Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: Movement - Big Painting Challenge 2018

It was semi finals week in the Big Painting Challenge this week. Six people were left - which meant that two people had to go before the Final next week.

The six semifinalists and their Mentors - just read the body language.....
So I wrote down in my notebook I use when watching each episode the four people I thought would make it to the Finals two minutes into the programme - and come the end I was proved right.

Who will be in the final? 
Mind you, I think that's because I pay attention to the way the edit by the production company leaks subliminal clues from the very beginning of the series! Pay attention to who gets highlighted in the opening sequence - particularly in relation to episodes not yet shown - and how much time they get!

This week the theme was ostensibly Movement - but was actually about looking - and the need to look, study and memorise movements and work out a strategy that worked for them about how to depict movement.

The comments on social media continue to be overwhelmingly negative about this programme on both Facebook and Twitter #BigPaintingChallenge. Indeed I can't think of another "how to paint" programme which has ever produced this reaction.

The theme underlying most comments is how unfair and mean the programme is to the artists.

Even the Daily Mail decided to comment - see Judges on The Big Painting Challenge are branded 'bitchy and cruel' by viewers - who say they're more interested in 'crushing' amateurs than the quality of their art (although their final sentence - not the one below - defies logic!)
Judges Daphne Todd and Lachlan Goudie were branded 'unbelievably brutal' by contestant Susan, from Northern Ireland - and many viewers strongly agreed
I've been a defender of the Judges until now - but this week was not good.

If this programme is not reconstructed into something less "gameshow" and more educational and appropriate for an early Sunday evening slot in future I shall be very surprised.

I do hope the BBC take the opportunity to fire the production company at the earliest opportunity.  The direction and editing is just plain nasty.

The First Exercise

On the whole this first challenge was a much better tempered and less upsetting affair compared to last week. Pascal seemed to be on best behaviour and was extremely pleasant.

I concluded there had been a post mortem after the previous week and a commitment made to have no more tears.

How wrong was I?

Friday, April 27, 2018

FAKE Facebook Group called "American Watercolor Society"

The FAKE American Watercolor Society Facebook Group's "About" Page
If you are a watercolourist you need to know that the "American Watercolor Society" GROUP on Facebook is FAKE.

The "About Page" of the FAKE FACEBOOK GROUP looks like the image at the top of the Page.

The REAL American Watercolour Society on Facebook only has a PAGE - this is the URL - and they do NOT have a Group.

How do I know it's Fake?

Post about the FAKE Facebook Group on the REAL American Watercolor Society PAGE

Two things

  1. The real American Watercolor Society has called it out with a post on its Facebook Page - but is having trouble working out how to stop it using their name
  2. The Admin for the group is somebody called Mehmet Serakibi who is Turkish and lives in Saudi Arabia

and another thing....

Artists have been added into this group without their knowledge or consent - and that includes some of those whose faces appear on the image above.

The Facebook Problem

The problem is that:
  • Facebook insists that all accounts (for individuals) MUST be in real names
  • Facebook states that it wants to get rid of any Fake News on Facebook
  • However it has has not created a way for Members to report Groups using Fake Names - as in the name is real but the person creating the Group is just not entitled to use it - and has very obviously used it with the intention of fooling people.
  • It has not created a way like Twitter has to validate and verify the use of a proper registered name.
I reported the group to Facebook. Let's see if it acts on my report. 
This was my report - and I used the Feedback facility to report this.
"You do not have a facility for reporting a Group as a scam.For example this group called "American Watercolour Society" is misrepresenting itself as an official bona fide society. 
The REAL American Watercolour Society have a Page and are trying to report this group to you for misrepresentation. 
You state accounts MUST have real names so people know you are. 
You say you want us to report Fake News. 
How come you don't allow people to report Fake Groups using the name of a real organisation of the same name?"
If you are concerned about this type of mispresentation of the identity of legitimate art societies can I suggest you:
  • check you have not been fooled/scammed by this group
  • maybe also complain about the fakery

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ship of Fools by Kehinde Wiley on show at Queens House in Greenwich

Ship of Fools (2017) 
© Kehinde Wiley
2724mm x 2225mm oil on canvas
Courtesy of Kehinde Wiley and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
The first work by the American artist Kehinde Wiley  to be acquired by a public collection in the UK went on show today at the Queen’s House in Greenwich, London.

The painting 'Ship of Fools' (2017) has been acquired by the Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) with the help of the Art Fund
Ship of Fools is a large oil painting that depicts a group of four migrants in a rickety boat with a tree trunk growing where the mast would be. Like many of the artist’s other works, Ship of Fools responds to an old master painting: in this case, Hieronymus Bosch’s panel of the same name in the collection of the Louvre.

