Friday, May 26, 2023

Review: 124th Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society

I visited the 124th Annual Exhibition of The Pastel Society on Wednesday. The theme of this year’s Pastel Society Exhibition is ‘Pastel Without Boundaries’.

This post covers:

  • general observations about the exhibition - compared to the previous 17 previous annual exhibitions - all of which I have seen and commented on (except for last year when I was immobile post surgery)
  • artwork I liked
  • things which IMO need to change and/or improve
Some exhibition metrics will follow after the end of the exhibition.

This post is later than I intended as I ran into major problems yesterday with Blogger absolutely refusing to upload images. So I waited 24 hours and it's now back to normal. However this left me more time to mull over over my thoughts on the show. 

Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2023: Catalogue Cover

You can see my photos of the exhibition on my Facebook Page

Observations about the Exhibition

All that follows needs to be viewed from the perspective that I am a very big fan of dry media and pastels - so some of the comments made below are hard to make - but I think need making. 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Blogger problem - unable to upload pictures

I'm afraid I cannot write any blog posts involving images at the moment. 

Google has made a change to its software which is preventing me from uploading images to blog posts.

It's an appalling situation in Google's Chrome. This is the message I get while signed in

It's slightly better in Apple's Safari browser - which is where I found out that they want me to accept all Google Cookies so they can track all my activity.

The latter is illegal in the UK - Google should really mug up on GDPR - it's been around for quite a time (see General Data Protection Regulation ​for Artists and Art Organisations)

I suspect the change has been due to the enormous fine Meta has just received - see Meta: Facebook owner fined €1.2bn for mishandling data | BBC

Facebook's owner, Meta, has been fined €1.2bn (£1bn) for mishandling people's data when transferring it between Europe and the United States.

Issued by Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC), it is the largest fine imposed under the EU's General Data Protection Regulation privacy law.
I suspect Google has changed things so they can say "we all agreed to all the cookies" - EXCEPT they obviously don't understand that in the UK we have a legal entitlement to refuse all but essential cookies i.e. they cannot make us accept all cookies!

Looks like Google is setting itself up to get a big fine too!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Peter Doig at the Courtauld Gallery

I visited the Courtauld Gallery to see the Peter Doig exhibition (which closes on 29th May) about two weeks ago. One of the reasons I've not written about seeing the exhibition before now is because I actually found it rather disappointing.

I've seen his artwork before and liked it - which is why I visited.

But in this exhibition there was little that I liked and much that felt like reworkings of stuff he'd done before - but less successfully

There is one really good painting in the show - and that's the one of the skier. However that was about it for me. 

Alpinist (2019-2022) by Peter Doig
pigment on linen

It's a painting based on an old postcard, which was then changed (eg introduction of the harlequin suit) to make it a more monumental work.

I read the reviews of the exhibition beforehand which were almost universally were complimentary - so maybe I was disappointed because they'd built it up to be better than it is.

Gallery view of other paintings by Peter Doig

Simply put - I just didn't get it. 

  • Making large paintings is what people do these days. Making large paintings does not make you better than everybody else. 
  • Making paintings look brutal or about alienation is what some artists do - so what makes Doig better?
  • Making paintings out of photographs? Yes, happens a lot!

The reviewer who in my opinion got nearest to my response to the exhibition. was The Arts Desk review titled Peter Doig, Courtauld Gallery review - the good, the bad and the unfinished - with a strapline of 

Paintings that run the gamut from the sublime to the banal

It turned out that the person who wrote it had taught him at the Chelsea College of Art 

I once gave Peter Doig a tutorial, when he was a student at Chelsea College of Art. He had little to say about his strange images and I came away feeling I’d seen something unique, but was unable to tell if he was a very good painter or a very bad one.

I also visited the Peter Doig Etchings for Derek Walcott - and similarly came away underwhelmed.

I think the conclusion I've come to is that 

  • Peter Doig is a painter who is perfectly capable of producing genuinely new and inspired - and does - now and again.
  • He is also a painter who can complete quite a lot of dross inbetween. 
I'm not surprised. This is the way for many painters. It's just that many painters have more sense than to show everything they've ever painted - even if it takes them years to finish it.

However, having come to the exhibition late, I could also judge the success of the exhibition (once I had left it) by the amount of goods for sale still left in the shop. 

Let's just say there's going to be an awful lot of cutprice catalogues very soon......

The public have spoken.....

PS I think I have at last worked out why so much contemporary art disappoints me. Those that are trying to be like Doig - given he fails to impress - cannot hope to make me happy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

How to become an Associate Member of the Royal Watercolour Society

Would you like to become an Associate Member of the Royal Watercolour Society? You have until 11.59pm on Friday 2nd June to submit an application.

