Monday, October 31, 2022

Call for Entries: 200th Anniversary Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists

2023 marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society of British ArtistsYou have just over a month left to organise a submission to their Exhibition in 2023. 

 This is a very special call for entries for a very special year.

President Mick Davies alongside a portrait of JM Whistler
- a previous President of the RBA.

What's different about this RBA Exhibition

The RBA have decided to 

  • hang 200 artworks from artists who are NOT members of the Society - which is a very generous gesture!
  • reproduce the artwork hung in this important exhibition in a special catalogue.

2023 Marks the 200th Anniversary of the Royal Society of British Artists. To celebrate this momentous milestone, we will be including 200 artworks by invited non-member artists in our annual exhibition.

The RBA accepts 

  • all types of subject matter for artwork 
  • in various media - paintings, drawings, fine art prints, sculpture, ceramics

This post is about 

their Call for Entries for 2023

  • The deadline for entries is Friday 2nd December 2022 - by 12 noon
  • Summary of the Call for Entries
    • who can enter
    • what you can enter
    • how to enter
  • For full terms and conditions, click here.

their exhibition in March 2023 at the Mall Galleries

Including:
  • an extensive range of cash prizes and other awards
  • other reasons to enter

Call for Entries


Who can enter? 

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Review: Episode 4 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2022 (Series 9)

This is a review of the artists who painted Bruno Tonioli, Yolanda Brown and Helen Sharman in Episode 4 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year aka as #PAOTY!

Producing this review this week has been very difficult. I always watch the episode all the way through and then go back and review sections of it in more detail. In general I've watched the whole episode 2-3 times before I finish the review.

This has proved well nigh impossible this week as 
  • the Now TV app (used for viewing Sky Arts) refuses to behave on my iPad and iPhone - and 
  • it's impossible to see a repeat of Sky Arts on Channel 11 on my television as it doesn't belong to any of the "on demand" apps. 
Now that might be because Now TV has maybe failed to keep up with the updates to the Apple operating system? All I know is that periodically
  • I can't use the stop button 
  • Nor can I move to specific parts of the episode. 
  • which means it becomes a very much a "watch it from the beginning or nothing" experience and make my notes fast. Which frankly will not win many fans in my neck of the woods!
Hopefully this is a glitch which will be fixed. It's certainly straining my credulity as to why I should pay £9.99 a month for an app which behaves like this! 

Major whinge over - here's my review....

The Artists


The artists in Episode 4

The artists in Episode 4 are listed below - and are ordered alphabetically by surname. You can also see the top down videos of what they painted on this link
  • Ramon Adeyemi (Instagram) - originally from Lagos, Nigeria where he gained Diplomas in Art and worked for the National Gallery of Art. He now lives in Manchester and works as a professional artist. His self portrait was the first he had done in 20 years.
  • Oliver Bassett Cross (Instagram) - a full time artist and aspiring script writer from London. His self portrait took him two days.
  • Jill Dudley (Twitter) - lives in County Durham and words as a service manager for her local council
  • Keren Golea (Facebook | Instagram) - a fine art student studying at Oxford Brookes university. She's originally from the Philippines. She won the Glyndebourne Tour Art Competition for 2021, She produced a very large photorealistic self portrait.
  • Stephen Grey - a retired advertising art director from Lincolnshire. He's the oldest participant in this year's competition.
  • Elizabeth Griffiths (Instagram | Twitter) - from Stourbridge who works as a public health consultant and works in textile art as well as other media.
  • Neil Hamilton - lives in Ballyshannon in Donegal, Ireland and teaches English language and art. He graduated in Fine Art from the University of Ulster. His self portrait portrayed him as a man in a dressing gown and took him him 35 hours.
  • Anastasia Olarou (Instagram) - a watersports instructor from Hertfordshire who has a background in prop making for film and T.V
  • Emily Roberts (Instagram) - a professional artist and art teacher from Cornwall who likes to paint portraits from life.

The Sitters


The Sitters for Episode 4 were:
  • Bruno Tonioli - ex Judge of Strictly Come Dancing; 
  • Yolanda Brown - a British saxophonist, composer, and broadcaster, who looks like she has great hair; and
  • Helen Sharman - the astronaut.

Size and Content of Self Portrait Submissions


Every week I look at how the self portraits can be analysed in terms of format, size and content.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth 1

We visited the Queen's House at Greenwich today and viewed the artwork.

I've decided one way of blogging while walking is to focus on artwork I see on my walks! So today it's the Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1!

