Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thomas Girtin: The Art of Watercolour

Thomas Girtin: The Art of Watercolour was an exhibition held at Tate Britain in 2002 (4 July - 29th September 2002). It was the exhibition that inspired David Hockney to take up watercolour after he had previously dismissed watercolour as "wishy washy" and "only suitable for Sunday painters".  Not because it was a brilliant exhibition (it wasn't - it had some critics) but because it showed Hockney some of the sublime paintings which really demonstrate what can be done with watercolour.

(see my previous post About David Hockney and Watercolour about what he did after he changed his mind! )

Just so that we know what we're missing when watercolour exhibitions lack an emphasis on traditional 'pure' watercolour paint, this post will provide access to
  • what was said about the exhibition 
  • paintings by Girtin in the Tate's collection.
Thomas Girtin was born in London in 1775, the same year as J.M.W. Turner, and died in 1802, at the age of twenty-seven. The art of watercolour was transformed during Girtin's brief life. This was especially marked in landscape watercolours, which grew in scale and ambition. Led by Girtin and Turner, watercolourists abandoned careful stained drawings for a more dramatic style of painting that captured moods and a range of light and weather effects. Not everyone welcomed the rapid technical changes, especially as revolution and war threatened the established political order. For a brief period, however, watercolour painting was the epitome of modern art, and the landscapes of Girtin and Turner were welcomed as a national triumph.

Thomas Girtin: The Art of Watercolour: Room guide

The following are introductions to the rooms within the exhibition:

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland c.1797–9 by Thomas Girtin

Thomas Girtin - Dover - Google Art Project
Dover by Thomas Girton
Yale Center for British Art

The White House at Chelsea (1800) by Thoms Girtin

What we need to be focusing on - in art competitions and open exhibitions which "say" they are about watercolour - is finding people who can have the same impact on the overall direction of contemporary art using traditional watercolour paint.

Otherwise traditional watercolour paint will just go back to being the medium that is not well regarded by those who think they know better!

...and that would not only be ignorant - it would also be a big mistake.

263 artworks by Thomas Girtin 

The Tate has 264 drawings and paintings by Thomas Girtin in its collection and most of them are watercolours.

The most famous is 'The White House at Chelsea' (see above) where the focus of the painting is left unpainted
According to an anecdote, 'A dealer went one day to Turner, and after looking round at all his drawings in the room, had the audacity to say, "I have a drawing out there in my hackney coach, finer than any of yours".Turner bit his lip, looked first angry, then meditative. At length he broke silence: "Then I tell you what it is. You have got Tom Girtin's White House at Chelsea' ".


Monday, August 28, 2017

About David Hockney and Watercolour

"With watercolour, you can't cover up the marks. There's the story of the construction of the picture, and then the picture might tell another story as well."
David Hockney
David Hockney doesn't call 'acrylic paint' watercolour! He reserves this term for 'proper watercolour paints'.

As one of the early and leading 20th century painters in acrylics he knows the difference - and the difference in the challenges they pose for the painter!

Hockney once condemned watercolour as a medium for painting - calling it "wishywashy" and "suitable only for Sunday painters".

However he changed his mind and was inspired to start painting in watercolour after seeing an exhibition about Thomas Girtin at Tate Britain in 2002. (see tomorrow's post)
The artist got his inspiration for making watercolours after visiting an exhibition of the French watercolour artist Thomas Girtin, who died in 1825 aged 27. He said he had to learn a new way of painting but found watercolour could capture scenes even a photographer could not do justice to.Hockney shows off his wishy washy watercolours | The Independent (2003)
In 2002 - Hockney painted a series of five double portraits in watercolour
Hockney, 64, has not called the paintings watercolours however - the title of the exhibition is Paintings On Paper. They measure 4ft by 3ft and were made using four pieces of paper, with Hockney painting them in sittings of seven hours, with no initial sketches.Hockney unveils first watercolours | BBC
In 2003 - Five Double Portraits: New work by David Hockney - painted using watercolour were exhibited in Room 40 at the National Portrait Gallery (16 January - 29 June 2003).
Hockney has long been interested in the dynamics of the double portrait. In search of a contemporary approach, Hockney began exploring watercolour further earlier this year and found its immediacy and fluidity lent itself to producing portraits directly from life. Painted on a large-scale on four watercolour tablets, each portrait was produced in one seven-hour sitting.
In 2003 - He also experimented with doing large watercolour paintings of the interior of his home and garden on multiple sheets of paper - see his website.

