Tuesday, July 30, 2019

BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2019 (Part 2): Analysis

With the second part of my review of the BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery I'm digging deeper and looking in particular at various attributes of the selected portraits - and other reviews of the exhibition.

You can also read my earlier post BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2019 (Part 1): Overview critique

BP Portrait Award 2019 - one of the walls with more colourful paintings
At the end of my analysis, I concluded that it is so very sad that an exhibition which used to be a joy to visit has become such a shadow of its former self. The exhibition has, for the most part, lost numbers, size, colour and complexity from the portraits on display.

A collection of small and tiny paintings around one medium sized painting

Reviews of the exhibition

Reviews by the newspapers were almost entirely limited to the issues concerning the BP Sponsorship within the context of concern about climate change and the use of fossil fuels.

Apart from the latter part of the The Times review, these are NOT serious reviews of an art exhibition.
It’s not the pictures that people are talking about. It’s the sponsor. For three decades, the name of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producer has branded the BP Portrait Award. As a result, protest has become as much a feature of the annual awards ceremony as the announcement of a winner.
Thus far, however, this protest always stopped at the portico of the National Portrait Gallery. Now it marches right in. Gary Hume, who sits on the judging panel, as well as eight other artists previously involved in the event, have voiced their concern about what they see as an uncomfortable liaison.
Award comes amid criticism of BP’s funding and sponsorship of National Portrait Gallery The Guardian
  • The Evening Standard which has always produced good coverage for this award stopped posting after the shortlist was announced. I must say I continue to miss Brian Sewell.... 
I read them and concluded that I was not the only one convinced that the BP Portrait Award is losing its status as well as competent Judges, its normal gallery and portrait paintings in the exhibition.

What's Different? An analysis of the Portraits

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

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Award winners at the RHS Botanical Art Show 2019

Botanical artists from all over the world who compete for medals at the Royal Horticultural Society's Botanical Art equivalent of the Chelsea Flower Show have to work very hard for their medals and have five years from being approved to exhibit to get it right for a 2.5 day exhibition.

Judges are not satisfied with one painting. They want six - on a theme, botanically accurate and correct, constructed using artistic skills and with a visually aesthetic appeal.

View of some of the exhibits of six (typically watercolour) paintings of plants on a theme at the RHS Botanical Art Show

BELOW are images of the Major Awards

You can also
The Gold Medals were split between:
  • 5 UK Artists (4 English and 1 Scottish)
  • 4 Japanese artists 
  • a group of Russian Artists

The exhibition at the RHS London Botanical Art and Photography Show is open today and closes at 5pm. It's in the RHS Lindley Hall in Elverton Street in Westminster.

Best Botanical Painting 2019

Mariko Ikeda (GM 2017 and Best Exhibit 2017) - Pandanus tectorius of Micronesian Atoll (Watercolour on vellum)

Mariko lives in Tokyo. She has a Ph.D. in the Sciences of Art (2009) and has been a Botanical Art Instructor in Tokyo since 2006. In terms of previous awards she has
  • won 1st Prize (twice) at the Botanical Art Competition run by the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo.
  • won a Gold Medal for her exhibit of Pandanus at the RHS Botanical Art Show in 2017 and was also awarded Best Exhibit in show.
  • this year won another Gold Medal and Best Painting.
Best Botanical Painting: Mariko Ikeda : P.Tectorius ‘En Khelen’

Mariko Ikeda GM (2017 + Best Exhibit, 2019 + Best Painting) Pandanus tectorius of Micronesia

Best Exhibit 2019

Naomi Gumma (Japan) - A Gift from the Gods: The Life Cycle of the Shimonita Welsh Onion (Tempera on paper)

This is Naomi's first visit to RHS and she has won a Gold Medal and Best Exhibit!  She also dressed in sync with her plant!

Best Botanical Art Exhibit 2019: Naomi Gumma GM (2019): The Lifecycle of the Shimonita Welsh Onion

Judges Special Award 2019

Betsy Rogers-Knox: Exploring the Seasons at Beckley Bog

This was awarded because of the significant educational value of Betsy' watercolour paintings about bog plants growing in a specific environment.

Exploring the Seasons at Beckley Bog - The Botany and Beauty of Vascular Plants and Bog Benefits
Betsy Rogers-Knox

Judges’ Special Award 2019: Betsy Rogers-Knox

[NOTE: Most of my writing about botanical art is now on my Botanical Art and Artists website - and I'm currently writing up this year's awards - and TIPS -  from the RHS London Art and Photography Competition 2019 on my news blog - which you can subscribe to if interested]

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

I'm at the RHS Botanical Art Show all week

Apologies to those who are expecting the next instalment of my review of the BP Portrait Award but I haven't quite finished it and I'm now at or occupied with the RHS Botanical Art Show (RHS London Botanical Art and Photography Show) for the rest of the week - followed by lying down in a dark room for a while because I'll be out for the count!