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I



This is an iconic painting. It was

  • previously owned by relatives of Sir Francis Drake. However nobody knows who the artist was.
  • painted to memorialize the failed invasion of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
  • said to be a very good portrayal of the Tudor Queen.

It portrays Elizabeth in all her finery. So I took some close-ups of sections of the portrait to highlight how these aspects were painted.

Face of Queen Elizabeth 1 and ruff

Armada Portrait - Bows and Jewels

Part of the ornamented sleeve

The painting can be seen in the Queen's Presence Chamber in the Queen’s House at Greenwich - which has the most fabulous painted ceiling. This is the room in which she received significant others - in much the same way King Charles III received the new Prime Minster Rishi Sunak yesterday.

The Queen's Presence Room - with the Armada Portrait, portrait of Sir Francis Drake
and painted ceiling

The Queen's House was built between 1616 and 1635 and is on (or near) the site of the original Palace of Placentia (meaning "pleasant place") also known as Greenwich Palace which was the birthplace of both Queen Elizabeth 1 (b. 7 September 1533) and King Henry VIII (b. 28 June 1491).

There are actually three surviving versions of the Armada Portrait. It was customary at the time of copies to be made of important paintings.
  • the painting displayed at the Queen’s House in Greenwich; 
  • the version in the Woburn Abbey Collection; and 
  • a third, partly cut-down version at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
There's a page on the RMG website which explains about all three following the display of all three together at the Queen's House.
Portraits of Elizabeth were often commissioned as official gifts for foreign monarchs and favoured courtiers, while other members of court would acquire versions to show their devotion to her. If Elizabeth hoped to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish superpower, why stop at just one painting?

Monday, October 24, 2022

An Update

This is by way of an explanation of why my blogging is now more infrequent. It follows on from my earlier posts (see end) about my severe osteoarthritis, ankle fusion surgery and the death this summer of my mother.

Bottom line, I'm now a LOT older than I was when I first started this blog

Earlier this month I celebrated my 68th birthday - and I can no longer kid myself that I'm a spring chicken even if my face and chin(!) have gone back to looking like they did many years ago!

An outing for a birthday treat at Kew for my birthday

I'm also having to work very hard at both:
  • exercise for recovery from my surgery
  • keeping fit to prevent (hopefully) the osteoarthritis in both my hips from getting worse.
Consequently I'm now fully committed to daily exercise including a walk which takes quite a bit of time out of the day and makes me feel rather tired when I get back home. 

For the uninitiated:
My regular daily exercise now means that:
  • I can now carry my stick rather than use it all the time. 
  • PLUS walk further than I've been able to do for a very long time - so long as I have regular sit down breaks!
  • AND I can now walk up and down slopes which I couldn't do at all for a very considerable length of time after surgery. I still have to avoid sideways slopes which are impossible with a rigid ankle!
But I still need a stick for uneven surfaces and for getting up and down stairs.

Walking down a steep slope - slowly - at Kew!

HOWEVER I still suffer from being VERY stiff at times and experience major balance issues when at home. It's very odd - walking now makes me feel normal, whereas I sometimes struggle to walk at home after getting up from a seat!

Sometimes I can combine exercise with visiting art exhibitions - and I expect to be doing more of this over the winter as the weather gets worse. The nice thing about art galleries is they have seats!

Bottom line though - I've got much less time for blogging.

It's a good discipline though as it makes me think which is also good exercise for the brain - so I won't be giving up. 

However the reduced rate of blogging is likely to continue for the foreseeable future

Mainly because there's no chance of my severe osteoarthritis going away. But also because I need to get fit for and then recover from my next surgery - which is a shoulder replacement (which I've needed for the last 2 years!)

I now need to work out how I'm going to blog while I spend six weeks with my arm in a sling and then a have whole bunch of new exercises to learn and do during recovery! 

I'm wondering whether I should start doing videos or podcasts and speaking the words rather than writing them! Anybody with any tips - I'd love to hear from you. (see contact me)

Osteoarthritis / Surgery: Previous Posts

Friday, October 21, 2022

Review: Episode 3 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2022 (Series 9)

Episode 3 of Portrait Artist of the Year saw some more adventurous portraits from the nine artists selected to paint three sitters:

  • Suggs - a singer-songwriter, musician and lead singer with Madness.
  • Miquita Oliver - a television presenter and radio personality
  • Eve Muirhead - the Captain of the Gold Medal winning British Olympic Curling team

Waiting for the result of the Judging

The Artists

The artists - after they finished their portraits.

The artists are listed below - and are ordered alphabetically by surname.