Ship of Fools makes visible not only the problems that confront contemporary migrants, but also the invisible legacies that informed maritime history and indeed the genre of marine painting.
In the  painting, Wiley’s contemporary subjects are displaced, nameless sea-faring migrants in search of a better life who represent the perilous journey millions make today in an age of increasingly closed borders.
Wiley draws direct inspiration from Hieronymus Bosch’s own mysterious and influential scene of the same title which was created in the late 15th or early 16th century and which critiques the misbehaviour of then-contemporary clergy. Whilst Bosch’s painting depicts gluttony and desire and follows the traditional allegory of the ‘Ship of Fools’ - a ship struggling to keep its course due to a dysfunctional crew - Wiley instead gives his subjects a more heroic demeanour, suggesting that ‘foolishness’ comes from their willingness to risk everything in the search for a better life in the context of a world that typically ignores their desperation. Viewers of the painting are thus placed in the uncomfortable position of examining their own feelings and actions about migration and the migration crisis today.
Kehinde Wiley (b.1977) was recently in the news for his official portrait of President Barack Obama (see The response to the Obama Portraits) .  He was also listed in 2018’s TIME Magazine ‘100 most influential people’ list and hence can properly be regarded as one of the most significant contemporary American artists.

He's best known for majestic large scale paintings that feature people of African heritage. His works explore themes of race, identity and power that challenge the absence of people of colour from traditional art histories.

The painting was created for Wiley’s recent exhibition, In Search of the Miraculous, at the Stephen Friedman Gallery in London

'Ship of Fools' is a traditional theme which a number of painters have reflected by prior to Wiley.  
  • The ship of fools is an allegory, originating from Book VI of Plato's Republic, about a ship with a dysfunctional crew
  • The concept makes up the framework of the 15th-century book Ship of Fools (1494) by Sebastian Brant
  • This as the inspiration for Hieronymus Bosch's painting, Ship of Fools: a ship—an entire fleet at first—sets off from Basel, bound for the Paradise of Fools.
  • The tree in Wiley's painting reflects  the version painted by Hieronymus Bosch as part of a triptych. The Ship of Fools was painted on one of the wings of the altarpiece, and is about two thirds of its original length - and is now in the Louvre.
Ship of Fools by Hieronymus Bosch
58 cm × 33 cm (22.8 in × 13.0 in)
The contemporary allegory of Wiley’s Ship of Fools helps to bridge the gap between the old master paintings in the Museum’s collection and current political and social issues.

This acquisition will enable the Museum to explore its important holdings related to slavery, migration, and colonialism, and help shed new light on the Museum’s world renowned collection of marine paintings.

Exhibition information for visitors:

  • Venue: Queen’s House, Greenwich
  • Dates: From 1pm, 26 April 2018
  • Opening times: every day, 10.00 – 17.00
  • Visitor enquiries: 020 8858 4422
  • Admission: Free
  • Website:

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sculpting with light and shadow and drawing with pins and credit cards

The other day a reader suggested I take a look at an online article about  called Kumi Yamashita - a Japanese artist based in New York who creates
  • animated shadows and perspective distortion as artwork installations
  • portraits by rubbing and by using pins and thread and warp and weft
A constant theme of her work is the use of everyday materials to create art.

I investigated further and would now HIGHLY RECOMMEND you also take a look.

I think she's quite remarkable and amply illustrates the notions of
  • artists seeing the world in a different way; and 
  • how an artist can perceive possibilities for making art in a variety of ways from everyday objects in daily world.

An Introduction

Specifically, my reader suggested that I looked at one image of a shadow of a woman sitting on a chair.

It turns out that the woman did not exist and the artwork was created through a wood sculpture lit from a specific angle to create the illusion of the shadow sitting on a chair.

I never like to stop at one article and started looking around - found her website - and was truly impressed by the range of media used and the image /  illusions - or artwork - created as a result.

Artwork Galleries on the website of Kumi Yamashita

I highly recommend you take a look at her website - where you will find galleries relating to:

Light and Shadow

The Light and Shadow gallery is just full of exploration of different ways of creating images of people using light and a formed shape created out of paper or carved wood or whatever. The work Chair was the first to be drawn to my attention.  However I actually find others more interesting

You can see her using the wooden building blocks of a child, a child's wooden letters and numbers, creating origami profiles in coloured paper of a face, which are the repeated in cast resin etc etc.

Here's a video of some of her work

Portraits are also a theme of her work.  These are produced in three different ways
  • rubbing
  • a single unbroken thread
  • weaving


The Rubbing Gallery has a series of portraits. The process is somewhat similar to brass rubbings - except Kumi rubs with graphite on Japanese paper using people's expired credit cards (and moves them around under the paper) to create their portrait. The portrait of Samuel Beckett in his own words was created through rubbing graphite onto Japanese paper over plates which were embossed with passages of text from his handwritten notebooks (feels like maybe 3D printing might have been involved here as well)


She creates portraits using a solid white wooden panel, thousands of tiny galvanized nailes and a single unbroken thread which is wound around the nails in patters to create a monochrome face with tonal features.

Warp and Weft

She also creates portraits by taking a fabric made of two different coloured threads and pulled out strands of the lighter thread to create a face - in an enormously effective manner.

