Wednesday, September 08, 2021

REVIEW: David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020

This morning I went to see David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 at the Royal Academy of Arts. Below are some notes I made while in the exhibition - of assorted thoughts it prompted.

It was the earliest time I could view and the ticket has been on my wall for months! The exhibition finishes on the 26th September and I'd be very surprised if there are any tickets left. 

It's moved from the galleries where they normally hold the Summer/Winter Exhibition (because of the hang for 2021) to The Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries in the Burlington Gardens part of the Royal Academy of Arts. It appear they've maybe been hung closer together than in the video below of the hang in the main galleries.

You can find the preamble introducing the exhibition on the RA website - and new the works  in this video

You can also download a large print guide of the paper publication you collect on going into the exhibition. This provides dates for th artworks but not times of day- which I think he did in previous exhibitions

Notes on an exhibition by David Hockney

There are no paintings in conventional art media - they are all done in digital software on his iPad.  There are 116 works in total.

These are the images released as press pics - but to be honest while some are good they don't include the best ones. See if you agree with me when you watch the video.

All works by David Hockney. © David Hockney

Clockwise from top left: No. 125, 19th March 2020. iPad painting. No. 340, 21st May 2020. iPad painting. No.186,11thApril2020.iPadpainting. No. 118, 16th March 2020. iPad painting. No. 316, 30th April 2020. iPad painting. No. 88, 3rd March 2020. iPad painting.No. 370, 2nd May 2020. iPad painting. No. 259, 24th April 2020. iPad painting. No. 133, 23rd March 2020. iPad painting.

The sum of the part

The exhibition is greater than the sum of the parts and it's a mistake to look at them as individual paintings

The impact of seeing them hung - in themes or series - close together on a wall reminds me of exhibitions of Monet's Haystacks (see Monet's series paintings - stacks of wheat (2008) - from which the following quote comes)
Monet was adamant that the series of paintings had an aesthetic quality of its own and that the value of the paintings could only really be appreciated when they were all seen together.
The artworks present well on the background of a dark teal wall. Some would look like quite insipid on an ivory or light coloured wall - but with a dark background they have more impact.

The series I liked the best included:
  • The nocturnes - with very bright moons and deep blue skies - which interestingly were not hung together
  • the blossom - trees / branches
  • plants in pots - indoor and outside (eg 15 and 18 daffodils outside and in bowl indoors)
  • pond paintings
  • paintings of rain

Monet and series paintings in Normady

It then occurred to me that one of the features of Hockney is that he has at various times reflected on various great artists of the past and created his own interpretation of their works.

It struck me that it's no coincidence that he did these in Normany which is Monet's "home turf" - and that Monet was particularly given to creating series of paintings of the same motifs - seen in different weather / seasons / time of day

A number of the motifs in this exhibition are portrayed in a similar way.

Seeing pictures 

One of Hockney's skills is the ability to "see pictures". A lot of what he's portraying is of absolutely no consequence. Indeed many have commented that his paintings are similar.

I think those critical of the iPad paintings in this exhibition forget two things:
  • his age - there are very few artists who continue to create as well a they did in the past as they near he end of their life
  • the context - However at a time when the world turned upside down, recording the simple and the familiar and looking closer at nature is something a lot of people did to help keep a grasp on what is real. (I took to posting my photos of plants every day on my Facebook account - from the same date in the past - to keep a grasp on the world outside when we were locked up at home - when Hockney was creating these artworks. Today I posted #492).
What I noticed was that some of the subjects he took great care over - the notable examples being the trees in full blossom - while others which held less interest (bare trees with no foliage) seemed to receive less attention. 

No 57 was particularly joyful and I was surprised not to see it chosen as an image for the postcards.

The colour of skies

I realised partway round how important the colour of the sky was to some of the images and what a variety of colours he had used for skies


He uses the mark-making available in his Brushes software - but I sometimes want to see him experiment more with available software to see what else it can do.... 

The mark-making hasn't really changed over the last decade. Which is a pity.

The visitors

A very white set of visitors in terms of both skin and hair. It's always interesting to see what older ladies think is appropriate dress for a Hockney exhibition at the RA - but then right now, an expedition into central London is something to appreciate and I dare ay a lot were going out for a very nice lunch afterwards

Which I would have been too - but my ankle rebelled....

Friday, September 03, 2021

SURGERY UPDATE #2: Still prepping with a steep hill to climb

SURGERY UPDATE: I had one of my pre-surgery assessment interviews - by telephone this week and am going in for tests in the middle of the month - and then surgery should not be too long after that. My current assumption is probably October.

This is an update following on from Get ready for surgery: Update #1 last month.
Despite everything achieved to date, today I'm feeling rather overwhelmed by the amount I've still to do - with a very steep hill still to climb!

Mont Ventoux from Crillon Le Brave
(pen and sepia ink and coloured pencil)

I've acquired a knee scooter, smart crutches suitable for somebody (me) who also needs a shoulder replacement and various other bits of very necessary kit for life on one leg (and no cheating) for 8-12 weeks.

