Tuesday, June 30, 2020

My top 10 portraits from BP Portrait Award 2020

What you see below is my choice of the ten portraits I liked the best in the virtual BP Portrait Award 2020. I've tried to pick up on themes I've commented on before - plus which portraits caught my eye and made me linger longer over the image

It's very difficult to review an exhibition which you can't see except via online images. I know from my many visits to the past exhibitions what a difference seeing a portrait in person is - compared to seeing it online. I have to say:
For the record I've chosen two heads, one head and upper torso (including hands) and the other seven are all full figures. Like I've said many times before, the good portrait painters are the ones who can tackle the whole body and not just the head.

NEXT BP Post: I'll be commenting more on the statistics from the exhibition in one more post - the analysis always makes for interesting reading.

1. Marriage by Jennifer McRae

Marriage by Jennifer McRae
The double portrait is of the artist and her husband, David, with the studio forming a third presence. The work required planning for the sittings to coincide with David’s own work schedule, but takes inspiration from Old Master artist self-portraits such as Diego Velázquez’s appearance in Las Meninas.
My favourite. I love Jennifer McRae's unique and impactful style of painting and almost everything she does - including this portrait.

Her style is so distinctive that I can spot her portraits from a very long way across the other side of a gallery.  Her ability to make oil look like watercolour (her other main medium) is amazing! I also like her warping of perspective to get everything in that she wants to include and her meticulous attention to the real portrait - of her paints!

About Jennifer McRae

  • Education: BA (Hons) degree in fine art painting from Grays School of Art, Aberdeen.
  • Exhibitions: Her work has been seen in solo exhibitions in the USA and UK and on numerous occasions in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and the Worshipful Society of Painter-Stainers exhibition winning the gold medal in 2019. Her work was previously included in the BP Portrait Award in 2009 and 2011, winning the Travel Award in 1999. Her portraits of Michael Frayn, Thelma Holt, Leonard Manasseh and Baroness Rebuck are in the Collection of the National Portrait Gallery. 
  • website: http://www.jennifermcrae.co.uk/

2. Kitty, the Teenage Baker by Mark Draisey

Kitty, the Teenage Baker by Mark Draisey
© Mark Draisey
My second favourite painting. I really liked this one because of the total believability of the individual and the beautiful colours and great textures. It just felt fresh and different.

The portrait is of the artist’s acquaintance, Kitty.
He says: ‘I first became aware of her in 2019 when, at the age of fourteen, she opened a pop-up bakery selling her home baked sourdough loaves and buns. Working with her father, they managed to raise the money to open a shop in South Oxfordshire through crowd funding, and every day they’re open, the stock completely sells out.’

About Mark Draisey

Mark Draisey worked as a professional cartoonist, caricaturist and illustrator for over 30 years - including designing puppet heads for Spitting Image. Currently works as a freelance illustrator for media companies and as a portrait painter.

Education: BA (Hons) degree in illustration at Brighton Polytechnic
Exhibitions: His work has been seen in the annual exhibitions of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. He was elected a member of the Oxford Art Society in 2019.
Website: http://www.markdraisey.com/

Friday, June 26, 2020

Call for Entries: Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition 2020

Entries from non-members are now welcome for The Natural Eye 2020 the 57th annual OPEN exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists

This is
an EXCELLENT exhibition which I very much recommend to those interested in wildlife art Review: 2019 Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists
paintings, drawings and sculpture from last year's exhibition

All images in this blog post are from the Annual Exhibition held in 2019.

You can see my much larger versions of photos of last year's exhibition in my album SWLA: The Natural Eye 2019 on my Facebook Page. You can also see images from previous exhibitions in all review blog posts listed at the end.

As I've previously commented
(the) annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists at the Mall Galleries is emphatically not an exhibition of photorealistic artwork. Review: Society of Wildlife Artists 55th Annual Exhibition

Call for Entries: 57th annual exhibition of SWLA

Three points to bear in mind at all times if 
  • you are thinking about or interested in submitting an entry 
  • whether for the first time OR you have submitted before but failed to get selected
  • experience of an animal can only have been gained from seeing it "for real" in the wild.
The (Selection) Committee is seeking work that evokes the spirit of the natural world and which reveals a personal experience or true understanding of the subject. Call for Entries
The (Selection) Committee is particularly keen to encourage all artists with fresh visions to submit work to the Annual Exhibition that shows imagination, artistic ability, originality and genuine creativity. Submissions - Guidance from the Selection Committee
The SWLA call for entries is administered by the Federation of British Artists at the Mall Galleries and you can find more information below and on their website

For full terms and conditions, click here.

Prizes & Awards (subject to final confirmation)

There are many prizes and awards available to win, including:
  • The Terravesta Prize: £2,000 for the best work exhibited
  • Birdwatch Artist of the Year Award: A prize of Swarovski equipment
  • RSPB Award: £500
  • Larson-Juhl Award: To celebrate drawing or dry media, draughtsmanship and capturing ideas as an art form. £500 worth of Larson-Juhl materials to the winner and a feature in their '4Walls' magazine (Larson-Juhl was formerly know as Arcadia)
  • Birdscapes Gallery 'Conservation through Art' Award: £700 split between the artist and a conservation charity of their choice
  • Dry Red Press Award: The winning work reproduced as a greetings card

Eligible artists

Any artist over 18 may submit.

Eligible artwork

The artwork MUST be of wildlife.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Google's NEW Blogger interface does not work properly!

The tech people at Google may be regretting the notion of revamping BloggerBelow I'm itemising the problems I've encountered. There may be more!

If you are an ordinary reader please excuse the VITRIOL - which is included in the hope that somebody from Google Blogger might read it!!