Viewing an Exhibition of the work of Kumi Yamashita 

This is a video of somebody visiting an exhibition of her work. He forgets to adjust focus at times but it demonstrates the artworks from different angles

About the Artist

This is from a profile of the artist by a gallery
Kumi Yamashita studied at the Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, and the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. She has exhibited extensively worldwide and recently completed several public commissions in Tokyo, Glasgow, and Seattle.
Her work has had a lot of press coverage since 1994

Her practice seems to involve quite a view artist in residency and visiting artist programs.

Her work is in a number of public collections in Japan, the USA, China - and Glasgow!

Three of her pieces are coming soon to a new exhibition of historical and contemporary silhouettes opening in May at the National Portrait Gallery in D.C.

More about Kumi Yamashita

I didn't stop at her website. These are articles about her work and include interviews - and I very much recommend the first one.
Kumi’s methods and materials go beyond the confines of traditional media, transforming one medium into something else. With great attention to detail, Yamashita’s works are exhaustively complex and precise— yet they remain deeply human.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Waterscape - The Big Painting Challenge 2018

This week, Episode 4 of The Big Painting Challenge was the Waterscape Episode.

Seven painters and two mentors face the Big Waterscape Painting Challenge
As it was plein air week, they of course had REALLY BAD WEATHER!  I'm not sure that they were planning to have quite so much water in the air as well as in front of them.

Mariella announced at the beginning of the programme that they were on the banks of Loch Lomond "at the tail end of a hurricane" - which I think this means it was being filmed in the third week of October and they had to go north to still have leaves on the trees! 

Here's a taster of how bad it got.

What was really odd was the variation in clothing - and you could really tell who had previously painted plein air (or was used to being outside in Scotland) and who was more used to painting in nice warm studios i.e.
  • who knew what it was going to be like (Pascal - head to toe in red waterproof oilskin of the type worn by fishermen and Tilly - who had layers on her layers and both had really effective hoods)
  • who didn't (Oliver - rocking a laddish V neck sweater and absolutely no visible waterproof whatsoever!)
Pascal in waterproofs

Pascal had a really bad week. He made Jane cry and then this....

Anyway - back to the normal challenges........

Below is my digest/review of what happened in this week's episode. This post follows on from my earlier posts (see end for the first two series and my posts about this series so far)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Worldwide Day of Botanical Art

My blog post about the Worldwide Day of Botanical Art Day on 18th May 2018 is my contribution to Earth Day which is today.

Next month 25 Countries on 6 Continents are hosting 
25 Botanical Art Exhibitions portraying Native Plants!

Plus on the 18th May 2018, they are all having activities on one Worldwide Day of Botanical Art to unite our concerns for the preservation and recording of indigenous / native plants around the world - and particularly in the country they come from.

So do please read about what's happening - you never know there may be something near to where you live!

Worldwide Day of Botanical Art

I've found it a fascinating project - it really makes you realise just how far some plants have travelled in the past few hundred years!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review: Monet and Architecture at the National Gallery

I highly recommend, if you're in London this summer, that you go and see Monet and Architecture at the National Gallery - until 29th July. 

The 75 paintings in the exhibition spans 1860 - 1912 and includes series paintings of Rouen, London and Venice and wonderful paintings of places he knew well in Normandy, Paris, the Netherlands and Italy.

Some 25% of the paintings are ones in private collections - making this probably the only time you will ever see them.

While I'm not 100% behind the curator's analysis of what the exhibition is about, I'm absolutely delighted that there are so many excellent paintings on display - including some of my all time favourites!

The thing is Monet did not paint architecture per se - not like those who simply love architecture. He didn't even paint "things". What he was painting was the light and colour around rather large equivalents of squares and oblongs - as per the famous quotation below.
Try to forget what objects you have before you - a tree, a house, a field, or whatever. Merely think, 'Here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow,' and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape, until it gives you your own impression of the scene before you.
Rouen Cathedral series - dawn on the right (east) and sunset on the left (west)
It was an absolute joy to be able to see the Rouen series from a decent distance so you could admire  them all together.

However I doubt if you'll be able to do that once the hordes arrive - unless you make a point of going late in the day and waiting until almost everybody has left!

That's because I'm very sure this is going to be a very popular exhibition. The National Gallery has been able to assemble some world class paintings from public and private collections from all over the world. Some I have never seen before in exhibitions or books.

What follows is an introduction to the exhibition - with images to give you a sense of what it looks like - and a note of how the exhibition works

I must emphasise that no book and certainly no blog post can ever emulate the way these paintings when viewed face to canvas. Some of them are quite extraordinary.

The structure of the exhibition

The exhibition is in the galleries in the basement of the Sainsbury Wing - which always seems to be the favoured location for any exhibitions which have enormously valuable paintings! It's very secure.