Membership of the Royal Watercolour Society

Royal Watercolour Society artists are elected on merit by the current Membership - a tradition dating back to the Society's foundation over 200 years ago. Any professional artist working in water-based media may apply. Our Members' work is extremely varied, both in style and subject matter, and includes paintings in gouache, acrylic, pen and ink and watercolour mixed media on paper.

The RWS:
  • has a royal charter
  • is based at Bankside Gallery in London - which it shares with the RE
  • is currently in the soft opening phase of the new RWS Gallery at Whitcomb Street which is a new (old) gallery space near Trafalgar Square.
You need to apply to become an Associate Member first. 

When you become a full member the benefits are:  
  • four major group exhibitions at Bankside Gallery each year, 
  • other opportunities to exhibit in external exhibitions (recent collaborations have been with the Royal Albert Hall, the RHS and the Globe). 
  • Your work will be publicised through the Society's website
  • There are opportunities to run courses, have your work used for publicity, on merchandise, and to become involved in Society events.

For this you will be charged a not inconsiderable annual fee. I applaud the RWS for being transparent and upfront about this. It's the first time I've ever seen any of the Societies do this and hopefully this will become the new norm

My personal view is that ALL chances to apply for membership by ALL art societies should always be fully aware of the full costs and obligations as well as any benefits. Plus for the sake of transparency and complete compliance with Advertising Regulations it's always best to be up front about these things!

Application Process and Guidelines

You have to be a professional watercolour artist to apply

How does the RWS define a 'professional' artist?
All artists who submit their work for Election should earn their income (partly or wholly) from the sale of their work. They should exhibit regularly and have a clear and coherant practice.
The application process runs as follows:
  • You need to apply online 
  • a shortlist of applicants will be pre-selected and invited to deliver three framed, glazed paintings and a portfolio of supporting work to be judged by RWS Members. 
  • If elected, you will become an Associate Member of the RWS. 
  • Full Membership is achieved by Election at an RWS Annual General Meeting, if there is a vacancy.
These are the links to:
Deadline: 11.59pm Friday 2nd of June


You can only be a member of ONE of:
but NOT BOTH! 

I strongly recommend that before making an application you make sure you have been to Exhibitions by both art societies as they are very different - and also exhibit in different places. You will know when you've seen the exhibitions which one suits you and your artwork best.

Also this is not a vanity exercise and people tend to remember names, so do not waste people's time if you're just starting out and do not as yet have 
  • an established practice as an exhibiting semi-professional or professional artist 
  • the significant income generated from the sales of your artwork. 
The RWS has an open competition  and separate exhibition where you can exhibit work as a non-member and if you want to get noticed this is the best place to start - and then work towards submitting an application to become an Associate.

If you are an International Artist, please be aware that if you become a member you are expected to exhibit in exhibitions and if you fail to exhibit your membership can be revoked. 

Again - this is not a Vanity Exercise or a way to collect initials after your name - you are expected to become an active participant in exhibitions.

So maybe have a long hard think about the costs of transporting artwork to and from up to four exhibitions a year before you apply. I'd recommend having a think about transporting the artwork only and having it framed in the UK and then delivered to the Gallery. 

History of The Royal Watercolour Society

  • In 1804, the Society of Painters in Water-Colours was created.
  • In 1881, it changed its name to become the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours 
  • In 1905 it became Royal Watercolour Society after it was granted a royal charter. 
It's now the oldest watercolour society in the world. The focus of this Society was to promote the use of watercolour - but also to exhibit only the work of its own members - which is a tradition which continues to this day. 

In the Victoria age, the RWS was referred to as the Old Water-Colour Society (OWCS) so as to distinguish it from the newer society which eventually became the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours (RI). 

See my post about The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours to see the history of the two societies and why they are separate.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

What should the BBC do about the Eric Gill statue on Broadcasting House?

Yesterday I highlighted the BBC report below about how the statue by Eric Gill on the front of BBC headquarters has been attacked yet again - on my Facebook Page

Man arrested after damage done to Eric Gill statue at BBC headquarters

I asked 

I thought this might happen as soon as I saw the news that they were going to repair the damage from the last time somebody bludgeoned Eric Gill’s statue on Broadcasting House.
Despicable man!
Let’s just look at it from the perspective of “Would the BBC commission the work now if they knew the crimes he committed?”

I got a lot of comments - some of which reference other artists who had done awful things. 

To which my response is doing awful things to adults is one thing, doing awful things to children is quite another - and I repeat

The reality is now people are going to keep coming back to destroy this statue as it's symbolic of "the establishment" turning the other cheek. If the BBC has any sense they will have it removed PDQ. What happens to it can then be discussed - preferably at some considerable length.
"Would the BBC commission the work now if they knew the crimes he committed?”

