Thursday, August 31, 2023

Rembrandt, Vermeer and Reynolds at Kenwood House

I walked from Hampstead tube station and across Hampstead Heath up to Kenwood House to see the art collection yesterday. A bit of culture with a great cafe and a nice walk thrown in is my kind of ideal day out!

I haven't been to Kenwood House in years and years but my other half had visited more recently and suggested the venue for our weekly "day out".

Which is how I came to be pictured with Rembrandt - by himself!

Me - writing a Facebook post about Rembrandt and Vermeer
in the Drawing Room of Kenwood House

Kenwood House was bought by Lord Iveagh (Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh 1847-1927) to save it from development. It subsequently became a place to display his amazing art collection - which was bequeathed to the nation on his death.

This was the most generous bequest of art in history - and was conditional on it being on display in the house for free!

On the left: The Guitar Player by Vermeer
On the right: Self Portrait with Two Circles by Rembrandt

It includes:

Rembrandt’s Self-portrait with Two Circles. READ ABOUT IT

Painted in around 1665, it was first reproduced as a print in the mid 18th century and was publicly exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in1877. As a consequence it was a famous and celebrated artwork when Lord Iveagh purchased it on 10 July 1888.
Rembrandt’s Self-portrait with Two Circles

I'm the sort of visitor who always likes to get a close-up of the brush marks!

Vermeer's  The Guitar Player

" of only 36 known paintings by Vermeer, an artist who specialised in depicting everyday life in domestic interiors. A young girl, possibly his daughter Maria, is interrupted from her guitar playing, as the string continues to vibrate. Vermeer has seated the girl so far to the left that her arm is cropped by the edge of the painting."
The Guitar Player by Vermeer

PLUS a very large collection of paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Franz Hals, Anthony Van Dyck, Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney and Albert Cuyp - amongst others.

There is in fact an exhibition which focuses on all the paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds who was Lord Iveagh's favourite artist - and who is celebratig his 300th anniversary of his birth in 2023.

Some of you will remember Reynolds as the chap whose statue is in the area in front of the Royal Academy of Arts as Reynolds was the very first President of the RA (Note: I find it really very sad that the entry for Reynolds on the RA website spends MORE space and text on the "RA Collections Decolonial Research Project - Extended Case Study" than it does on Reynolds and what he did and why he was important. There is something very wrong when perspectives on the past get this distorted.)

Speaking personally, I'm not so much a fan of Reynolds. While I do not doubt his skill as a painter, I find some of his paintings very whimsical. Apparently he was nearly as bad as Turner for trying to develop new ways to paint - which cause his paintings to be something of a challenge on the conservation front.

Margaret Hyde "Daisy" Leiter (1898)
who became Margaret Howard, Countess of Suffolk
by John Singer Sargent

I very much liked the John Singer Sargent painting on the Deal Staircase of the Margaret Hyde Leiter, Countess of Suffolk who it is suggested was the sister of Mary Leitner - the role model for Lady Cora, the Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey - an American who married Lord Curzon who became Viceroy of India!

It seems there's a bit of a tradition for Americans marrying into the aristocracy!

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

How to talk to kids about their art - by The Art of Education University

This is about a really wonderful guide about how to talk to kids about their art. 

It's produced by The Art of Education University which aims to inspire art educators

Art educators deserve support at every stage of their careers. Discover a rich K-12 visual arts curriculum, professional development, relevant resources, online graduate courses, and rigorous master’s degree programs.
Plus two more "Golden Oldies" by me about the principles and elements of design.

How to talk to kids about art

How to Talk to Kids About Their Art  is an article written by Sarah Krajewski and published for all those struggling with teaching their kids at home on April 20, 2020. 

In it she includes lots of tips about what to focus on when talking to kids about their art
  1. Let them use their own words.
  2. Be specific with your comments.
  3. Ask interesting questions.
  4. Let them choose the display.
  5. Give them time to identify their feelings first.
  6. Use the Elements and Principles as a catalyst.
For all those struggling with "Elements and Principles" I did a project on this blog back in 2008 about the Elements and Principles of Composition. You can read more in these two "Golden Oldie" posts
Sarah's article is still very relevant now kids are going back to school and all those still home schooling their children.

It's a really great read and at the end of it you are invited to DOWNLOAD the memory jogger poster which will keep you on track.

It's also not a bad prompt for all amateur artists lacking an art education and trying to find ways to talk about their art too!

How to download from The Art of Education University website

Friday, August 25, 2023

Golden Oldie #4: Van Gogh and Drawing - art media and techniques

Two posts this time - about Vincent Van Gogh and his drawing materials and techniques.  

