Friday, March 30, 2018

Is it Art? A counterintuitive video

In terms of commentary on contemporary art - and what museums like to show, see how long you can last while watching this video before you laugh out loud! (I didn't last very long at all....)

I posted this on my Facebook Page and after it had reached 6k+ people, 60+ likes and had 68 shares it struck me I really need to share this on the blog too

Is it art?
So this is....
Will Ferrell and Joel McHale join curator Aram Moshayedi for a tour of “Stories of Almost Everyone.” On view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, January 26–May 6, 2018.
PLUS (below the video - and not available on Facebook!) 
a collection of links to the story behind the exhibition and this video

The Exhibition

First the trad artspeak version.
A comment in the Frieze article
The presentation itself is refreshingly un-showy, sardonically allusive of the pragmatic efficiencies of art storage rather than gallery display 

The Video

Next some alternative perspectives

So what did you think?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Review 301st Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists

The 301st Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists is significantly different to previous years. The RBA have noticeably "raised their game" and are all the better for it.

I started off thinking this was a transformation of an exhibition - but in doing some homework prior to writing this post, I now realise its a complete transformation of the society as a whole.

What's different in 2018?

a view of the main galleries
The Royal Society of British Artists has:
  1. a new President - Nick Tidman
  2. new Officers - these have all changed apart from the Vice President Mick Davies
  3. new Council members - again a complete change. They also include Lewis Hazelwood-Horner who was invited to be a member after winning the Threadneedle Prize in 2016.
  4. a new Patron in Shao Wei - which looks as if it will lead to exchanges between the UK and China
  5. a very specific set of members for the Selection and Hanging Committee - rather than the "President and Council" - including three who are not members of the Council. 
  6. a new website - or rather one that's a very noticeable improvement on its previous incarnation. It looks "contemporary"- which is not a word that would immediately spring to mind in association with the RBA in the past.  "Transformed" would be another appropriate word - it's now possible to get a very good look at the artwork in the exhibition.
  7. a record number of 174 works from the open submission - which is great news after my comments last year.
  8. a much more impressive exhibition - it's got good and varied content with a diversity of styles - both traditional and contemporary - and it's well hung.  It's difficult sometimes to detect what's different - but in the last 10+ years of reviewing exhibitions at the Mall Galleries I know when a society has decided to change its image!
  9. a very good record of the RBA Awards 2018 - and associated images - on the website during the course of the exhibition. This is something a number of societies struggle with - and I can never understand why. This is the major marketing opportunity of the year and those receiving awards should ALWAYS be celebrated. So well done to the RBA for doing the decent thing by their prizewinners - and including images of their work!
  10. steady and consistent marketing of the exhibition - on Facebook. It started well before the exhibition opened and hasn't stopped. Individual images from the exhibition have been posted each day. I wouldn't be in the least surprised if they've had some really good visitor numbers. I know it was surprisingly busy when I was there on Monday of the second week.
In summary, the RBA has had a makeover and looks all the better for it!

Every now and again, an art society needs a shake-up.   It's simply not possible for the same people to be involved year after year without the society beginning to have a bit of a "same old, same old" look about it. 

It's also really hard work keeping an exhibition looking fresh - because styles and contexts change - and the exhibition looks 'old' if not reinvigorated on a regular basis. However it's a lot easier if there is a change in the people selecting the work each year - and if there is a significant injection of new perspectives from the open submission.

I think the RBA has done a really good job of thinking through what needed changing and putting resources, time and effort into getting the exhibition looking better.

About the exhibition

  • Dates: 21 March 2018 to 31 March 2018 (closing 2pm on the last day)
  • Open: Daily, 10am to 5pm during exhibitions (unless otherwise stated), including Bank Holidays.
  • Admission £4, £2.50 concessions, 50% off for National Art Pass holders, Free for Friends of Mall Galleries, RBA Friends and under 18s
This is the painting which people see as they stand at the top of the stairs
It makes a great start to the exhibition!
Autumn in Provence by Nicholas Verrall 
£11,250 but it's SOLD!

Exhibition metrics - and the Open Entry

I'm going to come back and add this in - or maybe even do a separate blog post - because I need to do some counting - and there's not been a lot of time for that this week.

