Friday, January 31, 2020

Views about the Nude and Life Drawing Live - on BBC next week

Two upcoming programmes about drawing and painting naked flesh next week - in a very artistic way! 
  • a comment about life drawing programmes on television
  • some of the places where you can attend life drawing classes in London - and my recommendation as to what sort of place to go to.

Mary Beard's Shock of the Nude

Mary Beard’s Shock of the Nude is made by Lion Television, the company who made the Arts and Crafts House and fronted by Professor Mary Beard. Or to give her full credentials an outing by the English scholar and classicist Dame Winifred Mary Beard, DBE, FSA, FBA who is.....
  • Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, 
  • a fellow of Newnham College, and 
  • Royal Academy of Arts Professor of Ancient Literature. 
and who The New Yorker characterises as "learned but accessible". 

The programme is on BBC2 starting next Monday and has two episodes
With distinctive wit and flair, Mary Beard takes a personal view of the nude in Western art and its troubling power to provoke ideas about gender, sex and moral transgression.
Mary Beard looks at how artists have rejected 'the body beautiful’, challenging viewers to question what it is to be human.
It's got quite a lot of the broadsheets quite excited - primarily it would seem because Professor Beard is going to get her kit off and be drawn from life!
I can't help but think she meant "cannibalised"!!

Life Drawing Live! 

The human form is one of the most challenging subjects, with life drawing at the heart of art history
This year Life Drawing Live! is on BBC Four, Tuesday 4 February. It starts at 8pm and runs until  10pm - so two hours of life drawing. Almost like a real life drawing class. With no intervals?
To coincide with the broadcast of Mary Beard’s Shock Of The Nude on BBC Two, Life Drawing Live! will bring a group of artists together for a 120-minute art class with live models, guided by experts, whilst the audience watches in real-time as they create their work.

The format for the programme is as follows:
  • it follows a life class of six amateur artists, including some famous faces, who aim to capture a series of poses.
  • several life models will move between poses throughout the class
  • the class will consist of: 
    • a number of warm-up routines (what are almost universally known as "quickies") and 
    • opportunities to practice technique
    • a longer pose
    • i.e. very like a life class in reality
  • Daphne Todd OBE and Lachlan Goudie are on hand to guide the participants throughout the class, provide direction to those taking part at home and to deliver tips and advice. 
  • The artists in the room will have their work evaluated 

The purpose of the programme is to encourage the audience at home to
  • draw along and experience a real-life drawing lesson alongside the artists in the room.
  • embrace various styles and materials for their artwork.
  • send in their work during the show.
So basically, it's VERY like the Channel 4 format last year - but a lot longer.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Review: Episode 2 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2020

The very odd thing about Episode 2 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2020 is that I need to be completely upfront and declare an interest....

Three of my former clients are in it!
  • I went to this heat because one artist asked for some advice and we met up the week before the heat.
  • Another artist is somebody who I already knew who asked me to deliver a lecture at an Art Conference; and 
  • the third became a client after the Heat. 
I'll tell you who they are at the end - but you might be able to guess if you look at my photos of this Heat on Facebook - see 48 photos - including pics of all the completed portraits in Portrait Artist of the Year 2020 (Episode 2)

Episode 2: The Artists, Self-portraits and Sitters

Links to the artist's website are embedded in their names. Links to their social media sites are also provided.

You can see all the speeded up videos of their portraits via the profile page

The professional artists

The professional artists are:
I happily admit that when I got the phone call from Sky saying I had a got through to the televised heats, I was slightly in shock. Oh yes! Oh NO!!! The challenge is to paint a portrait in 4 hours, while being filmed constantly, with a live audience, and popping outside at regular intervals to be interviewed...
So I had about 6 weeks to practice painting portraits, in 10% of the time I would usually spend on a painting. I would like to thank everyone who so kindly modelled for me.
  • Enda Griffin (Facebook | Instagram) - an established artist with over 15 years' experience of teaching art, craft and design, recently completing a masters degree in socially engaged art with Limerick College of Art and Design. He was selected to be one of 12 finalists to represent Ireland from over 1400 entrants in the Irish heat of the SKY ARTS portrait painter of the year in 2014.  Interestingly his portrait paintings are nothing whatsoever like what he did in the heat. I think I'd have preferred to see his more conventional style.
  • Mark Mulholland (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) Contemporary figurative oil painter. Has exhibited in BP Portrait (2014); Royal Society Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition (2017) and  Scottish Portrait Awards (2017 & 2018)
  • Sophie Goudman-Peachey  (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) a London based artist whose work combines painting, collage and printmaking to reconstruct existing narratives surrounding womxn in society. Graduated with a BA (Hons) Fine Art: Painting in 2017 from Wimbledon College of Art. I like her printmaking.
  • Dorian Radu (Facebook | Instagram | ) a hyper-realist artist who has worked on commission for both the Romanian Royal Family and the BBC. He's exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy Open 2018, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, winning the L. Cornelissen & Son Prize in 2017. He's an Associate Member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters and won their top prize at their annual exhibition in 2019. His aim is to balance the virtues of both traditional and contemporary portrait painting.

