Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The RHS Botanical Art Show 2018

Usually the RHS Botanical Art Show  in London is in February. However it's been getting bigger and bigger every year and the RHS has decided to change its timing and give it more space

In 2018 it's going to be bigger still and is now on between July 10th and 12th July 2018 - at the RHS London Plant and Art Fair in the two RHS Horticultural Halls

  • the Lindley Hall, SW1P 2QW and
  • the Lawrence Hall SW1P 2QD

View of the 2017 exhibition
I've spent a lot of today (when not commenting on the snow - presence or lack of) writing a blog post about the show

Exhibiting artists at RHS Botanical Art Show 2018 contains :
  • the list of 44 artists who have been selected for a place in the exhibition. (The RHS Picture Panel judges are going to be working over time this year!)
  • organised by country of origin
  • plus profiles of each artist where available and links to their websites
  • plus images of those with a place in this year's exhibition who have previously won an RHS Gold Medal and been interviewed by me
For those of you not familiar with the exhibition it requires each artist to be:
  • vetted at least a year in advance as to whether their artwork has reached the level required to be able to apply for a space at the exhibition. They then have five years to produce their exhibit. This is to allow for botanical life cycles and the fact that it may take some time to collect all the material to create the paintings
  • produce a minimum of six drawings or paintings - on a theme - which meet standards prescribed  by the RHS
  • apply for a place at the exhibition - and then wait and see if they get allocated a place
  • hang their own exhibition - and be judged on the standard of the exhibit as well as the standard of the paintings
  • those attending are generally expected to remain with their paintings for the two days of the exhibition

There's also going to be a seminar which can also be attended by those visiting the show. Both events are ticketed. 

You can read more about the RHS Botanical Art Shows on two pages:
  • RHS Botanical Art Exhibitions - which outlines the process and has links to where you can find more information. Plus it has links to all reviews of the shows where you can see more about the type of exhibits which win Gold Medals and links to all my interviews with the RHS Gold Medal Winners
  • Tips from RHS Gold Medal Winners - every interview I ask the Gold Medal Winners for their tips for doing well and producing good work - and this page documents those tips

PS My blog post reviewing Heat 7 of the Sky Portrait Artist of the Year will now be published tomorrow. Definitely - I'm not going anywhere - it's snowing!!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Rockefeller Collection on public show at Christies London

Once in a while, a really significant collection of art and artifacts rolls into town - and it's possible to see the works on exhibition prior to a grand auction - and bid on them if you feel so inclined!

The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller is being auctioned in New York in at Christie’s Rockefeller Center in New York in late spring. Prior to this auction, the most valuable collection ever previously offered at auction was the Collection Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé in 2009 at Christie’s Paris which achieved more than US$400 million / € 373,935,500

CLAUDE MONET (1840–1926)
Nymphéas en fleur
© Christie’s Images Ltd
oil on canvas 63 in. x 71 in. (160 x 178 cm.)
Painted circa 1914-1917

This is the largest auction ever entirely dedicated to raising funds for philanthropic causes. (see note at end)
“Eventually all these objects which have brought so much pleasure to Peggy and me will go out into the world and will again be available to other caretakers who, hopefully, will derive the same satisfaction and joy from them as we have over these past several decades.” David Rockefeller
Prior to this it is touring the world and the preview dates for the exhibition of works from the collection at Christies Galleries are as follows:
  • London 21 February – 8 March 2018
  • Beijing 6 – 7 April 2018
  • Paris 16 – 21 April 2018
  • Los Angeles 6 – 12 April 2018, and 
  • Shanghai 10 – 11 April 2018
The auction sale will take place in the Spring (dates to be announced) at 20 Rockefella Plaza in New York.  It's expected that the sale will offer 1500 works overall split across auctions taking place in New York during the week of May 7.

