Monday, November 25, 2019

Call for Entries: RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2020

This post is about the Call for Entries for the RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2020. It covers

  • my preamble and commentary about what I'd like to see this competition achieve
  • the prizes and the judges
  • what the RWS want to see
    • who can enter
    • how to enter
    • the exhibition
The deadline is Monday 13 January 2020, 11.59pm


I've been very ambivalent about this competition in recent years.

I honestly didn't feel like I could recommend it when it became dominated by what appeared to be type of 'heavily contemporary / very loose mark-making / totally non figurative' paintings by artists who aspire to be hung in contemporary art galleries - but never will because their artwork never sells. That was during the era of the last President. Things have turned a corner with the current President.

There again, it's still seems to be a very long way short of finding replacements for some of the very talented and skilled painters in watercolour who have been members in the past. I'm still looking for the next Leslie Worth - who could sometimes make me feel as if he could paint like Turner - while I linger over his paintings every time they come up in the secondary market of the art fair.

For a commentary on some of the very significant issues associated with this competition in the recent past this post about the 2017 Call for Entries

You can see for yourself the artworks selected for the 2019 exhibition, held in March 2019, on the RWS website and make your own mind up.  There is still to my way of thinking too few paintings which evidence that the artist can actually draw accurately or exploit watercolour in the way it deserves to be exploited - bt maybe this year will be different!

Interestingly when I put the name of the competition into Google I get relatively very few responses compared to the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition - about a third of the number for the latter. That suggests marketing the competition could be improved.

Prizes and Judges

None of the prizes are huge but there are a lot of them.


Cash Prizes

  • David Gluck Memorial Award: £750 Cash Prize
  • RWS Award: £500 Cash Prize
  • David Gluck & RWS Award: £250 Cash Prize

RWS non-cash prizes

  • RWS Young Artist Award: Guest Membership to the RWS for 2 years to an artist under the age of 35 on 1st October 2019. This allows allowing the winner(s) to exhibit in all Society exhibitions at Bankside Gallery for this period
  • RWS Publicity Prize: Your selected work on exhibition printed publicity material
  • RWS Social Media Prize: Feature on @royalwatercoloursociety Instagram. (To qualify for the RWS Social Media Prize you must have your own Instagram account.)

Sponsored Prizes - publicity 

  • The Cass Art Solo Show Award: The opportunity for a solo exhibition of your work in a Cass Art store space
  • The Artist Prize: Feature article in The Artist & Leisure Painter Magazine
  • Dry Red Press Prize: The opportunity to have your artwork published on a greetings card

Sponsored Prizes - cash

  • Insight Art School Prize: £250 cash
  • Cotswold Mounts Prize: £125 cash

Sponsored Prizes - art materials

  • Schmincke Prize: Schmincke Horadam Painting Box (Value £300)
  • St Cuthbert’s Mill Paper Prize: £150 worth of paper
  • Winsor & Newton Prize: Professional Water Colour Bamboo Coffret
  • Daler Rowney Art Materials Prize: Daler Rowney art materials
  • Seawhite Art Materials Prize: Seawhite art materials

Sponsored Prizes - studio time

  • The Heatherley’s Open Studio Prize: Five days worth of studio time at The Heatherley School of Fine Art 

Sponsored Prizes - Other

  • Leon Restaurants Prize: Food & Drink Vouchers (Really? This is a painting competition not a kiddies event!)

The Judging Panel 

Interestingly, the number of Judges has been reduced from last year - now down to 5.

Independent Members

  • Tim Sayer | Journalist & Art Collector - a retired BBC Radio 4 a former BBC Radio 4 News journalist and prolific art collector for over 50 years. He specialises in abstract but says his collection consists of "just about everything except performance and video art". He and his wife have pledged their entire collection of more than 400 works - ceramics, sculptures, paintings and works on paper, as well as a significant library of books - to The Hepworth Wakefield in their will. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to Art and Philanthropy in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2017.
  • Kristian Day | Independent Gallerist & Curator - this is an article about him

RWS Members

The links below are to the page of their works on their websites
  • Jill Leman PRWS RBA - The first female President in the history of the society. Mainly paints still life - in a manner somewhere inbetween Mary Fedden and her husband Martin Leman
  • Jim Hunter RWS Junior Vice President (abstracted colour blocky paintings in watercolour and acrylic)
  • June Berry RWS NEAC Hon RE RWA - One of my favourite painters - and I own one of her paintings! She's a figurative artist with a wonderful sense of colour and a relaxed way with mark making which never ever suggests sloppiness. She finds her subject matter in the everyday people in her everyday surroundings - and in her memories of things past. There's quite a lot of past - she has shown regularly at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition since 1951!!!