The amateur artists

The amateur artists are
  • Sian Costello (Instagram) From Roscommon in Ireland. Painter studying at Limerick School of Art and Design. 
  • Chris Longridge (Instagram | Twitter) - Amateur because he's got "a proper job". Loved the bit during the episode where he confesses to being a TV journalist!! He's currently the Associate Editor of Digital Spy (and prior to that was a Senior Editor of Heat for six years).  He has a really interesting take on the similarities between interviewing celebrities and teasing out their characteristics and personality when painting their portrait. There again he does have a degree in social anthropology from the LSE! No art website that I can find. (He should get himself one - he's good!)
  • Louise Ann Saward (Instagram) - based in Liversedge, West Yorkshire. Graduated with BA Hons Degree in Fine Art from the University of Northumbria in Newcastle

The self portraits

Not one of the self-portraits was conventional. You can see all the self portraits in my album of photos on my Making A Mark Facebook Page.

The self-portraits which stood out for me were those by Dorian Radu and Julie Douglas - mainly because they were different. I particularly liked
  • Julie's side profile in the brass instrument - I've never seen that done before
  • the fact that Dorian had tackled his entire torso AND a background with perspective AND made it the Grand Hall of Battersea Arts centre where the heats took place last year!

The point about the self-portraits is that they NEED to be different - "ordinary" does not cut it. Plus because decisions about who makes the shortlist include the submission painting. Thus you are halfway to the shortlist as soon as you submit your application. Artists also need to demonstrate a consistency with the painting produced in the heat - and every shortlisted artist has been able to demonstrate that in recent times....

The Sitters

The artists are all competing to win a £10,000 commission to paint Nile Rodgers for the Albert Hall - which possibly explains why we might have more sitters with a similar skin tone. I say "might" because in this Heat it was 2 out of the 3 sitters!

The sitters in this heat were:
  • Noel Clarke 
  • Trevor Nelson MBE  - a British DJ,  presenter and pioneer of the urban music scene.
  • Ashley Roberts an American singer, dancer, actress, model and television personality who used to be a member of The Pussycat Dolls (an American pop girl group and dance ensemble)
[Next week's sitters are: Len Goodman, Tinie Tempah and Harriet Walter.]

Episode 2: Themes

Under-drawing vs straight in with a brush

An interesting conundrum faced by many artists is how to start to get accuracy in terms of size and features. Should you do a drawing first or get stuck straight in with a brush?

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Next time stop and think before you have a coffee at the Tate

Today the Tate garnered some of the worst PR for an art museum that I've seen in a while - except from those who hang stolen art and/or are run by people who are fraudsters.

It's not up there with the Sackler debacle (re the Opioid crisis  and stripping the Sackler name from various art galleries and museums) but it has invited an awful lot of ridicule. Twitter has been red hot and articles appeared as the story gained notice.

In a nutshell, the Tate proposes to pay a "Head of Coffee" more than it pays its curators.

The story started with a piece in The Times (see above). Since then the story has been highlighted on Twitter by:
Articles about the proposed salary have been in:
Alan Leighton, Prospect national secretary, told The Daily Telegraph: “The pay discrepancy highlighted is a stark reminder, not that the head of coffee is paid too much but that highly qualified museum professionals are paid far too little. Across the sector it is clear that roles which exist in other sectors are paid well, while heritage-specific roles are paid appallingly. This cannot continue. Without these qualified specialist workers there would be no galleries and no museums. It’s time that was recognised and those roles rewarded accordingly.”