In 2004 - he was painting the Andalusia Mosque in Cordoba in watercolour - see his website.
David Hockney Midsummer: East Yorkshire 2004
In 2005 - he had an exhibition of watercolours he had painted in Yorkshire (see the video above) - David Hockney Midsummer: East Yorkshire 2004 Somerset House, London (17th November 2005 - 19th February 2006). Also exhibited in California as David Hockney Hand Eye Heart - Watercolors of the East Yorkshire Landscape LA Louver, Venice, California 26 February - 2 April 2005. I'm going to be ordering the pack of 36 postcards of the paintings from the Salt Mills Gallery!
When he was painting Midsummer: East Yorkshire, David Hockney worked in pre-mixed colour so he could work as fast as possible, and didn’t allow himself the comfort of any underdrawing in pencil. The result has a fresh and vivid beauty.
One visitor commented
Some years ago now I visited the Courtauld Gallery to see thirty six watercolours on paper by David Hockney. They were called Midsummer East Yorkshire 2004. I grew up a few miles from Woldgate woods, have driven over the Yorkshire Wolds countless times, and have lived a few miles down the road from Bridlington where Hockney now paints since the late 1980’s. It was the first time that I had seen the Yorkshire countryside that I knew and understood reflected back to me. No stone walls, no peaks, no sheep, no drama. I sat there in the middle of a London gallery and felt at home.Patricia Rogers

A reviewer for the The Telegraph commented in Hockney strolls down memory lane
You cannot deny them their skill. An accompanying film shows Hockney was using pots of pre-mixed colour, dabbing his brush in little inkpots, in order to work as fast as possible. With no pencil underdrawing, there is no room for mistake. There is one painting he had to abandon because it started raining - you can see the raindrops in the washes of green and grey he had been able to get down.

The sense of immediacy is total, and breathtaking: a refreshing contrast to the stiller, less effervescent oils he did of Yorkshire in the 1990s. Another unfinished work shows the silhouette of a combine harvester above two glorious streaks of golden corn and a flurry of grasses beneath. It makes you wish that other lover of golden cornfields, Van Gogh, had done more watercolours: they might have lightened his heart.
Of course not everyone liked them - this is a rather hysterical article by the art reviewer of the Social Affairs Unit - whatever that is!

In 2006 - Hockney
  • curated an exhibition of Turner watercolours at the Tate - see Hockney on Turner Watercolours - and I went to see it and wrote a couple of blog posts about it (see below)
  • had an exhibition "David Hockney Portraits - Life Love Art" at the National Portrait Gallery which included watercolour portraits
In 2012 - he exhibited another series of watercolour paintings of Yorkshire in A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy.

I doubt if Hockney will ever stop painting in 'proper' watercolour - because of its unique properties.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

What does "watercolour" mean to you?

This is about the meaning of "watercolour" - the word. What does it mean to you?

Back in 2009 I did a very long blog post about the topic of What is watercolour? 

It's worth a read for anybody who is interested in this topic and a re-read for anybody who read it when it was first published.

Note in particular the Tate Glossary definition and what it means....

I'm reminded of it today having seen the painting that has won the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition which, we should all note, is NOT called the Sunday Times Water-Based Media Competition.

Below I've added in a few more definitions of watercolour - and paintings by artists who are truly skilled in the use of watercolours.

Corfu - lights and shadows by John Singer Sargent

Definitions of "watercolour"

Below you can find a number of definitions of 'watercolour'. The link to the source of the definition is in the name of the source

Oxford Dictionary

Artists' paint made with a water-soluble binder such as gum arabic, and thinned with water rather than oil, giving a transparent colour.
A picture painted with watercolours.
The art of painting with watercolours, especially using a technique of producing paler colours by diluting rather than by adding white.

Collins Dictionary

noun (usually plural)Also called : pure watercolour
  • water-soluble pigment, applied in transparent washes and without the admixture of white pigment in the lighter tones
  • any water-soluble pigment, including opaque kinds such as gouache and tempera
a painting done in watercolours
  • (as modifier) a watercolour masterpiece
the art or technique of painting with such pigments
The Hare (1502) by Albrecht DurerWatercolor and body color, heightened with white body color
Google (search query - definition of "watercolour")
nounartists' paint made with a water-soluble binder such as gum arabic, and thinned with water rather than oil, giving a transparent colour.
"a self-portrait in watercolour"
a picture painted with watercolours.the art of painting with watercolours, especially using a technique of producing paler colours by diluting rather than by adding white.


