Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Beyond Realism: Figurative Art in Spain and China

I spotted an amazing reel on Miriam Escofet's Instagram account about the opening of Beyond Realism: Figurative Art in Spain and China

I highly recommend you watch it for:

  • the wonderful paintings - she has done an absolutely marvellous video of the exhibition!
  • the amazing gallery in the Royal Palace in Madrid in which it's being exhibited
  • the music which just transports you to Spain!

About "Beyond Realism: Figurative Art in Spain and China"


The above includes an image of the painting by Miriam Escofet included in the exhibition.

The works presented here demonstrate the remarkable achievements of Chinese and Spanish painters over the past half-century, coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. This dual significance serves two important purposes: in a complex international environment, it promotes mutual understanding and trust between the two peoples; and it provides an opportunity for painters from both countries to exchange ideas and skills, fostering the prosperity of artistic culture in both nations.

The exhibition is on from 13 April to 26 May 2024. Hours are:

  • Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm (last access 6 pm)
  • Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm (last access 3 pm)

The exhibition page also includes 

  • photographs of sections of the exhibition
  • lists of the names of the Spanish artists and the Chinese artists
It almost makes me want to book a ticket! 

Note: I've written about Miriam Escofet a number of times on this blog - see various posts highlighted below
This is Miriam's website
and her Facebook Page

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

World Art Day - the best interactive tour!

Yesterday was World Art Day and I forgot!
Today I'm posting one of the best of what was posted yesterday.

Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

Starting with the Prado Museum in Madrid - where they are promoting a Virtual Tour of the Museum for World Art Day.

Make sure the language selected is English to get it in English below the image. 


This is the image which explains how to use the commands during the InteractiveTour

The introduction to the Tour has Spanish labelling throughout the video - but if you scroll down this page you can see what's on offer

This includes Ten Tours of the Collection

The digitization was done between November 2022 and March 2023.

The tour includes all the rooms and spaces that have works from the Collection have been digitized, including spaces such as the Entrance Hall, the Jerónimos Cloister as well as corridors and stairs. It excludes the Basement Floor and the Dolphin's Treasure

Did you know that 15th April was decided as the day for World Art Day - because it was Leonard da Vinci's birthday

Next up, the National Gallery in London didn't do anything to mark the day on Facebook.  Other than point out that Leornardo da Vinci was born on 15th April.

Other contributions were many and varied
  • from the Yorkshire Evening Post which invited people to share their favourite artists in Yorkshire - which got an amazing response!!
  • to Care Homes and Community Services celebrating the way art brings happiness to people in later years
  • not forgetting the very young - who also enjoy making art.
The trick to capturing an audience was to be community oriented.

I'll try not to forget next year!

About World Art Day

Each year, on 15 April, World Art Day celebrations help reinforce the links between artistic creations and society, encourage greater awareness of the diversity of artistic expressions and highlight the contribution of artists to sustainable development. It is also an occasion to shine a light on arts education in schools, as culture can pave the way for inclusive and equitable education.
World Art Day, a celebration to promote the development, diffusion and enjoyment of art, was proclaimed at the 40th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 2019.

World Art Day is an international celebration of the fine arts which was declared by the International Association of Art in order to promote awareness of creative activity worldwide.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Holbein: Drawing, Painting, Materials & Techniques

The Holbein at the Tudor Court Exhibition at the King's Gallery closes today. I'd spent forever making up my mind about when to go - but not booking - and then realising I need to get a move on. Which is how come I saw it yesterday. You can see some of my pics from it on my Facebook Page

To be absolutely honest, I enjoyed the "Holbein in England" exhibition at Tate Britain in 2007 much more and it remains a vivid memory for me. (see Holbein in England - and at Tate Britain). Mainly because it which contained more portraits by Holebin including my favourite Holbein portrait "A lady with a Squirrel' plus Holbein's portrait of Erasmus

The Kings Gallery exhibition had three parts about artworks by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543)

  • mainly paintings from other artists of the same era
  • drawings by Holbein and miniature portraits by Holbein
  • large paintings and some large portraits and more drawings by Holbein + four miniatures by Holbein
One of the most interesting part of the exhibition came after the exit. A small exhibition in one room at the top of the stairs contained information about Holbein's art materials and the techniques he used for his portrait drawings and also his miniatures.

Holbein: Materials and Techniques

A view of part of "Holbein: Materials and Techniques"

I promptly took photos of all of it and have uploaded them all to an album on Facebook on my Facebook Page called Holbein: Materials and Techniques - so 
  • if you missed it or you enjoy finding out about the materials used by artists in the past, you can have a peek and see for yourself.
  • I've also added comments about specific materials and techniques where I knew something which wasn't included in the exhibition.
There are also more resources about Holbein on the Royal Collection website - listed below
What I find interesting is that Holbein was a royal artist - he was appointed the King's Painter in 1536.  To all intents and purposes his stay in England related to his contacts within the Royal Family and the Tudor Court. 