Tree with Ivy in the Garden of the Asylum
Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890),
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, May-June 1889
pencil, reed pen and brush and ink, on paper, 61.8 cm x 47.1 cm
Credits: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Golden Oldie #4: Van Gogh and Drawing - art media and techniques

The two posts are from 2007 and 2021. I've updated both where it was needed.

Van Gogh: Drawing media and techniques (2nd February 2007)

This has been one of my most popular posts - on a perennial basis - since I started this blog.

This post focuses on Van Gogh's drawing materials (pencil, pen and ink, prints, brush and colour) and how they influenced his techniques and style.

I've also 

  • resized the images
  • removed dead links
  • included UPDATES about research about the media he used

More about Van Gogh and his drawings and drawing techniques (28th September 2021)

This provides a summary of the information about Van Gogh's drawing materials and techniques that was mainly published AFTER my blog post from 2007.

It's not comprehensive but provides a good overview of what's been added to resources in recent years - and that includes some of the Wikipedia information!

I've also only had to update two links (both incidentally to the same website - the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh Arles) - which indicates this is perennially sound information!

Sunday, August 20, 2023

My favourite subjects to draw and sketch

How do we identify the special subjects we like to sketch, draw or paint again and again?

Sometimes we don't realise for a very long time what they are until we've done enough to see a pattern.

Landscapes with extensive views

For me, it dawned on me after I first created my website for my artwork that it was landscapes with VERY BIG vistas! There were an awful lot of them....

Here's an example. This was a commission I did 11 years ago for the American wife of a cyclist who loved his time cycling up Mont Ventoux in Provence (YES! There really are people who commission paintings for their spouses!) 

Mont Ventoux from the Hotel Crillon Le Brave
12" x 16", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils on Arches HP 

The commission was triggered by a sketch on a blog post on the blog we created for a painting holiday in Provence 
Painting in Provence
This is the story of four women who were drawing, sketching and painting in Provence in June 2011.
We shared a house and held a painting party!
You are invited to share our preparations, our sketches and paintings, comings and goings and general conviviality!and the original sketch
This was the original blog post Sunday lunch and sketching at Hotel Crillon Le Brave and two of the original sketches. 

The view from the terrace of Mont Ventoux and Bedoin in the distance

Meals in restaurants

The second sketch is my lunch - also known as what I was eating while sketching! 

Also known as my second favourite subject for sketching: meals in restaurants and cafes
I've got absolutely masses from a number of different countries! I have pondered on doing some more research and maybe creating a book! ;)

I have a record of the meal on my main sketchblog The view of Mont Ventoux from Crillon Le Brave
  • Soupe de Pöisson, Crouton et Aioli mediterranean fish soup, aioli and croutons;
  • Thon à la Planche, Salade Fenoil, Tartibe de'Aioli tuna steak, shaved fennel salad and aioli tartine
  • Floating Island in lavender

My three course lunch at the Hotel Crillon Le Brave:
mediterranean fish soup, aioli and croutons;
tuna steak, shaved fennel salad and aioli tartine and
a floating island in lavender

The sketches were all done in a large Moleskine Sketchbook using pen and ink and coloured pencils. 

I've always very much enjoyed eating out - and developed a rule while travelling of "If I'm eating in a new place I should really try to eat something I've never had before".   Very educational - travels broaden the mind - and sometimes the tum!

The big advantage of sketching food for me is that I had to be fast and eating enforced breaks from sketching - which helps a lot when trying to protect your hand from tenosynovitis / osteoarthritis through gripping pens and pencils for far too long! (See yesterday's blog post about Golden Oldie #3: Artists and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI))

Now that I'm more mobile and steadier on my feet, I really ought to start taking a small sketchbook and a small pencil case out with me - and eat out more!

Friday, August 18, 2023

Golden Oldie #3: Artists and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Do you get pains in your hand or wrist when using art media? Do you ignore them - or do you recognise the need to make sure you don't ruin your grip?

Speaking as somebody with a connective tissue disorder and severe osteoarthritis, I find myself learning new things, again and again, about how to keep going despite the fact that joint cartilage keeps disappearing and joints need attention - including significant surgery. (One ankle fusion done, shoulder replacement and hip replacement on the agenda next!)

I'm very mindful of looking after your limbs and the bits of your body that move when you make art. Particularly those bits which are relevant to holding art materials in your hand with a decent grip and being able to use your arm. 

That means for me, that I've actually had to stop gripping art media in my hand for any length of time.....

My second wrist splint for my hand I used to grip art media with
- emphasis on the "used to"

Artists and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

My post about Artists and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) was published in June 2016. 

It started thus....
Too many artists suffer from repetitive strain injuries (RSI). In addition, too many artists know too little about:
  • how to avoid RSI
  • how best to deal with RSI
Too often, health and safety issues for artists relate purely to hazards associated with art materials. In my opinion, there is far too little focus on the hazards that certain working practices can have on your anatomy.