The Award Winners

The Award Winners are as follows:
  • The de Lazlo Foundation Prize – Caroline Pool – ‘Here I am : Howard’ - this was a painting of her Dad
  • The Artist Magazine Award – Sarah Butterfield – ‘Cakes for Tea’ - a VERY colourful artist! Read all about her in a future edition
  • Nathan David Award for Sculpture AND The Marianne von Werther Memorial Award – Teresa Hunyadi – ‘My Pleasure’ - I loved this piece - and it had strong competition! Just amazing - I'm not in the least bit surprised it also won the Rome Scholarship. I also smiled when I saw her bio says she got her chainsaw licence last year!
Add caption
  • The Davidson Award for Oil Painting – Stuart Howitt – ‘Pandering to the Camera’ - or "Pink Panda" as I found myself calling it.
  • The Dry Red Press Award – Barbara Jackson – ‘Make Way’ - lovely cat print
  • Frinton Frames Award – Benjamin Hope – ‘St Paul’s from Cannon Street, Afternoon’
  • Hahnemühle Fine Art UK Award – Jeremy Galton RBA – ‘Michaelmas Daisies II’
  • The Michael Harding Award 1 – Renee Spierdijk – ‘Striped Dress’
  • The Michael Harding Award 2 – Lee Madgwick RBA – ‘Merry-Go-Canter’
  • The Gordon Hulson Prize – Max Mansbridge-West – ‘Self Portrait’ - he ditched his chef's knives in favour of the paintbrush two years ago and trained at LARA
  • The John Ingram Memorial Prize – Isabella Crouch – ‘The Three Lydias’
  • The LARA Prize for a Young Artist – Jessica Debba – ‘Self Portrait at Twenty-Four ( Not exhibited)
  • The Anthony J Lester Art Critic Award – Robert Truscott – ‘Operation Gericht’ - won the Visitor's Choice Awards at the Threadneedle in 2012
  • The Patron’s Prize – Cheryl Culver RBA PPPS – ‘Jumble of Rocks’
  • The Stuart Southall Print Prize – Kirsten van Schreven – ‘Airframe IV’
  • The Geoffrey Vivis Memorial Award – Jasmyn Frazer – ‘Golden Age’
  • The Winsor & Newton Painting award – Timothy Gatenby – ‘Dark Lanes’
  • The Surgeons Prize – Ruth Murray – ‘Fish Market, 100 Smirrells Road’ - strong unique style - and likes pink!

The Exhibition

Overall it gave the impression of being a little crowded. I don't have a problem with that so long as the exhibition is hung well - which this was.

Main Galleries

a view of one side of the Main Gallery
I'm beginning to think that the successors to Ken Howard in terms of scope and style - are now outpainting Ken Howard....

a view of the other side
My favourite corner of the exhibition this year is below

I loved this corner - lots to interest the eye and very detailed artworks and yet it's not too "busy"
There's some very strong monochrome work in the exhibition

Monochrome work in various media

Threadneedle Space

I really liked the rather odd paintings by John Whitehill - I like painting which engage my brain and challenge me to think and work out what's going on....

(left) St. Paul's from Cannon Street (afternoon) oil £12,000 by Benjamin Hope
(Right) Souvenir and Souvenir II oil £1,200 each by John Whitehill
I also particularly liked the sculpture on display in this room. In fact the sculpture across the whole exhibition was impressive.

The Sculpture Shelf in the Threadneedle Space

North Galleries

The North Galleries were again dominated by artworks from the Open Submission. A such they looked distinctly more contemporary than the rest of the exhibition. That's not to say there wasn't traditional elements within it.

a much more contemporary RBA

For me it included artwork which I wouldn't have expected to see in an RBA exhibition 2-3 years ago.