I've not yet found an explanation for why so many of the better known paintings by Holbein are NOT in the Royal Collection. For example, 
  • the 'cartoon' drawing of King Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger is in the National Portrait Gallery. This was made in preparation for the very large painting which used to hang in Whitehall Palace - but was destroyed in the fire in1698.
  • The Ambassadors - which is a very large, important and unique painting - is in the National Gallery.
The other interesting fact about Holbein is just how many portraits there are by artists "after Holbein". He was a much copied artist. There again he is regarded as one of the most important portrait artists ever!

If you look at the collection of Holbein portraits and drawings in the National Portrait Gallery, you'll find that most are "after Holbein"

Monday, April 08, 2024

Review: The 7th Derwent Art Prize (2024) Exhibition

This is a summary of my thoughts about the Derwent Art Prize Exhibition at gallery@OXO. This is in addition to:

The aim of the Derwent Art Prize Exhibition is to 
  • reward excellence by showcasing the very best artworks made in pencil by artists from around the world.
  • showcase c.80 artworks in an exhibition.
The Prize invites artists to submit the very best 2D and 3D artworks created in any pencil, including colour, water soluble, pastel, graphite and charcoal pencils.

This year, the Judges shortlisted just 68 artworks, however 2 artworks did not make it on to the walls because they got stuck in Customs! See the end for tips for getting your work through Customs

I'm writing this post essentially for all those who might like to submit artwork to the next Derwent Art Prize because, although you can see the images online, you cannot see how they are presented. 

That said, judgement is always on the basis of the digital image of the art.

Artwork at the entrance
varying sizes, subjects and presentation

My perspective on the Derwent Art Prize Exhibition 2024

First off, the main point I want to emphasise is that there is a lot of exceptionally good artwork in this exhibition. I'm guessing that the reputation of the Prize - and the fact it's still going - means that this prize attracts many more professional artists these days as well as young / aspiring / emerging artists.

For me, the appeal of the exhibition is that:
  • it often presents novel perspectives on the very ordinary 
  • as well as extraordinary insights into the very unusual. 
  • ALL delivered while demonstrating an exceptional degree of technical accomplishment.
Essentially, it's NOT artwork which is technically good but actually dull - as much hyperealistic artwork can be.

Nor is it exciting concepts which are then delivered by people lacking in skills associated with creating art - which is the sort of art I hate.

To get selected, the artwork has to move mind or spirit AND also be executed by somebody who demonstrates they're very good at wielding the media used for pencil art.

For me, it has come on a lot since the very first exhibition - which I remember really well because it demonstrated news of thinking and recording in pencil media.

I'd just like to see some 3D artwork next time!

PS There are emphatically no cats, dogs or horses or any other sort of animal mammal in this exhibition! There is one very dead bird.... (Just saying....)

The exhibition demonstrates a wide diversity in terms of
  • styles
  • subject matter
  • size
  • age of the artist
  • country where the artist lives
It is truly international - with over 6,000 entries by 2,324 artists from 77 countries

That means it's getting an entry way bigger than most of the prominent open art exhibitions of national art societies!  One might be tempted to ask what is this art competition offering that other open exhibitions are not. My answer would be "big cash prizes". Any time you have an art competition with very significant cash prizes you get a lot of entries.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Derwent Art Prize Exhibition 2024 - Prizewinners

Yesterday, I visited The Derwent Art Prize 2024 Exhibition at gallery@oxo in London and this post is a review of the exhibition and the competition.
the Derwent Art Prize is now very much an international prize and one seen as prestigious to the careers of young up and coming illustrators. (from my review of the 2020 Exhibition)
This is my first post about the Derwent Art Prize - focusing on the prizewinners. 

My second will come shortly and will focus on the exhibition. 
I'll also be uploading my photos of the exhibition to a folder on my Facebook Page

The Derwent Art Prize - the competition

What's remarkable about this art competition is that:
  • It has more entries than most national art societies: This competition received more than 6,000 entries 
  • It attracts entries from a very large number of countries: entries were received from 77 countries,
  • 68 artworks - of a very high standard - were selected for The Derwent Art Prize Exhibition 
  • Five artists received over £13,000 in prizes at the opening, on Wednesday 3 April 2024. (see below)
At the end of this post you can see my posts reviewing previous exhibitions.

The exhibition is free to visit at gallery@oxo, London
  • from 11am to 6pm, from 4th April to 13th April, and 
  • from 11am to 2pm on the closing day, 14th April 2024, 
  • with daily artist demonstrations.