Below are two main faults 

  • poorly managed change process
  • very poor communication and very poor design
plus a section why the new interface is dysfunctional - which contains 
  • 10 points explaining what is wrong with the NEW BLOGGER interface

Poorly managed change process

It's a big mistake to change what works - without
  • a very good reason and 
  • a very good team to deliver that change 
  • a very good communication system for communicating the change
It's an even bigger mistake to announce - with a month to go - that 
  • a new interface is to become the default in a month's time 
That was the situation in May. We're now reaching the end of June and it would appear that 
  • the new Blogger is now the default
  • BUT somebody in Google Blogger has seen sense and the message saying that the system would remove the Legacy Blogger has been removed.
They better not remove Legacy Blogger because the system STILL does not work properly - and this post is being written in Legacy Blogger to preserve my sanity and keep my hypertension in check!

Very poor communication and very poor design

It's an even bigger mistake to be appalling at communicating about change - but that is what Google has succeeded in doing
Obviously Fontaine - who wrote the blog post - has had no training in communication because s/he/it LEFT OUT the critical information that Blogger users need to know until the penultimate paragraph (my bold of the critical information which is NOT ON THE DASHBOARD)
  • new interface becomes default in late June
  • Classic Blogger - now called "legacy") will disappear in July
This proposal frankly shows evidence inexperience, lack of awareness and ineptitude in equal measure.

How can you do away with a legacy system when THE NEW ONE DOES NOT WORK!!?
We’ll be moving everyone to the new interface over the coming months. Starting in late June, many Blogger creators will see the new interface become their default, though they can revert to the old interface by clicking “Revert to legacy Blogger” in the left-hand navigation. By late July, creators will no longer be able to revert to the legacy Blogger interface.
  • Plus in May we got a new banner on the dashboard
    • a month before the new interface becomes the default. 
    • That's the new interface WHICH DOES NOT WORK.  
    • It forgets to mention that the existing interface will disappear in July - despite the fact they do not have a fully functioning interface and it has NOT been tested with users.
  • BUT there is no HELP Page which explains how the new system works!!!
  • The Google Blogger Help Community - set up for Blogger by Google - is NOT MONITORED BY THE BLOGGER IMPLEMENTATION TEAM!!!!!!!
    • so we have huge numbers of people reporting various problems with the new interface
    • nobody from Google responding to them
    • just one blog post which highlights that they recognise there is a problem with images - but that's the only problem they recognise.
I know a number of my Readers use Blogger for their own blogs - in which case:
  • you will be interested to learn about why the new interface is dysfunctional
  • you may well become as worried as I am about the almighty cock-up already manufactured by Google

Why the new interface is dysfunctional 

Let me count 10 ways it does not work

1. IMPOSSIBLE to upload images from my computer

This is the big one. IT's improved somewhat - but is still not working for everybody.

What was happening is that you click the picture icon and say "I want to upload an image from my computer" and it triggers a large white box with a spinning wheel over a document icon - and momentary notice that it is unable to contacts Google Docs. Given the fact I had no intention of connecting to Google Docs this was very puzzling. It then got extremely boring because the spinning wheel never went away.

The latest is that a picture is uploaded and then does not appear.

So, currently, uploading images very much continues to be a problem for some - particularly those using Safari for a browser.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Art Galleries and Museums to reopen - with covid secure measures

This lunchtime it was announced that Art Galleries and Museums can reopen from 4th July 2020. However they will have to comply with ongoing requirements for social distancing for interiors.

At the same time the social distancing rule will be limited to something called "one metre plus" which seems to mean a minimum of one metre if two metres is not possible but try and do more than one metre.

The British Gallery in the National Gallery of Art

Art Galleries and Museums in London

Most of the larger arts venues fall under "step three" of the official lockdown plan. Step three relates to all those which are seen as "higher-risk businesses" either:
  • because they involve crowds of people in close proximity
  • or because it's know there is a much greater threat of Covid-19 transmission within enclosed spaces
Hence they were told that they could not legally re-open before July 4 - but that to be confirmed and today it has.

The Directors of the Tate, Science Museum Group, the Natural History Museum, the National Gallery, the British Museum and the V&A welcomed the news and issued a joint statement which said
“The British public have faced a wretched few months of isolation, loss and anxiety in confronting the Covid-19 pandemic,” they said. “The reopening of museums – whose galleries speak to the creative, resilient power of the human spirit – will provide solace and inspiration as Britain looks to the future.

All the following closed on 18 March 2020 and have now been closed for over three months.

Covid-secure measures

It's expected that it will be mandatory that all public spaces inside MUST follow they follow guidance to ensure they are "Covid secure"

The type of measures we can expect to see when the art galleries and museums reopen are:
  • minimise face-to-face contact by requiring customers to pre-book tickets, 
  • require the public to stand in spaced queues and to enter and leave through different areas. 
  • erect screen to minimise the risk to staff 
  • staff wear face visors
  • improve ventilation systems where these are problematic and/or fail health and safety tests re. circulation of Covid19 laden air.

Why no announcements?

It's been clear that moves were afoot to reopen art galleries and museums since the Director of the National Gallery returned and did a short video from inside the National Gallery a couple of weeks back.

As a result I'm really VERY surprised that nobody had their Press Releases sorted in advanced and ready to go when the Government announced the changes.

I'm wondering what's going on which means that none to date have actually announced they are reopening. I'm guessing representations are being made about money re. loss of income and the additional costs of reopening.

Tate Galleries - closed until further notice - or 4th July???

There is nothing on the websites of the following - which is surprising given they've known this has been coming for some time.
  • British Museum
  • National Gallery 
  • Tate Britain / Tate Modern
  • Victoria and Albert
  • Royal Academy of Arts - but they at least have announced changes to exhibitions for 2020/21 (see NOT The Summer Exhibition)
  • Wallace Collection
  • Dulwich Picture Gallery

Temporary Closures beyond 4th July 2020

Food and Drink

The hospitality side of the galleries and museums should also reopen BUT they are presumably under the same constraints as all other venues inside providing food and drink i.e. if you enter you must give your name and address for contacting.