Plus worked out the hall carpet needed changing, the old sofa had to go to be replaced by one that has a high enough seat I can lie down on to do nose to toe elevation of my ankle and get up again from it(!) - I haven't been able to sit on my old sofa in years! - and my riser recliner also needed replacing.

Plus identified a massive need to get rid of lots of clutter and do a lot of reorganising.

Yesterday I ordered 
  • a nice looking commode - which doubles as a chair - for when I'm flat on my back elevating my foot nose to toe for two weeks....
  • an indoor rollator which has a TRAY which resolves one of the major issues - how to get food from kitchen to where I eat when hands are occupied with steering! So VERY relieved to have finally solved this problem! I use it by braking and then hopping.... brake, hop, brake, hop etc

On its way to me - my new Tuni Novi Indoor Rollator with a TRAY!!

However I've just worked out what I've still got to do to get my home ready for surgery.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

"Chelsea Physic Garden: a year in the life" at the Bankside Gallery

I saw the exhibition about the Chelsea Physic Garden: a year in the life at the Bankside Gallery on Friday. This is an exhibition of painting and prints by members of the Royal Watercolour Society (RWS) and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE). It was really nice to see such a lot of decent proper watercolour painting on the walls of the Bankside - and a lot of the prints are great.

Chelsea Physic Garden: a year in the life at the Bankside Gallery

You can see all the artworks online if you're unable to visit the Gallery before the exhibition closes on 30th August.
  • Click an image to see more details and
  • then click the image again to see a larger version.
You can also get a much better sense of the size of the different artworks in my Facebook Album of the photos I took on Friday. As always online exhibitions can be very confusing in relation to size. Some of the artworks are much smaller while others are much larger than you might think!

View of the end of the Gallery - with display cases for sketchbooks and postcards

I'm still deep in "getting ready for surgery mode" at the moment, so this is going to be something of a shortcut review, i.e. the pics are on my Facebook Page (in an album) - with a few in this blog post.

The topic was a refreshing change. I've never had a sense of either the RWS or the RE being much interested in either plants of gardens. Maybe they've spotted the popularity of all things 'botanical'? Personally, I'd have timed it to coincide with  COP26 - the United Nations Climate Change Conference due to be held in Glasgow in November 2021. 

COP26 has six major themes and one of these is

Nature - to safeguard and restore natural habitats and ecosystems to preserve the planet’s biodiversity
which - given the Chelsea Physic Garden's perennial focus on plant diversity and plants from around the world - may well probably have garnered a bigger audience for this exhibition.

That said it was interesting to see the approach of the different artists to the exhibition - which was explained on a large information board

I really liked the paintings of the Garden by these painters
  • Mychael Barratt PPRE, RWS - has produced a wonderful annotated map of the Garden as a hand coloured silkscreen/etching. He's an artist I would collect if I had more wall space!
  • Liz Butler RWS - several small paintings in her inimitable style demonstrating an expert watercolourist's grasp of the full tonal range
  • Claire Denny ARWS - five paintings in watercolour and acrylic ink of various very familiar views of the Chelsea Physic Garden
  • Wendy Jacob RWS - views of the garden and accurate but stylised portrayals of plants, bushes and trees
  • Annie Williams RWS - Annie normally paints very carefully constructed and beautiful still lifes so it's fascinating to see how she approaches painting a garden.

I also liked the artworks about plants by these artists
  • Emiko Aida RE - her etchings of white flowers on a very vivid orange background both echo conventional botanic art and provide a counterpoint to ideas of how flowers should be portayed
  • Meg Dutton RE RBA has drawn several ink and watercolour artworks of the profusion of plants in the glasshouses. I'm also familiar with similar drawings she did of the plants in the glasshouses at Kew Gardens.
NOTE: What used to be a quick jaunt for me is now a very painful expedition even using my rollator due to my severe osteoarthritis. Walked way, way more than I should have done n Friday. Exhibition visits between now and surgery are going to be very few and far between - and involve lots of sitting down and long rest periods!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Rivers of the World - an art project at Bankside

If you get the chance, do go and look at the splendid Rivers of the World screens erected between Tate Modern and the Bankside Gallery at Bankside on the south side of the River Thames. I think it might be a repeat of a Thames Festival Trust exhibit from last year.

It's one of the most impressive art projects I've seen in a long while.

All the art is created by children in primary schools!

An exhibition of river themed artwork created by young people under the guidance of professional artists during the lockdown.

Young people from London, Peterborough, Warrington, Halton, Coventry and Stockton-on-Tees in the UK and Ethiopia, Sudan, Morocco, Tanzania, Lebanon and India have created artworks from their homes under the direction of artists who provided briefs and films to guide their work.
You can read more about the project in my photos which you can see in this album on my Facebook Page.

Note: My ankle was extremely unhappy about the idea of taking a trip to see an exhibition at the Bankside Gallery - despite the fact I had my rollator with me and sat down quite a bit. I'm beginning to wonder if my exhibition visiting might be over until after surgery. Either that or spending a lot of money on taxis..... :( Or maybe getting a knee scooter for outdoors??