Watercolor (American English) or watercolour (British English; see spelling differences), also aquarelle (French loanword), a diminutive of the Latin for water, is a painting method in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-based solution. Watercolor refers to both the medium and the resulting artwork.
Note that at no point does anybody mention the word "polymer" .  
(Yes, you are right I am very definitely NOT a fan of acrylic masquerading as watercolour - or oil for that matter!)
Watercolour sketch of the Burning of the Houses of Parliament by JMW Turner

Discussion of Watercolour

Plus do have a read of this article Watercolour - Review by Laura Cumming in The Observer back in 2011.

What do you think?

What does "watercolour" mean to you?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bernard Dunstan RA PPRWA NEAC (1920 - 2017)

Bernard Dunstan RA, PPRWA, NEAC, the longest serving Royal Academician, has died at the age of 97.

Bernard Dunstan - filmed painting in 2016 - see video below

Timeline of A Life in Art

  • 1920 - Born in Teddington on 19 January 
  • Went to School at St Paul's
  • 1939 - Studied at Byam Shaw School of Art 
  • 1939-1941 - Studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London
  • 1949 - married  the painter Diana Armfield RA. They lived and worked in Kew, Surrey in adjoining studios.
  • 2017 - He died on Sunday 20 August.
  • He was an art teacher. There are very many artists who have been taught by Bernard Dunstan. He taught at:
    • 1946-1949 - West of England School of Art in Bristol
    • 1950-1964 - Camberwell School of Art from 1950 to 1964
    • 1953-1974 - Byam Shaw School of Art 
    • 1959-1964 - Ravensbourne Art College 
    • 1964-1969 - City and Guilds of London Art School
  • He wrote several books on painting, including 
    • Learning to Paint (1970) and 
    • Painting Methods of the Impressionists (1976). 
Bernard Dunstan cites several painters from the past as influential on his work, particularly French nineteenth century artists such as Renoir, Ingres, Bonnard and Vuillard. English painters that have interested him include Constable, Turner, Walter Sickert and Wilson Steer.RWA website profile
  • He painted constantly and regularly exhibited his art (see below for links) with:
    • 1952 to 1970 - Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London 
    • 1972 - to present - Agnew’s, London
    • 1981 - present - Stremmel Gallery, Reno, Nevada, USA 
    • annually in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and the New English Art Club
Some of his paintings
  • A huge number of his paintings are in very many private collections.  Whenever I saw his work at exhibitions they had frequently already acquired a red spot! He has work in many public collections including
    • Royal Collection, Windsor
    • Aberdeen Art Gallery
    • Arts Council
    • Bristol Art Gallery
    • Museum of London
    • National Gallery of New Zealand
    • National Portrait Gallery
    • Plymouth Art Gallery
    • Rochdale Art Gallery
In Jeffrey Archer's novel 'Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less' (1976), the villain, Harvey Metcalfe, is an admirer of Dunstan's work: ‘Harvey made a special point of looking at the Bernard Dunstans in the [Royal Academy Summer] Exhibition. Of course, they were all sold. Dunstan was one of the artists whose pictures always sold in the first minutes of the opening day.’ Art UK website
  • In terms of honours and recognition:
    • 1947 - elected member of the New English Art Club
    • 24 April 1959 - elected Associate of the Royal Academy
    • 9 July 1968 - elected Royal Academician - in the Painter category
    • 1979 to 1984 - President of the Royal West of England Academy. 
I own a book called The Paintings of Bernard Dunstan which includes works from the 1940s to 1991. It's one of those I get out when in need of a bit of inspiration!  I'm also a huge fan of his annotated notes version of John Ruskin's 'The Elements of Drawing'.

The video of Bernard Dunstan and Diana Armfield below was made in 2016 to celebrate 65 years of painting alongside one another.  Diana is the talker, Bernard is the very quiet man in the other studio.

Painting their life: Diana Armfield and Bernard Dunstan from Royal Academy of Arts on Vimeo.
Married Royal Academicians Diana Armfield and Bernard Dunstan have been painting alongside each other for 65 years. What’s the secret to the success of their long partnership? Diana Armfield tells us about a life of shared creativity, compromise, and mutual support.