There are three sections to the exhibition
  • The Village and the Picturesque (3 rooms)
  • The City and Modern (2 rooms)
  • The Monument and the Mysterious ( 2 rooms)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Call for Entries - Royal Society of Marine Artists 73rd Open Exhibition 2018

Digital Submission for the Royal Society of Marine Artists's (RSMA) 2018 Annual Exhibition in October 2018 is now open. 

Entries from non-members are welcome and you have until 12 noon on Friday 6 July 2018 to get your entry ready and upload it and complete your submission online
The RSMA seeks submissions of paintings, limited edition prints and sculpture that involve the sea and the marine environment, including harbours and shoreline, traditional craft and contemporary shipping, creeks, beaches, wildlife - in short anything that involves tidal water.
The exhibition is the premier event for the exhibition of contemporary marine art.

It's also an OPEN exhibition - which means artwork selected from the open entry will hang alongside artwork by members of the RSMA.

The exhibition will be held at the Mall Galleries on 11-20th October (10am - 5pm).
Last year it was a large exhibition with artwork with nearly 400 artworks in all three galleries with a good mix of artwork by members with that selected from the open entry across the galleries as a whole (i.e. no segregation!)

This exhibition regularly does well as it is also well attended by fans of marine life (i.e. people who own boats!). That said, people who own boats are always very quick to spot errors made by those not familiar with marine life!  I vividly remember standing looking at a painting one year with somebody who knew what he was talking about - and him commenting that the boat would capsize very fast in a swell! Proportions and details are everything for those who love their boats!

Last year's RSMA Annual Exhibition PV in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries
- home to more contemporary looking artwork
In addition:
  • the RSMA Friends' Evening will be on Tuesday 9th October (Ticket required. 5.30 – 7.30pm)
  • Private View on Wednesday 10th October (Invitation only. 11.00am – 8.00pm) - with 
    • a free guided tour of the exhibition by President Elizabeth Smith PRSMA starting at 11:30am.
    • Opening & awards presentation at 3.30pm with guest of honour.
The very first exhibition of the Society of Marine Artists was prevented from going ahead because of the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.  Its first exhibition was actually held in 1946 at the Guildhall Art Gallery in the City of London.  In 1966, 20 years after the first exhibition, the Society was granted its Royal Charter and became known as the Royal Society of Marine Artists. Exhibitions moved to the Mall Galleries in 1981
The subject matter of our paintings has gradually broadened over the years to encompass not only sea-going vessels, but yachts and dinghies, the coast and sea-shore, harbours, estuaries and tidal rivers – indeed anything that is essentially marine related.
 Last year I commented in my review
This exhibition has a major emphasis on paintings with an overall lean towards the blue/grey/green colour palette! By way of contrast, there is very little sculpture, drawings and fine art prints. The framing tends towards the traditional rather than contemporary. There's a tad too much gilt on show for my liking which I personally don't think suits paintings of boats!

Gilt tends to go with paintings of traditional ships from the past

The small works hung on the mezzanine wall
One thing worth noting last year is that this is an art society that now has a female President and more evidence of female artists not only getting their work selected but of also doing well in the exhibition (see my review post for more evidence of this)

Below you can find
  • a summary of how to enter the next annual exhibition.
  • a list of prizes
  • an archive of posts about past exhibitions - which contains lots of images of the type of artwork that gets selected for exhibition.

Call for Entries

The RSMA seeks submissions of art inspired by the sea and marine environment.
Artists are strongly urged to submit NEW work NOT PREVIOUSLY EXHIBITED.
If you want to get your artwork into an exhibition then it needs to very good and it needs to be NEW.

Three reasons why artwork regularly does not make it into an art exhibition are:
  • seen before - in another exhibition (the equivalent of dissing your host!)
  • not presented well (poor framing can undermine good painting - and it's not very "professional")
  • not dry (need one say more?)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Portraiture - Big Painting Challenge 2018

Portraiture was the third genre to be tackled by The Big Painting Challenge (last night on BBC1 6pm). The setting - in the RAF's Centenary Year - was the RAF Museum at what used to be Hendon Aerodrome and the models were air cadets for the first challenge and RAF and WAAF Veterans for the Big Challenge.

I took a look online and there were a fair few (generally unfavourable) comparisons with the Portrait Artist of the Year programme broadcast by Sky Arts - which I guess is inevitable given the discrepancy in knowledge, experience and skills.
This week's blog post is going to include posts by the general public on Twitter as I detect a sea change in views about this programme which I think the BBC commissioners should pay serious attention to.

Leading up to the final judgement for somebody - at the RAF Museum
You can view the episode on iPlayer in Episode 3 of The Big Painting Challenge - and below is my digest/review of what happened in this week's episode

It follows on from my earlier posts:
These are the participants in their two teams for this week's episode. This year they seem to be switching people between the two mentors on a regular basis - although I don't remember that happening last year. It looks as if they swop one person with each episode. I guess that's to avoid a situation where one team gets left with too few painters.

