Thursday, December 30, 2021

Call for Entries: Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 210th Exhibition in 2022

The annual exhibition of the the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours has been described by Rosa Sepple, President of the RI as "the biggest exhibition of watercolour paintings in the world"

The deadline for entries for the 210th Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in April 2022  is Friday 28 January 2022, 12 noon

This is what I wrote earlier this year after visiting the 2021 exhibition.

I highly RECOMMEND this exhibition to ALL those who paint in watercolour media - no matter what your subject or style. I'm a big supporter of those art societies which try hard to recognise that their annual exhibitions are
  • a major way of helping 'emerging artists' with their careers - and
  • finding good quality new members for the society in the future

some of my photos of the RI Exhibition of water colours in May 2021

Periodically I get embarrassed by the fact that I've inadvertently missed the opening of a Call for Entries - and this is one of those posts which remedies the situation. I should have written it a month ago.

Features of the exhibition 

The Call for Entries invites submissions from both International and British artists over 18 years of age.

What this Exhibition offers
  • several prizes and awards (see below)
  • the chance to have your work seen alongside artwork by RI members
  • the opportunity to exhibit at a prestigious gallery in the heart of London
  • have your work seen by very many visitors - some of whom regularly buy watercolour paintings
  • it's a truly open exhibition - this is what I wrote in my review of last year's exhibition
More importantly of those selected for the exhibition:
  • 229 paintings (52%) were from RI members (who are allowed up to 6 in an exhibition - but have to pass selection too!)
  • 210 paintings (48%) are by non-members
Find out more about the Call for Entries 2022 below
  • about the exhibition - and what the artwork hung looks like
  • terms and conditions
  • who can submit an entry
  • what sort of artwork can be submitted
Prizes & Awards - The exhibition includes several prizes and awards, open to all participating artists - see below

Summary of Key Dates for Artists submitting an Open Entry
  • Submission closes: Friday 28 January 2022, 12 noon (i.e. a week earlier than last year)
  • Selection notification: Friday 4 February 2021, 12 noon [Log in to see if your work has been pre-selected]
  • Receiving Day (IF pre-selected from your digital submission): Saturday 5 March 2021, 10am - 5pm
  • Notification of Final Selection: Tuesday 8 March, 12 noon
  • Exhibition: Thursday 14th - 23rd April, 11am to 5pm
There are THREE major changes this year
  • digital selection only applies to the pre-selection - as per 'normal' (i.e. unlike last year when it had to be digital for everything) and there will be a jury of members artists making the final selection of works to hang from those pre-selected from the digital open entry
  • the submission fee has been increased - £20 per work (or £14 per work for artists aged 35 or under).
  • the exhibition has returned to its normal exhibition month of April - after being held in May last year due to lockdown
Do bear in mind thought that anything can change - although it seems more unlikely this year.

Call for Entries

You can READ details of the Call for Entries for the exhibition in 2022 in two places:

Who can submit

Monday, December 27, 2021

An appreciation of Wayne Thiebaud (1920 - 2021)

I have long admired and loved Wayne Thiebaud's paintings, prints and drawings. So it was especially sad to wake this morning to the news that he had died, age 101, on Christmas Day, at his home in Sacramento. 

I've written about him before in 
For me this is a bit of a click and salivate post! In all honesty written entirely for me - for looking at from time to time - rather than sharing with any of you - but you can look too! ;)
This post is going to be an appreciation of the man and his artwork - with links to where online you can see and hear him and view his art. (Note: I'll probably add in more links to his artwork as I find them)

Installation view of Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective
(Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York, June 28–September 23, 2001).
Photography by Jerry L. Thompson

But first click the arrow to the right of the pic in this link to see a slideshow of his work created by his gallery.

About Wayne Thiebaud

For me he's an artist who is a luscious realist of the everyday - until you get up close and realise his artwork is also abstracted from reality and the artist relishes the media he used. 

His art started from observation and might more accurately termed be realist when it was a drawing. However artwork developed from his memories and those drawings could become a very different sort of realism.

He's perhaps best known as the painter of cakes, pies, ice cream, boiled sweets and Americana - but he was a lot more than that. He was also a very accomplished figurative and portrait painter. 
By the early 1960s, Thiebaud had begun painting the works for which he is best known, depicting quintessentially American, everyday objects in bright colors—such as cakes and pies, hot dogs and hamburgers, gumballs and lollipops, and jackpot machines. Rather than painting from life, Thiebaud represented these objects from memory, drawing from nostalgic recollections of bakeries and diners from his youth and contemporary commercial imagery. Working with thickly applied paint, Thiebaud often spotlights his objects against pale backgrounds with the well-defined shadows characteristic of advertisements. In order to heighten their chromatic intensity, he outlines his forms in radiant colors to achieve a halo-like effect. In addition to his still lifes, Thiebaud also painted portraits in the same style, depicting solemn figures set against light, empty backgrounds.
His urban and Californian landscapes often took on a new perspective are very striking - and make you look at landscapes with a fresh eye. To me they often seemed to involve tilting or looking up and the optical mixing of colours in both application and positioning on the support which just makes you LOOK at the artwork!