The next instalment PART TWO - ANALYSIS & what's changed should be up on Sunday.

In the meantime if you like Botanical Art get down to the RHS Lindley Hall in Elverton Street, Westminster where you can see a fabulous international art exhibition - of botanical art - with artists who have flown in from all over the world - and RHS medals awarded for their efforts.

Here's a couple of my blog posts about it - and you can see pics from the Reception last night on my Botanical Art and Artists Facebook Page
So nice to go to an exhibition where there are clearly defined standards for the subject matter and all the judging panel include people who are botanical artists who've already won RHS Gold Medals and other experts!

Now there's an idea - create a Judging Panel for the BP Portrait Award of previous First Prize Winners!

Monday, July 22, 2019

BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2019 (Part 1): Overview critique

Entrance to the BP Portrait Award 2019

This year it's the 40th year of the Portrait Award which started in 1980.Time to take stock - so I'm dividing my review of the the BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition into two parts as follows.


This includes
  • my overall impression of the exhibition
  • a commentary on the relative status of this exhibition after 40 years- as it downsizes in more ways than one
    • the overall quality of portraits hung
    • the major problem with the hang
    • the competence of the Judging Panel this year
    • the lack of a leader of contemporary portraiture who drives the rigor in relation to both development of the competition and selection of portraits
  • why I think it runs the risk of becoming the IBM of portraiture competitions.

PART TWO - ANALYSIS & what's changed

This covers my analysis of what has changed in this year's exhibition - LESS and SMALLER are recurrent themes
  • a detailed analysis of what has changed in terms of number of portraits, size and type, composition and colour and who are the subjects - with some number crunching for comparison with last year
  • what I liked in terms of portraits

The hang makes it difficult to see all the portraits this year - except from a distance

This review is much later than usual. I wrote my first two posts back in June - see
One of the reasons for the hold up was I was trying to post my video interview with Charlie Schaffer and spent a very frustrating day trying to work out why my video software wouldn't work properly. (Still not worked that 64 bit upgrade issue out!). Then when I reviewed my photos I realised that I needed some better ones for the review of the exhibition. Great ones of individual paintings and artists with their paintings - but not ones which gave a good sense of the exhibition.  So had to go back and take some more.

I have a problem with writing reviews when I have something negative I really want to say....

Which might just have been the biggest reason for the delay.  I've said bits of what I want to say to various people and I now need to write it down too.

[Let me know what you think on the related post on my Facebook Page where comments are currently accumulating quickly!]

The most prestigious portrait painting competition in the world? Really?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

About Charlotte Johnson Wahl - artist and mother of Boris.

Who knew that the man who is very likely to be the next Prime Minister is the son of an artist? I didn't until today.

His mother Charlotte Johnson Wahl has been an artist since her children were small - as evidenced by some of the paintings on her website

Indeed she has painted a rather splendid portrait of her eldest son Boris painting! (Re. the title he's known as Alexander of Al to family and childhood friends) .

In the portrait he has the very recognisable, wayward and very blonde hair together with what seems to be a tendency to look upwards at you from a slightly bowed head. (The last person who wowed the British Public while doing that was Princess Diana!)

Paintings of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson painting and her four children with Daisies
by Charlotte Johnson Wahl
In 2015 a friend arranged an exhibition of her work at the Mall Galleries - and I can't think for the life of me why I didn't go!  Apparently she was so good at selling her work that it had to be rounded up for this retrospective exhibition.

The exhibition was called Minding Too Much: A Charlotte Johnson Wahl Retrospective.
Powerful, personal and deeply moving, the exhibition presents a collection of stunning paintings that tell the story of Johnson Wahl's turbulent life. They chart marriage, motherhood and mental breakdown - followed by early onset Parkinson's disease.
You can see on her website some of the very powerful paintings she has produced about her life: 
  • as a mother of four children
  • as an individual overwhelmed by her phobias who suffered a severe and prolonged mental breakdown involving admission to the Maudsley Hospital - where she became a profilic painter. I think her Maudsley paintings are very strong - some of the best I've ever seen by somebody who is an inpatient. It reminds me of how Van Gogh settled and also became an extremely prolific painter who also painted prodigiously - producing some of his best work - while at the Saint-Paul asylum in St Remy de Provence. I'm not in the least bit surprised that she had a sell-out exhibition at the end of her stay!
Paintings from her time at the Maudsley
by Charlotte Johnson Wahl
  • of being involved in travelling and meeting people in different places and different groups within society.
Have a look at her website and make your own mind up.