Diana Ali's Team - Jane. Chris, Susan and Callum
Pascal Anson's Team - Oliver, Anil, Ray and Tilly
There were a fair few tensions within the teams
  • Oliver wanted to make sure he did himself justice as he normally paints portraits
  • Chris was really anxious as he had never ever painted a portrait before - on top of the fact that he has ocular albinism. I looked up the term this week - and now understand much better the problems it presents. (How do you judge somebody who can't see detail very well against those who can?)
  • Callum had also never painted anybody from life - having spent his time to date painting sweetie packets from photos.

The First Challenge

The First Challenge involved that most difficult of portraits - a young person - in this case two young air cadets - with very young faces.

The artists had to all use the same size of support, media of their own choice and they could bring their own art supplies from home.

I found some of the "soundbite" comments from the Mentors to be absolutely farcical.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Review: 206th Exhibition of Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours

As usual I very much RECOMMEND a visit to the Exhibition by the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours at the Mall Galleries which continues until 21 April 2018.

Main Gallery
I've been getting queries sent to me asking about my review post! I was late getting to the exhibition due to prior commitments and a period of complete immobility so had been following online. However I finally got there last Friday and the exhibition did not disappoint. Indeed it's head and shoulders above last year's exhibition of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.

Threadneedle Gallery
North Gallery
I've also been getting comments from people saying they think it's the best one they've seen and that RI exhibitions have been getting better and better in recent times.

A very busy exhibition
The exhibition has been extremely well attended. That seems to be because of two things:
  • the RI has been making much better use of social media this year both beforehand and during the exhibition to show what's on display at the show and what's happening in the exhibition
  • there's a very extensive range of events and demonstrations during the course of the exhibition
Oddly, the website lacks a proper page for the exhibition and had no note of the events online. All the exhibition information is on the Mall Galleries website - including 
Anne McCormack demonstrating her curious technique on Friday
- watercolour on gesso with lots of gum arabic

Exhibition Metrics for 2017

This is a summary of the exhibition metrics for the annual exhibition in 2018

The exhibition includes 
  • 407 paintings by members and non-members were hung across the three galleries (405 if you discount the two paintings by HRH The Prince of Wales)
  • by 151 artists from 12 countries
  • 163 of works (40%) by 100 (66%) non-member artists were selected and hung in the exhibition.
  • 50 Members: averaged 4.88 works hung
  • 100 'Open' artists: averaged 1.63 works hung - although this included the people who were Candidates for Membership where the number of works hung varied between 2 and 4 paintings (I'm going to do a seperate post about Candidates to assist those wanting to see the level of work by those applying for full membership)
  • a lot of new sponsorship - and new prizes - you can see some of the Prizewinners below
Two interesting things to note are:
  • a new hardback book by the RI called "Then and Now" which provides an insight into the history of the RI and profiling its current members will be published in approx. 12 months time
  • the Victoria and Albert Museum have agreed to preserve the extensive collection of archive material from the foundation of the RI.

Other things I noticed

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Selected Artists and statistics - BP Portrait Award 2018

48 artists have had portraits selected for the BP Portrait Award 2018 - and this post is about them - and the statistics for this art competition.

See the names of the selected artists - organised by the country where they live at present - BELOW - plus:
  • links to their websites and social media sites (Facebook PAGES only)
  • a short profile / summary of their CV 
  • some photos of the artists and/or their portraits
Alastair Adams got his portrait of Bruce Robinson to me first!
painted to mark the 30th anniversary of "Withnail and I" which he wrote and directed
copyright Alastair Adams PPRP
But first some statistics - to see what an achievement it is to get selected for this exhibition!

BP Portrait Award 2018 - the statistics

In 2018:
  • 2,667 artists submitted a portrait as a digital image to the BP Portrait Award 2018. 
  • Of these 215 (8%) made it through the first stage assessment and got to hand deliver or courier their actual portrait for viewing by the Judging Panel- just up the road from where I live!
  • Of these just 48 (1.8%) have been selected for this prestigious annual exhibition - which will be seen by more than 250,000 people
In terms of geography, out of the 48 selected artists from all over the world
  • 25 portraits came from the UK - England, Scotland and Wales (52%) 
  • 23 portraits came from 84 other countries(48%)

BP Portrait Award 2018 - Selected Artists

Many congratulations to all those artists who have been selected for the exhibition.
Below are profiles of each artist from public information available online - organised according by the country where they live

If anything I've identified by way of websites, social media or bio information is WRONG 
please do get in touch and I will fix immediately.
  • Links to their websites are embedded in their names in the list below (where available). 
  • Previous selected artists are highlighted in red
  • Exhibits by previous shortlisted and award winners are identified in bold. Plus Those previously selected for the BP have a link to previous portraits (unless they were in those years of the very irritating exhibitor listings where you have to go through all portraits one by one from the beginning and/or there were a lot!)
  • For those without a website see my blog post listed on my Major Art Competitions in the UK page
The Websites of Contemporary Painters in the UK - Get your website sorted BEFORE you enter a juried art competition or miss out on the traffic when the names of selected artists are announced!
The photos below are a mix of
  • portraits sent to me of work selected for this year's exhibition and 
  • images of artists with their portraits due to being selected for previous exhibits 
  • Tweets 
SELECTED ARTISTS ARE INVITED to send me a copy of the image of their portrait - to feature in this blog post - along with a copy of their confirmation email. See the side column for how to contact me or contact me via my Facebook Page

Here are the Selected Artists

Artists are listed alphabetically by country - in alphabetical of the country.