Derwent Art Prize 2024: Prizewinners

Three of the prizewinners

The shortlist and winners were chosen by an international panel of art professionals: 
  • Sergio Gomez, Miami-based artist and gallery director; 
  • Curtis Holder, London-based artist; 
  • Valérie Sonnier, artist and professor, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris; and 
  • Helen Waters, Director, Cristea Roberts, London.

First Prize (£4,000 and a year's supply of Derwent Art Products)

This was awarded to June Collier for Hetty in Hospital 1.

June Collier Hetty in hospital - 2020
oil paint and pencil on canvas - 80cm x 65cm

All four selectors were profoundly moved by the depth of sensibility displayed in this work, stirring profound emotion.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Review: 212th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours

I visited the 212th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours twice last week - for the Private View and then, because that was packed, again the next day so as to see the exhibition properly. 

View of the RI 2024 Annual Exhibition in the East Gallery

The good thing is that, besides being a very good exhibition, that this exhibition is on for an extra week and finishes on 13th April - so lots of time to see it.

That's because it's taken me some time to wrote this post which I started ages ago. That's because

  • I decided I wanted to write a blog post about one new artist I liked a lot - check out Miranda Brookes - an exquisite Landscape Artist
  • Then I loaded all my photos of the exhibition into Facebook albums on my Making A Mark Facebook Page - all now annotated including some detailed comments

Then Easter and "life" intervened (dentist / blood test / big birthday party / lost voice etc etc)

But finally, I'm trying to finished this review which I started last week. It:

  • covers features of the exhibition
  • looks at changes to the exhibition in 2024
  • comments generally on the standard of the exhibition
  • highlights some of the individuals whose work is worth highlighting.

Features of the RI 212th Annual Exhibition 

the end of the West Gallery
(photo taken just before the gallery closed)

This is the biggest exhibition dedicated to paintings in water colours in the UK. 

I highly recommend a visit to the exhibition - I've always enjoyed visiting it and I am sure any genuine fan of watercolour paintings will do too.

Features of the exhibition are:
  • There are 465 paintings in the show 
  • around 50% of these are from the Open Submission
  • many of the artworks in the exhibition are of a very high standard and 
  • some are absolutely amazing in terms of the expertise on display
  • It also displays a wide diversity in approaches to paintings using watercolour media and subject matter - from traditional to the more contemporary.
However, if you want to find "very edgy, fresh, new and very contemporary" you probably need to go the pop-up galleries or do what Charles Saatchi does - and go to the degree shows! 

National Art Societies are emphatically not edgy and tend to just look very foolish when they try to be! (I can point you in the direction of one in another place which has made that very silly decision). 

Fortunately I found relatively little of what I tend to term the "can't draw, can't paint, won't sell" school of painting which lacks application to both concept and craft. which seems to be regarded by some as legitimate art. But not by me!

Bear in mind, the Mall Galleries does not serve a "high end art, wealthy clientele" who, in any case, typically head to the major Art Fairs! 

Instead the Mall Galleries serves what I have very frequently characterised as a very large population of people most easily characterised as "Middle England, Middle Aged, Middle Class with a Middle Income" audience for the most part. They tend to be solid buyers of not overpriced artwork when the economy is not experiencing turmoil and uncertainty. They can even be very spontaneous if you get your pricing right! Bottom line, the sort of people who have bought their homes, had their children and are now indulging themselves from time to time. People who come to London for the day and do an exhibition or two!

Fortunately, I fall into my own characterisation and I enjoyed the show a lot and was tempted by a few paintings - but other buyers got there before me!

You too can see the exhibition:

In addition, there's a very extensive events programme taking place up until 13th April. 

Unfortunately there's an absolute dearth of public information about the prizewinners. 

Although I've received an email notifying me of the prizewinners, when I started this review, the Mall Galleries website had NOT yet been updated re.
But it's now nearly a week after the PV when these prizes are announced and there's nothing!

UPDATE: now posted on Mall Galleries News page a week late Award Winners | RI 212th Exhibition (Just before this post was published. I'd looked everywhere once. I wasn't looking twice.)

I'd be very miffed if I was a sponsor or a prizewinner to be so totally ignored.
Prizegiving is a big feature of the Private View and should be a priority for online/written communications too.
Otherwise it potentially jeopardizes ongoing sponsorship.

  • Somebody at the Mall Galleries very much needs to update the project plan and TO DO LIST re what is supposed to happen when an exhibition opens - or join up the dots better!
  • At the same time, the webmaster of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours really needs to be rather more proactive at making sure all relevant information about the exhibition is ON THE RI WEBSITE promptly - and that they're not just relying on the Mall Galleries.