You can also see the top down videos of what they painted on this link
  • Anna Bogomolova - An Actress and Digital Content Creator with a following of 2.5 Million on TikTok. Lives in Kensington, London. Graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from Central St Martins in 2021
  • Michael Clarke - based in Birmingham. A  Freelance integrated designer, working for various marketing, advertising and design agencies all over the UK. His self portrait echoed da Vinci's Salvator Mundi - which is a good way of getting noticed!
  • Anita Conway (Facebook | Instagram)  - a secondary school art teacher from Wexford in Ireland. She produced a small head as a self portrait - which was beautifully painted.
  • Rob Ellis - Retired. a watercolour artist from Cambridge who started painting during lockdown and has had no formal training. Member of Cambridge Drawing Society. His self portrait was a head and shoulders - but surrounded by his books.
  • Sarah Finch (Instagram) - a publisher from Oxford. Her self portrait was full body and was very well thought out and constructed.
  • Bryan Hogan (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - BA in Fine Art/Printmaking and an MA in Arts Policy and PracticeLives in Dublin and works in Visitor Engagement at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
  • Olivia Pang (Facebook) - a professional artist from Caerphilly in Wales. She works in traditional Chinese ink and likes to create contemporary looking portraits.
  • Tim Tozer (Instagram)  - an art professor at a University in Wisconsin (how is he eligible given he lives in USA?) Studied at Winchester School of Art and University of Ulster. Moved to USA in 1994 on an Andy Warhol Scholarship at the New York Academy of Art where he gained an MFA in painting.  His self portrait had a very mid western filmic feel.
  • Alex Westmore (Instagram) - based in Warwickshire, she is a contemporary portrait painter and is a Head of Art at a secondary school in Stratford upon Avon

Size and Content of Self Portrait Submission


The self-portraits in this episode were a huge improvement on those in the last episode
- mainly due to the fact there was more of an effort to paint beyond the head and add props! Plus the painting and mark making was more interesting in terms of different approaches.



I found it very difficult to do this analysis this week because of the lack of one decent image of all the self-portraits together - and one that wasn't distorted by perspective. I've never understood why they think it's a great idea to space them out so much which leads to these barrel distortion images.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Why throw tomato soup at a Van Gogh painting?

Last Friday, two "activists" for Just Stop Oil threw a tin of tomato soup over the very famous painting of Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh which was hanging in the National Gallery.

Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland of Just Stop Oil at the National Gallery
Just Stop Oil supporters throw soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers to demand no new oil and gas.

Two supporters of Just Stop Oil have thrown soup over Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, as actions in the capital roll into the 14th day. They are demanding that the UK government halts all new oil and gas projects. [1]

The two women walked into the room in the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, in which the ‘Sunflowers’ is hung and at 11am threw the contents of two tins of Heinz Tomato soup over the painting which has an estimated value of $84.2 million. [2] 
Just Stop Oil Press Release

What's different about the new forms of extreme activism?

Monday, October 17, 2022

Review: Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition 2022

I visited the 59th annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists last Friday. I'd recommend all those who enjoy wildlife art visit 'The Natural Eye' exhibition which continues in all three galleries at the Mall Galleries before it closes on 22nd October. 

It contains well over 300 artworks - paintings, drawings original fine art prints and sculpture - by members, associates and selected artists from the open entry.

Paintings by Andrew Haslen SWLA and scrap metal Sculptures by Harriet Mead PSWLA

You can also view 
There's also a range of events during the course of the exhibition - with four left this week. Last week, I listened as Robert Greenhalf SWLA explained to visitors how he created his linocut prints

Below you can find my review. 

I've also uploaded my photos of the exhibition into Facebook Albums - and these expand on points made in my review.

Review: Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition 2022

General 


The artwork is, as usual, very good. The marketing less so. I expand on both below.

I had a general impression while walking around the exhibition that the overall size of artwork was maybe smaller this year. I wouldn't find this in the least bit surprising if artists are trying hard to keep their artwork affordable in the context of the current economic challenges.

What I did see were a LOT of red spots - mostly for smaller artwork priced at less than £500.

I applaud the SWLA for consistently sponsoring bursaries and projects recording habitat and species and the environmental challenges to species diversity - which you can see in the North Gallery.

Artworks


Sculpture by Adam Binder and original prints by various artists


This is always an excellent exhibition - primarily because it promotes artwork by those take inspiration from the natural world who work primarily from life in terms of observation in the field, rather than meticulous copying of photographs. 

This leads to a great range in terms of diversity of styles.

