Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Call for Entries: ING Discerning Eye 2018

This is about the Call for Entries for the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2018 at the Mall Galleries in November.  

Below you can find:
  • information about the exhibition
  • a summary of information about prizes
  • a note about the judges - with links to their websites (or other information about them)
  • Call for Entries - How to Enter:
    • a summary of the information for artists e.g. who can enter what etc.
    • information about the deadlines and dates and where to find information about regional collection points
    • links to websites and my blog posts showing images of the art selected and hung in past exhibitions for those unfamiliar with this art competition.
The exhibition is open to the public from Thursday 15 November until Sunday 25 November, between 10am and 5pm daily, at the Mall Galleries. Admission is free - and it's certainly an exhibition that I recommend people going to see.

This art competition and open exhibition is promoted by the Discerning Eye which is a charity promoting visual art and sponsored by ING.

(Images are from last year's exhibition).

About this exhibition

The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is a show of small works independently selected by six prominent figures from different areas of the art world: two artists, two collectors and two critics

What makes this open exhibition different?

The exhibition is unusual for a number of reasons
  • The exhibition is large (c.600 artworks) but the artworks are all SMALL 
  • There is no selection committee; in order to get selected you only have to please one selector
  • Each of the six invited curators - two artists, two art collectors and two art critics - operates independently of the other curators and compete with them for artwork submitted via the open entry
  • The exhibition comprises six small and diverse exhibitions - one for each selector/curator 
  • Each small exhibition (of c.100+ works) represents the individual interests, taste and style of that individual curator
  • Some of the artwork exhibited will be by artists the curator likes and has invited to be part of their exhibition - hence the open entry is smaller than 600 pieces. If a selector leans very heavily towards artists they know/favour and have invited to exhibit (as has happened on occasion in the past eg one educator selected all her students!) then this disadvantages the open entry.

What's the same

  • Drawings, paintings, fine art prints and sculpture are exhibited
  • It's an opportunity for works by lesser-known artists to be hung alongside contributions from better known artists.
  • All works are for sale.


The 2018 exhibition prizes total over £10,000 and are:
  • ING Purchase Prize - £5,000 
  • DE Founder's Purchase Prize - £2,500 in honour of Michael Reynolds 
  • DE Chairman's Purchase Prize - £1,000 
  • Meynell Fenton Prize - £1,000 
  • Humphreys Purchase Prize - £750 
  • Wright Purchase Prize - £500 
  • DE Sculpture and 3D Work Prize - £250 
  • St Cuthberts Mill Award – £200 worth of paper 
  • Regional Prizes of £250 each awarded to outstanding entries from the regions

The 2018 selectors/curators

Some are excellent choices - while others are "interesting" choices.... See if you agree!


  • Bridget McCrum RWA FRBS - Began to sculpt in her 40s inspired by travels and then later by the birds circling above her homes in Devon and Gozo. Primarily a stone carver but also works in stone and bronze, is in collections worldwide and features in some National Trust gardens (and a very long time ago I sat in her garden - which is beautiful - and sketched!)
  • Sadie Clayton - BA Honors Fashion Design (Kingston University 2013). Her work with copper metal led to her work being shown at both Tate Britain and Tate Modern and featured in Vogue (UK), Harpers Bazaar (US) and other major publications. 


  • Nick Ross - Was one of Britain’s best-known broadcasters for 30+ years. He was involved in launching the BBC’s Breakfast TV, Watchdog and Crimewatch programmes. Currently an international conference chair/moderator; member of a number of Panels, Committees and Working Groups, patron of a number of national charities, a non-executive director of Imperial NHS Healthcare Trust, and a high profile campaigner to cut UK road deaths, promote community safety, and encourage bioethics.
  • John Benjamin Hickey - a US actor (stage/television/film). In the UK he is widely known for his role as Neil Gross in the TV series The Good Wife and The Good Fight (2011-17).


  • Cherie Federico - From New York. Studied in UK then founded Aesthetica - an art and culture magazine. Also the Director of the BAFTA recognised Aesthetica Short Film Festival.
  • Frances Hedges - Editor of the journal of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts (RSA) before moving on to work for Elle Decoration (UK) then a number of other publications. Currently a contributing arts writer for Town & Country and Harper’s Bazaar magazines.

