Sunday, February 28, 2021

How to list and catalogue my art books really easily

I have been wanting to list and catalogue my art books forever! I've finally found a REALLY EASY easy way to do it and this post shares with you how I'm listing by genre and category.

This post looks at 

  • why I need lists of my books
  • the features of the BookBuddy Pro app - which makes creating lists of all my books early easily - apart from needing to get everyone of them off the shelves in order to scan the bar code!

Why too many art books can be a problem...

I've been a bibliophile for at nearly 50 years. I have a LOT of books. By which I mean many more than I can actually count.

A small section of my art book collection
(ignore the small pile of books on the back of the sofa on the extreme left
- they're waiting for a home!)

I watched a programme about Fran Libowitz on Netflix recently and identified very many traits we have in common - one of which is owning a lot of books

What surprised me is they were characterising a lot of books in Wikipedia as follows

She is also known for her massive book collection, 10,000 volumes in all
to which my immediate reaction was "only 10,000??!!!!".

I counted about 25 years ago and I was up to 10,000 then - and I've bought lots (and lots and lots) more since then.

My only concerns about my books are threefold
  • how I am going to fit in more bookshelves?
  • where's the best place to put bookshelves so they won't put too much stress on the floor joists?
  • buying duplicate books (again!) - because I don't have any lists of my books!!
It's the latter which really annoys me. I've got a few too many duplicates. 
I'm perfectly able to include that a book is a good book and definitely deserves to be on my shelves more than once! Usually because the first copy is sat in a book pile waiting for the next set of bookshelves (or - perish the thought - a purge on my books!) and I haven't seen it recently. Plus I have splurges of book buying which means it's not uncommon for 5-6 to arrive at once - which means they're queuing to be read. 

How to list all my books easily

I've bought BookBuddy Pro from the Apple App Store. It cost me £4.99 and works on my Apple iPhone and iPad. I understand there are no plans to create an app for Android phones - but there are other book management apps suitable for Android.

You can read about the features on the BookBuddy pro app website 
  • you can scan the bar code on a book to get all the relevant data about it - including an image of the book cover - uploaded automatically in seconds. 
    • I've found if your book is a bit obscure / specialised that it can sometimes take a while - especially if it comes in more one edition. 
    • I checked it out by trying to upload the first three editions of The Art of Botanical Illustration by Wilfrid Blunt and William T. Stearns - as each is different and was published by different people in different years.  It got the third edition right and then got confused with the second edition - uploaded an image from Google books - but gave it to the third edition! Resolved by uploading the correct image from my phone. Uploading the first edition is more difficult as there were no bar codes in the 1950s and this will be a manual upload

Features of BookBuddy Pro

  • it identifies the genre automatically - but you can change it to something more meaningful to you (and then it remembers all your genres identified to date)
  • you can create tags for books to find them fast. So for example when I get to my books about artists I'll create the artist's name as a tag. At present I'm splitting between instruction books and art history books for a specific genre  of art - and it works fine for that.
  • it syncs across devices - so it's now on both my iPad Pro 12 and my iPhone 12 Pro Max. 
  • it backs up to either the iCloud and/or my Dropbox account. I've got less than 20 books loaded so far and it happens fast right now. Once it's got the entire library on I think it might take a bit longer!
  • it enables you to record loans of your book - and keep track of who's got them
  • you can record the current status of a book - unread, being read or read
  • you can identify lists of:
    • favourites easily and you can also give them star ratings. I've not yet worked out whether you can list by a specific rating
    • lists by tags eg. all my books about London
    • lists by author - which helps with avoiding duplicates!
  • Both BookBuddy (free) and Book Buddy pro (£4.99) have the same features. However BookBuddy is limited to just 50 books. So enough to test it out to see whether it suits you - but I recommend you buy the pro version if you think you'll get some use out of this

What my lists look like

This app only works with Apple devices and is specifically designed for iPhones and iPads. It's been around for some time and had been through several upgrades.