Important pieces include:
  • Claude Monet's Nympheas en fleur (c.1914-1917) - see above
  • what will be the most valuable Matisse painting ever offered at auction to date
  • a rather lovely Rose Period Picasso which originally came from the Gertrude Stein Collection
The extended public exhibition will feature significant works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, Juan Gris, Paul Signac, Edouard Manet, Paul Gauguin, Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, and Edward Hopper, among others

Below you can see the images in different contexts and learn something of how they were acquired.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Babel Britain wins £10,000 Threadneedle Visitors Choice Award 2018 for Emily Allchurch

Babel Britain (After Verhaecht) by Emily Allchurch
As I predicted, when I saw the Selected Artwork for The Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2018 Emily Allchurch has won a prize!
This is MY TIP for A PRIZE - because there is an explicit nod to art history, it's clever and technically much more than proficient, uses contemporary visual art media and provides an intelligent comment on contemporary society. It's a contemporary figurative artwork with a BIG 'C'.
Selected artists for Columbia Threadneedle Prize Exhibition 2018
When the Threadneedle Prize Exhibition opened to the public at the Mall Galleries, visitors to the 2018 Exhibition were asked to vote for the artwork they liked the best.

After the exhibition closed and all the votes had been counted, it was announced that Babel Britain (after Verhaecht) 2017’ won the £10,000 prize. 

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you take a look at the larger image on the Threadneedle Prize website where you can zoom into the image

I actually found it very difficult to photograph it in the exhibition because it looked its best and most natural when you stood right in front of it.

I was quite perturbed after I saw what happened to it in this photo!
Closer in was better but still not quite right
I later found I hadn't had my camera on the best setting for what is essentially a digital photo collage as a transparency on a bespoke LED lightbox.

Nevertheless it is an extremely impressive artwork - and hopefully kicks into touch the notion that digital art software cannot produce good art.  It certainly lends a whole new meaning to the phrase "art from photos"!

My feeling is that visitors both appreciated the huge amount of effort that had gone into producing this artwork - but also its topicality and implied message within contemporary society - particularly in London post Grenfell.

About the Tower of Babel by Tobias Verhaecht

There are various online explanations of the story behind the Tower of Babel. The one by the Oxford Biblical Studies Online is perhaps one of the best.  Essentially it is a story which explains why God created people speaking different languages who did not understand one another (aka "the confusion of tongues")

Various artists have painted their own version of the Tower of Babel over the years.

Tobias Verhaecht (1561-1631) was a Flemish artist who painted several versions of the Tower of Babel. Here are just a couple of them.

Verhaecht babel-lille

Verhaecht babel

Personally I prefer the version by Pieter Brueghel in Vienna.

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brughel
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien Austria

ARCHIVE - The First 10 Years of the Threadneedle Prize

Posts on this blog about the first decade of the Threadneedle Prize.

2018 Threadneedle Prize

2016 Threadneedle Prize

2014 Threadneedle Prize

2013 Threadneedle Prize

2012 Threadneedle Prize

2011 Threadneedle Prize

2010 Threadneedle Prize

2009 Threadneedle Prize

2008 Threadneedle Prize

    Friday, February 23, 2018

    119th Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society 2018

    The Pastel Society is holding its 119th Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries.

    View of the Main Gallery during the Private View of the Pastel Society Exhibition 2018

    You can see the exhibition at the Mall Galleries from today until 3pm on Saturday 3rd March 2018. You can also:
    Catalogue cover

    I'd like to be able to point you at a list of prizewinners on the website - but there is none there. 

    Instead the next best thing is the list of award winners - with good images of the artworks - on the Mall Galleries Facebook Page - which is public.

    See The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2018 Prize & Award Winners

    See my earlier post Events, demos and workshops at the 2018 Pastel Society Exhibition for the remaining events during the course of the exhibition - which include two pastel demonstrations in the gallery tomorrow.  However note that most workshops are now fully booked.

    Exhibition metrics - and the Open Entry

    There are 275 works in the exhibition (4 more than 2017).  That said the work was hung without the benefit of the Threadneedle Space.

    So far as the OPEN ENTRY is concerned..