I liked the work on the "One and a Half Candidates' Walls" in the North Galleries.  I'm hoping to see the following as members next year:
  • Annie Boisseau - has just got something which catches the attention although I've got a niggle that this might be sometimes but not always basis. (Plus she really needs to sort out her website!)
  • Alex Callaway RBSA - has impressed me with his work in a number of recent shows. On the face of it traditional still life - but there's just something that gives it a contemporary edge. Plus he's getting selected for a good number of juried shows.
  • Susie Perring - an excellent example of an artist who produces good work as a printmaker, knows her audience and knows how to price to sell
  • Melissa Scott-Miller - Very steady painter of endless scenes of different bits of Islington. She has a major following. I think she's a really good fit - and will bring a bit of urban London - and colour - to the RBA scene.
  • Will Taylor - I'm a sucker for traditionally drawn etchings of topographical scenes drawn in a traditional but not boring way - and he does not disappoint. Or maybe I just like Rye?
Candidates Wall #1
Melissa Scott Miller, Alex Callaway, Susie Perring and Michael Harrison
Candidates Wall #2
Annie Boisseau, Will Taylor and Christopher Knox

Issues which still need to be addressed

Some of the pricing is very silly.  It doesn't help sales at the exhibition and it certainly does not help an artist's career.

I'm beginning to think there ought to be a guideline offered with the information for artists submitting via the open entry.  On the other hand some of that advice could do with being proffered to the members as well!

Some artists would do well to study who sells the most art consistently year after year after year. Annie Williams is a good example of an artist who consistently sells 75-80% of her work at most exhibitions and who has never ever been silly about prices. She knows her audience.

Annie Williams RWS RBA - count the red spots
- top seller numerically in the exhibition on Monday
Those who can price high are those who know they can price high and still sell.

For example, I have no doubt that Lewis Hazlewood-Horner will get a buyer for his very impressive LARGE painting in the Threadneedle Space. That's because he's had an exhibition in the Threadneedle Space and filled it will large paintings which sold.  He's also one of a very few painters I know who knows how to paint a group of people and create a painting with a narrative.  It's a rare skill these days....
Last Orders by Lewis Hazelwood-Horner RBA
Oil £25,000
Threadneedle Space - just to give some perspective on the above painting

My challenge to the RBA for 2019 is to at least equal the number of sales from the open submission in numerical terms!  If they get their pricing right, this should not be difficult....

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Big Painting Challenge (Series 3) starts Easter Sunday!

The return of The Big Painting Challenge to the BBC!
The Third Series of The Big Painting Challenge kicks off next week.

Mariella Frostrup and Rev Richard Coles return at 6pm on Easter Sunday to introduce "a six week artistic boot camp" as the BBC like to call it.

It looks as if the Judges have returned to "normal" i.e. just Daphne Todd and Lachlan Goudie - which must mean I think that the BBC have read my comments on the third Judge from the last series - and doubtless there were other contributions on the same topic!

The two professional mentors are also back if Pascal Anson's tweet is anything to go by

There are going to be six episodes and it appears we are back to moving around the country.

If precedent is any guide the series will cover the traditional genres of still life, portraiture, landscapes - rural and urban - and other aspects that build on previous topics and introduce an extra challenge eg wildlife and movement - followed by the Final in Episode 6.

Episode 1 - Still Life - 1st April BBC1 6pm

The episode runs from 6pm - 7pm on BBC1 (also available on iPlayer afterwards).

The first episode is based in Glasgow and involves:
  • the topic is still life
  • a first painting involves objects they have brought from home. 
  • next a "masterclass" in still life painting - presumably involving the two professional mentors - to help improve painting of both volume and tone
  • finally a painting of a large scale painting of the large-scale and shiny stills and fermenters used for producing whisky and gin in a distillery.
As in the last series, the paintings produced will be shown to a group of people - usually associated with the location - and determine the fate of one artist who gets an automatic pass to the next round.

Finally, the judges pass their judgement - and decide who goes home.

Next, I write my review of each episode and publish it on this blog as soon as possible after the programme!  So expect a review every Monday for the next six weeks!


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More about the Judges

I know both Judges and they are both very professional and very sound. 

Remember, painting is not just about structure and technique. It's about emotion, energy, unexpected ideas and points of view. Painting is magic. From a blank piece of paper you can conjure up new worlds. Lachlan Goudie

More about The Big Painting Challenge

Below is a list of my Blog Posts for the previous two series of The Big Painting Challenge.