Sunday, August 15, 2021

An introduction to Japanese Art on Making A Mark

One of the most popular of my themed projects related to Japanese art and artists - and Hokusai and Hiroshige in particular - and the impact this art had on later artists. 

This post highlights my past blog posts on these topics

The Making A Mark Japanese Art project

South Wind, Clear Sky (Gaifū kaisei) By Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849)
also known as Red Fuji, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei)
Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper, 9 5/8 x 14 in. (24.4 x 35.6 cm)

Introducing Japanese Art

Below are links to the various posts about Japanese art which have appeared on Making A Mark. 

The majority are associated with an art project I undertook in 2008 to research Japanese art and find out more about the main artists associated with ukiyo-e.

The Making A Mark project serves as an introduction to Japanese Art and ukiyo-e - the Japanese wood block print. 

A significant element of my interest related to the compositional devices used in japanese art - and how these went on to influence western art in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

I created the blog posts from various resources I found online - and I also created a website to record the links as I progressed with the project. 

Each of the links below is explained in the short descriptions

The influence of Japanese Art - a long detailed post!
  • There's something about Japanese Art which draws me in. I'm not sure quite what it is however I'm very sure that learning more about it will help me with the development of my own drawings and artwork. It had a significant impact on the artists who I studied last year so I feel that being open to its influence can only be beneficial. 
  • I'm going to look first at resources and then at how I might usefully frame my approach to this project.
  • These include:
    • books about Japanese art
    • profiles of individual artists
    • Context for the development of ukiyo-e
    • Compositional devices learned from Japan
    • Formats derived from Japan
    • Subject matter
    • Making connections - between Japanese art and other artists, notably Van Gogh, Whistler, Degas and Cassatt
The concepts and characteristics of ukiyo-e
This week, I'm going to try and summarise what seem to be the subjects and characteristics of the Japanese wood block print - ukiyo-e. I'm going to move from overview through to detail as I work through this project so I'm starting with the big picture.
  • This is an attempt an overview of the subject matter.
  • Then I'm going to use the western conventions of elements and principles of composition to organise new information so that hopefully it makes more sense to me within a more familiar context.
  • This post aims to provide an overview of the different elements of design used in a Japanese wood block print - ukiyo-e. (For an explanation of the elements of design see this post Composition - The Elements of Design)
Principles of design and composition and ukiyo-e 
  • My intention was to do an overview about the principles informing the design of Japanese art and prints - but I'm overwhelmed and becoming aware of how absorbing this project might become! My new aim is to set down some initial impressions - and I'll revisit this topic again towards the end of this project.
  • I'm also trying to relate a Japanese way of making pictures to western concepts of what's important in terms of Principles of Design (as discussed in the last project) Again this is more about me finding a way to understand what's going on initially rather than saying the western way of looking at things is best. As we'll see as this project progresses, there's an awful lot of western art which adopted conventions which originated in the East.
  • I came across this fish in a book I bought last Friday. It's called Japonisme - Cultural Crossings between Japan and the West, Lionel Lambourne, Phaidon Press. Lionel Lambourne OBE is the former Head of Paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum (1986-1993) and a curator.
The Visual Translation of Japan in Late 19th-Century Paris
  • Japonism is the term used for the influence of Japanese art in the west. This post is part of my Japanese Art project and is a combination of my own initial research on this topic and notes I made at a seminar I attended at the National Gallery in February called Gained in Translation: The Visual Translation of Japan in Late 19th-Century Paris - given by Karly Allen.
  • Whistler, Tissot, Monet, Manet and Degas were all buying up Japanese prints. Comparisons were made with the great artists of the western traditions of printing eg Durer. Europeans were 'discovering' Japanese art - which of course already existed even if the western world didn't know about it! Many of the artists developed very significant collections of Japanese Art
  • This blog post is part of my project on Japanese Art (see other posts) and is concerned with how Japanese wood block prints associated with ukiyo-e were made. It contains an overview of what they are and how the prints were made and provides links to further information.
  • We visited the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew this week and I attempted to draw the Japanese Gateway (the Chokushi-Mon) while at the same time trying to remember all the things I'd been learning as part of my Japanese Art Project. This post is about I designed my sketch and the things I now need to do to translate it into a more formal drawing.
The Art of Hiroshige
  • Throughout my Japanese Art project, I've become more and more aware that Hiroshige produced some really stunning woodblock prints and excelled at landscapes. So for my last post of April I'm going to focus on Ando Hiroshige aka Utagawa Hiroshige.

    Later posts on the topic of Japanese Art

    Hokusai, Van Gogh and the iris paintings (2009)
    I've been studying an expert - Vincent Van Gogh - who, in turn took pointers from another expert - the Japanese artist Hokusai. This post comments on their various approaches to iris paintings.
    • This is the third of a series of exhibitions dedicated to Japanese Artists and Printmakers to be held at the Royal Academy of Arts.
    Hokusai and Hiroshige: Great Japanese Prints (2012) 
    • This is an Asian Art Museum video about Great Japanese Prints by ukiyo-e printmakers Hokusai and Hiroshige
    OASC for Metropolitan Museum of Art Images (2014)
    • This includes who to locate the the ukiyo-e prints of Hokusai
    Refreshed Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art at the V&A reopens (November 2015) 

    Tomorrow I'll reproduce one of the websites I produced which is no longer online.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2021

    Get ready for surgery: Update #1

    Here's an update on what's going on behind the scenes, on my "get ready for surgery" journey

    For the last 15 months my focus has been entirely on losing a lot of weight getting fit for surgery - i.e. being able to move on one leg without falling over! I'm nudging towards nearly six stone lost to date.  