This is what a list of titles be genre looks like on my iPhone. These are some of my botanical illustration books. Note the alpha letter index on the right hand side.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Review: Semi Finals of Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Last night I watched the Semi-Finals of Series 6 of Landscape Artist of the Year (2021) filmed last summer on Sunday 16th August 2020

Semi Finalists in the Pods at the Olympic Park - on a grey day

The Location

The venue was the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford in East London

Pods on the Bridge looking down the River Lee
to the former Olympic Stadium and the Orbit Sculpture

The seven pods were located on the Knights Bridge inside the Park to the east of the Velodrome - looking south down the River Lee - towards the Olympic Stadium and the ArcelorMittal Orbit in the distance.

The Weather

The weather was extremely odd
- although interestingly it was probably more like the location for the commission i.e. South Snowdonia in Wales than any of the other days when filming has taken place.
  • The buildings kept coming and going in the mist/haze  
  • the lack of sunlight eliminated all light and shade
  • the grey sky tends to drain the landscape of colour - everything becomes very muted
So an interesting insight into how they coped with a sky with no blue, lots of mist and haze and a sudden thunder storm and rain which drenches!


The Artists

I've already provided profiles for the artists in each of my previous reviews of the heats.  Hence, I've decided to 

  • include a pic of each of them with their submission painting- and
  • provide a link to the heat so you can read about them there - which avoids repeating everything

Professional Artists

They are 

Dougie Adams
Clare Lord
Ophelia Redpath

Amateur Artists

The three amateur artists are

Monday, February 22, 2021

Favourite quotes about portraiture

This is NOT a collection of quotes about portraits, portraiture, portrait drawing and portrait painting which has been generated automatically. (check out some of the collections of quotes to see what I mean!)

This collection of quotations has been curated by me in terms of those I think are helpful to understanding the art of portraiture. It will also be expanded and added to as time goes on and I find more good ones. 

Also, rather than producing a long disconnected list, I've tried (as I often to do with information) to sort it into groups to see if it's possible to make more sense of what's being said. To look at the meaning behind the words.

Famous quotations about portraiture

One of the most famous quotations about art concerns portraiture and is by the very famous artist and portrait painter John Singer Sargent.

A portrait is a painting with something a little wrong with the mouth.
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), American painter of many portraits

It's glibly trotted out on frequent occasions.

However, to my mind, as a quotation it succeeds because it's 

  • simple and easy to remember
  • instantly recognisable by all those who have ever tried painting portraits i.e. it's a truism relating to the difficulties and challenges that artists face when painting a mouth
  • an observation often made by those who don't paint but who want to appear clever when viewing portraits so as they can explain why, in their opinion, the portrait painter got it wrong!
For a classic example of the latter read my blog posts about the portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge by Paul Emsley which was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery

the first ever formal official portrait of 
HRH The Duchess of Cambridge 
painted by 
Paul Emsley 
at the 
National Portrait Gallery

Out of the contretemps relating to the Duchess of Cambridge portrait, I acquired a new and very memorable quotation said personally to me by Sandy Nairne himself - the man who commissioned the portrait!
You can count the number of portrait paintings in this (National Portrait) Gallery that include teeth on the fingers of both hands!
Sandy Nairne, the (then) Director of the National Portrait Gallery (2002-2015)
Here's a snappy assertion by that great author and non-painter Charles Dickens
"There are only two styles of portrait painting; the serious and the smirk."
Charles Dickens
The most famous portrait in the world
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

Below are some famous quotations about portraiture. I've endeavoured to source them but haven't been successful in all instances. The reason for this is I've found on more than a few occasions that the quote in common circulation is garbled....

I've also included some of my commentary and links to more information about the artist.

Why paint portraits

What fascinates me much, much more than does anything else in my metier is the portrait, the modern portrait.
Vincent Van Gogh
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Wilhelmina van Gogh Auvers-sur-Oise, 5 June 1890
Few professional painters are good at painting portraits. Many amateur artists aspire to being portrait painters - and only some realise the difference between good and bad portraiture.