This is an interview Out to lunch: Bernard Dunstan and Diana Armfield in 2006 - archived via the Wayback Machine as the RA has unfortunately removed it from its website.
Each morning since they married over 50 years ago has begun with Bernard doing a quick nude drawing of Diana: ‘It keeps my mind active,’ he smiles.
His method of working is described on the NEAC website as follows.
Bernard Dunstan painted from direct observation, studio work, from oil sketches and drawings of one kind or another, all his painting life, employing imagination and improvisation as the work seemed to demand. For his musical subjects, he was able, for many years, to attend orchestra rehearsals to make many sketchbook notes; working from these to form the basis of paintings. Some works carried straight through; others went through many stages and even many years. He used a full palette. He worked mostly on pieces of primed and toned board of his own making, the primer being rabbit skin size with chalk. Bernard spent time sitting on his sofa contemplating his work. "This is good for the painting!" he said
The Evening Standard review of the RA Summer Exhibition in 2013 remarked
Academicians are represented by work so far from their past best that all appear to be in rapid decline; among them, only Diana Armfield and Bernard Dunstan can still claim to be on form with their subtle observations of landscape and still life, small, sympathetic, exquisite.
You can see Bernard Dunstan (age 67) talking about being one of the RA Selectors in this 1987 video of the RA Summer Exhibition submission process

You can see his paintings - many of which are paintings of the nude (many of which are of his wife) - on the following sites
I'll finish with Felicity House's tribute to him which alerted me to his death
I was very sorry to learn that one of our best loved figurative artists Bernard Dunstan has died - he was a wonderful painter and terrifically generous in sharing his skill of making paintings through numerous art magazine articles and his wonderful books - which are so worth reading. Bernard painted his wife Diana Armfield every day - so there are many but I'm happy to have one of these - a pastel drawing on watercolour wash . It was my good fortune to win this back in 1999 when I purchased an RWA fund raising draw ticket - this photographic image is not so good as its under glass but I enjoy looking at it every day. A generous artist in every respect - he leaves much to us all.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Is your art organisation or business ready for GDPR - the replacement of the Data Protection Act?

HEADS UP! Next year, on 25 May 2018, a new EU General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect - and this may well affect YOU.

It affects 
  • ALL art organisations holding the PERSONAL DATA of EU data subjects (people living in the EU). This INCLUDES any individual or organisation holding personal data for reasons other than those relating to the strictly personal requirements of an individual: 
    • art businesses - including artists with lists of collectors and contacts
    • art galleries and 
    • national and local art societies and groups 
  • ANY businesses located outside the EU having a transaction involving personal data with anybody (i.e. a data subject) living in the EU - including transfer of any data to another country - which means its ambit goes way beyond the EU.

Why is this happening?

The existing Data Protection legislation is being replaced because it is no longer fit for purpose for the changes in the ways data is collected and the scope and reach of organisations across the world in relation to people living in the EU. Bottom line security has been too lax and there have been too many data breaches with implications for crime and the personal security and lives of individuals.

Home Page for the EU GDPR website

The general data protection regulation (GDPR) is a new EU law. It will replace the current Data Protection Act on 25 May 2018It does not require any enabling legislation to be passed by national governments and is thus directly binding and applicable to all on that date. (i.e. the transition is happening now and has been for some time!). You can read more about this in the links at the end of this post.
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) replaces the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and was designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens data privacy and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy. The key articles of the GDPR, as well as information on its business impact, can be found throughout this site. EU GDPR
There are heavy fines for organisations which do not comply.
Under GDPR organizations in breach of GDPR can be fined up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 Million (whichever is greater).
You may remember when Google and others thought that EU Laws and Regulations didn't affect them. They changed their minds once they started being fined very large sums by the EU.

If you're an artist with an art business which records personal data OR a member of an art society or you might want to forward a link to this blog post to your Chair - highlighting this fact.

"Personal data" is defined by the European Commission as
"personal data is any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a home address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address."
In the new legislation a breach of the regulation will be defined as follows
A personal data breach means a breach of security leading to the destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data. This means that a breach is more than just losing personal data.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Portfolio Career as an Artist

A portfolio career is defined as a career which involves different clients/employers, different activities and income streams.

Thus rather than being just "an artist" you can be:
  • an artist and an art teacher (face to face or online or both)
  • an artist and an illustrator
  • an artist and a curator
  • an artist and a gallerist
  • an artist and a musician and a boring job which allows you time to be creative
  • an artist and an art teacher and another job which pays the rent
  • or any combination of your choosing which allows you some time for the activity you really want to pursue
This post explores the notion of a portfolio career and provides some food for thought.
  • What is a Portfolio Career?
  • Why do people have portfolio careers?
  • More (reading) about portfolio careers
The rear of Norman Rockwell's studio
Is this the ideal of every artist - the studio at the bottom of the garden, one major client and blue skies every day?

What is a portfolio career?

I first came across the notion of a portfolio career while studying for my MBA at the London Business School (see references to portfolio careers at the end). I was very fortunate in being taught by Professor Charles Handy, the Irish author/philosopher who specialised in organisational behaviour and management (and even became a global management guru). 

