Monday, September 30, 2019

Call for Entries - Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition 2020

This is my summary of the Call for Entries for the 2020 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA)
  • Entries opened today Monday 30th September 2019
  • The deadline for entries is Friday 29 November, 12 noon
  • For full terms and conditions, click here.
It covers
  • the exhibition
  • cash prizes and awards
  • who can enter
  • what you can enter
  • how to enter
The Royal Society of British Artists seeks submissions of work displaying the highest standards of skill, expression and concept of draughtsmanship

RBA Annual Exhibition 2019 - Small works in the Main Gallery - prints, drawings and paintings

Exhibition in 2020

The Exhibition in 2020 has been brought forward from July to February 2020 and will held, as usual, at the Mall Galleries.

In effect it's reverted to its normal slot.

It's usually held across all three galleries due to its size (485 artworks exhibited in 2019 - including a special exhibition for the RBA Star Students from schools and colleges across the country)
  • Opens on Thursday 20 February 2020
  • Open to the public every day from 10am - 5pm (except the last day)
  • Closes at 5pm on Saturday 29 February 2020.
  • The Private View will be on Wednesday 19th July 2019, 11am – 8pm - with speeches at 6pm.

Prizes & Awards (subject to final confirmation)

This a link to the artworks which won prizes and awards at the Annual Exhibition in 2019.

A variety of Prizes and Awards are on offer. These include:

Cash Prizes

  • The De Laszlo Foundation Medal for Excellence and £1,500 will be awarded for the best artwork from life by an artist aged 35 or under
  • The Patron's Prize: £500
  • The Surgeon's Prize: £500
  • The Gordon Hulson Memorial Prize: £250 for draughtsmanship, variety & exploration
  • The Stuart Southall Print Prize: £250
  • The Nathan David Award for Sculpture: £150

Publication Awards

  • The Artist Magazine Award: The winner will be interviewed in The Artist magazine, print and digital editions
  • The Dry Red Press Award: The winning work will be published as a greeting card in the Dry Red Press 'Prize Winners' range, with royalties from the sale of the cards going to the artist

Art Materials & Other Awards

  • The Winsor & Newton Painting Award: Art materials to the value of £500
  • The Michael Harding Awards: Two awards of £500 worth of Michael Harding art materials
  • Hahnemuhle Fine Art UK Award: A prize of artist paper, worth £250
  • Frinton Frames Award: £200 of picture framing at Frinton Frames bespoke hand-finished picture frame makers

Education Awards

Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists 2019 -  some of the artworks in the North Gallery
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

Submitting an Entry

Artists are invited to submit entries via the open entry to this juried exhibition of work by members of the Royal Society of British Artists.

RECOMMENDED: This is an OPEN exhibition worth entering.
In the main exhibition, the split between members and open entries is respectable.
  • 316 works (65%) are by Members of the RBA
  • 169 artworks (35%) were selected from the Open Entry - out of c.1800 submissions - which is an increase from the 127 selected in 2017. Numbers are going in the right direction.
Which means around 9.3% of the artwork submitted via the Open Entry was selected for the Annual Exhibition. Review - Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition 2019

Who can submit

  • Any artist over 18 may submit - including artists who do not live or work in the UK.

What can you submit?

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Taking aim at art world patrons - Sherman, Perry and Pohida

I'm beginning to think the new theme for art in 2019 is taking aim at art world patrons.

Below I've got three short items about three separate exhibitions which each include a penetrative comment on their art world patrons.

Sherman, Perry and Powhida sounds to me as if it ought to be a firm of upmarket American art lawyers!

Cindy Sherman - portraits of rich Society Women

Over at the National Portrait Gallery, the exhibition by Cindy Sherman which has just closed included her very "near to the bone" take on the women of wealth of who become art world patrons known as the Society Portraits (2008)

This is an article which considers why she did what she did
Two of the portraits of Society Women in the exhibition of Cindy Sherman at the National Portrait Gallery

Grayson Perry - Super Rich Interior Decoration

Grayson Perry is renowned for taking an anthropological approach (quasi or otherwise) to making art using a variety of media. He's also a bit like marmite and engenders love hate relationships.  The RA used to hate him until they realised the public really love him - at which point they got him to curate their 250th anniversary show!
Perry also portrays rich women as contemporary art patrons

The first new exhibition by Grayson Perry since 2012 at Victoria Miro in Mayfair includes pots, sculpture, large-scale prints, a tapestry and a carpet.