    OPEN ENTRY: [figure to be supplied] works were submitted by non-members for this Open Exhibition (785 in 2017)

    • 88 artworks selected from the open entry by 64 non-members + one invited artwork (100 artworks by 69 non-members in 2017) 
    • 186 artworks were exhibited by 46 members - averaging 3.17 works 
    • The ratio of members' work to non-members is 68:32 (63:37 in 2017)
    • The average number of paintings per non-member artist selected is 1.3 (1.4 in 2017)
      • those who have more than one work selected are candidates for members who are typically showing two to three works 
      • meaning that the majority of exhibiting non-members only have 1 artwork selected. 
    Probably the best way of improving your chances of getting selected is submitting more than one very good artwork in eligible media

    Candidates for Membership

    The exhibition again had a wall of works by Candidates for Membership. I think this is a very neat way of making it easy for existing members to review works prior to voting and for non-members to see the calibre of work by people who would like to become members.

    You can see the two walls below.

    Candidates for Membership #1 - in the North Gallery
    The chap in the middle Martin Goold (above)won the Henri Roche Award with his work called Mountain Town - which is always a prize worth winning as these are EXPENSIVE pastels!

    I really liked the works on the right hand side by Benjamin Hope which did an excellent job of looking just like oil paintings.  I also love the fact he is a son of artist and, as a teenager, rebelled by NOT becoming an artist and instead going to Cambridge University where he did a PhD in Theoretical Nanoscience: The Electronic Structure and Spintronic Potential of Transition Metal Nanowires and Carbon Nanotubes: a Theoretical Investigation.  Since becoming an artist, he has been a very consistent exhibitor in the Mall galleries at various shows.  Having taken a look at his website and the catalogue of a recent exhibition with a sculptor, I can see him becoming one of those people with multiple memberships of FBA Societies! He's certainly producing some excellent artwork in both oil and pastels.

    Candidates for Membership #2 - in the North Gallery

    Work I liked

    View of the Private View of the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2018
    View of the Private View of the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2018

    This was my favourite corner of the exhibition - such a pity it wasn't in plain view but was hidden behind one of the  blocks which create bays.

    I'm a fan of still life by Felicity House (left) and Jan Munro (right)

    Four landscapes by Norma Stephenson
    It's very odd. I was convinced that Norma Stephenson had started using new frames because her work was leaping off the wall and shouting at me from across the gallery. However I went back and looked at my photos from last year and they are the exact same sort of frames. However the works didn't seem to suit the frames whereas these landscapes looked brilliant in them.

    I liked run of contrasting landscape works on this wall

    Matthew Draper's work looked stunning - as always

    I particularly liked the panoramic views with the low lying clouds and mist
    His work made a nice focus on one of the long walls

    Mathew Draper sandwiched inbetween Victor Ambrus (left) and Sheila Goodman (right)
    The artist who most surprised me this year was Libby January - whose work I forgot to photograph properly.

    I loved this enormous pastel painting of cheese on toast which won a prize for Ian Rawling. It deserved to be out in the Main Gallery along with his other painting of a stripy lollipop

    Cheese on Toast by Ian Rawling
    Soft Pastel and Pastel pencil, 75cm x 85cm

    More views of the Exhibition

    I wasn't a big fan of the feature end wall in the Main Gallery. It wasn't that the work was not good - quite the contrary - it just didn't look as if it belonged together. Angela A Court and Jeanette Hayes would have looked much better next to one another - rather than separated by somebody pastel painting Venice - even if he did win a prize!

    Wednesday, February 21, 2018

    Review: Episode 6 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

    Announcement of the shortlist for Heat 6
    This is a review of Episode 6 of Portrait Artist of the Year by Sky Arts - with added extras about the artists not included in the programme!

    You can find links to my previous reviews of the first five episodes at the end of this post.