    In the last 10 days I've switched to spending a lot of money on new kit, updates for existing furniture and other essentials for what's going to be a challenging recovery period.

    To date I have ordered and received my new knee walker - behold below! 

    This is what will be playing a big part of getting me about for my three months (plus??) of mobilising on one leg after the operation on my ankle while I grow lots of new bone. My right ankle will be 100% non-weight bearing for a long time.

    I'd just assembled the Strideon knee walker at this point - but still needed to raise the handle to make it safer.  

    Me and my new Strideon knee walker

    It's currently parked - with parking brake - next to my new rollator. I expect you may eventually see me at exhibitions with this - but it's much heavier and weighs 13kg and will be much more difficult to get up and down the stairs on the tube compared to my 5kg carbon fibre rollator

    Plus I've also got an iWalk which is a hands free crutch which provides me with a peg leg with a ledge for my calf.  That's quite a lot of fuss to get on and off so will be used sometime after the operation when I need to be on a my feet for a while.

    Then there's the boring bits - like what you need for sanitary ware. Try standing up from being seated using only one leg and you'll see why! 

    Sunday, August 08, 2021

    The Elements of Drawing website

    One of the most popular of my past posts relates to the website about The Elements of Drawing - John Ruskin's Teaching Collection at Oxford

    I wrote about this is this post - the New website: John Ruskin and The Elements of Drawing in 2011. Since then:

    • new resources seem to have been added to what was originally there
    • sadly, it is now designated a legacy website - and the Through Ruskin's Eyes links to learning resources at Ashmolean Online are now broken
    However, there's lots to see though and explore. 

    I'm now of the view that every time you come across a good online educational website - which makes EDUCATIONAL resources available for free online - and available for downloading - you should immediately assume that it
    • will become neglected when whoever invented it moves on 
    • assume it won't be there forever and will be much lamented when it disappears 
    Hence you should download every resource you can NOW!

    Thursday, August 05, 2021

    Painting and paintings by John Singer Sargent

    My second post from the archives is about John Singer Sargent and his approach to paintings.

    Below are past blog posts which are well worth a read to look at the resources I accessed while writing about him in the last 15 years
    An Artist in His Studio (1904 ) by John Singer Sargent 

    Approach to Painting


    Wednesday, August 04, 2021

    Three ways to hang a picture

    This is about three different ways to hang a picture - whether that's a painting, a drawing or a fine art print - and whether it's a small, medium or large artwork.

    Hanging gear for hanging pictures
    - photographed at Green & Stone

    As I indicated in my last post during August I'm going to highlight previou posts which are useful and popular - or maybe less well known!

    Today is about hanging artwork and the three posts I'm highlighting are:

    I hope you find them useful.

    You can also find more about How to hang a picture in the Framing section of my Art Business Info for Artists website

    Monday, August 02, 2021

    Getting fit and ready for surgery

    A quick note just to say that during August, there won't be so many blog posts. What's currently way more important than blogging is resolving my severe ankle arthritis problem i.e. remove the pain and the scope to grind to a halt when walking!

    So I need to:

    1. Get fit for surgery on my ankle (see Ever so slightly distracted) - which I've been doing for weeks already - hence the dropping off of blog posts
    2. Source / ordering / practising with all the aids I'll need - which is ratcheting up right now
    3. Organise my home differently to make moving around a lot easier - lots of measuring coming up - plus moving furniture around and clutter out the door! Which must be done in August!

    Which might sound a bit over the top if you don't know I'm facing 
    • up to a minimum of six weeks and maybe three months or more on ONE LEG! 
    • Absolutely 100% non weight-bearing on right ankle for 6 weeks minimum.
    • Plus elevation ("Nose to toe") of operated ankle for weeks (and weeks) on end.  

    Absolutely no cartilage left in my right ankle
    This is what bone grinding on bone looks like!

    I'm having either an ankle replacement or an ankle fusion (not decided yet) are both way, way more difficult and challenging than knee replacements or hip replacements.

    If I have the ankle fusion I need to keep the ankle completely immobile while it grows bone to fuse the ankle so I have no movement - and no pain!

    Unfortunately the left leg which has to move me around is also a leg which has had a major injury (I tore the meniscus in 2016) and that has taken ages to get anywhere back to normal so getting fit for surgery is a really, really serious matter for me.

    That said I've lost 36kg so far (or 5.7 stone in "real money") in the last 13 months in order to try and make life easier.  There's a really huge incentive to lose weight when you realise you can't move a muscle when using crutches!

    (Did I mention my severe osteoarthritis means I also need a shoulder replacement!!)