Victoria Miro website has a slideshow which shows you items in the show and explains what you see

The introduction to the exhibition comments that
During the making of the work Perry had in mind Nam June Paik’s famous quote that ‘the artist should always bite the hand that feeds him – but not too hard.’ While some of the works appear to goad the wealthiest in society, indeed the very people who might collect contemporary art, richness here might refer to a profusion of decoration and abundance of reference as much as affluence.
The exhibition has provoked some extreme reactions in the press. These are the reviews by:
The title of the show came about when Perry was working on hanging the Royal Academy 2018 Summer Show, where he painted the main gallery an unexpectedly bright shade of sunshine yellow. One of “the more snarky, conservative” members of the Academy walked in “and he said to me, ‘Oh, I see what you’ve done there: interior decoration.’”
Perry was annoyed “for a millisecond, but then I was inspired. You can easily turn those snobby insults into an asset. You know, it’s like someone calling me a pseudo-intellectual. How do you tell the difference between an intellectual and a pseudo-intellectual? The pseudo-intellectual’s the one with the TV series, the book deal and the stage show.” He laughs, deliciously. “It’s bitter jealousy.”
Grayson Perry bites the hands that feed him in his new exhibition Super Rich Interior Decoration. Except he doesn’t really give them a serious wound. He just titillates wealthy fingers with a sexy nibble that makes buying his babbling ceramics, ranting wall hangings and anything-but-magical carpet feel naughty and fun for the super-rich art collectors who will shortly be rolling up for London’s Frieze art fair.

William Powhida - Complicities

William Powhida's exhibition "Complicities" is at Postmasters, 54 Franklin Street, Manhattan; 212-727-3323, in Tribeca - and of course, with impeccable timing - closes a very few hours before I arrive in New York! (Just like MOMA reopens the day after I leave!)

Powhida is an artist renowned for using art for social commentary. 

His latest works offer a broad indictment of the art world and key figures in it - specifically the Sacklers.

Reviews to date can be foundin:
William Powhida’s first solo show with the gallery in five years, Complicities, contemplates the nuanced and sometimes insidious networks of influence that undergird museum politics in our neoliberal age.

DO TAKE A LOOK at the image of the Sacklers on artnet. 

The Sacklers' Family Tree unpicks the who's who in the Sackler world and their perspective on and relationship to the Opioid Crisis and various other scandals. It also has a very useful zoom tool at the bottom which means you can actually study it. Absolutely fascinating.

The Sackler name is of course the one which is being removed from art galleries around the world - or changed to make it very clear that the portals of the RA are now endowed with the "Jillian and Arthur M Sackler Galleries" (i.e. the non-Oxycontin side of the family!)

The New York Times comments
the stars of the show: seven chart-paintings that map out such subjects as the family tree of the Sacklers, whose pharmaceutical company helped fuel the opioid epidemic, and decades of neoliberal economic and legislative policies under the last six United States presidents. There are fewer quips in these artworks than dense layers of information tracing an inordinately complex web of capital, culture and corruption. Spend time with them. The more you do, the more implicated and motivated you may become.

 A new trend? 

If I see yet more exhibitions taking pot shots at art collectors in the near future I shouldn't be in the least bit surprised!

Although there is a considerable irony in the fact that only the very rich artist can afford to prod and poke and laugh at the very rich art collector - unless they've made a career of it as Powhida has done!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Review: Society of Women Artists Annual Exhibition 2019

This week has seen the 158th Annual Exhibition of the The Society of Women Artists' at the Mall Galleries. It's
  • an international exhibition with artwork being produced by women artists from the UK and abroad
  • comprises 459 artworks - paintings and drawings in all media, fine art prints and ceramics, sculpture & other 3D works - and continues until 1pm on 29th September 2018.
A view of the exhibition.
It seems to be a well attended show - it was certainly busy with visitors when I was there yesterday afternoon. I always judge a show by how difficult it is to find a seat to have a cup of tea - it's an infallible marker of how popular a show is!

First - an apology. This review should have been published earlier. However I've been fighting a bug for most of the week (or possibly my reaction to a recent flu jab). Coupled with having to hand hold my partner through the demise of his phone.  He doesn't do techie stuff so I am the tech. translator / shopping companion and adviser / options appraisal assessor / counsellor / setter upper / trainer etc. while we got that sorted!  Anyway, late it most certainly is - but it's now done!

Feel free to comment on Facebook about any typos or omissions as I've been very slow writing this as still feeling "under par"

View of the Main Gallery yesterday from the steps
Below you can:
  • view photos of the 2019 exhibition
  • read about what I thought about this exhibition
  • take a look at the artwork which won prizes - which are not insignificant - and find out who made it.
I also uploaded a folder of my photographs of the exhibition titled Society of Women Artists: 2019 Annual Exhibition of the exhibition to Facebook last night - which are accessible to all - as I realised the bug was back and this post was not going to be published quickly.

