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....


Subscribe by email

Subscribe and receive every post from Making A Mark via email.
Your subscription is only activated after you verify the link in the email you will receive


The Big Painting Challenge - a Memory Jogger!

The story so far for Series 3 (2018)

Series 2 (2017)

Series 1 (2015)