He wanted us to explore and develop our understanding of the cultures and ways of working of different organisations and what sort of people fitted them best. (e.g Handy’s four types of organisational cultures) I've kept my written assignment for him on the topic of portfolio careers - complete with his feedback notes which have had a major influence on my life and ways of working and how this has progressed over time.

He defined “portfolio working” as being a lifestyle in which the individual holds a number of “jobs, clients and types of work” all at the same time. 

For me, having a portfolio career is when you have a positive intent to develop a portfolio of interests, jobs, clients and types of work and ways of working - as the way you live your working life.

For example, I retired from my full-time professional occupation some 11 years ago and yet I've never stopped working at my interests - and don't suppose I will for many years to come.

I find aspiring artists often have an extremely unrealistic idea of how many professional artists actually spend all day making art

Very many of the professional artists I've met have recognised the reality of needing to reduce stress in their lives to remain creative - and that sometimes this is best met by introducing some level of certainty into their income streams. Which, in turn, can sometimes be best achieved by having a portfolio of interests with varying degrees of certainty as to the level of income that might be produced eg everything from
  • steady and unspectacular eg regular tuition fees from teaching art
  • feast or famine - from making art
Some individuals who have been very successful as artists have managed to combine this with having a full time career doing something completely different. 

It's all a question of how you manage your time and what your other personal commitments - for example in relation to the familial such as bringing up children, keeping a partner on happy and on speaking terms and looking after elderly parents. (While she's an author rather than an artist, I'm always reminded of PD James whose husband was in a psychiatric hospital for a long time before he died. She had to take over the role of full time provider for her daughters - became a hospital administrator and then a civil servant - and wrote her books starting at 5am every morning before she went to work for many years. Most of them were written while she was a senior civil servant at the Home Office.)

Why do people have portfolio careers?

People pursue portfolio careers for a number of reasons - the drivers are essentially economic and a blend of psychological and social.

Friday, August 18, 2017

President's Committee on Arts and Humanities resigns in disgust!

Yet another council of eminent people - the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities - is walking away in disgust at the "equivocation" of the President of the USA. Only one did not resign - it's chaired by Melania Trump.

Speaking Truth to Power READ THE LETTER HERE (link is via Politico)
Below are the reports of the resignations of members of the President’s arts and humanities committee. I'll add more in as I find them.

I'd like to say I tried very hard to get the most culturally appropriate screen for the Committee's website - but it was accidental!

website of the Presidents Committee on the Arts and Humanities



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Shipping artwork internationally - how to send art to overseas exhibitions and clients

Many artists sell art across borders to other countries these days - but there's not a lot of help out there in terms of:
  • what you have to do to move art through Customs
  • what's the best way to pack and label art and ship it internationally
a new resource for artists - all about how to master customs tariffs, documentation
and services to get artwork from your studio to its final destination in another country

My very first serious exhibition 20 years ago was in the USA. I had to learn pretty fast about how to pack art so it arrives safe and sound and which service works best for getting the artwork there by the due date - and the customs documentation and tariff codes required and how to display it so that the package actually got out of Customs and arrived at the Gallery!

Everything went fine - but it was a long wait until I got the confirmation everything had arrived safely!

Since that date I've heard of numerous artists who have messed up on sending their artwork to other countries. It's hugely disappointing to the artists who have invariably made their best efforts - but just didn't get everything right because they'd never ever done it before.
  • The artwork often remains in Customs while the exhibition goes ahead without them!  
  • Or the artwork arrives damaged because allowances were not made to what can happen to artwork moving overseas. 
  • Or it just disappears......
Which is how come I've remained interested in the topic and developed a site to share the information with those for whom sending art overseas is a new and mysterious challenge!

I've now transferred that information to my art business website.

Guide to how to send art to other countries

This is my new page about How to ship art internationally on my Art Business Info. for Artists website

Information is divided into two sections.

The paperwork for Customs

  • How to produce an export invoice
  • UK Trade Tariff - export commodity codes
  • HOW TO: Complete Customs documentation in the UK
  • ​HOW TO: Complete Customs documentation in the USA
  • The ATA Carnet​

What else you need to know

  • Size, Weight and Content Restrictions and Prohibitions (International)
  • ​HOW TO: write an international address correctly​

The page is part of a major section on my website which is all about....

