Thursday, November 29, 2018

126th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters

The 126th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters marks the visible start for a lot of people to the presidency of Tim Benson.

The consensus so far is that it's looking very different - and very powerful - with lots of excellent paintings.

The Private View of the ROI 2018 - the Main Galleries were packed!
It was difficult to see them all properly at the Private View on Tuesday because the Mall Galleries were absolutely packed with people - and indeed was still very full when I left at 5.30pm. A packed PV is the sign of a well supported art society - and effective communication with known supporters.

I'm going to go back and visit it again before it finishes on the 9th December so I can take more time and stand back and see the pics without passing people!

Exhibition Dates: 28 November 2018 to 9 December 2018 at the Mall Galleries

A new approach

In this post I'm featuring some of the points made by Tim Benson said at the Opening of the Exhibition and the Awards Ceremony.

Tim Benson, President of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, speaking at the opening of the exhibition
His own website has a strapline of "building awareness through painting" and he seems very focused on carrying this theme over into the activities of the ROI.

He finished
it is this very diversity, (of age, of gender, of ethnicity, of background) that makes the ROI such an exciting organisation. I believe that this is reflected in the work that you see around you on the walls today. Each painting represents the artist that painted it, each painting offers a window into their lives, a deeply personal lens that tells of daily routines, inspirations and dreams.”
Vice President Adebanji Alade - with his portraits of his children - who also paint!
Certainly I felt the exhibition has a different look to it. Not least because the walls of the Main Galleries and Threadneedle Space are packed with some 301 paintings in oils and acrylics - but mainly oils! (see below for further comment)

Prior to this he was talking about:
  • how could the ROI be a ‘progressive’ organisation? 
Now more than ever there is a schism between the world of painting and the ‘contemporary’ art world. Surely this disadvantages the art world at large? Surely in a time of increasing fracture and division the Art world should be unified? The ROI is in an incredible position to bridge that very gap, a place where painting of all genres is encouraged with neither a bias towards subject matter nor a ‘house style’. We are free to champion works that transcend traditional notions of painting just as we are free to celebrate them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Review: Semi-Finals of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 - Felixstowe Docks

This year Sky Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 avoided the chocolate box temptation for the semi finals (as per the huge Lavender Field in Kent in 2017).

Instead they went for the massive steel structural challenge (no grass / no trees / no chocs) of the UK's busiest container port at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk.

Paint that - do well and you get to the final!
Apparently the Judges were looking for industrial and gritty - however the weather refused to participate and gave them bright blue skies, blistering heat and lots of wind - which took a bit of an edge off the location for the "edge" loving Judges.

The Location

Felixstowe Port - with the pods on a shingle 

It's clear from Jen Gash's blog post (see the "So what was it actually like?" section - which lists blog posts by participants) that the semi-finalists are not told before the semi-final precisely where it is.
I had scoured places all within 30 mins or so of Ipswich and hadn’t come to any great conclusions, but as the day came nearer, I started to wonder if they had chosen Felixstowe port. Jen Gash
The heat took place on 24th July 2018 and the pods were located on that bump of shingle on the Landguard Peninsula near the Landguard Fort (which Allan painted) next to Harwich Harbour at the mouth of the River Orwell - where the big container ships arrive to dock at the Port of Felixstowe. 

The latter did not have any time for art competitions and a massive container ship arrived during the course of the programme
The great big ship came along and parked itself right in the middle of the painting! Carl Knibb
If you want to have a go at the view for yourself the Landguard website provides excellent directions of how to get there!  Looks like a long trek with gear from the car park!

The Artists

The artists are by now all well known to those of us who watch either Sky or via the Now TV app (see this post for how). (You can find links to my review of each episode at the end of this blog post)

So they were as follows:
You can find interviews with each of the Heat Winners at the Cass Arts Blog. Cass Arts provides the art materials for pod artists at the Heats.

The Challenge

The first challenge was the heat.

The previous day, Harwich has apparently been the hottest place in the UK! Never ever go out without your sunscreen - even if your last Heat was one of the wettest ever!

These are the Pods - on the hottest day of the year (nearly!)
The next challenge was the view.

What I find fascinating is that "somebody" with the company which makes this programme keeps coming up with venues and views that give Tai Shan Schierenberg - the only painter among the three judges - the screaming abdabs. He openly admits that he simply can't paint some of the views.

Which leaves me wondering why that view is being offered to artists who one would like to see do well - rather than be humiliated.

For some artists, the view from the pod was a long way away.
The third challenge was the wind

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Review: ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2018

This year is the 20th anniversary of the ING Discerning Eye art competition and exhibition - in terms of ING involvement. It's developed a good reputation over the years and is one I have always recommended to emerging artists.
2018 marks 20 years of sponsorship from ING, in which time more than 2500 artists have exhibited, just under 10,000 works have been hung, almost £250,000 has been awarded in prizes to exhibitors, and more than £800,000 of art has been sold on behalf of artists.
A wall in the exhibition curated by Cherie Federico
This review is more by way of information for those contemplating an entry next year than those wanting to see the exhibition - which can be seen at the Mall Galleries but closes at 5pm tomorrow.
[A family party for a really important birthday (Mother being 90!) meant I was away at the end of last week and over the weekend and hence couldn't see it sooner than Tuesday.]

The Good News

I was very pleased to see that, after very many moans by me, the website now displays very clearly:
  • the numbers of invited artists and selected artists via the open entry
  • the number of sales and the percentage attributed to invited artists and selected artists
The following are extracts from the archive page for each exhibition and the newsletters. I'd recommend such data should be used in future marketing material for the open entry in 2019.

The 2016 exhibition comprises over 700 works by over 400 artists.70% of the artists and 60% of the works are from the open submission. Painting and drawing make up about 70% of the works, mixed media and sculpture about 13%, printmaking a further 7%, and photography about 5% this year.
You'll note that there is a major variation in counts of total works and total artists between 2016 and 2017.