Hind by Kendra Haste ASWLA
painted galvanised wire and steel frame

The exhibition also  includes the Out of the Frame room which shares fieldwork made by SWLA artists who visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Denmark in May for the second part of the SWLA Wadden Sea Project. 



However, it includes an awful LOT of artworks which feature birds. I'm well aware that some ornithologists are avid art collectors and birds typically sell well. 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Review: Episode 2 of Portrait Artist of the Year (Series 9)

Two musical artists and a comedian featured as sitter in this week's second episode of Portrait Artist of the Year (Series 9).

Lulu, Phil Manzanera (guitarist with Roxy Music) and Alex Brooker were the sitters.

I need to say upfront, that I thought this episode was less impressive than last weeks in terms of the calibre of the art produced - as both submissions and in the heat. 

  • Last week, there were more than three who were in with a shout of being shortlisted last week - but, in my view, not so much this week. 
  • In part this was because the self portraits were a lot less adventurous in terms of the painting of anything below the head and shoulders. 
Never ever underestimate the importance of the submission and what it says about you and your skills as an artist.

Episode 2 - the self portrait submissions wall
Episode 2 - the self portrait submissions wall

The artists

The Artists - after they had finished their paintings

The artists are listed below - and are ordered alphabetically by surname. 

You can also see the top down videos of what they painted on this link

  • Muna Aghamelu (Instagram) - a computer science graduate from Manchester, currently studying (at the time of the Heat) for a Masters Degree in Computer Science (with a Minor in Mandarin) at UCL. She graduated this summer and has since become a Software Engineer. She's got a very impressive Linked In profile!
  • Ara Badiya (Instagram | Twitter) - Originally from the Ukraine and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture, in Kyiv. Now a graphic designer and art director based in Bedforshire.
  • Michael J Browne (Facebook | Twitter) - b.1963 He has drawn and painted footballers in the past and has an artwork called The Art of The Game 1997 in the National Football Museum
  • Cristina Celestini (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - b. Rome 1962. A retired linguistics teacher living in Birmingham. Studied Rome University, Modern Languages MA, 1986 and a Part time Foundation degree, Birmingham School of Art, Bournville Campus (unfinished)1999. 
  • Neil Cunning (Instagram | Twitter) - an architect and painter based in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2022, he exhibited in Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition and was a Scottish Portrait Awards Finalist 2022. (his self portrait)
  • Thomas Golunski (Instagram | Twitter) | YouTube) - an artist and art teacher based in the West Sussex, working in primarily in Oils and Charcoal.
  • Victoria Horsfall (Facebook | Instagram) - a fine artist living and working in South London. She has a Ceramic Design degree from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. However she is a self taught figurative artist. Judging by her website she's good at portraying children and families. Her self-portrait submission was her first ever self portrait
  • Noah Rush (Instagram) - youngest participant aged 19. He's an art student at Goldsmith's College in London. (his self portrait)
  • Olivia Valentine (Instagram) - a portrait, figurative and landscape painter. She studied traditional portraiture in Florence for four years at Charles Cecil Studios in Florence. She paints commissions from her studio in Brixton. She had a portrait in the annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2021. (This is her lockdown self portrait)


Size and Content of Self Portrait Submission


The self portrait wall - which I found underwhelming.

My overall assessment of the self-portraits - in terms of content - was unexciting The only one that was interesting was Cristina's swimming head.

FORMAT

  • Portrait format x 7
  • Landscape x 2
  • Square x 1

SIZE

  • Large x 1
  • Large/Medium x 3
  • Medium x 1
  • Small x 3
  • Tiny x 1

SCOPE

It's very disappointing to see no larger self portraits in terms of full size or most of the body - and ONLY ONE HAND from NINE artists!
  • full size or most of body (including hand) x 0
  • upper torso + hand(s) x 1
  • upper torso (no hands) x 1
  • head and shoulders x 4
  • head x 3

Themes


How people see very differently

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Art Exhibitions in Major / National London Art Galleries | Autumn / Winter 2022

I started this post intending to do a listing of art exhibitions in London this Autumn / Winter 2022 - across all the major / notable art galleries which are not wholly commercial.

I've moved on to the notion that a more manageable way of listing exhibitions might be to do three separate posts covering
  1. Major / National Art Galleries & Museums - essentially those who are recipients on major grant in aid from the  Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS);
  2. Significant Art Galleries & Museums - these are typically smaller art galleries and museums (but they're not small!) which have either notable permanent collections and/or put on notable exhibitions;
  3. Specialist Art Galleries & Museums - those which tend to be focused on a specific subject or genre
I'll reference each of the other two posts in every post about Art Exhibitions in London Art Galleries in Autumn / Winter 2022

So first we have the "big boys"!
  • The British Museum
  • National Gallery
  • Tate Britain
  • Tate Modern
  • Victoria & Albert Museum
Links are to the exhibition page on the website of the art museum or gallery.