The Tate side of the story

This is the article - Slot Roasting Collective - which is about the coffee created for the Tate - and ostensibly why they need to employ a "head of coffee". I gather finding supplies and quality control of their own in-house grinding operation is one that requires knowledge and expertise

I wonder whether it also requires first and second degrees and considerable experience to be paid much less than this in a curatorial role related to the principal purpose of the Tate.

Tate Coffee is produced as part of the Tate Commerce operation whose objective is to
maximise profits and extend the value of the Tate brand, to support Tate’s work and collection
However coffee grinding does not make it in the Tate's overall strategy and vision statement for its main purpose.

Instead Tate Commerce states
We will make our vision reality by being:
  • Customer focused – prioritising and championing the needs of the customer
  • Open – to new ideas and perspectives; to calculated risk; encouraging exchange and collaboration
  • Interdependent – building on the strength and uniqueness that Tate brings, without losing sight of the benefits of enterprise
  • Global – connecting with the world through products and publications
  • Sustainable – looking to the long term and demonstrating operational responsibility
My view is that
  • Tate has not learned the salary lessons which the BBC had to - about how an enterprise which receives state funding MUST demonstrate that comparability in relation to responsibility when grading jobs and awarding salaries. 
    • The BBC is in the midst of paying out millions of pounds in response to those who have asserted that they been treated unjustly in an employment context. 
    • I'm wondering what the staff at the Tate might start doing in the near future now the union is involved
    • Could the Tate end up paying out a lot more money on salaries for curators in the near future - or will they cut curatorial jobs to finance the salaries of curators' jobs catching up with the "head of coffee"
  • The coffee collective idea is nice - but I'd love to see the actual numbers and whether or not it actually contributes significantly to the finances of the Tate. Maybe the commerce operation needs to have its financial targets stretched - and some criteria for what it can and cannot do spelt out rather more clearly?
  • I also wonder what will happen if visitors to the Tate start boycotting the coffee?
  • When it comes to comparability..... The individual who is critical to sourcing wild coffee plants for the entire world - including literally finding it in countries around the world - works at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and is the husband of a friend of mine. I'm just wondering whether what he'll think about the salary in question......

and finally......

I'm waiting for the inevitable T shirts with the slogans
Nice coffee - shame about the management

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review: Episode 1 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2020

On Tuesday this week, the first episode of Series 6 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year was broadcast. The Heats of Portrait Artist of the Year were filmed in a brand new venue in April last year - in the main hall of Battersea Arts Centre.

Episode 1 in the Main Hall at the Battersea Arts Centre
Asa Butterfield being painted by three artists - one of which is the eventual heat winner

So we have some 72 very nervous artists around the country ( 8 heats x 9 artists in each heat) who have all been waiting for months to find out what they look like on television!

Nine found out how they came across on television on Tuesday night when the first episode of the sixth series was broadcast on Sky Arts - and made available via Now TV (see this post for how to access via Now TV)

About Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2020

The Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year competition ranks alongside the other prestigious UK Art Competitions covered by this blog.
  • It has been running for some years and this is the sixth series
  • It has a major cash prize of £10,000
  • It's commissioned by Sky Arts and broadcast on television 
  • The judges include leading figures in the art world - who are the same as for previous series:
    • award-winning portrait painter Tai Shan Schierenberg
    • independent curator, art historian and arts broadcaster Kathleen Soriano (currently Chair of the Liverpool Biennial and was previously Director of Exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts and Head of Exhibitions & Collections at the National Portrait Gallery) and
    • British art historian, curator and arts broadcaster Kate Bryan (who is also currently Head of Collections for Soho House)
  • There are three well known sitters for each heat. Sitters are young and older "celebrities" of varying degrees of recognition
  • The series is very popular with lots of aspiring portrait artists of various ages - not least because it offers the opportunity for an enhanced profile.
  • It also attracts artists who already have an established careers as artists and in some cases are well known and collectable portrait artists

This is the Facebook Page. You can also see artist profiles and speeded up videos of the portrait painting on this page

Call for Entries - you can check them out

For reference - for those interested in being part of this competition in future

The 2020 Commission - worth £10,000

The artists are all competing to win a £10,000 commission to paint Nile Rodgers for the Albert Hall - although none of them knew this when they painted in the Heats last year.

Other rewards available are the chance for the semi-finalists and finalists to exhibit their work in the competition at a central London Gallery - and sell it.