The 2017 exhibition comprised 465 works by 237 artists. 75% of the artists and 55% of the works are from the open submission. Painting and drawing make up over 60% of the works, mixed media and sculpture about 15%, printmaking a further 8%, and photography about 5% this year.
Of the 467 works exhibited last year (excluding those from finalists in the 2017 DE Bursary), 54% came from the open submission, giving 178 artists the chance to hang alongside the 61 artists invited to exhibit by the selectors.
Twenty three percent of all works sold, with just under 25% of open submission contributions selling and 21% of works from invited artists finding a home with new buyers. This resulted in 20 of the invited artists (33% of the total) and 54 artists from the open submission (30%) selling their works.

Around 25% of selected artworks from the open entry selling is pretty good going.

Interestingly, as of Tuesday, the curator with the best track record of sales of the works displayed was Nick Ross - one of the collector curators who had more than 12% sold.

Not Playing by "the Rules"

However somebody trashed the competition's reputation this year in various ways. My guess is this was negligence in relation to treating it a bit too much like an art exhibition and rather too little like an art COMPETITION with rules and conventions!
To enter work you must be currently resident in the UK, your work must be for sale, and it must be a maximum of twenty inches (50 centimentres) in any dimension. Artists can submit up to six works which can be two or three dimensional using any media.
  • The Exhibition appears to include and display artwork - by Artist Curators and their invited artists - which does not meet the "maximum dimension of 20 inches" rule. 
The response to my earlier blog post suggests that many agree with me that there needs to be a much clearer protocol about the role of the artist curators and what they can and cannot do.

Sculptures by Simon Allison - part of Bridget McCrum's exhibition

Then there's the issue of digital reproductions..... (see Sadie Clayton below).

Marketing and Communication

When I visited on Tuesday, it was the QUIETEST exhibition I've visited in a VERY long time. Mostly people sitting and chatting over a cup of tea rather than looking at art.

The photos of the ING Discerning Eye 2018 - Artist Preview on Facebook suggest that the artists and their friends and the people invited by the hosts and sponsors enjoyed the PV.

Maybe it's improved since then - although my experience is that most visitors arrive in the first few days and during the first weekend - although this doesn't appear to have been the experience this time given the number of sales.

I chatted to the people behind the front desk and the cafe and apparently it had been extremely quiet since it opened last week

View of the exhibition on Tuesday afternoon

However I'd have expected to see more sales than I did.

In terms of sales I noticed that quite a few of the sales came in sets - as if invited artists displaying five or six works of art had primed people to come and buy!

Review of the Exhibition

Notwithstanding the above, the quality of the exhibition is generally good. I've also included some of my pics of artwork I liked on my Making A Mark Facebook Page

The Selectors this year are:
    • Sadie Clayton
    • Bridget McCrum
    • John Benjamin Hickey
    • Nick Ross
    • Cherie Federico
    • Frances Hedges
BELOW you can see images of and read my reviews of their individual exhibitions.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Review: Episode 6 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 - Inveraray Castle

Episode 6 of the Heats for Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year was at Inveraray Castle in Scotland.

This is the last heat - after this there are only three more episodes left!

The pods in front of Inveraray Castle and its rose garden

The Location

The location was lovely - on the estate of a very attractive Castle with views from the grounds of the landscape round about.

Inveraray Castle is is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell. It's found near Inveraray in the county of Argyll, in western Scotland, on the shore of Scotland’s longest sea loch Loch Fyne, the venue for the heat which aired as Episode 3 of the Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 series. The castle is one of the earliest examples of Gothic Revival architecture.  It was also the chosen location for the Downton Abbey Christmas 2012 episode.

View of Inveraray Castle from above
- with the Wildcards' view down to the river and the bridge on the top right 

The film company were wowed by it
“The opportunity to paint the view of this historic castle, framed by the beautiful rose gardens, and overlooked by the Dun na Cuaiche folly in the distance, was too good to pass up. Plus the view of a glassy Loch Fyne reflecting the sky, surrounded by rugged mountains, gives a feeling of being on the frontier and in a truly wild place. Collectively it’s something that heats artists have never experienced in Landscape Artist before, so we just had to come." Argyll and Bute News

The Artists

Artists in their pods at the beginning of the Heat
Links to websites are embedded in their name and links to their social media sites follow their name.

Six Professional Artists

There were six professional artists - alphabetically as follows
  • Dawn Beckles  [Facebook/Twitter/Instagram] - A mixed media artist specialising in painting, collage and printing. She paints still lives involving exotic flora as a recurrent subject matter i.e. not a landscape artist at all! Describes herself as currently a Londoner by ways of Barbados and Northern England. She graduated with a BA Design from the John Cass School of Art. Based at Wimbledon Studios.
  • Nikolai Bojadziev [Facebook/Twitter/Instagram] - I can't find a thing about him, but what the programme told us. He's a collage artist from Bulgaria.
  • Andrew Halliday [Facebook/Twitter/Instagram] - studied at Bournville Schoolof Art before graduating with a BA honours degree from Wimbledon School of Art in 1991. Based in Barnes in South-West London and Lymington in Hampshire.  Works as a framer in a gallery as well as being a professional artist. Tends to have a very colourful palette and likes artificial light.
  • Martina Krupičková [Facebook/Instagram] - came to live in the UK from the Czech Republic 3 years ago. She always starts with a black canvas and uses a spatula. She graduated from a prestigious fashion design school in Brno, Czech Republica and majored in Textile and Knitwear. This is where she developed her skill in drawing and painting. This a blog post about her day by her friend who accompanied her to the Heat - see Martina Krupičková on Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2018
  • Allan Martin [Facebook/Twitter/Instagram] - Born in Scotland in1956. In 1978, left Glasgow School of Art with a Diploma of Art: Printed Textiles and a traveling scholarship. Worked as a graphic designer and moved to London in 1981. Had illustration and design clients in the music world. Also worked as a decorative paint specialist. Gave up his career as a graphic designer 8 years ago to dedicate himself to being a professional painter.  This is his submission (I think). 
Following the idea to at least think about challenges that appear outside a comfort zone and to consider the ethos of 'never say never’. Due to chance circumstance I found myself applying for Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2018, fully expecting to have a reply that said thank you for applying but…
I didn’t expect a call to say, “The judges unanimously loved your work and we would like to offer you a pod!”
  • Keira Rathbone [Facebook/Twitter/Instagram] -  Lives in West London and makes a living from her type based artwork for the last 14 years. She uses old manual typewriters to create her artwork - using their type face for their shape and tone and to build up an impression, always working direct from life. I can't tell you a lot more since her website has crashed due to the overload of traffic of people visiting following this episode!  This is a Bored Panda article about her and her work Amazing Typewriter Art By Keira Rathbone
Artist. Travelling through life by typing scenes and the people who pass through them. LIFE is KEY . You're all characters