On the SWA website you can also find

Conclusions about the exhibition

This is an exhibition which continues to improve includes examples of types of artwork I've never seen before. Indeed this exhibition has a wider variety of media than any other exhibition which shows at the Mall Galleries.

I gather this year the SWA has gone for a 50:50 ratio for members:non-members artwork - which is brave. However to me it seems to have paid off in spades.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

121st Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2020: Call for Entries

If you work in pastels, oil pastels, charcoal, pencil, conte, sanguine, or any other dry media you can submit your artwork to the 121st Annual Exhibition of The Pastel Society in February 2020.

The 121st Annual Exhibition will open on Wednesday 5 February and continue every day - from 10am to 5pm - until it closes at 3pm on Sunday 16 February 2020.  It's an open exhibition at the Mall Galleries and last year around a third of the art hung was selected from the Open Entry.
The Pastel Society seeks the best in contemporary dry media, combining traditional skills with creative originality
This is a summary of the Call for Entries for the 2020 Annual Exhibition
  • For full terms and conditions, click here.
  • The deadline for entries is Friday 1 November 2019, 12 noon

A view of part of the 120th Annual Exhibition in the Main Gallery at the Mall Galleries

Prizes & Awards 

The exhibition offers several prizes and awards, open to all participating artists, including £1,000 worth of art materials from exhibition sponsor Derwent. These include:

Cash prizes:

  • Unison Young Artist Award (£500)
  • Annie Longley Award (£250)
  • Buzzacott Award (£750)
  • The Pastel Society Young Artist Award (£200)
  • The Anthony J Lester Art Critic Award (£50)

Product prizes:

  • Derwent Award (worth £1,000)
  • Caran d'Ache Award
  • Frank Herring & Sons Award
  • Henri Roche Award
  • The Pastel Society Visitors' Choice Award
  • Royal Talens Award
  • Schmincke Award
  • Unison Member Award
  • Unison Non-member Award
  • West Design - Faber Castell Award

Publication prizes:

  • The Pastel Society Catalogue Award: First & Second Prize
  • The Artist Magazine Award
  • Artists & Illustrators Award

Dear Mall Galleries - I'm smiling - and you know why!


Who is eligible?

This is an OPEN exhibition and is not limited to work by members
  • Any artist over 18 may submit.
  • There is no restriction of where you live. It's open to artists in the UK, EU, and outside the EU and this exhibition often has works exhibited by people who live outside the UK.
However if you live outside the UK
If you are not a UK resident and your work is sold at the exhibition you have a responsibility to register and account for UK VAT with H.M. Revenue & Customs at, (HM Revenue & Customs Reference: Notice 700/1)

Eligible media

Acceptable media: Pastels, oil pastels, charcoal, pencil, conte, sanguine, or any dry media.
What's in a name? Not as much as you might think!

I'm personally of the view that the criteria ought to strictly limit artwork to DRY MEDIA in all its various forms (i.e. EXCLUDING oil pastels).

The inclusion of oil pastels always surprises me since oil pastels never really dry due to the use of a non-drying binder! A lot of artists also use solvents when working with them.

If the new watercolour sticks or the art marker sticks were called "pastels" would that mean that they too became eligible media?

Eligible artwork

  • Works should not be larger than 2.4m (7.8 feet) along the longest dimension.
  • Work must have been:
    • completed during the twelve months prior to the exhibition and
    • NOT have been exhibited elsewhere.
  • Number of works:
    • Maximum of six works submitted.
    • Maximum of four works selected.
  • All work must be for sale. Minimum price: £300 (The price of works must include 45%+VAT commission )

Mezzanine wall in the Pastel Society's 2019 Exhibition

Submission: key dates and points to note

ALL artworks must initially be submitted online.

The selection process involves two stages:
  • Online entries are digitally screened to create a long list of what's called "pre-selected entries" ("long list" would be so much more descriptive!).
  • The latter are then delivered - as framed works - to the Mall Galleries, London, for an appearance in front of the Selection Panel and a decision as to whether or not they make it on to the walls of the exhibition!
On the Mall Galleries website you can find:

Stage 1 - Digital submission

  • ALL work must be submitted online at
  • Work must have been completed during the twelve months prior to the exhibition and not have been exhibited elsewhere.
  • Submission fee is £18 per work (£12 per work for artists aged 35 or under). This includes Free Admission to the exhibition (normally £4).
  • Images must be in JPEG format and under 5MB
  • Maximum of 6 works submitted BUT......
  • NOTE: the average number of paintings per non-member artist selected is less than two and nearer 1 (eg 1.3 in 2018; 1.4 in 2017)
    • those having more than one work selected are candidates for members 
    • serious candidates typically showed 2-3 works
    • hence in reality the majority of exhibiting non-members only have 1 artwork selected.
  • the cost of your submission therefore depends on 
    • (1) how good your work is; 
    • (2) how discriminating you are at submitting works with a good chance of being exhibited - and if you have not seen the exhibition in person I recommend you check out my posts at the end about past exhibitions 
    • (3) how much you want to become a member of this society
  • Maximum of four works selected. (Note that the average number of MEMBERS' works exhibited was just over 3 in 2018.)
    • Submission opened on 2nd September. 
    • You must complete the registration form, pay your fee and upload your digital image no later than Friday 1 November 2019, 12 noon 
  • CHECK to see if your work has passed the digital screening by logging on to from 12 noon on Friday 8th November 2019