Smaller commercial art galleries were successful in getting recategorised as non-essential retail and hence were allowed to open earlier - but have adopted an approach of "appointments only" + strictly limited numbers at any one time.

NOTE: Theatres and concert halls are able to reopen from July 4 but not for live performances. What do you do if not have a live performance? Show films?  I think this may come within the following
Permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Great Paintings of the World with Andrew Marr

Andrew Marr is currently telling the stories behind some of the world's greatest paintings by famous painters on Channel 5. 
works made with almost supernatural skills, fierce passion and extraordinary brainpower
Andrew Marr
The World's Greatest Paintings with Andrew Marr (on Channel 5)

I'd have missed it altogether if "he who must not be bored" hadn't spotted it and asked me if I was watching the series. On which basis I'm assuming a few other people may also not be aware that this series is currently available to view.

I very much recommend the series. Andrew Marr (who describes himself on Twitter as elderly amateur painter and presenter of the BBC1 Andrew Marr Show) is surprisingly good at both telling both the story and indicating his appreciation of the artwork. You also get to find out all sorts of details you never knew before.

How much of it is Marr and how much of it is research by art history experts is unclear - but the programmes certainly have a distinct Marr flavour to them. He's no stooge for the words of others.

It's also great for all those who will never ever get to the Museums in which you can find these paintings on view 

Great Paintings of the World

You can watch on Channel 5 at 6.15pm - 7.05pm on Saturday evening. If using on demand some are different timings e.g. 8.15pm

Paintings covered to date (plus the link to the episode on Channel 5 on Demand) are:
  • Episode 1: Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci (The Louvre) - The story of the portrait that attracts eight million onlookers every year, Da Vinci's the Mona Lisa - which didn't become famous until it was stolen in 1911
It’s hard to imagine Simon Schama devoting a programme to the Mona Lisa. Come on, she’s art’s queen of clichés, a tourist magnet drawing crowds to grab selfies. But snobbery be damned, because Andrew Marr opens his series on great paintings by properly examining why this modest portrait – not even his favourite work by Leonardo da Vinci, he says – has become the most recognisable work of art there is.

He does a good job, too, taking us back to the “culturally swaggering” world of Renaissance Florence, where Leonardo was in his 50s by the time he set about painting the young wife of one of his father’s clients. That sideways pose and direct gaze were revolutionary, we gather; the use of “sfumato” blurring around her mouth was the special effect that brought the about-to-smile half-smile to life; and it wasn’t until 1911 that the painting became a global celebrity – by being stolen. (Radio Times)

Screen capture from Radio Times which is devoting an article to each episode (so far)

With the last one I loved the fact he pointed out all the things wrong with the painting! For example - being painted the wrong way round - because the setting sun should have been on the other side of the painting if it was being towed up the River Thames to Rotherhithe (speaks woman who worked this out a long time ago given the fact she is regularly blinded by sun setting in the west at her home in Bow immediately north of Rotherhithe!)


Below is what I wrote when I thought the series was 10 programmes - but looking back now at Radio Times they've got it listed as a series of 3 programmes.

I'm now wondering if the discontinuity between the press release material I found (see below) and the reality is down to the Pandemic - and the rest will come later?

A new TV series is set to tell the story behind ten of the greatest painting in the world - but according to a new study, only six per cent of adults can correctly identify them. article about the new series (my bold)
PS They definitely had a trailer for the next episode re Picasso at the end of Episode 3 when I watched!!  Plus as you will realise the opening shots all involve the paintings listed below - strongly suggesting more episodes to come

I'll update again if I find out more.

Next week's episode is going to focus on The Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso (Tate Britain) - which is, of course all about Guernica and the model for the painting was Dora Maar who was his mistress between 1938 and 1944.

I'm speculating what the remaining seven "iconic paintings" will be. If the introduction to the series is anything to go by I'm expecting

Andrew Marr sat in the basement of L'Orangerie - viewing one of Monet's great paintings of water lilies

I'm absolutely certain one of the future programmes is going to be about Monet's Water Lilies at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris (because of the pics for the series). These paintings absolutely overwhelmed me and filled my eyes with tears the first time I saw them. I was incredibly lucky to see them for the very first time incredibly early one Saturday morning in the late 80s with nobody else in the room. I'd arrived in Paris on the Motorail from Provence (a service which is no longer available!). My visit to the water lilies was followed by a very nice lunch near the L'Orangerie and my driving out to Giverny to visit Monet's garden - and then to Calais for the ferry and back home to London.

A day I will never ever forget - I've got a very clear visual memory of it even now!

Anyway - back to the topic - I very much recommend this series of programmes and suggest you catch up with the first three episodes and then watch the rest. You won't regret it.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

NOT The Summer Exhibition

The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition is NOT the "Summer" Exhibition this year - because the event has been postponed not cancelled.

I'm guessing the main reason for NOT cancelling it is because its main purpose is to raise the funds to provide FREE places for art students at the Royal Academy Schools. Plus its the most popular exhibition each year.

So - instead it's postponed until the Autumn, although dates have not yet been announced.