Making A Mark - SERIES TWO

The Finalists line-up at the end of Series 2
PLUS my blog post about the run-up to the new show in 2017 in The NEW BBC Painting Show - which outlines the process for entering.

Making A Mark SERIES ONE

Participating artists at their art exhibition in Highgate after the end of the series
For those who want to revisit the 2015 Big Painting Challenge you can find all my past blog posts still available - and listed below!
Plus the two posts in the run up to the programme starting

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The agony and the ecstasy of art competition judging

Last night I spotted two images which for me symbolised the agony and the ecstasy associated with the judging of art competitions.

Agony - The faces of this year's selection panel for the 250th Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, led by Grayson Perry RA - who have just spent a week working their way through 15,000 artworks!

From Grayson Perry's Twitter account (March 9, 2018)
The battle weary faces of five people who have looked at 15000 artworks since last Friday.
Me with Humphrey Ocean, David Mach, Emma Stibbon and Chris Orr. 

Ecstasy - The joy of the artist who submitted work to this exhibition - and who got the nod - on finally seeing the letter that indicates her artwork has moved to the next round. Many thanks to Andrea Joseph for showing us what the missive actually looks like!

How long do judges spend on art competitions?

Many of the prestigious juried art competitions that I highlight on this blog disappoint something between 95-98% of the artists who have submitted work.

That's an awful lot of people.

I thought it might be worthwhile - when considering what to enter in future - if we just consider:
  • the practicalities of judging
  • in particular, how much time is involved in judging juried art exhibitions.
Below is a painting by Charles West Cope RA (1811-1890) about how pictures were selected for the Exhibition in 1875 - some 143 years ago. Some are still using a system which is somewhat similar (although smaller and in less grand surroundings).

The Council of the Royal Academy selecting Pictures for the Exhibition, 1875,  Charles West Cope RA,
oil on canvas, 1875-76
© Royal Academy of Arts, London

One of the main things that have changed since I started writing this blog is that now almost all art competitions have an initial digital submission.

That makes life simpler for the competition organisers and cuts costs for both organisers and the artists submitting work. No more need to frame and hire a courier when instead all you need to do is learn how to scan or get a good photograph of your work.

However, the other main feature of art competitions is that the number of submissions keep rising! Partly because it is now so much simpler to submit.

So how does the assessment get done these days?

Let's do the maths - about time

First of all let's remember that many major art society exhibitions won't be paying for the time of members who get to be part of the selection panel.

In relation to the more significant art competitions, I'm guessing that the practice varies.  While some might be flattered just to be asked to judge, for other it's unlikely that they will judge without a fee being involved.

I expect - but don't know for certain - that a number of the art competitions do pay a fee to their invited Judges. Mainly because these are people who are very busy with a lot of other commitments and their time may come with a fee attached.
(Much as I give 5 minute freebies to people who pose a quick and simple question but if you want more serious input I also charge a fee!)

Why be concerned about time?

Well let's take a look at what's involved in terms of time.

The Summer Exhibition 2018 selection and hanging committee:
  • started on Friday 2nd March 2018 - looking at sculpture and 3D Architecture Models
  • on Monday March 5th they started looking at paintings and prints
  • by Wednesday March 7th they have looked at 10,000 submissions (i.e. 4 days work?)
  • they finished on Friday 9th March after reviewing 15,000 works (which I think must include the RA submissions)
I'm guessing it took either 6 days or 7 days to review 15,000 works and that Grayson Perry sat through the lot - with teams making up the selection panels for specific types of artwork.

Somebody commented on my Facebook Page
My question would then this the best way to judge artworks?
Accepted artworks then become those that hit you within the first millisecond...kind of what you would wish for in the world of advertising. But are we to judge artwork as you would a successful advertising mock-up or a catchy sound-bite? Are the energy levels of the judges consistent throughout this super speed processing machine? We're only human after all.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Got the GDPR Jitters? 10 things you need to know as an artist / art society / art gallery

The law on data protection says what you should do when you collect, use, store or do anything else with people’s personal data. This law changes on 25 May 2018. Making data protection your business | ICO

The NEW & MANDATORY General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect on 25th May 2018. 