Call for Entries

The really important information is highlighted in red below.

The open submission for artists is now under way. UK-based artists working in any medium can submit up to six works for our annual exhibition this November. Your work must be for sale and it must be less than 20 inches (50cm) in its greatest dimension. You have 64 days to finish your work and get it to us by the last entry date !Full details can be found on our Information For Artists page.

The 2018 Discerning Eye Exhibition will be open to the public from Thursday 15 November to Sunday 25 November 2018. It will be open every day from 10am to 5pm, admission will be FREE and all works will be for sale.

Who can enter?

  • ONLY artists who are currently RESIDENT in the UK.

What kind of artwork is eligible?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Mackintosh: Glasgow’s neglected genius - revisited and updated

A month ago today, when the interior of the Glasgow School of Art burned down to the ground on 16 June 2018 (see ANOTHER Major Fire at Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art and VIDEO: An Appreciation of Glasgow School of Art), it came in the midst of all sorts of celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh's birth.

For example:

The first half of the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art
(image from the programme)
....but the third act has still to come....

I watched the programme on iPlayer as I wrote blog posts about the fire - and the first version was an excellent programme.

Following the fire, a decision was made by the BBC to revisit the programme and update it within the context of the fire

‘Mackintosh: Glasgow’s neglected genius has been revisited - including a visit to the burned out shell of the Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art - and filmed the ruins - and then re-edited the programme to take account of the fire.
The film examines Mackintosh's iconic buildings, notably the Glasgow School of Art. Interwoven with his architecture, design and watercolours is the personal story of Mackintosh.
...and so tonight, on BBC4, the revised version is being broadcast this evening at 10pm - and I recommend all Mackintosh fans make a point of watching/recording it. I'll certainly be watching it again.

Take Two - ‘Mackintosh: Glasgow’s neglected genius'

Below you can also find out more about:
  • Mackintosh 150
  • the rebuilding of the Mackintosh Building

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Martin Gayford on Canaletto's paintings of London

I'm a fan of the painter Canaletto, the famous "painter of views".

I'm also a fan of the literate and articulate writer, author and art critic Martin Gayford.

So what better than a video of Martin Gayford talking about Canaletto and his Grand Designs - which was a lecture given and videoed at Gresham College. (Well maybe a better quality video! It was made in 2010!)

Canaletto - The City Seen Through an Arch of Westminster Bridge

It's also remarkable for some scenes of London that have completely disappeared since Canaletto painted them.
In 1746 the great Venetian artist, Canaletto, moved to London following the market and wealth for his work. Nine years later, he left the city attacked by the critics as repetitive and a fake. What was 18th Century London like to be the centre of such hope and disappointment? How did Canaletto feel about the city, and how are we to assess these views today?

Canaletto: Grand Designs - Martin Gayford - Gresham College Lecture from Gresham College on Vimeo.

You can see all future lectures at Gresham College here.

More about Canaletto

More about Martin Gayford

Martin Gayford has been talking with artists for 30 years. He doesn’t just nip into the studio with a notepad: he has a gift for sustaining conversations that unfold across decades. Modernists and Mavericks by Martin Gayford review – Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London painters

Friday, July 13, 2018

John Moores Painting prize 2018 - winner announced

There's not a lot of press coverage for the winner of the John Moores Painting Prize 2018 - and I have to say I'm not surprised.

Jacqui Hallum's painting King and Queens of Wands triumphed over 2,700 entries to win the John Moores Painting Prize 2018 in its 60th annoversary - which means she wins:
  • a £25,000 first prize, 
  • a three-month fellowship at Liverpool John Moores University, 
  • plus an ‘in-focus’ solo display at the Walker Art Gallery in 2019.

What do you say about a three cotton sheets stained and dyed with inks?
Not a lot if you are the Art Press it would seem...

This is what Jacqui Hallum had to say about her painting.