Changes at the RI Annual Exhibition in 2024

Monday, April 01, 2024

Jackson's Art Prize: Vote for the People's Choice Award

The longlist of the Jackson's Art Prize has been revealed and the shortlist will be announced on the shortlist on Friday 12th April 2024.
An amazing 15,345 submissions were entered this year, and the judging committees faced the daunting task of selecting just 426 entries to go through to the longlist. 
(Two notes:
  1. Might I be so bold as to ask why National Art Societies are not attracting this level of entry for their actual exhibitions of art - with decent prizes?
  2. Anybody noticed they've changed the title of the prize from Jackson's Painting Prize to Jackson's Art Prize?)

The People's Choice Award

The vote has now opened for the People's Choice Award - which is one of the prizes (£150 Jackson’s Art voucher) in the Jackson's Art Prize competition.

You can VIEW the longlist of artworks eligible for a vote on this link

You can also vote (see below). However be prepared for the daunting task that all Judges face - but on a much smaller scale!

How to Vote

To vote for your favourite works to win the People's Choice Award and in the spirit of operating a fair voting system, you are required to register as a voter.
  • Voting opened on 28th March and continues until 11th April. 
  • The shortlist will be announced on the 12th April.
  • you need to register with an email to vote - to prevent cheating (not that this will stop some people from trying - but there are ways of detecting cheating once you've got an email! :) )
    • You can vote for as many artworks as you like.
    • You can only vote once for each artwork.
    • If you change your mind, your vote can be revoked.
  • this is the link for where to register

Friday, March 29, 2024

Miranda Brookes - an exquisite Landscape Artist

This is about Miranda Brookes who, for me, was the standout new discovery (to me) at the RI's annual exhibition - currently on at the Mall Galleries.

She is a proper watercolour painter doing realistic landscapes which exploit the potential of watercolour AND does not 'shorthand' the trees.

It's very rare for a new artist, submitting via the Open Entries, to get more than one or two artworks per artist accepted - unless they're being considered as a Candidate for Membership.

I think this is her first RI Exhibition. (There's none prior listed on her website - and besides which I'd have remembered!!)

Miranda Brookes has had:
  • four top quality artworks hung
  • won two prizes
She portrays trees with few if any shortcuts - but does so in a contemporary way. I had my magnifier out to see how she did it - and as I expected there is a LOT of painting of negative spaces which I'm very used to finding in the work of botanical artists who work to a very high degree of precision but don't see so often in the RI Exhibition.

To me she is an artist who should be immediately be invited to consider whether she would like to apply for membership of the RI. Her work, to my mind, is better in concept, skill and execution than ALL those currently being considered as candidates.

Above is an image of her four paintings and below are images of the two paintings which won prizes - and both sold. I'm not surprised. The one I wanted had already been sold!

Followed by a very informative film about her personal history and her approach to watercolour painting. 

The Michael Harding Award

Monday, March 25, 2024

Does AI mean Open Exhibitions / Art Competitions need to rethink digital entries?

Last week I reshared a post on Facebook (see below) which highlighted how many images are now created using "artificial intelligence" aka AI. 

It occurred to me that ALL those organising open exhibitions and/or art competitions MUST now to factor the proliferation of AI into 
  • the calls for entries
  • the rules and regulations
  • the submission process
  • the vetting process
  • the judging process
  • plus briefings on legal decisions for all those in charge
It simply will NOT be acceptable for all entries to be judged on digital images - only to find that a selected entry is a digital print when it arrives for exhibition.

Below I remind organisers of open exhibitions by art societies and art competitions of things they need to think about
  • starting with a very salutary lesson in what happens when you get it wrong - see The AWS Gold Medal Controversy (2008-2010)
  • a reminder about normal challenges for organisers in relation to copyright
  • some initial thoughts on the implications for art competitions and open exhibitions - by way of a checklist!

The AWS Gold Medal Controversy

Unfortunately, the Gold Medal winning painting in the 2008 exhibition, “Impermanence” by Sheryl Luxenburg has generated a huge volume of controversy. In question are the ownership of the image, the originality of the piece and even the authenticity of the medium. Many have questioned the American Watercolor Society's position on this problem and wondered in their communications to us whether our society is taking these questions seriously. Statement in 2008 by the AWS
Should anybody need reminding - here's the link to my post about the debacle at the American Watercolour Society about an "artwork" which won a Gold Medal . 
Was the gold medal winning painting at the centre of the American Watercolor Society controversy actually painted - or was it a giclee print?
See below for links to posts in September 2008 about the AWS Gold medal controversy - in reverse order of posting

Sunday, March 24, 2024

First Tips for using a Sketchbook

While sorting out my sketchbooks - as in finally getting round to labelling them with years and contents, I came across my very first sketchbook as an adult.