    The Professionals

    Last week an amateur artist won. So the five professional artists trying to make sure they look better than the amateurs this week are:
    • Marcus Callum (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - Born in Scotland in 1967 and now based in York. Originally a computer programmer, he trained as an artist in New York and Sydney and spent 20 years in Australia before returning to the UK. He hads a major interest in classical realism and he's been a former finalist (three times) in the Archibald Prize (something they didn't mention on the programme) and a finalist (three times) in the Art Renewal Center International Salon (again not mentioned). He is now a professional artist working primarily as a painter but also working in digital media. He has a section on his website about the Sky Portrait Artist of the Year competition. It includes some of his four hour practice portraits (obviously painted from photos). Interestingly his self portrait for the competition was also the painting which was an Archibald Finalist in 2012. (The link tells the story of how he painted it).
    • Alex PhilippeBorn in Brussels in 1984, works and lives in London. Studied at Academy of Fine Arts, Painting. Brussels before doing a Masters at Sotheby's Institute of Art, London
    • Samantha Fellows (Facebook | Twitter ) is a professional portrait artist working on commission. She graduated in Fine Art from Oregon State University in the USA. She is also a scenic painter (with a seperate website). She paints scenery for theatre, film, tv, retail and events, as well as mural and street art commissions, has run scenic art companies and continues as a scenic art tutor. I met her in 2016 - and featured her on this blog - when she had portraits of both her daughters in prestigious exhibitions simultaneously in London. Her eldest daughter, "Pearl in the morning, ready for school" was in the BP Portrait Award Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and a portrait of her youngest, "Rose's School Picture" was in the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. I spotted both daughters in the audience at the Heat - they were behind their mother while she was painting for most of the programme
    Samantha Fellows with her family right behind her - literally!
    • Danny Howes is a former graphic designer who is now a professional full time artist who lives and works in Birmingham. His self-portrait includes a nod t Van Gogh. He values narrative  He started painting when his gran bought him a full set of oil paints age 10. There's a lesson in there for grandparents everywhere!  This is a catalogue of his paintings by his gallery
    • Jessica Wolfson - Born in Scotland in 1972, she did her degree at the Glasgow School of Art and lives and works Glasgow. She now teaches at the Glasgow School of Art. She won the BP Portrait Travel Award in 2002.
    I am a Glasgow based visual artist specialising in scribbling ,making mistakes , rubbing out and constantly painting over things .

    The Amateurs

    The four amateur artists participating were:
    • Niki Duffy - This is his self-portrait. b.1988, he did an animation degree at Salford University. He works mostly from photos having used friends as models.  This was the first time he had worked from a live sitter.
    • Lyn Aylward (Facebook | InstagramTwitter) - based in Norfolk, Lyn specialises in portraits and figurative studies worked in oils. She's a member of Artworks and Breckland Artists and exhibits on a regular basis.
    • Miriam Morada (spelling?) - a student from Singapore who is currently studying fine art at Glasgow School of Art.
    • Dave Duffy (Facebook | Instagram |  Twitter) - a former graphic designer and self-taught Irish artist born in Wexford who has no website.  However his Facebook Page has 10,000 followers.  Interestingly he was approached by Sky Arts to enter the programme - which suggests there are people working on behalf of Sky prowling popular Pages and Groups for likely candidates!  He was given a short amount of time to create a self-portrait - which he produced in one session of several hours. He's also a session musician and teacher.

    Survey of the self-portraits

    As usual, there was a lot of variation in the self-portraits in terms of size, media and pose. Clearly some were designed to attract attention while others very much focused on the quality of the painting.

    If you get the opportunity to review the programmes again, the remarks made during the survey are indicative of the sort of features the judges are looking out for.

    I'm now pretty convinced that the survey of the self-portraits is pretty critical to who gets through to the shortlist.

    My guess it that after the review of the real portraits as opposed to the digital images, the Judges have pretty much decided which are the artists they need to keep a particularly close eye on.

    In fact I wouldn't mind betting they have a short list in mind before a brush is lifted!

    In part, it's a pragmatic solution to the fact that the day is long and they don't really have time to review and debate which self-portraits they really like at the end of the day. They need to have already decided which ones were "good", which were "mediocre" and which disappointed when seen in person.

    Hence the importance of the submission to both getting selected and,, in my opinion, the shortlisted artists in each Heat.

    The Sitters 

    The sitters were all actors - Claire SkinnerKenneth Cranham, and Sope Dirisu

    They were all EXCELLENT sitters - which was I think reflected in the portraits produced by the better painters.

    The last time I saw Kenneth Cranham was in Wright Brothers in Borough Market on my 60th birthday! We had a chat while waiting for table...

    Discussions and Observations

    Strategy / Planning / Timing

    Tuesday, February 20, 2018

    Artists and Illustrators at the Mall Galleries

    The Artists and Illustrators "Artist of the Year" Exhibition is on view at the Threadneedle Space in the Mall Galleries until Saturday 24th February (1pm)

    You can see the 50 artworks shortlisted for the Readers Choice Award on the competition website.