Two Amateur Artists

The two Amateur artists were:
  • Sam Hencher - works as a visual effects artist (using Flame) working primarily on commercials and music videos. He's also an English painter and illustrator, born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1971 who has exhibited at The Other Art Fair in London.  I'm not quite sure why he rates himself as an amateur. Sam is emphatically NOT my definition of an amateur artist in terms of his standard of painting.
My work is done in watercolour or oils depending on the subject. I like to paint both landscapes/cityscapes and figuratively and am more inspired by the light and mood of the subject than the physical element that is used to convey it. 
  • Nick Shaw - lives in Cumbria and works as a supermarket delivery driver. I couldn't find him online.

The Wildcards

Just some of the wild card artists and their set-ups
As ever there were also 50 Wildcard artists painting a view from a large flat area inbetween the castle and the river - and it was as crowded as ever!

There have been some "know-it-alls" doing some online complaining about the quality of the paintings done by the wildcard artists.

For my part I really think such people either know nothing or forget that plein air painting as part of a Wildcard entry is a completely different proposition to choosing your spot when you only have yourself to please while plein air painting.

A more accurate term might be "cheek by jowl" painting!

Themes and Learning Points

The themes this week are:
  • Disney versus Dreich: a Scottish colour palette and flat light (a.k.a. or what to do when you can only see grey like Tai!)
  • How to stand out from the crowd - and avoid painting the obvious
  • Atmosphere versus Detail
  • The interesting technique tip

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

One of selectors wins £5,000 ING Discerning Eye Prize!

There's no faster way to undermine an art competition than to "not play by the rules".
(Regular readers will remember some examples "calling out" I've done on this matter in the past)

There's one absolutely universal rule about integrity that applies to ANY competition. 
The rule essentially is that NOBODY can enter and/or win a prize IF they are:
  • involved with the competition in any way, 
  • and/or employed by any of the relevant companies associated with the competition 
  • and/or are family members of somebody who is.
The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is selected each year by 2 Collectors, 2 Critics and 2 Artists. Discerning Eye Art Opps
Which is why I was totally flabbergasted to find out today that one of the SELECTORS of the 2018 ING Discerning Eye Prize Exhibition has won the TOP prize of £5,000!

How did that happen?

  • What does this absolutely gigantic faux pas in terms of "things that shouldn't happen in an art competitiondo to the credibility of this prize in the future?
  • Why are artist selectors being invited to exhibit work in the exhibition? (This exhibition is about their curation NOT THEIR ARTWORK!)
  • Why is the work of artist selectors even being considered for a prize?
  • Did it not occur to people, that relevant people (eg those submitting entries) might think this was a bad idea?
  • Why did the sponsors think nobody would notice?
  • Why did people supporting the running of this art competition not suggest that maybe this was a mistake?
  • If it was the right thing to do why is there no announcement or press release?
I knew something very odd was going on because I had received no notification of or press release about the person who won the prize - as usually happens one way or another (and indeed there is no press release so far as I can make out!). Presumably at some point it dawned on people that maybe they'd not made the wisest choice in the history of the competition

There again I thought it very odd that there's been no marketing for the exhibition online on Facebook. (While the packed PV got OTT coverage on Instagram by those attending - although I should point out that the bulk of those there are the artists and their partners)

Just as I thought it extremely odd that the exhibition at the Mall Galleries were exceptionally quiet today with hardly any visitors the whole time I was there - and I gather it's been like this since the Private View.

View of exhibition curated by Frances Hedges containing the top prizewinner
(REPLACES the earlier view posted which I saw yesterday)
So what exactly is going on with the ING Discerning Eye?
Who is advising them on reputational matters and marketing? They're not doing a very good job!

THIS POST is about the prizes.

I'll be writing about the exhibition(s) later in the week - in which I'll also raise a few other matters relating to what's gone wrong this year...

Bridget McCrum wins £5,000 Purchase Prize
- despite being a selector for the competition...

ING Purchase Prize - £5,000
Zenobia - Homage To Palmyra” 
by Bridget McCrumb (sic)
Bronze | 13x12x7 ins
Nothing wrong with that. Bridget McCrum is an excellent and well-regarded sculptor. The sort people commission all the time.

However she is also ONE OF THE SIX SELECTORS for this art competition / exhibition!

Did a spelling mistake (see the spelling of the name in the prize listing) mean a major mistake was made in selection?  However the name is spelt correctly in the catalogue so clearly 'somebody' knew this was one of the selectors.

If you want an artwork from a well-known artist what's to stop you from commissioning her direct?

Rather than
  • asking her to curate a mini exhibition of work selected for an art competition 
  • then giving her a £5,000 prize for an artwork which is part of the mini exhibition of another curator.
That's seriously not on!

Such a decision means this award "looks" exactly like the sort of "mutual back-scratching" that art competitions like this are so very often accused of.

I would suggest that if the sponsors want to do the decent thing and NOT bring their art competition into disrepute, that they go back and choose another artwork. Preferably by an artist who is still making their way and very definitely NOT by a well-established and reputable artist who has been asked to curate as one of two Artist Curators - as a member of the team of the six curators of this exhibition.

Otherwise I predict a big drop in entries next year.

