Saturday, September 19, 2020

Haidee-Jo Summers wins first prize in the Oil Painters of America Virtual International Wet Paint Competition

This year the Oil Painters of America's Wet Paint Competition & Convention went:
  • International - with all registered attendees* able to compete for a minimum of $20,000 in cash and merchandise awards. 
    • OPA members vied for awards in both the studio and plein air categories. 
    • International artists living outside North America competed in a separate international category.
  • Virtual - with all the awards announced online

Oil Painters of America - Virtual International Wet Paint Competition

These were 
There were three divisions for entries as follows
  • Plein Air Division: open to OPA Members only. (i.e. open air) 
    • Paintings are executed outdoors as opposed to using photographs or models in a studio. 
    • Both painter and subject matter must be outdoors, and photographs may not be used. 
  • Studio Division: open to OPA Members only. 
    • Paintings are executed indoors. 
    • Both painter and subject matter must be indoors
    • photographs may not be used. 
  • Open Division: open only to non-OPA members and International artists
    • includes both plein air and studio paintings.
Awards were announced at an online awards presentation on Thursday, September 17 at 6:30 p.m. US Central Time. 

You can view all the entries - by division in turn.

Award Winners of the Virtual International Wet Paint Competition

You can read the names of the award winners on this page - scroll down to Virtual International Wet Paint Competition

Haidee-Jo Summers The crab hut at Wells-next-the-Sea 16” x 20”
Winner of 
The crab hut at Wells-next-the-Sea
by Haidee-Jo Summers

oil, 16” x 20”

Which is how Haidee-Jo Summers ROI RSMA came to win the First Prize in the Oil Painters of America wet paint competition, in BOTH
  • the international competition
  • the open division. 
    Such an amazing surprise to have won first prize in the Oil Painters of America wet paint competition, in the international and open division. Huge thanks to John Pototschnik and Oil Painters of America and Rosemary & Co Artists Brushes for sponsoring me to enter!
    Haidee-Jo Summers (Facebook Page)
The prize is valued at $4,460 (Funded by International Artist Magazine) - being one full-page advertisement and $1,000 cash funded by OPA 

Registration for non OPA members and International Entrants was $125 Non-OPA Members & International Participants and Haidee-Jo was sponsored by Rosemary & Co Artists Brushes.

You can follow Haidee-Jo on her Facebook Page at

More to come post Covid?

I think opening up competitions to an international body of painters is a brilliant idea - and I applaud the OPA for having the gumption to have a go t holding both a Virtual Competition and Convention - and opening it up to international artists.

It makes me wonder whether the 'normal' way of holding annual events and exhibitions is going to see a bit staid after all the novelty associated with trying to make things happen in a friendly but socially distant way.

For what it's worth I'd like to see more art societies doing this - on a regular basis!

P.S I'm already signed up to a Virtual 26th Annual Meeting and Conference via Zoom of the American Society of Botanical Artists which is taking place next month. All the benefit of the events and none of the flights or hotel bills!! :)

PPS Apologies for those expecting my review of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition - but the big supermarket shop this morning was rather tiring - and this is NOT a short blog post!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Five Videos about Commissioning a Portrait

This is about the process of commissioning a portrait and includes five very relevant videos to all artists interested in portrait commissions.

Today I am visiting the Mall Galleries to see the Annual Exhibition 2020 of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters - which opened yesterday.

Before I post a review of the exhibition (tomorrow) I thought I'd share with you some five recent videos about portrait commissions produced by the Mall Galleries.

  • One is about a portrait of Lord David Puttnam, the famous British film director by Hero Johnson in the current exhibition - with David Puttnam talking about the commission process and why he asked Hero to paint first him and his wife and then a portrait of him in the context of his work.
  • The next four are about the process of commissioning a portrait - in a series called "What Portrait Painters Need to Know For Commissions"
First a practical example of how portrait painters get commissions.

Hero Johnson paints David Puttnam's portrait - on commission

This video is told by David Puttnam and is the story of how Hero Johnson (Facebook Page, Instagram) got this commission and reveals both the first and second commissions she has painted for David Puttnam.

Lord David Puttnam by Hero Johnson
Lord David Puttnam by Hero Johnson

It just goes to show how EVERY portrait painted on commission can lead to more commissions if people see and admire the result of the first portrait.

What Portrait Painters Need to Know For Commissions

Annabel Elton is the lead officer responsible for the development and running of the Federation of British Artists's Fine Art Commissions Service.

In this series of YouTube videos she explains what portrait painters need to know when working to commission.