This is what the press release has to say about changes in dates of exhibitions at the RA


Following the temporary closure of the Royal Academy of Arts due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the exhibition programme for the remainder of 2020 has changed. ....The Royal Academy’s reopening date will be dependent upon government advice.
Whilst the reopening date is still to be confirmed, the Royal Academy intends to: 
Due to the closure, the Royal Academy of Arts has unfortunately had to cancel two exhibitions: 
This was my blog post about the Call for Entries for the show this year - see RA Summer Exhibition 2020: Call for Entries (SHORT version)

Friday, June 19, 2020

Call for Entries: Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition 2020

The Royal Society of Marine Artists wants to see submissions of art inspired by the sea and marine environment for its annual exhibition in October 2020.
You can submit work inspired by the sea and tidal waters - shipping, sailing, harbours, beaches, creeks, coat and marine wildlife.
RSMA Annual Exhibition last October - A corner of the main gallery at the Mall Galleries
I've had a niggle for a while that there was a blog post I intended to do - but could not remember what it was. I'm sure there must be a condition called "lockdown brain" in which your "to do" list gets lost!

It turns out I was right. I've forgotten to do the Call for Entries for the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists - but have remembered just before the deadline for the call for entries!

As I indicated last year - there are three good reasons to consider an entry if you like painting anything marine-orientated
  • This is an exhibition which:
    • ALWAYS attracts a lot of people interested in buying marine artwork. 
    • ALWAYS has a LOT of decent prizes
  • In addition, in the past, prizes have been dominated by strong work by non-members - which is always good to see for those who submit work via the open entry.
they'd sold c.10% of their exhibition by the end of the first day it was open to the public my comment when posting photos of the exhibition to Facebook
You can see my photos of last year's exhibition on Facebook. They provide:
  • inspiration for those who can produce work in a tight timescale
  • confirmation for those not sure whether or not their work is good enough
  • information about standards for those seeking to be candidates for members
North Gallery - view of part of the annual exhibition last October

Call for Entries

This is an OPEN EXHIBITION which tends to display paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints.

Below you can find
  • a summary of how to enter the next annual exhibition.
  • a list of prizes
  • an archive of posts about past exhibitions - which contain a lot of images of the type of artwork that gets selected for exhibition.
You can also see two videos of the 2018 Exhibition on my (public) Facebook Page
Royal Society of Marine Artists - Annual Exhibition 2018 - in the Main Gallery (only) at the Mall Galleries.
Another VIDEO of the 73rd Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists. - a quick pan around the Threadneedle Space.

What sort of artwork can you submit?

The RSMA seeks submissions of art inspired by the sea and marine environment. It makes two statements about the scope
The RSMA seeks submissions of painting and sculpture that involve the sea and the marine environment, including harbours and shorelines, traditional craft and contemporary shipping, creeks, beaches, wildlife - in short anything that involves tidal water.
Subject matter must be essentially marine in nature, relating in some way to tidal waters of the world; topographical, historical, still life, and figure painting are all welcomed. Works relating to non-tidal rivers, inland lakes and waterways etc are not permissible.
In terms of media and size and number of works:

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Is "Artist" a non-essential job?

A Chart has been circulating on Facebook suggesting that an "Artist" ranks #1 in the list of Top 5 Non-Essential Jobs.

Cue apoplexy amongst many artists on Facebook!  

Much hurt all round Facebook who now feel people do not appreciate artists!

screendump from Facebook

Some of the more popular comments on my FB Page

Some of the more popular comments on my FB Page when I posted another version of the chart - (which had chopped an essential word from the top text
Considering everything we've been amusing ourselves with that's been keeping us all sane over the last while, I'd say artists should definitely be on the essential list
Considering everything you touch, sit on use has been designed by someone who started out at art school
I’m not trying to be greedy but I have two cleaning jobs and I’m an artist!! I’m an underpaid essential and an underpaid non-essential!! LOL And shouldn’t that read “delivery person”!!
Artists not important...Ha...then just take away all entertainment, go back to using DOS on computers, Burn all museums...all museums, burn most libaries, tear down many historical buildings, and so on...oh and all clothes on style sack and all colours gray. No patterns. The problem with being an artist is that we are so ingrained into part of society we are actually invisible. We are on par with the air you breathe.
Seriously though, like many have already pointed out, what sort of grey world do people want to live in with no film, tv, music, graphics, museums, galleries, clothes, shoes, ....oh I could go on! Who the hell even designed that page of the newspaper? A graphic designer....an artist! I despair!
Let them be for a week without books, radio, streaming music & video, games, telly... They'll kill each other
HOWEVER This is a bit more complicated than that - as I shall explain.

Why you should not get apoplectic too quickly

Stop and read the text at the top of the graphic - as I did when I saw the same poll on another FB account with a long textual explanation - rather than a quick quip

The author - Yan Neng - was one of the people who responded to the poll. 
It generated 179 comments and 788 shares!!

Now for the PUNCHLINE!
  1. This survey was of a group of 1,000 (only) people in SINGAPORE and was intended only to relate to Singapore.
  2. "The Sunday Times" in the headline is NOT THE Sunday Times (published in London) - rather it is the Sunday edition of The Straits Times - in SINGAPORE.
  3. It can only ever have been intended to relate to the current Covid context of SINGAPORE.
This is the text that many people did not see
The Sunday Times asks 1,000 respondents which are the jobs which are most crucial in keeping Singapore going, and also how much people will pay for essential services so that workers in the sector may get a wage boost
The purpose of the poll was all about identifying those who people would be willing to pay more to RIGHT NOW - to make sure they got their essential service.  

By including the non-essential jobs, they muddied the water and the reception it got online - as artists became more and more incensed.....