Plus the chance to get noticed irrespective of whether or not they win the Heat. This is, of course, where websites and social media links are quite critical - because nobody can contact you if you don't have a way of being contacted! (see below for how well they did on this score!)

Episode 1: The Artists, Self-portraits and Sitters

Designation as to whether artists are professional or amateur is entirely determined by the artist and can be completely meaningless. (see the profiles below to see what I mean). 

I do wish Sky Arts would provide some basic criteria for artists so that the designations are more meaningful and less misleading to viewers.

The professional artists

The four professional artists in Episode 1 are
  • Lee Boyd (Website | Instagram | Facebook) - graduated from the University of Ulster in 1993 specialising in Ceramics. He also qualified as a stone mason, has been a jewellery designer for an exclusive jewellery store in England and taught fine art, ceramics and sculpture up to degree level. Appeared on the BBC2 programme “Show me the Monet”. Worked in graphite in the heat.
  • Lauren Carter Bridges (Website | Instagram | Facebook) - born and bred in Bolton, she is a self-taught full time fine artist who specialises in portraitureTwo years ago she started a new initiative: The Artist Loft, family-run art space in Astley Bridge on the outskirts of Bolton. Lauren also participated in Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018.

  • Peter Holt - (website) A former illustrator from West Yorkshire. Has exhibited in the exhibitions of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and for the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize, ING Discerning Eye Prize and the Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Exhibition. He was elected as member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts in June 2019
  • Charles Williams - Artist, writer, lecturer, illustrator and Venice Biennale participant (Website | Instagram | Facebook) He 
    • BA Maidstone School of Art
    • graduated from the Royal Academy Schools in 1992
    • has a PhD on drawing 
    • a founding member of the Stuckist art group
    • has written two books about drawing and painting
    • has been elected to be a member of both the New English Art Club (1996) and the Royal Watercolour Society (2010)
    • spent a month working in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 
    • teaches in the Painting School of Canterbury Christchurch University Fine and Applied Art degree course in his native Canterbury.
    • Exhibitions include 23 solo exhibitions in London plus work in RA Summer Exhibition, Hunting Prize, Lynn Painter Stainers, Threadneedle Prize, The Marmite Prize, and Discerning Eye. Currently has an exhibition at and is doing a talk on Some New World: Artist Talk with Charles Williams at Canterbury Christ Church University (talk is on 30th January)
Williams' methodology is, to some extent, determined by the circumstances of his training - 1980s Art Colleges were the site of an ultimately futile battle between Abstract Formalism and figurative, representational ideas, both with their traditions and taboos, and he tries to synthesize them in his work. A keen observational draughtsman, Williams has published two books on working from observation, and several magazine series, but it seems to play little part in the work he exhibits.New English Art Club profile (I suggest maybe his NEAC colleagues watch the programme!)
Basically, the other artists were up against stiff competition in term of Charles's background and experience - although I'm guessing they weren't aware of this at the time.

I thought it was good to see a member of not one but two of the national art societies having the gumption to have a go in this competition.
I'd like to see more do likewise. That's a hint. The closing date is 7th February for the Heats this year!

The amateur artists

The five amateur artists in Episode 1 are

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 - Exhibition

Today, I finally visited the Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 Exhibition at the Clarendon Fine Art Gallery in Dover Street in London - and learned about aspects of the exhibition which are very beneficial for those who exhibit

It was impressive - particularly the exhibit of artwork by the winner and Landscape Artist of the Year - Fujiko Rose. (Facebook)

Artwork by Fujiko Rose

The exhibition includes artwork by semi-finalists and finalists. Of these artists, three artists have sold out and others have sold most of their work. More of this below.

I've uploaded images of the exhibition to an album on my Making A Mark Facebook Page - which anybody can see. Some of the images can also be seen below.

Things I noticed at the Exhibition

Llanthony Priory by Fujiko Rose

Fujiko Rose and Cathy Reddy (Facebook) both SOLD OUT. Both work in monochrome on paper - using ink and linocuts respectively.  Interesting! Who would have predicted that

Cathy Reddy's Linocut from Episode 1

James Murch's submission entry to the competition

Of the painters the most successful artist in percentage terms is James Murch who also sold ALL his work as well.

Patsy Moore and Sue England also sold some but not all their five artworks.

Commissions are, to my mind, what decides who wins the title and all the commissions were large and had a lot of impact - but Fujiko Rose's commission (priced at £5,000) was both stunning - and has sold!