Stage 2 (post digital screening)

  • IF PRE-SELECTED, you must now
    • get your work framed prior to delivery for the second round of selection.
    • deliver your work for the second round of the selection process to Mall Galleries, 17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5BD
    • Works should be delivered unwrapped with forms and labels (i.e. packaging cannot be accepted or stored)
    • Artists sending work from abroad should use a picture carrier.
  • RECEIVING DAY: Deliver your work on Saturday 4th January 2020 between 10am - 5pm.
  • CHECK to see if your artwork has been selected for exhibition on Tuesday 7th January, 2020 from 12 noon.
  • COLLECT all unaccepted work on Thursday 9th January 2020, 10am - 5pm from Mall Galleries, 17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5BD * see below for note

Stage 3 (post exhibition - if selected)

  • COLLECT any unsold work: Thursday 20th February 2020, 10am to 5pm *Due to a shortage of storage space at the gallery, any work uncollected by 5pm will be removed and stored at a separate location for which artists will be charged a storage fee.

Delivery & Collection

Packaging from delivered works cannot be retained by the Gallery and must be taken away at the point of delivery. They also cannot wrap works or provide wrapping materials for any works being returned. Any work uncollected on the specified collection date/s will be stored at a separate location and the artist will be charged a storage fee.

Artists sending work from abroad should use a picture carrier. See my website which provides details of ​UK Art Movers & Couriers& Fine Art Transport Services

Last year the exhibition celebrated 12 decades of The Pastel Society


The Selection Committee is formed of artist members of the Society and is rotated annually.
Please note that selectors' decisions are final and we are unable to offer feedback.

FINAL TIPS for potential entrants

  • Read the FULL terms and conditions for entry on the Mall Galleries website carefully
  • Don't leave registration and uploading your image to the last minute.
  • Measure your work precisely
  • Make sure the framed size does not render the work ineligible.
  • The price of Works stated must include the commission of 45% plus VAT
  • If you live outside the UK make sure
    • you read the conditions about VAT very carefully and don't think you can get away with skipping registration if it applies to you! This is both law and tax and this condition is NOT flexible!
    • you use a picture carrier - framed work can only be submitted UNWRAPPED.

More posts about the Pastel Society

You can review previous posts about Pastel Society exhibitions - from my archives. As you can see I've done 14 reviews of this exhibition!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

ING Discerning Eye 2019: Selected Artists

The artists whose work has been selected for the 2019 ING Discerning Eye Exhibition have been announced.

Some 150 artists were selected from over 3,000 entries. Looks like the submission process involves a very long queue!

courtesy of Fred Bennett

Ing Discerning Eye 2019 - The Exhibition

The exhibition is an exhibition of small works and will be open to the public at the Mall Galleries, The Mall London SW1 from 14 November 2019 to 24 November 2019 (10am and 5pm daily). Admission is free. ALL artworks should be for sale.

Part of the exhibition in the North Galleries - at the Mall Galleries in 2018.

See my previous blog post ING Discerning Eye 2019 - Call for Entries for more details about the submissions process and the hurdles that needed to be jumped!
It's developed a good reputation over the years and is one I have always recommended to emerging artists.
....right up until it awarded the top prize last year to one of the Judges! I hope the refereeing has been 'on point' this year! (One of selectors wins £5,000 ING Discerning Eye Prize!)

The Judges

This exhibition comprises six smaller exhibitions. The Judges will each create an individually curated exhibition. This year they are:


  • Gill Button - a"Instagram sensation" (says the Parker Harris newsletter) - a British painter and illustrator whose work, focusing on the world of fashion, has been featured in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, and Tatler amongst others. 1992-1995: Kingston University London, BA (hons) Illustration 1991-1992: Maidstone College of Art
  • Charlotte Hodes - studied at Brighton College of Art and then the Slade, graduating with an MA in 1984. Awarded numerous grants and prizes, including the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2006. She has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally. She's also the Professor of Fine Art at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London.


  • Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE - born Ian Roberts, is a British actor, playwright, director, singer and broadcaster.
  • Sir Tim Rice - has written an awful lot of lyrics for memorable songs for musicals and films!  The only Judge for this competition who has had his very own entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica!
  • John Penrose - served as Chairman of the Discerning Eye from 2007–2018. Better known to some as Mr Anne Robinson - before they divorced.  Spent a lot of years and money collecting and dealing in antiques and used to have a gallery - which is now closed. Not entirely clear what criteria gets him into the 'Critics" category.
  • Louis Wise - a freelance journalist who also judges the Sunday Times Watercolour competition which seems to be a throwback to the days when he used to work for the Sunday Times. His focus is on the "Arts" rather than art.
The exhibition also includes artists invited by the Judges.

ING Discerning Eye 2019 - Exhibiting Artists

Below is the list of exhibiting artists listed alphabetically by surname. I've also included images of some of the artwork selected.

I've also ordered them according to how many artworks each artist had accepted.

I normally include a link to the artist's website but since this will take hours and hours for this number of artists, I'm putting up the list first and embedding links for the first two groyups (3 and 4 works) and those people whose names I recognise!

If people want to send me the best link to use so much the better! (via a comment on the Facebook post relating to this article)

The images come from social media.  I was actually really surprised how few were using social media to promote their success in being selected for the exhibition.

four artworks

  • Jacquie Grant - a portrait Artist working mainly in black and white, dealing with social issues such as and how we present ourselves and see others. 

three artworks

  • Barbara Ash - Artist-sculptor exploring the dynamics of childhood, female experience, and identity through sculpture, drawing and painting, based on a boat next to the Bristol Channel. Elected a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors in 2018. Royal College of Art, London, M.A (R.C.A) in Sculpture. (Exchange to Lisbon Art College, Portugal) Cyprus College of Art, Post-graduate sculpture course, Cyprus. Middlesex University, London. B.A (Hons) Degree in Fine Art
  • Louisa Crispin - captures the details of nature on beautiful smooth Strathmore bristol board using ultra sharp pencils.
Three drawings in graphite by Louisa Crispin

Thursday, September 19, 2019

10 Best Paintings in the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition 2019

These are the 10 paintings in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019 which impressed me. By which I mean
  • They caught my eye on my first turn around the gallery - from a distance of some 6 feet+. 
  • Then kept it on my second go round - when I'm looking more closely at the paintings. 
  • Then survived the cull as I went around for the third time to work out my.....

10 Best Paintings - Sunday Times Watercolour 2019

These three looked good together. The two on the left made it into my top 10.

The official statement in the Call for Entries for this competition was that
The judges will be looking for work that makes the most imaginative or otherwise impressive use of a water-based medium. (ArtOpps: Sunday Times Watercolour 2019
My criteria for my best paintings has nothing to do with imagination.
I find it difficult to remember the last imaginative artist who lacked skill in painting make it as an artist - with the possible exception of Tracey Emin.

The criteria used by the Judges of the Sunday Times Watercolour 2019 was, in my opinion, entirely the wrong way round. 

In my view:
  • impressive use of watercolour in a competition like this MUST be an imperative and an absolute - if you don't understand the properties of watercolour, if you don't know how to use a brush and if you don't know how to exploit watercolour properties to the max then you don't make it on to my list! (and you shouldn't make it on to the walls of this exhibition either!)
  • innovative is good - I'm always interested in seeing new ways of working with watercolour. Back in 2010 when reviewing this exhibition I said
My recommendation to those thinking about putting in for this exhibition is to be genuinely innovative and display what watercolour can do. I suggest that all those people whose talents lie in the direction of the use of transparent glazing and mixing colours which granulate should step up and have a shot - because you've got a lot of space to make an impact!
  • great painting must be 'an absolute given' - ie people who know how to use a brush and create a design / composition 
  • well presented must also count for something - why are paintings being hung which are frankly scruffy? How do paintings where the artists have failed to keep their paper clean (where left unpainted) make it on to the walls of this exhibition? 
In other words in my criteria "Imaginative" is for the fairies! By which I mean it ranks fairly low on my criteria for what makes a painting worth exhibiting.  I'm not saying it doesn't have a place in art - but it certainly should not be the premier criteria for a watercolour competition!

My criteria is entirely about impressive use of watercolour - and making "a good picture". 

I've tried to work out how to order them - and decided the prizewinners were very definitely not going first as you've seen them more than once.  In the end I plumped for something akin to reverse alphabetic by surname - with the prizewinners at the end.

That's because those with surnames in the second half of the alphabet always get a raw deal when it comes to the display of paintings in an exhibition!


The first two paintings demonstrate why sometimes something really simple can have a lot of appeal.