In my view, artists paint portraits because:

  • they are a challenge - portraits are difficult and not easy
  • they continue to be 'high status art' and good portrait painters command high fees
  • they provide a steady flow of commissions if you become any good - meaning your income from art becomes more certain - thus reducing some of the cashflow stresses often associated with being an artist

The process of painting a portrait

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Review: Episode 6 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 at West Reservoir, Stoke Newington (again!)

The artists and Landscape Artist of the Year team sweltered in 90F degree heat last summer on "the hottest day on record for 100 days. while filming the Episode 6 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 Then nearly had a thunderstorm too! In the end some commented they felt as if they'd had four seasons in one day.

Episode 6: waiting for the announcement of who has been shortlisted

LAOTY Episode 6 at West Reservoir, Stoke Newington, London

The Location

They were back at the West Reservoir in Green Lanes Stoke Newington N4 2HA - and swopped places with the Wildcards. The pods were out next to the reservoir edge - with fans 

Pods on the edge of the Reservoir

while the Wildcards were on the Reservoir Terrace. 

West Reservoir Centre and terrace

By way of contrast I should report that the West Reservoir Twitter account has been reporting near freezing temperatures in the water in the last week for their winter swimming activities!

Interestingly Episode 3 was actually filmed the next day - so this wasn't actually the final heat but rather the penultimate one - as they filmed the semi-finals nearby the following week (my sources tell me!)

The Weather

This was a classic hot summer's day - with heat haze in the morning, 90 degree centigrade in the shade at midday and then cracks of thunder and threats of a summer storm from a grey sky in the afternoon - but the rain never materialised.

I'm surprised they all survived without shade - even if they did have fans.

Note to Tai - get a hat if you feel the heat that much! They're very cooling.....

The Artists

Six artists participated in the heat - split between three professional and three amateur. Artists are listed alphabetically below - with links to their websites embedded in their names and their social media sites after their names (if they have any) plus brief profiles of where they are from and what they do.

Professional Artists

The professional artists were:

  • Susanna McInnes (Instagram) Lives in South London and has been painting landscapes for 20 years. BA (HONS) degree in Fine Art from Manchester Metropolitan University. She has exhibited in various locations over the years. Painted from her roof during the first lockdown. Previously participated as a wild card artist in Episode 3 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 - Millennium Bridge Gateshead where she did a splendid painting. I think it was a shame she didn't paint as big this year. Chose her submission on the basis of the painting which wowed her Instagram followers the most. This is a link to:

  • Joanna (Jo) Myles (Facebook | Instagram) BA (Hon) in Art, Major in printed textiles. Former textile and fashion designer. She likes working in mixed media She seems to have made the switch to professional artist about 3 years ago. This is her blog post of her experience of the day
  • Daniel Newbury (Facebook) - lives in London and runs his own driving school as well as being a professional artist.  His preferred media are graphite drawing and pen & ink/watercolour and he specialises in views of London. He's written about his experience and included photos and a video of the day on his Facebook Page.

A good handful of you already know that hilariously, I was on Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the year last night. I haven...

Posted by Daniel Newbury on Thursday, 18 February 2021

Amateur Artists

The amateur artists were:

  • Sharon Adebesi (Instagram) - a self taught amateur artist who works for the London Ambulance Service. She uses colours which reflect her emotions - and she finds blue to be very calming. Her submission was a very striking and complex painting of a busy market in Ghana on a black background.
  • Stephen Jordan (Instagram | Twitter) Lecturer in Social Work at Essex University. Also studied at Southend College of Arts and Technology. He liked working in mixed media. You can see his absolutely amazing submission painting on his website (although it looks better on his Instagram which has it right way up) - it took 10 years to plan and three years to paint. PLUS his University did an article about him! Lecturer displays artistic talent on Sky Arts
  • Kalpna Saksena (Instagram) Lives in North West London. Formerly an accountant in the City of London. Well developed skill in drawing. The themes of her paintings revolve around humans and their environment, from buildings to machinery to everyday objects - and she loves construction sites. She found the subject of her submission painting on a walk through central London. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - take a look at her life drawings using coloured pastels on a dark support on Instagram.

Wildcard Artists

There seemed to be numerous Wildcard artists - as they had the whole of the terrace in front of the West Reservoir Centre to spread out on. 
The Wildcard Artists enter the site. The Wildcard winner is the chap in pink shorts.