    The winner of the Readers Choice Award - and other awards - is being announced at a special prizegiving event this evening (Tuesday 20 February) at the Mall Galleries.

    I saw the exhibition yesterday when I visited the Pastel Society's annual show.  Interestingly people were confused as to which exhibition they were in - and were wondering if the A&I Exhibition was the Pastel Society. This is maybe unsurprising given that last year the Pastel Society also had the Threadneedle Space for their exhibition.

    Maybe scope to improve the signposting of the different exhibitions on entrance to the gallery - and individual galleries?

    However I have to say I found one very marked difference between the artwork on show compared to that in the Pastel Society exhibition elsewhere in the Mall Galleries.

    I walked around slowly once - took some photos and then looked again.

    Something was niggling. I always like to work out what a niggle is all about.

    I could see that some of the draughtsmanship was good - a bit too good if anything.

    I suddenly realised that most of not all of the artwork on display failed to show optical mixing of colours on the support.
    • Most of the paint seemed to be being applied as a single layer
    • I didn't see transparent glazing in the watercolours. 
    • I saw very little paint mixing on the support by those using oils and acrylics. 
    This approach to painting creates images which I find curiously flat.  To me it's a technique of painting that is also also very characteristic of an amateur painter.  That's because, unless used by expert hands, it can veer towards giving an impression of 'painting by numbers/fill in the contours" effect.

    The painting that I liked best was by Caroline Pool.

    Here I am: Sally by Caroline Pool

    I recognised the name straight away. She had two works in the very recent Threadneedle Exhibition 2018 and curiously this work is hung about a couple of feet to the left of where one of her paintings hung in the Threadneedle Space last week!

    This painting works hard at shapes and form and the differences in textures within the painting.  The cutout effect also demanded that my eye take a close look!  The palette of colours used was also almost triadic - which again made for a pleasing picture.

    It's certainly a work by a professional painter and I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if she wins an award tonight.  There again it won't appeal to everyone.....

    You can see the prizewinners on

    Monday, February 19, 2018

    The 4th Derwent Art Prize 2018 - Call for Entries

    This is about the Call for Entries from international artists for The 4th Derwent Art Prize
    The Prize aims to reward excellence by showcasing the very best 2D & 3D artworks created in created with any pencil or coloured pencil as well as water soluble, pastel, graphite and charcoal by British and International artists.
    The prizes total £12,500 and the deadline for entry is 8th May 2018 (5pm GMT)

    This is a digest of
    • who can enter, 
    • what you can enter and 
    • how the process works 
    • with an overview of the timeline of dates. 

    The Exhibition

    Approximately 80 drawings will be selected for exhibition at the Mall Galleries.

    • The exhibition will be held between from 18th – 23rd September 2018. 
    • All artists selected for exhibition will be invited to the Private View and Prize Giving on the evening of Tuesday 18th September 2018.
    • The exhibition will then tour to a number of venues throughout the UK - which means that all work submitted to the competition for exhibition must be available until 31st January 2019.
    View of part of the Third Derwent Art Prize Exhibition

    The Prizes

    The Prize Fund is divided as follows:
    • First Prize £6,000
    • Second Prize £3,000
    • Third Prize £1,500
    • People’s Choice Award – Exhibition £750
    • Young Artist Award – For artists under 25 years £750
    • Coloured Pencil Award for Excellence – £500

    The Selectors

    A gallery curator, a leading artist and an art critic comprise the independent selection panel who decided which work gets selected for exhibition and which work gets prizes.

    They are:
    • Gill Saunders, Head Prints within the Word and Image Department at the V&A. I know her from two of her books which I've got Picturing Plants:An Analytical History of Botanical Illustrations (1995) and Recording Britain (2011)
    • Clare Woods - a painter who trained as a sculptor and is essentially concerned with sculpting an image in paint, and expressing the strangeness of an object.  (This seems like a very odd choice for a competition involving dry media. Is it too much to ask that this competition is judged by a well-regarded practitioner who specialises in drawing! There are after all quite a few of them!!!)
    • Chris Sharratt - a freelance arts writer based in Glasgow who is currently the Editor of the A-N website but has also written for a number of publications
    I very much hope that this year the organisers actually check that the judges have both read and understand the conditions of entry! (i.e. no making up their own version of entry requirements and terms and conditions!) I don't enjoy highlighting Judges who very clearly breach the rules of the competition. See Derwent Art Prize 2014 - ineligible drawing wins first prize?