The post covers:

  • What is RSI?
  • Other common RSI or RSI related conditions
  • How do artists get repetitive strain injury?
  • How do artists make RSI worse?
  • How do artists alleviate RSI symptoms - and make art? - which includes LOTS of suggestions of ways in which you can avoid a problem and alleviate the one you have.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

PAOTY Blogging has started - within the new rules!

Normally we never see any blog posts from artists who have participated in the filming of Portrait Artist of the Year in April until after their episode is broadcast early next year.

However apparently the rules have changed - and at least one artist has now taken advantage of this.


As part of the artist contract which you signed prior to taking part in the competition, we asked that you refrain from posting about your participation in the competition until the show airs later this year. We have since revised these guidelines so that you can post about your involvement in the online gallery.

Therefore, if you would like to post about being an artist on PAOTY series 10 and your subsequent participation in the online gallery, please feel free to go ahead. We ask only that you a.) Don't reveal the outcome of your heat or how well you or any other artists did, and b.) Don't share any images of the artwork you produced on the day.
These were communicated to me by Gail Reid who has obviously asked if she could write about about aspects of her artistic life - excluding what actually happened during the filming inside Battersea Art Centre, any images of the artwork and who won!

To date, she's published two blog posts

  • Lights, camera, action! (July 2023)
  • PAOTY STRATEGY, MATERIALS & DEMO (16 August 2023) - in which she focuses on 
    • how to address the four hour time limit 
    • provides a checklist of what she was using/doing at each stage during her test portrait 
    • plus a video of the whole process of painting her son.

Gail is not giving the game away re outcomes - there are NO SPOILERS! However, 
  • she is sharing LOTS of very useful information for anybody contemplating applying for Portrait Artist of the Year Series 11 
  • I highly recommend if you are one of those you have a read AND watch the video!

Call for more blog posts on prep for television!

If anybody else is also blogging and would like to share their thoughts and preparation for avoiding making any big mistakes while being filmed for a television programme please do contact me.

More tips about PAOTY

For more tips from me about how to beat that four hour time limit 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

ASTM Pastel Lightfastness Standard D8330-20

This will interest all pastel artists - specifically those who are interested in the lightfastness of pastels and the new technical standard for how lightfastness is tested.

I've been a long-time proponent of lightfastness which is how I got involved in how lightfastness standards are developed and the testing involved. 

I first wrote about the development of a lightfastness standard for pastels back in 2010 - in A Lightfastness Standard for Pastels: current status. As a result of this I was invited to become a member of the ASTM Subcommittee D01.57 on Artist Paints and Related Materials - albeit have never made it to a meeting since they've traditionally been held in the USA! I stuck to commenting from a distance!

This was followed by a second post - ten years ago(!) - called UPDATE! Standard Specification for Artists Pastels

Finally the Standard was published in 2020 - but for some reason passed me by at the time! Maybe other things were happening!!

Below you will find two videos, produced by the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS),  about the new (in 2022) Lightfastness Standard for Pastels published by the American Society for Testing and Materials - now better known as ASTM International.

The Visual Appearance of Light Testing Results - from the video talk by Michael Skalka
from left to right: the colour not exposed to light, the colour exposed indoors, the colour exposed outdoors

ASTM D8330-20: Standard Specification for Artists’ Pastels

Below are two videos - made in 2022 - which comment on the process and the technical aspects of testing for lightfastness.

  • the first is a talk by the man who has been responsible for steering all the lightfastness standards on art materials
  • the second is a discussion between Council Members of IAPS about how they were involved with the process of developing the standard

IAPS ASTM Pastel Standard (54 minutes) - this lengthy video has an explanation by my good friend Michael Skalka the longtime Chair of ASTM Subcommittee D01.57 on Artist Paints and Related Materials, about 

  • the rationale for the development of the Lightfastness Standard
  • the benefits of the Standard
  • addressing criticism of the Standard
  • plus a demonstration of some of the test results across different colours (which accounts for why I got heavily involved with lightfastness well over 15 years ago - when I saw the same results for coloured pencils using different pigments!)
  • plus a visual summary of the test results - which highlighted which pigments did very well and why dyes used for pastels produced very poor results
  • Conclusions about the overall process - highlighting the lack of engagement by both manufacturers and artists

Since Michael retired from his work in Conservation at the National Gallery in Washington, he's started a website called The Syntax of Color and I wrote about Michael and new developments in Michael Skalka knows about art materials!

IAPS ASTM (11 minutes)

The second is a "talking heads" video which focuses more on the ongoing relationship IAPS had with ASTM in the development of the standard over many years.

A conversation with IAPS Materials team - Richard McKinley, Shirley Anderson and Susan Weber about the ASTM pastel lightfastness standard.