I do want to make it clear that 
  • I do NOT think Bridget McCrum herself is in anyway culpable of any of this nonsense which has resulted in her being awarded a prize. I suspect she's probably very embarrassed by what has happened.
  • This art competition and exhibition is NOT run by the Mall Galleries. The galleries merely provide the space which is rented by Parker Harris who organise the event on behalf of the Discerning Eye Organisation who are responsible for the conduct of the art competition and exhibition. The event is sponsored by ING Bank.

But SOMEBODY is responsible for this outcome!  I'd love to know who....

BELOW are images of the rest of the prizewinning works. The award cards are all the same size so you can tell something of the dimensions of each small work by their size relative to the card.
To enter work you must be currently resident in the UK, your work must be for sale, and it must be a maximum of twenty inches (50 centimentres) in any dimension. Artists can submit up to six works which can be two or three dimensional using any media. ING Discerning Eye website

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review: Episode 5 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 - Broadstairs Beach

The heat for Episode 5 of the Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 was held at Broadstairs Beach in Kent. This time there was no rain. Instead it was a brilliant sunny day with lots and lots of people in the landscape. It was broadcast on Tuesday night - and this is my review.

The pods on Broadstairs Beach
This is the Heat that I very nearly visited (see Heats of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2018) - but then remembered I don't do too well out in the sun all day and have got arthritis and joints that require a flat stable surface - so a sandy beach wasn't a great idea!

The Location

One end of Broadstairs Beach
The beach is described on one website as
A quintessentially British beach with beach huts, fish & chips, a rock pool, ice creams and sand castles.
As the visitors poured on to the beach and it got busier and busier - never mind the presence of a film crew and 8 very large studio pods and 50 wildcard artists - some of the artists (and the Judges) began to wonder about how they should tackle all those people! (Of which more later)

The Artists

Links to websites are embedded in their name and links to their social media sites follow their name.

Six Professional Artists

There were six professional artists - alphabetically as follows
  • Stewart Beckett (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) -  a professional Oil Painter and Tutor with an established student base, teaching regular workshops and classes throughout Hampshire. He aims to aims to combine the abstract with his realist works
  • Jen Gash (Facebook | Twitter ) - Jen is from Gloucestershire, has worked as an Occupational Therapists and Coach and recently enrolled for an MA Degree in Fine Art. She is a life-long artist, exploring physical and psychological landscapes. She likes to have several canvases on the go at once and confesses to be better at starting than finishing. Originally a wildcard artist for the very first heat of Landscape Artist of the Year at Trellisick, Cornwell in 2015.
  • Michelle Heron (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram)  - born in Norwich in 1980; graduated from the University of Hertfordshire BA Fine Art (Hons) in 2002. Works as a reprographic officer. She says she has always been interested in the spaces that are unused or forgotten and the traces where people have been.  Her paintings have been exhibited at The Mall Galleries, London, The New Art Gallery, Walsall, Hampton Court Palace, London and The Royal Academy, London. In 2016 Michelle’s work was shortlisted for The Lynn ​Painter-Stainers' Prize, The John Ruskin Prize and The National Open Art Competition and in 2017 was selected for the prestigious Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. 
  • Yellon Huang (Facebook | Twitter) -  born in China and came to the UK 18 years ago. In 1995 she left nursing and took up a full-time art course in Singapore, where she was trained in a variety of subjects including traditional Chinese landscape painting. She graduated graduating from Roehampton University with a 1st class BA degree in Art for Public Spaces. She paints busy street scenes in the UK in a style used by Chinese landscape painters. Her artwork is produced using Chinese ink and brushes on rice paper - and her work is in effect a fusion between east and west. Her cityscape paintings have been selected for the annual open exhibitions at the  Royal Academy of Arts, National Open Exhibition and Society of Women Artists

  • Jain McKay (Facebook | Twitter) - a printmaker who is not a landscape artist. She lives and works in the Midlands where she also exhibits and teaches art.  Her submission was a monochrome print in drypoint. She likes introducing textures into her printing press to make the fine art print more interesting.
  • Martin Taylor (Facebook | Twitter) - Michael does photorealist landscapes in oil and sells them for a lot of money! This is his page of hyperrealist landscapes in watercolour.  His tree observations take a month to complete. His way of working demonstrates for me why this competition is not best suited to those who take a long time in the studio even if they create impressive landscapes when they do.  He has written several articles for The Artist magazine and has also had his paintings featured on the cover.
Martin Taylor working on this painting

Reading for those who aspire to taking part next year

Jenn, Michelle and Jain have all written about taking part in this heat
The pods are sheltered and have electricity and you get cups of tea and food etc, whereas as a Wild Card artist you are pretty much on your own. Having now been an actual heat artist, I do feel very privileged. The crew look after you really well and the cuppas are most welcome. Saying that, the painting stays the same.
I turned up at Broadstairs earlier this summer with one thing on my mind – to just enjoy the day, make a painting that had legs and not look too daft on telly (first one is easy, second one you can decide, third one… who knows!) Now that isn’t to say that I didn’t prepare for the day. For a non-competitive person, something took over me once I learned I had won a place. I practiced the whole 4-hour thing, researched Broadstairs and put together a game plan.
​I was approached to apply for the show but dismissed it for months thinking it would be too big a challenge for someone used to painting indoors and taking 2 weeks to complete a painting! But then at the very last moment something made me change my mind and just thought it'll be good exposure and might push me forward. When I found out I was a pod artist I was in a bit of denial. I then began watching the previous series and made notes of the key words the judges were using to give me an idea of the kind of artist that does well. One thing that stood out for me was choosing an idiosyncratic view. 
In my defence I am not a landscape artist, I made one landscape as part of a project, I entered with it because I did think it was quite good and it got me on the show. If It hadn’t been a print I don’t think I would have got on, each program has an alternative to a painter just to make it more interesting.
Artists can set up their pods any way they like and work out of any angle

Two Amateur Artists

The two Amateur artists were:
  • Peter John Robert Thompson - paints bouncy castles and lives in Leicester a- a very long way from the seaside. His very comtemporary urban painting took him some 200 hours to complete.
  • Lorna Wheele (Instagram| Vimeo) - Recently graduated with a First Class Degree in Illustration. She is an Freelance Illustrator / Animator / Designer from Cornwall and based in Brighton. She likes working with watercolour and coloured pencils freeform in a panoramic format - and loves the coast. She has a fabulous animated website which I imagine will get her a lot of clients for her Illustration work. She prefers Instagram and Vimeo to Facebook and Twitter. IMO she needs to sort out a Facebook Page for her work PDQ (as in yesterday!)