    How to Enter

    The official websites / pages of information

    This is the website (which has now addressed the major omission which I identified last time I wrote this blog post in 2016)
    This is the Facebook Page - which is never very active.
    This is the Twitter account @DerwentPencils which is quite active.
    You can see the Derwent Art Range on the sponsor's website.

    You can download catalogues from previous competitions to see the sort of work that gets selected

    If intending to submit an entry do make sure you read carefully
    This is the Online Entry Form

    The competition and exhibition organisers are Parker Harris. Further enquiries about the competition should be addressed to Parker Harris, on: or Tel. + 44 (0) 1372 462190 - but do look at the FAQs first!

    Who can enter?

    The Prize is open to all British and international artists (as defined by the rules)
    • Nationality:  The eligible geographical regions / countries are: 
      • Europe, 
      • North America,
      • South America, 
      • Africa, 
      • Asia (participating countries: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand), 
      • The Middle East (participating countries: United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan) and 
      • Oceania (Australia, New Zealand). 
    • Who else can enter
      • Previous prizewinners can enter
      • A third party agency (such as a gallery) can enter work but there are significant conditions that must be met (i.e. the third party must confirm the conditions stated point 7 of the Terms & Conditions.)
    • Age: 
      • All entrants must be over the age of 18 years old on 1st June 2018. 
      • You also have to be alive!

    Eligible artwork

    Eligible media

    Sunday, February 18, 2018

    Sunday Read: Starting out - TIPS for an Emerging Artist

    This is the first in an occasional series of "long SUNDAY READS". By which I mean, highlighting topics or web pages which involve reading for more than a minute!

    If you are an artist who has developed your skills in making art and worked out what you want to make art about - you might now be wanting to move on to the next stage.

    So my first read relates to a page which is trying to answer all those questions that artists have when they want to move on
    • If you're NOT a hobby painter who's happy hanging artwork on your walls or stashing it in cupboards
    but rather you're 
    • an art student who wants to gear up for your future career
    • an established artist whose career has stalled - and you need a refresh
    • just an artist who wants to make some progress beyond making art
    Try reading STARTING OUT - TIPS ​for an Emerging Artist

    This first SUNDAY READ is all about the attitudes, habits, knowledge and practices related to the art business which will help emerging artists develop their careers - and exhibit and sell their art.

    Although the page is titled "Starting Out" it's actually as much for more established artists who want to "rev up" their careers

    So If you want.....
    • to be a success as an artist
    • to avoid failing as an artist
    • to be successful selling 'daily paintings'
    • to sell your art online
    • to exhibit your work
    • to be more productive
    • to develop your career
    • to get representation by a gallery
    Try my LONG SUNDAY READ #1 for tips about "what you need to know" and practical advice about working as a visual artist.

    It's by no means a finished page.  I'm intending this should be a page that I keep adding content to over time - as I develop more of my Art Business Info for Artists website.

    Do please take a look. I'm very happy to receive any thoughts, queries or comments you may have via

    • EITHER feedback in a private message to my website
    • OR leave a comment on this blog post below.

    I'm particularly interested in the questions that emerging artists want answered. That will help with the continued development of the page. I already know what quite a few of these are - but am always interested to learn more about what are your BIG issues. 

    Plus you never know I may have already written about the topic!


    Saturday, February 17, 2018

    Graphite and watercolour - two NEW guides

    Two new publications by leading artists who demonstrate expertise in their respective fields
    • one is a new book about his watercolour portfolio by leading watercolour painter David Poxon RWS NWS
    • the second is a detailed guide about using graphite for scientific illustration by Rogério Lupo.
    [Note: This post has been revised since first published]

    Watercolour Heart and Soul by David Poxon

    Watercolour, Heart & Soul is David Poxon's first book about how he paints in watercolour.