Bottom line - I've never understood the decisions of the John Moores Painting Prize and I'm none the wiser after this year's choice.

It always strikes me that what the artist thinks they've made and how the judges interpret the painting seem to be at odds quite often.

Listen to what the artist has to say in the video - and then read this....
The curator Jenni Lomax said Hallum’s painting emerged as the clear overall winner from the shortlist of five, which each receive £2,500. “There is something about the provisional and nomadic nature of the work that makes it feel very current,” she said. “At the same time an initial sense of lightness belies historical and personal references that collapse within its folds.” Jacqui Hallum wins John Moores painting prize | The Guardian
One is so very tempted to continue by constructing a sentence which uses the word "arty farty"  - but I won't.... I've got better things to do with my time.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Glasgow School of Art will be rebuilt

The good news is that that Mackintosh Building at Glasgow School of Art will be rebuilt.

Model of Glasgow School of Art - Mackintosh Building
Below is essentially a summary of what's being reported elsewhere following the announcement by Tom Inns, the School's Director on Tuesday.
  1. “We’re going to rebuild the Mackintosh building." - but part of it is unstable and will be dismantled
  2. Building was insured and rebuild costs will be covered by insurers
  3. c.50% fixtures and fittings were in storage at time of fire
  4. A detailed digital model was developed as part of the work done after the last fire. This now provides an immense amount of data about every aspect of the building and how things were
  5. The process of dismantling the building and removing dangerously unstable sections began on Tuesday afternoon
  6. Kier Construction has now "concluded its relationship with the art school". Their statement that adequate fire safety strategy was in place has been 'professionally checked" by school
  7. An ongoing investigation by the Scottish fire and rescue service will determine what really happened to start the second fire - and why it burned out the entire school.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Botanical Art Bonanza!

Botanical art fans are converging on London this week for the RHS Botanical Art Show. 

In terms of handing out Gold Medals for Botanical Art this is the most prestigious botanical art show in the world.  It effect it's the visual equivalent for botanical artists of the Olympics or the World Cup! Absolutely nothing else presents the same sort of challenge!

That's why in recent days botanical artists have jetted into London from all around the globe - to try and capture that elusive RHS Gold Medal. That said, we've got quite a few Gold Medallists who are returning to see if they can enhance their credibility by winning another one!.

Medals are being awarded as I write - and I'll be there at this evening's reception.

View of part of last year's exhibition in the RHS Lindley Hall
Each of the run of panels is an exhibit of a minimum of six works by one artist
Work is graded against various criteria
- but medal colour is often determined by the weakest not the best - so everything has to be excellent!
However, while in London to see this show there is also the most fantastic opportunity to see other top class botanical art exhibitions - and this is a list of the details of everything on offer in London - in terms of botanical art!

Those pursuing other genres might pause for a moment and reflect when there were this many top class of exhibitions in prestigious venues for other subject matter!

Royal Horticultural Society

The RHS Plant and Art Fair (10-12 July 2018) includes three international exhibitions of botanical art and photography. These are:

The RHS Botanical Art Show

Venue: RHS Lindley Hall, Elverton Street,
Dates: 10-12 July 2018

For more information:
Plus this is information about how the RHS Botanical Art Show works for those aspiring to show in 2020 (you're already too late for 2019!). It's the only show I know where you have to be approved BEFORE you can submit your artwork
This is also a show where it pays to sort your visa out in good time..... It loosk like we might have lost one exhibitor to visa problems at the UK end.... - which will be very disappointing

This is a video I made of last year's Botanical Art Show

The number of botanical artists this year - per country is as follows:
  • 19 x UK + 1 group
  • 7 x Japan
  • 4 x Korea
  • 2 x Italy
  • 2 x New Zealand
  • 2 x Turkey
  • and one each from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Hong Kong, Thailand and the USA​

The RHS Botanical Photography Show

Venue: RHS Lawrence Hall, Greycoat Street, Westminster
Dates: 10-12 July 2018

Polina Plotnikova - at a previous show

More information:

Worth a Thousand Words

Venue: RHS Lindley Library 80 Vincent Square LONDON SW1P 2PE
Dates: 5 July - 17 August 2018

This is the "must see" for every visitor to the Botanical Art Show - if for no other reason than it is adjacent to the show in RHS HQ in Vincent Square.