  • Megan RoodenrysBorn in Canberra in 1968, currently resides in Adelaide, South Australia. Megan trained at the University of South Australia receiving her Bachelor of Visual Arts in 1997. Megan works with a wide range of mediums. 2009 Archibald Prize Finalist with "Waiting for the Day" - Portrait of Ben Cousins. Her paintings - I'm wondering if it's this one 



  • Alastair Adams PPRP - (see portrait at top of this post) Previously selected 1995 - Past President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters - and the youngest in the history of the RP. Holds a research based lecturing position at Loughborough University and has published papers on commissioned portraiture. Works to commission rather than exhibitions e.g. Commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to paint a portrait of Tony Blair. His portrait (see top of post) is of Bruce Robinson, an English director and screenwriter. He wrote and directed the loosely autobiographical cult classic Withnail and I and wrote the screenplay for The Killing Fields. 2017 marked the 30th anniversary of Withnail and I
  • Oliver Bedeman -  a figurative painter living and working in London; Educated at a degree in Painting at Brighton University, then studied at the The Royal Drawing School where he subsequently taught drawing. His painting of his brother Tom, was selected for the 2016 Columbia Threadneedle Prize exhibition. He was also selected for the Threadneedle in 2018.  
  • Simon Thomas Braiden -  self taught artist born in Manchester in 1971. Early Flemish painting and 20th Century Modern Realist painting have been his main influences. He has exhibited extensively throughout the UK in both private and public galleries.
  • Shona Chew - selected BPPA 2011 - a self-taught artist based in south-east England.
  • Jamie Coreth - previously selected / won the BP Young Artist Award 2016 | brought up in Dorset and Wiltshire, prior to studying for a BA (Hons) degree in archaeology and anthropology at Keble College, Oxford. He then changed tracks and next studied at the London Atelier of Representational Art(LARA) and the Florence Academy of Art. His work has been seen in group exhibitions in London. This is an interesting article about him and his Dad who was his model for his 2016 portrait.  Represented by Fine Art Commissions.
  • JJ Delvine - previously selected exhibited BPPA  2011 AND exhibited BPPA 2006 | studied at the University of East Anglia and London Guildhall University. He has curated projects and events in London and Mexico City. Delvine’s work has been published and seen in numerous group and solo exhibitions in London, Berlin and Rotterdam
  • Phoebe Dickinson - Trained at: Charles H Cecil Studios, Florence Italy, Lavender Hill Studios, London, The Prince’s Drawing School and The Heatherley School of Fine Art. Studios in London and Gloucestershire. Appeared on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the year in 2013. Painting commissions documenting the making of Downton Abbey. Extensive press coverage.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: Nature - Big Painting Challenge 2018

This post is about the Second Episode of the Big Painting Challenge 2018 which focused on:
  • Nature - painting dogs and trees
  • Alternative ways of handling paint
The group and tutors ready for The Big Painting Challenge Episode 2

It follows on from my earlier posts:
This episode is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for the next 27 days.
Nine painters continue in the artistic bootcamp, which this week sees themworking with their professional mentors, Diana Ali and Pascal Anson, to conquer paint-handling techniques to depict nature in all its glory.  BBC website

Continuing issues for me

Before I start I want to thank all those who took the trouble to comment on the blog posts and also on my Facebook Page where I post my blog posts once finished.  It's always really good to see if my comments resonate with others and also to get your own perspectives on how things are going - which might be summed up as Sky Arts 1 BBC 0.

Episode 2: Coherent or discontinuity

I'm having major problems with the format for the individual episodes. Last week we had two awful abortions masquerading as still life set-ups and went from those via two fast (but useful) exercises to a vast interior which was in some way supposed to be 'a big still life'.

Absolutely no teaching of perspective in the content of the programme - and then somebody gets sent home for not grasping that her perspective changes when her eyeline changes.

This week we have:
  • the reverse of still life - the two teams each had a dog to paint, neither of which was still for very long
  • exercises about how to use tools other than brushes to handle paint and make different sorts of marks
  • a discussion by Fraser Scarfe (who has morphed into a replacement of Lachlan Goudie) 
  • a big challenge about painting lots of trees - and leaves - and how best to represent these through the handling of paint

Teaching: Imperative vs. interrogative

I've still got my hackles raised over Diana's teaching style and tried this week to try and find the reason why.