    To me that seems somewhat surprising given he's been a leading watercolour painter with an international reputation. Indeed he's moved on to being one of those artists who you see a lot of other artists trying to emulate his paintings!

    David is an elected member of the prestigious R.I. (The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours) and serves on the R.I. Council. He is also a signature member of N.W.S (The National Watercolour Society) in the USA and has served on the jury for selection (in 2015).

    The book is now published.
    Watercolour Heart & Soul contains an eclectic collection of his most iconic paintings together with a detailed section describing the artists techniques. Author's website
    I confess I've not yet seen a copy as it is so new, however if it's as good as David's paintings.....

    UPDATE: Please note I am only suggesting this book for people who want to see David's paintings. 

    You can order this 190 page book in one of three ways

    Graphite for Scientific Illustration by Rogerio Lupo

    Graphite for Scientific Illustration by Brazilian illustrator Rogério Lupo is a new English translation of his Guide (in Portuguese) about how to use graphite for scientific illustration of botanical subjects.

    This is a FREE guide which can be downloaded as a PDF file from Slideshare (just click the link in the title above)

    It's intended for:
    • anyone interested in learning about the fundamentals of graphite 
    • anyone who wants improve their knowledge and skills in the use of graphite for scientific illustration generally and botanical illustration in particular.
    The guide covers the following:
    • how to observe and render light and shadow and nuances accurately
    • How to sharpen, handle and move a pencil to achieve better application and coverage of the support with graphite
    • How to use pencil delicately so as to make good use of time, achieve a good finish and preserve the integrity of the paper
    • how to render shade gradually from the lightest to the darkest tones
    • How to render the different textures and colours of subject matter in monochoromatic shades of grey
    • How to recognise and represent luminosities, reflections and contrasts; 
    • Practical and fast methods for rendering of hairs and thorns.
    • How to prevent errors, cope with problems with paper and damage which cannot be repaired
    He also provides a very useful commentary on both brands and grades of graphite and different types of paper suitable for working on when using graphite.

    Rogério Lupo is a Brazilian Natural Science Illustrator based in Sao Paulo. He has won first prize in several competitions including the very prestigious Margaret Flockton Award - for international 'strictly botanical' illustrators in 2010 and 2013. He graduated in biology from the Universidade de São Paulo. Much of his work is dedicated to the illustration of scientific botanical articles/papers. He has also researched different approaches to illustration and artistic techniques.

    Judging by the traffic to my blog post yesterday on my Botanical Art and Artists website, there's very great interest in getting hold of this Guide!

    Hence why I decided to share it with a wider audience.

    Friday, February 16, 2018

    How to create a poster for an art exhibition

    When creating publicity for an art exhibition - what comes first? The image or the words?

    Do you recall how The Apprentice programme on BBC always has an episode where the two teams have to make a poster and video advertising a product - and they almost always get it wrong by trying to do too much and just creating visual clutter?

    Art Exhibition Posters can sometimes remind me of the worst examples perpetrated by The Apprentice!

    Muddled, cluttered and with virtually no visual impact!

    I got this email today - asking me for help in resolving a dispute about how to word the publicity for an exhibition. Below you can read the email and my response

    What would you have done/said?
    Hi Katherine,

    I would be grateful if you could give me some advice if you have the time please.

    Myself and 5 other artists are planning an exhibition in a local town. We are very different types of artist with different styles and working in different media.

    We have hit a problem regarding the titling of the exhibit. In the absence of one of the artists, the rest of us decided on the following 
    Artist Name, Artist Name, Artist Name, 
    Artist Name, Artist Name, Artist Name  
    followed by dates, venue etc. 
    The artist who was absent on that day, objects to this as she does not like the listing of the type of artwork which will be exhibited & says she has never seen an exhibition listing 4 methods of work.

    Her preferred title is ‘Contemporary Mixed Media Art Exhibition.’

    I’ve always understood the term ‘mixed media’ is used in reference to specific artworks that are produced using a mixture of media. I haven’t understood it to be used when describing an Art Exhibition because artists have used different media from each other......

    I’m not sure that “Joe Public’ will understand the subtleties of mixed media when describing a local exhibition but by listing what type of work is being exhibited they will get a better idea of what is being exhibited.