The IAPs developed an Art Materials Team and have worked together with ASTM - to help finish the testing and build a bridge between the artists and the manufacturers.

Note: You can read current news from IAPS here. This INCLUDES an article about ASTM and Lightfastness of Pastels.

My own informal testing process

I have my very own lightfastness tests going on, on the walls of my home.

I have to say that, compared to other media (notably coloured pencils), I am very impressed with the quality of colour of artworks produced using Unison Pastels.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Call for Entries: Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2023

The Royal Institute of Oil Painters invite entries to its Annual Exhibition 2023 at the Mall Galleries which opens on 29th November 2023. This blog post covers this Open Exhibition and:
  • who can enter
  • what you can enter
  • how to enter
It also covers what, in my opinion are two serious mistakes.

The deadline for entries is 12 noon on Friday 6 October to submit your artwork / form / fees ONLINE only.  

Call for Entries - ROI Annual Exhibition 2023

You can find the official and FULL Call for Entries here on
There's not been a lot of marketing of this Call for Entries by either the ROI or Mall Galleries - I only spotted it this week!

Below is a Summary of the different aspects of the Call for Entry 

(UPDATE: I should add that I emailed the President of the ROI before I published and he's written back to say that the ROI Council will consider the points made for the future.)

View of the East Gallery at the ROI Annual Exhibition 2022
View of the East Gallery at the ROI Annual Exhibition 2022

WHO can Enter

Artists are invited to submit work for exhibition alongside members of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters at the ROI Annual Exhibition 2023. ROI Exhibition Page
  • The competition is open to all artists over the age of 18
  • It is also open to international entries - you don't even have to be live or work in the UK. However International Artists need to make sure they read the Mall Galleries/FBA Notice about the need to register for VAT to get your artwork through Customs and into the UK! (See the last bullet point under Sales in the Call for Entries re the need to register for VAT). You might also find my page about International Art Shipping: How to ship / export art to other countries useful.
View of North Gallery - ROI Annual Exhibition 2022

WHAT you can enter

The Royal Institute of Oil Painters was founded in 1882 and is the only major British art society that promotes and exhibits work of the highest standard exclusively in oil paint. ROI Exhibition Page

Acceptable media: Oils. Acrylic and water-soluble oil paint is acceptable if framed as an oil, so as not to spoil the general appearance of the exhibition. 

The ROI have a problem with the wording of the Call for Entries (and website). I explicitly noted the problem with the Call for Entries and the two statements above last year. I warn about issues once and, if not addressed, the following year I spell out why it needs to be addressed - which is what I'm doing this year.

The two statements above are ambiguous, contradictory and misleading which means they are very unlikely to be compliant with The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code)

A Call for Entries is a direct marketing communication. I'm not sure many art societies are aware of this, but it applies to ALL marketing communications on the Internet, print publications, advertisements and promotional material - including websites. Compliance is also NOT optional!
The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) is the rule book for non-broadcast advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing communications (marketing communications). (CAP Code)
In my opinion, the ROI really MUST review the use of the word 'exclusively' on the ROI website (and Mall Galleries website). All that needs to happen is either:
  • EITHER: delete the word "exclusively" and have another think about how to describe the ROI and acceptable media
  • OR: delete non-oil paints from eligible media since it's impossible to be "exclusively in oil paint" - and then accept other paints e.g. acrylic which are NOT oil paints! ( i.e. a frame does not change a media!!)
  • AND make sure all communications comply with the CAP Code in every respect.

- in the ROI Annual Exhibitions 2014-2019

The number of works exhibited each year typically varies between 270 and just over 300. 

I RECOMMEND that artists submit artworks in oil paint only via the Open Entry.

In relation to other matters there are various requirements
  • Age: All artwork must have been completed within the last three years 
  • Previous Exhibitions: Artwork must not have been previously shown at Mall Galleries.
  • Presentation
    • Paintings should be completely dry at the time of delivery
    • Wide mounts between painting and frame, as in watercolours, are not acceptable.
    • Glazed work is not encouraged.
    • Unframed work can be accepted if on a well-presented box canvas.
    • Works that are poorly presented or differ significantly from the photograph entered will not be exhibited.
  • Exhibition Theme: 
    • This year’s mini theme is ‘Urban Life’, which can be interpreted widely. 
    • Artists are encouraged to contribute a work on the theme, however it is not compulsory.
  • Number of artwork submitted: A maximum of six works may be submitted
  • Number / size of artwork selected
    • A maximum of three works may be selected.
    • The combined measurement of works accepted will not exceed 8 feet maximum per artist.
  • For Sale
    • Work must be for sale, unless portraits.
    • The minimum sale price is £500.
    • All prices must allow for the deduction of commission @45% plus VAT %20% on the commission sum and the cost of the frame and shipping (there and back if unsold).
I'm very concerned that the minimum price has been raised to £500 for a number of reasons. I can only assume this is the product of some misplaced notion that eliminating very affordable art will increase sales and income. This is wrong. If anything the emphasis should be on making artwork more affordable.

