced so far.

Other prizes include:
  • the Jackson’s Young Artist Award worth £500 (they don't define Young Artist - however it's usually under 30); and 
  • the St Cuthberts Mill Prize for an outstanding work on paper. (no indication what the prize is)
In this 30th year, for those with a history of entering or thinking about, you need to note that there is
  • No Second Prize (it used to be £6,000)
  • No Smith & Williamson Cityscape Prize of £1,500. This is the first year without one so it probably means fewer architectural paintings and urban landscapes
  • No Cover Prize (that went in 2015)
  • The announcement of the prizewinners usually happens in advance of the exhibition in the Culture section of the Sunday Times towards the end of August.

The Exhibition

The exhibition for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition is at the Mall Galleries, London from 19 - 24 September 2017 (Admission is FREE)

Note the exhibition is one day less compared to last year and there is no tour to other places.

More posts about the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition on Making A Mark

In the coming weeks prior to the exhibition, I aim to write more posts about:
  • the selected artists + their websites (please send me an image of your work if you get selected and would like it appear in my post - which gets a huge audience!)
  • the prizewinners
  • a review of the exhibition once it's open.

Past Years

I've been covering this competition for some years. If you'd like to read and view images from the competition and exhibition in previous years..........


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