I found some articles about her as both mother of future PM and her career as an artist which make for very interesting reading.
  • Artist Charlotte Johnson Wahl: far more than just 'Boris's mum' The Telegraph - this one in was written by the friend who rounded up the paintings for the restrospective and was published at the time of the exhibition. It's well worth a read - both in terms of seeing more of her work,  understanding what drives her approach to what she paints and how it all fits in with her life as the mother of a prodigious set of children!
A Johnson Wahl canvas is instantly recognisable – bold colours, strong compositions and a deep, instinctive insight into what it means to be human. She is a complete original. Johnson Wahl received little or no formal training but, aged five, was given oil paints by her highly academic parents. 'My older sister was terribly clever, as was my younger brother,’ she says. 'My parents didn’t know what to do with me, so they gave me some paints and I turned out to be good at it. Once I started I couldn’t stop.’
'I had become extremely phobic. I was terrified of all forms of dirt. In 1974, I had to go into the Maudsley as a patient of Professor [Hans] Eysenck [the influential late psychologist]. While I was there, I did 78 paintings and they gave me an exhibition.' (It was a sell-out).

There's also a Sky Arts Documentary called "Painting the Johnsons" - which I've not yet tracked down - but it looks fascinating and if it's not on Sky right now I'm sure it will be very soon!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

See Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in Winchester

Michelangelo's frescos and paintings for the Sistine Chapel are now on view in Winchester until the end of September.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND a visit to view - it's a quite unique experience and by all accounts you can view Michelangelo's artwork much better than you can the originals in the Sistine Chapel. Certainly the only other people who have seen them this close up were Michelangelo and the restorers!
“Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.” ​​​​Goethe 1787

Michelangelo's "The Last Judgement" in Winchester

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: A Different View is, in fact, licensed by the Vatican Museums.
Officially licensed by the Vatican Museums, the images were reproduced and transferred to special materials. This technique allows a true-to-life reproduction and gives a glimpse of the works, which, apart from Michelangelo, has so far been given to only a few people.
The frescoes have been photographed, reproduced at high resolution and transferred onto special fabric webs to create highly detailed display panels. This technique allows a true-to-life reproduction of the ceiling and gives visitors a unique opportunity for an otherwise impossible close-up view of his brushwork.
The size of the Exhibition means that it can be found in three venues across Winchester 
  • you begin at the City Space on the ground floor of Winchester Discovery Centre where you get your ticket (£5 if bought online or £6 bought on the City Space - which gets you into every venue)
  • then continue upstairs in The Gallery where you can see the frescoes from the Sistine Chapel ceiling
  • finally you walk to the The Great Hall, where a giant 6 metre x 6 metre panel of The Last Judgement, painted 25 years after the ceiling, is on display.
Please note that the Great Hall operates different opening times to Winchester Discovery Centre: once redeemed at City Space, your ticket is valid for seven days for entry to the Great Hall.

The City Space

The City Space has the larger more complex paintings around the walls of the Chapel - plus a copy of the only known painting of Michelangelo.

Sermon on the Mount
These paintings were produced by various painters. Their reproductions are actually very much smaller than the original and seem to be on some sort of aluminium panel.

The Gallery

This first floor Gallery includes the frescos from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel - but on the floor.

It's a very weird feeling when you first see it - it's almost as if a famous destination for viewing great art has been upended. However from the descriptions of all those who had been to the Sistine Chapel, the overwhelming consensus was how pleasant it was to be able to look at the images but without
  • the neckache!
  • the time limit for viewing - due to the speed with which ticketed and timed groups are marshalled through to make sure everybody gets to get in and see the great art.
In effect the display "explodes" the pictorial imagery by separating individual scenes - but placing them close to one another as they might be seen in the real chapel. Other images from the ceiling are on the side walls.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel reduced in size and on the floor

Here you have as much time as you like to look at Michaelangelo's iconic paintings - which has the ceiling on the floor.

Can I recommend you....

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Banksy is the most popular artist - or is he?

Banksy is the UK's favourite artist according to a poll.

But which poll?

The Guardian

I found the story in an article by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian
Banksy is the Brits’ favourite painter of all time - is this status deserved?  The secretive stenciller is no Rembrandt – but a new poll shows that ‘high art’ alienates the public more than any other cultural form
No it doesn't actually - but Jonathan never lets facts get in the way of a good diatribe!

It turned out he was referencing The Sun
According to a poll reported in the Sun, the secretive stenciller is “Brits’ favourite painter of all time ... beating greats such as Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt and Monet.”
Banksy official website - July 2019 - and no reaction to being the "Brits favourite painter"

The Sun

So I went to have a look at The Sun, thinking it's a very long time since I've seen The Sun interested in "Art"!!

Turns out in their article Banksy named as Britain’s favourite painter of all time in nationwide poll that they were referencing a poll in Homes and Antiques Magazine
More than 2,000 adults were asked to name their favourite painters or sculptor — and Banksy was the only living artist to make the top ten. Mel Sherwood, editor of Homes & Antiques magazine, said: “It is both surprising and exciting to see Banksy at the top of this poll.