    This is what the new slimline me looks like. I'm getting friends saying they hardly recognise me

    Sunday, August 01, 2021

    Yayoi Kusama - her life and art

    I watched a documentary film about Yayoi Kusama this last week which I found fascinating.  

    She's exhibited internationally all over the world and her artwork has achieved both the highest turnover at auction in one year and the highest price paid for a female artist. 

    Her current exhibition at Tate Modern is sold out until it finishes in October 2021 - but if you'd like to see more of her work and find out about her as an individual and as an artist It's a programme worth watching.

    Yayoi Kusama

    Kusama: Infinity

    Kusama: Infinity (1 hour 20 minutes) is a documentary made by director Heather Lenz in 2017, published in 2018 and broadcast by Arena in 2019 - and repeated last Monday on BBC4. 

    It's available for the next 24 days on BBC iPlayer. I'm going to be rewatching it before time is up!.

    It provides an insight into the extraordinary life and world of this internationally renowned artist.

    Saturday, July 31, 2021

    Lockdown Art #5: Weird and Whacky Recycled Waste Hats by Lynne Chapman

    One of the really joyful aspects of the lockdowns was seeing people released from their normal timetables finding time to explore new avenues. 

    For some this was because "needs must" as in the need to keep income streams flowing. 

    For others it was more about needing to keep creating in the face of the vast endless vacuum which was a lockdown.

    For yet others there was a need to create joy in their lives at a time when it much was frightening and depressing. 

    Fabrications out of single use plastic waste materials by Lynne Chapman

    One of the more rewarding experiences I had was watching Lynne Chapman continue with a project she'd started prior to the pandemic - about using waste materials to create art.

    She started back in 2019, thinking about ways in which she could use single use plastci within her textile art.

    She progressed during the pandemic to creating hats. Much of which looked weird and whacky - but ALWAYS brought a smile to my face. She certainly succeeded in creating joy for very many people during a dark time.

    Friday, July 30, 2021

    How to list artwork dimensions

    Which way round should the dimensions of artwork be listed when providing information about an artwork (i.e. drawings / paintings / prints)

    Height and then width OR width and then height?

    There appear to be a diversity of views. My own personal view is that it should always be height and then width.

    One of my personal missions in life is to persuade all art competitions and open exhibitions to get their forms right and list the dimensions the right way round! Hence this post!

    So I decided to take a look to see if I could prove I was correct - having been irritated, yet again, by seeing artwork on a website with the dimensions listed (in my opinion) "the wrong way round"!

    I looked for sources of information from:

    • leading art galleries and museums
    • reputable websites
    HOWEVER I also found that there was a different perspective in the graphics and digital image / photography world!

    So the answer is "it depends on what your are measuring" BUT 
    • if you're measuring artwork then there is only one right answer!
    • it's different if you're measuring photographs!

    According to Art Galleries and Museums

    It's height then width and then depth.

    I'm listing below the art galleries and museums which were reviewed - with artwork inspected on a random basis. Plus I'm including some images from those websites to prove what I'm saying!

    Basically I stopped looking after the National Galleries of the UK and USA plus the Louvre in Paris. I've no doubt there may be some cultural dissension on this matter in places where people read from right to left - but I'm only trying to persuade the organisers of juried exhibitions in the West to get it right. I've not gone for global domination - yet! ;)

    Dimensions at the National Gallery (London) - height first and then width
    A Young Woman Standing at A Virginal by Johannes Vermeer
    51.7cm x 45.2cm

    Height first - then width

    • National Gallery (London)
    • National Gallery of Art (Washington)

    Tuesday, July 27, 2021

    How to see inside art materials / supplies shops

    I've just discovered something which allows me to see inside shops which provide art materials, equipment and related supplies - on my own screen!

    It's probably been around forever but I've never ever seen it before. I suspect this might be because, this age of ordering online, shops are making greater use of it to market their premises as a "go to" place for art materials, equipment and other supplies.

    How to see inside art materials shops

    So what you do is 

    1. Go to Google Maps
    2. put the name of the shop into Google Maps 
    3. Click search
    4. Click on the picture of the shop which comes up top left of Google Maps
    What happens next is you get to see all photos posted on Google which relate to that shop.
    SCORLL DOWN on the left hand column to see all the available photos - and you get a really good idea of the amount and type of art materials available in the shop.

    Check out some art shops

    Below are some art shop where this works. 

    Why not have a go yourself with the art shops you know - or have always wanted to visit?

    UK - London

    L. Cornelissen & Son, Great Russell Street, London

    Monday, July 26, 2021

    Is Venetian Red the key to the zappy red in Thomas Lawrence's portraits

    For years I've been trying to work out why the red much used by Thomas Lawrence in his portraits should look so vibrant and have remained in such good condition to this day.

    This post is about a possible explanation involving a colour - Venetian Red.

    About Thomas Lawrence

    Sir Thomas Lawrence (13 April 1769 – 7 January 1830) was a leading English portrait painter and the third president of the Royal Academy of Arts - holding the position for the years 1820-1830.

    Born in 1769 his talents found early recognition and he became something of a child prodigy among the fashionable crowd of the 1770s.