MAJOR / NATIONAL ART GALLERIES & MUSEUMS


British Museum

Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

(Opens in new window)

Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt - 13 October 2022 – 19 February 2023 

About how the meaning was unlocked following the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Hieroglyphs were not just beautiful symbols, they represented a living, spoken language. From romantic poetry and international treaties, to shopping lists and tax returns, the hieroglyphic inscriptions and ancient handwriting in this exhibition reveal stories that are fantastically varied.
 
Hieroglyphs - pictures which make language

Two million prints online for all 6 September 2022 - 23 January 2023

The display celebrates the milestone of a 30 year project to digitise all the prints and drawings collection in the British Museum collection.
In April 2021, the last of the two million prints was described and measured, and its production date and the names of the printmakers, designers and publishers added to the database. Now, for the first time, the British Museum's Department of Prints and Drawings’ astonishing collection of 500,000 records is available to a global audience on the British Museum's Collection online.

Art on paper since 1960, the Hamish Parker collection 22 September 2022 – 25 March 2023

From Lucian Freud to Kiki Smith, life drawing to minimalism and etching to collage, this exhibition spans an intriguing range of styles and techniques used in art on paper from 1960 to today.

Shattered glass of Beirut | FRee | 25 Aug 2022 - 23 Oct 2022

This display follows the story of eight ancient glass vessels, from their destruction in the 2020 Beirut explosion to their restoration.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Portrait Artist of the Year 2023 (Series 10): Call for Entries

You have a four months to enter Series 10 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2023.
The deadline for entries to this prestigious art competition with a £10,000 commission first prize is 12pm (midday) on Friday, 24th February 2023.

The Call for Entries for applications was published last week by Sky Arts. This is about:

  • The nature of this art competition
  • WHO can enter
  • HOW to enter
  • What the day of filming is like - and how long it lasts!
  • Plus TIPS about this art competition
  • AND TIPS about juried art exhibitions and art competitions generally (at the end).

Portrait Artist of the Year series 10


Quotations below are from the Terms and Conditions of the competition or as indicated.


About the competition

This is an art competition as a television show. Filming of Series 10 of Portrait Artist of the Year is planned to take place at (very probably) the Battersea Arts Centre in April 2023. (see below for dates in April)

  • In effect this is a 'reality' (i.e. real people/artists) knock-out competition for portrait artists.
  • Nine artists compete in each heat 
  • there are three "celebrity" sitters (some you will know/ some you won't!) 
  • each sitter has three artists drawing / painting / printing their portrait - in various 2D media
  • you have just four hours to complete a portrait
The Shortlisted Artists will have a maximum of 4 hours over a 5-6 hour period (or such other period as the Producer at its discretion may determine) to complete their Heat Artwork. 
  • The Sitter gets to choose a portrait - and if it's your portrait this is gifted to the sitter.
  • The Heat Winner - from a shortlist of three - goes through to the semi-finals
  • Eight heat winners get to compete at the Semi-Final on Wednesday 3rd May 2023
  • Three people from the semi-finals are selected for the Final on Thursday 18th May 2023 which involves:
    • a commission completed between semi final and final
    • four hours to complete the portrait of the celebrity sitter in the final
The dates and times that the Finalists shall be given to complete the first of the Final Artworks shall be determined by the Producer, and may be within a set time period on a single day or over a number of days, and the Producer may film any or all of this process. A space of the contributor’s choice must be provided free of charge by the contributor to film any or all of this process.
I'm guessing that if the National Portrait Gallery is open again by the date of the Final that the Final will be there - as it has been in previous years prior to the renovation and development of the NPG. 

The Prize

The winner is awarded a commission - worth a taxable fee of £10,000 - to create a portrait of a notable person for a (usually) prestigious organisation. 

For example, this year it's Sir Lenny Henry for the National Portrait Gallery.