What was also fascinating about her work was the paper she was working on - which was really interesting and looked handmade. I think it might be printmaking paper.

Things I learned at the Exhibition

Paintings by Sue England and Patsy Moore
The Clarendon Fine Art Gallery is a partner of Sky Arts. They
  • do a lot of the marketing and generate a respectable level of visitors - and buyers - to the exhibition
  • frame the artwork for the artists
  • do NOT take any commission for sales - which is a major benefit to anybody who makes it to the exhibition. 

Sales by Fujiko Rose totalled £10,500!  This is on top of the £10,000 commission of Venice for RIBA - so that a very good result for entering an art competition.
There will be no tour of the exhibition around the UK - so the exhibition is now finished.

More about Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 

This is my post about the Call for Entries: Landscape Artist of the Year 2020 (6th Series).

The deadline for submission of your digital entry is 17th April 2020 
- and entries are now being accepted online. 

Below is more about the episodes and learning points from Series 5 and Series 4

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Call for Entries - 5th Derwent Art Prize 2020

This is an overview of the Derwent Art Prize and how to enter this international art competition which
  • focuses on those who create artworks created in pencil or coloured pencils, pastel, graphite and/or charcoal
  • has £12.5k in prizes
  • PLUS two exhibitions of selected artworks in London and Paris.

Below are SUMMARY details of
  • the history of the Derwent Art Prize (and the brand name)
  • the exhibition details, prizes and selectors for the Derwent Art Prize 2020
  • how to enter - what you need to know and do to enter - the most important one of which is that entries must be received by 17th February 2020
In addition, all artists entering the Derwent Art Prize 2020 will be eligible to a 15% discount on all Derwent products(shipping not included).
  • This code will be sent to all applicants once the competition deadline has closed on 17 February 2020 
  • It will be valid from 18 February to 31 March 2020.  Please refer to website ( for products and our Terms & Conditions and for delivery information.

The History of the Derwent Art Prize

Derwent Art Prize at the Mall Galleries in 2018

The Derwent Art Prize was conceived in 2012.
The Derwent Art Prize aims to reward excellence by showcasing the very best 2D & 3D artworks created in pencil or coloured pencil as well as water soluble, pastel, graphite and charcoal by British and International artists.
BELOW are my blog posts covering the Derwent Art Prize in its first four outings. You can see the sort of work that was submitted and got selected in both the posts about the selected artists and those reviewing the exhibition.

4th Derwent Art Prize 2018

1278 artists from 64 different countries submitted a total of 3,299 artworks and 57 were selected for the exhibition.

3rd Derwent Art Prize 2016

2nd Derwent Art Prize 2014

1st Derwent Art Prize 2013

About Derwent and the Cumberland Pencil Company

The Art Prize carries the "Derwent" brand name of the Cumberland Pencil Company who in turn are part of ACCO (formerly Rexel).
  • The Cumberland Pencil Company was created in 1916 
  • The first Derwent colour pencil was introduced in 1938.
  • In 2008, the Cumberland Pencil Company left the old pencil factory in Keswick and moved to its new Pencil Factory on a site at Lillyhall, Workington.
  • The Derwent Pencil Museum maintains a presence in Keswick, where pencils first started being made in 1832 - after graphite was found in Borrowdale in the 1500s.
Derwent is very active in relation to other exhibitions besides this prize. It

Derwent Art Prize Exhibition and Prizes and Selectors

Artworks in the Derwent Art Prize Exhibition in 2018

The Exhibition

This year for the first time, selected works will also be displayed in France. Around 80 selected artworks will be on display at the following venues and dates

The Prizes

Prizes valued at £12,500 will be awarded to entries selected for the exhibition at the Private View at Gallery@OXO, London.

This year there are two Young Artist Prizes for entrants under 25.

The prizes are as follows:
  • First Prize £4,000 plus a year’s supply of Derwent products (Up to a monthly value of £50 - including postage)
  • Second Prize £2,000
  • Young Artist First Prize (For artists under 25 years) £4,000 *
  • Young Artist Second Prize (For artists under 25 years) £2,000
  • People’s Choice Award £500
In addition, all the First and Second prize winners will receive a special box of Derwent Lightfast Pencils. These pencils are resistant to prolonged colour change ensuring artwork will not fade for up to 100 years under museum conditions.