This is the back of Lisa Takahashi - painting a podworthy painting - who was one of the wildcard artists having participated been the Wildcard Winner in 2018.

"People who have gone big have really loosened up" Kate Bryan - commenting on wildcard paintings

Note Lisa's hat. Anybody without a hat on was being very silly and would have been boiling their brain in the heat. 

Well that was a scorcher! Some snaps from my day as a wildcard on sky arts landscape artist of the year, which was aired...

Posted by Lisa Takahashi - Artist on Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Themes and Learning Points

What is a landscape?

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Do you use eco-friendly packaging for transporting / shipping your art?

Have you thought about how sustainable the packaging is that you use for packing your artwork for transporting to exhibitions or shipping to clients?

Have you heard about the Plastic Packaging Tax - which will start being levied in the UK as from April 2022 - with the aim of reducing the use of single use plastic?

This post looks at:
  • the background to the drive for more sustainable packaging
  • the Plastic Packaging Tax
  • what is packaging - from the perspective of a self-employed small business owner
  • your obligations on under the waste duty of care rules?
  • how to review your use of sustainable green eco-friendly packaging for your artwork
  • PLUS CHECKLIST of questions to ask when thinking how to be more friendly to the planet - and marketing your art!


Very many people are concerned about:

  • the impact of climate change
  • the extent to which single use plastic packaging is becoming a curse for the planet and its oceans 

In March 2018, the government launched a call for evidence on using the tax system or charges to tackle single-use plastic waste. This received a record 162,000 responses, highlighting the strong public interest in action in this area.

Using new plastic typically has greater environmental impact: it requires unnecessary resource extraction and processing, with higher energy use and emissions than using recycled material. It also results in significant amounts of additional plastic waste on the market, which is generally sent to landfill or incinerated. 

Plastic Packaging Tax | HM Treasury Overview

Many people who buy products are very concerned that packaging should reflect their values and avoid the destruction of the environment. 

These include people who buy art.

What is the Plastic Packaging Tax and who will be impacted?

The UK government wants to promote 

a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled material in the production of plastic packaging, which will create greater demand for this material and in turn stimulate increased levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste, diverting it away from landfill or incineration.

To do this it's introducing a Plastic Packaging Tax as from April 2022

Those affected by this tax will be:

  • UK producers of plastic packaging,
  • importers of plastic packaging,
  • business customers of producers and importers of plastic packaging, and
  • consumers who buy goods in plastic packaging in the UK.
Bottom line - if you are currently using plastic materials for your packaging, you will probably find it increases in cost next year.

Now is the time to get your packaging standards reviewed and revised!

What is packaging?

Just in case you think this is nothing to do with you as an artist.....
‘Packaging’ is any material used to hold, protect, handle, deliver and present goods. This includes packaging for raw materials right through to finished goods to be sold or being sold. For example, pallets, boxes, bags, tape for wrapping, rolls, tubes and clothes hangers sold as part of the clothing item.
GOV UK Guidance - Packaging waste: producer responsibilities

So unless you place your framed artwork in the hands of your buyer yourself - with no packaging -  you are a packaging producer!

Also, did you know that your art business (in the UK) MUST follow the waste duty of care rules?

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Review: Episode 5 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 at West Wycombe House

West Wycombe House in Buckinghamshire was the site for Episode 5 pf Season Six of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year filmed last summer and broadcast in 2021

 This is a review of that episode which, as always, considers:
  • the location and weather
  • the artists profiles
  • themes arising during the episode
  • who was shortlisted and who won.

Artists are still being asked to stand in front of their paintings - and obscure them!

LAOTY Episode 5 at West Wycombe House in Buckinghamshire


The location this week was West Wycombe House - which is looked after by the National Trust

This is a RANT! I've got a major issue about where the pods were located. 
They were MUCH TOO CLOSE to the REAR of a large and complex stately home which should have been viewed much more from a distance - and from the front!

How to have your nose up close to a flat facade - with columns.