I received one comment (from Sarah Wimperis) - which I loved and wish I'd written and which I want to highlight here - and in particular one sentence

Take it down, stop using Gill Sans font too. Make space for some work by a kinder, less cruel and perverted artist. If it was a monument to Savill or Rolf Harris it would have been carted off in shame. How about choosing a woman artist to make work to fill the space, at least they seem to have a bit more humanity plus they are monumentally underrepresented (pun intended) I really don’t get why we hang onto stuff made by beasts. History, in a way, is only a small view of our past, it is one perspective, literally his-story, I don’t often say what I think, and it is just my opinion, but Eric Gill was a monster, why not take the thing away and commission something better.
My feelings entirely. I think the BBC should address the Eric Gill issue properly and
  • remove that statue so it cannot be a repeated target for those insulted by its presence on the front of "the establishment" 
  • go away and have a very long discussion about what to do with it. Years would be good.
  • ideally find something much more suitable, much less offensive and more related to the BBC's role in NOT looking away when difficult issues relating to abuse are raised (ref. their past track record re. Jimmy Saville / Rolf Harris / Tim Westwood etc)
Being involved in creative industries does not give you a licence to abuse or allow others to do the same - or to promote others who have abused.

Saville has been removed from all the repeats of Top of the Pops etc. 

What's the difference?

I think the Tate gets it just right

Prospero and Ariel on Tate website


More on this topic for those who want to know more about the contentious topic of Eric Gill, what he did to his daughters and why it's important not to turn the other cheek and to think long and hard about why context is important when looking at art.

Friday, May 19, 2023

PLANTAE 2023 - the Society of Botanical Artists at the Mall Galleries

This week is one of my Botanical Art Weeks - because Plantae 2023, the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists is on at the Mall Galleries this week.

I've been Private Viewing, dining out with lots of botanical artist friends, photographing artwork, writing blog posts etc. Three more to go!

The Private View on Tuesday - apparently c.300 attended

So if you're interested you can see some of what I've been getting up to on

here's a short excerpt from my first post

1) I’ve been to most of the PVs since 2006 when I started to visit the show (and then review it) and I have NEVER seen as many people at the PV as yesterday evening.
2) I’ve also never seen so many young people at the PV of (any) Art Society PV at the Mall Galleries. It’s really very significant that the SBA has invested in bringing on young artists - and is attracting others!
I understand the SBA Diploma Stand was also doing great business with lots interested!

Here's a short excerpt

Here are the headlines for WHAT'S CHANGED

  1. fewer artworks on the wall 
  2. a much more botanical emphasis
  3. more artists from international countries
  4. more younger artists exhibiting 
  5. many more people at the Private View
  6. ​what's missing this year

The general consensus has been that it's a very attractive exhibition with a very high standard of botanical art on the wall - from both a scientific and artistic perspective.

You can see it in the West and North Galleries at the Mall Galleries today and tomorrow (10am - 5pm). However there is no online exhibition and the catalogue has sold out and is being reprinted!

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Affordable Art Fair Hampstead 2023: A Synopsis

The main point I'd make about the Affordable Art Fair Hampstead which is on Hampstead Heath (about five minutes walk from the Train station is as follows.....

The stars of the show are emphatically the printmakers.  

Walk past an awful lot of 'manufactured art' and head for the Printmaker Stands where you will find artwork which is both good quality and affordable - as in affordable to more ordinary mortals.

Art Affordable Art Fair (Hampstead): My Findings

Here's the criteria for who can get involved in an Affordable Art Fair - all of which are very sensible.
  • All artists must be living.
  • All works must be original, or have an edition of less than the following per media:
    • Sculpture – 25;
    • Prints – 200;
    • Photography – 150.
  • All works must be priced under our price ceiling (see Exhibitor FAQs for more info).
  • Reproductions, even if editioned, are not allowed.
Here's what I found on my visit on Thursday.

What's Affordable?

The art fair lacks a definition for "Affordable". It needs one. In my opinion, it would get more visitors if it signalled more clearly what the price range of the artwork on show is

See more undr "What's Confusing?" below.

What's Good

The stands organised by groups of Printmakers - including:
  • A7 East London Printmakers (busy all day) Facebook East London Printmakers is a not-for-profit, artist run studio based in Mile End. (My other half nearly bought one - we got to the unframed versus framed debate). This is an organisation which also encourages people to use their studios....
  • D11 Printmakers in Residence (also very busy) - The studio in Bermondsey produces all the work by Mychael Barratt and Trevor Price, fellows and respectively the Past President and Vice President of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. Work by other contemporary artists is produced and published by invitation.
  • H8 North London Printmakers - a group of printmakers who believe in bringing high quality affordable prints to everyone. They're very much focused on the price range I would regarded as most people's definition of "affordable".
  • H1 Rebecca Hossack is showing Professor Phil Shaw is a ground-breaking British digital-printmaker - who produces some unique (and funny) digital art prints. Awarded his Doctorate in ink technology, Shaw uses a specialized eight-colour printing process on fine-grade Hahnemuhle paper. He was the former Professor of Printmaking at the University of Middlesex, where he taught from 1980.
  • D7 Arc Fine Arts stand is showing some lovely etchings by Tim Southall 

