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, cont√©, 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

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Review: Landscape Artist of the Year 2024 - The £10,000 Sustainable Orkney Commission

This review of the £10,000 commission won by the winner of Landscape Artist of the Year is always a really odd review to write.  This post is about why - and includes:

  • the £10,000 Commission
  • the challenge of the Landscape Artist of the Year commission
  • the Commission Programme
  • the Commission Painting produced by the winner of Landscape Artist of the Year 2023.
  • how you can see it at the Science Museum.

There are two main aspects to the review

  • the programme
  • the commission artwork
I know all I'm doing is looking to see whether, to me, it looks like an artwork worth £10,000 - and hence the client has not been diddled.

In this instance Monica very clearly demonstrated in her commission painting produced for the Final - of her neighbourhood where she lives - that she's clearly capable of a lot more than the small paintings she was producing in just 4 hours (for the heat, semi-finals and final).

The £10,000 Commission

First - a quick preliminary - about the Commission

The £10,000 Commission is, of course, the Prize for winning Landscape Artist of the Year 2024.  (See my blog post for my review of the Final - Monica Popham wins Landscape Artist of the Year 2024)

The Client for the Commission is the Science Museum.

The Science Museum in Exhibition Road in South Kensington.
The 2024 Landscape Artist of the Year prize was a commission by the Science Museum Group to capture the story of Orkney's central role in the UK's transition to low-carbon, renewable energy.

Does the client get the artwork irrespective of what sort of artwork the winning artist turns out? I thought there must be something in the rules somewhere which indicates "best efforts" etc. But instead I found this

If the Winner rejects the Winner’s Prize or otherwise fails to carry out the creation of the Winner’s Prize Artwork on such dates and times and locations required by the Producer, then the Producer reserves the right to take the Winner’s Prize away from the Winner and the Producer shall be entitled to select another Winner.  

The Challenge of the Commission

I've always thought that the commission is typically a 
prestigious view for a prestigious client. In other words it:
  • brings a very worthwhile prize pot 
  • alongside something which is a difficult challenge to confront and address. 
Plus you might get to go to an interesting place.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

PAOTY 2024: Heat Tickets sold out / All successful artists notified

All artists selected for the heats of Portrait Artist of the Year 2024 have now been told.

Similarly, all those applying for tickets to watch them in the heats at Battersea Arts Centre should, by now, know whether or not they have tickets. 

Tickets for the Heats

I'm afraid I was rather slow off the mark in indicating that tickets for watching the heats of Portrait Artist of the Year at Battersea Arts Centre have ALL SOLD OUT. 

The change this year (I think) was that people could apply for four tickets at a time - which I guarantee will mean ticket touts will have have got some of them.... Watch out for them being sold for premium prices! Or refused at the door.....

It's possible there will be returns - in which case this is the link to bookmark and keep a eye on

If you secure a ticket and can no longer attend, out of courtesy to others who have missed out, please return your ticket immediately via Eventbrite.

Tickets were available for morning and pm sessions. So no scope to be there all day unless you got a ticket for each session.

For the record, the dates of the Heats etc are:

  • Tuesday 26th March 2024
  • Wednesday 27th March 2024
  • Thursday 28th March 2024
  • Tuesday 2nd April 2024
  • Wednesday 3rd April 2024
  • Thursday 4th April 2024
  • Friday 5th April 2024
  • Saturday 6th April 2024
This is 
  • either the six heats, the semi finals and the Celebrity Artist version - with the Final reverting to the National Portrait Gallery
  • or the six heats, semi finals and the Final

Artists who didn't get selected

Here's an extract from the letter of rejection

What I can tell you is I think this might be the first time they've not extended the deadline, while trying to find more better artists to participate.

Which rather suggests the competition for places is hotting up! This may also mean the standard of participant in the next series - to air this Autumn - might be rather better than in previous years. We can but hope!

If you put "portrait artist of the year" into the search engines of Facebook or Instagram, you will see a lot of pics by all those who did not get a place in a pod.

While most are pretty predictable as rejections go, I've seen some very good ones rejected!

What does it take to get in to Portrait Artist of the Year

To those who got the "Thanks but no thanks" letter MY RECOMMENDATIONS would be:

  • do what they ask - it's supposed to be a self portrait!
  • do NOT use gimmicks - you've got to have been doing this for a long time to come up with one which works. However, unusual perspectives are a welcome change from the (very) standard head and shoulders.
  • try to paint at least some of it from life and NOT all of it (very obviously) from photos - photorealistic is NOT what this competition is about. You've got 4 hours to complete your artwork in the heat!
  • paint a large or large medium sized painting which includes at least all the upper torso - this gives you more chance to impress - unless you are a master of miniature painting!
  • paint one and preferably two hands - this is when you can use photos! I was counting last year and most had at least one hand included
  • demonstrate mastery of your chosen media - because if you're not very good, it's very unlikely you'll be chosen
  • demonstrate mastery of your ability to eyeball a model and record accurately the shape and features of their head and posture and clothing.
  • read all my past reviews - which provides LOTS of critical observations, tips and techniques - which you can find on my Art on Television Page. You need to scroll down to find them all back to 2018.

Postscript: For those wondering where my review of the Landscape Artist of the Year Commission painting is
  • I've decided to go to the Science Museum tomorrow to see it in the gallery it was commissioned for.....
  • The blog post is very nearly finished, so likely to be published later on tomorrow!

Monday, March 04, 2024

Review of RBA Annual Exhibition 2024

I visited the Annual Exhibition 2024 of the Royal Society of British Artists last week at the Private View - which became increasingly packed with people as the afternoon became evening. I'll be trying to see if I can go back before it ends.