Key Pricing Points - based on analysis of actual data:

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Golden Oldie #2: Pigments and Dyes for Art Media

Back in 2008 I did a mammoth project all about Colour. Colour - a materials perspective #1 - pigments and dyes is one of the posts I did about my research into what creates colour - and relates to the materials used to create coloured art media.

It provides a materials perspective on colour for artists and a basic overview of pigments and dyes. 

Pigments I found in a shop in Venice

Pigments and dyes are a prime component of the colour used by artists - but
  • Where do they come from?
  • Which are 'old' colours and which are new?
  • What or who creates them?
  • who are seriously interested in what goes into the colours they make their art with
  • those who want to understand the differences between pigments and dyes
  • those who want to understand what is
    • Organic and Inorganic;
    • natural and synthetic
  • how pigments behave
  • what binders are used
At the end there are a series of Learning Points I derived from my research.


NOTE: The entire Colour project will be moving to a BIG section in my (still in draft) Tips for Artists website. The aim is to make all the relevant information for artists that I've collected over the years much more accessible.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

CHECKLISTS For Remembering Respected Artists

The last two posts I've written have both been about prominent artists and illustrators who are recently deceased. I learned a lot while writing them. As a result, I've developed this post which covers:

  • Basic principles for remembering an artist
  • Memberships of Art Societies
  • Obituaries and Tributes
  • Retrospective Exhibitions / Websites
It comments on what happens as artists get older / reach the end of their lives and includes some short checklists of things to think about if you are an artist, an art gallery or an art society and want to remember a respected artist.

Plus a reference to a free resource I've developed for all those artists whose end is nearer than their beginning.

CHECKLIST: Basic Principles for Remembering an Artist

  • If an artist is respected, then celebrate their memory. 
  • Have your facts and statements written in advance if possible - for tailoring and editing only. That's what all the news platforms do.
  • The artist may have died but their artwork has not. It can continue to sell and generate income - but only if you are organised!
  • Think about how the legacy can continue before rather than after death!
See The Art Legacy on my website Art Business Info. for Artists

GOOD PRACTICE: Obituary Pages and Legacy Sites

From the Obituaries Page on the Royal Society of British Artists website

I noted while compiling my recent blog posts that some long established art societies have now established Obituary Pages on their websites. 

It struck me that this recognised that prominent artists who have made a significant contribution to a society are NOT just those artists from history that art societies like to write about when boasting about their pedigree. They are also artists from the present.

So, by way of example, take a look at:
NEAC FAQs Page includes a question about past members

How you categorise lists can be a challenge. 
  • Do you do it by surname - and hence are fair to all? 
  • Do you group by decade of election to membership? Making it more accessible for those knowing the age of the artist....
  • Do you highlight those more prominent? 
  • Do you highlight past officers and those who worked hard for an art society?
There's no right answer - but it is worth giving some thought to. I'd argue there's scope for creating a database approach that allows people to search - although I doubt this will be a priority for any working member. Maybe a project for an enthusiastic and relevant skilled supporter?

CHECKLIST: Memberships of Art Societies

One of the critical things to do is to respect achievements through membership of art societies / groups 
  • in the death announcement
  • by the art society / art group
The thing is that these days people are getting very much older and more infirm before they die. Continuing memberships can therefore be seen as something that is marginal to their life or an expensive indulgence. Which means some artists may not be members when they die - even if they have been past members. Hence those producing obituaries of members may rule them out as no longer relevant....

GOOD PRACTICE: Create ways for members to remain members

Monday, August 07, 2023

Remembering Tom Coates (1941 - 2023)

Tom Coates PPNEAC PPRBA PPPS PPSEA RP RWA passed away, age 82, on 20 July 2023. He was one of those artists I saw very often at the Private Views at the Annual Exhibitions at the Mall Galleries - as he was a member of so many! He had a presence - you always knew when Tom was in the Gallery! :)

Tom Coates 
(photo courtesy of Felicity House)

I've been waiting for some obituaries to be published before doing this post so that those who know Tom and his work can access them easily.  Below you can find:
  • a timeline of his life
  • notes of his major achievements, awards and prizes
  • links to 
    • interviews with him
    • obituaries about him