There are then the 50 Wildcard Artists who were up one end of the beach but painting the same view

Some of the 50 Broadstairs WildCard Artists

Themes and Learning Points

The themes this week are:
  • People in a landscape
  • Editing a complex scene / landscape
  • Of the now or of the past?
  • What you submit might be what you get
  • The importance of being true to YOU!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pages of the Sea - the WW1 Beach Portraits

I only found out about Pages of the Sea Project at the weekend. Little did I realise when I was walking right behind Danny Boyle 10 days ago (he lives near me) that I'd be writing about him this week.

The Pages of the Sea - Beach Portraits Page
on 11 November 2018, communities will gather on beaches across the UK to say goodbye and thank you, to the millions of men and women who left their shores during the war, many never to return.
Pages of the Sea was the largest simultaneous coastal arts project ever to take place in the UK.

It's been a major public art project curated by Oscar-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle for the First World War centenary - with the aim that people all around the UK could get involved with a more informal commemoration of the centenary of the end of the war and a final salute to the people who gave their lives.  The aim of the project was to be open and democratic in a space which is open to anyone.

Watch this three minute video to see what happened across the UK on Sunday 11th November - the centenary of the end of the First World War.


It is the wound in Time. The century’s tides,
chanting their bitter psalms, cannot heal it.
Not the war to end all wars; death’s birthing place;
the earth nursing its ticking metal eggs, hatching
new carnage. But how could you know, brave
as belief as you boarded the boats, singing?
The end of God in the poisonous, shrapneled air.
Poetry gargling its own blood. We sense it was love
you gave your world for; the town squares silent,
awaiting their cenotaphs. What happened next?
War. And after that? War. And now? War. War.
History might as well be water, chastising this shore;
for we learn nothing from your endless sacrifice.
Your faces drowning in the pages of the sea.

Carol Ann Duffy, 2018.

Where the beaches were
Pages of the Sea was  commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and was supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Big Lottery Fund, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The Sand portraits designed by Sand in your Eye. (You can see examples of their sand drawings on their website)

You can also see what happened on Sunday in the Facebook Live Page It lasts just over an hour.

Click here to watch our Facebook Live of the day so far, including Danny Boyle’s introduction to the project, Fiona Shaw reading Carol Ann Duffy’s poem The Wound In Time, Greg Jenner exploring the history of Folkestone, historian Kenneth Cromie at Murlough beach and footage from Folkestone, Colwyn Bay, Murlough, Blackpool, West Sands.

You can also read about the portraits of people who contributed to the First World War on

The website for the Lives of the First World War Project run by the Imperial War Museum

Monday, November 12, 2018

What is a semi-professional artist?

There are two ways of looking at what a semi-professional is.
  • Either they are somebody who is receiving payment for an activity but NOT as a full-time occupation NOR relying entirely on it for a living
  • Or they are somebody who is spending a lot of time on an activity and aspiring to reach the standards normally associated with a professional - and money doesn't come into it
Or maybe both in varying degrees?

I've often commented in my reviews of art challenge programmes on the television about the blurring of the lines between "professionals" and "amateurs". Examples include:
  • people who have worked as trained and professional illustrators or designers or architects in the past now declaring themselves as amateur artists
  • art students who have just graduated declaring themselves to be professional artists - because that's what they are trying to be
  • people who have an art degree and a full time working role in relation to art - but only paint in what they consider to be an amateur capacity(i.e. not trying to make it their full-time job)
So I thought it might be interesting to discuss.....

What is a semi professional artist?

Crop of a Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash

The best way of coming at a definition is probably by trying to define the boundary either side.

The professional artist

Back in 2011 I wrote How do you define a "professional artist"? It generated a lot of interesting comments

This is how I defined a professional artist
My definition of a professional artist is purely pragmatic - it's an artist who makes their living mainly or entirely through their art.

So for example, that might mean a professional artist was somebody who was a practising artist who sold their art in galleries, also taught art in a school or college or workshops and maybe did some illustration work as a sideline.
In every other occupation, professional is defined entirely by occupational standards e.g.
  • I was at one time a professional accountant - because I had qualified by passing the professional examinations of my institute and been admitted to membership of professional institute recognised as such by the government (Charter status etc). Doctors, dentists, lawyers and many other occupations which have a "duty of care" implicit or explicit within their professional role have very similar preconditions to being termed a "professional". 

For some professional standards are defined somewhat differently e.g.
  • a professional golfer or tennis player or football player is somebody who does it full time and plays in what are recognised as the leagues or competitions for professional players

Sometimes people define it according to whether or not you get paid, not what standard you have reached
  • in some contexts, professional means you get paid for doing what you are doing - and hence can no longer rank as an amateur or enter competitions for amateurs.  (Remember the disputes for a long time about who could/could not compete at the Olympics?)

Sometimes people define it according to how much you get paid for the value of work you produce.

Which leads us on to......

What is an amateur artist?

In the UK, there is a very simple definition of an amateur artist - in the "hobby" sense.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Art to commemorate 100 years since the war to end all wars

It hardly seems any time at all since the same day four years ago when I wrote So many poppies..... So many men lost......

which followed on from 888,246 poppies - Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

This time, on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, I'm including some photographs of artwork which is part of a Remembrance Art Trail at Canary Wharf
Artist Mark Humphrey has created 11 stunning pieces of art that will be displayed across the estate to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War One. The six previously exhibited artworks will once again be on display alongside 5 new pieces including Every One Remembered, courtesy of the Royal British Legion who commissioned the work in 2014.