View of part of the exhibition

More information:

Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

There are two exhibitions on display at the moment - in the same place and for the same dates.

Venue: Shirley Sherwood Gallery, Kew Gardens - which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year
​Dates: 31 March - 16 September 2018

​The Florilegium: The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

This is an exhibition by the Florilegium Society of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. It was originally mounted at the RBGS Gardens in Sydney in 2016 as part of the 200th anniversary of the Botanic Gardens. ​

Part of the Florilegium exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - This is a world class exhibition and sets a very high standard for exhibitions by Florilegia


Down Under II: Works from the Shirley Sherwood Collection

The second exhibition - Down Under II: Works from the Shirley Sherwood Collection - is a follow on from the first exhibition of artwork in the Shirley Sherwood Collection of native Australian and New Zealand plants created by local and international botanical artists.

Natural History Museum

There's always an exhibition of nature botanical or natural history in the Images of Nature Gallery at the Natural History Museum
Venue: Images of Nature Gallery, Natural History Museum

The Art of British Natural History : Images of Nature

When I last visited besides the examples of botanical artwork by many of the great artists from the past there were some paintings of natural habitat by Barbara Nicolson and a reproduction of a watercolour painting of orchids by the late Pandora Sellars

Orchids (1985) by Pandora Sellars (1936-2016)

Rumanian Cultural Institute

The exhibition of botanical paintings included in the Transylvania Florilegium has returned for July and August

Jonathan Cooper Gallery

Finally for the true and dedicated fans there are some excellent artworks by botanical artiosts from England, Scotland, Australia and the USA on display at Jonathan Cooper's 30th anniversary exhibition in Chelsea

Monday, July 09, 2018

Four ways to hold a pencil to draw

How you hold a pencil to draw is different from how you hold a pencil to write.

This post is for those who'd like to explore different ways of holding a pencil and what each offers you. It shows you:
  • why different grips offer you more scope to draw in different ways
  • affect the range of movement that is possible from both your hand - and arm
  • enable you to move your pencil in different ways
  • offer you the scope to draw more effectively - in different ways
    Below I look at four different kinds of grips for drawing
    • the basic tripod grip
    • a basic drawing grip
    • the overhand/gesture grip
    • an extended underhand grip
    How to hold a pencil to draw - four different ways

    I'll be systematically showing you
    • what the grip looks like - in diagrams hand drawn by me!
    • which fingers it uses
    • what it's useful for
    • what it limits
    • who it's recommended for

    If you find it useful you might like to share it with your friends who also draw - or want to learn how to draw.

    Context - How we learn to grip a pencil

    It's often the case that those who have taught themselves to draw continue to use their familiar grip for holding a pen or pencil - the one they've probably learned at school when they learned how to write.

    However this can cause problems and it also limits HOW you can use a pencil to draw.

    It's also the case that many people who are teaching people 'how to draw' haven't necessarily been taught to draw themselves and are still using the grip they learned when little.

    For me, the essential thing is that people have the information to make a choice. After that, how we choose to use a pencil is entirely up to the individual. 
    • There is no right or wrong way. 
    • Your way is your way. 
    • However experimentation can lead to expanding and improving your skills in different ways of drawing - and ultimately change

    Different ways to grip

    Study the ways the grips vary. Look at people you know who draw and watch to see how their grip works. Ask them why they use the grip and why they like it. Ask them what they can do with it.

    In particular note:
    • which parts of the hand and arm are involved in the grip 
    • what the role of the thumb is
    • where and how the pencil rests if not gripped tightly by the fingers
    • whether the hand and/or the fingers move the pencil
    • what provides the pressure
    • what provides balance 
    • whether control is exerted via pressure or balance.

    The basic traditional / tripod grip

    Friday, July 06, 2018


    Civilisation by Kenneth Clark 1903-1983 (or Lord Clark of Civilisation as he latterly became known) is one of those landmark series that gives you access to the cultures, art, architecture and artefacts - which none of us could ever dream of encountering in entirety, in person, in our lifetimes.