She's also written an article about Commissions" What artists need to know

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters also has an article about Five Steps to Commissioning a Great Portrait - from the client's perspective

Marketing & Promotion 

This has some very sensible advice about the content and accessibility of the artist's website from the perspective of the potential client. The emphasis is on driving interest to your website.

She also emphasises the importance of the press - and the local press - and the scope to provide them with both good stories and images.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Call for Entries: Virtual ING Discerning Eye 2020

The deadline for the call for entries for the brand new version of the ING Discerning Eye in 2020 is 1st October.

This post highlights what is the same and what is different in 2020 and - in the absence of lots of things to say about submitting art - I've turned this call for entries into a bit of a profile of the selectors!

since our first exhibition in 1990 - over thirteen thousand works by about four thousand artists.


What stays the same in 2020

The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition in 2020 will:
  • include only works constrained by size i.e. only small works are permitted (it must be less than 20 inches (50cm) in its greatest dimension.)
  • which MUST be an original creation by the artist
  • comprise works independently selected by six prominent figures from different areas of the art world
    • two artists,
    • two collectors and
    • two critics
  • each selector is solely responsible for their own selection
  • be OPEN to all artists resident in the UK
  • can submit up to six original works
  • all artwork MUST be for sale

Plus the Call For Entries site will be via ArtOpps

What will be different in 2020

For the first time in its history, this year's edition of the ING Discerning Eye will be held 100% virtually, helping artists display their work online! Now more than ever, the ING Discerning Eye is committed to helping artists increase their visibility among peers and collectors and to giving creatives a platform to grow.

  • The Selection will be entirely DIGITAL
  • each selector's chosen works will comprise at least 25% from the open entry. AT LAST!  A statement about percentages! (i.e. this exhibition may have always been open entry however it was very questionable whether the open entry was funding an exhibition by selectors' luvvies. Some selectors in the past have been utterly shameless in the past about selecting work by friends or people they have taught - and I have been repeatedly very critical of the lack of transparency which for me has verged on the legally doubtful!)
  • the Exhibition will be VIRTUAL - rather than at the Mall Galleries, In this context it's following in the footsteps of the Lynn-Painter Stainers Competition - which this year has decided to go online minus prizes plus all proceeds to charities supported.
  • the virtual exhibition will be LONGER - from 19 November until 31 December 2020 - and will be available 24/7 during that period for all those interested in viewing and/or purchasing artworks.
  • All exhibiting artists will be included in a fully illustrated print catalogue - which is a first!

The Prizes

Prizes selected by the Prize Givers

  • ING Purchase Prize* – £5000
  • Meynell Fenton Prize* – £1000
  • Humphreys Purchase Prize* – £750
  • Parker Harris Mentoring Prize*: Parker Harris will give a one-to-one mentoring session covering all aspects of professional development to a selected artist.

Prizes are selected by members of the Discerning Eye Educational Board

  • The Discerning Eye Founder’s Purchase Prize (In honour of Michael Reynolds) £2500
  • The Discerning Eye Chairman’s Purchase Prize – £1000
  • Discerning Eye Sculpture and 3D Work Prize – £250
  • Discerning Eye Original Print Prize – £250
  • Regional Prizes – Up to 8 prizes of £250 each awarded to an outstanding entry from the national regions

The Selectors

Monday, September 14, 2020

"Hold Still" digital exhibition on NPG website

Earlier this year, HRH Duchess of Cambridge - who has been the Patron of the National Portrait Gallery since 2012 - asked everybody to send images for the Hold Still Exhibition - to reflect what life was like during lockdown

Today a digital exhibition of the 100 portrait photographs selected from the 31,598 entries have been unveiled on the National Portrait Gallery website
the images present a unique record of our shared and individual experiences during this extraordinary period of history, conveying humour and grief, creativity and kindness, tragedy and hope.
Images #1-3 of the 100 selected for the digital exhibition "Hold Still"

Hold Still: Three Core Themes

There are three core themes to the exhibition
  • Helpers and Heroes, 
  • Your New Normal and 
  • Acts of Kindness.
Click here to view the images individually - and do take the time to read the narratives alongside each. Sometimes they are not what they seem.

View them all together in the video (below) released today by the National Portrait Gallery.
The final 100 present a unique and highly personal record of this extraordinary period in our history. From virtual birthday parties, handmade rainbows and community clapping to brave NHS staff, resilient keyworkers and people dealing with illness, isolation and loss. The images convey humour and grief, creativity and kindness, tragedy and hope - expressing and exploring both our shared and individual experiences.