It's open every day until Saturday 9th March (10am - 5pm) at the Mall Galleries in London.

I LOVE the Catalogue cover. It illustrates perfectly the diverse nature of the artwork in this exhibition It's also much fairer to all those artists who work hard to produce excellent artwork to have so many gracing the front cover. Plus it has a very contemporary look!

Catalogue of the RBA Annual Exhibition 2024

There are 495 artworks in the show - which I think is slightly more than usual. You can view and read the catalogue onlineThe artwork covers
  • paintings and drawings in various different media
  • fine art prints - which are generally of a very high quality and look amazing when hung together on the Print Wall in the East Gallery
  • sculpture which is very diverse in terms of theme, media and construction. I am emphatically not a fan of 
Examples of "below the eyeline" sculpture in this shot
two on very short plinths 
and one sat on the floor - which is very easy to miss entirely

Note to Mall Galleries: Get a LOT more decent sized plinths so we see less sculpture on the floor or very near the floor.

You can also explore the exhibition online and see ALL the artwork in the show as follows:
  • on the Mall Galleries website - where you can list artworks in
    • alphabetical order by artist's surname (or reverse alpha order) - this is the way to view if you want to see all the artworks by one artist in the show.
    • by price - ascending or descending
  • my photos of the show - which I've placed in Facebook Albums as follows
However I was very disappointed at the performance of the website - I got absolutely zero results when entering:
  • the title of a works 
  • the name of an artist from the open entry, it came 
That's just NOT good enough! It also does not promote sales by those who know the artists in the open entry!

Note to Mall Galleries: make sure people can search for titles of ALL the artwork and ALL exhibiting artists on the new website!!!

Plus Mick Davies, President of the Royal Society of British Artists introduces the artwork in the exhibition in the video below. (The "background" music is a bit too strident for my liking!)

I'm going to adopt the same approach I used in 2021 for the first exhibition which reopened the Mall Galleries. The focus is on artwork I liked. It's one which works well with such a diverse set of paintings, drawings, fine art prints and sculpture about diverse subject matter.

Artwork I liked

These aren't going to be the artworks judged best in show. For those you need to read
Award Winners | RBA Annual Exhibition 2024

These are the artworks which appealed to me.

Best Portrait

For me this portrait by Aelfred Hillman had it all. I loved this painting - which demonstrates a great eye for design, brilliant painting of skin tones and an equally wonderful treatment of the natural landscape in terms of both water and vegetation.VERY impressive.

It won the Ronald Morgan Memorial Award - which had not been announced when I was there - and I'm not surprised! Last year he was one of the "Rising Stars" of the RBA and was shortlisted for the RBA Rome Scholarship.

This painting is more sophisticated than the painting at the exhibition last year.

Friday, March 01, 2024

Monica Popham wins Landscape Artist of the Year 2024

This review is about the Final of Series 9 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2024 at Covent Garden in London - which was won by Monica Popham.

Landscape Artist of the Year 2024:
Commissions and Final Paintings by the three finalists

Below you can read about
  • Artists in the Final
  • Venue: Where/when the Final was held - which was a bit different
  • Observations about the subject
  • Themes and Tips
  • Decision Time:
    • The Commissions
    • The Final Paintings
    • The final decision
  • The Winner
As always the programme about the Final is always something of a bit of an odd show since
  • 5 other participants are missing 
  • there is the need to recap the journey to the Final
  • plus a more indepth profile of each artist AND
  • the story of the three artists doing a commission between the semi-finals and the Final 
I'll spend a little bit more time focusing on Monica since she won the series.

You can find all my reviews of previous programmes in this series at the end of this post. Plus how to apply for the next series which will be filmed this summer in six heats in three places around the UK.

The Final

The Artists in the Final

(Left to right) Kristina Chen, Denise Fisk and Monica Popham

The three artists in the Final were - in order of the heats they won:
  • HEAT 1: Kristina Chan (Instagram) is a Canadian mixed media artist and printmaker who has studied in London. She uses narrative and specific facts about a site to create a sense of place. She is very she is very used to doing commissions for prestigious clients and public art installations - but not a lot that resembles painting. Her work is in the collections of V&A Museum (2016, 2017), Ingram Collection of British and Modern Art (2020) and Royal Collection, Clarence House (2018), Royal College of Art (2018, 2016)
  • HEAT 5: Monica Popham (Facebook Instagram | tiktok) is a digital media manager and landscape artist and illustrator from Gibraltar. Currently based in Guildford. She studied Fine Art at Loughborough University and graduated in 2021. The main body of her work focuses on the tangible quality of sunlight, and how it interacts with the architecture in Gibraltar and other Mediterranean towns. She has worked on a variety of projects such as large scale murals, book covers and private commissions. 
I went into the semi-finals wanting to prove that I could do more than extremely cropped landscapes and paint a scene outside of my comfort zone. At this point in the competition, we have no idea the location of the commission but I knew if I wanted to progress to the finals I had to prove that I had more flexibility as an artist.
  • HEAT 6: Denise Fisk (Instagram) - a landscape oil painter from East Sussex. Denise has BA (Hons) Degree in textile design which led to a career as a colourist and designer in the furnishing industry. She now exhibits in art fairs in South East England. She particularly likes autumn colours.

Location and Timing

The rear of the Royal Opera House and the Covent Garden Piazza
The Terrace is the top floor on the left - with the open gaps

The venue for the Final of Landscape Artist of the Year 2024 was the Piazza Terrace of the Royal Opera House - where I've been and sketched myself. (It's actually a restaurant - and while not cheap it's also not expensive! Which you need to know if you want to try it out for yourself.)

So NOT in the Pods for the first time in LAOTY History! However still undercover - with protective covers also for the nice wood floor!