Tom Coates Timeline - Notable Events

You will note that it's very clear that Tom Coates worked hard to become an artist and then worked hard to be an artist - working with art societies, art galleries, on commission and with students.
  • born May 5th, 1941 in Aston, Birmingham
  • 1956 - 1959 - studied at the Bournville College of Art
"At my first college, Bourneville College of Art, my principal Capel Smith told me to go into graphics. “No,” I replied, “I want to paint!”
  • 1959 - 1961 - won his first scholarship to study at the Birmingham College of Art 
At my second college, Birmingham College of Art, I painted everything and anything – from industrial scenes to coal mines where I worked on twilight shift. I had no grant as my parents had emigrated to New Zealand, to the luxury of painting in the warmth of the studio.
  • 1961 - 1964 - won a Scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools when Sir Henry Rushbury was Keeper and Peter Greenham was Professor.
I was awarded a scholarship to the RA Schools where my life changed. I relished in the use of oils. My mentor was Sir Henry Rushbury; and I was influenced by Peter Greenham, Charles Mahoney and John Ward. The many prizes I won enabled me to survive.
  • Throughout his career, Coates taught at various art schools and workshops while devoting the majority of his time to full-time painting.
my photo of Tom Coates doing a Portrait painting demonstration
at the NEAC Annual Exhibition 2014
He loved demonstrating - playing to a crowd, telling yarns, unbeknown to his sitters putting horns on their head when it was failing and eliminating them as it progressed. Mary Jackson
Tom's library of old sketchbooks acted as a constant point of reference and he always drew from life. NEAC Obituary
Tom Coates sketching from life
(photo courtesy of Felicity House)
  • He has been greatly involved with a wide number of art societies - and President of FOUR
  • He has exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition since 1980 
  • He exhibited widely in the UK and in Kentucky in the USA and had one man shows at:
  • He worked on commission and accepted commissions from a number of prominent art collectors - including 
  • His work is in many UK and International private art collections - including the Royal Collection.
  • He was married to fellow artist Mary Jackson
  • He died July 20th 2023. His health had declined in recent years but he was still never happier than when drawing and painting - and he never stopped painting.....
Tom died peacefully at home in my arms surrounded by his family. Mary Jackson in RP Obituary

Mary Jackson and Tom Coates in 2022
(Photo courtesy of Felicity House)


my photo of Tom Coates - wearing his Presidential insignia 
with his paintings at the NEAC Exhibition in 2014
    An achievement not bestowed on many artists was that he was the President of FOUR different Art Societies at different times.

    Sunday, August 06, 2023

    A celebration of Victor Ambrus

    Last week I went to see the restrospective exhibition of drawings by the late Victor Ambrus (1935-2021) at the Bankside Gallery.

    I was a HUGE fan of his wonderful drawings - mostly in dry media - with some watercolour added occasionally.  He was the most fantastic illustrator as well as wonderful drawer of both people and animals. 

    You can see my photos from the exhibition in three posts on my Facebook Page. The narrative is reproduced below - with links to each of the posts. Don't miss the photos of his decsriptions of 

    • how I draw
    • how to draw animals!

    There’s an exhibition of the work of the Late Victor Ambrus at the Bankside Gallery until Sunday 6th August. I went yesterday and it’s splendid. I always used to look forward to seeing his work at Pastel Society Exhibitions. He was both an artist and an illustrator who mainly worked in dry media and who illustrated over 400 books and was part of the Time Team group.

    More photos from the Victor Ambrus exhibition at the Bankside - continues until Sunday 6th August. These are of the various animals he drew from life in different zoos in dry media. It starts with a description of how he drew animals.

    Yet more photos from the Victor Ambrus Exhibition at the Bankside Gallery which closes shortly. PLUS A description of "How I Draw" by Victor Ambrus.

    Plus you can see his work celebrated in two videos (embedded below)

    • A Time Team Tribute to Victor Ambrus following his demise in 2021.
    • A film made by South West Heritage - which was playing in the Gallery during the exhibition
    Still from the South West Heritage Video below - of Victor working in his studio

    There are in fact quite a few videos of and about Victor on YouTube!

    I hope for all of you who appreciated his work, this is post to maybe bookmark.

    Thursday, August 03, 2023

    Five artists shortlisted for John Moores Painting Prize 2023

    Five artists have been shortlisted for The John Moores Painting Prize 2023 - and this post:

    • tells you who they are - and provides a judges summary plus a profile
    • shows you the image of the painting which has been shortlisted
    • shows you images of the selectors and the selection process
    • and finally.... you get my prediction as to which work will win the £25,000 First Prize and a Solo Exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in 2025.
    The John Moores Painting Prize is the UK's most well-known painting competition, bringing together the best contemporary painting from across the UK to Liverpool.
    The exhibition of all the artists selected for the longlist will be held at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool between16 Sep 2023—25 Feb 2024. 

    The Shortlisted Artists

    Paintings by Nicholas Baldion, Graham Crowley, Emily Kraus, Damian Taylor and Francisco Valdes shortlisted from more than 3,000 entries.

    Links to their websites are embedded in their names below.