How to pack, post and ship art

This is what my section on How to pack, post and ship art covers:

Packing your art

  • How to pack, post and ship art (Section HOME Page) including 10 Top Tips for Packaging and Shipping Artwork
  • How to pack artwork for shipping Overview: Generic advice about packing and shipping
    • Tips from artists, photographers, galleries, curators, museums, conservators, art societies, art collectors, shippers and more
    • How to create an internal package which protect and cushions artwork
    • How to create an external package for artwork which survives transit.
    • How to pack framed works
    • How to pack fine art prints and works on paper
    • How to pack pastel paintings​​
  • Packaging Materials for shipping artwork
    • The pros and cons of different types of packaging for the external and internal packages
    • ​warnings about how packaging can damage your art
    • how to be sustainable and reuse materials when shipping​

Special Shipping Challenges for Art

CN 23 Customs Declaration form for artwork valued in excess of £270
  • How to ship art to exhibitions Exhibitions bring a particular challenge when artwork needs to be submitted minus packaging!
  • How to ship internationally Information about all the documentation required for international shipping
    • How to produce an export invoice
    • All about export commodity codes
    • How to complete customs documentation 
    • How to write an international address correctly

Postal, Parcel, Courier and Shipping Services for Art

Royal Mail Services

Feedback please

I'd love to get any feedback
  • either in terms of practices or services you have found helpful 
  • or about queries you have which are not answered by this page or this section on moving art from studio to exhibition, gallery or art collector
Thanks in anticipation....

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Compilation - Van Gogh's Sunflowers on Facebook Live

This is a catch-up for those who missed the Facebook Live event when five Van Gogh sunflower paintings were reunited from five museums around the world yesterday.
(see my earlier post for what this event was about Five Van Gogh Sunflower paintings on Amazon Live on 14th August 2017)

Below are links to the videos on Facebook. Each post is also embedded. The links go to the Facebook Pages and relevant posts of each of the participating museums

Enjoy the FIVE VIDEOS BELOW - and take a look at my comments at the end.

Monday, August 14, 2017

65 years of Royal Gifts exhibition at Buckingham Palace

As Prince Phillip retires and the Duke of Cambridge steps up to his new role of representing the Queen on a full-time basis, there's a certain sense of an imminent sea-change in the operation of the British Monarchy.

It's not at all surprising therefore to find that there is a retrospective exhibition at Buckingham Palace of a very tiny sample of the Royal Gifts that the Queen has received in the last 65 years - since she ascended to the throne on 6 February 1952.

Put simply there will never ever be another exhibition like this one - simply because it will be a very long time before any monarch reigns for more than 65 years...

Also - if you enjoy the British Museum and its ethnographic displays of people and their heritage then you will enjoy this exhibition - where you can see some of the very best of the very best examples of craftsmanship, skills and materials from around the world.

Royal Gifts exhibition 

A view of the Africa Exhibit in the State Dining Room gives you a sense of scale
The extremely popular Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace (until October 1st) has an exhibition every year.

It's not at all surprising that this year's exhibition looks back at one particular aspect of the very long reign of Queen Elizabeth - and also one which will be of much interest to people from all over the world.  Which during August is most of the people on the streets of central London! ;)

I visited the exhibition last week (for a special Bloggers Preview) and was able to see and admire the gifts on display. (PS I had intended this post for Friday but Blogger went on strike!)

All the gifts were presented to the Queen
  • as part of official duties - such as state visits and audiences. 
  •  during visits she makes in the UK for various events - such as a visit to a School (and it was very pleasing to see a number of gifts related to children)
The exhibition explores Her Majesty's role as Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth and Head of Nation through gifts presented by people from all walks of life and from over 100 countries and territories during State Visits, overseas tours and official engagements both at home and abroad.
The exhibition is an excellent example of ritual and decorative art and has been organised by Sally Goodsir, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts. She told us that she  aimed to select one piece from all the countries visited and to make that selection representative of the country and in particular of particular materials or skills unique to that place.

I'm going to give you a sample of images of items below from the different continents.

Plus an insight into the nature of the Tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales which comes at the end of the exhibition - to mark the 20th anniversary of her death at the end of this month.

Display of Diana Princess of Wales personal possessions
within the context of her timeline

Friday, August 11, 2017

Five Van Gogh Sunflower paintings on Amazon Live on 14th August 2017

I'm trying to upload images to a blog post but Google's Blogger has decided it isnlt going to work today

Which is why I'm posting this information about a brand new initiative to unite artwork and art museums around the world today rather than tomorrow....
Today five 'Sunflowers' paintings are located in museums across the globe and have never been united. Until now that is. On 14 August 2017, in a world first, all those 'Sunflowers' will come together in a ‘virtual exhibition’ bringing the paintings together in a way the artist could never have imagined.

