Tuesday, December 18, 2018

RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2019 - Call for Entries

The deadline for the call for entries for the RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2019 is Monday 14 January.

  • I've been ambivalent about this competition in recent years (2012-2017). 
  • However the change of president seems to have resulted in something of a change in the type of artwork selected for this exhibition.

That said I think it's now very much time for a change in the type of artwork submitted. All those who stayed away during the 'heavily contemporary / non figurative' part of the RWS life cycle can now re-emerge and engage with this watercolour competition again.

This post is about the Call for Entries for the RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2019. It covers
  • my preamble and commentary about what I'd like to see this competition achieve
  • what the RWS want to see 
    • the prizes
    • the judges
    • who can enter
    • how to enter
    • the exhibition
For a commentary on some of the very significant issues associated with this competition in the recent past my post about last year's Call for Entries

What I want to see 

What I want to see coming forward in OPEN watercolour competitions like these - in the future - are:
  • Firstly - some potential candidates to follow in the footsteps of the great watercolour painters that we have lost in recent years - such as Leslie Worth (1923-2009) (Google Images) and David Prentice (1936-2014) (Google Images) who produced emphatically contemporary figurative works while at the same time being complete masters of their medium and hugely impressive.
  • Second - some "WOW!" paintings in watercolour. I've seen "Wow!" paintings in watercolour in this competition in the dim and distant past and I've seen "Wow!" watercolour paintings in other open competitions and juried exhibitions. I don't mean "kapow" paintings of the "in your face" variety. I mean the ones that just stop you in your tracks and just make you stare because you didn't realise you could do that with watercolour. Leslie Worth did it for me on a number of occasions - as did David Prentice - which is why I miss their skills and competence and vision so very much.
  • Third I want to see an exhibition of paintings by artists who know how apply, move and remove pigments suspended in water - BEFORE and AFTER application - NOT a refuge for painters using polymers!!!
What I really don't want to see is paintings by artists who don't understand ALL the fabulous properties of traditional watercolour (e.g. people who create mud) and who can't paint.

You can see the artworks selected for the 2018 exhibition on the RWS website. Some of it is extremely unexciting and I'm guessing did not walk off the walls....

Which is WHY you need to do your bit and enter your work!  Preferably by people who know how to make watercolour sing....

RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2019
- What the RWS want to see 

as per the RWS facebook Page

One of these days an art society is going to write an inspiring and uplifting commentary on their watercolour competition. This isn't one of them.
This annual competition aims to encourage innovation and experimentation in all water-based media and provides a prestigious platform for both established and emerging artists.
This is the Application Pack.

Just as a matter of fact - and for clarification - this competition can only lay claim to being prestigious because of who is running it and not because of who is entering it.  This competition could become very highly rated again - but that depends on it attracting excellent entries from top watercolourists and then selecting them!


There are a respectable number of prizes on offer in this competition - however this is NOT a competition which you enter for the prizes on offer. (see 'who can enter' for why you do) Although there are various prizes on offer, current sponsored prizes mainly comprise art materials by those who also frequently sponsor the open exhibitions of the national art societies rather than those available at the various prestigious art competitions runs in London.

It is however a competition which could do with a heavyweight sponsor....

RWS Prizes

  • David Gluck Memorial Award: £750 Cash Prize 
  • RWS Award: £500 Cash Prize 
  • David Gluck & RWS Award: £250 Cash Prize 
  • RWS Young Artist Award: Guest Membership to the RWS for 2 years to an artist under the age of 35, allowing the winner(s) to exhibit in all Society exhibitions at Bankside Gallery for this period 
  • RWS Publicity Prize: Your selected work on exhibition printed publicity material 
  • RWS Social Media Prize: Feature on @royalwatercoloursociety Instagram

Sponsors Prizes

  • The Cass Art Solo Show Award: The opportunity for a solo exhibition of your work in a Cass Art store space 
  • The Artist Prize: Feature article in The Artist & Leisure Painter Magazine 
  • The Heatherley’s Open Studio Prize: Five days worth of studio time at The Heatherley School of Fine Art 
  • Dry Red Press Prize: The opportunity to have your artwork published on a greetings card 
  • Cotswold Mounts Prize: £125 cash 
  • Daler Rowney Art Materials Prize: Daler Rowney art materials 
  • St Cuthbert’s Mill Paper Prize: £150 worth of paper 
  • Seawhite Art Materials Prize: Seawhite art materials

The Judging Panel 

Independent Members

  • James Russell | Curator of the Edward Bawden exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery - so I guess a man who likes line and trad. watercolour.
  • Lachlan Goudie | Artist and judge on TV’s ‘The Big Painting Challenge’ - who mainly paints in oils , but also paints using gouache and occasionally watercolour. Think lush and colourful!

RWS Members

The links below are to the page of their works on the RWS website
To me the group of RWS members who are selecting lack diversity in style. It would be nice to see some of the members who have been around for a lot longer and predate the "recent era" - or just some who have a very different style.

I've always been very much of the opinion that it's the work of members on a selection panel which greatly influences who submits paintings to be judged - in recognition of the fact it's a human inclination to like "more of the same" in terms of your own particular style.  As can in fact be seen by the range of works by current members.....

Who can enter

The Royal Watercolour Society’s annual competition is open to all artists except RWS Members - so long as they are aged 18 or over on Monday 8 October 2018

In effect, it's a secondary filter for all those who may aspire to become the next Associate and Full Members of the RWS as the competition takes place prior to the next elections to membership in March 2019. Note the text
The RWS encourages successful entrants to the Contemporary Watercolour Competition to apply for Associate Membership of the Society.
Hence the membership of the society is changing due to the preferences of judges of an art competition focused on innovation and experimentation!