In addition, the author of the FB post I saw provided an explanation of the survey 
I'm not gonna lie. I’ve friends who are artists who are hurt by this survey and I do feel guilty, but I don’t think my answers will change.
We weren’t told the purpose of the survey is a frivolous article; it came off like it was a government survey trying to suss out if they should implement some sort of minimum wage. And come on, when you place people who handles the garbage disposal next to an artist, how could I rank both as equally essential? The former, I need everyday; the latter, I love art and can enjoy the art they’ve already made everyday.
In my mind, there were also a distinction between a pure artist and a designer when I was doing the survey. I thought about performance artists who sat in an exhibit holding people’s hands, or people who painted on an easel. While their work can be amazing (I’ve been touched by such art), I don’t know how essential it is right now in today’s Cov19 context.
With regards to the minimum wage impression, I also didn’t feel inclined to pick workers who were already more appreciated in their day to day as “essential” (HR managers probably earn more than a cleaner).
Keep in mind, these professions were given to us as choices — it wasn’t as if the surveyees spontaneously suggested artists as inessential.
EDIT: after some discussions below, I just wanted to add I also think there's also a difference between "essential" and "valuable". I'm a writer and I'll gladly admit I'm not essential in today's context and climate. However, I do find my work *valuable*. Whether or not my work is essential has no bearing on the value my work brings. The survey asked for "essential" and I did the survey keeping "essential" in mind. This term was defined in the survey: "we mean someone who is engaged in work deemed necessary to meet basic needs of human survival and well-being, such as food, health, safety and cleaning".
 Here are some of the comments he got.
if you are willing to brave the storm of angry people possibly coming at you, post it as a shareable status.
At the end of the day, this is just data. Data of public perception of artists and not the inherent worth of artists. It's feedback lor.
And this feedback means that we/Artists still have a lot of work to do to bridge public perception and sentiments.
There's a difference between essential and important.
For example. Sex is arguably not an essential part for a person's existence. But I don't think people are going to deny it's importance.
I think there's nothing wrong with what you did. Artists are always going to be necassary and important but like many others, not essential. The point of the article was to focus on the underpaid but i feel by adding in the top 5 non essentials, it has really diluted the point of the article.
It's an interesting phenomenon and perspective. 

Artists may be valuable - but in the context of the Pandemic the population at large (in Singapore) did not regard them as "essential" to daily life.

Monday, June 15, 2020

UPDATE: Fine Art Transport Services and Couriers in the UK in 2020

I've spent some time today updating the UK Art Movers & Couriers & Fine Art Transport Services on my Art Business Info for Artists website (Ship Art section).

As part of my review of matters relating to the Recession, I wanted to check the current status of current providers of transport services for fine art.
Changes made include:
  • CHECKING on current information provided and revising as required. (I've not quite finished)
  • ADDING IN new providers - some new sole traders and private limited companies offering to pack/move art around the UK
  • ADDING CAUTION NOTES - in relation to their current trading status and/or compliance with UK ecommerce regulations
I'm also looking for some help in keeping this page updated throughout the year - in order to avoid artists getting caught out by a business in the process of going under.  (please see the end).

Basic data checks and compliance checks re. regulations

I now check each service against a set of criteria - and a number of the services have noticed and have started to address their shortcomings!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

National Portrait Gallery not reopening - until 2023

The National Portrait Gallery is now closed for three years - until at least Spring 2023.

However there is some GOOD NEWS - SEE BELOW! - concerning:
  • Inspiring People Project
  • Collaborations with regional museums and galleries on future displays of key works
  • The Really Good News re.
    • David Hockney exhibition
    • BP Portrait Award

No more portraits on view at NPG Gallery for 3 years

It was always intended that the Gallery would close for its ambitious rebuilding project at the end of June 2020. So the announcement yesterday that the Gallery will not now be reopening for the rest of June came as no surprised - but means no more portraits for three years!

My concern right now is how  the pandemic will affect the length of the building project. 
  • It might start on time - and it may not. 
  • It might take the original planned length of time - but it may not 
In addition, my career experience (of major building projects taking three years) is that if it's a big project on a major site with major access issues then the project very often slips and is often not finished by the target date. That's not me being negative - that's just me relaying my experience of such projects - and I've known a few!  (I'm also wondering whether the cut through from Cass Arts to the back of the National Gallery will remain open for the duration)

So be aware and prepare for the fact it MAY be more than three years before we can visit the National Portrait Gallery again

Inspiring People Project 

When we do we'll be entering via a different entrance - located on the north side of the building and looking across a more spacious area and up Charing Cross Road.

The new entrance looking north up Charing Cross Road

direction of approach to new entrance to the National Portrait Gallery

You can see more about the building project on the NPG website - see Inspiring People. It will be biggest ever development since the building in St Martin’s Place opened in 1896.

Friday, June 12, 2020

The Pandemic Recession: Likely Impact on Art Sales and Artists

In this post I'm beginning to set out an overview of what I think are key issues for artists during The Pandemic Recession. It includes some background reading and covers
  • the biggest drop in economic history since records began
  • the impact on art sales and artists
  • lessons for artists from the 2008 recession 

The biggest drop in economic growth since records began

Below is proof positive that we are very definitely going in a recession despite the fact we've not yet got to the actual point of being able to define a recession i.e. a recession is when growth in the economy falls for two quarters in succession. Technically this is when GDP falls for two three-month periods - or quarters - in a row. (NOTE: The recession will have a different profile in different countries. I tend to talk about the UK because that's where I live)

I know of no better way of persuading people that this recession is very serious than this trend line which was published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this morning (SEE GDP monthly estimate, UK: April 2020 if you want the full story). 
  • The trend line for UK GDP goes from January 1997 to the present. 
  • The little blip in the middle is the global banking crisis of 2008 and the aftermath. 
  • The big vertical line on the right is April - when UK GDP dropped by the biggest ever amount since records began.
There has been nothing like this ever before in economic history! That's how bad this is.  Note also it's bigger then the drop that the economic statisticians NOT employed by the government were predicting!