Lost Soldiers Installation at Montgomery Square

Part of the "Lost Armies" Installation in Jubilee Park at Canary Wharf

“Every One Remembered” at Jubilee Plaza in Canary Wharf 

by Mark Humphrey for the Royal British Legion.

You can see a video on my Facebook Page of the periodic blowing of the paper poppy petals in the air.

Ian Jack writes in The Observer today - see Conceptual art can never capture the tragedy of the Great War in which he suggests that vast memorial installations are popular, but the most moving tributes are more modest and more real.

I think there's room for both. I also like that artists find various ways to help people remember - but also help teach the younger members of our society that "The war to end all wars" is in fact endlessly repeated in different places by different peoples
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning,We will remember them.

Friday, November 09, 2018


The BBC has announced:
  • The Celebrity Painting Challenge a new programme testing the artistic skills of six well known people (as in you've probably heard of at least one of them)
  • The Artists Art Show - although trailed a new format for interest might be more accurate of what's happened so far.
Read on to find out what's happened so far.

The Celebrity Painting Challenge: Key Facts

  • to be broadcast in 2019 - due to air in Spring 2019. Filming should have started by now. (I wonder if they will go up against BP Portrait Artist of the Year?)
  • the celebrities are: 
    • actor Jane Seymour, 
    • musician and presenter George Shelley, 
    • cricketer and broadcaster Phil Tufnell, 
    • model and DJ Amber Le Bon, 
    • presenter Josie D’Arby and 
    • TV personality Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen
  • the judges are: Daphne Todd and Lachlan Goudie who hitherto have been the Judges on The Big Painting Challenge
  • the mentors are back: Diana Ali and Pascal Anson
  • the presenter is Mariella Frostrup
  • the format is: a four part series. I'm trying to work out six people across four programmes and came up with
    • 2 programmes of 3 each - drop one at the end 
    • a semi final of four people - drop two at the end
    • a final of two people
    • OR 3 programmes with two challenges and six people and a final of a reduced number
  • The Challenges will comprise
    • traditional - portraits, self-portraits, landscapes, still life and life drawings
    • fun challenges "with humour and a twist". 
  • The Final will comprise
    • "the toughest challenge yet"
    • a selection of paintings from the six artists will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to charity.
So basically The Big Painting Challenge with celebrities - over a faster timescale!

The big challenge for me will be whether I can maintain my record of predicting the winner well before the end! ;) Plus I record online - so I'm not just saying that for effect! :)

NOTE: Celebrity Painting Challenge is due to air Spring 2019. It is a BBC Studios production, the Executive Producer is Kat Lennox and the Series Editor is Chi Ukairo. It was commissioned for BBC One by Charlotte Moore, Director BBC Content and Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning.

BBC Artists Art Show - another new series - as well?

Recently this pic has been making the rounds on Facebook. The BBC is looking for artists. I know no more than what it says.

The BBC is looking for artists
It seems to be commission based/biased.  Maybe it's also linked to interior decoration themes? Anyway, it sounds different from anything done to date - although I do worry that Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is involved in the first show.....

Note it involves people from across the disciplines and includes potters, carvers, crafters, screen printers and street artists as well as painters.

Could it be this replaces "The Great Pottery Throw Down" which also got the chop?

This new programme could be OK - it certainly sounds a bit more grounded in reality. I wait to hear more with interest.....

If YOU are interested the email is in the image.

The niggles with BBC Painting Programmes

Some of you may recall that I wrote
Interestingly the celebrity show is a BBC Studios production - and the above has a BBC email address to respond to - suggesting BBC Studios may well be behind this programme as well.  Meaning that the awful people who made The Big Painting Challenge - who were basically a "talent show" team may well have been replaced. 

We can but hope....


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The Big Painting Challenge - a Memory Jogger!

The story so far for Series 3 (2018)

Series 2 (2017)

Series 1 (2015)

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Review: Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 - Studley Royal Water Garden

Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 was held at Studley Royal Water Garden - a Georgian landscaped water garden situated in the wild and wooded valley of the river Skell in Yorkshire.

It was the third heat to be both wet and a grey day which took some time to improve - which is somewhat ironic given we had such a hot and very sunny summer this year.

It also threw up an interesting conclusion - which is discussed below. I'd love to hear your views too... (which you can add on my Facebook Page)

Wildcard artists walking over the lake to their location for painting

The Location: Studley Royal Water Garden

Studley Royal Water Garden from way up high above it
The bridge that the wildcard artists (above) are walking over is at the end of the straight canal.
The problem with the Water Garden is it looks great from above, but when viewed from the lakeside - which is where the pods were - it mainly just looks like flat water. (I know I've been there and was greatly underwhelmed by it - until I got some way above it!)

The View FROM ABOVE the Pods
Look at how flat it is - and how much flatter it will be for the artists

The Artists

This week there were five women and three men - and seven painters and one printmaker.

Six professional artists

I'm never very sure why the artists get ordered on-screen. I prefer to be neutral and list them in alphabetical order by surname - links to their websites are embedded in their names and other social media accounts are also listed if self-evident in Google.

It's always interesting when doing these profiles to see which of the professional artists are media and event savvy and have found ways to raise their profile off the back of their television appearance.