Which sunflowers and museums?

The sunflowers are those in the following museums around the world

What's happening in the Amazon Live Event?

The museums are participating in a unique and unprecedented global collaboration to explore the 'Sunflowers' series, live on Facebook.

Over 95 minutes on 14th August 2017, there will be 
  • a consecutive relay of five, 15-minute Facebook Live broadcasts from the five museums - starting with the National Gallery at 5.50pm UK time (12:50 p.m. Eastern time) in London. 
  • Each will take place in front of a different 'Sunflowers' painting and all will celebrate and explore Vincent van Gogh’s life and work.
  • It will conclude with a broadcast by the Tokyo curator (from the Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art), starting at 2:10 p.m. Eastern time (7.10 pm London time).
This is the first time ever there has been a live Facebook ‘relay’ of this type between different institutions worldwide. The five galleries have worked with Facebook to create a fully immersive digital exhibition, Sunflowers 360.

To further unite the paintings, and in such a way that would be totally impossible in the physical space of a gallery.....
Using a combination of VR technology and CGI to create an experience that will look and feel as if the five paintings were actually together in one room, viewers can interact with Sunflowers 360 on Gear VR or view as a 360 video on Facebook. Entering the gallery in VR, people can rotate around a 360 degree environment to view each of the paintings, or go on a guided tour of each painting. Willem van Gogh – the great-grandson of Van Gogh’s brother Theo – narrates the experience, sharing personal memories of the paintings. Sunflowers 360 is released today (10 August 2017) on the Facebook pages of each museum and through the Oculus store.

In terms of UK time, theVan Gogh 'Sunflowers' Facebook Live Running Order – 14 August 2017 is as follows

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Archibald Prize 2017 - Selected Artists and the winner

I love seeing the portraits for Australia's Archibald Prize - because they're so very different from the ones which get entered for art competitions in the UK.

Is it a hemisphere thing - or a cultural discontinuity about portraiture? Whatever - this post covers
  • the winner and the controversy!
  • selected artists
The prize (is) awarded, in the terms of the will of the late JF Archibald dated 15 March 1916, to
the best portrait ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia during the 12 months preceding the date fixed by the Trustees for sending in the pictures’.
This year, The 2017 Archibald Prize had
  • 822 entries this year 
  • 43 portraits selected for the exhibition.  (ie 5% success rate)
  • 14 of the 43 finalists are women – a third.
  • Of those selected almost half chose artists as sitters - 19 painted artists including a double portrait of an artist couple, James Drinkwater and Lottie Consalvo.

At the end of this post there's a review which compares the Archibald to the BP Portrait Prize - and it's a  recommended read!

Winner of the Archibald Prize 2017

"The Archibald Prize chronicles the changing face of Australia"
Michael Brand, Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales
Archibald Prize 2017 winner
Agatha Gothe-Snape by Mitch Cairns

© the artist

Mitch Cairns won with his Matisse-styled portrait of his artist-partner, Agatha Gothe-Snape.
  • Bio: born 1984, Camden, Australia
  • Education: BFA with Honours, National Art School, Sydney (2003-2006)
  • Previous Archibald: 2013, 2014 amd 2015 - he was highly commended in 2014 and 2015
Every portrait is usually of a significant Australian and artists painting each other is almost an Archibald tradition . Gothe-Snape is a significant contemporary artist exhibiting widely both in Australia and overseas.  So the couple have achieved a major win - of  prize money and major marketing for both their artistic practices!

Below you can read about the controversy triggered by this choice.

The Winner of the Packing Room Prize 2017 is Peter Smeeth's painting of Lisa Wilkinson AM
Other finalists are listed below. You can see images of the all artwork in the exhibition on the website. These are made much more accessible due to a voiceover of the narrative of each painting. It's a pity we don't see these more on exhibition websites for those whose eyesight finds text difficult.

There seems to be rather less preference given to the eminent Australians this year compared to previous years - but that's just an impression, I've not been counting!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

A Holiday at Mentone by Charles Conder

For those not on holiday, during August I'm posting paintings of those taking a break.

I'm starting with Charles Conder's painting of "A Holiday at Mentone" which is one of the best loved of all Australian Impressionist paintings. Its home is the Art Gallery of South Australia
A Holiday at Mentone by Charles Conderoil on canvas, 46.2 cm × 60.8 cm (18.2 in × 23.9 in)
Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide
I first saw this painting earlier this year at the exhibition of Impressionist Paintings by Australian painters at the National Gallery - see my blog post Australia's Impressionists at the National Gallery - review.  I can well understand why it so well liked by Australians.