Source: Office for National Statistics – GDP monthly estimate

The impact on art sales and artists

The major implication for artists of the recession is going to be a BIG REDUCTION in available cash to spend on art - which makes selling art a major challenge i.e.
  • No matter what you do you cannot make people spend what they have decided to save - the biggest mistake any professional artist can make is to assume that somehow they have "the magic answer" or are uniquely exempt from either the recession or the constraints within the marketplace.
  • People throughout the economy will conserve their cash during a recession - because they don't know whether they will lose their jobs / businesses until we come out the other side of the recession. It's a very sensible strategy - for them. 
  • Demand for art - and sales of art - will drop significantly because
    • those who budget for art purchases will withhold or reduce the amount they spend on art. 
    • middle range buyers disappear - for a long time (this is what happened in 2008). Keep a very close eye on what sells at what prices.
    • impulse buys of lower priced art will reduce significantly on the front end of the recession and recover slowly
  • Avid art collectors devise means to keep collecting - within their budget
    • buyers substitute eg people switch to prints from paintings and/or buy smaller works - or rearrange all the art on their walls so it feels different until they feel like dipping their toe in the market again (guess what I did this week!)
    • overall initially lower priced art tends to sell better than middle range art (check out the The Artist Support Pledge with a ceiling of £200 - which has generated has generated an estimated £20 million for professional artists and makers across the globe)
  • Specialist genres with a major fan base do much better than generalists - but still typically experience a decline in income i.e. it's not the same for everybody
    • specialist art genres cope better because their fans are faithful - and artists already have a following
    • generalists tend to get hit hard i.e. those not known for anything in particular and who have no following. A "scattergun" approach to painting lots of different subjects does not create a following.
    • professionals with difficult subject matter have limited their market from the outset - and response to their art may be idiosyncratic
    • it's time for professional artists to review the type of art they create going forward
  • Art galleries will close (forever) - meaning fewer places to exhibit art when the recovery comes - leading to a longer recovery time for artists. Essentially this is because an awful lot of gallerists are people who lack business skills and don't consistently maintain an adequate reserve of working capital.  Check out the back stories of those who move over into art dealing at art fairs etc - if they couldn't manage the money last time, it's more than likely they won't be good at managing money going forward. 
The one exception to the gloom and doom is art sales at the very top end of the market - where art is typically bought and sold by people why people with extreme wealth who are, on the whole, resistant to recession fallout. However those reading this blog are typically not in that league so I will ignore that phenomena.

Lessons for artists from the 2008 Recession

...in my view, artists are also most likely to avoid problems and/or achieve success if they are well-informed about the market they are operating in. Recognising problems that you might be facing is the first step to dealing with them. (Me - commenting back in 2008!)
Back in 2008, I wrote a number of posts writing posts about how artists can meet the challenges presented by the current state of the economy then. 

Some suggested I was being unnecessarily pessimistic at the time - but in the end that did not turn out to be the case. (I have a very good track record in "reading the runes"!)
  • Many of the blog posts are as relevant to day as they were then - albeit the circumstances are different
  • I'd suggest a bit of reading would do no harm - particularly for those artists who have zero experience of what it's like selling art in a recession.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Diana Armfield Timeline on her 100th Birthday

Diana Armfield RA, HRWS, HRCamA, RWA(Emeritus), HNEAC, HPS, MSIA celebrates her 100th Birthday today. She was born on 11th June 1920.

She is a British artist who is well known for her drawings and paintings of landscapes - particular rural landscapes in Wales and urban landscapes and interiors in Venice. She's also drawn and painted a lot of floral still life as well as portraits.

I know I've made a point of photographing her artwork every time I've seen it and have looked back through my archives to see what I'd got to celebrate her birthday.

Diana Armfield at the RA Summer Exhibition 2019
- I didn't even have to look up the catalogue numbers to check!

Back in 2012 I wrote a very detailed appreciation of her - see Diana Armfield RA, RWS - an appreciation.
  • First off, she draws wonderfully well - with a very sensitive line.
  • Next she's a big user of pastels but uses them with very few strokes and a light touch...
  • ...she produces stunning pastel drawings in a sketchy sort of way - which of course is another reason I like her work
  • She's the inspiration behind my sketches of interiors with people - often in the middle of a nice meal!
  • She's not wedded to one media. I love her painting as well in oils, watercolour and gouache. I like her dabs and dashes and beautiful modulations of colour.
  • She draws and paints the bits of Venice that nobody else seems to paint
  • I always find her people very believable and love her drawings of women talking. They speak of quiet observation of real people.
Today NEAC published their 'birthday card' to her see Happy 100th Birthday, Diana Armfield!

BELOW you can read a summary about her timeline of 100 years - brought up to date from the one published in 2012.

Timeline: Diana Maxwell Armfield, RA, HRWS, HRCamA, RWA(Emeritus), HNEAC, HPS, MSIA

Her photo portrait on the RA website


  • 11 June 1920: born in Hightown, Ringwood, Hampshire. She was younger of two daughters of Joseph Harold Armfield, a Quaker who was the director of the Vale of Avon Iron Works, and his wife, Gertrude (née Uttley).
  • 1949 - married Bernard Dunstan who she met at the Slade School of Art and lived in a studio at the bottom of the garden of her sister's house at 7 Lambolle Road, Belsize Park
  • 1950 - birth of their first son - and they moved to the upstairs flat!
  • 1952 - birth of their second son - and they moved to Kew (where she has lived ever since)
  • her close association with Wales (and her Welsh landscapes) began when her parents gave her the house, Llwyn Hir, in Parc, near Bala, in Gwynedd,
  • 20 August 2017 - Widowed when Bernard Dunstan died as the longest serving RA Member (see Bernard Dunstan RA PPRWA NEAC (1920 - 2017) | Making A Mark)
Drawings and Paintings by Bernard Dunstan and Diana Armfield 
hung at the RA Summer Exhibition 2017 two months before Bernard died.
Diane features as Bernard's muse in some of the paintings and drawings


    • Bedales School
    She attended Bedales, a co-educational independent school in the village of Steep, Hampshire, and there she studied art with the inspiring teacher, Innes Meo.
    • Bournemouth School of Art (one year)
    • Slade School of Fine Art (during its evacuation from London to Oxford)
    In 1942, she left the Slade without taking her diploma in order to undertake war work as a Cultural Activities Organiser for the Ministry of Supply.
    • 1947 - took up place at the Central School of Arts and Crafts
    Studying under Bernard Adeney and Dora Batty in the textile department, she soon founded her own textile company with fellow student, Roy Passano. They involved themselves in all stages of the process from design to sales, and showcased the results at galleries in South Molton Street (1947 and 1948) and at the Artists’ International Association.