In it were some tips from Paul Millichip 1929-2018 about "using a sketchbook" which he very much advocated. In fact it's probably true to say he was the person who started me using a sketchbook properly

So I'm passing them on.....

The context is I signed up for his two week course on painting in Goa India in December 1993 - and a pre-holiday course in September at his studio in Buckinghamshire which was focused on sketching and using a sketchbook, so we'd get the most out of time on our trip to Goa.
(Note: I was very focused in being efficient in how I worked. I'd just started as a management consultant with KPMG and was very focused on performance improvement! Curious how your main job can influence how you approach your art...)

First the notes, then one of my sketches from Goa that I was rather pleased with and then some notes about a couple of books he wrote. Anybody who thinks they look interesting should be able to pick up second hand for next to nothing on the internet. Although I rather suspect, most owners are hanging on to their copies!

Using a Sketchbook

Think of a sketchbook as a tool - a means to an end

When starting to sketch, focus on what interests you - and state it straightaway e.g.

  • dark against light
  • dynamic
  • vertical against horizontal
  • look for the source of light
  • light from the side or from behind creates interest
  • stare at subject 
  • look at blank page - see ghost of subject
  • put down measuring points

Use your sketchbook to make notes:

  • written notes
  • colour notes - particularly relating to light
  • if a sketch is going to yield useful information, it probably needs fairly careful drawing

If sketching:

  • people - try to sketch a moment
  • group of buildings:
    • look for the line the buildings make against the sky
    • look at overall shapes (the "big shapes")
    • do NOT get distracted by drawing individual buildings
    • focus on the big shapes first - and include negative spaces
  • try a large object in the foreground
  • sometimes useful to sketch on a theme
(He was a good teacher and I was unconsciously using these tips for years afterwards.)

Baga Beach, Goa (1993) by Katherine Tyrrell
An example of how thick cloud in a tropical place
completely mutes all light, colour, tone and shadows.
This is also my very first watercolour sketch of a boat, a sandy beach and a wave!

If you have no colours/paints with you:

  • you need a formula e.g. use initials for paint colours
  • you need to make notes

Using watercolours:

Monday, March 18, 2024

The Cass Art Prize 2024

This post is all about the new £10,000 Cass Art Prize - which has decent prizes and decent Judges. 

The deadline for entries is Noon on 20th May 224

After a LOT of art competitions have "died a death" in recent years, it's a very great pleasure to be able to announce a new one! Especially with a backer as reputable as Cass Art - who have a long tradition of supporting artists.

Below you can find a summary of the facts.  This means it does not include everything - and you MUST READ the following:

  • Frequently Asked Questions - which are very well written! (It makes a change!)
  • Main Entry Page This includes the entry forms for:
    • The Main Prize
    • The Students Award - for students you must be enrolled on a course in a recognised educational institution (UK or Republic of Ireland) with a minimum length of one year.
    • The Art Educators Award - for people who are Art & Design Teacher, Tutor or Technician at a school, college or university in the UK or Republic of Ireland, or a registered Art Therapist.
  • Submission Fees - are detailed on every Entry Page

The Cass Art Prize 2024

The Cass Art Prize has a dedicated webpage on the Cass Art website -

Purpose of the £10,000 Cash Prize

  • to champion contemporary art from across the UK and Ireland
  • to continue Cass Art long standing commitment and mission to support artists and encourage them to realise their creative talents

What's on Offer?

The First Prize: The overall winner of the competition will receive:

Other Prizes (Value £5,000)

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Landscape Artist of the Year: Potential for Change?

This is VERY LONG! It's about looking how Landscape Artist of the Year (LAOTY) might change to provide 

  • a much more satisfactory experience for all the artists who participate in it and 
  • deliver a much better programme to all those who watch it 

I think there's some considerable potential for change. So do rather a lot of other people who I've been discussing this with. They typically fall into two camps

  • those who would participate - BUT for the formulaic way it works at the moment where artists are constrained from the outset by the pods
  • those who create art and like watching - but have become more and more disappointed over the years
There's a third camp - those who know little about art but like the programme and see nothing wrong with it. However they are NOT going to be providing future participants!

This post covers:
  • Context: Another perspective or four - about other matters which are relevant to a rethink of LAOTY - or the development of competition by another production company.
  • Scope for Solutions? Looking at the broad context of what change needs to address in terms of weaknesses in the programme
    • Structure of the Programme
    • Calibre of Artist - Who's the REAL TALENT?
    • Wildcards
    • Location, Location, Location
    • Judges
    • Presenters
What's written below is essentially what I've been thinking about for a long time and more recently. But also, it includes lots of contributions from people discussing the programme online on my Facebook Page.