    Those not winning the first prize of £25,000 will each be awarded £2,500.

    The Selectors gave each painting careful scrutiny

    The 2023 jury - Alexis Harding, Chila Kumari Singh Burman MBE, Marlene Smith, The White Pube and Yu Hong – chose the prize winners and the long list of other exhibiting artists from more than 3,000 entries – the most the John Moores Painting Prize has ever received.

    From large scale canvases, bold in brush strokes and colour, to exquisitely detailed pieces, the exhibition covers a wide range of styles, united by their use of paint.  

    By way of introduction (from me)
    • there are four "technique paintings" (for want of a better term) - only one of which interests me
    • and a genuine original which has both substance and impact.
    • my favourites are by the two youngest painters.

    Wednesday, August 02, 2023

    A Review: Grayson Perry Smash Hits at the National Gallery, Edinburgh

    A new exhibition "Grayson Perry | Smash Hits" has opened at the National (Royal Scottish Academy) in Edinburgh - and this post contains my FIRST EVER GUEST REVIEW on this blog!
    This summer, come and see the biggest ever exhibition of Sir Grayson Perry's work, covering his 40-year career. Perry has gone from taking pottery evening classes to winning the Turner Prize, presenting television programmes on Channel 4 and writing acclaimed books. Pottery allowed him the opportunity to indulge his fascination with sex, Punk, and counterculture, amongst other things, in the most unlikely and polite of artforms. Today he is one of Britain's most celebrated artists and cultural figures.
    Last week I posted a link to Jonathan Jones's review of the exhibition to my Making A Mark facebook Page - which got a LOT of comments as I invited people to look at the review and decided whether they agreed with Jonathan or me or had another view.

    Of course, none of the people commenting had actually seen the exhibition. Mostly we were commenting from a perspective of what we have seen previously.

    So when one of my followers announced she was going to see the exhibition at the weekend I was absolutely agog to see what she found and hear about what she thought and made her promise to report back with photos!

    This she did yesterday! (see below) Note in particular that neither of the visitors had read the Guardian Review.

    Many thanks to Helen Newall for being such a good sport and delivering both a FABULOUS review and AMAZING pics. I think I should ask her to report back from more exhibitions! Maybe the Liverpool Biennial next? Or the John Moores Painting Prize - of which more tomorrow!

    A Review: Grayson Perry, National Gallery, Edinburgh - by Helen Newall

    This is reproduced from Helen's post on Facebook after she visited the exhibition at the weekend. Helen lives in Liverpool and travelled up to Edinburgh by train to see it.

    Go to Helen's post on Facebook ( link is above) to see some really excellent pics of the exhibition!

    The viewers: an English woman, outsider artist, with a Grayson Perry crush.
    A Scottish woman, musician, who had never heard of Grayson Perry prior to this, and who wouldn’t usually visit an art gallery.
    We purposefully didn’t read the Guardian review before seeing this.

    We arrived at ten minutes to ten for our 10am pre-booked entry and there was already a substantial queue waiting at the locked front doors. This was the Saturday before the Festivals get going, and the city is packed, and we speculated, that this exhibition is going to be massively popular when the Festival and Fringe really gets going.
    Doors opened promptly, and we were in! But already, the first room of the exhibition was jam-packed - there is so much detail to take in of each print or object, that the crowds linger and this small room acts as a bottle neck: a gallery guide suggested we move through into the next rooms and come back to this one, because, she said, rooms are themed rather than in a specific or chronological order. (A pottery iron-age motorbike helmet, for example, which he made while at art school, appears close to the motorbike Perry designed and had made later in his career when his success meant that he could do such things). The works - pots, sculptures, prints and tapestries - are displayed over seven spaces of varying sizes. We pushed through to room 2 and found ourselves in a spacious white hall, its walls hung with immense tapestries, and its floor punctuated with white plinths on which Perry’s coil pots were displayed within glass cubes. It was a riot of huge colour: impressive with woven narratives and glittering with shimmering pot glazes. This is a beautifully presented and well lit exhibition. I think we might have gasped: my Scottish companion, with no great love of galleries, was enthralled. We soon drifted apart, contemplating each piece in our own time and way, mainly because we were using the audio commentary. This commentary, I think, is what made an already visually spectacular exhibition really sing: Perry’s no-nonsense approach is evident: he speaks freely, without pretension and plenty of humour about selected works from each room as if he’s there with me, talking about his thinking and creative investigations: at one point he laughs raucously - it’s glorious! The longer we stood before each piece, listening and looking, the more the detail and humour and biting satire in each print or pot or tapestry came alive and the more there was to see.
    While it’s joyous and critical in its observations of social mobility, the class system, the art elite, it’s also painfully sad at times: we were affected by the works set in the Digmoor estate, Skelmersdale, an area of social deprivation not far from where we have both lived and worked: the sculpture, The King of Nowhere, a cast iron figure pierced with knives, remains especially poignant, as news reaches us of a stabbing death in Ormskirk, not far from Skem. Another remarkable piece is The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, originally part of an exhibition at the British Meseum and which acts as ‘a monument to all the unknown craftsmen and craftswomen who have made all the wonders of civilisations around the world’, because, as Perry notes, much of the art we view in museums is not by named artists. This is a body of work that often champions the underdog, the working class, the left behind, the outsider artists; it pokes sharp things at middle and upper class pretensions and the inability of society - and the art world - to see those whose invisible labour keeps the (art) world turning.
    If, like me, you’re a postmodern magpie with a love of the shiny glazes of gilded pots and the glossy satin of Claire’s Coming Out Dress, you’ll love this exhibition. My only niggle was that it was sometimes hard to find the works narrated in the audio guide, but gallery assistants were assiduous in their directions. This also seemed to be an exhibition in which viewers talked to complete strangers: I’ve never had so many different people talk to me as we viewed. Perhaps there was something about the growing crowdedness which meant we could not pretend we were alone. A woman next to me when viewing ‘A Map of an Englishman’ noted when when my companion and I found in it ‘the Bad Review’ and she asked if we’d seen the Guardian and said of Jones’s review: ‘Pfffft! A load of tosh’. A man snd his wife stood and discussed ‘Slave Ship’ with us. The demographic was wide: this seems to have attracted people of all ages. Later, we overheard in the gift shop (through which you must exit), that ‘that was probably one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen.’