Homes & Antiques Magazine Poll by YouGov

...and so finally I make it to Homes & Antiques Magazine (shame on you Jonathan Jones for not actually reading the Sun's article!)

 ...to find that they have something called The Art Issue 2019 and the poll was commissioned for that.

Their article Banksy named UK’s favourite artist of all time suggests that
Controversial street artist Banksy has been named the UK’s favourite artist of all time in a poll we conducted in conjunction with YouGov to celebrate the release of our annual Art Issue. The renowned artist took the lead over more traditional artists such as Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gough. 
The poll, of more than 2,000 UK adults, asked respondents to name their favourite artist of all time. The Top 20 features a range of artists including impressionists, sculptors, masters and painters from the 14th century right up to the modern day.
Their top 20 in the poll for Homes Antiques Magazine are

Monday, July 15, 2019

Art Instruction Books: 10 years after

Ten years ago I wrote two very long posts about Art Instruction Books. I posted one to my Making A Mark Facebook Page this morning and it seems it still has a resonance with my followers.

The two posts are:
This post is about what they're about - and what I think has happened since and what may well happen next.

a small section of my Art Book Bookshelves - before I rearranged them again.

Different ways of Learning - in summary and since

The first post Art Instruction Books #1: different ways of learning summarises some of my thoughts back then on:
  • the way people learn
  • the way people learn about art
  • how this all relates to art instruction
It took different models of the way people learn - and extrapolated this into how this applies in relation to art instruction (but not art instruction books)

It strikes me as interesting that over the last ten years
  • in some ways art instruction has remained the same (for some) in terms of how it works
  • in other ways it has changed hugely.
For example technology has well and truly arrived :
  • Lots of artists now teach students remotely - as a matter of routine
  • Lots of artists now control their own websites and online learning schools / video output / podcasts - and are not beholden to other publishers / platforms etc to deliver their content and generate their own followers in terms of students
  • It's normal to have art students who don't live in the same country as you
In order to do that art instructors have had to become good at making videos and/or podcasts and/or modular instruction.

What I find very interesting - as somebody whose first degree is in education and who has initially formally trained as a teacher - is that most people are doing this with no idea about how to teach.

So we have 
  • on the one hand - democratisation around publication of art instruction; and 
  • on the other - there's an awful lot of utter [expletive deleted] out there - because there is no accreditation and there are absolutely no quality controls. Anybody can produce complete rubbish!
  • not forgetting that some artists are proving to be excellent instructors despite no training 
For the most part, people have not been so much into writing art books as they are about writing content - of a chunked up modular kind, which sometimes has - but often doesn't - an underpinning structure of what needs to be learned. No matter what kind of art.

The Economics of Publishing - in summary and since

I think I was absolutely spot on with Art Books #2 - the economics of publishing! However it's difficult to summarise briefly - so read the post!

 In fact I'm somewhat amazed that I was quite so prescient. But for the fact that I used to have a boss who periodically used to roll me out in front of the management team peers and ask me to perform my party trick - which was to tell everybody what was going to happen in the next 5-10 years. Based on the fact I seemed to have developed an uncanny habit of being able to tell what was going to happen over a strategic time period. In fact I was only ever doing what on any sensible R&D set-up would do - which is keep both eyes and ears open and read around to see what everybody else was doing and what new developments were getting underway and building traction. That way you assimilate the clues that are out there and sooner or later they begin to make a coherent story which either becomes even more convincing or morphs and changes into something slightly different.

Which is why I always knew the UK would vote for Brexit if they ever got the chance!  But that's a different story....

In terms of publishing what I predicted would happen has happened. 
  • publishing hit the same buffers as the music industry due to the changes technology and the means of production - and a lack of experience within the industry about how manage change and how to cope with new ways of working. For example see 
  • even if some of the same publishing names exist, they've often been bought up within a global conglomerate which retains the name as a brand 
  • others have gone bust or no longer print art books
  • more or less all printing is now done in India or China and timelines have to accommodate the time for shipping books actually via a ship!
  • the entry level / amateur hobby market continues to obsess publishers
  • so much so that many books are printed now with very little instruction and lots of blank pages so that people can fill them in like a workbook. My jaw dropped when I saw one of these for the first time. I couldn't believe people were actually buying them - but they do!
  • colouring books took over the world - a bit like 'paint by numbers' did when I was a kid - and totally invaded every known category of art instruction books on Amazon. Apparently a colouring book is now to be regarded as an art instruction book!
  • books seem to have more pictures and fewer words - because that's actually cheaper and suits an audience which has become image obsessed and text light
  • people are publishing small quick guides online
  • more or less all art instruction books must now be made as ebooks as well as the printed version
  • which has implications for both content and how they are formatted if they are to work well as e-books (but not all the authors have made that change!)
  • publishers now LOVE authors with major online followings - half their marketing can be done for nothing by the artist!
  • those that stick with conventional publishers now understand the real financial benefit comes via the workshops which can be sold off the back of the book rather than through the book itself - when you take the opportunity cost of taking time out to write and produce a book into consideration 
When I wrote my book it was made very clear to me that the only way to make it economic to publish was to sell the international rights around the world. The spin-off was that the content had to be capable of being acceptable to different audiences around the world - which accounts for why no brand names appear on the art media in my book - because not all art media exports around the world!