    When he became the effective successor to Sir Joshua Reynolds after Reynold's death, he was able to command fees far in excess of other portrait painters and he made (and spent) a lot of money. He was knighted after painting the victors of Waterloo.

    I first came across Lawrence in 2010 - at an exhibition of his portraits at the preview of the major exhibition Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power And Brilliance at the National Portrait Gallery  (There are 689 portraits by Lawrence listed by the NPG in their index of artists and sitters)

    About Lawrence's approach to portrait painting and use of red

    This is my Exhibition Review: Thomas Lawrence at National Portrait Gallery which summarises both his career and comments on his approach to portrait painting and his use of colour. I won't repeat the background here except for this comment

    "his use of colour is absolutely stunning - he uses vivid colours and in particular a deep red to exceptional effect"

    Lawrence's portraits in the exhibition

    "(I) wondered why his paintings look so fresh and which sort of red he has used which continues to look good some 300 years later. The curator I spoke to confirmed that these these are some of the best looking portraits they've ever had on display and yet there's no or very little evidence of restoration or cleaning."

    Besides being an excellent portrait painter, he very clearly knew a lot about how to use art materials to ensure a portrait painting had both impact and longevity.

    Red is a colour which immediately attracts attention. Most of us know it is as a "come and look at me" colour.

    The really odd thing is that while paintings by other artists of his era may look good, inspection up close shows that the paintwork has deteriorated in some way or other - or may just have changed colour. Especially if a colour which is frequently seen as prone to losing saturation.

    By way of contrast, Lawrence's portraits all looked as if they'd been painted the previous year and the reds were all exceptionally vibrant and in good condition.

    I was immediately intrigued as to how come his paint looks so good compared to other painters. I concluded it had to be something to do with how he mixed his paints and what he used for pigments and media - and maybe what he used for a varnish.

    Saturday, July 24, 2021

    Lockdown Art #4: Spring Lockdown by Sarah Godsill

    My lockdown art this week is by artist and illustrator Sarah Godsill.

    As we all know when the first lockdown was announced on March 23rd, everything seemed to grind to a halt.

    Sarah found it increasingly hard to concentrate on work and ignore news bulletins. So she decided to use the strange circumstances as a way to connect with friends and family by asking them for photographs of themselves in their most typical lockdown activity for a painting.

    This is what she has to say about her painting shows people at work and play, round the table, cooking, reading, gardening, getting out for walks or stuck at computer screens. They come from all over the UK, Spain, USA, Canada, Chile, Venezuela and Singapore.

    "I started to envisage a Zoom screen full of everyone’s images. I didn’t know how many photos there would be and I had originally planned to do individual paintings, but on a practical level it was easier to grid a canvas into 64 slots and add the images as they were sent to me.

    As I worked on each individual image it was comforting to think about the people represented, whether they were far away geographically or just around the corner here in Frome. We couldn’t meet in person and hug - we still don’t know when that will be possible - so it was a lovely way to feel a bit of a connection with everyone.”

    Spring Lockdown by Sarah Godsill
    oil 100 x 120 cm

    “It’s been a challenging year for most of us and especially difficult for those who have been affected by Covid19 or are shielding or caring for vulnerable people, but it’s also highlighted the most valuable things in life and all that we’re grateful for.

    The incredible weather made it more manageable in the first few months and that really stood out in lots of the photos I received; I never used green in my paintings before this year.”
    The resulting painting has now been accepted for hanging by 

    • the Annual Open exhibition of Bath Society of Artists  at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath, which opens online on November 2nd.
    • the Annual Exhibition of the New English Art Club - where you can see it on the wall. I'm thinking it must have been spotted back in November by Peter Brown who is also a member of the Bath Society of Artists
    Her photo (below) of the mandatory "me and my painting" illustrates neatly how big it is.

    Thursday, July 22, 2021

    Funding for Art and Design Education in England is cut

    This is about news about:
    • 50% cuts in funding subsidy for art and design courses
    • a new campaigning organisation for the arts
    • the potential impact on students and those offering them courses 
    • what might happen as a result - including new digital courses accessible worldwide

    The Art Newspaper is reporting a 50% cut in funding for arts and design courses in higher education across England - see UK government approves 50% funding cut for arts and design courses. Specifically:

    • the subsidy for each full-time student on an arts course will be cut from £243 to £121.50 next academic year (2021/22).
    • this cut in subsidy will save about £20 million
    Apparently the government's thinking behind the cut to art and design courses is the need to reprioritise funding and divert it towards the provision of high-cost, high-value subjects that support the NHS... high-cost STEM subjects [science, technology, engineering and mathematics].

    But where is the information on authoritative websites?

    I can find the information in The Guardian's 

    The problem I had initially is that I went to all the relevant websites - and couldn't find a single item of information about this on:

    Until I found this OfS confirms funding reforms (20th July 2021)

    So is this going to make a dramatic different to art education in England? Simple answer is I don't know.

    What is true is that
    • most funding comes via tuition fees and not through public subsidy.
    • HOWEVER, if you cut funding this means either
      • a decrease in tuition places
      • an increase tuition fees
      • a reduction in places offering courses
      • you have a major rethink about how to cut costs and maintain education (eg focus on course delivery and not the buildings which house education - see below for one example)
    i.e. you can't carry on at the same levels if you cut half the subsidy.