How to submit an entry

First off you need to read and reread the Guidelines for Entry very carefully.

Artists who run into problems are generally those who have not taken the trouble to read the small print.

Who can enter

The Royal Watercolour Society’s annual competition is open to all artists except RWS Members - so long as they are aged 18 or over on Tuesday 1st October 2019

What you can enter

In terms of MEDIA the rules are as follows - they have three goes are defining what is OK.
Any painting in watercolour, acrylic, gouache, ink, any other water-based media or a combination 
Work made in any water-based medium on a paper support is eligible: this includes gouache, acrylic, ink, pigment, watercolour or a mixed media piece containing any of this list.
all water-based media including (but not limited to) watercolour, acrylic, ink, gouache, and mixed media pieces featuring not water-based materials as long as a water-based media is included.
Note media is water-based and not water-soluble. Try finding a definition of "water-based" that is not tautological!  My definition is that it excludes all oils, solvents, resins and volatile organic compounds i.e. the paint remains watersoluble - but I doubt if that would satisfy the rWS!

All work should be on a paper support i.e. paper, cardboard, etc (not canvas, wood, plastic or any other surface) 

: No prints, copies, reproductions or photographs are eligible

STYLE: There are no limitations on style or subject matter 

SIZE: Framed works must not exceed 200 x 200cm

DATES: The painting must have been completed sometime during the previous 4 years (2019, 2018, 2017 or 2016)

ORIGINALITY: The work must have been made by the artist submitting it.

NUMBER:  A maximum of 6 paintings may be submitted - for a fee of £15 per work. There are reductions on multiple submissions.

FOR SALE: All work must be for sale. Note that:
  • The Gallery levies a commission of 40% + VAT on picture sales. 
  • You will be notified of sales by email shortly after they occur 
  • You will receive the balance due within six weeks of the end of the exhibition

How to enter

This is the ENTRY FORM.

The competition opened for entries last month.

Works for the exhibition are selected from digital images
  • The deadline for submission of your digital entries is Monday 13 January 2020, 11.59pm
  • Round 1: You enter a digital image(s) of your artwork 
    • There are detailed guidelines eg . For guidance and advice on how to photograph your artwork, please watch the video here.
    •  The jpg image file does not exceed 3MB (minimum of 1MB)
  • Results of Round 1: A list of paintings selected for the exhibition will be published on the RWS website on Thursday 23 January.
    • You then have just over a month to get your selected work framed and couriered or transported to London. So know who your framer and courier is and check that they're free and can deliver for you!
  • Round 2: (reducing the long list to a shortlist) deliver artwork to Bankside Gallery on Sunday 1st or Monday 2nd March, 11am-5pm DO READ ALL THE SMALL PRINT!
    • you or your representative will need to submit your art in a frame to the Bankside Gallery (and take away all packaging material). Delivery of framed paintings is to Bankside Gallery on Sunday 1 or Monday 2 March, 11am-5pm. Paintings may not be delivered on any other date.
Work will not be accepted if delivered by Royal Mail, FedEx, DHL etc, or by taxi as they do not have specialist art insurance nor are they able to unwrap works and remove packaging. 
Only professional Art Couriers should be used. We recommend: Picture Post ( / 07833 450 788) Art Moves of Chelsea ( / 020 7352 7492) South Hams Express ( / 01803 551368 / 07502041139) 
    • Poorly presented paintings or works that differ significantly from the photograph that was entered will not be accepted.
    • They will also be checking size - remember framed paintings must not exceed 200cm x 200cm. 
    • For your work to be insured against theft under Bankside Gallery insurance, your paintings must be framed, glazed and fitted with mirror plates.

Fees for entry are comparable with open exhibitions of national art societies.
  • The fee for entry at £15 for each of the first two artworks submitted.
    • Fees are then discounted by as more works are submitted (see the Application Pack for details) i.e. 6 works cost £65 to enter
  • Students in higher education (who can produce a valid student card i.e. bring it with you!) can submit up to 3 works for £5.
  • This is comparable to the £18 per artwork charged for the open exhibitions of the other national art societies exhibiting at the Mall Galleries - and is significantly less than the fees charged for the prestigious art competitions with major prizes.
  • This is the pdf file for the Frequently Asked Questions.

The Exhibition

The exhibition will be held at the Bankside Gallery (next to Tate Modern) between Friday 6th and Wednesday 18 March 2020.

There will be a Private View and awarding of prizes at Bankside Gallery on Thursday 5 March, 6 - 8pm (by invitation only)

Past blog posts about the RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition

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