1. Christopher Wallbank - Frozen Heather

Frozen Heather by Christopher Wallbank

This painting by Chris Wallbank SWLA is very definitely one of my favourite paintings in this exhibition. I immediately recognised the humpy splodges before I read the title (on my second turn arund the gallery). This is mostly alla prima watercolour painting. You put the brush in the paint - and create a shape - and then you leave it well alone except for a few small marks. It actually takes quite a lot of skill to paint clumps of heather in perspective under snow - and to let the paint drain to create a deeper shadow!  Plus the fact he's painted it in purple reminds us of the colour when the heather is in bloom and also the very odd shadow colours you can get in snow in certain light.

Very simple and very effective and beautifully presented - with care. It's a painting I wouldn't mind having hanging on my wall.

As an artist he's also had previous mentions by me on this blog. I'm actually rather pleased that I picked him without remembering his name - although it is a bit embarrassing too! That's because I well remember talking to Chris about his wonderful drawing of a Loomery which was exhibited in 2015. I also gave his "The Urban Black Kites of Delhi" project and his drawing of the Macaques of Modnigar a feature within my blog post about last year's annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists.

This is an artist who is skilled in using watercolour plein air. He's an artist who is going places and I commend his work to you!

Website: Chris Wallbank

2. Sara Lee - Departure

Departure by Sara Lee
Gouache and Japanese woodcut

Those of us who have spent time sketching around the streets in Cannareggio in Venice - and ended up on the Fondamente Nove will know this view of the island of the dead - of the Cimitero di San Michele on the island of San Michel (where both Igor Stravinsky and ezra Piound are buried) in the lagoon around Venice.

I'm a complete sucker for artwork of places I know - particularly when they don't shout it and instead indicate in a discrete way for those who will recognise.

The painting/print also has very refined and gradated washes in the background - for the sky and the lagoon - in colours one might not expect - unless you've not seen Venice in different seasons.

It's only when I saw what I assume is the woodcut element that I knew exactly what the painting was about as the separation of colours is very discrete and easily missed. The lighter colour is the wall around the island and the darker colour are the trees which grow around the cemetery.

I admire this one - and would love to know how it was created.

Again I am more than delighted to read her bio on her website - which I found five seconds ago! I didn't know her work at all before seeing this work yesterday - but will be looking out for it in future. She is very obviously a lady who is absorbed by the meeting of the sky and the sea.
Sara Lee predominantly works with drawing, film and print, including woodblock in the ukiyo-e tradition. Her practice involves working from site-specific landscapes, followed by extended studio-based work. Her images are a response to the ephemeral nature of landscape and question our emotional and physical relationship to an evolving environment.
She exhibits widely and her work is held in public and private collections internationally. She has written for Tate and has advised and spoken on print processes for various individuals and institutions including The Art Fund, Dulwich Picture Gallery and National Portrait Gallery.
Sara Lee trained with Master Printer Hugh Stoneman and together they developed a photogravure practice and co-published, under the imprint Print Centre Publications. Over many years she has worked closely on etching and relief print projects with Eileen Cooper RA, with whom she shares a print studio space and the imprint Blackbird Editions.
Born in Wales, she lives and works in London. She studied Fine Art at Ravensbourne and Postgraduate Printmaking at Central School.
Website: Sara Lee


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Review: Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019 Exhibition

Yesterday I visited the exhibition for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019 exhibition - currently on display at the Mall Galleries until 22nd September

Below you can read my impressions - about:
I'm going to do a seperate post about the paintings I liked the most.

My overall conclusion is that 
  • this competition is on its way back after its disastrous diversion by forgetting what it was about and losing sponsors. 
  • However it still has a long way to go to get back to the better exhibitions in the past.
That's not to say that there isn't good work to be seen in the show - because there is - and tomorrow I'll show you the 10 paintings I liked the best.

Prizewinners in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019
The London Wall Partners First Prize (£8,000) - Condensation by Leo Davey
Second Prize (£3,000): Aidan Potts (Bottom Left)
Third Prize (£1,000) : Mark Elsmore (right)
Pegasus Young Artist Prize (£500): Katherine Jackson (top left)

It has two new sponsors (for Young Artist and the First Prize) and and the overall content is oriented much more to watercolour again.

HOWEVER, there are still some issues which very much need addressing. It needs:
  • better judges - ones who know a LOT more about watercolour - to keep out the dross and unskilled. There are too many paintings which, in my opinion, are very ordinary and lacking in competence.
  • much better watercolour artists submitting their work - and sponsors and organisers who work hard to make sure they do
  • better leadership to get back proper prizes and sponsorship - which will also attract back the better artists
  • better marketing - including an overhauled website
  • and a less geographically biased exhibition tour
Then it might earn back its claim to being a prestigious watercolour exhibition again. It lost that crown three years ago - and while this is an improvement it's very definitely not there yet.