The Selectors

This year’s entries will be judged by a distinguished panel of selectors comprising of an artist, a critic and a curator

Artworks in the Derwent Art Prize Exhibition in 2018

How to Enter

Who can enter

  • Entries are invited from international artists

What can you enter

  • Artists may only enter once, with a maximum of 6 images.

How to enter

Information about the Derwent Art Prize
These are the links to:
The Derwent Art Prize has a

Online Entry

The Submission

Artists are required to submit the following:
  • The completed online entry form
  • Images of up to 6 recent works, in digital format (jpg, max. 2MB file size)
  • A non-refundable application fee

Entry fees

  • The entry fee is £15 for the first work and £5 for each additional work - which is very reasonable!
  • Artists under 25 years of age will pay £5 per work.


  • Monday 17 February 2020 (5pm GMT) - Deadline for entry
  • Monday 2 March  - Artists notified of selectors' decision
  • 6 - 17 April - Delivery of work (to Art Moves of Chelsea)
  • Friday 17 April - Delivery of work (in person to Art Moves of Chelsea, 10am-5pm GMT)
  • 22 April - 4 May 2020 - Exhibition opens to public at the Gallery@OXO in London
  • 12 - 17 May 2020 - Exhibition open in 20 rue Saint Claude in Paris, France

Monday, January 20, 2020

Hockney on Van Gogh and The Joy of Nature

I came across this video of David Hockney talking about Van Gogh and the pleasure of landscape painting. 

It was made by the Van Gogh Museum for an exhibition they had last year called Hockney - Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature
From 1 March (2019), the colossal works of David Hockney will be on display in the Netherlands. For the first time, this spectacular exhibition offers an extensive and colourful exploration of the common ground between the work of Vincent van Gogh and David Hockney.
So sad that nobody thought it might be a good idea to repeat it in the UK!

This is an essay about the two painters Hockney - Van Gogh Two Painters, One Love. The juxtapositions of two paintings - one by each of them - as you work your way through is fascinating.

compare and contrast paintings of landscapes by Van Gogh and Hockney

BELOW is a video of Hockney commenting on the works and words of Van Gogh - and his own work.
He's the first great colourist
He saw more than other people. He saw space very clearly

Do read this review of the exhibition Hockney-Van Gogh exhibition is ‘a tame, though colourful, bit of fluff’ for an example of art critic who needs a stern talking to. Turns out he's held some pretty influential positions - but not in relation to anything like the paintings produced by Van Gogh or Hockney! [UPDATE: Turns out he's journalist who now adds a middle initial T into his articles because he's not the same man as the one with had all the positions with galleries!]

There's a much better one published in the New York Times David Hockney Loves Van Gogh. This Exhibition Shows Why which draws some interesting comparisons in terms of the way they have both worked.

This is MY Review: David Hockney RA - A Bigger Picture - about the humongous exhibition of landscape drawings and paintings and film that Hockney had at the Royal Academy in 2012

Sunday, January 19, 2020

J.M.W Turner and The Vaughan Bequest

Every January you can see watercolour paintings by JMW Turner for free at:
  • the Scottish National Gallery - Turner in January 1-31 January 2020
  • Print Gallery, The National Gallery of Ireland - Turner the Visionary 1-31 January 2020 - 31 watercolours and drawings by J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851)

J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), The Doge's Palace and Piazzetta, Venice, c.1840.
Image © National Gallery of Ireland

This is due to The Vaughan Bequest. The paintings and sketches were bequeathed to the Galleries in 1900 by an English collector Henry Vaughan (1809–99) - see below
The Vaughan Bequest at the National Gallery of Ireland is a representative collection of Turner’s work on paper. Highly finished works, engraved for various print series, hang alongside evocative sketches from his annual tours of Switzerland and Italy. This collection, tracing the artist’s development, reveals his experimental style and enthusiasm for landscape.
Two paintings by Turner of Edinburgh
(left) Joseph Mallord William Turner Edinburgh from Calton Hill about 1819
(right) Joseph Mallord William Turner Heriot's Hospital, Edinburgh about 1819

In this video, Charlotte Topsfield, Senior Curator of British Drawings and Prints at the Scottish National Gallery, discusses the work of JMW Turner and his connections to Scotland.

The Vaughan Bequest 

Most people think that most of JMW Turner's artwork forms part of the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. This at the time (and since) was was the largest ever donation of works of art to the National Gallery. It includes around 30,000 sketches and watercolours, including 300 sketchbooks.