    That said it's a very Western Europe perspective on civilisation - from 50 years ago. It was first televised in 1969!

    It's also a great trot through very many of the celebrated artists in art history (again - the Western European version) and an opportunity to see their artwork in situ.

    To my mind it's important that it remains accessible in terms of what it can teach us - even if it now seems dated in style and perspective.

    The BBC have done the decent thing and Civilisation is now permanently(?) accessible via the archive of BBC television programmes within BBC iPlayer

    There are also very many copies of the BBC series Civilisation on YouTube - and the fact they exist means that the entire series is accessible to everybody who does not have access to BBC iPlayer

    So this post is by way of signposting how the series is accessible to all
    • on iPlayer
    • on YouTube
    Explanation of what each episode covers can be found in the Wikipedia article about the Civilisation Series. (click first link above)

    Civilisation on iPlayer

    Civilisation by Kenneth Clark - on BBC iPlayer
    These are the links to the episodes:
    1. The Skin of Our Teeth - about the Dark Ages, the Norsemen and Charlemagne, after the collapse of the Roman Empire
    2. The Great Thaw - covers the reawakening of Europe in the Early Middle Ages (12th and early 13th centuries) and great architecture
    3. Romance and Reality - about the later Middle Ages in 14th century France (Loire) and Italy (Tuscany and Umbria)
    4. Man: the Measure of all Things - looks at the notion of the Renaissance Man and centres of Renaissance civilisation (Florence, Urbino and Mantua)
    5. The Hero as Artist - takes a look at a look at individuals of genius, notably Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci and focuses on great art in the Vatican
    6. Protest and Communication - about the upheavals of the Protestant Reformation in northern Europe. He looks at Holbein, Thomas Moore, Erasmus, the printing press and Durer.
    7. Grandeur and Obedience - the Counter-Reformation—against the Protestant north and the development of St Peter's in Rome.
    8. The Light of Experience - new realism and observation of human character in Dutch paintings
    9. The Pursuit of Happiness - how the works of Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart in the architecture of the Rococo churches and palaces of Bavaria.
    10. The Smile of Reason - the Age of Enlightenment
    11. The Worship of Nature - the decline of religion in the middle of the 18th century and the emergence of Rousseau, the romantic movement and the picturesque - being 'at one with nature' and the landscape paintings of Turner and Constable
    12. The Fallacies of Hope - traces the progressive disillusionment of the artists associated with the Romantic movement
    13. Heroic Materialism - a discussion of the materialism and humanitarianism of the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Civilisation on YouTube

    The most viewed and best quality version of Civilisation on iPlayer can be found in this Civilisation Playlist (in HD) by Rich9881 - which contains links to all 13 episodes (in HD).

    Like I said the fact it has not been taken down I guess means that the BBC recognises this is a programme which deserves to be accessible to all for educational purposes only.

    Thursday, July 05, 2018

    'Adoration of the Magi' by Rubens in King's College Chapel, Cambridge

    Yesterday I posted a short video on my Facebook Page of the fan vaulting on the ceiling and stained glass windows of King's College Chapel in Cambridge. It's the largest example of fan vaulting in stone in Europe (see below). The chapel also has some very fine stained glass windows which amazingly survived the Civil War.

    The fan vaulting of King's College Chapel with the large wooden rood screen
    King's College Chapel is considered to be one of the finest examples of late Perpendicular Gothic in English architecture. It was started in 1446, completed in 1536 and is in active use.

    Celia Hart saw my video and told me this story
    I hope you took time to admire the Rubens 'Adoration of the Magi'. My father made the wooden triptych picture frame, which was then carefully painted with gesso and one side carefully sanded to an eggshell finish. It was transported to London for an artist (I don't know her name) to create the grisaille harlequin design on the doors. When Dad went to collect the finished frame he found the design had been painted on the rough side! the artist said she preferred the texture to the super smooth finish.