Please note this exhibition includes text and images recording people’s recent experiences, which some visitors might find upsetting. If you have been affected by any of the issues reflected in the exhibition, and feel you need support, please click here for some suggested sources of support.

How the exhibition came about

The call for entries for the exhibition was launched by The Duchess of Cambridge and the Gallery back in May
Hold Still invited people of all ages, from across the UK to submit a photographic portrait which they had taken during lockdown. The project aimed to capture and document the spirit, the mood, the hopes, the fears and the feelings of the nation as we continued to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
More images of lockdown in 2020

Judging Panel

The Judges

The Hold Still judging panel included: 
  • The Duchess of Cambridge - who is a keen photographer and is a Patron of both the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Photographic Society
  • Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery - who's grown a beard for the occasion!
  • Lemn Sissay MBE, writer and poet - who some will remember sat for a Portrait in the Final of Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2020 - in the National Portrait Gallery
  • Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England and 
  • Maryam Wahid, photographer.
The criteria used for assessment of the images by the panel focused on the emotions and experiences they convey rather than on their photographic quality or technical expertise.

You can 

The Exhibition

A selection of the photographs featured in the digital exhibition will also be shown in towns and cities across the UK later in the year.

Note: International law firm Taylor Wessing are supporting the Hold Still project in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery. They are long-term supporters of the Gallery and have sponsored the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize for the past 12 years.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Beyond hazardous for some artists

Can we all spare a thought for the wellbeing of all those artists who are currently affected either by
  • either the terrible wildfires 
  • or the absolutely horrendous air quality 
  • in Oregon, Washington State and California, USA. 
The maroon areas are where the air quality is currently either Hazardous (300-500) 
or a new category of "Beyond Hazardous" - with readings above 500 on the index scale
(see Eugene and Portland below)

The most polluted cities in the world (13 September 2020)
The most polluted cities in the world (13 September 2020)

This is a shout out to people I know are who all live in areas that are badly affected.  
I've got a number of friends and people I've known online for many years who live in the areas which are affected - and sometimes putting a name to people affected helps raise the profile of the severity of the current situation.

Beyond Hazardous

Oregon is particularly badly affected 
Below are three artists who live in areas which have been producing air quality measurements which are beyond the Index for measuring air quality i.e. "BEYOND HAZARDOUS" areas i.e. 500 is the top end of Hazardous 

Carol Marine (Carol Marine Daily Paintings) lives in Eugene Oregon with her husband David - who created the Daily Paintworks website and their son.  [UPDATE: Despite the fact her blog still saying she lives in Eugene, it's been pointed out that her Facebook Account now says she lives in Missoula, Montana - and I gather this happened relatively recently]
  • The awful irony is that Carol and her husband, David and son all moved to Oregon after being completely burned out in Texas in a matter of minutes 
  • (and as a result now feature on my Insurance for Artists page on my Art Business Info for Artists website - among the examples of artists who have lost everything to natural hazards - and how you can start again if you are insured.) 
  • Eugene Oregon is suffering absolutely horrendous air quality as a result of the Holiday Farm Fire just to the east of Eugene.

Eugene, Oregon is "Beyond Hazardous" i.e. beyond the scale measured by the Air Quality Index
Source: AirNow

The EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) measures five types of air pollution on a scale of one to 500. “Healthy” air gets a rating between 0 and 50. Things start getting dangerous in the mid-100s, especially for sensitive groups like those with a heart or lung condition. And an AQI reading of 301 or greater is considered “hazardous,” causing the EPA to declare “emergency conditions” for those who are exposed for 24 hours or more.

On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, the area around Eugene, Oregon, clocked AQI values well into the 700 range on the real-time air-quality monitoring site PurpleAir, greatly exceeding the scale’s maximum value of 500.

(By way of contrast I live in East London where the air quality currently measures less than 20 on the air quality map).

Janene Walkky lives in Portland, Oregon and  Nicole Caulfield lives just over the river from Portland in Camas, Washington - where Janene is a garden designer and botanical artist and Nicole teaches art to schoolkids and sells her art via a regular stall at the weekend market in Portland. 

For those doubting climate change - and the impact it can have
Nine of the world's 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2005, and the UN warned this week that the five years from 2016 until this year will very likely be the hottest such period yet recorded. 
Oregon wildfires: Half a million people flee dozens of infernos


VERY Unhealthy in Washington State

More than 600,000 acres have burned in Washington State.

Botanical artists Jean Emmons (Vashon island) and Deborah Montgomerie (Whidbey Island) both live further north on islands near Seattle in Washington State - which is some distance from the fires and yet their area is currently rated as distinctly unhealthy - although ratings are only about a third of some of the areas in Oregon.