  • Dorothy Morris (Facebook Page | Twitter) - Lives and works in Carmarthenshire in South West Wales. She has a degree in Fashion and Textiles, an MA in Fine Art and is a part time Art Teacher (1979 to present). She works in a wide range of materials including textiles, ceramics, mixed media and more traditional mediums such as watercolours and acrylics. She also runs the Greenspace Gallery and Tea Shop in Carmarthen - which also supports charitable endeavours.
  • Alexander Pemberton - Graduated from Chelsea School of Art in 1981. Paints from life mainly by the Thames in Greenwich and also in the streets and areas of London he has lived – previously the East End, now Greenwich and Deptford. He's had solo exhibitions of his landscape paintings at two reputable galleries Abbott & Holder and Chappel Galleries. This is the painting he submitted. Given his experience of painting from life I was somewhat puzzled by his apparent lack of confidence on the programme - and use of a 'prop' which is obviously not the way he normally paints landscapes.
Anthony Eyton has called Pemberton’s paintings ‘deliberate and distilled’.
  • Jessica Rose (Facebook Page | Twitter | Instagram) - a painter printmaker who lives in Ealing and paints in watercolours and oils and makes hand-pulled original prints using techniques including linocut and etching. She also runs classes in Hanwell several times a week teaching drawing and painting skills. 
  • Lucy Smallbone (Facebook) - Specialises in modern landscape painting and prefers to tends to work with oil paint on board as it makes for more interesting marks. She did her foundation diploma in Art and Design at Falmouth; graduated with a 1st class degree in painting from City and Guilds of London Art School and then did a Master Degree at the Slade School of Art where she won several awards for her work, including the 2015 Duveen Travel Prize - which she used to travel to Chernobyl and paint the landscape there. For those interested in learning about oil painting, She's currently delivering a course on Introduction to Oil Painting this term at the Art Acdemy. She's also got two solo art exhibitions
    • Edgelands at Fiumano Clase (25 October - 15 December 2018)
    • an exhibition at HSBC, London, December 2018 

Two amateur artists

Oddly after a week when we had three amateur artists with well developed websites, this week we have two artists who I can't find online.
  • Giles Woodward - a full time Art Teacher in a state secondary school who is also an urban landscape painter who sells his work. This is his blog post about his submission and experience
  • Anne Goh - not sure if I've got the spelling correct. 


It was good to see that at least two of the artists (Lucy and Jessica) used a sketchbook to work out potential subjects. I'm always surprised not to see more of the artists use sketchbooks to work out cropping, tonal patterns, colour palettes etc.  I loved the look of Lucy' sketchbook - and she had followed the advice from last week - to research the area and look at what it looks like via online pics in advance of the Heat.

Much of my commentary comes below in relation to the themes and the outcome of the heat.

Learning Points | Themes for this episode

As with all my other blog posts, I tried to detect some learning points within this episode

Be different

I've got people who participated this year corresponding with me behind the scenes. One of the more recent comments was to make sure you do something different for the digital submission - so you stand out and aren't one of the green English landscapes

I did hear Kathleen say that they liked it when urban landscapes are submitted - as landscape painting is not just about the rural perpective.

The submission by Bridget also had a slightly fantasy aspect to it - it certainly looked very different to a conventional landscape - although had recognisable features within it. It reminded me of Peter Doig.

The colours used by Lucy were vivid and unreal - which fits with her style of landscape painting and also of the place she was painting - and they certainly made her painting stand out and get noticed.

Get out of your pod!

One of the things I've not seen a lot of before is artists getting out of their pod and going off looking for a more inspiring view / perspective.

However this time they did!

I'm not in the least bit surprised, given the perspective on a very flat lake, that some of the artists decided to get out of the pod and walk some distance to find something more interesting. Some took a camera / cameraphone with them and at least one (Jessica) took a sketchbook.

This inevitably means that the artists who took phones are then working from digital images which also means they don't have to cope with the changing light, weather etc etc etc.

Speaking personally I'm somebody who simply could not do a competition like this because I have to work on something that 'speaks' to me. That's not to say you can't find an angle - but if it doesn't grab you from the off, the usual result is what feels like a second-rate drawing/painting.

What to do when you don't know what to do

We had some artists with major attacks of nerves in this episode resulting in a lot of nervous activity at one extreme and what seemed to be a lot of pondering at the other.  That's nothing to be ashamed of - in fact, it's entirely normal. The issue is how do you then work your way through the nerves to achieve an outcome that is positive. Essentially the same issue that actors face before going on stage or in front of a camera - or a sportsmen faces before a major challenge where they need to perform NOW!

One of the effects of being nervous is you can lose confidence in your decision-making abilities and don't know what to do for the best.

Techniques used by the artists in this heat to confront their nerves and enable them to paint included:
  • Keep ladling the paint on to the support. I'm not quite sure why Bridget's painting looks nothing like the ones on her website, but I'm prepared to speculate that "keep on painting" was at the back of her mind in terms of how to meet the challenge of painting in front of a camera. (See last week - re 'Knowing when to stop')
  • Give yourself something you can paint. Sometimes you need to limber up and start painting by painting something completely different. Portrait painters are well known for producing small still life studies.  Was this why Alexander decided to introduce a vase into the landscape? I could find no rhyme nor reason behind it.
  • Produce more than one painting.  It's always wise to turn up for an event like this with a choice of supports given you've no idea what the subject is going to be. It's also a good idea to try out different options if nothing grabs you to start with - and then decide which you think will work best. This is the strategy that Lucy seemed to adopt. However if you keep going like this all the way through the heat, you can find yourself with very limited options as you approach the deadline.....

Visual "trickery"

We had three who took an unconventional approach to a landscape
  • Greg Mason created two paintings of alternative perspectives on the garden - one of a completely symmetrical part of the garden and the other looking out from the temple at the garden. I thought it was rather odd but very effective. I just wished it was a little less 'colour neutral'
  • Alexander Pemberton put a rectangular vase on the table. I couldn't work out why. Until I saw his painting at the end and realised it looked like his other paintings which included tower blocks
  • Lucy Smallbone ignored all the grandeur and artifice of the Georgian watergarden and after a number of false starts, she cropped one of the statues to essentially a small bust view and added green into the background. It took nerve to think this might be OK as a landscape.

When is a landscape a landscape?

I was intrigued by what Sjy Arts and/or the Judges think a landscape is. 
Is it anything which isn't a portrait, still life, fantasy art, etc etc?
  • One of the submissions is, as one of the Judges pointed out, strictly speaking an Interior. 
  • One of the Heat Paintings I would describe as a 'still life'. 
  • Another of the artists actively introduced a still life object into his painting.