Kathleen asked at the beginning
What are these artists going to make of a traditional English landscape?"
Well for starters this view was absolutely nothing like a traditional English landscape! In fact there was precious little "land" about it.  
  • This particular view was entirely of a Palladian house inspired by Italian villas of the Renaissance with a bit of grass and a tree!!! I think even the tree might be a non-native species! 
  • Notwithstanding it's also located in the middle of a landscape designed parkland - so again not a "traditional English landscape" as in that experienced by the many and not the few!! 
  • Making the question posed very odd indeed.
She then went on to say that the artists needed to get to grips with proportion / scale / perspective and monumentality - and the geometrically challenging dimensions. Monumental was a word which kept coming up in the programme.

"Why?" is the simple question I would ask. The commission this year is about open landscape in Wales. It has got absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with stately homes!  

If the deal with the NT was that the house needed to be included in one of the views in one of the heats then proportion/ scale and perspective are just as challenging from a considerably more distant view - which would also have allowed for it to be seen in the context of the Estate. (For example - produced by one of the pod artists in preparation for the heat!)

The view selected was also a classic of the "mistakes amateurs make" variety. Much too full on and OTT - so that most of the artists had a completely flat view - as in there was so much house, there wasn't much inspiring by way of an alternative.

Rory Brooke captured it extremely well in his blog post.
I convinced myself they would put the pods near West Wycombe Park lake with long views and interesting reflections. Instead we were on a sort of amphitheatre shaped sloping lawn close up to the fa├žade of the house. It was like having to sit in the front row of a cinema with the action uncomfortably close.
I was utterly gobsmacked when I saw what the artists were looking at.  If it had been me, I'd have got my iPad, got up, walked a very long way away from the house (probably all the way round to the other side) and taken a photo, brought it back and worked from that. 

That's because there was absolutely no way they were going to get excellent landscape paintings given where the pods were located.  They might produce "so so" paintings - but that's not what a heat should be about. We should be seeing the best artists can do given a decent subject to paint.

Interestingly I don't think the Judges have any say in where the pods were located - based on some of the things Tai said (and I think he was equally appalled by their location!). As in...... 
"I'd run a mile. I'd be looking for exit routes" 
Tai Shan Schierenberg (when asked how he would deal with this view
I'm just a bit overwhelmed by how much house we're getting!
Tai Shan Schierenberg (voiced at the view of the completed paintings)

If he wanted less house the pods should have been much further away!



To top it off, the flat colonnaded facade of the house was complemented by the completely flat light associated with a cloudy day. As in the nightmare scenario of very little tonal pattern and no focus of interest.

There was no guarantee that the weather would change and most of the decisions about how to proceed had to be made within the context of this awful view on a very disappointing day for light.

It also brightened up in the afternoon - which then created the "do I / don't I change the painting because it's now got shadows?" conundrum

I really felt for the artists. I just knew this was going to be one of those "I did my best in front of an uninspiring subject on a very dull day" sort of day.

The Artists

The socially distanced pod artists on a break 
- on the other much more interesting side of the house!!

This heat had four woman and two men artists. This link contains the profiles of each artist and a video 

For more detail see below. Links to their websites are embedded in their names (if they have one) and social media links follow plus a profile based on available information online.

Professional Artists

Three professional artists participated in the pods for this episode. They were:
  • Clare Lord (Facebook | Instagram) - Raised in North Yorkshire, she's now based in Staffordshire. Used to be a head mistress but she now works as a full time artist and art teacher from her studio outside Milwich in Staffordshire. She is an artist who loves to work outdoors. She also doesn't mind painting larger artworks and complex structures.  Below is a pencil version of the scene she painted for her submission

  • Eden Mullane (Facebook | Instagram) - Eden is an Artist and Textiles Designer with a First Class Degree in Textiles: Design & Innovation from Loughborough University who lives in Norfolk. She has a mixed cultural heritage and her submission was about her grandmother's family home in Jamaica. She likes exotic foliage and painting with bright tropical colours.  Her artwork becomes the inspiration for her textile designs.
  • Dawn Blatherwick (Facebook | Instagram) - Dawn previously took part as a Wildcard Artist at Fountains Abbery - which is when the nickname for the pod artists was born. A pod artist was  called a "God in a Pod" - and this time around Dawn had been elevated to being one of them.