    Public Campaign for the Arts

    Wednesday, July 21, 2021

    The earliest landscape watercolour painting in England?

    Today I saw what is thought to be one of the earliest landscape paintings in watercolour which survives in England.

    I was visiting the Renaissance Watercolours display - in place of the Renaissance Watercolours exhibition that never was - at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Mainly I was there to see the album of wtercolours by the 16th century botanical artist Jacques Le Moynes de Morgues - but there were several other interesting watercolour paintings which caught my eye.

    One of these was the painting of Nonsuch Palace by Joris Hoefnagel - which was a grand hunting lodge which used to exist in Surrey in the area now known as Nonsuch Park.
    "Among the earliest surviving English landscape watercolours, it brings to life one of the greatest monuments of the English Renaissance, now lost to us." Rare painting of Henry VIII's 'lost palace' saved from export | BBC News
    Nonsuch Palace from the South (1568) by Joris Hoefnagel
    Black chalk, pen and ink, with watercolour, heightened with white and gold

    Estimated height: 24.2cm / Estimate width: 26.3cm
    Interestingly Hofnagel only visited England in 1568 - and was only here for  few months. One wonders how he came to get access which enabled him to paint the palace.
    Nonsuch Palace from the South by the Flemish artist Joris Hoefnagel is one of the earliest surviving visual records of Henry VIII’s opulent hunting lodge designed to celebrate Tudor supremacy. The artist successfully captured a blend of traditional English architecture and classically-inspired elements such as the spiral columns. Hoefnagel meticulously reproduced the framed stucco panels that lined the palace walls. With fine lines of black pen heightened with white, the artist illustrated the moulded high-relief panels depicting Roman emperors, gods and goddesses as well as the Labours of Hercules. Hoefnagel then balanced the exquisite detail of Nonsuch Palace with the sweeping countryside in muted hues of green and brown. Hoefnagel utilised this drawing for an engraving in the fifth volume of Civitates Orbis Terarum, an atlas of towns, in which Nonsuch Palace received a dedicated plate, a credit to its fame.
    The painting shows the south facade of the Palace - including the towers and the lavish stucco relief at the top of the walls. Plus the hunting grounds which surrounded the building.
    Detail of the stucco relief at the top of the walls on the south elevation
    In 1959, Hoefnagel's incredibly detailed painting was shown to be surprisingly accurate. Archaeological excavations unearthed pieces of a stucco figure leaning on a shield, directly beneath the point where a similar relief is shown in the painting.

    Landscape painting in watercolour

    Tuesday, July 20, 2021

    Count the number of art competitions that no longer exist....

    The only thing that is certain in this world is "change".

    Which is why, one of the things that is certain in the art world is that art competitions change over time.

    What's surprising me right now is just how many of the more major competitions in the UK have completely disappeared in recent time. 

    • I last wrote about this prior to lockdown back in early 2020 in The Disappearing Art Competitions 
    • Since when we've had confirmation more have been lost and the art competition 'maketplace' has changed significantly in the UK.

    I thought it was time for AN UPDATE. Below I list those art competitions

    • which will not be taking place in 2021
    • which still exist and will take place
    • those replacing past competitions
    • minor art competions

    plus why art competitions are important to artists.

    By way of a preamble, I am absolutely convinced this is all about two things:

    FIRST we're still experiencing coronavirus interruptus syndrome, i.e. the very long "stall" associated with not knowing when things are going to get back to normal. Right now I don't expect thing to approach normal until 2022 - but I do also expect people to be planning for this right now!

    SECOND there is an absolute DEARTH of key components for a prestigious art competition. These are:

    • key people whose networks enable them to prize out sponsorship money from corporate bodies which can afford it
    • strategic thinking within some regional museums - in relation to the traffic which can be generated by a good art competition
    • organisations which want to be associated with significant art prizes.
    • organisations with expertise and practical experience in developing efficient and effective art competitions with significant prizes (i.e. why are we losing all these top art competitions?)

    By way of contrast, I am also noticing that some national art societies are getting very good at generating / replacing very good levels of sponsorship for prizes for their open exhibitions.  

    • I now highlight clearly those national art societies which people should take a close look at on the basis of prize money alone.
    • This should make artists think about whether they are applying for the right  open exhibitions!  PROMPT to my recent client: this is what I was talking about! :)

    Art Competitions that no longer exist in 2021

    BP Portrait Award

    The last BP Portrait exhibition in the NP

    Monday, July 19, 2021

    Call for Entries: ING Discerning Eye 2021

    This post is about the Call for Entries for the 2021 Exhibition of The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition which will be held at the Mall Galleries and Online between 11 and 21 November 2021

    The Deadline for Entries is Tuesday 7 September 2021 (5pm)

    The ING Discerning Eye is an educational charity, established in the UK in 1990, to encourage a wider understanding and appreciation of the visual arts and to stimulate debate about the place and purpose of art in our society, and the contribution each one of us can make to its development.