    So in short: we loved it. Navigating it through the audio-guide was illuminating and also frustrating, but I forgive that, because moving from room to room and searching became part of the odyssey. It grew increasingly crowded. But it was exhilarating.
    After the exhibition we went to a café and read the review. The vitriol was shocking! Was Jonathan Jones at the same exhibition we had just seen? Firstly; the Englishness thing. Edinburgh is an international city, and even more so during the weeks of the festivals. It’s very patronising, therefore, to suggest that Perry’s focus on English identity is problematic in a Scottish city: I’d go so far as to say that this parochialises and patronises Edinburgh in suggesting this. In any case, because rooms are themed, until you encounter the ‘English room’, it’s not particularly overly evident. But it’s who he is and identity is what his art explores, so how would a retrospective exhibition work by not including it?
    My Scottish companion was not in the least perturbed by the Englishness represented here. She was also particularly moved by the St George’s flag stitched with embroidery depicting plans of slave ships. Here was colonialism portrayed in red and white computer stitched silk. The Englishness is critiqued with the sharp wit of a Viz comic, but there is also a fondness for its working class-ness, its multiculturalness, its ordinariness celebrated not just in the pots and prints but also in found objects imbued with value via memory, nostalgia and personal significance detailed in the additional notes in this section. Which brings me to the exhibition labels. Those not using the audio guides had recourse to written commentary beside each work for explanation and context. Jones found these ‘lengthy’ and there is a sniff of the pejorative in this, but these labels were no longer than the ones I’ve seen at Liverpool Tate, or any other gallery or museum. For the works not featured in the audio commentary, they were contextual and informative, and certainly not the essays that Jones implies.
    I found the ‘clutter’ that so annoys Jones, to be riotously joyous. But then, I like postmodern eclectic chaos, although I found this to be an elegant presentation of a body of work. (And ‘clutter’ or detail is not just Perry’s domain: Bruegel anyone? Hogarth? Hieronymous Bosch?) If Perry had the ‘clarity’ that Jones demands, and if the works didn’t have the humorous voice that Jones finds so flippant, they would be completely different; Perry would be an utterly different artist. He wouldn’t be Grayson Perry. The only superficial thing I find here is the gaze of the critic.

    Ultimately, it’s totally ok not to like Grayson Perry’s art, he won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s not ok to patronise and insult it and thereby insult Edinburgh also! I get the impression Jones couldn’t wait to get to this exhibition to hate it. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2023

    Golden Oldie #1: Favourite watercolour artists

    During August, I want to get on with some projects plus lots of you are on holiday so I'm going to be posting some reminders of "golden oldies" - otherwise known as posts from the last 17 years of Making A Mark which were well received at the time and have not aged.

    Golden Oldie #1: Your favourite watercolour painters

    Unsurprisingly, my first choice is a look back at favourite watercolour painters and dates back to dates summer 2011. 

    Overall, you favoured contemporary artists more than artists from the past - however those you picked from the past are classics. Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent are certainly two of my favourites - and I have my John Singer Sargent calendar on my wall in from of where I'm sitting!

    I posted a link to this on my Facebook Page and the discussion has started up AGAIN!  

    If you have a Facebook Account, you can join it on this link