However a considerable number of watercolours also reside at the National Galleries in Scotland and Ireland due to Henry Vaughan (1809-1899) a bachelor and generous Victorian collector of art.

Vaughan's father has carried on a successful business as a hat manufacturer in Southwark and in due course made a fortune. This allowed Vaughan to indulge his love of watercolours. He met Turner in the 1840s and over time he developed a large collection of watercolour drawings, sketches and paintings by Turner which covered his entire career as an artist. When Vaughan died in 1899 he split the collection of Turner Watercolours in his collection and left them to the National Galleries of Scotland and Ireland and a number of other museums and galleries across Britain.

The reason why the exhibition are held in January is because Vaughan was aware of the need to protect watercolours from the damage which can be caused to both paint and paper by too much exposure to light.

Hence his will stipulated that the watercolours be ‘exhibited to the public all at one time free of charge during the month of January’.  At all other times the watercolours are to be kept accessible to viewers.

SEE AND READ MORE about Turner's Watercolours 

Where you can see Turner's artwork

The Turner Society maintains a list of all the larger collections in public museums and galleries throughout the world

In Tate Britain a selection of Turner watercolours is always on view but it must be stressed that other galleries do not usually have their Turner watercolours and prints on display. Appointments to see them should always be made in advance in order to avoid disappointment.
In the UK, these include:
  • The British Museum in London 
  • Tate Britain in London (which houses almost all the Turner Bequest: including over 20,000 watercolours and drawings - many of the latter contained in the 300 or so sketchbooks)
  • The National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin (36 watercolours and drawings)
  • The National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh (
  • The National Museum of Wales in Cardiff (17 watercolours)
  • The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (c. 100 Turner watercolours and drawings - mainly from the Ruskin Bequest) - the Ashmolean has only recently started to digitize its collection and the quality of the digital images is excellent.

Examples of Turner Watercolours in the Ashmolean's Online Collection
Examples of Turner Watercolours in the Whitworth Gallery's Online Catalogue

In the USA, these include:
  • Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut (a large number of watercolours)
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art (the second largest collection in the USA of Turner watercolours, drawings and prints, - mostly from the collection of Kurt Pantzer (1892–1979). 

Articles about The Vaughan Bequest collections

Friday, January 17, 2020

Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2020 starts on....

The new series of Portrait Artist of the Year 2020 starts on Sky Arts on Tuesday 21st January 8pm. Below are details of:
  • the dates for the televised episodes
  • the commission
  • reminders of the deadlines for entries for
    • Portrait Artist of the Year 2021
    • Landscape Artist of the Year 2020
    • dates of the current Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 exhibition

PAOTY 2020 at the Battersea Arts Centre
- and this happens to be the Heat I attended
and I know precisely who the artist in the centre is who has her back to us! :)

The sitters in the first episode on 21 January are Asa Butterfield, Micky Flanagan and Anjli Mohindra.

PAOTY Episodes

The backs of all the people watching the painters in the Semi Final of PAOTY 2020
- photographed last year by me at Battersea Arts Centre

Working on the basis that all episodes run consecutively, there will be
  • eight heats/episodes with nine artists in each heat - every Tuesday starting on 21st January
  • followed by a Semi Final of eight Artists on 17th March; and
  • a Final of three artists at the National Portrait Gallery on 24th March
  • Plus a final programme where the winning artist shows us how he or she tackled the commission (see below)
I sat watching the Series Trailer Video BELOW to see how many bits were from the heat I attended and whether I recognised any of the artists who got to the Semi Final or Final which I also attended. (Any 'revealing' photos of artists and sitters are sat safe on my hard drive until the episodes have aired!)

PAOTY Series Trailer from Storyvault Films on Vimeo.

The Commission

The winner of PAOTY 2020 will get be awarded a commission valued at £10,000 to paint Nile Rodgers - the American record producer, songwriter, musician, composer, arranger and guitarist and founder of Chic - for the Royal Albert Hall!

Which sounds a pretty fabulous idea and certainly explains one thing I noted about the heat I watched!


Portrait Artist of the Year 2021

The deadline for entries is Friday 7th February 2020
See Call for Entries: Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 for more details

You can watch the heats for this at Battersea Arts Centre on weekdays only between 24th March - 2nd April (ie. excluding the weekend).

Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 Exhibition

This exhibition is now on in London. Finalists from this series are exhibiting their paintings from the competition
Register your interest to attend the exhibition at (020 7499 0947)

Landscape Artist of the Year 2020 

The closing date for entries is 17th April 2020
See for more details in  Call for Entries: Landscape Artist of the Year 2020

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Making A Mark achieves 5 MILLION visits!

Making A Mark recently received its 5 millionth visit!

When you've spent most of the last year noting the the number of visitors to your blog is edging ever close to 5 million visitors, you feel pretty stupid when it zips past the 5 million mark and you didn't even notice!!

Making A Mark is also coming up to 15 MILLION PAGEVIEWS and I'm now determined not to miss that one!

5 Million unique visits between January 2006 and January 2020

So this is the chart of how Making A Mark achieved 5 million visits from both first-time and returning visitors.

It took five years to get the millionth visitor in April 2011 - see Making A Mark notches up 1 million visits.  

At that time these were the most popular blog posts
Here are ten of the most popular posts those million visits have been to:
  1. 10 Tips for How to Sketch People
  2. Van Gogh: Drawing media and techniques
  3. Composition - Principles of Design
  4. Composition - The Elements of Design
  5. Colour Schemes: Split Complementaries, Triads and Tetrads
  6. What is a still life?
  7. The influence of Japanese Art
  8. Which sketchbook?
  9. Flowers in Art... and Charles Rennie Mackintosh
  10. Major Art Competitions in the UK 2011 - a timetable
Back in April last year I wrote a blog post about how I managed to get to 1 million visitors a lot faster with my new website Botanical Art and Artists.

See 11 tips for how to get 1 million website visitors quickly for the explanation of how. It's my belief that traffic has arrived much faster because the site is a lot more focused and 'niche' compared to Making A Mark.

The 11 Tips (explained in the post) were:
1. Make your website very focused
2. Make every webpage very specific - make it a niche within a niche
3. Make every title very specific in terms of its topic
4. Provide a short summary of what each page contains at the top.
5. Make navigation very easy
6. Have a plan for how your website will develop
7. Use statistics to guide development
8. People look at images and read words - but really they scan both!
9. Write about what you know
10. Refresh and update a website regularly (use a blog)
11. Do link to relevant other websites - and encourage them to link back

The Making A Mark Story

Below are the number of blog Posts I wrote while triggering 5 million visits. Apparently I've written nearly 4,400 blog posts!  That's a lot of words - but I'm not going to start counting those!
► 2019 (174)
► 2018 (206)
► 2017 (191)
► 2016 (180)
► 2015 (218)
► 2014 (221)
► 2013 (275)
► 2012 (304)
► 2011 (288)
► 2010 (307)
► 2009 (310)
► 2008 (358)
► 2007 (393)
► 2006 (348)
I started out writing virtually every day - for three years.

Then started having one day a week off. I producing around about 300 posts each year or very nearly 6 blog posts a week. This continued (apart from when I was on holiday) until I started to write my book in 2014. 

Output dropped off while I wrote the book

It continued at the lower level of around 200 blog posts a year. Now I aim for between 3-4 blog posts a week on Making A Mark - but it's sometimes less and sometimes more.

So about half the output - but retaining about two thirds of the traffic. 

The lovely thing about having a very old blog - people come back for your archives as much as your new content. (You can access any of the old posts via the side column - using archives or keywords)

The reason for the reduced output on Making A Mark is because, after finishing my book, I developed two new "spinoff" websites in 2015 - which covered topics previously featured on Making A Mark 
So the blog posts related to those topics tended to go to the new sites and the traffic went with them - and then grew again on the new sites!  

In total, the visits I now get each year are as follows
  • Making A Mark - nudges towards 400k visitors a year.  
  • Botanical Art and Artists - over 500k visits a year
  • Art Business Info for Artists - approx. 200 k visits a year
Which means I'm now generating more than 1 million visits each year on all my sites!  Which I like to think requires rather more effort and is a little more meaningful than showing people pics on Instagram!

However I had no idea I was busting through the 1,000,000 visits a year benchmark until I sat down to write this post!  I'm feeling quite overcome!

I've still not got used to being recognised as I walk around London and visit art galleries - with the frequent exclamation of "You're Making A Mark!!!" - but it's always lovely to meet readers so please continue to say Hello if you spot me!