from left to right:
Dawn Blatherwick, Claire Lord, Tilly Commons, Gary Ite, Rory Brooke and Eden Mullane

Amateur Artists

Three amateur artists were "Gods in the Pods" in this episode. They were:
I was inspired by Birmingham Print Workshop and sought out fellow printmaker artists in East London with a common interest in promoting printmaking and developing resources for artists and the community to use.
  • Gary Eite (Instagram) - Based in Kenilworth in Warwickshire. Works as a Chartered Commercial Interior Designer and can certainly handle perspective and brought his drawing board, set square and rulers with him. His submission was an architectural drawing of an industrial interior done in watercolour and marker pens
  • Tilly Commons (Instagram | Twitter | Etsy) - Based in Evesham in Worcestershire. Tilly seems to take a flexible approach to her second name. She prefers less considered aspects of landscapes - and likes drawing corners and alley ways. She draws using pen and ink and marker pens for flat colour.

The Wildcards

Sunday, February 14, 2021

When I was filmed landscape painting by the BBC

On the topic of being filmed painting landscapes for television programmes....

I found some photos recently of when I was on a landscape painting holiday in Provence at the end of the 1980s - and was filmed by the BBC! I've still got the video of the BBC Holiday Programme featuring Anne Gregg trying a painting holiday in Provence - and all of us developing our paintings.

By way of contrast to the set-ups I've seen more recently, the BBC team who filmed us (about 10+ people on a painting holiday in Provence plus tutor) back in the late 80s included:
  • one presenter (Anne Gregg)
  • one director/producer
  • one cameraman and his sidekick
  • one sound man
  • one continuity ladyBelow are a couple of photos of our trip to Sault - a town close to where we were staying in Provence.
First my photo of the view from Sault and the BBC film crew filming a "set up" shot. Martin, the chap in the striped T Shirt, was the Director and I think we managed to get him painting by the end!

The BBC film crew - on the left - film the tutor and student discussing composition on the right!

I was trying to get to grip with painting in watercolours and wasn't that keen on being filmed painting - except at a distance. This was also before I realised I actually much preferred dry media - below is a drawing that resulted from a subsequent trip to Provence.

Rousillon and the Ochre Cliffs, Provence
Coloured Pencil 8.27" x 11.75"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

One trick was to make a point of staying away from Anne Gregg and/or trying to sit in a really shady spot!

Below is Anne Gregg - sat centre in a pink T shirt in the heat of midday painting produce on a market stall. It was taken by me sat in the shade and painting Anne Gregg painting the market stall!

However little did I know that the BBC was off to the left of this view filming me painting Anne!

Ann Gregg painting in Sault, Provence

I gradually worked out that I could deter them from filming or recording me by saying really stupid things to camera or for the soundman....

I think the photo below came after I told them very seriously that I chose the views I wanted to paint based on the palette of colours I used to decorate my home.... ;)

Me in Gordes about 30 years ago - after finishing avoiding cameramen for the day

Why I'm not blogging so much

I should explain about my absences online

I'm having a major declutter and reorganisation of my home at the moment as I'm seeing my consultant again next week to find out the likely timetable for my ankle fusion operation.

Otherwise known as "how to be non-weight bearing on one ankle / live on just one leg for at least three months / while not looking like Long John Silver" which is realistically what I'm faced with.

This is complicated by the fact I also need a shoulder replacement operation (don't get severe osteoarthritis like me!) for my left should - so crutches are not really an option.

Hence I'm having both a major declutter and major reorganisation of furniture "just in case" I need to end up using a wheelchair for 3 months while the new bone grows and "fuses" so I can walk without pain - and my current set-up has to be made wheelchair accessible!

I've just had my invite for a vaccination so that's one hurdle cleared (i.e. I wasn't going into hospital without my vaccinations being done first).

However this might all be very academic given the very long waiting list for non-emergency operations......