Eligible work

The basics which must be observed are set out below.
  • Original work
They are looking for artists with a clear style and identity in all the works that they submit rather than lots of different styles of painting.
    • The work must have been made by the applicant  (However - and importantly - it does not say it has to be original and there is no definition of what "made by the applicant" means. Plus there is no guidance about derivative pieces or use of photographs taken by other people. Big mistake in my opinion given the legal liability issues associated with displaying such works with exhibitions and/or selling them). The usual definition in other competitions is that the artist must be able to assert copyright - which by definition means the artwork cannot rely on the original work of others.
    • No prints, copies, reproductions or photographs are eligible
  • Subject matter: no constraints on style or subject matter
  • Age of work: completed in last four years - but no date as to when the four years counts from (e.g. the date the call for entries opens or the deadline for entry?). Very sloppy! A time limit without a date is completely meaningless. 
  • Size of work
    • At last - after much moaning by me - the confusion between the application pack and the FAQS has been eliminated AND the size of the paintings has INCREASED! 
    • Framed works must not now exceed 200 x 200cm
  • Eligible media
    • Application Pack states "any painting in watercolour, acrylic, gouache, ink, any other water-based media or a combination" 
    • AND NEW "No prints, copies, reproductions or photographs are eligible"  Slight jaw drop that anybody might think that they were. I guess the notion held to be true by some cheeky entrants was that printing ink is water-based. Tell that to anybody trying to get printing ink off their clothes!  This is what happens when you start to bend the boundaries of watercolour!
    • FAQs state
My work includes media that isn't all water-based (i.e. pastel, pencil, collage). Is this allowed?
We accept works made in all water-based media including (but not limited to) watercolour, acrylic, ink, gouache, and mixed media pieces featuring not water-based materials as long as a water-based media is included.
    • In other words so long as there is some water-based media in there somewhere.....
    • Can we now have COMPLETE CONSISTENCY between the Application Pack and FAQs on media too?  You are saying two different things!
  • Eligible supports: Clarification added in to the definition to indicate that cardboard is paper based i.e. "All work should be on a paper support i.e. paper, cardboard, etc (not canvas, wood, plastic or any other surface)"
  • ALL work must be for sale (hence no commissions or pieces you want to sell outside the exhibition or have already sold). Note that the Bankside Gallery levies a commission of 40% + VAT on picture sales
Important things to remember when deciding how many works to submit
You should consider framing, transport costs and the Gallery’s commission of 40% + VAT when pricing your work.
It's worth bearing in mind that it's unusual for a group of works to be selected from one artist. It's more usual for it to be one or two. Hence you create two trips to pick up art if you submit more than get selected.  Makes a big difference to profit from sales!
  • if you submit more than one work make sure these are coherent in terms of what they say about the subjects you like to paint and your style 
  • DO NOT submit works which vary in style!

How to enter

You can enter a maximum of 6 paintings

Entry is by digital submission - of form and artwork - plus payment of the relevant fee. There are a number of stages which are explained in the information pack.

In terms of digital images:

Paintings should be photographed unframed and evenly lit, and cropped to the edge of the work.

  • Images should be in jpg format and must be a minimum of 1MB and no bigger than 3MB (new for 2019). Of course the better the image the less scope there is to be surprised when the selected entry arrives!
  • the forms must state title, framed dimensions, medium and price. So if you've not framed the work you need to estimate what the framed dimensions will be - and then not exceed them if selected! 
  • This is the Online Entry Form (in the Competition section of the website)
Fees for entry are comparable with open exhibitions of national art societies.

  • The fee for entry at £15 for each of the first two artworks submitted. 
  • Fees are then discounted by as more works are submitted (see the Application Pack for details) i.e. 6 works cost £65 to enter
  • Students can submit up to 3 works for £5. 
  • This is comparable to the £18 per artwork charged for the open exhibitions of the other national art societies exhibiting at the Mall Galleries - and is significantly less than the fees charged for the prestigious art competitions with major prizes.

Selection and requirements for hanging

All the selection is done on the basis of the digital image.
A list of paintings selected for the exhibition will be published on the RWS website on Friday 25 January. 
You then have just over a month to get your selected work framed and couriered or transported to London. So know who your framer and courier is and check that they're free and can deliver for you!

Note that you can be selected and then not hung if you don't meet the requirements for hanging (If you are successful, see Preparing Your Paintings for Exhibition in the application pack) 


Delivery of framed paintings is to the Bankside Gallery on Sunday 3 or Monday 4 March, 11am-5pm. Paintings may not be delivered on any other date.

On arrival at the Gallery you will be asked to un-wrap your paintings and to take any packing material away with you
If I am successful, can I send my work to Bankside Gallery using Royal Mail, Fed Ex or similar?No, we do not accept works from non-insured non-art couriers. We realise this is a more expensive way of transporting your work but we want to reduce the risk of loss or damage to your work.
The Bankside Gallery recommends three art courier firms in the Application pack.
See also my website page about UK art couriers


The RWS Contemporary Watercolour Exhibition of selected paintings will be held at Bankside Gallery from Friday 8 - Wednesday 20 March

Past Exhibitions

See my blog posts below about some of the previous exhibitions below. These include gallery shots of works in the exhibition and links to the websites of prizewinning artists. 

2018: RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2018 - Call for Entries2017: RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2017 - Call for Entries


2014: RWS Contemporary Watercolour Open Competition 2014 & Associate Membership
no exhibition review because I was writing my book!


2011: Call for Entries: Royal Watercolour Society Open Competition 2011
2010: Exhibition review: RWS Open Competition
2009: Exhibition review: "21st Century Watercolour" at the Bankside Gallery
2008: 21st century watercolour - RWS 2008 painting competition
2007: 21st Century Watercolours at Bankside Gallery

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