Mychael Barrett PPRE with "Made in London"
his new screenprint and woodcut about the creative artwork and products first made in London. Underneath is his Gormley's cat (the dog version sold extremely well at the RA Summer Exhibition)

'You can't judge a book' by Phil Shaw

My world is a place where humour is a serious matter, and its purpose is not simply to raise a laugh but to call attention to the puzzling absurdities and the dangerous myths, that permeate all our lives." Phil Shaw
Etchings by Tim Southall

Friday, May 12, 2023

Landscape Artist of the Year Filming 2023: Venues, Dates and Wildcards

Artists who have already applied for Series 9 of Landscape Artist of the Year - but have not been selected for one of the pods - can now apply to be one of the Wildcard Artists at one of the six venues around the UK in June

Entries to be a Wildcard at one of the six Heat Locations in Series 9 open at midday tomorrow. 

  • wildcard spaces are very limited so be ready to apply
  • ONLY those who submitted an application to be on the programme can apply - hence I'm not including the link for applications in this post as it's in the email sent already sent to applicants

This post:

  • highlights the locations and dates
  • speculates on what the two views at each location will be
  • provides some tips re accommodation and travel
I'll be doing a future post which will summarise:
  • lessons learned by previous wildcard artists
  • recommendations for pod artists 

Where will Landscape Artist of the Year be held in 2023?

The Heats of Series 9 of Landscape Artist of the Year will be filmed in June 2023 at

  • Liverpool
  • Hever Castle in Kent
  • Stonehaven on the Aberdeenshire coast in Scotland.


DATES: Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th June 2023

This one will suit Kathleen Soriano, who is the Chair of the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art!

Indeed the 12th Edition of the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art will be taking place during the heats. it opens on 10th June and continues until the 17th September. 
The 12th edition of Liverpool Biennial ‘uMoya: The sacred Return of Lost Things’ addresses the history and temperament of the city of Liverpool and is a call for ancestral and indigenous forms of knowledge, wisdom and healing. In the isiZulu language, ‘uMoya’ means spirit, breath, air, climate and wind.

The festival explores the ways in which people and objects have the potential to manifest power as they move across the world, while acknowledging the continued losses of the past. It draws a line from the ongoing Catastrophes caused by colonialism towards an insistence on being truly Alive.

Potential locations in and around Liverpool.

It's difficult to say as there's lots of scope - hence no pics!

I wrote this post backwards (i.e. I wrote the other two episodes first). Given the extensive and expansive presence of water in the other two locations, I'm thinking that at least one of the dates had to involve water - if not both.

I gather that one likely location will be the Albert Dock - which used to be home to a television programme so I guess that's got the facilities they need.

I think I'd be very surprised if at least one of the heats doesn't focus on visible urban artwork within the Biennial. Hard to say what that might be! It's possible Kathleen's connection with the Biennial might allow things to happen which otherwise would not happen.

It's entirely possible that one of the locations mighty be on the other side of the Mersey - looking back at Liverpool and the iconic Liver Building. That's what happened in the fifth episode of The Big Painting Challenge" in 2015 (the Cityscape Challenge). You might find it useful to read Review: The Big Painting Challenge - Episode 5

Plus it occurred to me that the Liver Building looks a bit like a castle - see below for why this might be relevant!

There again, they might go for one of the very big Cathedrals! So lots of options....

Travel and Accommodation

Liverpool has a mainline train station at Lime Street and good road connections. But there's the issue of train strikes....

There's also lots of accommodation in the city - but 
  • you need to bear in mind the dates are at the same time as the first week of the Biennial. There may be competition! 
  • this is Trip Advisor in the ten best cheap hotels in Liverpool
  • Try getting a B&B across the River Mersey and using the commuter ferry if you want to save costs (I watched "Race across the world too!"). If - as I speculate - one of the locations is across the Mersey then you'll be on the right side of the River!

Hever Castle

DATES: Tuesday 20th June and Wednesday 21st June 2023.

I think this is an excellent choice for the film company in terms of making life easy. For example, it offers accommodation on site. Or maybe I mean appearing to make life easy?

Potential locations in and around Hever Castle

I've been to Hever Castle in Kent several times. I know it fairly well. The views if offers include
  • castle and moat and interesting topiary (former home of 
  • Italianate Gardens - with lots of flat grass
  • a very large lake - with flat ground at various locations around its edge.
Hever Castle and Moat - with LOTS of reflections and flat ground nearby
Photo by Neil Howard
Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Lake at Hever Castle
(which you get to via the Italianate Gardens)
photo: Katherine Tyrrell

Given the facilities it offers, my guess is both locations for both pod artists and wildcards  will be located within the grounds which are relatively flat and hence relatively easy to move the pods around. It also offers accessibility to much of the grounds if disability issues are considered (as they should be).