Context: Another perspective or four

Landscape Artist of the Year: Time for a Refresh? highlights many of the issues which, in the opinion of me and rather a lot of other people - need to be changed 

Since writing it, four more things have come to my attention which were not "front of brain" when I wrote the first post

Plein Air Art

  • The first is that somebody reminded me about the practice in the US of having competitive plein air painting paintouts all over the country. This is normal and routine. 
  • In the UK in the last decade, more and more groups have got together to do something similar - albeit only a few are competitive.  
    • My blog post Capturing the Moment - plein air paint out in St James's Park is an example of one such plein air painting group which I was invited to attend.
    • Plus Urban Sketchers Groups which have developed all over the country in the last decade are the natural audience for overtures for people to participate 
    • For the record I was one of the Founders of Urban Sketchers London back in 2012 and I set up the Facebook Page for Urban Sketchers UK - Events where you can find out about upcoming events. There are now huge numbers of urban sketchers in the UK. (Minus me - I gave up when I tore the meniscus in my left knee which made mobilising totally about staying on my feet and very much limited my ability to carry anything. that then led on to the bone on bone ankle, then surgery etc etc)

Television and Broadcasting / Streaming

  • The second was I listened to expert commentary about how much broadcast television has changed in recent years and then went off and looked at the data revealed in e.g.  Media Nations 2023: Latest UK viewing and listening trends 
    • steep declines in watching broadcast TV - use of video on demand increases
    • recent decline in older people watching is the steepest ever
older viewers are diversifying their viewing and becoming more likely to take up streaming services
    • a steep decline in the number of programmes attracting ‘mass audiences’.
    • huge increase in interest in commercial radio and podcasts
    • there's more competition than ever for eyes and ears!
  • The third highlighted something which really reinforced my thinking that the current format was well over due for a radical change.  I listened to an episode of "The Rest is Entertainment" podcast ("The Oscars, Ozempic and Wonka" on my daily walk. 
    • The very experienced and incredibly well informed 'telly person' Richard Osman (who used to be  creative director of the television production company Endemol UK)discussed how much and how fast television programmes have changed in recent years - from pitch to putting a team together to broadcasting. In particular, I learned how programmes get made and how things have changed massively in the last few years - and how agile some of the new programme makers are at conceiving, making and monetising their output.
    • A lot of this is due to the fact there are many more small companies are involved in delivering programmes for both broadcast and streaming media - and certain channels who are much more tuned into delivering decisions fast. Bottom line, they know what people like and what appeals and are fast and nimble on their feet and speedy with their delivery timelines. 
    • If you want an analogy - it's rather similar to how artists went from thinking art as being something that was sold in galleries to realising they can sell for themselves online - and ditching the too heavily corporate model. It connects the artist and the consumer much more directly.
  • The fourth thing was I had a very big think about other similar programmes - operating in different fields of endeavour - and what made them successful. I'll reference this further in the Judges and Presenters section.

Context: What has changed radically in last 10 years 

I came away from all of this thinking it made LAOTY look very staid.

So context for any rethink of LAOTY includes the notions:
  • Other models of delivering competition in plein air art are already well established elsewhere and are developing in the UK
  • the broadcasting industry has changed radically in the last 10 years
  • development and speed of delivery of television programmes has changed radically in the last 10 years (i.e. lifetime of LAOTY)
  • as a result trends on what people watch have changed radically in the last 10 years - with a major change from broadcast on a regular day / regular time to much increased consumption of streaming - even by older people. Niche interests are now catered for.
  • television formats for today need to be based on what is possible - and what connects with the potential audience - rather than what was thought a good idea 10 years ago 
By implication, if you're still doing the same thing 10 years later you are a bit of a dinosaur! Your audience has moved and you need to keep up!

Otherwise there's some considerable scope for others to come along and come up with a better idea and snatch your audience!

Scope for Solutions?

as the quality of the programme deteriorates, the quality of those applying does likewise which is then reflected in the pods etc etc etc. they are on a downward spiral.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Landscape Artist of the Year: Time for a Refresh?

Is it time for a major refresh of Landscape Artist of the Year (LAOTY)?

Below I'm setting out some arguments concerning the need for rethink of how it works.  This includes:
  • PART 1: (TODAY) looks at major issues related to the latest series and how aspects have changed over time
  • PART 2: (TOMORROW) examines the potential for change to help improve the series 

LAOTY Context

  • Series 9 of Landscape Artist of the Year has just concluded. It has followed pretty much the same format since Series 1 - with minor tweaks and changes in presenters.
  • The Call for Entries for participants in Series 10 is out (see Call for Entries: Landscape Artist of the Year Series Ten) and the deadline for online entries is NOON on Friday 3rd May 2024.
  • Filming begins this summer (June/July) for Series 10 to be broadcast January - March 2025.

Realistically, it's very unlikely that there will be anything other than minimal changes for the next series. That's because a project as big as this one will involve months of planning and some aspects may be scheduled years in advance. 

Although certain aspects cause one to sometimes wonder about this! (eg how well do the heats relate to the commission)

Time for a Refresh

While it has had some minor tweaks during its life to date, this series has never had any major charges to help make "the beginning to end experience" more efficient and effective.

It's very unusual for a television series running for this length of time to have not gone through a major reboot - to make it fit for today's audience and their expectations. Particularly where 
  • members of the audience are regularly identifying aspects which they find unsatisfactory.
  • aspects of the programme are declining in quality.
I've been writing about the series every year since 2018. (See my Art of Television page for links to all the reviews.

As a result, I've been thinking for some considerable time about how the series might be improved
  • I've already commented on major issues and unsatisfactory aspects in my reviews of various episode.
  • Followers of my Facebook Page have been also been particularly active this year in comments and highlighting issues and also identifying what needs sorting - and how that might be achieved. The balance of comments lies very much with the fans who think it could be a lot better as opposed to those who think it's basically a contrived and stupid idea. Although there's quite a few of the latter.
I also spent a considerable part of my career involved in performance improvement i.e. reviewing major services for leading organisations and analysing how they might be improved. It is, if you like, part of my DNA!
What follows - in two parts - is an amalgam of my ideas and those which fans (or former fans) of the programme have identified as issues and potential for change:
  • PART ONE: Landscape Artist of the Year: Time for a Refresh?  (today)
  • PART TWO: Landscape Artist of the Year: Potential for Change? (tomorrow)

What are the Issues and Problems?

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Review of the Society of Graphic Fine Art Annual Exhibition 2024

This morning I visited the Annual Exhibition 2024 of the The Society of Graphic Fine Art (aka The Drawing Society) at the Mall Galleries.

The SGFA have taken over the large West Gallery with 181 artworks demonstrating a wide range of artworks covering diverse subject matter and different media. 

You can see the artwork exhibited ONLINE - with links from both the Mall Galleries website and the SGFA website (although you need to wait awhile before the images appear - and only if you accept cookies, which I normally always object too as per GDPR i.e. it shouldn't need cookies to work)

The default position is you can view the artwork as thumbnails

Alternatively you can view by name of the artist 

Or view a large image of each artwork - which provides details about the art and the artist

HOWEVER this only applies to artwork by SGFA members and associates.

I'm also going to be uploading my photos to a Facebook Album - more or less in the order they are hung in the Gallery - and will insert a link here when this has been done

You can also follow the SGFA on

NOTE: There is no catalogue.

About the Society of Graphic Fine Art SGFA

What's different about the intended focus of this exhibition is the raison d'etre of the SGFA.

The purpose and objectives of the SGFA

As it states on their explanatory panel which can be found posted around the gallery (see above), the SGFA is all about drawing and draughtsmanship.

Established in 1919, the Society of Graphic Fine Arts is the only national Society which is based in the UK which is dedicated exclusively to drawing. It exists to promote and exhibit original works of high quality in colour or black and white. This includes traditional and contemporary media. The emphasis is on excellence in drawing and draughtsmanship, demonstrated by hand.
I'll come back to that later - as I think a divergence from the intended scope of the exhibition appears to have occurred this year.

Work which is eligible for exhibition is
  • Drawings in any medium, monochrome or colour - pencil, coloured pens and pencils, pen and ink, pastels and oil pastels, charcoal, conté, etc. 
  • Any original artwork which demonstrates evidence of drawing by hand: - original printmaking, watercolours, acrylics, oils and 3-Dimensional work.
  • Any work based on a photograph must have the photographer's permission.
Work which is NOT eligible for exhibition includes
  • Digital imagery generated by computer.
  • Giclee prints and all other reproductions and facsimiles.
  • Work shown previously at the Mall Galleries or hung in an SGFA London exhibition.
  • Work that is more than three years old.
  • Any work that might infringe on copyright law 

The Exhibition

In general, the exhibition has a lot of excellent artwork by artists who are clearly accomplished in their design and execution of artwork with an emphasis on drawing skills.

It's not all of a very high standard - but that's the same in most exhibitions.

The exhibition comprises 181 artworks - all of which are for sale - covering 
  • drawings, fine art prints (engravings, etchings, linocuts,woodcuts) and paintings
  • in a wide range of media: graphite, charcoal, pastels, coloured pencils, metalpoint, ink, watercolour, acrylic, paper collage, stitched media and the ever present "mixed media"
The styles on show for any one medium are diverse. In that sense this is a good exhibition to view what's possible with different media.

Dry media such as pastels and charcoals are used by exhibiting artists in various styles from the very precise to the very painterly. Coloured pencil use is more related to precise drawings.

Graphite and pen and ink are very much favoured by those who like to be very precise.

Speaking personally I'd like to see a lot more fine art prints and rather fewer paintings.

The view of the exhibition at the entrance to the West Gallery

The Artists exhibiting include:

Monday, March 11, 2024

Review of the RWS Open 2024

This morning I visited the Bankside Gallery on the South Bank to see the RWS Open Exhibition. 

Entrance to the Bankside Gallery - and the poster for the RWS Open

The RWS Open is run by the Royal Watercolour Society (RWS). It was formerly known (until recently) as the Contemporary Watercolour Competition.

You can see all the 144 artworks in the show online as well as at the Gallery. Each has a page all to itself - if you click the right link!

The RWS chooses to invite open entries for an exhibition at the Bankside Gallery via a separate open competition rather than, as most art societies do, via an annual exhibition dominated by artwork by members. I think, in part, this is determined by the space for an exhibition at the Bankside Gallery which, while excellent as an exhibition space, is not overly large thus limiting the number of works which can be shown.

Despite my comments in previous posts, the RWS are still claiming that 

"the RWS Open is the largest open-submission water-media exhibition in the world, attracting thousands of submissions nationally and internationally each year."

Although, speaking frankly, I simply do not believe that claim. 

  • Mostly because of the calibre of the work in the show but also because I've never ever seen any numbers to support this claim. 
  • It's also wrong because the RI Annual Open Exhibition has many more artworks and more artworks by non-members. Around half of the 465 artworks on display in their 2024 Exhibition - which opens to the public on 28th March - are by non-members. The RI also had the highest ever number of entries from non-members for this exhibition. (See Presidents Introduction in the RI 2024 e-catalogue)

I think the RWS would be well advised to read and study carefully 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).

(I'd emphasise the same point applies to all other UK art societies inclined to make ambitious claims that they have not validated - I've got a blog post started in draft on this topic!!).

The need to choose

One of the interesting aspects of the two national (in England) watercolour societies 
is that you can only be a member of one - and the route to entry is generally via exhibiting in the open exhibition.

An open exhibition is a reflection of the outlook of its members - particularly those who act as jurors for that particular exhibition.  
  • You can see the type of artwork produced by member of the Royal Watercolour Society on this webpage
  • I'd point out and emphasise that:
    • The more conventional traditional watercolours are typically by artists who have been members for very many years.
    • Those who lean heavily towards what might be called 'contemporary / abstract art" are more recent additions.
I'd always counsel artists who ask me which society they should apply to for membership (as has happened in the past) to look very carefully at the type of artworks hung by members in their exhibitions. It's a big clue as to who they will ask to join in future. Then to look at the number of sales - as that's a clue as to which is most likely to attract serious art collectors and buyers of art.

Review of the RWS Open 2024

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Do you want to apply for The Great Pottery Throwdown? (series 8)

The latest series of the absolutely amazing "feel good" programme which is Great Pottery Throwdown" is drawing to an end - and the FINAL is tonight! 

This is the stage at which they always start the search for the participants for the next series......

Do you want to apply for The Great Pottery Throwdown?

If you are thinking you have the right knowledge and experience to enter, below is a very brief summary of "what you need to know". 

You can also find a longer summary HERE PLUS you MUST read 

Who can apply

Only those who are:

  • aged 18 or above on 25th February 2024.
  • a resident of the UK (including Isle of Man and Channel Islands) 
  • NOT a professional potter, meaning that
    • you do not work full time as a potter, either at home or in a professional environment, 
    • nor does your main source of income derive from commercial ceramics or pottery.
  • NOT a Fellow or a Selected Member of the Craft Potters Association (CPA) 
    • nor can you be judged, by the programme makers, to be at that level.
  • NOT connected to the Love Productions (who make the programme) or Channel 4 (which broadcasts it) in any way
  • can commit 100% to the filming days during a filming period between August and November 2024. (I get the impression it's weekends - not sure why)
  • agreeable to background checks being performed to confirm who you are and what you have/have not done.
  • able to respond accurately to all questions asked and do not withhold anything when asked
  • able to keep all information about the application process for the programme and the programme itself strictly confidential.
This confidentiality applies and continues whether or not you are selected to take part in the Programme or remain actively involved in the Programme. You are not permitted to respond to any approach from the press or anyone else enquiring about the application or production process, anyone else involved in the process and/or anything about the Programme and will refer any such enquiries immediately to Love Productions.

What you need to do