I was not surprised that my inbox yesterday contained an email from the Treasurer of an Art Society about GDPR - which I've provided edited highlights of below
Please forgive me disturbing you, I am the Treasurer of (an art society). We are a small society based in (a county). We are a mixture of Amateur and Professional Artists, and I have been getting the "jitters" regarding GDPR and our mailing list that we use to invite prospective clients to our Annual Exhibition in July.
In my opinion the Treasurer is quite right to be getting "jitters" if they have done nothing yet to make sure they are going to be compliant.  On the other hand, with good organisation, a calm approach and some sensible actions I think it's entirely possible they can be compliant in a pretty short space of time.

The main challenge is in educating people and maintaining that compliance over time - and NOT lapsing back into bad habits.

Frankly the GDPR thing is so enormous, that initial attempts to explain it while well-meaning have tended towards a "one size fits all" approach and forgotten to tailor it more specifically to sole traders as well as very large organisation (and everybody inbetween!)

Fortunately, progress has been made since my last post on this topic Is your art organisation or business ready for GDPR - the replacement of the Data Protection Act? and there's now some much better information and guidance around - including some specifically for the small trader and smaller organisation or charity.

Bottom line - Governments are getting VERY serious about the protection of breaches of regulations that protect people's personal data.
  • mistakes are no longer acceptable
  • unwillingness to change is NOT acceptable
  • regulations make change mandatory
  • financial penalties mean people are paying attention.
Many members of the public are demanding higher standards from organisations – large and small – that collect and use their personal information.

10 things you need to know about GDPR
- as an artist / art society / art gallery

Before you start reading, I want to emphasise that I still haven't got my head around all of the published information on GDPR - by a long way - so any information below is given without any liability to the reader.

You need to do your reading just as much as me!

ONE - just to get your attention....

Breaches of GDPR can lead to FINES of up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 Million (whichever is greater).

Just think - that could be 4% of Facebook Income or 4% of Google Income - or 4% of your turnover - BEFORE expenses!  Which is why they are taking this seriously!

Now I've got your attention I can tell you that the Information Commissioner's Office in the UK have also said
Monetary penalties have been and will continue to be a last resort of our regulatory action – our primary aim is to support businesses to get things right and improve their practices where required.

TWO - this one concentrates the mind wonderfully!

There are just 62 days left until the new Regulation (that means NOT OPTIONAL) becomes operational.

THREE - why this applies to YOU

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to applies to every person and every organisation processing personal data about anybody living in the EU.

That means for those in the art world, it's anybody who collects personal data about other individuals who live and/or work in the EU.

This includes:
  • ALL sole traders (i.e. artists who sell their work to people; art tutors who educate people), 
  • ALL Charities and not-for-profit organisations - such as Art Societies that have marketing email lists and membership lists
  • ALL Art Schools - which maintain personal information on their students
  • ALL Art Galleries - which maintain personal information about buyers and artists
Basically it means ANYBODY who records and processes personal data MUST comply with the regulation.

FOUR - Help is available for sole traders and micro businesses

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: The Final of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

Last night was The Final of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018 - and this is a review of the programme and the decision.

The Final Portraits painted in 4 hours.
My guess as to who would win proved correct. The question up for discussion - in this post and any comments you might like to add - is whether or not the decision was justified.

What follows is my response to what we saw in the episode - in terms of
  • the painting of Emili Sande, 
  • the three portrait commissions - and finally
  • what happened in terms of the decision-making.
Before the start - the set-ups for
(left to right) Danny Howes, Samira Addo and Hetty Lawlor

The Final Portraits - at the National Portrait Gallery

I think the three finalists were incredibly fortunate in having Emili Sande as their subject. She's got a "good head" and was incredibly still for four hours.

I made notes while watching.
  • they all took photos as reference
  • both Danny and Samira gridded up - the latter for the first time. 
  • Hetty just stuck to her routine of starting with the eyes and getting those right and working out from there, measuring by eye as she went.
  • Danny used a grid because he upped his normal size and used the photo and the grid to get the drawing placed on the canvas - and then painted from life
  • Samira worried about using the grid as it seemed to throw out her timings. She looked quite tense and troubled by time.