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

The Making A Mark Award for Botanical Art

I've been highlighting the artwork of artists I like on this blog for years - and I know that is much appreciated. Last year I went one step further and created "The Making A Mark Award - for Botanical Art"!

The Making a Mark Award: a new perspective on Botanical Art

I first introduced "The Making A Mark Award" on my Botanical Art and Artists News Blog in June last year - see Plantae 2022 - and a new Award

Below is how I described the purpose of the award and who would win it
The BRAND NEW Making A Mark Award will allow me to make a cash award to any one (or more) of the following:
  • a first time exhibitor at the exhibition who impresses
  • people who bring a fresh and different approach to botanical art and illustration
  • artwork demonstrating a genuine new perspective on how to portray habitat
  • artwork about plants which don't often get illustrated
  • drawing excellence - maybe in less used media
In essence, it's about:
  • a new perspective on botanical art
  • artists who "make their mark" with the artwork they create which catches my eye - because it's excellent and different.

The award comprises:

  • a £100 Award
  • an interview with the artist which will be written up as an interview on my Botanical Art and Artists News Blog.
I'm actually minded to also produce a similar award for other national art societies.....


The winner of the inaugural Making A Mark Award in 2022: 
Inês-Hermione Mulford

Winner of the Inaugural Making A Mark Award
Inês-Hermione Mulford
with her four small graphite drawings of mosses and lichens
(in the grey frames at either side)

Inês-Hermione Mulford won the first award because she fulfilled a number of the criteria I'd identified for the recipient. These were
Hence why she won the award.

On her website you can see 

Dwindling by Inês-Hermione Mulford
(Wooly fringe moss with highland granite and lichen
Oil on 120x120cm Backed Board

An Interview with Inês-Hermione Mulford

Tomorrow my blog post on Botanical Art and Artists you will be able to find my interview with Inês-Hermione which looks at

  • how and why she got into art
  • how she started drawing plants
  • her approach to drawing macro views of bryophytes and lichens
  • what lessons she learned from exhibiting with the SBA

Inês-Hermione Mulford is also back at Plantae 2023 at the Mall Galleries NEXT WEEK with another drawing.

One of the first time exhibitors next week will also hopefully be identified as the most appropriate recipient of my the Making A Mark Award for 2023!

Plantae 2023

Plantae 2023 - the annual exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists - opens next week. The exhibition includes over 360 artworks by 186 artists.
  • Venue: Mall Galleries
  • Dates: 
    • 16th May from 2.30pm – 5pm and 
    • 17th to 20th May from 10am – 5pm daily
  • Entry Fee: £5
There are also demonstrations of botanical art as follows

Monday, May 08, 2023

Review: Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2023

This is a review of the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, now on at the Mall Galleries until Saturday 13th May, 2023. It includes:
  • observations on what makes this exhibition different and the content of the exhibition
  • commentary on what's different this year
  • portraits I particularly liked
  • tips for the Mall Galleries
  • a commentary on pricing for artists
Apologies to those who were expecting this blog post yesterday - but I was unavoidably detained by an urgent visit to A&E yesterday morning!

Mall Wall of West Gallery 

Last November, I wrote my annual blog post about the Call for Entries: Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2023

Subsequently artists who entered via the open entry were notified (you can see a list of who made it to the exhibition in my last blog post Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2023: Prizewinners and selected artists) and last week I visited the exhibition.

Last Thursday, the exhibition opened to the public. However, if you're unable to visit London, you can also see the artworks online as follows:
  • RP Annual Exhibition Online (scroll down the page)
  • Albums on my Facebook Page (links to which will be inserted here after this blog post is published)
    • East Gallery
    • West Gallery (tomorrow)
    • North Gallery
    • NOTE: These exclude all nudity involving "parts" which FB will just take down. Which is a pity as this exhibition has a wall which I christened "the willy wall".
You can also buy the RSPP Annual Exhibition 2023 Catalogue online. It has a stunning cover - and a not inconsiderable price! (£13)

Cover of the RSPP Annual Exhibition 2023 Catalogue

Observations about the Exhibition

The exhibition comprises 247 portrait paintings and drawings by member artists and those artists selected from the open entry.

One wall in the East Gallery

Content of the RSPP Exhibition - what makes this exhibition different

The major difference is that this is very much a one genre exhibition - relating to portrait drawings and paintings of people.