    Previous to the Rubens being installed the choir area had ornate dark oak carved panelling. My father (working at Rattee & Kett at the time) was instructed to remove it, and the panels were stored above his workshop. I used to go up in the store loft to see them while I waited for Dad to finish work. Years later and after the old workshops were sold I asked King's College if the panelling still existed, apparently it's now in another store somewhere in Cambridge.
    I did indeed - and below you can see my photographs of "Adoration of the Magi" by Peter Paul Rubens.

    I also found a link online to a page on the Kings College website about Installing 'Adoration of the Magi' by Rubens in 1967, which presumably related to the episode Celia relates above.

    The view of the altar - with Adoration of the Magi in its frame - at the eastern end of the chapel
    In 1961 'The Adoration of the Magi', painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens in 1634 for the convent of the White Nuns at Louvain in Belgium was presented to the College by Maj. A.E. Allnatt with the idea that it should once again be an altar-piece in a great church. During the next seven years, work was undertaken to remove the panelling and lower the floor level so that the work of art was positioned below the beautiful stained glass of the East window. The altar before Rubens
    Next is the entire painting above the altar.

    Adoration of the Magi by Rubens
    - in the frame made by Celia's father
    and here's a close up of the main business of the painting

    Close up of Adoration of the Magi by Rubens

    The Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens painted Adoration of the Magi c.1616-17 during a period when he lived in Antwerp as the leading Flemish painter of that period.

    Apparently the painting achieved a world-record price in 1959 when it was sold to the property millionaire Alfred Ernest Allnatt. Two years later he gifted it to Kings College Chapel with a view to it being used as an altarpiece.

    More about King's College Cambridge

    The College website has more information about:
    • the History of the Chapel - the foundation stone was laid in 1446 and the fan vaulting was completed in 1515. 
    • the History of the College - founded in 1441 by King Henry VI, college buildings developed over the centuries
    I had never realised before that the entire construction was played out within the context of the Wars of the Roses

    Wednesday, July 04, 2018

    Review: BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2018

    This post about the BP Portrait Award 2018 exhibition includes:
    • my overall impression of the exhibition
    • my commentary on my analysis of what I've noticed has changed in this year's exhibition - in terms of number of portraits, size and type, composition and colour and who are the subjects - with some number crunching for comparison with last year
    The exhibition is at the National Portrait Gallery until 24 September 2017 - admission is free. It tours to Wolverhampton and Edinburgh later in the year (details below)

    Posting about the BP Portrait Award Exhibition this year was interrupted by the fire at the Glasgow School of Art - which was a huge distraction - so apologies for the delay.

    For the record, I think this might be my favourite portrait - because it's extremely well designed and painted, shows a complete person - with hands - tells a story and has context of which more later....

    The Oolographer (in his study) © JJ (Jeremy) Delvine

    Overall Impression

    The main difference this year is that the exhibition is in a completely different gallery - The Porter Gallery - having been "bounced" by the exhibition about Michael Jackson which is located in its usual gallery.

    In the video (below) I'm walking around a completely different space than in previous years. I'm not a fan of this gallery as I always find it claustrophobic. In effect it's a collection of small rooms and it's impossible to get any real distance from the portrait.

    The overall effect for me was that it somehow doesn't feel like the BP Portrait Award exhibition.  I'm guessing quite a few other people, particularly the portrait artists who visit, have had the same sensation.

    This exhibition has lots of walls which prevent a view of the whole exhibition
    Certainly other BP Portrait Award fans who have been to see this exhibition have also been unimpressed with the different gallery.
    My first thought about the exhibition though is that it's a shame it been moved to the (wrong name) Galleries (ground floor on the right) - it all feels a bit more disjointed than it normally does.
    ...in terms of curation and display, this is the worst BP Exhibition I’ve seen in years. Such a diverse selection of paintings should not be crammed and hung so close to each other.
    Hence it felt very weird while walking around taking videos of this year's exhibition.

    To me it felt a much less imposing exhibition compared to normal.  It certainly lacked a "WOW" factor and colour for the most part - with the notable exception of Felicia Forte's painting!