Air quality in Washington State from Seattle Times

An extremely smoky Northern California

Artists Jana Bouc and Ed Terpening both live in the San Francisco area where conditions got very much worse on Friday and the air quality ratings became much worse - see San Francisco Bay Area choked by toxic smoke-filled airTwo days later it's currently rated as unhealthy.

I'm hoping everybody is staying indoors - with all air gaps taped up - and that they're double and triple masking if going outdoors.

I know there's a lot more - and I'm thinking of you all.........

You can track air quality for specific areas via 
PS Please don't go out if you can avoid it without reading this article first re the after effects of exposure to toxic air Australian wildfires will claim victims even after they’re out - Harvard scientist suggests long-term exposure to smoke-filled air could lead to premature deaths.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Painters' Art Sale - an online exhibition by the Painters' Company Charities

The Painters Art Sale is a NEW Online Exhibition by the Painters' Company Charities - the charitable arm of The Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers.

Overview of Painters Art Sale (Online)

View of the website - which hurts my eyes.

  • All sales proceeds support the artist and the arts educational programme at Painters' Company Charities
  • All works in the online exhibition are priced at £300 or less.  
The price you pay for a single work is the same price that applies to every other work in the Painters’ Art Sale, which is £300. We are a separately registered subsidiary charity of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers and we are not registered at this time for VAT. As a result, there is no VAT in the price you pay and no VAT invoice will be raised.

  • there are four categories:
    • New Abstract (24 items)
    • The Figure (61 items)
    • Contemporary Views (80 items)
    • Other Themes (56 items)
  • The online exhibition opened on 7 September 2020 and lasts until to 31 December 2020.
  • you can still enter works. I'm assuming this means artwork is removed as it is sold and new works are added as they are accepted into the exhibition. 
Below I comment on the four categories and the entry process and highlight a few of the images in the exhibition.

There is some good artwork in the exhibition - but you do have to wade through quite a lot of mediocre art and some is just plain bad.  Obviously I highlight the artwork I like or think is effective as opposed to that which I think fails to 'make a mark'!

Categories of Works in the Exhibition

Note that you can sort each category according to the surname of the artist (A to Z and Z to A), by price - except they are all the same i.e. £300 - and by which are the newest.

Interestingly I found some of the artwork listed elsewhere online for bigger sums!

Issue re how work is exhibited online

The main problem with the way the artwork is exhibited is there is no horizontal slideshow with an arrow command on the right - so you can click or swipe quickly through the dross to get to the ones worth lingering over.

The problem of a website format with precisely the same predetermined box for every artwork is that none of them look good. Plus you have to click each one to see it properly. After you've done this a few times you move on to the next thing you had planned for your day and leave the site.

Here's an example - Westminster Abbey by Chris Francis - an accomplished painting using mixed media - with a slice out of its middle for the online gallery of all contemporary views

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Hardship lies ahead #1: Checklist for Artists

This post provides some CHECKLISTS FOR ARTISTS 
  • thinking about the future and 
  • wanting to get to grips with the basics of surviving as an artist AND an art business within the context of both Covid AND the Recession.
i.e. Neither the Coronavirus Pandemic nor the Recession are going away completely in a hurry - so it's time to tease out and get to grips with some of the practical implications for the medium and longer term.

For what it's worth I reckon it will be at least two years before we get back to normal.  Possibly three.

In the meantime people have some difficult decisions to make.

"Hardship lies ahead" is the new slogan of the Chancellor of the Exchequer - and he's absolutely spot on.
  • Not all businesses will reopen
  • Not everybody will have a job in the businesses that do
  • Not everybody is going to enjoy the income level going forward that they have had in the past
  • LOTS OF PEOPLE ARE GOING TO FEEL VERY UNCERTAIN - and lack of confidence depresses spending on art.
PLUS at some point, we'll all have to pay for the enormous bailouts which have been going on around the world - which may well mean tax increases in the longer term.

This post is about translating that context into the PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS for artists and selling art generally and providing CHECKLISTS for
  • artists - this post
  • future posts re.
    • art societies 
    • art exhibitions 
    • art galleries
    • art teachers

A preamble

I last wrote on this topic in The Pandemic Recession: Likely Impact on Art Sales and Artists

HOWEVER I gathered afterwards that quite a few people felt I was probably being too negative and miserable - and that "everything will be back to normal soon".