This is also the one exhibition at the Mall Galleries where artwork is not required to be for sale. We get to see a LOT of commissioned artworks which are marked up NFS i.e. 'Not for Sale'. That's because this exhibition is very much a marketing platform for those who members who work on commission. Which is also why membership of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters is so prized!

West Gallery - End Wall

Commissioned Portraits

This exhibition now has many fewer 'staid and formal official portraits'. There's still enough to remind us all of one of the main occupations of career portrait painters. 

However what I noticed is that such portraits also seemed to be "less stuffed shirt" and more informal - so a Bishop in his everyday suit and not in formal dress and a mitre! Or a portrait with a contextual background which is important to the client - but 'relaxes' the overall impression of the portrait.

I am left wondering if this is partly to do with the fact that's there's also more commissioned portraits of women? I'd love to know what the portrait painters think.

As a result, it's now a much more pleasant exhibition to view and review.

There's also much less of a difference between the portraits produced by members and those from the Open Entry.

I well remember one year that I commented to a senior bod in the society that the West Gallery (full of stuffed shirts portraits) was empty and all the visitors were in the North Gallery - where they had relegated all the artwork from the open entry. The artwork in that gallery was at the time much more relaxed, more colourful and more innovative. I think maybe the point was taken on board as I've seen a gradual and continuous shift away from the way the exhibition used to look.

Indeed the explanation about the exhibition now starts with the following statement! So maybe a marked shift in attitude as well?
This exhibition presents the very best in portraiture in all its variety and diversity
I thought the portrait study of Sir David Attenborough well illustrated a shift in "how to paint a commission"

David Cobley
Sir David - Study for BBC
oil on linen

I very much liked the new area devoted to Commissions. It's part of a gallery and yet set aside making this less confusing for visitors and more private for clients. I also like the fact that some attention has been paid to providing nice comfy seats for prospective clients. Overall, it looks much more professional.

I often wonder why more attention to marketing commissions by member artists doesn't take place in other FBA Society exhibitions at the Mall Galleries. 
  • The mezzanine area offers an appropriate area - if the opportunity to discuss commissions were to be more clearly signposted. After all, it's not just portrait painters who do commissions!
  • the website also needs more explicit signposting (i.e. top line menu) to the opportunity to commission portraits - which is present on the RP website but NOT on the Mall Galleries website 

The new Commission Area in the East Gallery

Open Entry

This exhibition has, I think, more open entries and more artists and artwork selected from the open entry than ever before. For the 2023 exhibition, the RP got 3,466 submissions - of which c.1,000 came from artists who live outside the UK. This is more submissions than the BP Portrait Award used to get! 

It might be something to do with the fact that I have repeatedly written posts which include a section on Why it compares favourably to the BP Portrait and other portrait competitions ! ;)

I suspect the number of submissions probably has something to do with the fact that the Portrait Competition run by the National Portrait Gallery is in abeyance and will have a new sponsor when it revives. I'm expecting that to be the backend of this year. This always got a huge number of entries from international artists and it'll be interesting to see whether the Society manages to maintain this bumper number of entries in future years.

In part, I think the number of entries it attracts is because the RP have got some very good prizes open to those selected for the exhibition. Attracting and maintaining sponsorship for prizes is a very critical way of generating entries - and the associated fees which help offset the costs of the exhibition.

Portrait Drawings in the North Gallery

NEW Artwork

Friday, May 05, 2023

Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2023: Prizewinners and selected artists

Yesterday the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters opened to the public at the Mall Galleries and I visited. In this post I'm going to focus on 

  • those winning prizes and 
  • those whose artwork was selected for this very prestigious annual exhibition.

My review of the actual exhibition will follow on Sunday and will highlight:

  • commentary on what's different this year
  • observations on the content
  • portraits I particularly liked

Prizewinners | RP Annual Exhibition 2023

The William Lock Portrait Prize: £20,000 for the most timeless portrait with a real feeling for paint and its aesthetic potential

80.5 x 60.5 cm (90.5 x 70.5 cm framed)

Saied Dai's portrait of his artist wife Charlotte Sorapure is timeless. It's both classical and contemporary. It's colourful and yet shows wonderful appreciation of tonal planes and light.

He's painted his wife before but somehow this time we get much more sense of the real woman.

This couple are both very accomplished and have won many awards.

What I'd really like to see is an exhibition which includes a couple of portraits from them - painted at the same time - of each painting the other.

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

121.5 x 151 cm (125.5 x 155 cm framed)

Toby was elected a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2006. He won the Prince of Wales Drawing Award in 2005 and 2013, the Changing Faces Prize in 2006 and the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize for figurative painting in 2009.

In 2006, after winning the BP Travel Award, Toby made portraits of the rural community of Wessex, which were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in 2007 and subsequently at Dorset County Museum in 2008.
One of his drawings for the painting is also in the show. My first encounter with Toby was seeing his wonderful drawings of people working in rural communities which were completed for the BP Travel Award.