If you want to know why the prize money is taxable (which I think is a new word in the T&Cs) see my page on my website Art Business Info for Artists about Tax on art awards and prize money

Artists have just four hours to complete their portrait

HOWEVER:
  • you will be interrupted by presenters or Judges who will talk to you during the four hours
  • people with cameras will be filming around you all the time and sometimes you won't be able to see the sitter - or will need to move (see below)
  • You will be at some distance from the sitter and you can't move your setup in to get closer.  (check the distance between artist and the sitter when you watch the programmes) 
  • It's a good idea to bring a digital device to take a photograph for when you can't see the sitter properly - or you can't see the details of the face clearly enough.
Filming Episode 1 of series 9 - those two front and centre are the film crew
- filming from the perspective of the artist!

Who / how / what to enter


Who can enter?

Saturday, October 08, 2022

Review: Episode 1 of Portrait Artist of the Year (Series 9)

Wednesday saw a very welcome return of Portrait Artist of the Year in a new Autumn slot on which used to be occupied by Landscape Artist of the Year.

There's been quite a few changes introduced with Series 9 so I'll start by highlighting these before getting down to my review of this week's episode

What's new in Series 9?


The new introduction screen for Series 9 of Portrait Artist of the Year

You'd think that the eventual winner would have their portrait chosen for this introduction screen - but that's not always the case........

The new £10,000 Commission


We learned that:
  • Sir Lenny Henry is the sitter for the commission to be undertaken by the winner 
  • the commission is for the National Portrait Gallery  

Artists no longer split between professionals and amateurs  

Artists are now defined in terms of their work and how they approach their art. 

In the past the artists determined whether they were professional or amateur - with some being bold in their assertions while others were bashful. I know I've spent a lot of time in the past commenting on how stupid the totally artificial distinction has been in past episodes - so this is a very welcome move. Especially since it eliminates the notion that new graduates are real proper professional artists even if they've not sold a thing or that very experienced professional illustrators are actually amateur artists! 


Introduction of 'The Prop'


Every sitter is being asked to bring something close to their heart or meaningful to them with them. 
Artists are not made to include the item - but in general it seemed to me that it added to their understanding of the individual they were painting.
I like this idea. Portraits often include objects which tell you something about the person. 
I was also left wondering if this was a bit of an effort to stop people just painting heads in 4 hours - and we shall see over the course of the series whether or not it has this effect.

Stephen Mangan has stopped dyeing his hair!

One of the things I began to notice during lockdown was just how any men in the public eye dye their hair. Mainly because they either had to let it grow out because they couldn't get to the hairdressers or they had to a home job on their own in the bathroom! If you ever see a man with hair which is exactly the same shade all over it's a dead giveaway! 

Anyway Mr Mangan has opted to let us know he's actually older than he was trying to look and I think could look a lot better for it - when he gets a hair cut!

He should really take tips from Joan Bakewell's hairdresser - she's still presenting age 89 and really does not look it!

One other thing I noticed is that from certain angles, Kate is a dead ringer for Lizz Truss!


The Set Up

Back to the basics. 

Portrait Artist of the Year is

  • commissioned by Sky TV UK
  • made by Storyvault Films an independent production company.
  • filmed at Battersea Arts Centre - generally in April
  • broadcast every Autumn - generally starting in October - by Sky Arts Channel on digital television (now also on Freeview at Chanell 11) and via the NOW TV app (if you want to look back at an episode after it's been broadcast)
Two years ago I wrote an article about How Portrait Artist of the Year actually works in practice

The set up - with three artists painting a sitter in each segment

This year, there are as always

  • 3 sitters and 3 artists allocated to each sitter 
    • one sitter and three artists are located in one of three sections of a rotunda type frame (think three segments of a pie or cake) in the large room at the Battesea Arts Centre where the PAOTY series are now filmed. This allows the cameras to rotate around the room
    • None of the artists know who their sitter will is until they arrive in the room.
    • There's no choice as to who paints which sitter 
    • There's no choice as to what angle you get on the sitter
  • Artists have - in theory - four hours to complete a portrait working from a live model - with a break in the middle of the day.
  • Two presenters - Stephen Mangan and the inimitable and extraordinary Joan Bakewell (age 89)
  • Three Judges: who are the same as for previous series:

    • award-winning portrait painter Tai Shan Schierenberg. Studied at St. Martin's School of Art and The Slade. Lives and works in London, Norfolk and the Black Forest in Germany. Has artwork in a number of important national and regional public collections
    • independent curator, art historian and arts broadcaster Kathleen Soriano worked in museums and galleries for over 30 years. 
    • arts broadcaster, curator, mentor and writer Kate Bryan is also currently Head of Collections for Soho House. 

In terms of people watching the proceedings, the Series is limited as to who can watch. These were close friends/family of the artist only - rather than being the open to all it's been in the past. Which seems sensible given when it was filmed (in April 2022).