I wonder if others might also now feel it wise to revise that view?
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered one of the worst jobs crises since the Great Depression. There is a real danger that the crisis will increase poverty and widen inequalities, with the impact felt for years to come. OECD
Now that
  • business closures and job losses are now being announced on a very regular basis as we begin to come out of the furlough period (i.e. closure of 8 branches of John Lewis is NOT normal! Nor is M&S reducing staff by 950 jobs.)
  • businesses are talking about it taking years to get back to normal AND
  • we're seeing some very fierce covid-19 spikes (i.e. second wave) around the world (notably in the USA) as people "got back to normal" much too fast and without taking appropriate precautions 
  • PLUS as of today we're got local lockdowns in the UK and we're back to no more than 6 people meeting together I think it's time to get serious.
I'm really NOT being negative.

I'm essentially a really pragmatic person who likes to know the parameters of a problem - including the nasty bits!

I'm also a great believer in planning for what's coming.  Probably because I'm "cursed" by a very marked talent for being able to predict what's coming over the horizon - and a very good track record of being right. It has proved to be useful in a career (sometimes) - but there's always been a tendency to want to "shoot the messenger!" when people really don't like the message - so I wasn't surprised at all by the reaction to the last post.

I'm going to be like Chris Whitty and Dr Fauci and just keep saying what needs saying until people get it!! :)


Just for a moment consider the following scenario - and how realistic it might be.
  • Your art galleries close down - and your art gets stuck inside
  • Your sales incomes dries up or reduces significantly - because fewer people are buying - because of lack of confidence in knowing how long the pandemic / recession will last
  • Your regular Bread and Butter job which pays basic bills disappears - it's happening to a lot of people even if they are working for FTSE 100 employers!
  • Your online platform suddenly shuts down - don't forget it's not just bricks and mortar businesses which shut down. Small entities are the ones which shut down in the last recession. Consequently all my blogs and websites are with very big hosts for a reason.
  • Your partner loses their job - it happens.
  • You will be living on a much reduced income - do you know how much you need to keep a roof over your head - and or how long you can last on just savings?
  • BUT you haven't got a clue about....
    • what you do that makes money or maximises your income and 
    • which activity/activities is/are basically a self indulgent money pit
Bear in mind a lot of people have had to face this already.

So now is the time when spending some time on working this out is a really good investment. 

Otherwise life may very well come and bite you on the backside when you're not looking!


Now is a really good time to work out the ABSOLUTE BASICS

  • which income streams maximise profit for time and effort expended and 
  • which represent a really poor return after you take every aspect into account.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

The Distance Drawing Course (weeks 1 - 4)

 The Rokeby Museum has been posting blogs posts about a Distance Drawing Course.
The course is inspired by a correspondence course about drawing undertaken by 13 year old Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919) and taught by Courtney Clinton, Rokeby Artist in Residence

From 1891 to 1893 Rachael studied illustration with a New York artist named Ernest Knaufft (1864–1942) through the Chautauqua Society of Fine Art. The course cost $5 dollars a year and offered instruction in freehand drawing and the pen and ink technique used for book and magazine illustration at the time — with today’s inflation that’s still a bargain at $150.

There are six lessons in total and they are posted every two weeks.
  • Below you can find the links to the first four lessons - and a note at the end about the two still to be posted.
  • The posts include some simply wonderful drawings - of their time - which can be appreciated without reading the accompanying text. However that is also worth a read - particularly if you want to learn more about drawing.
  • Don't skip the interesting historical documents - also worth a read!


This is the link for Vision

Seeing Rachael’s drawings and writing side by side gives us a new way to think about the practice of drawing. In her sketchbooks, Rachael uses drawing to take visual notes. With her art, she is recording and testing her understanding of nature.

For this week’s exercise I invite you to start a sketchbook practice. Over the next two weeks, go for walks with a sketch book and make small sketches of the different things that you see. Try to do five botanical sketches a week.

Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, we are in this together! Below is a step by step guide to start your first sketchbook.

View this post on Instagram

In my first #RokebyDistanceDrawing lesson I invite students to start a sketchbook and develop a practice of engaged observation. Don't worry this doesn't require any deep breathing. ;) . . Through this exercise I want to challenge the idea of art as a kind of creative expression and instead present art as a kind of visual research. . . Most young artists assume that because they know the world around them they also understand it. When asked to put pen to paper and draw something as simple as a tree most flounder and draw a 🌲 not an actual tree. Many assume that this means they don't have any artistic talent. . . With first lesson my aim is to throw out this idea of talent and get students to start thinking about the connection between observation and drawing. . . Learning to draw is about training your eye. It means sitting in front of your subject for a sustained period and working out it's structure and mechanics. . . Of course the ultimate aim of art is expression but this research into observation will allow a young artist to better articulate and inform their ideas. . . For the lion's share of this course we will focus on training our ability to see. Near the end of the course we will shift our attention to creative expression. I can't wait for you to see how all of this time spent looking will fuel your creativity! . . Lessons are free and materials are kept simple (paper and pencil). Each lesson comes with step by step instructions! The course is hosted on the @rokebymuseum website! . . #artcourse #draw #drawing #sketch #sketching #sketchbook #artist #art #arttraining #creativity #artist #art #CanadianArt #canadianartist #vermontart #museumart #fineart #illustration #illustrator #outdoorart #landscapeart #pleinair
A post shared by Courtney Clinton Artist (@clinton.courtney) on