Toby Wiggins
A Blackbird's Tongue: Russell Woodham, the Dorset Hedgelayer
Pencil, charcoal, ink on prepared paper

The de Laszlo Foundation Award: £3,000 plus a Silver Medal for the most outstanding portrait by an artist aged 35 years or under

Phoebe-Louise Stewart Carter, 
Self Portrait in the Winter,
85 x 50 cm (105 x 70 cm framed)

This is a very quiet but extremely well painted portrait. It's a curious pose as it would be one difficult to ask an artist to hold - but easier if the subject is yourself!

The RP Award 
£2,000 will be awarded to the artist whose work best represents the year's chosen theme - which for 2023 is "Clothing"

Zac Lee
Sunday Afternoon, 73 x 53 cm

It's unclear who Zac Lee is online. Which is a missed opportunity for this artist.

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

Carles Belda
Study for Something Never Ends, 19 x 15 cm (29 x 25 cm framed)

To be perfectly honest, I thought there were a LOT of small portraits which were excellent and certainly provided very worthy competition for this portrait. Which is a polite way of saying I'm really not sure why this one won the prize.

I feel art societies would generally be very helpful to ALL artists if they provided a brief explanation of why someone won a prize. Its omission in this instance left me wondering....

Raw Umber Studios Prize Value £2,000.

This is a new prize in 2023 - and was won by the current Vice President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
Raw Umber Studios believes that the most exciting contemporary portraiture lies at the intersection of technical excellence and creative expression. Their annual prize, inaugurated in 2023, encourages and rewards such work.

Simon Davis RP RBSA, 
Warren Ellis
61 x 51 cm (67 x 57 cm framed)

The Smallwood Architects Prize for Contextual Portraiture: £1,000 for a portrait in which architectural or interior features play an important part.

Paul's Emporium by Martyn Harris
80 x 110 cm (86 x 116 cm framed)

Rather less architectural than usual.

Missing prizes?

I couldn't find
  • a drawing awarded The Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing (£2,000 and framed certificate for a portrait in any recognised drawing medium) and note it's not part of the list if prizewinners on the Mall Galleries website. If it has come to an end that would be a very great pity - although obviously it needs a name update!
  • any reference to The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award for Classically Inspired Portraiture - which also appears to no longer awarded. 

Selected Art and Artists | RP Annual Exhibition 2023

Last November, I wrote my annual blog post about the Call for Entries: Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2023

Subsequently artists who entered via the open entry were notified (you can see a list of who made it to the exhibition below) and yesterday I visited the exhibition on the first day it was open to the public.

The RSPP got 3,466 entries for this very prestigious exhibition with over 1,000 coming from artists living and working outside the UK.

Some of the names are odd - insofar as they are very obviously extremely competent career portrait painters - and yet they've not applied for membership of the RP. I can name names! :). It occurs to me that:
  • either, nobody has ever told them how they can apply for membership
  • or the artists like it just the way it is at the moment.
I'll be featuring some of them in my review on Sunday - in which I'll be highlighting a number of portraits I particularly liked.

However it was pleasing to see a lot of names of people I don't know. It's always good to see lots of fresh new talent.

These are the names of the selected artists - in surname, first name format.
  • Ali Kazmi, Imran - Girl with the Red Rose
  • Allen, Richard - Els I
  • Arenson, Laura - Don't Tell Anyone I'm Here
  • Arenson, Laura - December's Goodbye
  • Attie, Philippe - 800-pound Gorilla
  • Avila, Jeff - Uneasy Sleep
  • Barratt, Wendy - Grief
  • Bays, Caroline - Stripey T-shirt
  • Bedeman, Oliver - T'Nia Miller
  • Beecht, Thomas - Georg
  • Beharrell, Jane - Girl in Black
  • Belda Roman, Carles - Study for Something Never Ends
  • Birch, Ashley - Artist Mother ('In a field of its own')
  • Braiden, Simon - Girl on a Sofa (Gemma)
  • Burton, Abigail - Mauricia
  • Burton, Abigail - Priscilla
  • Butterworth, Hillary - Juana
  • Caldwell, Steve - Reid 2
  • Caldwell, Steve - June
  • Cannon, Steve - Adrian Seated
  • Cannon, Steve - Self Portrait with Avocado Plant
  • Classi, Angela - Gaetano
  • Clatworthy, Jane - Claudio in the Red Chair
  • Clayden, Sam - Josh
  • Clayton, Tom - Her Name was Magill
  • Coles, Lizzie - Tameka
  • Comoretti, Vania - Shadow
  • Conway, Anita - Clive Myrie
  • Cosgrove, Ken - Shannon
  • Coulson, Alan - Elly
Elly by Alan Coulson