Episode 1: The Sitters

The sitters for the first episode were:
  • Elizabeth Day (age 44) who is an author and presenter of the How to Fail podcast - which celebrates the things which haven't gone right. I bet she gets extra followers from being a sitter!
  • Nick Grimshaw (age 38) a disc jockey and occasional TV presenter who announced he was leaving Radio 1 after 14 years and has also become a podcaster.
  • Khadija Mellah (22 this year) who was the first hijab-wearing jockey in a competitive British horse race - and wore a helmet mounted 'dashcam' which recorded the entire race when she won the Magnolia Cup. She wore a traditional Islamic garment, an Arabian scarf and her jockey helmet - and was sat next to her silks she wore in the day she won.

Episode 1: The Artists


The artists of Episode 1 on the Battersea Art Centre steps

I'm going to order all the artists alphabetically by surname - but not differentiate between professional and amateur. The link to their main 'contact' site is embedded in their name and social media sites follow - if available.
  • Steve Bennett (Instagram) - Based in Leeds and a graphic designer by trade, who has spent many years working in print, advertising and display. He recently set up a new studio and website for his printmaking in linocuts and drypoint.
  • Anne Blankson-Hemans (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - studied Fine Art at the College of Art, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana and came to live in the UK in 1984. She has won numerous awards and is a member and Vice President of the Society of Women Artists. She's also been a semi-finalist on BBC's Big Painting Challenge.
  • Darren Cairney - (Instagram | Twitter) - a professional artist - specialising in 2D design and backgrounds - living in South Tyneside
  • Morag Caister - (Facebook | Instagram) BA. Painting, University of Brighton (2019). Brighton Metropolitan College, Foundation, Art & Design (2014). Heat winner and PAOTY semi-finalist in 2020. Has exhibited her art internationally. Has her work in Brighton Beach House, Soho House, 2022 (i.e. known to Kate Bryan)
  • Ruby Hagen - a sixth former doing A Levels - who painted for five weeks solid prior to the Heat and missed a maths test to participate!
  • Preslav Kostov (FacebookInstagram | Twitter) - a painter and draughtsman who currently lives and works in London. He is a Bulgarian (b.1998) who is studying for a Masters in Painting at the Royal College of Art he's also studied at Leeds College of Art and The Royal Drawing School. He's the recipient of The Elizabeth Greenshields Award and an elected member of The Contemporary British Portrait Painters Society.
  • Nathan Lowry (Instagram) - a Background Artist and 2D Designer based in Dublin, Ireland. He graduated with a BA(Hons) in Visual Media with Animation from BCFE in 2019 and now creates artwork for projects in different mediums such as short film, games and TV production. 
  • Mod White (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - a GP who has also studied fine art at a 12 weeks workshop at a Florence Academy in 2017. Her work was in the 2022 Royal Society of Portrait Painters annual exhibition in 2022.
  • Julie Wright - a former Art Director in Advertising. Lives in London and now retired and has taken up watercolour painting - but has only been painting for 12 months.

Self portrait submissions

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Discombobulated by the National Gallery

I visited the National Gallery in London yesterday to view the Winslow Homer - Force of Nature Exhibition - and I'll be doing a review of this later - probably as a series of smaller posts as there's a lot to comment on and it's open until 8 January 2023.

Afterwards, I walked around the rest of the Gallery - and felt completely and utterly discombobulated! I think it's probably my first visit for over a year and quite possibly longer due to the combination of the pandemic, then avoiding big interior spaces with lots of people pre-surgery, then the getting ready for surgery and the recovery period. Consequently I've no idea how long it's been like this. I think it's probably relatively recent as I came across this article from the Art Newspaper.

Moving Michelangelo and hauling Holbein: renovation headache for London's National Gallery. A bicentenary renovation project makes the London museum play a tricky game of musical chairs with its collection

Anyway - a lot has changed! 

Very oddly, very little of what has changed is explained well on the website - so if you like me haven't visited for a while you might well feel equally discombobulated!

I got more information about what's happening from The Art Newspaper article than the website - which is odd to say the least when you can't project manage updating the website at the same time as making huge changes to the content on display and its layout!

Below is what I found in the Gallery........