This is the link for Copying

In the same way that Rachael learned to work with magazines by emulating her father’s career, she learned art theory (proportions, shading, and line quality) by copying the works of accomplished artists.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Why email subscriptions make sense

In an era when the social media giants sometimes makes it MORE difficult to hear from people you want to read, email subscriptions provide a lot of value in terms of connecting to those artists and sites that you like.

I guess like many other people I'm finding it a LOT more difficult to connect with people on Facebook:
  • I know people are posting on Pages that my Making A Mark Facebook Page has liked and yet I don't have a clue when that has happened or what it's about! I'm very miffed!!
  • if you don't post very often - you're even less likely to connect with others.
  • if your followers don't connect with you - by leaving a like or a comment - it's even less likely that they'll hear again from you in future.
In addition, I really don't have the time to read through all my different feeds on Instagram and Twitter (I do have lists set up) - so picking up news about what people are up to can be a bit haphazard.

However I do add feeds from blogs to my Blogger Reading List - which is great for picking up all recent posts. (Read Manage blogs you follow - to read more about how it works)

What I do like however are the emails to blogs or websites which have proved their worth in the past in terms of content and news.

Be smart and astute when signalling emails

Those who are astute enough to precisely signal what the content of their email about get my vote. 
Being "astute" means generating:
  • a really good headline which clearly signals the topic of the email (or blog post)
  • an "on point" first sentence and certainly first 200 characters
  • focusing on one topic per post
Here's a couple of examples

The first is today's post on my Botanical Art and Artists - News Blog

Blogger allows 200 characters for a shortened feed
Using a shortened feed means your blog posts can't be used unscrupulously
by scammers - as content on blogs trying to make money

The second is what my last Making A Mark blog post looked like in my list of emails - note how critical blog post headlines are to the likelihood of being opened.

Really good headlines enable me to sift and sort those emails I want to open and those I'll pass on this time. Those who are "astute" - and think about their headlines - are more likely to get read.

I don't mind getting lots of emails from some people - because of the interest and value of content when I do - even if I don't always want to read everyone.

Why email marketing makes sense

Email marketing has consistently proven to be effective at connecting those who want to promote themselves or their product/service with those who want to hear about it

Any other sort of marketing is essentially has a scattergun effect. You pump it out and hope it gets seen by the right people.

With a subscriber list, people have expressed an interest in reading more about what you write. Although sometimes they don't understand the breadth of your blog and think all blog posts will be more of the same in relation to the one that triggered their interest

If you weed your subscribers periodically, (i.e. by deleting all those who have never verified) you know you are sending messages to those who WANT to hear what you have to say - and how many of them there are.

I go through Feedburner (which is an RSS feed service not a full fledged email service) and delete all those who have subscribed but failed to verify their email address i.e. the "passing fancy crowd". That way I can keep track of the real number of actual subscribers.

Set up an email subscription service

If you've not got an email subscription service set up on your art website or blog can I suggest you give this some serious thought.

The main reason I don't use one is:
  • my current solution works - and has done regularly and reliably for the last 15 years
  • my current solution costs me ABSOLUTELY NOTHING 
  • I've got too many subscribers
  • I write too often
  • the next alternative would represent a considerable sum of money per annum!
I use Google Feedburner which is a FREE service for anybody with a Google account. It 
  • routes the the short feed from my blog via an email 
  • alerts people to a new blog post and 
  • works automatically - sending out an email to all those who have subscribed. 
It doesn't cost me a penny even though I've got lots and lots of subscribers. 

It also works with non-(Google) Blogger blogs i.e. I use it for my other blogs which are on Weebly websites.

If you want to do more than burn a feed from a blog, you need to look at alternative services.

Email subscription alternatives

I actually look to see who uses what when I receive my emails from a subscription service!