​Alan exhibits regularly in both the UK and US, notably as part of the prestigious BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery London, where in 2012 he was awarded third prize for his portrait of Richie Culver. Alan has produced commissioned work ​​for clients including The New York Times Magazine, The Sunday Times Magazine, Bloomberg Markets Magazine, Carlton Books, The Chronicle Review and Club Wembley.
  • Crozier, Belinda - Friday Art Club
  • Crozier, Belinda - Judith
  • Cullen, Annabel - Untitled
  • Davies, Kerry Lisa - Gabriel
  • Day, Estelle - Small Self Portrait in Studio
  • Di, Kexin - Mama
  • Di Taranto, Davide - Andreas
  • Di Taranto, Davide - James Edward
  • Doherty, Mark - Self Portrait in Studio
  • Donadeo, Jacqueline - Enough
  • Dorothee, Clauss - Alex
  • Draisey, Mark - Jack
  • Draisey, Mark - Jatinder Singh Durhailay
  • Dury, Amy - Rae
  • Ejoh, Wallace - Red Shawl
  • Fei, Yangtao - The End of Life of the Father Series
  • Fletcher, Nancy - Portrait of Bea, Otis & Rufus
  • Granitsioti Mathianaki, Panagiota - In the Studio
  • Hanbury, Clementine - Self Portrait at 25
  • Harris, Martyn - Paul's Emporium
  • Hawkins, Julia - Self-portrait with casts
  • Hayes, James - Self Portrait
  • Hillman, Aelfred - Guitarist in a Red Shirt
  • Holder, Curtis - Hirsute III
  • Hope, Laura - Self Portrait
  • Houston, Florence - Bella and Bakelite
  • Hume, Celia - Juniper
  • Johnson, Hero - Winter PJs
  • Kinsler, Jeannie - Byrne at the V&A
  • Kitson, Richard - Portrait of Suzi
  • Korteweg, Anna - Portrait of Lotus
  • Larin, Anna - Gaia
  • Lee, Keh Wee - Sunday Afternoon
  • Leho, Stephen - Leaning on the History of Art
  • Lorentzen, Mette - Mom September 2021
  • Marrucchi, Alessandra - Self Portrait with Pearl Earring
  • McKendry, Kenny - Back to the Light
  • McNicholas, Mick - Lockdown - Self-Portrait
  • Medhurst, Asa - Maxim with Avatars
  • Melling, George - Portrait of an Unknown Painter
  • Milne, Janis - Gazelle
  • Moock, Helena - Kember's Room
  • Moock, Helena - Self Portrait with Covid
  • Morgan, Jordan - Portrait of the Artist's Parents
  • Morris, Luis - Girl on a Chair
  • Morris, Luis - Self Portrait
  • Morzuch, Joe - Blue Self-Portrait, 5
  • Muller, Robin L - Astrid
  • Munday, Daniel - Intersection
  • Munro, Jason - Caspernaut
  • Nelis, Daniel - Man with Closed Eyes
  • Orlowski, Stefan - Estuary Days
  • Ozel, Mustafa - Portrait of James Bland
  • Ozel, Mustafa - Marina
  • Pierrepoint, Oriane - Dr Sinan Rawi
  • Poderys, Mantas - Family at the Table - Daly MacGabhanns
  • Purtill, Liz - Paulus Seeing Me
  • Ribeiro Lyra Leite, Filippe - Self-portrait with Striped Shirt
  • Riley Shope, Tucker - Portrait of Claudio
  • Rivilis, Tania - An Endless Summer Afternoon
  • Robertson, Saul - Journeys
  • Rooney, Alex - Henry Marsh
  • Shadbolt, Daniel - Catherine
  • Shaw, Sarah - Portrait of J.P
  • Sidelnikova, Valeriia - Halya
  • Sidelnikova, Valeriia - Mama
  • Slater, Hattie - Soldiers
  • Smith, Paul P - Portrait of Vanessa Lubach
  • Stern, Varvara - The Wisdom
  • Stevanovic, Milenko - Leontios and Michalis
  • Stewart Carter, Phoebe-Louise - Self Portrait in the Winter
  • Stopford, Lucy - Artist’s Son
  • Stopford, Lucy - Fred
  • Timko, Bernadett - Jimmy
  • Toal, Sarah - Self Portrait at 64
  • Vercesi, Cristina - Reflection
  • Wang, Binhong - Journey
  • Waterhouse, Joshua - The Surgeon
  • Watkins, Rosalie - Jessica
  • Wattles, Mike - Sculpture
  • Wilcox, Graeme - D in Stripes
  • Williams, Sophie - Brother in Stripy T-Shirt
  • Wood, Steven - Aster
  • Yuqing, Florence - Self Portrait
  • Yuqing, Florence - Clementine
  • Zeoli, Monica - Carnage
  • Zhou, Congran - Grandma