Some facts about the painting

  • this was the first painting by Conder that he painted in Melbourne; 
  • the painting was found to have sand embedded in the painting suggesting that this was painted or at the very least started while at the beach
  • This painting is one of the first to capture the intensity of Australian light.  The weather is sunny and bright as are the colours; the shadows are also coloured
  • Its theme is one associated with life in Australia - it celebrates the light, leisure opportunities and the beach - and consequently is very popular with those who love the be in the sun and go to the beach. Both figures reading on the beach are reading 'The Bulletin' magazine known as 'The bushman's bible' because it celebrated outback life and culture
  • the building to the right is a bathing enclosure - used for segregated bathing
  • the use of the bridge to bisect the painting is suggested to be reminiscent of the bridge device used in paintings in Japanese art and as used by Whistler. This was also the age when Japanese art had a great influence on painting - see my earlier posts on The influence of Japanese Art and Japanese Art
  • the education page highlights the conundrum of the figures in the painting

an image that continues to intrigue generations of viewers - the curious drama in the foreground, involving three people who may or may not be aware of each other, poses several questions: Is the man lying on the sand just sleeping? Will the young woman ever notice that her umbrella has blown away? Will the self-important young man (standing at right) retrieve it and introduce himself?

Some facts about the painter:

  • Charles Conder was just 20 when he painted this painting. He was born in 1868 in Tottenham (then in Middlesex, now in the London Borough of Haringey)
  • Conder lived in Australia between 1884-90
  • he was sent to work for his uncle, a land surveyor for New South Wales, Australia at age 16 however he wanted to draw the landscape rather than survey it
  • he became a key figure in the Heidelberg School
  • in 1888, he Arthur Streeton, and shared a studio with Tom Roberts, two other key figures of Australian Impressionism
  • Conder left Australia in 1890 and moved to Paris where he studied at the Académie Julian
  • He spent the rest of his life in England, although he visited France frequently
  • he died in Virgina Water in Surrey in 1909 - he was insane

Some facts about the location

  • Mentone in the 1880s was a suburb of Melbourne - the railway had not yet reached it and consequently it was quieter than some other locations
  • it was one of the favoured sites of painters associated with Australian Impressionism

Another painting by Conder made available by the Google Art Project selection of paintings by Charles Conder is that of Bronte Beach - which is painted on cardboard.

Bronte Beach (1888) by Charles Conder
oil on cardboard, h226 cm x w330
National Gallery of Australia

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Adebanji Alade - an Addictive Sketcher

I've written before about the need to put in the hours if you want to get good at anything - see
The first comment on my 10,000 hours post is from a friend who put in the hours and became (in chronological order) a very successful pipe band player, then an artist and now a very successful author of amongst other things a #1 New York Times Bestselling series optioned for television!

She made the very important point that it's also essential to know how to learn and when putting in the time to make efficient use of it. It includes the following sentence
The long time is acquiring proficiency -- everything after that, if you're still learning, is acquiring brilliance. 

So here's my theory: talented people are those who know how to learn. They know how to practice, to find patterns, and most importantly, to not reinvent the wheel. They shave years off their 10,000 hours by being able to look at other people in their field who have succeeded and define and incorporate why they are successful.
I've known Adebanji Alade for a long time - and all the time I've known him he's been sketching - and moving his career as an artist onward and upward.

Mostly he sketches people. Mostly he does it while travelling on public transport - meaning that he never loses a moment to sketch. Mostly he does it because he always has his sketchbook with him.

What prompted this blog post is his video of his sketchbook used during 2016-2017 - from beginning to end - and it takes 9 minutes to get through it!

He's now started a new sketchbook

As a result of his constant looking and sketching of people and places from observation it has helped him hone his artistic practice.

Some of the things he has achieved as a result of what he has learned about making art and becoming a successful artist are:
Afro XXI by Adebanji Alade
(in the section on Charcoal
in my book Sketching 365)
which contains lots of great advice

He's been making videos for a long time - having spotted the opportunity they give to raise your profile amongst lots of people doing the same thing as you.

This is The Life of the Artist made in 2012 - which was the year he got my Travels with a Sketchbook Trophy. This is an artist who packs a lot into every second of every day!

This is Adebanji back in 2010 when I photographed him with his work in the ROI Exhibition 2010.

Adebanji Alade - with his painting "Summer Crowds, Pavilion Theatre, Cromer" £1,650