I concluded that she instructs in a very imperative way - essentially "don't do that, do this" a.k.a. "my way is best". Plus she's just plain RUDE and says some completely outrageous things - a bit like a "shock jock"! (This coming from somebody who is renowned for being somewhat direct!)

It's not very energising - I'd absolutely hate to be in her group - in fact I'd walk and/or insist on being in the other one.

Diana's group gets its dressing down about the dog pics

It was interesting how Ray was swopped to Pascal this week after the the "don't use watercolour, use acrylic' imperative last week.

By way of contrast Pascal's instruction is much more carefully scripted and articulated - plus he asks questions "May I show you?"  I'm very definitely warming to him in this series.

Again, Daphne who everybody seems to think is an ogre - and who I think is just a plain-speaking who makes intelligent comments - is very interesting in the way she asks members of the group questions as she goes round the group.

At some point they will realise that she's actually asking them whether they have considered an aspect that might be worthy of consideration. There's an awful lot that both participants and the audience can learn from the questions she asks. She's very perceptive and perspicacious ie. almost always spot on!

I do think those who "parrot" comments about "her unfortunate manner" might want to bear in mind that their experience to date of painting tutors might be limited to those who say nice things to them all the time because they'd like them to keep paying fees for tuition!

Give me Daphne's feedback any time if you want to make some serious improvement as an amateur artist!

I liked Fraser Scarfe who stepped in for an absent Lachlan (of whom there was no mention). He also provided some sound assessment and judgement and was a nice foil for Daphne. (PS Do take a look at his website - he's got some paintings of trees featured!) His book is called How to Paint Atmospheric Landscapes in Acrylics - I've not seen it or read it - but it looks like the sort of book Ray might find very useful! :)

The First Challenge - doggies!

Ostensibly the next step up from painting something very still is painting something that moves.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Frank has gone and Sky still wants more Landscape Artists

Today Frank Skinner "retired" from Sky Arts Artist of the Year programmes being filmed this year.

In his place, it's just been announced that Stephen Mangan is to join Joan Bakewell as the new co-host on Portrait and Landscape Artist of the Year!

Which seems like good news to me (maybe Tamsin Greig will take over from Joan Bakewell in due course?)

However they are also interested in more applications from landscape artists re. the upcoming landscape version of artist of the year.

Do you, or someone you know, have what it takes to become the next Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year?

Sky Arts at still on the lookout for applications from good quality amateur and professional artists for this year's competition - and the deadline for  applications: 12pm Friday 11th May 2018

The First Prize is a £10,000 commission to paint a landscape for a major British institution and £500 of Cass Art materials.

I wrote about the Call for Entries back in March - see Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2017 - call for entries

For those who have not seen it here is a link to episode 1 of series 3 to give you a flavour of what’s involved:

You also have the opportunity to be a a spectator at the heats
For more information about the competition and being  visit:

PS If you are wondering what's happened to my review of Episode 2 of the BBC Big Painting Challenge - Nature - I'm otherwise engaged with preparation for a lecture on international trade tomorrow. (I kid you not!). So hopefully back on track with reviews soonish.

Monday, April 09, 2018

BP Portrait Award 2018 - The Shortlist

Four artists - three women and a man - have been shortlisted for the First Prize in the 39th BP Portrait Award. They are:
  • An Angel At My Table - Miriam Escofet’s portrait of her mother, 
  • Time Traveller, Matthew Napping - Felicia Forte painting of her partner Matthew DeJong asleep in bed (Instagram)
  • A Portrait Of two Female Painters - Ania Hobson's painting includes a self-portrait and a portrait of her sister in law, Stevie Dix, and 
  • Simone - Zhu Tongyao’s portrait of his Italian neighbour.

An Angel At My Table by Miriam Escofet © Miriam Escofet; Time Traveller, Matthew Napping by Felicia Forte © Felicia Forte; A Portrait of two Female Painters by Ania Hobson © Ania Hobson; Simone by Zhu Tongyao © Zhu Tongyao

The BP Portrait Award 2018

The winner of the £35,000 BP Portrait Award will be announced on 11th June 2018 at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

It must be nice to go to an awards ceremony as a shortlisted artist knowing the worst that can happen is you're coming away with a cheque for a considerable sum of money - somewhere between £9,000 and £35,000.

The prizes for this competition, which attracts entries from all over the world, are as follows
  • First Prize: £35,000 plus a commission worth £7,000 to paint a portrait for the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection, to be agreed between the Gallery and the artist. 
  • Second Prize: £12,000 
  • Third Prize: £10,000.
  • The BP Young Artist Award: £9,000 - to one selected artist aged between 18 and 30 (i.e. born 1988 and after - which means you can work out which shortlisted artists are NOT eligible for this award)
That's a prize post of £66,000 - this is a serious prestigious exhibition from an international perspective.