So what happens next?

What I'm doing next is buying up second hand versions of older books on the basis that "text on paper" is a disappearing commodity. 

The future will be more of the same for the time being
  • rather less artists having a bread and butter job as an art teacher in schools and colleges - as their second job - and rather more running an online art school
  • too many untrained people teaching others despite the fact they only have a partial grasp of some of the basics of art
  • fewer experienced people creating art instruction books
  • too few decent art instruction books - unless lovingly produced by an artist who cares deeply about passing on good art instruction in relation to his or her specific area of expertise
  • more and more publishing companies going under - unless small independent operations which are resistant / immune to the overtures of the corporate big boys flashing their wallets!
  • much more art instruction via video and online modules and much less via art instruction books

I have hopes though that we may also see an emergence of the in-depth manual for advanced artists by those recognised to be expert in their craft - and a re-emergence of a high regard for knowledge about the craft of making art - in different media.

I know of one in the offing - being published by a specialised art society in the USA. It occurs to me that in fact art societies are excellent vehicles for creating specialised texts for the future. Maybe we shall see more?

Maybe I'll write another one of these posts in another ten years. The scary bit is I can include a reminder to self on my iPhone!

Do let me know what you think! Comments on my Making A Mark FB page please. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Watching people just like the Kardashians - in the past - in paintings!

I've just come across this Rijks Tube Video Why Vermeer would have loved The Kardashians in their Is This Art? series

It's very instructive and definitely worth a watch. 

crop of "The Love Letter" (De liefdesbrief) c. 1667–1670 by Johannes Vermeer
Oil on canvas, 44 x 38.5.cm. (17 3/8 x 15 1/8 in.)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
I've skipped the 2 minutes of endless pics of the Kardashians and set the video below to start when the 'host' highlights out how portraits in the past where exactly like watching the "lives of the rich and famous" - and how they dressed and what they owned and what they did.

The proposition is that in addition

  • daily life paintings show real life - and interiors - which can vary from the chaotic and risque to the calm and serene.
  • there are techniques used in Dutch paintings in the past which are still in use today - so that we feel as if....
    • we are invited in 
    • and/or are spying on people
  • we love watching other people because it helps us understand who we really are
So how come if the Kardashians and other 'reality shows' are so popular we see so few contemporary paintings which are reflecting on daily life?

Photographers frequently show daily life - but artists don't for some reason.

I wonder why!  Could it be the need to develop skills in painting more than one person? Possibly?
Welcome to Is This Art? Where we take a closer look at pop culture and try to answer the age old question: Is this art?

Friday, July 12, 2019

RA Friends Annual Subscription vs. Paying for Exhibitions you want to see

Every year, round about this time, I ponder on my continued Friends Subscription to the Royal Academy of Arts.

When I retired I made a point of taking out the annual subscriptions to various art galleries and museums - the Royal Academy of Arts (which I was already a Friend of) plus the National Portrait Gallery, The Tate and the National Art Fund (along with various ones associated with Heritage and Gardens!) . I do so in part to show support for these institutions not because I expect to exploit my membership / Friends status for every organisation.

However I have begun to feel in recent years that I have been financing the build of the RA development for its 250th anniversary.

The Entrance to Burlington House - home of the RA

Let's look at the numbers - which is interesting of itself - because I don;t recall receiving clear reminders about how much the subscription goes up by every year - and what the new direct debit figure is.  I think there are rules above changes to direct debits and I'm not sure the RA is compliant.

All I can say that the RA Friends Subscription has way outstripped inflation - and every other indicator going - re the increase in the subscription fee since I retired.