    Maybe unsurprisingly, this was also reflected in the reviews of the exhibition. I checked to see which newspapers and magazines had reviewed the exhibition and found much less than normal.
    Other focused on the prizewinners only (i.e. read the press release and reviewed these portraits)
    Those who did provide reviews  of the exhibition included some I'd not heard of before.
    I found just one good review of the exhibition by somebody who had obviously not relied on the press release for the majority of their content, had obviously seen it and then thought about it for more than a minute or two. Worth a read.
    It left me wondering who all the people at the Press Review represented (other than foreign press) given the dire coverage of the exhibition online.

    I guess my conclusion about the press reviews is that if you downgrade an exhibition in terms of the space used for its display, you shouldn't be too surprised if the press react accordingly.

    However is the change in gallery the whole story?

    Overall, while I liked some of the paintings a lot, I generally found it a less than inspiring exhibition. It lacks something. I can't work out whether this is because scanning the exhibition as a whole is much more difficult or whether the calibre of the work is somehow less.

    Rather than blaming the actual portraiture, I keep coming back to how the discontinuity and "chunked" up nature of the exhibition just fails to create an exhibition which impresses. An impressive exhibition needs an exhibition space which measures up to it.

    There again it might be because the NUMBER and TYPE of portraits this year are very different. Or the composition or colour

    What's Different? An analysis of the Portraits

    Every year I do an analysis of the portraits selected for the exhibition in terms of size and type - and you can see the results below. This year's exhibition prompted me to think about a wider-ranging analysis and to think about doing more analysis of the exhibits over time....

    The factors I consider below are:
    • number
    • size and media
    • type
    • composition
    • colour
    • subject

    Tuesday, July 03, 2018

    The Art Postcard

    Art Postcards in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
    Today I went to Cambridge to meet this afternoon with the Assistant Keeper, Paintings, Drawings and Prints at the Fitzwilliam Museum (and have a very enjoyable afternoon looking at botanical watercolours!)

    However during lunch in the cafe I was staring over the shoulder of my other half at the display of art postcards (see above).

    It very much reminded me of how my early forays into art history were very much stimulated by regular trips to the bookshops of Cambridge while a student there. My leisure time on Saturday afternoon involved spending ages picking my next art postcards for the progression of art which was slowly wending its way across the wall of my room in college.

    Coming home along the M11, I wondered why more artists don't produce art postcards of their own to sell to those who like their art. After all from small acorns giant oak trees grow - and I guess there's more than a few collectors who started collecting art by collecting art postcards.

    Next week I'll be spending 2.5 days at the RHS Botanical Art Show at the Horticultural Halls in Westminster and I can guarantee that:
    • I'll be spending cash on the botanical art postcards I like the best
    • the botanical artists with the most popular art cards will have sold out long before the end of the exhibition - and will tell me how they wish they'd made more as they could have sold their entire stock twice over.
    I know we are overwhelmed by the availability of images online - but it's also really nice to see reminders of the art we like best on our walls - in postcard form. Plus it offers endless joy in rearranging the collection! ;)

    I wonder how many artists
    • think about those who would be more than happy to buy a postcard of their art?
    • deliberately produce art at postcard size
    Do you make postcards of your art to sell to your fans - who may one day become your future collectors?

    Monday, July 02, 2018

    Will Chrome 68 label your website as "NOT Secure"?

    Starting in July 2018, Google's Chrome Browser (Chrome 68) will start labelling all websites which start with HTTP as "Not Secure". (see 

    Below is an illustration by Google of what this means.
    • The top line shows what a URL currently looks like in the URL window.
    • Below it is what this will change to when Chrome 68 is introduced 
    In Chrome 68, the omnibox will display “Not secure” for all HTTP pages.
    My expectation is that the "Not secure" will be really obvious - like this "Not secure"

    Now a lot of people thought that this would all happen yesterday 1 July 2018 - because Google said it would happen in July.

    They missed the bit that said
    Beginning in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as “not secure”.
    (Chrome 68 has not yet been introduced in the UK - but may have happened elsewhere. I'm on Version 67.0.3396.99 )

    Below I look at:
    • what does being labelled as "not secure" mean?
    • what you need to do re. Google's Blogger (I had a hiccup!)
    • How do I make my website/blog/ secure?