    I would like to also take the opportunity to thank you for your very interesting pertinent blog,

    This was my response - which basically ignores the thing they don't agree on and tackles the issue they've not addressed.

    Dear name 
    You are arguing over something of no interest to the general public 
    You want to minimise the words and fight over the image you are using to promote the show.

    People will notice the image far more than they will notice words - make it a good one which will wet their interest 
    The only words you need are:
    • art show
    • venue
    • date
    • times
    that's it! 
    If you like have a smaller line down the bottom listing the artists - but don't obscure the image! 
    I also sent a link to this Guardian slideshow of posters by Tom Eckersley, who was one of the foremost poster designers and graphic communicators of the last century and also taught design.

    Here's a couple of composite images which give a sense of the ratio of great image to words used by Tom Eckersley.

    Notice how you can detect clues of what they are about without being able to read the words?
    That's what a great art exhibition poster / publicity should do too!

    The next argument is obviously about whose artwork to use.....

    To which my reply might be - why does it need to be anybody's artwork if you can come up with a great graphic design?

    Thursday, February 15, 2018

    The response to the Obama Portraits

    I found the whole unveiling of the Obama portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherrald and the subsequent reaction to be quite fascinating.

    The first official presidential portraits of an African American President and his First Lady by African American artists generated quite a 'response'.

    Barack Obama, born 1961,  Forty-fourth president, 2009–2017
    by Kehinde Wiley
    It's like everybody is suddenly a portrait expert.

    Plus there all these overtones and messages apparently embedded into the portraits

    It felt a bit as if one could almost do a sociological analysis of America based on how people responded.

    So I've done a round-up of some of the articles that were published and tried to categorise them. Interspersed by some of the comments made at the ceremony.

    One of the interesting things is how the art journals have been pushed to one side in Google rankings by all the major newsprint publications who were all desperate to have a view, or two or three....

    Start with this one - Presidential portraits: from Washington to Obama – in pictures - which provides a visual record of the portraits of past presidents - to provide some context!
    You do wonder at the state of portraiture in the USA when looking at these portraits prior to the Obamas

    Plusthe Unveiling Ceremony - if you care to watch. Speeches towards the end are interesting.

    The Obamas chose Wiley and Sherald after considering portfolios of some 20 artists. The Obamas interviewed a few at the White House, but ultimately decided on the two contemporary portraitists with whom they each felt a connection. Both artists’ work shows a commitment to making portraits of people who have traditionally been marginalized. Time

    How different is this?!!!

    Why are they so different from what has gone before? (leaving aside how boring some of the 
    portrait artists are who have painted past portraits of Presidents!)

    One thing is certain - Presidential Portraiture will never be quite the same again. I can't wait for the next one ;)
    I think the question could be asked the other way round. How come all previous portraits have been so anodyne and just plain boring!
    The image is a striking departure from the staid presentation of many of the other 43 Presidents in the “America’s Presidents” exhibit. And for that reason, it feels like an essential addition to American history. Time
    Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama
    born 1964, Born Chicago, Illinois
    by Amy Sherrald

    What's the meaning behind the portrait?

    What do the flowers mean? What does the dress mean? What influenced the portraits. There's a mix of questions and a mix of answers....
    The flora in the portrait represent the stations of Obama’s scattered personal and ancestral past—blue lilies for Kenya; jasmine for Hawaii; chrysanthemums for Chicago

    Judgements on the Portraits

    What I was always struck by whenever I saw his portraits was the degree to which they challenged our conventional views of power and privilege President Obama
    If you think I'm making a big deal of this here's an example of articles about past portraits of former Presidents

    How to see the portraits

    I think one thing people have forgotten to comment on is just how many people are likely to come and view these portraits. I think there will be another batch of articles some way down the line commenting on how many visitors they have generated. Then the interesting question will be is it because of who they are - or because of how they were painted - or because of who painted them or all of those factors bundled up together. I vote for the latter!
    • Former President Barack Obama's portrait is in the America's Presidents gallery on the museum's second floor. 
    • Former First Lady Michelle Obama's portrait is featured in the Recent Acquisitions gallery on the museum's first floor.