In terms of who produced the best portrait - in Emili Sande's view it was Hetty.

I liked the portraits produced by both Hetty (best likeness) and Danny - some lovely painting of skin tones, which is clearly something he is very good at.

For me Samira seemed somewhat stressed having changed her normal way of working and while she definitely pulled it back towards the end, for me it wasn't one of her better paintings - although better than the one she produced for the semi-final where it was absolutely impossible to tell who the sitters actually were.

Hetty's drawing (in coloured pencils and acrylic) of Emili Sande

Danny Howes painting of Emili - the largest painting and 'head'

Samira's painting of Emili

The other artists

There were a dozen artists working from a video of Emili Sande in a nearby room - with the winner promised a pass to the next series. To be honest, I wasn't impressed by most of what I saw. It occurred to me that these might be the reserve painters who could fill in at the last minute at a Heat if somebody dropped out or got sick. I could be wrong....

The winner in the sideshow turned out to be a female Army helicopter pilot called Hannah Shergold who produced a large and very colourful painting using palette knives (and has an interesting website! Turns out she is a a fully qualified Lynx helicopter commander who has served all over the world including Canada, Kenya, Germany and Afghanistan.)

The Commissions

I wish they'd given more time to the Commissions. If the decision is supposed to be based on both why not give them equal time?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Video: Fred Cuming RA

I've just spent a blissful 10 minutes watching a video about one Fred Cuming of my favourite artists.

The video is called 'Fred Cuming RA: Portrait of an Artist' and was made in 2015 when he was 85.  It was shot in and around his home and studio between Rye and Hastings in East Sussex.

Screenshot from the video 'Fred Cuming RA: Portrait of an Artist'- on Camber Sands near where he lives
It's one of the more visually and orally articulate videos about an artist's work that I've seen in some time.

Almost poetic.

He's now in his late 80s and has been painting for over 60 years. He paints real landscapes in an abstracted way with superb tonal control and fabulous colour sense.  I love his cloudscapes, seascapes and snowscapes.

See recent works
Fred has devoted his life to expressing the fleeting impressions of his surroundings, often painting the South Coast of England around Hastings and Rye where he lives.

Screenshot from the video 'Fred Cuming RA: Portrait of an Artist' - inside the studio
This is the video. I highly recommend you view the video in HD mode on full screen.

Fred Cuming painting in his studio shed.
He was elected a Royal Academician in 1974 - this is his profile on the RA website

Fred Cuming RA will be exhibiting work with four other artists in 'The Alchemy of Paint' opening at Gallery 8, Duke Street, St James's on 21 May.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Travels of Atlantis Art Materials - on the move again!

The largest art shop in London has moved again! 

I regard Atlantis Art Materials as one of my local art materials shops. It's had lots of locations around the East End of London since I first encountered it just off Devons Road in E3 more years ago than I can accurately remember.

I've bought masses of art materials and supplies "stuff" from Atlantis in my time. They were my supplier of choice for paper, foam core, mat board when I could access them easily by car - because you could buy masses and just load it straight on to the back seat.  Plus I've been known to acquire an awful lots of bits and bobs having to walk past shelves to get to the foam core!  I can visualise all the pastels and pencils racks still because I used to spend so long in front of them....

I was idling trying to work out how many locations it has had since I've known them - and in the end came up with six - but I have only visited four of them.

There again they've only been in the latest one in Hackney since 5th March 2018.

1. Original Location: Devons Road, London E3 (mid/late 1980s?)

I'm sure this is the first place that I first I came across Atlantis Art Materials. I don';t think they'd been going for very long when I first came across them.

It was a typical location for a company looking for a large building and not wanting to pay lots of rent! They inhabited a very modern techie type building next to where the Devons Road DLR Station (opened 1987) is now. This was by far the smallest of the stores. They got a lot bigger when they moved on from here.  I don't think the DLR was open when I first visited it - but I could be wrong.

The original Devons Road location. 
I seem to recall the building they were in looked different so it might have changed or it might just be so many years ago I can't actually remember.