The Gallery with the Constables and the Turners and the lovely leather sofas
- one of the few parts of the National Gallery which is relatively unchanged

  • huge sections which are simply not accessible due to restructuring / renovations / getting ready for NG200 in 2024 (which I'd not heard of before). That's as in:
    • Virtually ALL of the Sainsbury Wing is out of action (Rooms 52-59 and 62-66 + the Basement Gallery
    • plus Rooms 1-8 in the Wilkins Building - which is where exhibitions which would have been in the Sainsbury Wing are now being held - as in the new Lucian Freud exhibition
    • plus a lot more rooms on the second floor of the main building - which makes walking around in a circle really difficult - you have to backtrack a lot.
    • I looked at the floor plans afterwards - which have no clear / prominent legend/key and are consequently are nearly incomprehensible
    • you can download the floor plan as at September 2022 which does not explain that grey means inaccessible and makes no distinction between gallery spaces which are closed and spaces given over to other functions of the Gallery which have never been accessible.
    • bottom line - it's very difficult to get your head around even if you're used to the layout of the gallery!
In the next few months, the picture galleries in the Sainsbury Wing will close to prepare for building works as part of NG200. Find out more about individual room closures on the Level 2 floorplan page.

Later this month London’s National Gallery is due to announce plans for its 2024 bicentenary celebrations and an associated building project. But although the much-needed upgrading of its Sainsbury Wing entrance will be welcomed, it poses logistical challenges for the gallery—and it will have a considerable temporary impact on where paintings are displayed. The Art Newspaper (13 June 2022)

  • the explanations within the Gallery of how to move around/through are either absent or confusing. They might make sense to museum staff but I know the Gallery well and I was struggling. I was simply lost muc of the time as to which part of the building I was in - as I've always navigated by art on the walls previously!
  • large parts of the collection have been rehung in different galleries
    • partly to accommodate the need to get the early art out of the Sainsbury Wing
    • partly to accommodate the exhibitions which would usually be in the gallery at the bottom of the Sainsbury Wing have had to come into the main Wilkins Building.
  • Dutch Floral Still Lifes - which I visit every time I got to the Gallery - are absolutely nowhere to be seen.
  • relatively few paintings seem to be in the same place 
  • the 'story of art' in some galleries is really, really weird! It almost looks like "what can fit where" exercise at times.
  • smaller spaces = much more crowded I'd advise going during hours when the huge number of tours are not 'working'
It was a real relief when I got to galleries which looked almost the same as they always do. The Canaletto's and Guardis are in the same place as are the Constables and Turners.

On the plus side I saw more artwork that was new to me than ever seen on previous visits! Some of which is very, very good.

Plus some hanging juxtapositions which improved the viewing - such as the Vermeer Virginals below

Vermeer Virginals
A Young Woman standing at a Virginal (c.1670)
A Young Woman seated at a Virginal (c.1670)
by Johannes Vermeer

What upset me is that this current change is obviously going to last at least until the end of 2024 i.e. at least two more years - and may well change again during that time.

So where's the art - and is it on view?

Monday, October 03, 2022

Keith Haring vs Mr Doodle

 I watched a news item on BBC Breakfast TV this morning about a chap called "Mr Doodle" (his real name is actually Sam Cox)

The BBC was treating him as if he'd invented a completely new way of creating art - which is what prompted this post.

In fact, it looked very much to me as if he's trying to emulate the style of Keith Haring (1958-1990) - minus the homoerotic / sexual aspects of the latter's work. Mr Doodle's artwork seems to focus more on what look like kiddy cartoon characters - BUT the style of drawing is very, very similar. (I do wonder at times what the BBC losing competent arts journalists is doing to its coverage of art).

Keith Haring Foundation website
Keith Haring Foundation website

Haring was very much a pop culture artist of the 1980s. I well remember reading about him at the time and being completely amazed by nature and scale of his artworks.

He became an established artist by 1983 but preferred to keep his prices low so that his art was more accessible.

Haring created the Pop Shop in 1986 in the SoHo district of Manhattan, selling T-shirts, toys, posters, and other objects that show his works—allowing his works to be accessible to a larger number of people. Speaking about the Pop Shop in 1989, Haring said: "For the past five or six years, the rewards I've gotten are very disproportionate to what I deserve...I make a lot more money than what I should make, so it's a little bit of guilt, of wanting to give it back." Wikipedia

His artwork is now administered by the Keith Haring Foundation and sold via the Gladstone Gallery in New York 

Haring's VERY distinctive signature style has been much copied over the years by:

  • his fans wishing to produce accolades to his art
  • those wishing to make lots of money from his style - in part because Haring's style is so  very marketable. 

The reason Mr Doodle got a significant spot on the BBC is because he's doodled his house in Tenterden in Kent - absolutely everywhere. Apparently the neighbours don't mind. I'm wondering if they might should opening the house to the public is the next step!

See the video from his Twitter account below