So the options for me are as follows

OPTION 1: PAY £130 per year 

For that I get
  • Free entry to exhibitions for you and a family guest
  • Previews to our exhibitions before they open to the public
  • Exclusive extended hours to select exhibitions
  • Priority booking to all RA events, including in our new Lecture Theatre
  • Private views and exclusive Friends events
  • All-day access to the Keeper's House
  • RA Magazine and a weekly email newsletter
  • 10% discount in the RA shop
Burlington House Courtyard - Summer Exhibition 2019
The reality in recent years is that 
  • I simply haven't been to every exhibition - and wouldn't want to go to some.  They've been making some very curious choices in recent years
  • For very popular exhibitions Friends now need to book in advance to get their free admission and that for me loses the crucial point of being a Friend - of being able to turn up when you felt like it
  • The Summer Exhibition was awful this year and I feel less and less like going. Indeed I only go because I can for free. (Although I would have cheerfully paid for Grayson Perry's curation last year)
  • Previews are nice - but they are now so very crowded. There's a point when promoting Friends can work against the Scheme!
  • Plus many of the activities are of no interest to me. Of those Friends Events that are, the members who seem to know when the new events are publicised have already booked all the tickets and the events are already sold out.  I was absolutely amazed that I got in to a talk about the RA Library recently
  • All day access to the Keeper's House is of no consequence since I don't use it.
  • It is nice to be able to go to the good exhibitions more than once - but the number that tempt me to do so are few and far between (I went to the Hockney Landscapes 4 times - including the very last night - see Review: David Hockney RA - A Bigger Picture)
  • The RA Magazine is good - but I can read it online without being a member - if I could just remember how!

RA Friends in April 2010
I always used to say that the reason I was a Friend were the black leather Chesterfields in the Friends Room which were a wonderful way to relax after a long time spent viewing an exhibition. Plus I used to sketch in there all the time.

RA Friends September 2011
However the powers that be decided that Friends need to sit on hard chairs and the Chesterfields had to go. Plus the Friends Room got busier and busier to the point where I now take myself over the road to Fortnum & Mason for tea or lunch or gossip with friends who I've not seen for ages - as it so much more relaxed, civilised and comfortable!  Plus I now arrange to meet Friends in the National Dining Rooms which are much more civilised in terms of being able to stay sitting at your table for ages if you time it right!

The RA also upgraded the Members Room and made it into the clubbable bit - for which you now need to spend an extra £400 to get access. 

No way!

Plus I haven't sketched in the Friends Room for ages. Indeed I can't remember the last time I had a cup of tea in there.

It basically feels that the Friends Membership has been downgraded - and what I used to be getting for being a Friend now comes with a huge price tag attached.

Option 2: Pay for art exhibitions as and when 

This is the considerably cheaper option. It means 
  • I lose out on previews (no big deal since I stopped covering exhibitions religiously)
  • I can't have a Pimms at the Summer Exhibition Preview - but then I went this year and the Pimms Bar had disappeared in any case to be replaced somewhere else by a botanicals gin thingie.
  • I can't use the Friends Room - but as explained I've already switched to Fortnum & Mason for better food and more comfort!
  • I don't get the Magazine - which is not a big deal for me
  • I can still book for events which are not exclusive to Friends 
Plus I have to pay (say) £18-20 admission for some of the exhibitions (i.e. the ones I want to see such as - in 2019-20
  • Lucian Freud Self Portraits (Sackler Galleries - 27 October 2019 — 26 January 2020- cost £18 - but since Friends have to book a timed ticket as well there is no bonus to being a Friend other than saving the cost of the ticket.  (Besides which I saw the Lucian Freud Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 2012 and I doubt I'm going to see anything new - see Review: Lucian Freud Portraits at National Portrait Gallery
  • Picasso on Paper (Main Galleries 25 January — 13 April 2020- cost £18-22 - no current proposals to require bookings by members presumably because it will be in the Main Galleries which are much bigger
I can go to both exhibitions twice and still be "quids in" compared to the cost of a Friends Membership.

Writing this out has been very therapeutic. I'm now off to cancel my direct debit!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Call for Entries: Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2019

The Call for Entries for entries to the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters has been open for over six weeks.  It closes on Friday 30 August (12 noon) in just over six weeks time.

This post highlights the following:
  • An increasing emphasis on oil painting
  • Exhibition - a summary of venue and number of paintings to be exhibited
  • Summary of the Call for Entries process
    • who can enter
    • what you can enter
    • how to enter
    • the timetable
    • a summary of the prizes and selection process
  • Reflections on statistical data relating to previous years - which many will find interesting
Plus what this exhibition has looked like in the past. At the end are links to all the blog posts I've written in previous years about the exhibition, who won prizes and who got selected - and links to their websites!

An increasing emphasis on oil painting?

Pete Brown's palette - from last year's talk!

I think I detect a new emphasis in the Call for Entries for the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters on oil painting!
The Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI) seeks work in oils and is the only national art society devoted to oil painting
That might seem an odd point to make, however it has been conventional in the past to treat acrylics as if they are oils - and quite simply they are not!