It might need a completely new sponsor - because a lot of the above seems to me to be about a competition which has been starved of both leadership and resources.

For example, I'm confused as to why there is a new sponsor for the First Prize (London Wall Partners LLP (LWP)) but the Sunday Times still claims the title of the competition.  Surely the traditional way of doing these things is that the title of the competition goes to those who sponsor the first prize?

P.S. Who else besides me remembers the Singer & Friedlander Watercolour Competition (1988-2007) with much affection? I mean it's not as if it hasn't changed its name during its history!
Launched originally as the Singer and Friedlander Prize in 1988, the first prize winner was Tom Coates. Subsequent winners included Stuart Pearson Wright, Leslie Worth, Trevor Stubley, Jennifer McRae and Carol Robertson. Kaupthing at one time the largest Icelandic bank took over Singer & Friedlander in 2005 and sponsorship of the competition ceased. The Royal Watercolour Society took over the sponsorship and the competition was renamed the RWS/Sunday Times Watercolour competition. In 2011, total prize money stood at £18,000 with £10,000 as a 1st Prize. Artist biographies
I spend my time looking for the next Leslie Worth.....

The Good News

The good news is that the exhibition is EMPHATICALLY back into the realms of watercolour. 

I did a quick tour at the beginning and was very struck with how it has come back to where it started - with a very high proportion of artists painting using traditional watercolours - mixed with a modicum of some other related media.  Most look like they created a painting using water!

There's been a marked increase in those labelling their work 'watercolour'.

For those who are interested, I've compared the media listings in the "catalogue" (A4 card folded to A5! Price £2) with those I recorded for 2017 when the major deviation on media started and an acrylic which looked like an oil painting won First Prize.

As you can see there are 10 more paintings labelled just 'watercolour' - and a bigger decrease in those entering acrylic work - it halved in number and there are very few paintings which look like oil paintings this year.

Although there are some artists (and they know who they are and some of them will know after reading this that I also know!) who labelled their work 'watercolour' when there was very clearly some acrylic involved as a base layer(s).

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition: MEDIA Frequency 2017 and 2019
2017 2017 2019 2019 +/-
Watercolour 42 49.4% 52 54.7% 5.3%
Watercolour and ink 5 5.9% 9 9.5% 3.6%
Watercolour and gouache 11 12.9% 8 8.4% -4.5%
Watercolour and pencil / graphite 3 3.5% 6 6.3% 2.8%
Watercolour and acrylic 3 3.5% 3 3.2% -0.4%
Acrylic 10 11.8% 5 5.3% -6.5%
Ink 2 2.4% 3 3.2% 0.8%
Gouache 4 4.7% 3 3.2% -1.5%
Gouache + mixed media 2 2.1% 2.1%
Gouache and acrylic 1 1.1% 1.1%
Gouache and Japanese woodcut 1 1.1% 1.1%
Gouache, collage and pencil 1 1.2% 1 1.1% -0.1%
Watercolour pencil 1 1.1% 1.1%
Acrylic and pigment 2 2.4% 0.0% -2.4%
Watercolour, Japanese ink and gilding/metal powders 1 1.2% 0.0% -1.2%
Watercolour and water based mediums 1 1.2% 0.0% -1.2%
TOTALS 85 100.0% 95 100.0% 0.0%

That's really good news. I'd begun to think this exhibition was going to die a death through judges not understanding the nature of the medium!

It's earned the right to a Call for Entries from this blog next year.

The number of paintings

This exhibition is advertised every year as having a 100 paintings. It has never ever had that number in recent years and if I see that claim one more time I shall protest to the Advertising Standards Authority and the one that regulates competitions.

HOWEVER this year there are 95 paintings - which is a HUGE improvement on 2016 when there were only 75 and last year when there were just 85. In fact it's the most paintings it's had for a long time. 

I do however think this competition needs a minimum size for every unframed/unmatted painting! Enough said?

The Prizewinners

I highlighted the prizewinners on Sunday in Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019 - Prizewinners & Exhibition (which also includes a list of the selected artists).

To my mind the painting which won first prize is well justified. It's unusual, it demonstrates a good appreciation of techniques and colour palette and it's also watery!  (I never thought about this before - but why not go for a watery subject if you have your eye on the main prize!)

Condensation by Leo Davey

I'd have personally given Mark Elsmore the second prize - it's a very compelling piece which works well at a distance in a large gallery as well as close to.