The main alternatives that I see include:
  • Mailchimp - it's been around forever and is very popular and used by lots of friends of mine - and the Mall Galleries for its Friends Subscriptions
  • AWeber - completely free if you have less than 500 subscribers
  • Constant Contact - used by Duane Keiser for "a painting a day". It covers all media marketing and looks very professional to me. It's more often used by those with big subscription lists.

Constant Contact, Inc. licenses a permission-based e-marketing software platform to individuals and organizations. We act as a service provider to these customers, most of whom are small businesses and non-profits. Our product helps our customers design email newsletters, share them on social networks, manage lists of contacts and marketing preferences, and track email campaign results. We do not have a contractual relationship with recipients of the messages our customers send with the Constant Contact software.

There are lots more and it's best to take a look at some of the round ups and reviews of alternative options to create a shortlist of the ones you might want to take a look at without it costing you an arm and a leg. (Remember that some of these are used by very large companies and are rather more than you need). 


The one absolutely ESSENTIAL feature of any email marketing service you use is that it must have an opt-in facility to allow personal data to be collected. Those who play fast and loose with personal data are NOT companies you want to be doing business with - because there are big fines now for breaching privacy laws in Europe and California.

Interestingly those who try to do it on their own invariably breach legislation and regulation relating to email marketing and distance selling. I could name names but I won't - but some of them are organisations you would think ought to know better!

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Grayson Perry Returns - on TV, at the British Museum and with a new exhibition!

Oh joy of joys - Grayson is back - in a diverse number of ways - on TV, at the British Museum and with a new exhibition!  He and his work can be seen:

  • at the British Museum - NOW!
  • at Victoria Miro - with a new exhibition from 15th September timed to coincide with the roadtrip television series.....
  • on Channel 4 - riding across the USA on his motorbike - in 3 episodes later this month
  • early 2021 - in a second series of Grayson's Art Club.

That'll really get under the skin of the Grayson Haters Club.

For those who love Grayson read on....

CHANNEL 4 - another road trip in September 2020

Grayson Perry’s Big American Roadtrip (w/t), broadcast on Channel 4 in September
In this very personal three-part documentary travelogue, award-winning artist and social commentator Grayson Perry is going to travel across the US, to explore the meaning of the American Dream today. At a time when the nation can sometimes seem more divided than ever, he will spend time with people from very different walks of life, to try to understand how Americans today view issues of identity, race, money and class.
I have no dates and not a lot more than the quote from the production company above. Keep your eyes peeled - my guess is second half of the month.

Grayson Perry with his motorbike by the side of the road

CHANNEL 4 - a second series in early 2021

Grayson will be inviting you once again to join his Art Club in early 2021. 
No wonder - the first series was incredibly successful and has been nominated for a few television awards!

Grayson’s Art Club was the best performing series from Channel 4’s #StayAtHome Academy programming, attracting over one million viewers per episode. Apparently the nation was inspired to unleash its creative side during lockdown - with the series reportedly responsible for a considerable rise in online sales for craft specialists! 
“Appointment television is back – and it’s a bona fide masterpiece. In the midst of lockdown, a quirky Channel 4 series has brought the nation together and served up not just creativity but a slice of British life like no other.”
The Telegraph
Grayson’s Art Club, the critically acclaimed series, from BAFTA-winning production company Swan Films, has been recommissioned by Channel 4.  There are no dates as yet. 

Philippa and Grayson Perry

The second series has contemporary award-winning artist, writer and broadcaster Grayson Perry reworking from his studio alongside his wife, the best-selling author, psychotherapist and broadcaster Philippa Perry.
“I’m so pleased and proud Art Club is coming back, it’s a joyful team effort with the stars being the artists who send in their wonderful works and tell us their stories. Of course, it’s not principally about art, it’s a celebration of life.” 
Grayson Perry
The second series of Grayson’s Art Club in early 2021 will follow the same format, In each episode:
  • Grayson will in his studio making his own art - alongside Philippa who is no slouch in the art department!
  • He will also have conversations with celebrity guests, high-profile artists sharing insights into their processes, 
  • feature art made by the great British public
The one departure is that if social distancing rules permit it, Grayson will also travel around the country to meet artists and discuss their artwork. 

The series is being made by Swan Films produced by Neil Crombie and Joe Evans
“We’re thrilled to bring Grayson’s Art Club back to Channel 4. The first series unlocked a wealth of creativity around the country, and we’ll be building on that for the post-lockdown era, showing once again why we all need the joy of art in our lives.”
Joe Evans, co-founder and managing director of Swan Films
You will again be able to join in the conversation on twitter and Instagram @Channel4 using the hashtag #C4ArtClub


Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Review: 208th Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

Yesterday I saw my first art exhibition in nearly six months. The Mall Galleries reopened with the 208th Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours which should have been held in April. 