I do remember going there to review watercolour paint after reading Michael Wilcox's book The Wilcox Guide to the Best Watercolor Paints (published 1993) because this was the first time I'd taken a good long hard look at Old Holland Paint - which I never ever saw in any other art suppliers. (Note: this book is now way out of date - but did trigger a bit of a revolution if testing watercolours!)

2. The Huge Warehouse in Brick Lane (Early - Late 90s?)

I can't remember the precise address but it was right opposite the Old Truman Brewery - in an HUGE warehouse with great parking. It was absolutely cavernous and one of the stores I liked the best.

They were here for ages and I made lots of early purchases here.

Many is the time I've climbed that little flight of stairs
and entered the cathedral of art materials

a very small entrance
- which led to an enormous space behind

3. Whitechapel - early 2000s - 2009

7-9 Plumber's Row London E1 1EQ (just behind the Mosque on Whitechapel Road - as was)

This was one of the best locations and was also very accessible whether visiting using public transport or by car. I could normally guarantee I could park the car either in their car park or on the street - which meant I could take my time and spend lots of money I hadn't planned to.

Plus I really liked the layout and the paper desk - which was away from everything else.

I have some very pleasant memories of having a wind down from work wander around on Saturday afternoons.

They had to move on when plans for the area were developed and the site is now home to student accommodation.

4. Hanbury Street - August 2009- 2015

Disabled unfriendly entrance
- especially when carrying stuff!
Britannia House, 68-80 Hanbury Street, London E1 5JL

This was a large bright space once you got inside and lots of space to display the products well. However the access was a total nightmare (particularly for those with mobility challenges) in terms of both stairs at the entrance, the store on the second floor and a lift that took forever - plus never enough parking spaces outside - plus controlled parking zone. Luckily I could park locally being a resident of Tower Hamlets - however I still had to time visits for when it was more likely there would be spaces!

My shopping at Atlantis dropped off after they moved here - largely because of the accessibility reasons. It more or less became an emergency visits only - and I took to ordering online for larger stock supplies.

I'm guessing this is what finally stimulated the eternal "mail order" firm into finally getting its act together and generating an internet ordering service

The building is now a  refurbished very modern and"funky" apartment block.

5. Old Street 2015 - 25 February 2018

Basement, 16-28 Tabernacle Street, EC2A 4DD

The 2015 Invite to New Premises
I've never visited this venue as I'd stopped being a regular customer after the parking problems associated with Hanbury Street. It never struck me as being particularly easy to visit - being in the middle of a gigantic one way system.

NEW / Current Location - Hackney E8 - from 5th March 2018

Unit 1/Unit 7 Bayford Street Industrial Centre, London E8 3SE

This is their announcement.  They've got two units in a business centre - Unit 1 for main art supplies and Unit 7 just for paper.
  • The plus points: 
    • London Fields overground is within 200m
    • It's near the main bus routes via Mare Street
    • will be great for Hackney based artists
  • The negatives: 
    • double yellow lines everywhere - if you're not a Hackney resident don't even think about taking a car! 
    • no information on the website about parking - it's as if nobody ever has to move large or heavy items!
    • Atlantis have left Tower Hamlets - it's not local any more!

They're not a very internet savvy firm however you can follow them on:

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Rejection from the RA Summer Exhibition

This week lots of people got their notification about their entry to this year's Royal Academy of Art Summer Exhibition.

More than 95+% of them will have got a rejection email/letter.

You are in very good company if one of those was you.

Just to give you some perspective if you were rejected, this painting by Peter Brown NEAC ROI PS BSA was also rejected....
"Dear Peter Brown, Thank you for submitting your artwork: NED READING ON THE STUDIO FLOOR. The Members of the Summer Exhibition Committee...regret that they will not be able to include your artwork..."

Ned lying on the Studio Floor
Peter Brown
There have been HOWLS of disbelief on Facebook at this decision - 72 shares (and mine was one such) - and and very many comments - which I have idly wondered about analysing!

Last year I wrote a post called Does the RA Summer Exhibition still have the WOW factor?

