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 https://www.facebook.com/ArtistsAndIllustrators/


  1. This I, sad to say, is one of those “I love your blog but....” comments. Maybe I’m being a little over sensitive as I’m one of the shortlisted artists here but aren’t you being a little over critical? There’s a suggestion that the displayed pieces are possibly amateurish and not done to the same standard of professionals. Where do you draw the line between the two? If it’s just on sales then I’m definitely an amateur. However I work really hard at my art and try to treat it as more than just a pastime, painting every day working up from a grisaille with transparent and scumbled layers. I’ve even mixed paint on the support! As to the other artists on show I’m sure I saw evidence of this in some pieces.
    I would agree with you on the “Here I am, Sally” it’s a wonderful piece it should have won!

  2. Well I did think hard before writing - however the choice was between saying nothing about the exhibition (the choice I often make when I'm not enamoured by an exhibition) or saying something - but with a caveat.

    I'm certainly NOT suggesting that amateur artists don't work at their art.

    However application of time and effort sometimes needs to be about learning more about art and developing new skills as well as about painting more paintings. i.e. more of the same does not equal improvement.

    However, since you raised the issue, some of the artwork in the exhibition is distinctly "amateurish" - as in "has scope for improvement". That's not a surprise per se. A lot of readers of the magazine are amateurs.

    In terms of how I distinguish between amateur and professional, I'm the same as the taxman. If you make your living from art then you are a professional. If you paint for a hobby and sell a bit from time to time you are an amateur.

    That said I think some professionals produce really dreadful art and some amateurs produce sublime art.

    Bottom line, it's not the art that is amateur or professional - it's the person who produces it.

    HOWEVER one can see characteristics in art which are associated with amateurs - the most obvious one being a distinct tendency to copy photographs. (Hence why I am a fiend about encouraging people to sketch and work from life!)

    On the question of the VISIBLE mixing of paint on support, there is absolutely no question that some artists had done this. Plus I can tell the difference between modelling which has been developed from a grisaille and that which has 'scope for improvement'. However the fact is there was also an awful lot of flat paint of the 'painting by numbers' variety. I found a lot of them gave me no sense of a work built up over time using layers and there was precious little scumbling.

    I'm not a fan of praising people - or art - for the wrong reasons. I say what I think. If somebody asked me whether I thought they were ready for xyz competition I would tell them exactly what I thought - having asked them first whether they really wanted to know what I think!

    For me the issue was raised and highlighted by moving between the two exhibitions.
    The Pastel Society also has artwork produced by amateurs but the vast majority is produced by professionals.

  3. Well thank you for your rapid response and clarification. I wouldn’t normally post a comment on a blog such as this and would again recommend this blog to anyone interested in contemporary art. I suppose, if I’m honest, I was just feeling a little sorry for myself. As an amateur it is so encouraging to be shortlisted for such an exhibition particularly after being recently being rejected from two more “prestigious”events. What I meant by working hard was not just slaving away but trying to develop my art into something that I, and others, feel is worthwhile. To be honest I do use photography as a reference but try not just to reproduce it but develop from it.
    I have nothing against people saying what the feel and in the past I have welcomed your posts. Maybe as I said I’m just a little over sensitive but I still feel that overall the good outweighed the not so! In future I’ll think hard and take time before commenting.
    Again thank you for your response

  4. I well understand the "feeling sensitive" bit.

    Many other artists will do too.

    However as soon as "you" (as in not personal to you per se but more "you" artists at large!) choose to put your art into a public place you have to expect that people will comment. Some loudly - in the exhibition - right in front of you. Some on paper. Some online. Some to their friends. Some you will hear about and some you won't.

    Thing is everybody is entitled to an opinion.

    However those who express an opinion are not always those who are best informed, critically astute or articulate. That won't stop them having an opinion and expressing it though!

    I wish you well with your future endeavours.

    If you ever want one of my "are you ready for a competition?" reviews do let me know! :)
    See https://www.artbusinessinfo.com/would-you-like-me-to-help.html - but do note my caveat "If you're somebody who only wants warm words of encouragement and nothing else then I may not be the right person to help you."


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