BELOW are some statistics on the topic of the media for works in the exhibition over the last five years
Number and percentage of works - by medium - in the ROI Annual Exhibitions 2014-2018

In 2018 there was a marked change in media selected for exhibition. There was a new President and this is how the numbers changed
  • the number of paintings exhibited INCREASED from the previous year (but were similar to 2015 and 2016)
  • the number and percentage of paintings in acrylic DECREASED (i.e halved)
  • a tiny number of artists continue to mix oil with other media (5 or fewer paintings each year)
  • none of the young artists worked other than in oil - as per previous years
I regard this as a very positive move. My view is that if you are going to have a media based society then you should stick to that media! (I'd like to see an exhibition by an art society of acrylic painters)

It should be noted that those producing acrylic paintings are primarily existing members.

I'm guessing that it is now 'de rigeur' that you MUST consistently paint in oils if you want to become a member


The exhibition will be held at the Mall Galleries between Wednesday 27 November and Sunday 8 December 2019 - making 11.5 days in total. Hours are 10am - 5pm but the exhibition closes at 1pm on the last day .

Last year it was only held in the Main Gallery and the Threadneedle Space. My challenge to the ROI is to join the "premier league" of those societies who exhibit at the Mall Galleries and....
  • use the whole gallery and increase works hung; and 
  • generate more sales for their exhibiting artists.

The Private View in 2018

I like to provide feedback about the exhibition metrics associated with the previous year's exhibition and the success of non-members in getting their work hung

Below is a table of the numbers relating to last year's exhibition from my analysis of last year's exhibition

ROI 2018 Open Entry Exhibition statistics - for artists and artworks

The key points are as follows
750 artists submitted 1,900 artworks to the exhibition this year. Of these
  • 16% of artists got 10% of the artwork past the initial digital screening stage - and submitted work for final selection.
  • 10% of the artists who submitted work have work hanging in the exhibition
  • Only 6% of the artwork submitted was selected for the exhibition
  • This suggests that quite a lot of artists submit a lot of artwork.
The Good News - this is a competitive open entry but at least a third of the exhibition will be by artists and artwork from the open entry.

The CALL FOR ENTRIES - Process and Key Points

What follows is a summary of the KEY POINTS
  • Submit artwork in oils - framed or as box canvases but not matted or glazed
  • The deadline for submissions is Friday 30 August (12 noon)
  • "London" is the special theme for 2019
  • Entry for the 2019 competition is digital and ONLINE.
  • Images must be in JPEG format and under 5MB
  • Submission fee which includes Free Admission to the exhibition (normally £4)
  • £18 per work at the time of submitting
  • £12 per work for artists aged 35 or under
  • Make sure you read ALL the Terms and Conditions if you don't want to be disqualified

  • You review the images from past exhibitions (see blog posts reviewing past exhibitions at the end of this post)
  • Have a go and enter two of your best works. The cost relative to the achievement and the experience is negligible
  • This exhibition is particularly supportive of Young Artists and all those oil painters under the age of 35 should feel encouraged to apply

Who can enter

  • The competition is open to all artists over the age of 18.
  • It is also open to international entries - you don't even have to be live or work in the UK. However 

What you can enter

  • Eligible media includes:
    • oil
    • acrylic paint or water based oils are eligible if framed like an oil painting.  
    • BUT I think they ought to make the point that other media also needs to be used like oil paint can be 
    • AND I think all those thinking about entering ought to take a long hard look at the statistics - and then paint in oils!)
  • Presentation:
    • Wide mounts between painting and frame, as in watercolours, are not acceptable.
    • Glazed work is not encouraged.
    • Unframed work can be accepted if on a well-presented box canvas.
    • Paintings should be completely dry at the time of delivery.
  • Size: NEW The combined measurement of works accepted will not exceed 8 feet maximum per artist.
  • Age: Work must have been completed in the last three years and NOT exhibited in London previously.
  • For Sale
    • All work must be for sale (except for portraits). 
    • Minimum sale price: £300
  • Number: Maximum of six works submitted. (Maximum of four works selected)

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that anybody proposing to enter work for the exhibition -- whether member or open entrant has a READ of my Review: ROI Annual Exhibition 2018 + commentary on pricing

You'll see why when you read it - assuming you'd like to boost your income! However I'll give you a clue....
nearly 75% of the sales relate to small and small/medium works which are selling for under £2,000 - with most selling for less than £1,000

Special theme in 2019

Brilliant idea! People who live and/or work in London buy paintings of London - as do tourists!
This year’s Annual Exhibition will include a 'show-within-the-show’ of paintings on the theme of “London”, to which members and non-members alike are invited to submit works for consideration. It is hoped that the display will capture the country’s capital city in all its character and complexity through the eyes of contemporary artists, and complement the broader exhibition of more varied subjects in the same medium.

Prizes & Awards

There are many prizes and awards available to win, including those listed below. I've categorised them according to the type of prize.