    The exhibition comprises both publicly submitted works and works independently selected by six prominent figures from different areas of the art world: two artists, two collectors and two critics. Each section is hung separately to give each its own distinctive identity. The impression emerges of six small exhibitions within the whole.

    Last year - due to the exhibition being held online only - there was a there were the number of entries was larger than usual and there were over 600 artists and nearly 1000 works.
    Which seems odd to me - I'd expect there to be much more entries than this given the numbers received by other open exhibitions and competitions. 
    I've criticised this competition in the past for having too many artworks by artists selected by the selectors from OUTSIDE the open entry. 
    • Maybe that changed in 2020. 
    • Maybe it will return back to the normal bias away from the open entry in 2021. 
    • Who knows? It would be nice if they were much more EXPLICIT AND TRANSPARENT about something which is a competition with paid entries!

    What stays the same in 2021

    The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition in 2021 will: 
    • be OPEN to all artists resident in the UK 
    • who can submit up to six original works 
    • accept digital only entries
    • include only 
      • works constrained by size i.e. only small works are permitted (it must be less than 20 inches (50cm) in its greatest dimension.)
      • which MUST be an original creation by the artist
    • comprise works independently selected by six prominent figures from different areas of the art world
      • two artists,
      • two collectors and
      • two critics
      • each selector is solely responsible for their own selection
    • AND all artwork submitted via the open entry MUST be for sale
    In addition, the DE continues with the Discerning Eye bursary of £1,500
    Plus the Call For Entries site will be via ArtOpps

    What will be different in 2021 

    Sunday, July 18, 2021

    Book Review: Pure Pastel: Contemporary Works by Today's Top Artists

    This is about a book about Pure Pastel: Contemporary Works by Today's Top Artists edited by Anne Hevener

    The last thing I did when I was leaving the Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society on Wednesday was pick up a book I'd not seen before in person. 

    This is the latest book about pastel artworks and pastel artists published under the auspices of the Pastel Journal - also edited by Anne Hevener (until 2019). She invited 100 of those she considered to be the top contemporary pastel artists to contribute works to the book.

    Normally I would have bought it on the spot - but I'm currently carrying a rollator up and down stairs on the tube and even thought this is carbon fibre, there was absolutely no way I could possibly carry this large and heavy book!

    So I took a photo of the cover (so as to remember the title and details) and ordered it from Amazon as soon as I got home!

    and this is the photo of the cover
    - for this review
    - in my sitting room this morning!

    Essentially, it's a giant picture book - with artworks by leading pastel artists. Each gets

    • details of the artwork
    • a paragraph from the artist about how it came to be created - which are very diverse and also provide some useful tips in terms of approach and development of the artwork

    What I like about it

    • It includes many pastel artists from the USA whose names are very well known to me - including the late Bill Creevy whose book for Watson Guptill first got me switched on to pastels.
    • It includes six artists members of the Pastel Society in the UK. These include:
    • I like the way it organises the artwork. I very much liked the fact it didn't go for the basic (and can be boring) categorisation of subject to organise the artworks. Instead, there are five chapters focusing on some much more interesting aspects of any artwork:
      • Colour and Light
      • Composition and Design
      • Mood and Atmosphere
      • Style and Expression
      • Concept and Story
    • There's an Artist Index at the back which provides 
      • the artists' credentials (members ship of societies / awards etc)
      • an indication of where they live (town; state/county; country) 
      • website address (however I found not all are current and/or live - which might be something to do with security certificates for the site)
      • email address
    • Reproduction values and colours and tones look very good to me. Certainly the clarity of how pastel is used by the artist is there - I tested these on Cheryl Culver's pastel works which I know well!

    What I'm surprised about

    There's a few things which surprised me

    Saturday, July 17, 2021

    Lockdown Art #3 - images from the Pastel Society Exhibition

    I'm looking for lockdown art at every art exhibition I'm going to at present. This has been a major event in our social history - and such events are always recorded in art.

    I'm beginning to wonder if some are less obvious than others....

    Here are examples I spotted at the Pastel Society exhibition - which continues at the Mall galleries until next Saturday.

    Masks are an easy way of spotting #lockdownart - but they're all different - and there are two versions below - followed by a very complex graphite drawing interpreting the experience of being Covid Positive.

    Face to Face by Peter Vincent PS

    The first one is Face to Face by Peter Vincent PS who mostly creates landscapes in pastels. I loved this diptych of two simplified heads which focuses on the anonymity triggered by mask wearing. We only know they're a different sex because one has a bun at the back. There again chaps have bins these days too....

    Face to Face by Peter Vincent
    Pastel33 x 66 cm (43 x 86 cm framed) £595

    Peter is a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of The Pastel Society. He retired in the early 90s when computers made his skills in measured perspective drawing redundant and took up pastel drawing. he works unusually - employing a mask for shapes in his drawings.  He doesn't appear to have a website and sells through galleries - but you can see more of his work on the Mall Galleries website

    I can't breathe by Neil Rogers

    The next one is titled I can't breathe by Neil Rogers. His portrait focuses on one of the common complaints of those using cloth masks (I can recommend the proper medical ones with the filters which I use!)