After last week's heat, I came away thinking a landscape was something that gave a proper sense of place - as experienced by the artist - but that it actually needed to include something we recognised as a landscape - and that place.

So what's the definition of a landscape - and do the guidelines need to be a bit clearer on this topic?

According to the Tate
Landscape is one of the principal types or genres of subject in Western art
According to the Encylopedia Britiannica
Landscape painting, the depiction of natural scenery in art. Landscape paintings may capture mountains, valleys, bodies of water, fields, forests, and coasts and may or may not include man-made structures as well as people. Although paintings from the earliest ancient and Classical periods included natural scenic elements, landscape as an independent genre did not emerge in the Western tradition until the Renaissance in the 16th century. In the Eastern tradition, the genre can be traced back to 4th-century-CE China.
According to Visual Arts Cork (who I really rate) - on their Landscape Painting (1500-present) page they have this....
DefinitionIn fine art, the term 'landscape' - from the Dutch word 'landschap', a patch of ground - describes any painting or drawing whose "principal subject" is the portrayal of a scenic view. Such scenery encompasses meadows, hills, mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, forests, coastal views and seascapes. The view depicted may be that of a real place, or it may be an imaginary or idealized scene.
So what's the Sky Arts definition of Landscape? 

The Results

This was the line up of Heat Paintings....

Paintings from the Heat
By: (left to right) Lucy Smallbone, Greg Mason, Jessica Rose, Bridget Collins, Giles Woodward, Anne Goh, Alexander Pemberton andDorothy Morris
.....and this was the line up of artists participating in the Heat at Studley Royal for Episode 4.

(Left to right) Lucy Smallbone, Bridget Collins, Giles Woodward, Greg Mason, Alexander Pemberton, Jessica Rose, Dorothy Morris and Anne Goh

Episode 4 Shortlist

Shortlisted artists' paintings - submission and the Studley Royal Painting
The artists shortlisted were (in the order they were called)
  • Lucy Smallbone
  • Greg Mason
  • Anne Goh
The Shortlisted Artists
(left to right: Anne Goh, Greg Mason and Lucy Smallbone)

The Shortlisted artists with their heat painting
Here are the line-ups of submission painting plus plein air painting for each artist - and below are the same paintings in the order they are lined up in the above photo.

I'm going to quote what they said re. the artists and their paintings to try and explain their eventual selection of who would go forward to the semi-final.

Submission and Heat Painting by Lucy Smallbone
The Judges said:
  • Tai liked "Lucy's solution to this vast landscape" He loved the painting. (Maybe because he loves that sort of painting?)
  • Kathleen said "She's identified a mood within this landscape by revealing this sculpture, this torso" and also commented that she's walked through this landscape - even if that's in her mind - and this is what she has pulled out.
  • Kate considered it was her unique take on the place - due have a very expressive response to the place. (Does that actually say anything? I think one could actually say that about ANY of the Pod or wildcard artists!)
I think Lucy is a good artist - and I make that judgement having looked at her website. However I'm not sure her painting on the day is a landscape painting.

However I noted how well the two paintings looked next to one another given the very striking use of orange.

While I understand that this is a painting produced by an artist experiencing a place, for me it suggests rather more that it fits with her Chernobyl paintings. I was also puzzled as to why an artist who can very clearly paint landscapes couldn't on this occasion.

More comments below.....

Submission and Heat Paintings by Anne Goh
The Judges said:
  • Kate felt her painting was very traditional and very well conceived. She liked the bronze coming through from the background and also the slightly less finished feel of the heat painting
  • Tai commented that she had a great sense of the mood of the place i.e. what it would look like after everybody had left. He thought he understanding of how to create an atmosphere through light was extraordinary.
Submission and Heat Paintings by Greg Mason

The Judges said:
  • (Kathleen) I totally applaud Greg's ambition today. He's very cleverly fooled me. I wasn't expecting him to peel away something (the tape) at the end to reveal the two paintings. She also made a very astute comment that his paintings are all about moving from one place into another
  • Kate liked the fact the painting on the left goes to nothing at end of the perspective - in contrast to the painting on the right which focuses in on a sculpture at the equivalent place
  • Tai said It feels very intelligent and intellectual and I like that about it.
For me these two paintings were by far the most thoughtful of the shortlisted artists.

For me there was no doubt he was my Heat Winner - however I had a sneaking suspicion that Lucy might just edge him because her way of painting is liked more by Tai and Kate.

This was how Greg painted his two paintings

Episode 4 Winners - Overall and Wildcard

In a Landscape Artist of the Year, the Judges opted to choose two artists.

The winners of Episode 3 were Lucy Smallbone AND Greg Mason.

Bottom line, IMO the painting produced in the heat by Lucy Smallbone, while very accomplished is NOT a landscape painting. It tells me nothing about the place. I believe that
  • the Judges liked it because it was a good piece of contemporary painting - period.  
  • the reason they ALSO chose a second artist who had produced two much more conventional landscape paintings "in one" was to avoid being howled down by the public (and the sponsors?)! (i.e. they wanted to put her through and had to come up with a rationale!)
Regular readers will know I am no fan of Judges who change the rules to suit their personal tastes - or of competitions that fail to provide adequate guidelines and leave it all up to the Judges. It's all just down to personal taste then.

I think Greg was a worthy winner and that Lucy has a great future in front of her.

The Twitterati were not impressed......

The Wildcard Winner

Amanda Bradbury being told she's won the Wildcard Entry

The Wildcard winner was Amanda Bradbury (Facebook Page) who is a Wildlife Artist and Illustrator based in Gloucestershire. Her wildlife paintings contain illustrative landscapes of natural habitats.

This is the painting which included a strong sense of the rhythm of the weather and the place.

As Amanda commented, they'd been drenched and battered and some canvases ended up in the lake!  One has to admire what the wildcard artists come up without the benefit of the shelter of a pod!

The Wildcard winner - painted from the other end of the lake.

Next week

Next week, the team are back in Broadstairs in Kent and the pods are turned 90 degrees to give different views of the beach and town.

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