Entries are reviewed and assessed by The Selection Committee
. This comprises artist members of the Society and membership is rotated annually - which means the tastes influencing who gets chosen will also change on an annual basis and your submission may find favour this year!

There are many prizes and awards available to win - and winning prizes enhances your CV re getting a Gallery!

NEW Prizes

I congratulate the ROI on introducing three new prizes for 2019

The Small Works Wall in 2018
  • NEW The Tony Merrick Memorial Prize - An award of £250 in memory of the late Tony Merrick ROI (1948-2018)
  • NEW The ROI Emerging Artist Prize - A prize of £250 and the opportunity to spend a day with one of the Institute's members, for an artist aged 30 or under at the time of submission
  • NEW The Small Painting Prize - An award of £250, open to members and non-members, for the best small painting on display (maximum dimension of 12 inches / 30.5 cm, excluding frame)
In my view, other art societies could well adopt the latter two prizes as well!

Cash prizes

  • The Phyllis Roberts Award - An award of £2,000 for an artist aged 30 or under
  • The Alan Gourley Memorial Award - An annual prize of £1,000, awarded for a painting of outstanding merit
  • The Stanley Grimm Prize - Two awards totalling £700 (first prize £400, second prize £300), to the painters whose work receive the most votes from visitors to the exhibition
  • The Menena Joy Schwabe Memorial Award - An award of £250 for an outstanding oil painter

Art Materials Prizes

  • Winsor & Newton Young Artist Awards (for artists aged 30 or under) - 
    • First Prize: £1,000 Winsor & Newton Fine Art Materials 
    • Second Prize: £600 Winsor & Newton Fine Art Materials 
    • Third Prize: £400 Winsor & Newton Fine Art Materials
  • Winsor & Newton Non-Member Award - £150 worth of Winsor & Newton Fine Art Materials
  • L. Cornelissen & Son - An award of a contemporary version of a Victorian Oil Painter's equipment
  • Frank Herring Easel Award - An award of a versatile easel

Publication & Other Awards

  • The Le Clerc Fowle Medal - In memory of Anne Le Clerc Fowle, presented annually for an outstanding group of paintings
  • The Artist Magazine Award - The winning artist will be featured in a forthcoming issue of The Artist magazine, print and digital editions
  • The Dry Red Press Award - The winning work will be published as a greeting card by Dry Red Press in their 'Prize Winners' range

Previous Exhibitions

You can find links to my previous reviews of exhibitions below.

Top tips for travelling artists - oil painters 15 Aug 2011
The Best Books about Oil Painting

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Review - Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition 2019

There are 514 artworks in total in the 2019 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists. They comprise paintings, fine art prints, drawings, sculpture, ceramics and other 3D work in all kinds of media and but mainly (but not exclusively) a figurative / representative style - and you can see them at the Mall Galleries until Sunday 14th July.

This post covers:
  • About the Exhibition - what you need to know
  • Exhibition Metrics and the Open Entry
  • Prizes and awards
  • Artwork I liked

Strong paintings and 3D work in the Threadneedle Space

I turned right on entering and encountered a very impressive hang in the Threadneedle Space. Lots of variety in terms of style, size and media - and some very eye-catching work

A view of the Threadneedle Space

In fact my first reaction to the very first paintings I saw was "Proper paintings - this is going to be a good one" - which is a pretty good way of influencing somebody who is going to review a exhibition!

This is an exhibition which has packed in the artwork - and some might say that it looks crowded. However I much prefer to see good art - the only time I'll complain about crowded walls is when some of the artwork should have been weeded out!

In general I liked the hang - except for the end wall in the Main Gallery which to me seemed to lack the type of "look at me" pieces that the wall demands. A woman in skimpy clothing in front of a bulls eye does not rate as "look at me" in my eyes - quite the reverse.

One odd thing I noticed is that it's a bit of a cats and dogs exhibition - I spied many more cats and dogs than I normally do - and they seem (as I also note at the RA Summer Exhibition - to be very popular!)

While there is a some variation in quality between artworks - with some outstanding pieces - the overall standard of the exhibition is good to very good. The RBA continues to maintain its improvement in exhibition standards of recent years

Works on the mezzanine level (above the stairs) to the right of the entrance
- made me think there was more good work to see beyond!

About the exhibition

View of part of the RBS Annual Exhibition 2019 in the Main Gallery

  • Venue: Mall Galleries - The Mall, St. James's, London SW1, UK (link is to Google Maps)
  • Dates: 4th - Sunday 14th July (closing 1pm on the last day)
  • Open: Daily, 10am to 5pm during exhibitions (unless otherwise stated)
  • Admission £4, £2.50 concessions, 50% off for National Art Pass holders, Free for Friends of Mall Galleries, RBA Friends and under 25 year olds

View images online

If you don't visit the exhibition you can also view images online