    Artistic Activities

    She started her career in textile and wallpaper design in partnership with Roy Passano; they contributed to the 1951 Festival of Britain and examples of their work are in the permanent collection at the V&A.
    • 1958 - designed wallpaper patterns for Cole & Son, Lightbown Aspinall and Shand Kydd, as well as John Line & Sons.
    • 1959 - began teaching at the Byam Shaw School of Art - initially drawing and then painting as well.
    Bernard quickly made me an easel box and we went to Arezzo in Tuscany together for two weeks, painting every day. I’ve never looked back!’(quoted in Fairweather 2013).
    • 1959 - 1965 - combined designing and teaching
    • 1965 - began painting full time and exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
    • 1970 - elected a member of the New English Art Club
    • 1973 - becoming an Associate Member of the Royal Cambrian Academy 
    • 1975 - became a member of the Royal West of England Academy
    • 1979 - she became a gallery artist with Browse & Darby in Cork Street - which was at the time the equivalent of mecca for all London Galleries 
    Paintings by Diana Armfield at Browse & Darby
    • 1985 - Artist in Residence at Perth, Australia
    • 1989 - Artist in Residence at Jackson, Wyoming, USA in 1989.
    • 1 June 1989 - Elected ARA
    • 1989 - she was commissioned by HRH the Prince of Wales to paint the interiors and gardens of Highgrove, his home in Gloucestershire.
    • 26 June 1991 - Elected a full member of the Royal Academy of Art 
    • 1996 - became a full member of the Royal Cambrian Academy
    • 1997 - joined the list of Retired Members of the Royal Cambrian Academy
    • 2002 - she was interviewed for posterity and these records now form part of the aural archive at the British Library. (TIP: If you go to https://sounds.bl.uk
      you can go to the Search box directly or after selecting Arts, literature and performance. Entering the keyword Armfield (or Dunstan) takes you at once to her (or his) recordings. She has 54 half-hour recordings)

    Pastel sketch of lambs by Diana Armfield


    Since 1965 Diana Armfield began to exhibit regularly at the Royal Academy and subsequently at the Mall Galleries, Bankside Gallery and Albany Gallery (Cardiff), amongst other venues at home and abroad.

    She has also had solo shows at Browse and Darby in Cork Street, London since 1979 - and has many faithful collectors.

    Recent Solo Exhibitions

    Diana Armfield at the Royal Watercolour Society in 2011
    • 2015-16 Royal Academy of Art - A joint show was held with Bernard Dunstan 
    • 2013 Mall Galleries, London
    • 2011 - she was the featured artist in the RWS Spring Show 2011 at the Bankside Gallery
    • 2010 Browse & Darby, London - held an exhibition to mark her 90th birthday
    • 2006 Albany Gallery, Cardiff
    • Browse & Darby, London
    • 2005 New Academy Gallery, London
    • 2004 Sheen Gallery, London
    • 2001 Royal Cambrian Academy, Conwy
    • Albany Gallery, Cardiff
    • 2000 Browse & Darby, London
    • 1999 Bedales Centenary Exhibition, London
    Hellebores at Christmas - at the NEAC Annual Exhibition 2019

    Selected Collections

    • Victoria & Albert Museum, London (Textiles)
    • Government Art Collection
    • Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
    • Yale Centre for British Art
    • Contemporary Art Society for Wales
    • British Museum (RWS permanent collection)
    • Lancaster City Art Gallery
    • Faringdon Collection
    • Commissions
    • Reuters
    • National Trust
    • HRH Prince of Wales: Paintings of Highgrove
    • Contemporary Art Society for Wales
    Her paintings can also be found online at Art UK

    Selected Publications

    My copy of "The Art of Diana Armfield"
    I highly recommend the book "The Art of Diana Armfield" to anybody who likes sketchy drawings and paintings which display really good draughtsmanship, life and some beautiful use of colour and tonalities.
    • The Art of Diana Armfield, Julian Halsby, David & Charles, 1995
    • The Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide to Painting in Oils, Diana Armfield, 1982
    • The Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide to Drawing, Diana Armfield, 1982
    • Drawing (A Mitchell Beazley handbook), Diana Armfield, 1983
    • Painting in Oils: A practical step by step guide (A Mitchell Beazley handbook), Diana Armfield, 1983

    Wednesday, June 10, 2020

    It's time to talk recession - and what next!

    The Covid-19 Pandemic to date has made economic survival very difficult for a number of artists.  However the coming Global Recession is going to make life difficult for a lot more artists - all around the world.

    It's time to take stock and think about what this means - in the short term and the next 2-3 years.