Wall in the East Gallery

I wrote previously about the prizewinners here Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours - 208th Annual Exhibition and Prizewinners - on 1st April which should have been the day of the Private View.

This post will include some of my photos from the exhibition but if you'd like to see the paintings online then go to:

The RI exhibition of 444 paintings is open until 12th September (11am - 5pm) - and until 7pm on Thursday the 3 & 10 September.

The changes when visiting the Mall Galleries

View of the West Gallery
- minus tables and chairs and plus tape on the floor for the one way system 

This time there are some changes - and I'm going to deal with those first before commenting on the exhibition

  • no Private View
  • one way system for viewing the exhibition
  • face masks required before you can enter the Gallery (all the staff are wearing face visors)
  • sanitiser around and about the Gallery
  • to visit you MUST book a timeslot - in advance
  • no rack for coats
  • no lockers
  • no cafe (bring your own bottled water) and no tables and chairs
  • no shop.
I also had to get on the Tube for the first time since March and that was surprisingly easy given there are very few passengers and everybody is wearing a mask.

I'd recommend people visit late morning / early afternoon as that seems to be the time when you're least likely to encounter lots of other people on public transport.  
  • I arrived for 11 and departed about 2.30pm. 
  • During that time there were quite a few people in the gallery but nowhere felt crowded and it was a very comfortable experience - apart from the lack of a cup of tea!  (I'd be happy with a hot water urn and a "bring my own sealed hot drink vessel and tea bag!").

About the 208th Exhibition

Overall my impressions of the exhibition were:
  • it looked MUCH better in the Gallery than it did online - art looks good with other art - on the wall!
  • It felt rather like going to the Summer Exhibition at the RA - where in the past Galleries have been crowded with paintings - which I like a lot
  • the end wall reminded me a lot of a lateral version of the much beloved Small Weston Room - jammed with small paintings - before the RAs started messing about and using it for other things. It both felt like "coming home" and presented a visual draw to the eye when viewed from a distance.

The end wall of the West Gallery
masquerading as the Small Weston Room!

  • There are many more small and medium sized works - rather than large works
  • Pricing looked a lot more sensible. I've yet to crunch any numbers but I saw very few "silly numbers" on the labels I looked at. This can only contribute to more sales in the long term as the paintings get a better fit with the pocketbooks of those who visit the exhibitions.
Overall it's an excellent exhibition and I recommend you pay a visit.

East Gallery

You start in what used to be called the Threadneedle Space but has now reverted to being called the East Gallery.

Monday, August 31, 2020

"Among the Trees" at the Hayward Gallery

Among the Trees is at an art exhibition at Hayward Gallery which reopened to the public this month.  It brings together artworks by 37 artists who, over the last 50 years, have explored our relationship with trees and forests. I includes works by artists Tacita Dean, Peter Doig, William Kentridge & more.

You can see the 4 minute virtual tour by the curator above.

a cinematic portrait of a 30-metre-high spruce tree by Eija-Liisa Ahtila

The two reviews of the exhibition below both award it three stars - apparently on the basis that while there are some impressive pieces, it's a case of finding it difficult to see the wood for the trees.
Others - by the Evening Standard and the Observer gave it four stars
But though there is a Peter Doig thicket, painted on canvas, one of Tacita Dean’s photographs of ancient uprooted cedars and a huge anthropomorphic lightbox by Jeff Wall, in which olive groves seem to shelter migrant workers, what is so extraordinary is the way the trees cease to belong to the individual artists. They rise above art, in the end, creating an atmosphere of serene reverie very rarely experienced in a gallery.
We know reviews are personal to the reviewer. I sometimes think this applies particularly to those who lives in cities when the review is about an exhibition involving trees - and maybe depends on how well attuned they are to trees. 

A number mocked the David Hockney RA - A Bigger Picture exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts which contained many many trees back in 2012 - and yet it was one of the most popular exhibitions the RA has ever had - even more popular than the Van Gogh exhibition at the RA.

That's because 
  • the public often don't arrive with a perspective of what an exhibition should be - and enjoy viewing trees! (I went four times - and I definitely knew what it was going to look like after my first visit!)
  • there's a fair number of people (and some reviewers) who live in towns who also like looking at trees
The exhibition at the Hayward Gallery is open on Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 7pm and Sunday, 10am – 6pm; and closed on Monday and Tuesday. You must book online before visiting.

Personally I'd like to visit if only to see that curious Peter Doig painting looking at a building through tree branches. Now there's an artist who likes to live with trees.....