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Festive Greetings

Greetings to all my regular readers of Making A Mark
With my very best wishes for a
Happy and Peaceful Festive Season

My neighbours have a very creative and artistic approach to Christmas - and there are some absolutely fabulous Christmas wreaths where I live in Bow in East London - which I photograph every festive season.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Book Review: Natural History Illustration in Pen and Ink by Sarah Morrish

Natural History Illustration in Pen and Ink by Sarah Morrish is a book by a well educated and very experienced natural history illustrator who writes extremely well - and it shows on every one of its pages making it joy to read.

Combine science with art and journey through nature

One of the things which distinguishes this book is it's written by somebody who has 

  • qualifications in education, science (ecology, conservation) and art (botanical illustration) and 
  • lots of experience of 
    • natural history illustration, 
    • pen and ink as a medium and 
    • teaching students in class, online and through written materials  

Sarah Morrish has created a very informative book on a topic which is not well covered in art instruction literature.  It is packed full of very educational content - nothing is vacuous or vague. The quality of the content is matched by it also being a very well structured and designed book with an excellent range of images. Sarah understands very well how to make a complex topic accessible and easy to digest by students looking to learn about or improve their skills and techniques in pen and ink illustration of the natural world

Her skills in this area have been endorsed by the Natural History Museum London which has commissioned her to produce online learning resources on the theme of natural science illustration for their Introduction to British Natural History Studies Training Course in 2021 - which is a super endorsement of her skills in this area.

Her book also usefully includes image contributions from some very impressive artists and illustrators working in this field from around the world who are both experienced and experts in their respective fields within natural history. I knew some but not all of them and I loved being introduced to artists who were new to me. 

Her book is, for me, a very refreshing change from my absolute bête noire i.e. art instruction books written by people who don't know their subject as well as they need to if they want to teach others and/or books where the flow of the content is poor and not well written.

What I really liked about the book

At the beginning two things stood out for me. There's a 

  • useful discussion about the depiction of nature and wild life which explores the parameters of the subject and how it can be represented
  • a timeline of the development of illustration using pen and ink which I've not seen before.
Other aspects I particularly liked 
  • Her very useful summaries of key points in a chapter. It's so easy to lose these when the text is so packed full of information. These 
  • Her summary checklists of things to think about with respect to different aspects of pen and ink illustration of natural history - e.g. the use of photography - which go from the basic and generic to the particular relevant to the subject matter and its particular challenges.
  • Very good discussion of the range of art materials, tools and equipment available to the pen and ink illustrator including:
    • Her emphasis on using the right tool for the job and 
    • her discussion of the very wide variety of both pens and nibs and inks available to the pen and ink illustrator
  • an excellent set of illustrations of different examples in relation to both techniques and subject matters
  • Her very clear illustrations of the differences between different techniques of contour hatching, cross hatching and stippling.
  • Her very clearly annotated pen and ink drawings which explain the use made of different mark-making techniques 
  • it includes a very useful section on Composition which focuses on how the principles and elements translate into this subject area and media
  • The huge diversity of subject matter illustrated in the book demonstrates how fascinating this aspect of art can be for those interested in nature and natural history. It includes specimens which I've never seen included in any art instruction book before.
  • The step by step exercises - which do not try to be lowest common denominator exercise for those new to the subject or media and instead clearly indicate a clear aim and scope plus a recommended and precise skill level needed prior to trying the exercise.
  • Her tips go way beyond the technical aspects of illustration. Sarah has some really great tips concerning the collection, presentation and storage of specimens found in the field. You just know these have been learned the hard way! The practical tips are in no way sanitised - she warns you when a specimen is going to smell!
  • I love the stories behind the development of some of the drawings of how specimens or habitats were encountered and approaches used to collect information for subsequent illustrations.

In conclusion......

Essentially this book is an excellent resource and reference book. It is
  • an excellent and comprehensive instruction book which is packed full of quality content that is both well organised and well written 
  • very practical - with lots of useful information and tips
  • packed full of illustrations and images which inform, educate and inspire
  • suitable for any committed art students from secondary school to the third age
My art instruction books of choice many years ago used to be those produced by Watson Guptill (The Drawing Book etc) because they were comprehensive, objective and authoritative. I can pay this book no higher compliment then to say it very much reminds me of the quality of those publications about various art and media topics - including the book on pen and ink! 

I'm very much looking forward to her next book.

About Sarah Morrish

Sarah Morrish is a widely-respected artist, illustrator and tutor, with many years of teaching experience. With a working background in ecology and conservation, she aims to raise awareness of the beauty and fragility of nature in all its forms. She is a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists, the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society and a Fellow of the Linnean Society.

You can find out more about Sarah Morrish - and the other methods she uses to teach natural history and botanical illustration in the links below


Publisher ‏ : ‎ The Crowood Press Ltd 
Publication date: 10 August 2021 in UK; 1 January 2022 in USA
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 208 pages | Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 22 x 1.27 x 27.99 cm
Kindle Edition: File size ‏ : ‎ 63415 KB | Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled | Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported | Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1785009222 | ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1785009228

READ a review of this book published in the magazine for the members and patrons of the Natural History Museum which was written by one of the ecologists working at the Museum
As an ecologist, I appreciated the section dealing with legalities and best practice when collecting subject material. This is so important, but could have been glossed over so easily.

The book is available from a number of sources:
(Note: the Amazon links are my Associate links)

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

What's been different in 2021 for me

This last year has been VERY different for me when it comes to blogging about art.
  • Firstly because of all the obvious constraints on getting around and going to art exhibitions during the first part of the year.
  • Secondly because walking became so much more difficult - and painful - for me (due to bone on bone osteoarthritis in my right ankle)
  • Thirdly because, by the summer, I'd become increasingly preoccupied with getting ready for ankle fusion surgery - in terms of the need to think about 
    • all the things that needed to be done to be able to live on one leg for three months 
    • from doing the research and getting kit to be able to get around on one leg after surgery - for up to 12 weeks (and maybe more)
    • making my home more disabled friendly 
    • plus some hard graft in decluttering!

Plus I got the results on my NHS App from a lateral X-Ray of both hips at the end of last month. The bad news is and I've got osteoarthritis in both hips too - with the right one being the worst. Which explains the pain in my right hip and extremely distracting collapsing movement it exhibits from time to time - with absolutely no notice! Think leg suddenly gives way beneath you....

It resulted in fewer blog posts this year compared to earlier years as in 
  • fewer exhibitions to visit - for external reasons
  • fewer exhibitions to visit for personal reasons
    • some were just completely inaccessible to people like me - too many stairs and no lifts
    • others I was less able to walk around exhibitions which take a lot of walking round - and a lot of walking to get to them (as in I can't walk for two days afterwards if I walk too much!)
  • less time for blog posts!
  • very distracted by other matters.
  • and very, very tired - because movement is very tiring and pain is tiring - and it's difficult to sleep when you're in pain.....  It's also not easy to acknowledge that one if getting older and less able and less energetic.

Me at the Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society on 14 July 2021 

But I did get a rollator - and the rollator has been to quite a few exhibitions. Mainly those which don't involve lots of walking just to get there. 

My very light carbon fibre rollator which now goes to every exhibition (minus stick)
- on its first outing back in June at the NEAC Annual Exhibition

Plus I've now lost 
43.2kg / 6.8 stones / 95+ lbs since June 2020 - which has helped to reduce the pain and make me more mobile - and better able to cope with the one-legged post surgery challenge in future.

HOWEVER, the net result has been:
  • fewer posts about exhibitions I've seen
  • more posts about exhibitions posted late - because I'm now very tired after an exhibition outing
  • more posts about the art which transferred to television / video / Zoom
  • more time spent watching Zoom and webinars and talks
  • more time spent doing other stuff!
Later this week I'm going to highlight some of the more popular blog posts in 2021

Mobility issues for those interested in art

In the meantime I've been considering writing more, in future, about disabled friendly - and less friendly - places for others who are interested in art and viewing art but also have mobility problems / accessibility issues.

I'd be interested to know whether other people would find this useful.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Call for Entries - Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2022

Those wishing to raise their profile as a portrait painter should be interested in the latest Call for Entries for the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters

The deadline for the digital entries for the annual exhibition in 2022 of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters is Friday 11th February 2022, 12 noon so now is a good time to start thinking about how you can use any extra time over Christmas and New Year to get an entry (or entries!) together.

This post is about:
  • the annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters - and why it's a good idea to enter
  • who can enter
  • what you can enter
  • how to enter
  • the timeline of important dates

About the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP) invites portraits completed by non-members to be entered in their annual open exhibition at the Mall Galleries in central London.
The Society welcomes paintings, drawings and original prints including digital/ipad prints from artists over 18, from the UK and internationally to be shown alongside members of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters at their Annual Exhibition.
The Royal Society of Portrait Painters seeks submissions of new and traditional artistic models and perspectives in portraiture.

Reasons why you should enter the RP's annual exhibition

For those wondering whether and why they should submit an entry to this exhibition, take a look at the following.

Entry is digital

  • You only need to go to the expense of framing and transport IF invited to progress to the second stage of selection. So most entries only incur the expense of the submission fee.
Not all selected portraits are huge! There's a good selection of small works.

The Importance of Exhibitions to Portrait Commissions

artists accepted for exhibition will be invited to advertise portrait commissions through our Commissions department on which a commission will be payable.

Some significant prizes

This is an exhibition with some heavyweight and prestigious cash prizes. It has the most valuable prizes awarded by any national art society in the UK.

In total, the cash on offer is worth a total of £41,000.  These include awards for younger artists and portrait drawing.
  • The William Lock Portrait Prize: £20,000 for the most timeless portrait with a real feeling for paint and its aesthetic potential
  • The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture: £10,000 plus the Society’s Gold Medal awarded for the most distinguished portrait in the Society’s annual exhibition
  • The de Laszlo Foundation Award: £3,000 plus a Silver Medal for the most outstanding portrait by an artist aged 35 years or under
  • The RP Award: £2,000 will be awarded to the artist whose work best represents the year's chosen theme - which for 2022 is 'Self-Portrait'.
  • The RP Prize for the Best Small Portrait: A prize of £2,000 for the best small portrait in the exhibition, measuring not more than 38 x 30.5 cm (15 x 12 inches) unframed
  • The Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing: £2,000 and framed certificate for a portrait in any recognised drawing medium
  • The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award for Classically Inspired Portraiture: The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award, established by its founders William Bortrick and Mark Ayre in 2015, is presented for Classically Inspired Portraiture in the RP Annual Exhibition. It is presented each year with a certificate and a cheque for £2,000.
Artwork hung in the North Gallery included drawings

A prestigious portraiture exhibition - in central London and online

  • This is a very prestigious exhibition within the portrait world
    • It fills all three galleries at the Mall Galleries on The Mall in London
    • last year it attracted 4,400 entries to the exhibition - including very many entries from international artists
  • The exhibition is also put online so it can be seen all over the world.
Some of the artwork can be very large - within the context of size limits

Why it compares favourably to the BP Portrait and other portrait competitions

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Calum Stevenson wins Portrait Artist of the Year (Series 8 Autumn 2021)

Calum Stevenson with his Finals portrait of Barry Humphries

Last Wednesday, Calum Stevenson was the first Scot and the youngest artist ever to win the Final Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year.

Sky broadcast two programmes back to back on Wednesday:

  • The first related to the Final held at the Battersea Arts Centre in splendid isolation last summer.
  • The second related to the story of the winner and the painting of the commission.
(Meanwhile I was engaged in getting my technophobe other half up to speed first buying and then getting up to speed with his new acquisitions from Apple - and trying to get a remedy from my hard disc on my iMac which decided to disappear - hence the delay in posting)

Below you can find out more about

  • The Competition
  • The Final
  • The Commission
  • Calum Stevenson
  • How to enter Portrait Artist of the Year 2022
  • How to find out more about past finals of Portrait Artist of the Year.

Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year - Series 8

The eighth series of this very popular art competition makes for great television viewing as the nights begin to draw in. It was filmed in the late spring / early summer last year in Covid secure conditions - meaning no audience - at the Battersea Arts Centre.

This year there was no transfer to the National Portrait Gallery as has happened in the past partly because it was closed and partly because it meant people did not have to love kit and travel to a different place.

The series has seen 72 artists compete across eight heats to select heat winners for the semi final and then three artists for the final. Each artist got four hours to try and paint the likeness and essence of the sitter they were allocated.

I've felt there's generally been a better standard of artist in this series - as in relatively few who really were not up to snuff.

You can read the reviews of the show by viewers on Google. One such expressed herself thus
Watching paint dry has never felt so good! An hour of joyful pleasure, the antidote to a stressful day or any kind of miserableness. While the show format is similar to other shows of this type, it is on another planet in terms of excellence, the talented artists, the delightful judges, the gently humorous presenters.

The Final

The sitter for the Final was brilliant Barry Humphries. He turned up as Barry Humphries - rather than Dame Edna Everage or Sir Les Patterson. He dressed for the part in an outstanding colourful suit and then  proceeded to start sketching the artists as they painted him.

(he) has appeared in more Archibald exhibitions than any other Australian celebrity, a seven-time finalist in various guises during the controversial portrait prize’s 100 years.

There are also 12 portraits of Barry Humprhies in the National Portrait Gallery - although all are photographs except for the pencil drawing of Dame Edna Everage by Cecil Beaton.

The artists who made it though to the Final were an interesting lot in the sense that none were a conventional portrait artist

They were, in the order they were called at the semi-finals:

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Jackson's Painting Prize 2022

The Call for Entries for the Jackson's Painting Prize 2022 has been published and this post summarises the key points.

Summary of Key Information

Jackson’s Painting Prize exists to champion exceptional artworks made by international artists at all points in their careers, with tailored prizes that aim to give successful applicants the exposure and resources to support them in their practice

DEADLINE for Entries: 1st March 2022

WHO can enter? This competition is open to 
  • artists from all over the world
  • all ages and abilities

WHAT can be submitted? 
  • 2-dimensional ORIGINAL fine art works 
  • in any painting or drawing media
  • up to five artworks
All work must be your own intellectual property. This means we will not accept artworks that directly copy other people’s work (this does not include artistic interpretations) or works that are made from a tutorial. We are not accepting entries that have previously won a major competition or that have been extensively exhibited in any established galleries.

COST to enter? £5 Entry fee (£25 for maximum number of entries)

CATEGORIES: There are a number of categories
  • Animal
  • Portrait / Figure
  • Landscape / Cityscape / Seascape
  • Still Life / Botanical
  • Abstract / Non-representational
  • Scenes of Everyday Life
PRIZES: These are a mix of cash prizes for specific awards and £500 vouchers for art materials 
  • Jackson's Painting Prize: £6,000
  • Emerging Artist Award: £1,000
  • Awards for winners of the individual categories: £500 (x 6)
  • Each of the following will get a £500 voucher to spend at Jackson's Art Materials
    • Amateur Artist Award'
    • Outstanding Watercolour Award
    • People's Choice Award
JUDGES: There are six Judges - and four of them area artists
  • This is the link to the Registration Page - 
  • You cannot use a store account to enter the competition. You must create a competition profile.
  • Digital images MUST be 
    • maximum file size: 3MB. 
    • at least 1000px wide 
    • with a resolution of at least 72px per inch. 
    • the correct way up!
  • Digital images MUST NOT:
    • show any unnecessary or irrelevant content, such as frames, mounts, walls, tables or any other kind of background
    • include a digital copyright or watermark
  • READ:

TIMELINE (2022):
  • 1st March (5pm) - Deadline for Entries
  • 23rd March - Longlist announced; People's Choice Award voting opens
  • 30th March - Shortlist announced
  • 5th April - People's Choice Award voting closes
Winners of the following awards announced:
  • 6th April - Amateur Artist Award
  • 7th April - Outstanding Watercolour
  • 8th April - Categories
  • 11th April - Emerging Artist
  • 13th April - Jackson's Painting Prize

Previous Years

The posts below unpack this prize a bit more.
This is a bit of a different Call for Entries - as I got asked to be one of the Judges for this one!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

An Exhibition for Britain and the return of Grayson's Art Club

I was surprised and delighted to see that Grayson's Art Club was broadcast once more last Friday on Channel 4.

Grayson's Art Club - the website

The programme was all about "An Exhibition for Britain" - curated by Grayson Perry - and some of the artworks chosen for the exhibition by people who participated in Grayson's Art Club.

The exhibition is on at Bristol Museum and Art Club from 4 December 2021 until 4 September 2022 - and this is the only place and the only time you can see it. 
The artworks made by the public, established artists, and celebrities are powerful and very personal responses to the pandemic. Collectively, they form a lasting artistic record of the unprecedented times the nation has experienced together.

Alongside Grayson and his wife Philippa, the contributing artists and celebrities include Alex Horne, Anneka Rice, Banksy, Boy George, Chila Kumari Burman-Singh, David Bailey, Derren Brown, Sir Frank Bowling, Holly Walsh, Jane Seymour, Johnny Vegas, Lianne La Havas, Lucy Sparrow, Mawaan Rizwan, Polly Morgan, Russell Tovey, Sue Perkins, Tom Allen and Yinka Ilori.

It's spread out over three floors of the art gallery so that pieces sit alongside other artworks in the collection

In Bristol, Grayson Perry curates a joyful, moving exhibition of the public's lockdown artworks from 2021, as well as works from leading artists and celebrities

I thought the Guardian review of the programme pretty much captured what it was all about. I know I was in tears at one point.

You try watching a girl who is so disabled she creates her art with her eyes - and then proceeds to produce one of the best every portraits of Grayson Perry!

Guardian review by Lucy Mangan

Grayson’s Art Club was a brilliantly and quickly conceived response to Britain’s pandemic-induced lockdowns. The first series covered the first two confinements, the second one our third – though you suspect not final – sheltering-in-place. The unflagging optimism of Grayson, and his equally indefatigable wife Philippa, framed the enforced hiatus as an opportunity for us to get stuck into something we might not otherwise do, and turn to art as a way of processing the unprecedented situation and expressing the otherwise inexpressible.

My overwhelming impression is how much better the British public are at recording one of the most momentous events in UK history when compared to very many artists.  Contributions from "the celebs" were also pretty good and some were very memorable. 

I've been going to art society exhibitions and looking for art inspired by the pandemic - but have found precious little. Whether this an issue to do with what artist produce or what selection panels choose I really don't know.

What I do know is that it is an amazing achievement to have an exhibition in Bristol of some amazing artwork made during and, in part, reflecting the pandemic. I applaud all 17,000 of you who submitted artwork and those who had their artwork selected.

If you didn't catch this programme last Friday I highly recommend you watch it on catch-up on ALL4 - it made me feel proud to be British!

The return of Grayson's Art Club

Many of you will be pleased to hear that apparently Grayson's Art Club is returning in 2022. A third series has been commissioned.

I think Channel 4 understand that they've got a winner on their hands with this programme which connects with people across all communities and all areas.
Armed with a new set of themes, Grayson’s Art Club promises to represent the ever-changing mood of the nation, and once again we will see Grayson in his studio making his own art responding to what has got the nation talking. Grayson will speak with celebrity guests and high-profile artists who’ll share insights into their processes and will feature art made by the great British public. Restrictions provided, Grayson will finally be able to throw open his studio doors and welcome in his celebrity guests and their art.

The six-episode run will see Grayson incorporate weekly themes for members of the public to submit artwork to. Themes and submission information will be made available in early 2022.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Review: Semi Finals of Portrait Artist of the Year (Series 8)

Last night was the semi final of Series 8 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year - and this is my review.

I’ll writing this on my iPad Pro as my iMac looks like it also need surgery!

To be completely honest, in comparison to previous semi-finals, I was somewhat underwhelmed. 

I’m also amazed that somebody somewhere in the Sky Arts monolith has committed a monumental system fail. The way I access this programme via Now TV means that the first half of the heats can no longer view be viewed online - or on my television screen - because the episode is only available for 28 days NOT for the duration of the series. That just seems to me to be a completely nonsensical given that every episode of every other series of this programme CAN be accessed online and on my television!! If anybody from Sky Arts is reading this review PLEASE get this fixed so that those who come late to the series can watch ALL the episodes all the way through in the correct order.


The sitter was Nick Mason who has been the drummer for Pink Floyd for nearly 50 years - plus he likes driving fast cars 

Nick Mason and Joan Bakewell

The semi-finalists come from the 72 artists selected to participate in the eight heats at the Battersea Arts Centre earlier in 2021. Each won their heat - and are as follows:

Five Professional Artists

  • Episode 3:  Sarah Harvey [Facebook | Instagram) - born in London in 1981. Art education at Chelsea School of Art and Newcastle University, graduating in 2004. Has her studio (Mallard Studio) in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire - big enough for her usually large scale paintings. However she's recently switched (due to you the big P) to painting in watercolour on her dining room table. You can see her many drawings and paintings of healthcare workers and families that were affected personally by covid19 created during the lockdown. One of her drawings was in the NHS Magazine in 2020
  • Episode 4:  Lucy Threlfall [Facebook | Instagram] - Studio in Royston in north Hertfordshire. Graduated with degree in Art History at UCL. In 1990 she went on to study at Charles Cecil Studios in Florence. From 1997 she worked principally as a portrait painter, undertaking portrait commissions while looking after a young family. Completed an MA in Printmaking at the Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge in 2012. She has painted portraits since 1997.  
  • Episode 5:  Calum Stevenson  [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube] - graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone and I’m now studying for a MA in Fine Arts at Glasgow School of Art. He spent 80 hours on his self-portrait and focuses on getting a good likeness from the get go.
  • Episode 6:  Gabriella Cohen [LinkedIn] - from Staines, Middlesex.  Digital Content Creator/ Fine Artist who graduated with a first class degree in Fine Art from Bournemouth - who enjoys creating characters in her work.  Submitted a self-portrait with a futuristic quality - and aimed for a slightly unusual edge to her portrait.
  • Episode 8: Christos Tsimaris [Instagram | Saatchi] Lives in London. Participated in PAOTY 2020 and reached the semi-finals where he had a bit of a meltdown and a bad day - as I stood and watched. (see my review of the semi-finals - which incorporates comments on what I watched - in April 2019 - but did not make the screen)
    • 1996 - 1997 - Masters Degree, European Fine Art, Winchester School of Art, Winchester
    • 1995 - 1996 - Post Graduate Studies, Byam Shaw School of Art, London
    • 1988 - 1993 - B.A. Hons Degree, School of Art of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Three Amateur Artists

  • Episode 1:  Kat Hughes (Facebook) - Her self-portrait took 40 hours to complete
  • Episode 2:  Ruhkiah Johnston - Medical student from London. No website or social media presence
  • Episode 7: Mark Oliver [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter ] - An award-winning illustrator with a background in graphic design who lives in Worthing, West Sussex.

The Set-Up

Look at the distance between artist and sitter!!!

The set-up is rather different - with all nine artists lined up in an extended semi-circle facing towards the sitter sat in front of a large gong - which apparently isn’t actually a gong - which Mason has been carrying around on all Pink Floyd Tours - surrounded by very many pink panels!
They’ve got to think about what the set says about who they’re painting
Kate Bryan
I can’t believe that it’s taken me to until now to understand why the set background was PINK!!!

The important point from the artists’ perspective is that they are a HUGE distance from the sitter. No reputable portrait artist would ever consider painting a portrait from this distance! The programme makers really have to come up with a better way of doing this because for me while it might work for those who use technology it’s grossly unfair for those who paint from life.


What are the semi-finals actually about?

Monday, December 06, 2021

Surgery postponed - my list of exhibitions in London to visit

I made it all the way to the ward, unpacked and knew when the operation was likely to take place when it was CANCELLED (long story not for this blog!). It's hopefully in the process of being rescheduled for mid January.

So coming home again I started making a mental list of exhibitions to try and go and see.... 

and these are they....

ART EXHIBITIONS to see in London

Courtauld Museum

....has reopened after its major transformation project and I'd like to try and get to see old favourites again.


Hokusai: The Great Picture Book of Everything

Venue: Room 90, British Museum
Dates: until 30th January 2022
Ticket prices - cheaper to go in the week rather than the weekend
In a global first, this exhibition will display 103 recently acquired drawings by Hokusai, produced in the 1820s–1840s for an illustrated encyclopedia called The Great Picture Book of Everything. For reasons unknown, the book was never published, presenting the opportunity to see these exceptional works which would otherwise have been destroyed as part of the woodblock printing process.

Depicting scenes from Buddhist India, ancient China and the natural world, the brush drawings not only showcase Hokusai's inimitable style and skill, but also reveal a version of 19th-century Japan much more intrigued by the wider world than previously thought.

Dürer's Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist
Venue: Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery
Dates: Until 27 February 2022
Ticket prices: Standard admission £20 Monday – Sunday plus concessions

This is the exhibition which should have been held in 6 March 2021 – 13 June 2021 - but got caught by the lockdown.

I was really miffed I was going to miss this one so pleased I can now get to see it as I'[m a big admirer of Durer.
The first major UK exhibition of German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer in nearly 20 years.

Through paintings, drawings, prints, and letters, this exhibition follows Dürer’s travels across Europe, bringing to life the artist himself, and the people and places he visited.

Charting his journeys to the Alps, Italy, Venice and the Netherlands, the exhibition will explore how Dürer’s travels sparked an exchange of ideas with Netherlandish and Italian Renaissance artists, fuelled his curiosity and creativity, and increased his fame and influence across Europe.

Hogarth and Europe

Venue: Tate Britain
Dates: Until 20th March 2022

One that had completely passed me by - but I am partial to Hogarth. I often wonder why more artists today - with the exception of Grayson Perry - don't follow in his footsteps in terms of recording daily life.

Funny video provides a new take on the story!

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2021

Friday, December 03, 2021

Review: Series 8 Episode 8 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021

This is my review later than usual review of the last Episode  of Series 8 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021. 

Judges reviewing the self-portraits in the final episode of #PAOTY 2021

If I'm still around and not in brain-numbing pain after my ankle surgery on Monday,  then the review of the Semi-Final will follow next Thursday. 

For the record, I monitor social media each week before writing these reviews to see what the wider public think. I start by using the hashtag #paoty and noted this week that Instagram beats Twitter by a ratio of 2:1 - and Facebook has very, very little (i.e. lots over time - but very little for this series).


I've got the impression that portrait artist of the week was used as some sort of melting pot for identifying potentially good people for the main event.
I've noticed a lot of the artists taking part this year have 
  • also taken part on Facebook in Portrait Artist of the Week.
  • got a site on Saatchi
The Artists sat outside during the Judging

Professional Artists

I've got the overall impression that there haven't been as many professional artists participating in this series compared to previous series. I haven't counted - it's just an overall impression. I wonder why that is?

The three professional artists in this episode are:
  • Jane French [Instagram | Twitter] - Gets my prize for the best written short summary of who she is on her website. Since September 2021 she's been engaged in a 100 Heads project which she is posting to her Instagram account
Based in Leicester, Jane French is an accomplished figurative artist and portrait painter. She is a proud member of the Contemporary British Portrait Painters collective (CBPP) – a group of some of the best portrait artists working in Britain today. Having originally studied Fine Art at Newcastle University, and later an MA in Design at De Montfort University (Leicester), Jane worked as an illustrator and graphic designer before focusing professionally on her own practice. She is also an art and design tutor, working online and at art centres and FE/HE institutions across the UK.
  • Karen McKeon [Facebook |  Instagram | Saatchi] 4 years at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland - has a Dip AD. Originally studied sculpture. Now a practising professional artist painting in thin oil on canvas. She lives in Var in France.
  • Christos Tsimaris [Instagram | Saatchi] Lives in London. Participated in PAOTY 2020 and reached the semi-finals where he had a bit of a meltdown and a bad day - as I stood and watched. (see my review of the semi-finals - which incorporates comments on what I watched - in April 2019 - but did not make the screen)
    • 1996 - 1997 - Masters Degree, European Fine Art, Winchester School of Art, Winchester
    • 1995 - 1996 - Post Graduate Studies, Byam Shaw School of Art, London
    • 1988 - 1993 - B.A. Hons Degree, School of Art of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Amateur Artists

The six amateur artists in this episode are:
  • Terry Coyle [Facebook | Saatchi] - a part-time maintenance worker and amateur artist who comes from Derry in Northern Ireland.
    • 1996-1999 University of Ulster: Belfast College of Art - Batchelor of Arts , Fine and applied art.
  • Robbie Jeffcott [Instagram] Based in London. Studied Fine Art Westminster and then trained as a tattoo artist.
  • Hlumelo Konini [Instagram] studying architectural technology at Aberdeen University
  • Helen Kelly [Instagram] - Mother of three small children; Studied fine art and printmaking and used to be an FE Lecturer but now works as a horticulturist focusing on health and sustainable habitat in Stourbrige
  • Amber Lewis [Instagram] Based in Birmingham and wants to study art at University.
  • Jacob Walden [Instagram] Age 16, studying for his A Levels and lives in Warwick.


The final sitters for Episode 8 were:
  • Ian Hislop - Writer, broadcaster and Editor of Private Eye (I never knew he lived in Sissinghurst - but I do now!)
  • Emma Dabiri - an Irish author, academic, and broadcaster. She is a teaching fellow in the African Languages, Cultures and Literatures section of the African department at SOAS, a Visual Sociology PhD researcher at Goldsmiths and has written some seminal books
  • Daniel Mays - actor who starred in Series 3 of BBC drama Line of Duty as Sergeant Danny Waldron


Have you experience of painting Hair - from too little to a LOT?

Hair had a starring role in this week's episode. Emma Dabiri (author of Don't Touch My Hair has a huge amount of wonderful hair, Ian Hislop has very little and looks positively cherubic at times as a result and Daniel Mays favours prominent gangster stubble!

All three therefore had everything from lots of hair to very little which, in turn, provided a major challenge for the artists in terms of structure, shape, volume, tone and colour - because there is nothing that undermines a portrait more than not getting the hair (or lack of) right.

For me the important thing is to recognise that you need to work out the shape of the skull underneath the hair before drawing / painting the hair - otherwise you run the risk of getting it very wrong.

I'd urge artists contemplating an entry in next year's competition to make sure they practice painting hair - because this episode proves it can be a make or break factor in the final assessment!

How to cope with painting in 4 hours

As always the four hours is not four hours - unless you work straight through the lunch break - because you get interrupted etc etc etc.

It's always interesting to watch 
  • how different artists determine different strategies and shortcuts to employ for dealing with the time constraint; and 
  • whether they arrived at the Battersea Art Centre with a thought through strategy - and practice under their belt 
  • or whether they were making it up on the day in terms of how to paint this sitter in under 4 hours.
Most interesting was Hlumelo Konini who decided to continue his 'letterbox' perspective on subjects - and just drawing the eyes, nose and ears.  However, although interesting, it doesn't provide the scope to demonstrate that you can do more than that.

Working from dark to light

It's a treat for me when we get a properly trained painter working in oils who works from dark to light. 

Even better if he or she is also an art teacher who can verbalise the mantras provided to students about how to approach painting from dark to light.
Don't rush the highlights - highlights are the treat at the end of working from dark to light 
Jane French was a major treat in this respect. I loved the fact that she was not in the least bit put off by one of the Judges commenting half way through to the effect that her face shadows were very dark - when she's been laying in the underlying darks and not fussing with the lighter tones which SHE KNEW would come later!


Sitters choose a portrait painting

Daniel Mays chose the painting by Karen Mckeon. Like Daniel I also loved this painting - but it didn't look like him! However it'll look good on his wall. 

Ian Hislop chose the remarkably good painting by Jane French which had the advantage of being an excellent portrait which also looked like him in 'contented cherub' mode.

Interestingly all the paintings of Ian were good - but very different.

Ian Hislop by Jane French

Emma Dabiry chose the portrait by Christos Tsimaris. I think this may be because it 

Judges choose a shortlist

Did you work out which were the five they made their final choice of three from?
"It was difficult going from five to three"
Waiting for the shortlist

The three artists the Judges chose were:
  • Helen Kelly
  • Christos Tsimaris
  • Jane French

Paintings by Helen Kelly - self portrait plus heat painting of Daniel Mays

Helen Kelly was extremely surprised to be shortlisted. I'm guessing quite a lot of other people might be too. However when you see the two paintings together, it's obvious that this is an artist who has a well developed sense of what she wants a painting to look like.

However I did think for a very long time that she was never going to correct the awful distortion of the head shape which was present for a very long time as this painting developed. But she did!

Plus I thought it was pity she gave him a beard when in fact he has heavy stubble. It completely changes the sense of the individual.

However, and you may think surprisingly, I think she actually captured the best sense of Daniel Mays. 

Paintings by Christos Tsimaris

Tai very obviously loves what Christos does in terms of process and application of paint. Which is basically about saying he does things which Tai finds very absorbing. However, while I can well understand the enthusiasm for the technique, in my book, that doesn't necessarily make you a good portrait painter.

I thought Kate's comment about the portrait "looking a bit shrunken" was absolutely spot on. My feeling was that her arms are just plain wrong and her arms and torso seemed to be out of proportion with the size of her head. i.e. her head was smaller and her hair was bigger. Too much focusing on the face and hair and not enough on proportions and the rest of the painting to my mind.. However I did think his self-portrait was very good - but quite limited in the sense it's just a head and shoulders.

My main gripe about Christos is he has a tendency to "go murky".  My main concern about him is I think he gets quite nervy in competitions of this sort and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the semi final this time.

Paintings by Jane French - self portrait and heat painting of Ian Hislop

The Judges commented that Jane is a traditional painter who is very good at painting clarity of form and light - and that she brings some airiness to her paintings. Which I'd call giving a sense of volume and of being a real person sitting in front of you.

I thought Jane was exceptionally good at capturing both form and likeness, tone and colour - and her paintings look 'clean' for wantof a better expression i.e. the reverse of murky!

I also liked the fact her self-portrait was her upper torso including both hands - and both those hands are rendered extremely well

Although her painting of the clothing was unfinished, I think that it's very likely that she will get a large number of commissions on the strength of her appearance on this programme.

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The winner of Episode 8

The winner of Episode 8 was Christos Tsimaris.

I wasn't surprised - because anybody who gets asked back and/or selected for the heats for a second time is obviously favoured by the Judges to some degree.

My winner was Jane French.

Next week - Semi Final

The Sitter for the Semi Final is  drummer Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, who now looks like a very dapper bloke who used to work in the City of London.

Nick Mason - the sitter for Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 semi finals