    What does being labelled "not secure" mean?

    The reasons for making your website/blog secure are:
    • it protects the integrity of your website
    • it protects the privacy and security of your visitors and those shopping via your site
    • it's where the web is going. Security is ever increasing and there is a cost to not keeping up with developments in this area.
    There are also a number of implications of Google's ongoing drive for better security of all websites
    • Your website may not rank well in response to Google search queries. Google is already downgrading all websites in search which are currently marked as "Your connection to this site is not secure" which is what comes up if you click the "i" icon prefacing the URL
    • Your website or blog traffic may take a dive - as in "off a cliff". It all depends on whether you depend on your email list of Google for visitors to your website or blog.
    • If you are selling art via your website you may notice sales drying up
      • Obviously your website MUST also be super secure if you are taking any payment transactions via your website - even if you are routing them via a secure process. 
      • You can't have an insecure website with PayPal or whatever and expect to get away with it!

    So what about Google's Blogger?

    This is where it gets interesting - then tortuous - then interesting again. Bear with me!

    Sunday, July 01, 2018

    Michael Jackson: on the Wall at the NPG - Is it Exhibition of the Year?

    Michael Jackson: On the Wall is the new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It's a bit different - off the wall even - although I have to confess I've not seen it yet.

    The exhibition is on display from 28th July to 21st October (and is the exhibition that bumped the BP Portrait Award out of its normal gallery). It's also going to be touring to
    • The Grand Palais, Paris (November 2018 to February 2019), 
    • The Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn (March to July 2019) and 
    • Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland (August to January 2020).
    It's billed as Exhibition of the Year on the website.  I'm afraid I tend to find that sort of description a bit of a deterrent since it will mean lots of hot sweaty bodies in a gallery I know doesn't cope well with heat.

    It's clearly something of a pet project of the Director - for all the sort of curatorial reasons which art historians like
    His significance is widely acknowledged when it comes to music, music videos, dance, choreography and fashion, but his impact on contemporary art is an untold story. Bringing this story to light has been a long held ambition of mine. It is rare that there is something new to say about someone so famous, but here it is definitely the case
    These two videos (made by Associated Press and London Guide) gives an idea of what the exhibition is like - minus the crowds.

    Some of the comments made me think this might very well be an interesting exhibition in terms of pure portraiture as well as being 'about Michael Jackson'.
    The exhibition takes an entirely new and quite radical approach by exploring the cultural impact of a unique figure through contemporary art, beginning with Andy Warhol – who, with his usual prescience, was the first artist to depict Jackson in the early 1980s – and continuing to the present day.
    Key points about the exhibition for me include:
    • the Michael Jackson story has been told many times - but never in relation to portraiture
    • time for a historical perspective (he would have been 60 in August this year)
    • how do you portray somebody who kept morphing his appearance?
    • Is it an exhibition about how to portray 
      • a celebrity with a strong sense of visual style
      • a myth?
      • or an individual who suffered from severe burns to his head (requiring the use of wigs) and chronic vitiligo?
    Rogers noted in his autopsy report that Jackson's lips were tattooed pink, while his eyebrows were a dark tattoo. The front of his scalp was also tattooed black, apparently to blend his hairline in with the wigs he wore. The autopsy confirmed what Jackson told people who questioned why his skin tone became lighter in the 1980s. Jackson had "vitiligo, a skin pigmentation disease," Rogers said. "So, some areas of the skin appear light and others appear dark." (CNN report of the Michael Jackson autopsy)
    • different generations have different ideas about what he looks like
    • includes artwork by 48 artists 
      • from different generations 
      • from all parts of the world 
      • using different media
      • all with a different take on how he should be represented both literally and metaphorically
    • Will it perpetuate the myth or reveal the real person?
    One other reason for visiting is that it contains a very large portrait of Jackson as a king on a horse by Kehinde Wiley. It's not a new portrait - but it's the first time it's been seen in the UK. I shall be interested to see what his painting technique is like up close.