The Not So Good News

Judges still need reminding this is a WATERCOLOUR exhibition

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019 - Prizewinners & Exhibition

Next week the exhibition for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019 opens at the Mall Galleries - as do two other exhibitions (see the end of this post). This post is about:

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019
  • the prizewinners
  • selected artists
  • exhibition details

PLUS: Other Exhibitions this week at the Mall Galleries (17 September 2019 to 22 September 2019)

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019 - Prizewinners

The prizewinners were announced in the Sunday Times on 1 September 2019. You can see images and details of the artist and painting below

First Prize (£8,000):  Leo Davey

Leo Davey won the £8,000 First prize with a very unusual and creative painting which looks very much as if it demonstrates great skill in the use of wet in wet and glazes.

Always really nice to see the first prize in this competition being awarded to a medium which cannot be emulated by any other when the painter is skilled!

Condensation by Leo Davey

© Leo Davey
The image of a child in the shower, drawing lines in the glass, showcases both the artist’s clear skill and a taste for the off-kilter. The child is left genderless on purpose; not everything in the composition is in sync. “It gives a sense of unease,” says the 41-year-old artist
Sunday Times Art Section 1 September 2019
Leo Davey lives and works in his home town of Minehead in West Somerset where he has both his studio and a gallery.

Leo studied at Falmouth College of Art in Cornwall. He now  where he has his studio/gallery. His subjects and styles and ways of painting vary a lot.
From the meticulous to the abstract, Leo refuses to settle on any particular genre of painting and continues to explore and develop ways of seeing and defining his landscapes through his works. (his website bio)
He's been selected for The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition in 2012, 13, 14 and 17 and won the competition's Smith and Williamson Cityscape prize in 2015. His work has also been selected for the exhibitions by the Royal West Academy, Royal Watercolour Society, and Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour.

Second Prize (£3,000): Aidan Potts

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Why did my painting not get selected?

One of the questions which artists who submit paintings to art competitions want to know is
"Why did my painting not get selected"

This post:
  • makes a suggestion to those running open exhibitions and art competitions
  • tells you what you can do to find out why your artwork did not make the grade

Dear art organisations - charge a fee!

I know why art organisations do not provide feedback on selection. 
  • Far too many entries and far too little time. 
  • There is absolutely no way that 100% of entries are going to get feedback on why they didn't get chosen.

However, what I don't understand is why organisations which, in general, say they are supportive and encouraging in relation to emerging and young artists do not find some way to provide feedback.

For example - they could
  • charge a realistic fee for the time required for somebody to review an artwork and highlight some of the reasons why it did not make the cut - via email.  
  • differentiate fee costs by age. For example such a fee might differentiate between:
    • emerging artists under 30
    • artists aged 30+

Such a fee could be
  • designed to be income-generating i.e. providing the organisation with income if artists were prepared to contribute feedback for free
  • self-financing i.e. sufficient to pay somebody to take time out from their normal work to provide feedback.

Just a thought!  However you already have competition......

Would you like me to help?

Contact me - I already charge a fee for feedback!

See below for details or see my web page Would you like me to help (in the ABOUT section on my Art Business Info for Artists website - where you can also read more about me and what qualifies me to comment.)
I'm not in this for the money - I want to help people make a difference to their lives and careers.
banner for my "Would you like me to help?" page

What I can offer

In the absence of anybody else providing feedback to aspiring artists, I've started a service which allows aspiring artists - of whatever age - to engage me to get feedback on their art
I've provided formal (fee-paying) and informal business advice to artists for a significant period and have seen a number of them go on to make significant achievements as a result
Those who were astute enough to find my Would you like me to help page on my website have already been getting that advice!

In fact I was sat at Kings Place yesterday afternoon, after viewing the Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Exhibition, talking with two young ladies who are both aspiring young artists who have both won prizes. They are serious about their art, are undertaking further studies and both are entering open exhibitions and art competitions - and wanted advice.  One had heard me talk previously and deemed me good value!

They came up with the great idea of them both meeting to talk with me about their art and finding out more about how to get selected - and sharing the fee for my time!

I can offer advice on various matters - including how to improve your chances of getting selected for an art competition or open exhibition.

My advice on art competitions can cover a variety of matters - including:
  • why their entry did not get selected - I'm happy to highlight likely reasons
  • whether their artwork is suitable for a specific exhibition  - i.e. Is it good enough? 
  • which art competitions and open exhibitions to target with artwork - sometimes the problem is that artists are entering the wrong exhibitions / competitions
  • how to make it more likely their artwork will get selected - LOTS of practical matters to attend to which can help give you the best chance
Mind you I always counsel people to take a look at this paragraph in the How does it work and what will it cost? section BEFORE engaging me for an assignment.
I will warn you that my style is to be honest and direct.
  • If you're somebody who only wants warm words of encouragement and nothing else then I may not be the right person to help you.
  • However if you prefer a style which is honest and does not 'sugar coat' then I might be what you need.

If you're interested why not have a READ of: