Saturday, April 30, 2022

National Galleries of Scotland Art Quiz

For those who like to exercise their art recognition/knowledge braincells, I very much recommend the National Galleries of Scotland Friday Art Quiz - which occurs monthly.

National Galleries of Scotland Friday Art Quiz
National Galleries of Scotland Friday Art Quiz

It's a 10 question quiz based on artworks in the National Galleries of Scotland - which I've never visited. 

You'll enjoy it with you have a fairly decent knowledge of art history, a good memory and can recognise artists work and the era in which an artwork was created.

I got two wrong with the quiz published today. I didn't get the sculpture or an obscure painting right! However getting 8 out of 10 means they rate me as "good". 

I'm officially "good"!

I'll be trying to do better next time. The next one is on Friday 27 May 2022.

It's publicised on their Facebook Page which is 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Good News

After 12 weeks of not a lot of blogging - and living on one leg and a knee scooter - my tibia and talus are fusing nicely (courtesy of two titanium screws in my right ankle).

As a result, I'm out of the abominable boot and my right foot is now allowed to touch the ground properly and go back into shoes. 

This means I can now start relearning how to walk normally with a calf which is seriously atrophied and an ankle which does not move!

The tibia (leg bone) is fusing with the talus (ankle bone)
which means my ankle is now permanently at a right angle and won't flex

I've now had two days now of walking very short distances around my home very slowly. It's not without pain and it's not easy. It does get slightly easier once I get going and hanging on to a rollator also helps.

HOWEVER I think it's going to be a few weeks more before I'm walking normally again and/or any distance.

Next week we're going to try taking my normal rollator outside to see how far I can walk comfortably.

Then it's going to be a question of doing the physio exercises, pacing myself and very gradually extending the distance I walk.

I'm hopeful that I will make good progress - but there's no way of knowing when I'm going to be back in town and looking at exhibitions

The whole process is completely exhausting and consequently blogging is going to have to continue to be completely sporadic.

PS. For those thinking this is like a hip replacement or a knee replacement, those two operations are akin to "a walk in the park" compared to my ankle fusion. Essentially because with hip/knee replacements you get given a brand new joint while I have to "grow my own bone replacement" for a joint - and this carries on for the next 9 months or so....

PPS THANK YOU to all those of you who have written to me - on Facebook or via email - sending your good wishes . It's much appreciated.

Monday, April 25, 2022

How to describe art

There are various terms and phrases used to describe different approaches tp the development of artwork and working from life and subject matter. 

Below are my interpretations of what these mean.

"Working from life" 

Working from life is a practice deeply rooted in artistic traditions - before photography and projectors and other forms of technology were invented. 

It is commonly used to mean working with the subject in front of you whether it's a landscape, an interior, a still life or a person.

No photographs are involved, there is no tracing or projection of the subject. The artist has to sight size the subject and make judgements about values and colours using their eyes and the experience and skills they have developed through working from life. 

Bottom line - it's essentially about:
  • developing your skills by drawing from life a lot and 
  • then trusting your eyes and drawing and painting what is in front of you.
Practice helps enormously with developing skills. A number of artists routinely make a point of keeping sketchbooks and drawing something from life each day

Family Pets make useful subjects as they tend to sit around a lot - waiting to be drawn!
This is a very fast pen and ink sketch of my sadly departed cat Cosmo
It's informed by having drawn him many times before
- so that I know what the key lines which need to be included
(Pen and ink; Katherine Tyrrell)

"Plein Air Painting" 

"en plein air" is a French term. It's frequently used to describe painting from life in the open air and out of doors and away from the studio. Devoted plein air painters keep painting whatever the weather!

Artists Sketching in the White Mountains by Winslow Homer (1836-1910)
1868, oil on panel, 24.1 × 40.3 cm,
Portland Museum of Art

It's also sometimes used as a euphemism for painting nature and the natural world. 

It mainly developed during the nineteenth century. The practice of paintings landscapes 'on the spot' became possible as technology advanced and allowed artists to use tube paint - rather than paint in bladders.

There are 
  • numerous groups of painters devoted to plein air painting around the world - and some periodically host exhibitions.
  • individual painters who make a career and develop a reputation for painting landscapes plein air - and some even record the process on Instagram! (see below)
The sketching equivalent in towns and cities is called "Urban Sketching".

Other references:

The French term plein air means out of doors and refers to the practice of painting entire finished pictures out of doors

Working from life INDOORS

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Acrylic Painting, Art Societies and Education

There are huge numbers of artists across the world who paint in acrylic. Many of whom can do absolutely fantastic things with what I regard as a medium that presents a number of problems for working practices and can be difficult to master.

tubes of professional acrylic paints

What I find very odd is the apparent fact that 
  • so MANY acrylic painters appear to want to be seen as painters in traditional media rather than a distinctive and different non-traditional medium.
  • so FEW acrylic painters are concerned about promoting knowledge, education and best practice in the use of acrylic for artworks.
Maybe the latter can only be achieved if and when
  • acrylic painters start owning their media and 
  • stop pretending to be something else?

The acrylic painter with various hats

At present:
  • Acrylic paintings have become a major presence on the walls of exhibitions by art societies which used to be focused on the use of traditional watercolour paints (i.e. ones used for centuries).
  • While other acrylic painters appear to want to pass themselves off as painters in oils - because oil paintings are better regarded and typically sell for more money!
What is the problem about being open about the fact the media is acrylic - and that what it can do should be celebrated not hidden?

For a long time, I assumed what I have tended to regard as a bit of a 'masquerade' was because acrylic used to have a very bad reputation in the relatively past. 

This was back in the days when 
  • lack of knowledge about how it works and 
  • lack of skill in use of acrylic painting
  • RESULTED in a number of acrylic paintings cracking, peeling and flaking after a few years.
The behavior of acrylics as a painting medium and their physical and chemical properties are different from oil paint which warrants distinct guidelines for acrylic paintings' care. Some traditional conservation methods can be harmful to the acrylic paintings. The aging characteristics of acrylic paintings are just beginning to be understood. At present, preventative care seems to be the best care for acrylic paintings.

See also 

In general, very few studies of the conservation of acrylic emulsion paintings have been published. Instead, concerns tend to be communicated through informal discussion.
However, of late I've begun to wonder:
  • why we've not yet seen any change and 
  • why acrylics are now the ONLY art medium lacking a major and well recognised art society dedicated to its use. 

Art societies help educate artists 

To me, one of the benefits of an art society which embraces a particular medium is that it can also 
  • educate and promote good practices in the use of a media
  •  through associated educational and charitable activities.
To not have a leading art society doing this for acrylics is, to me, very odd. Even odder, when you think that many artists are also art teachers.....

Acrylic Art Societies

There are of course existing art societies which focus on acrylics. However, none have the same status as the older art societies associated with oil or watercolour. 

As a result, in the UK we have acrylic crossing the oil and watercolour divide - and sometimes forgetting that 
  • those on the water side should NOT look like oils and 
  • those on the oil side should NOT look like watercolours.
Maybe it's a question of acrylic painters needing to achieve a much higher profile - in terms of an art society with a very clear focus and its own membership and exhibitions?

It's always interesting to see an art society which is explicit about the fact it includes work in oils and acrylic paints.
Below is a list of art societies which are EXPLICIT about their use of Acrylic Paint.
Some of the history of how they came about is also highlighted in extract quotations from websites - and current places you can find them online.

LINKS to their websites are embedded in their names.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Just a few problems

My apologies. I'm having a few problems right now with my continuing recovery from surgery. Hence the blogging hiatus.

For the last week or so (weeks 11 and 12 post surgery) I've been making a determined effort to walk using my crutches - while partially weight bearing (up to 50% of my weight) on my right ankle - which is (hopefully) now fused! I'm having an x-Ray next tuesday to find out if I've grown the bone....

However walking is easier said than done.

What's happening is I'm mobilising on my feet using my forearm crutches (because I also need a shoulder replacement!) and it's very difficult. 
  • I'm using muscles in my lower back I haven't used much for weeks and weeks. (I'm now in the 12th week post surgery. )
  • As a result, my back is screaming with pain!
  • My lower back is also incredibly stiff as well as excruciatingly painful - which is very distracting in relation to everything I'm doing - never mind walking.

So I'm not doing much beyond trying to find a resolution for the problem - whether it's medication, trying to get a physio appointment, sacroiliac stretches, new shoes which will help me walk or an indoor rollator to replace the crutches! 

Bottom line, I'm not much fun right now - and am not very good at blogging.
Hence the big gaps between blog posts.

My smart forearm crutches after a "walk"
- with my walker boot undone to show the many layers required for me to
not experience my severe allergic reaction to the liner
and stop my foot sliding around inside the boot
I have 5 socks on!

Today I've switched to an indoor rollator to see if that works better. Initial indications are that it hurts my back less - but the acid test will come when I try to get out of bed tomorrow morning!

PS The good news is that my foot when "rolled" across the floor in my walker boot is not painful. A few twinges - but I'm hopeful the walker boot comes off next Tuesday and I can switch to full weight bearing - in normal (for me) shoes i.e. my Brooks Beast trainers which are very stable!

Friday, April 15, 2022

Call for Entries: Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2022

The annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is a truly international competition, that celebrates the very best in contemporary portrait photography. It attracts entries from photographers - both amateur and professional - from all over the world.

Submissions are invited by the deadline of 5pm on 31 May 2022 via a brand new digital platform, specially developed for this year’s Prize.

The winner of the competition receives a prize of £15,000. In addition, the judges, at their discretion, will award cash prizes to one or more of the shortlisted photographers.

Call for Entries

Who can enter?

  • Photographers must have been 18 years of age or over on 1 January 2022.

What can you enter?

  • Each photographer can submit up to six photographs.
  • Every photograph has to be a portrait
  • Each image must be saved as a JPG/JPEG and be 3 MB or smaller.

What does it cost to enter?

  • Each entry costs £20.00 per portrait (i.e. NOT per photographer)
  • If you make the second round: All costs incurred by postal/courier services (including customs charges and any import duties) must be paid for in advance by the photographer
  • Plus the cost of insurance for the exhibit (see Rule 1.17)
  • All debit/credit card details must be completed and the expiry date must be at least two months after the date of entry.
Note: If your second round entry incurs unpaid costs its delivery will be rejected by the NPG,

How to enter?

The photographer or their representatives warrant that they are fully authorised and entitled to enter into the agreements contained in these rules, in respect of all rights in the work including ownership, copyright, moral rights, the rights of the people, names, trademarks, designs or works of art depicted in the photographs, and that no further permissions or conditions are required to deliver these agreements.
  • All submissions and payment of entry fees must be completed by 17.00 on Tuesday 31 May 2022 (UK time).
  • Model release forms - required if selected for the exhibition
    • The model release form will state that the photographer has full permission to enter and reproduce an image of the person/s featured in the photograph. 
    • If a selected photograph contains an image of a minor (person under the age of 18) then photographers will be required to submit a minor release form signed by the parent or legal guardian of the minor.
  • TIFF file required for the exhibition catalogue and marketing
  • delivery of photograph(s) for the second round of judging must be received at the collection point between 20 - 24 June 2022 - whether delivered in person or by post/courier.
  • Pay attention to the Rules!
The Gallery reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify and remove any entry that does not comply with the rules at any stage of the competition.

How are entries judged

The prize winners and exhibition selection is judged on an equal and anonymous basis. 
  • first round: judging panel views digital images
  • second round: judging from photographs produced by photographer - if selected for the second round.

Where is the Exhibition?

For the second year, the exhibition will take place at the arts hub Cromwell Place, London from 27 October – 18 December 2022, while the National Portrait Gallery building in St Martin’s Place is closed until 2023 for major redevelopment works.

In 2021 the exhibition was held at Cromwell Place and featured a total of 54 portraits from 25 artists.


You can view past exhibits and winners on this blog - under the label Taylor Wessing Prize

Thursday, April 14, 2022

LS Lowry: the emerging artist and how he priced his paintings

Today I came across an unusual image in amongst a lot of image files I was transferring from one device to another. It's a list of priced oil paintings by Laurence S. Lowry - or LS Lowry as he became better known in later life.

The titles say a lot about life in Salford at the time

List of priced paintings exhibited by LS Lowry in 1921
at the Office of Rowland Thomasson at 87 Moselt Street, Manchester

On the Lowry website, there's a timeline of Lowry's life - so took a look and apparently back in 1921 he exhibited his paintings for the first time. 

In 1921 Lowry exhibited work alongside two other artists in an architect’s offices in Manchester. The exhibition was reviewed in the Manchester Guardian by Bernard Taylor who described Lowry as someone who ‘may make a real contribution to art.’
So I looked up "Office of Rowland Thomasson" and got this archive page about the architectural practice on the Manchester Victorian Architects website.

This states
In 1921 the artist L S Lowry, with two others exhibited in the offices of Rowland Thomasson at 87 Mosley Street Manchester. Here Lowry sold his first picture, a pastel, entitled "The Lodging House,"

So the first painting Lowry sold was a pastel - which he sold for 10 guineas.

That's the equivalent of just over £500 in today's money after allowing for inflation.

This was right at the beginning of Lowry developing his theme of painting the urban landscape seen on his travels as a rent collector.

Within a decade of that first sale his work was being collected by Manchester Art Gallery and
Salford Museum & Art Gallery.

Litographs of his work now sell for the low thousands. His oil paintings typically sell for in excess of £100k.

While the most most expensive sale of a Lowry work was The Football Match which sold for £5.6 million back in 2011. Lowry was a big City fan and had a bit of a fixation about painting on the theme of football matches!

The moral of the story? 

Paint what you know. Paint what you like and enjoy

Then think long and hard about how you price your paintings as you're starting out as an artist. It's probably more important to make a sale than to price too high and  make absolutely nothing.

It's also worth thinking long and hard about the price that attracts impulse sales....

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

210th Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

The RI Annual Exhibition 2022 opens to the public at the Mall Galleries on 14th April and runs until 23rd April.

  • Above, you can see the cover of the Catalogue which is online at Issuu.
  • You can also see the artworks online on the Mall Galleries website. Unfortunately, there is no slideshow and no arrows which take you to the next image and the clicking in and out of individual works is tedious. I always feel really sorry for the people who have surnames at the end of the alphabet. I always think it needs links to the names of the people exhibiting so you can go to a page which shows all the artwork in the exhibition by one artist. I do mutter about how things can be improved from time to time - and sometimes we get those changes in the future. I live in hope....
  • There will be a Virtual Show Online - on the Mall Galleries website after it has opened. I'll come back and include the link once it's up.

The exhibition presents the works of the Institute's members as well as works from non-members artists, selected exclusively for this exhibition! The RI annual exhibition showcases a variety of works in watercolour, acrylic, ink, and gouache on paper or paper-based support.
For me, this annual exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI) is going to be yet another exhibition in 2022 which I ONLY see online.

(Post Surgery Update Week 10: I am now allowed to put my foot in my Walker Boot on the ground lightly. I've tried mobilising /walking with crutches - but the osteoarthritis in my shoulder (listed for a replacement) and both hips (to be assessed for surgery soon!) do NOT like crutches with a walker boot and I'm still mainly mobilising on my knee scooter. The big advance since Week 8 is sitting with my foot actually on the floor!)

This is the biggest exhibition of paintings in water colours in the UK and it's well worth a visit. I've always enjoyed visiting this exhibition and will be very much missing seeing it in person this year.

I'll comment later when I've had an opportunity to see artwork on the art and appreciate its real size - something which is otherwise none too easy in catalogues and online galleries.

RI Exhibition - Events Programme

There's an events programme which will be running during the exhibition.  The events are as follows:
  • Thursday 14 April | 11am – 4pm: Talking to visitors in the Gallery with Lillias August. Ann Kilvington will be giving a critique on paintings brought in by members of the public.
  • Saturday 16 April | 11am – 4pm: Painting in the Gallery with Gary Cook.
  • Saturday 16 April | 1.30pm: Teresa Lawler will lead a guided tour of the exhibition, for which booking is essential (places are limited, so early booking is advised).
  • Tuesday 19 April | 2.30pm – 4.30pm: Painting interiors in watercolour with Roger Dellar.
  • Tuesday 19 April | 6pm – 8pm: Winsor & Newton together with members of the RI will hold a special evening of talks and demonstrations of watercolour techniques using Winsor & Newton products (Special Event, please book your ticket here).
  • Wednesday 20 April | 11am – 4pm: Painting in the Gallery with Jean Noble.
  • Thursday 21 April | 11am – 4pm: Jean Noble will be giving a critique on paintings brought in by members of the public.
  • Friday 22 April | 11am – 4pm: Painting in the Gallery with Brian Smith.
  • Saturday 23 April | 11am – 4pm: Painting in the Gallery with Matthew Phinn. Talking to visitors in the Gallery with Jean Robinson.

New members and members who have died

Four Members have died since the last Exhibition in 2021.
These are:
  • Paul Banning - was awarded the Turner Watercolour Award Bronze Medal for an outstanding group of paintings. in 2011
  • Harry Price - elected to membership in 2003
  • Peter Weaver RI RBA ARBS (1927-2022)
  • Hon. Retired Member: Susan Pendered -  passed away peacefully on 9th August 2021, aged 96.
In addition, four new members have been voted in as Members. These are:
I often think that those who apply to be candidates for members would do well to look at the work of those invited to be full members in recent years. You can learn a lot.

More about the Exhibition

  • Admission: £5 
  • Free admission for Friends of the Mall Galleries and under 25’s. 
  • Concessions available. 
  • 14 - 23 April
  • Open: 10am – 5pm.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

The most expensive still life painting ever sold?

"The Basket of Strawberries"  (Le panier de fraise des bois) by Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) was sold at auction in Paris on 23rd March 2022 for €24,381,400. (That's $26.9 million or £20.5 million).

The predicted sale price was between €12-15 million - so the owner and auctioneers must have been very pleased by the final outcome!

Jean-Siméon CHARDIN Paris, 1699-1779
The Basket of Wild Strawberries
oil on canvas, h: 38 w: 46 cm
signed, by J. S. Chardin

This is a video by the auction house about the painting. If you have captions switched on in YouTube then you get the English version of the commentary in French by the French curators and auctioneers.


The painting was sold to a US Dealer and The Art Newspaper now reports that the Louvre suspends sale of Chardin's record-breaking strawberries. 
The French museum is now seeking funds to buy the still-life painting, which was sold last week by Artcurial to a US dealer for €24.3m 
This is an article about the painting Chardin, a Proto-Impressionist 18th-Century Painter

The most expensive still life painting ever sold?

The question it prompted for me was "Is this one of the most expensive still life paintings ever sold?"

It's certainly not the most valuable still life painting. I can think of several which might fulfil that criteria - but then they've been in art galleries and museums for quite a while and have not been sold of late. 

I started to look up "most expensive paintings sold at auction" and noted that none of them included a still life painting.

Wikipedia maintains a List of most expensive paintings - which is ordered by consumer price index inflation-adjusted value (in bold) in millions of United States dollars in 2020.[note 1]

This identifies Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers by Van Gogh as being the most expensive still life / floral painting ever auctioned - on March 30, 1987 for $39.7 million (£24.75 million) which equated uib 2020 to $90.4 million

....and that's about it.

So maybe the basket of strawberries is the second most expensive still life painting ever sold?

The Still Life Genre

For more about the Still Life genre see my 2007 post What is a still life? which is a VERY LONG post which attempts an overview of the genre. 

Although I eventually concluded I'd barely scraped the surface!

Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779)

For those like me who love paintings by Chardin (back in 2009, I spent a long time in the Louvre photographing all their paintings by Chardin!) you may well be interested in the details of his story, training and approach to painting the Internet Archive digital version(s) of "Chardin" (1969), the Catalogue Raisonné, and commentary by Georges Wildenstein and Daniel Wildenstein. 

It comes in various formats and can be read online and/or downloaded.
In fact the still-life was by no means a monopoly of Chardin, and this makes it ail the more interesting to note how he imposed his per- sonality on it to such effect that he was often thought to be its inventor, or at least renovator. And it is here that the opinions of his contemporaries are enlightening.

Chardin made numerous variants or replicas of the pictures which he regarded as his most successful. Thus we fmd whole sériés of works with cauldrons, kitchen tables, baskets of plums, peaches or grapes, eut melons, hares and a game-bag, game hung from a nail in a kitchen and the like. Some household utensils which figure several times belong presumably to the same period: a teapot, a mortar, a bowl, a jug.