    This post focuses on:
    • how I'm going to try and help in the coming weeks / months / years
    • how you can contact me - with suggestions and queries and ideas
    • current predictions about a global recession

    The OECD published its Economic Outlook report today.
    • This provides forecasts for the scope and size of the recession 
    • The last section below deals with those predictions - and the nuance of the one hit or double hit recession.
    • It focuses on how long this recession and period of uncertainty will last

    OECD Projected REDUCTION in GDP in countries across the world (i.e. national economies contract)

    Making A Mark - The Way Forward

    I'm proposing to write a number of posts in the coming days and weeks
    • focused on how to help artists survive and thrive - for example
      • what to cut
      • what to improve
      • what to build
    • creating checklists of things to think about and do - in relation to creating / marketing / selling / being business-like
      • as an artist
      • as an art teacher
      • as an art gallery
      • as an art co-operative
      • re. art fairs
      • re. exhibitions and competitions.
    I'm inviting you to SHARE WITH ME:
    • the strategies you have used in the past which WORKED (eg 10 years ago re the banking recession). I can certainly remember some of the things which happened then which I'd recommend people do think about or don't repeat!
    • the dreadful mistakes you've made in recessions in the past and definitely will NOT be repeating this time around.
    • the innovation you want to embrace
    • the new initiatives and approaches you're thinking of creating / following
    • how you cope with uncertainty
    Essentially I want to help in any way I can to share learning from the past - and creativity re. the future.

    I'll also be on the lookout for helpful blog posts and articles written by those active in the art economy - whether they are artists, art dealers, art galleries, art fairs or whatever.

    You can share contributions - or ask questions you want the answers to - with me via:
    I'm pondering on setting up a community linked to one of the pages (probably the Art Business Info for Artists FB Page) to enable artists to share what they need help with and what they are doing to address the various challenges.

    The Global Recession - cannot be ignored!

    The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis without precedent in living memory. It has triggered the most severe economic recession in nearly a century and is causing enormous damage to people’s health, jobs and well-being. 
    OECD’s latest Economic Outlook
    What follows is not a pleasant read. However in order to plan to cope with the recession you need to know what's coming at you.

    I'll talk more in future posts about very specific issues you will need to address in relation to the business of being an artist - based on what we know happened in the last major recession.

    Get on and do!

    I firmly believe that the most pragmatic way forward is to 
    • understand what we are facing and 
    • make plans accordingly - for at least the next two years that this Recession will be felt.
    I predict that:
    • All artists who ignore the coming recession may well not survive it and will also become impoverished in the process
    • However, start making realistic plans now and you may well come out the other side intact.

    The Nature of the Global Recession

    Today the the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published
    The world economy on a tightrope

    Conclusion #1: The global outlook is highly uncertain

    This is the projected decline in real GDP as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic for the seven countries which make up 

    The darker colour relates to the additional impact (i.e. additional decline in GDP / deeper recession) if a second peak occurs in a significant way. (i.e. why it so important to prevent that from happening!). The one thing that is certain is that the deeper the decline the longer it takes to climb back out of it.

    FOR ARTISTS: the significance of this recession, how deep it is and how long it lasts relates essentially to the buying power of their customers in the marketplace. Sales of art - except at the wealthy end of the market - took a deep dive in the last recession and very many art galleries also closed. There's no reason to suppose the same will not happen this time.

    This is the outlook for the G7 countries

    BELOW is the outlook for the OECD countries - Spain is the worst affected and Korea is the least effected.

    The outlook for countries across the world appears at the top of this blog post.

    The projected reduction in GDP in OECD member countries

    Those taking the biggest hit are the economies with a significant part of their economy dependent on the service sector. Another way of looking at this is those aspects of the economy which are discretionary as opposed to essential.

    Conclusion #2: Amid high uncertainty, two scenarios are possible

    The two scenarios are:
    • Double-hit scenario: A second wave of infections hits before year-end
    • Single-hit scenario: A second wave is avoided
    Overall, economise with not return to the level of performance enjoyed in Quarter 4 of 2019 for at least two years.

    Conclusion #3: Unemployment is soaring

    Many countries have introduced support measures to protect jobs in the near-term in hard-hit sectors, but young workers in particular are vulnerable.
    In the second quarter of 2020 (April - June 2020) the predicted unemployment rates - as a percentage of the population are:
    • USA - 17.5%
    • OECD - 11.4%
    • UK - 11.2%
    Unemployment is predicted to continue to increase in Q3 (July - September 2020)

    If a second peak occurs this is likely to be towards the end of the year and could have very serious implications for unemployment in Q4 (October - December 2020). Assuming a second peak occurs, unemployment rates are predicted to run at:
    • USA - 16.9%
    • OECD - 12.6%
    • UK - 14.8%
    Unemployment is predicted to remain high throughout 2021 - and much higher than pre-Pandemic days.

    Conclusion #4: Strong fiscal support is warranted but it has consequences

    Public debt will increase very significantly - and at some time this had got be paid back - which may have implications for tax rises and cuts in services.

    Conclusion #5: OECD and emerging economies face RECESSION and UNCERTAINTY

    The global economy is now experiencing the deepest recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s, with GDP declines of more than 20% and a surge in unemployment in many countries. Even in countries where containment measures have been relatively light, early data are already making clear that the economic and social costs of the pandemic will be large. Growth prospects depend on many factors, including how COVID-19 evolves, the duration of any shutdowns, the impact on activity, and the implementation of fiscal and monetary policy support. Uncertainty will likely prevail for an extended period. Given this uncertainty, two scenarios have been developed to reflect the possible evolution of the global economy. In the double-hit scenario, it is assumed that renewed shutdowns are implemented before end of 2020, following another surge of the COVID-19 virus.

    The long road to recovery

    Just as the Pandemic is not yet OVER, this is not going to be "just a blip" in art sales. 

    I believe we're going to be facing a very different art economy over the next two years. 

    It's going to be a long road to economic recovery. My take on the nature of that economic recovery to date is that
    • It's going to look pretty different - and that 
    • We may well see a number of strategic shifts in how the economy - and the art economy - operates in future.
    • Artists will need to be nimble in their thinking and on their feet. 
    Are you ready to start addressing these very important issues?