#7 of the 10 reasons I gave for why the Summer Exhibition had lost its "WOW" was
7. too few good figurative paintings - by which I mean of the relatively realistic variety. There were any number of the more fantasy oriented or "I can't draw" variety. I see a lot more paintings I like better on a regular basis in the open exhibitions and art competitions exhibiting at the Mall Galleries.
I'm pleased to say that those of you who would like to see it in person will be able to do so at the Annual Exhibition of the New English Art Club which will be at the Mall Galleries between 15 Jun 2018 to 23 Jun 2018

It's worth remembering that NEAC was originally set up by those who were disgruntled by the decisions of those running the RA!
Historically, the New English was founded by a group of artists dissatisfied with the entrenched attitudes of the Royal Academy. They mounted their first show in 1886 including paintings by Clausen, Sickert and Stanhope Forbes. The club increasingly attracted younger artists, bringing with them the influence of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Many diverse styles of art have developed since its founding, adding richness and variety.

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Previous reviews of the Summer Exhibition

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review: Semi Finals of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

The Semi Finals (Episode 9) of Portrait Artist of the Year was broadcast on Tuesday evening. I was able to catch up on the programme, make my notes and review social media comments this morning - and what follows is my review.

The Semi Finals of  Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

I'll see if I can make sense of what happened.

The Semi Finalists

The Semi Finalists
(Left to right: Leanne, Samira, Danny, Hetty, Brid, Lisa, Corinne and Jonathan)

The semi finals comprised four professional artists (links in the Heat Numbers are to my review of that Episode):
and four amateur artists
In terms of looking back at the series as a whole it's interesting to see whether the choices made in the Heats survived the challenges associated with the Semi Final.

What was different

First of all they changed the location. Using the Cafe de Paris was suggested to be a good way "taking them out of a safe environment" - although why an environment in which each artist probably had one of the more stressful experiences of their lives should be regarded by artists as "safe" is beyond me!

It was also suggested that the nature of the environment would be something the artists could capture in their portraits. There are some very obvious reasons - see below why this was something of a ridiculous hope!  Quite apart from the fact that most artists had stuck to head and shoulders portraits in their heats!

However the location did mean that they could control the light better - no "plein air" challenges from the overhead lighting to challenge them - because there was no natural light and they could make sure lighting was equally good for all artists (at least I assume they did this!)

Instead of one, the finalists had to paint TWO sitters within four hours.

Personally, given that this strategy favours some artists over others in terms of painting technique and speed of painting, IMO it was a bit much:
  • NOT to notify them in advance - so they had a chance to practice doing two portraits in four hours (ie effectively halving the time they had previously).
  • NOT to extend the amount of time available for painting - An extra hour or two could have made a very big difference to the outcome of this part of the competition - and the painters would still have had less time to paint a portrait than they had previously
Bottom line I think that while it is perfectly fair to make the challenge more difficult at this stage in order to the traditional "sort them out", this needs to be done in such a way as to
  • maintain a level playing field and 
  • avoid any context or tactics which favours one artist over another.
Could they have raised the stakes and been fair to all artists? Of course they could.   I'd suggest this is something for the company making the programme to reflect on for the future.

The models

Lily Cole and Simon Callow

The models were:


This is a slightly different review in the sense that we've already seen all the painters paint at least once. 

Performance Anxiety

This week I got the impression that the major challenge for most people - besides two sitters in a new context - was the FACT it was the semi-final. The atmosphere was more intense and was commented on as such by more the one painter while others just looked more worried.

I think a bit of performance anxiety crept in to some people's paintings. Certainly some painters paintings just fell away as the session progressed. They actually didn't look like they'd been painted by the same person who had painted in the Heats. 

Timing out the window

For those focusing on keeping their cool and just working steadily - in order to keep a lid on nerves - there was the contrary issue of needing to remember all the time that they were painting two people and had to create a unity and balance between the two individuals - but in the same amount of time they had to do one person in the Heat!

I thought Jonathan summed it up rather aptly "Why didn't I start panicking sooner?" - because at the end of the day there is always only a limited amount of time to get the painting done.

The painters arranged around the sitters

The Double Sitter Challenge

Now this is a subject I know something about. My Drawing the Head class at the (what was then) Prince's Drawing School always had two sitters - and if you made sure to sit in a particular place it was perfectly possible to draw two models within the time allowed - which was 2 hours actual drawing time.