In terms of the competition as a whole:
  • Purpose: This highly prestigious competition aims to encourage international artists over the age of eighteen to focus upon, and develop, the theme of portraiture in their work.
  • The Entry: The shortlist of four was selected from 2,667 (+ 87) portraits by artists from 88 (+1) countries 2,580 87 countries (the entry is limited to one portrait per artist). 
  • Selected Artists: I shall also be publishing a blog post about the 47 artists whose portraits were also got selected for the exhibition. I'll be doing a brief synopsis of the artist and their work and highlighting their websites. (Why would the Judges choose c.6-8 fewer artists than usual is the question we'll all be pondering over in the next few days!)
Later this week I will start my post profiling the 44 other artists also selected for the exhibition. This year the total number of portraits/artists selected for the exhibition is 48 - which is significantly fewer than usual - even when the exhibition has included enormous portraits.
The BP Portrait Award Exhibition will be on display at the following venues:
It's the 39th year of the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery and the 29th year of sponsorship by BP. 

Artists shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2018

BELOW you can find PROFILES for each of the shortlisted artists

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018 - Call for Entries

The  First Prize for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018 has been reduced!
Somehow or other the Sunday Times and the organisers both forgot to mention this in the newspaper, the blog post, the Facebook posts or any of the tweets to date about the call for entries! See below for more details in the Call for Entries section. 

The deadline for the 2018 entry is 5pm, 25 June 2018

Viewing last year's exhibition of the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibion

Inevitably, a reduction in the top price will mean allegations that the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition is being devalued.  Once the top prize drops below £10,000 it no longer ranks alongside some of the top painting prizes around the world - and drops out of the Premier Division.

Maybe it's time for a new sponsor? After all the Sunday Times took over from Singer & Friedlander after the Icelandic banking collapse.

Who else remembers the "good old days" when "the Singer & Friedlander" was a really excellent watercolour competition with "top notch prizewinners"?

Personally I always think it's a HUGE mistake to pretend something hasn't changed. You simply MUST address "the elephant in the room" - which in this instance appears to be the diminishing interest on the part of the The Sunday Times. This is possibly due to the need to cut costs due to the continuing decline in sales and advertising coupled with the lack of a proper journalist covering art.

(My version of addressing last year's "elephant" was to pointedly refuse to do a prizewinners post last year after what won First Prize i.e. a painting which could have been hung in the annual exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters!! I wrote What does "watercolour" mean to you? and 10 Best Paintings in the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition instead!)

Maybe it's time to give this very old competition a chance to revert to what it was in the past - an excellent competition for those who painted in "proper watercolour" - much loved by very many art fans in the UK and oodles of amateur artists.

I for one would be extremely pleased to see a brand new sponsor with funds that would also support it reverting to the standards of its Singer & Friedlander days when people like Leslie Worth (sublime watercolour painter!) and Jennifer McRae used to win.  As of 2017 it was a heavily compromised competition and exhibition which in my opinion had been undermined by its judges.

Call for Entries: Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018

Anyway, back to this year and this competition. Every year I do a blog post about the CALL FOR ENTRIES for - and this is it!

(I am not in the least bit surprised to see this painting used for publicity - they could hardly use last year's first prizewinner and hope for a decent entry!)

Below you will find - for the 2018 competition:
  1. Exhibition - a summary of venue and number of paintings to be exhibited
  2. Summary of the prizes, selection process and the judges (but not much!)
  3. a summary of the entry process
    • who can enter 
    • what you can enter 
    • how to enter 
    • the timetable 
  4. brief reflections on past competitions
  5. tips for those thinking of entering this prestigious watercolour competition; and
  6. plus links to all the blog posts I've written in previous years about the exhibition, who won prizes and who got selected - and links to their websites!


A maximum of 100 works will be exhibited at the Mall Galleries, London.
The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition Exhibition will be displayed at the Mall Galleries, London from 17 – 23 September 2018 (Admission is FREE). It's unclear whether there will be any tour given the other sponsor (Smith and Williamson) has also pulled out.

Realistically the exhibition has not reached 100 paintings for quite some time. It's oscillated between mid 70s and low 90s in recent years.

By way of contrast, for the same entry fee, you can see 150+ paintings in water-based media at the Mall Galleries right now - selected from the open submision - in the 206th annual exhibition (total 400+ paintings) of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. It seems very likely that you have a better chance of being exhibited in this much bigger exhibition which also draws the crowds.

SELECTION and Judges Panel

The job of the judges is to select around about one hundred works in watercolour that reflect the true breadth of the medium but it partly depends on size and how much of the galleries are hired for the competition.

The 2018 judging panel has NOT yet been invited/selected/whatever
EXCEPT, according to the website, it includes "Louis Wise, Critic and Writer, The Sunday Times".
EXCEPT that I'm not sure he knows much about art (as opposed to music and film), is now freelance and no longer an employee of the Sunday Times and has yet to master social media!

The announcement of the prizewinners is generally in advance of the exhibition.

PRIZES and prizewinners

Shame about the prize money....